Budget is "fundamentally dishonest"
"Lawmakers and governors have used a broom to balance Florida's budget during the Great Recession, sweeping out $2.8 billion from 95 dedicated pots of money and using it to keep the state in the black."
Legislators admit it's fundamentally dishonest. They say it's necessary to deal with contingencies in bad years."'We've done the bait and switch'".
"We've swept these trust funds. We've done the bait and switch. We have violated the trust and we've done it to keep the lights on, keep the critical services moving in the state of Florida," said state Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican, at the start of committee meetings considering the budget that's now final.
On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott signed a 2011-12 spending plan that relies on $524 million taken from 31 trust funds and thrown into general revenue, the big pot of discretionary money lawmakers use to pay state expenses.
The decisions have drained dollars from trust funds as diverse as the one filled with permit money required of tobacco and alcohol retailers and distributors ($275,240 in this year's proposed budget) to hundreds of millions collected from the state's tax on real-estate transaction filings that paid for affordable-housing projects (four separate raids taking a total of $571 million from the Local Government Housing Trust Fund) and the fight against invasive plants (a pair of sweeps netting $118 million).
Instead of the narrow aims of trust-fund spending, $2.8 billion since 2008 has gone into general revenue to pay the state's bills. Without the sweeps, lawmakers could not have balanced Florida's budget without more severe cuts or raising taxes even more than the billion in fee increases enacted in 2008. But that redirection comes at a cost.
RPOF throws empty suit at Castor
"Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, officially filed [last] week to run for the 11th Congressional District seat held by Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor, according to the Florida Election Commission website."
Bennett, president pro tempore of the Florida Senate, has been candid in recent months about the possibility he would seek a congressional seat.But there's a slight problem,
“I’m going to do it,” he told the Herald earlier this month. “My wife Dee and I have been discussing it for a long time. I have had a lot of people approach me and wanted me to run.”
Bennett lives in southern Manatee in the 13th Congressional District, represented by fellow Republican Vern Buchanan.Not to worry,
With the upcoming redistricting mandated after the 2010 Census, Bennett said he believes the 11th District, which includes portions of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties, will be redrawn to include more of Manatee."It’s official: State Sen. Mike Bennett running for Congress".
But even if the redistricting doesn’t extend into southern Manatee, Bennett said he will run.
“My wife and I are willing to move if we have to do that,” he said.
Technically, however, Bennett would not have to live within the district to run for the seat.
You'll recall Mr. Bennett, the guy who can't get his votes straight; here's Bennett in action back in January of 2010:
With the Hometown Democracy ballot initiative on the horizon, state Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, wants to undo a law that prohibits local governments from spending tax money to influence the outcome of ballot referendums."Sen. Bennett calls SB216 a 'mistake'".
"I'm going to file a bill overturning it," said Bennett, the chairman of the Senate Community Affairs Committee. "I think I made a serious mistake voting for that."
And then there's Mr. Bennett's porn problem. Last year,
Sunshine State News captured exclusive video of Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, looking at pornographic material on his state-issued computer on the Senate floor.Not surprisingly, Bennett refused the invitation by the conservative - and presumably sympathetic - Sunshine State News to confirm his excuse for watching porn on his state laptop; Sunshine State News:
Ironically, as Bennett is viewing the material, you can hear a Senator Dan Gelber's voice in the background debating a controversial abortion bill.
"I'm against this bill," said Gelber, "because it disrespects too many women in the state of Florida."
Bennett defended his actions, telling Sunshine State News it was an email sent to him by a woman "who happens to be a former court administrator."
"I was just sitting there, bored as they were debating the abortion bill," Bennett said.
"I opened it up and said holy [expletive]! What's on my screen? and clicked away from it right away."
Sunshine State News could not verify how long the image of four bikini-clad women with their tops exposed was open before our cameras started rolling on it, but it was up for at least three seconds before it disappeared from the screen.
Senate spokesperson Jaryn Emhof explained further on Bennett's behalf.
"There was some confusion about an email he received," said Emhof. "He thought it was an email about an item being debated on the Senate floor. As soon as he realized it wasn't he closed the page."
But the one image we caught on camera wasn't the only thing Bennett had viewed. It appears other files, including at least two videos, may have been downloaded, too. He was also caught on camera watching a video of a dog running out of the water and shaking itself off. It is unclear if he also thought that was an email about a bill being debated on the floor.
offered Bennett an opportunity to prove his statements to Sunshine State News by showing the executive editor and videographer the email record with a government-related subject line, but after talking to the Senate's top lawyer, he declined to let [them] see those records."Sen. Mike Bennett Caught Looking at Porn on Senate Floor". Here's Bennett's porn video.
Mr. Bennett, "one of newly minted Senate President Mike Haridopolos’ top lieutenants", has an interesting record: see "State Sen. Bennett files Arizona-style immigration bill, insists it won’t promote racial profiling"; and then there's this gem: "'I wouldn't mind making it harder to vote,' said Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton." Oh, and he recently was caught with his "Pants on Fire".
Another empty suit
"A crack is forming in U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s tea party. Conservative activists — still raw over what they say was his role in blocking illegal immigration legislation while speaker of the Florida House — say the burgeoning Republican star needs to deliver on campaign rhetoric for tougher enforcement." "Rubio no action, little talk on immigration".
"Yesterday's GOP candidates"
George Bennett: "Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Sid Dinerstein, who exasperated some Republicans by calling John McCain 'yesterday's candidate' in 2007, said Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin would distract efforts to defeat President Obama in 2012"
Thank you, President Obama
"Signs point toward a good summer for Orlando's primary industry, as hotels look to fill more rooms and theme parks are riding on a wave of pent-up demand." "Good business news: Summer is looking up for Orlando-area tourism industry".
Do what I say, not as I do
"Burt Aaronson became a Palm Beach County commissioner after unseating Democratic incumbent Carole Phillips in a 1992 primary. State Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, first joined the state House by defeating Democratic incumbent Curt Levine in a primary in 2000. Now Aaronson and Slosberg want the party to weigh in against similar primary challenges in the future." "Burt Aaronson, Irving Slosberg want Democratic Party to discourage primary challenges".
While the rest of us were sleeping
"A surging wildfire threatened a Lockheed Martin Corp. weapons-testing facility in southeast Orange County Sunday, while 44 smaller blazes kept firefighters scrambling in Volusia County. ... Orange County firefighters joined a state Division of Forestry response of four bulldozers, an airplane and a helicopter, working to keep a 1,000-acre blaze away from buildings at the high-security test facility, officials said. Significant reinforcements are expected today at that fire, which is near County Road 13, while another crew continues to fight a 150-acre blaze that has blanketed the BeachLine Expressway with smoke." "Firefighters battle a big wildfire in Orange and dozens in Volusia".