"Florida's official policy of determined obliviousness"
Fred Grimm: "In 2011, nobody in Tallahassee cares to remember what the Rosens wrought. The scandals and frauds and environmental horrors of the 1960s and ’70s associated with swamp-land sub-dividers like the Rosens’ Gulf American Land Corporation — well that’s just so much moldy history. Florida embraces an official policy of determined obliviousness, as if as George Santayana’s warning, 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,' were the state motto."
Amid this latest, depressing dip in our perpetual boom-bust cycle, the Florida Legislature and governor have decided to emasculate the 1985 land-use law and any environmental regulation they think might hinder the next big housing boom. (Anti-growth-management measures were attached to both the House and Senate budget bills on Friday.) Leonard and Jack Rosen may be dead, Gulf American gone bankrupt, but their old swamp-land business ethic has been revived in Tallahassee."State turns back clock on development".
The brothers came to Florida in the 1950s, adopting Leonard’s ethic as a TV pitchman to the art of real estate. (He once hawked a baldness cure made from sheep lanolin: "Have you ever seen a bald sheep?")
The Rosens, headquartered in downtown Miami, bought 100 square miles of scrub land outside Fort Myers in 1957 for $678,000, bulldozed roads, dug 400 miles of canals and sold 17,000 lots for $801 million with a nationwide sales campaign that made the term "Florida swamp land" synonymous with "fraud."
"The Republican-dominated Florida Legislature is poised this week to pass its blueprint for economic recovery [?] — a budget that slashes nearly $4 billion from schools, employee benefits, health care and environmental programs."
Although budget writers were still ironing out differences, the final picture was sharpening as Friday's constitutional deadline nears. The $67 billion-plus spending plan would slash dollars flowing to restore the Everglades, guard endangered species and protect environmentally threatened lands."Florida's budget ax to hit schools, health care, environment, employee benefits". See also "Florida budget negotiators agree on 7.9 percent school spending cut".
A host of safety-net programs helping the mentally ill, catastrophically sick and unemployed will be shaved after being propped up three years by the federal-stimulus bailout to the states.
And for the first time in a decade, public schools will take a significant cut in per-pupil spending, falling $540 for every student as budget writers scale back expenses and require teachers to start paying 3 percent of their paychecks toward their retirement.
'Ya think it was greased?
Mary Ellen Klas: "With head-spinning speed, the Florida House took up and passed a major rewrite of state environmental laws late Friday that Florida conservation groups call one of the worst environmental bills in decades."
House lawmakers spent only seven minutes discussing, amending and voting on the 80-page bill just before the chamber was scheduled to adjourn at 8 p.m."House passes controversial environmental bill in minutes".
In that time, lawmakers accepted six amendments that attempt to mitigate environmentalists' concerns over provisions they had described as a "monstrous threat to the environment." They added the content of another bill making it easier for ports to dredge to accommodate bulkier ships. And they removed a section that prevented the ability of citizens to challenge environmentally sensitive projects.
House Speaker Dean Cannon, with the cadence of an auctioneer, then recognized bill sponsor Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, for a brief explanation, accepted no questions or debate, and the House voted 95-16 to send HB 991 to the Senate. There is no similar companion bill in the Senate, where it faces a difficult road to passage.
"Turning the ship of state into a ship of fools"
Howard Troxler writes that "Martin Dyckman is enjoying a productive 'retirement.' His latest book, published by the University Press of Florida, focuses on the remarkable tenure of former Gov. Reubin Askew, who led our state from 1971-1979. Its title is Reubin O'D Askew and the Golden Age of Florida Politics."
"The contrast with modern Florida politics is obvious. The question is: Why?"
Dyckman's first culprit is  the abolition of multimember districts in the Legislature. Not only did members no longer have to worry about broader communities, but the new system made it easier to rig the Legislature's districts."Recalling the 'golden age' of reform in Florida politics".
Next on Dyckman's list:  the eight-year term limits passed by the voters in 1992.
"Term limits have turned the ship of state into a ship of fools," he said. The rush for power — funded by special interest money — requires lawmakers to choose their leaders years in advance, and then to obey them slavishly.
But his dominant theme was money.  A series of court rulings have made it clear that money gets its way in politics.
His dark conclusion:
"I no longer have any confidence that democracy can survive in this state or nationally unless the Constitution is amended to allow Congress and the states to limit campaign spending. ... It is difficult to imagine how that amendment could be accomplished, but the alternative is to bid farewell to this country as we have known it."
"Legislators are waging a wicked war"
Scott Maxwell argues that our "legislators are waging a wicked war — against democracy itself." "Lawmakers use your cash to overturn your vote".
"A return on political investments"
"In the opening days of the lawmaking session, two low-profile South Florida doctors helped funnel $70,000 to politicians and political groups, bringing their total contributions to an eye-opening $3 million in just one year."
In the next two days, as lawmakers hammer out the state budget, it will become clear if Drs. Paul Zimmerman and Gerald Glass will get a return on their political investments."Big-money fight ties up budget talks".
The two doctors are the founders of a Miramar-based company called Automated Healthcare Solutions, which sells software that workers compensation doctors use to dispense medications in their offices.
But that profitable practice could be undermined by a little-debated provision slipped into an under-the-radar Senate budget bill at the behest of the insurance lobby, which says doctors who dispense in-house are driving up the workers compensation costs.
The dispute is just one example of how the agendas of special interests crop up with little discussion and tie up state lawmakers as they try to write the state budget.
State employees get 3% pay cut
"Pension deal requires Florida workers to contribute 3 percent to retirement".
"Hours after the Florida Legislature finalized a budget deal that requires teachers and other public employees to contribute 3 percent of their salary toward their retirement, more than 75 Palm Beach County teachers staged an unusual protest Saturday."
Dressed in red and wielding their red pens, the teachers brought their classroom homework to mall food courts in Boynton Beach, Wellington and Palm Beach Gardens."Teachers stage 'grade-in' to protest pay deferment".
The so-called "Grade-In Marathon" was organized by several teachers, with the support of the Classroom Teachers Association, to help the public see that teaching is much more than a 10-month, seven-hour-a-day job, several teachers gathered in the food court at the Mall at Wellington Green said.
"I often get up at 3 a.m. to grade papers," said Sandra Vey, a second grade teacher at Wellington Elementary. "Parents, they don't realize it. They don't even know."
"A spate of tragedies never before revealed"
"A Miami Herald investigation of Florida’s assisted-living facilities found that safeguards once hailed as the nation’s best have been ignored in a spate of tragedies never before revealed to the public." "Once pride of Florida; now scenes of neglect".
The Miami Herald editorial board:
Society’s most important obligation is to protect the most vulnerable among us — the elderly, infirm and children. Reasonable people may disagree on how best to meet that duty, but Floridians resoundingly look to their government for a minimum of protection. Yet our state government is failing miserably on that front — failing to protect our poorest of seniors and the mentally ill from abuse and neglect. And it was failing long before Florida faced an economic tumble."Worse yet, these are folks living in homes that taxpayers finance through Medicaid, the federal-state partnership that puts Florida in charge of caring for the poorest sick residents." "Florida’s shameful failure".
"Segregation is making a comeback in Florida"
"Segregation is making a comeback in Florida's public schools with the new wave of charter schools springing up across the state." "Florida charters less diverse than other public schools". See also "Times: Florida charter school advocate warns of problems amid growth".
"The Florida Senate's budget chief balked at a House proposal to deregulate sports and talent agents Saturday, citing past scandals that have tarnished Florida's universities and jeopardized athletes' careers. ... Alexander said he got a call from University of Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley urging him to oppose deregulating sports agents." "Senate leader balks at deregulating sports agents".
Meanwhile, back at the office ...
"Amid budget shortfalls, city department upgrades offices".
RPOF "pushing their extreme agenda"
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Watching legislators try closing the state's $3.8 billion shortfall while pushing their extreme agenda hasn't been easy." "Salvage the session".
RPOF positioning itself for next year
John Kennedy: "There's been tough talk. Ignored priorities. Charges of flip-flopping. Even a lawsuit."
But the political marriage of Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-dominated legislature may yet end its rocky honeymoon stage with the first-year executive claiming some big victories and the party powerfully positioned for next year's elections.And about that corporate tax cut that Scott is insisting upon?
And, in the nation's biggest toss-up state, the sharply right policies advanced by Scott and Republican super majorities in the House and Senate also will give Democrats potent weapons for next year's campaigns.
"It's been mean-spirited and an overreach by the Republicans," said Rich Templin, a spokesman for the Florida AFL-CIO, a labor union allied with Democrats. "I think we're going to be able to say to voters, 'Look what they did. Who do you think cares about working families of Florida?'"
But House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said he's not worried.
And in a pushback against the rookie governor, the House and Senate failed to include Scott's demand for big tax cuts in their budget bills, as they struggled to close an almost $3.8 billion budget shortfall."State parties positioning for next year".
Lawmakers were wary of cutting taxes for corporations or big property owners at the same time they were reducing public school budgets by more than $1 billion and shrinking dollars for the poor, elderly and disabled.
But in the past few weeks, Scott has turned the heat, warning in weekly radio addresses and in interviews that he would not sign a budget that failed to include cuts to the state's corporate income tax.
GOP says party is 'all on the same team'
Legislative leaders now appear ready to go along with Scott. While a corporate tax cut bill emerged in the Senate early last week, without drawing a vote, Cannon and Haridopolos both indicate they want to give Scott at least part of his must-have corporate tax break.
Overlooking his own pathetic attempts to emulate the pathetic George Will, Kingsley Guy whines about how "it has become fashionable in America to demean all political leaders as venal human beings who are watching out only for their own interests, rather than the interests of the country, state or community." "Real statesmen: Shaw, Graham foster cooperation".
Entrepreneurs in action
"Most bogus foreclosure auction prices in Orange tied to 6 investor groups".