"On this, the last day of the legislative session, lawmakers will vote on the state's roughly $68 billion budget. But not until after 10 p.m. That's when a 72-hour "cooling off" period that started late Tuesday when the budget was released ends." "Today in Tallahassee: It's the last day". See also "Sweeping tax, spending votes
to mark Legislature's final day". Meanwhile, "Abortion, Welfare Drug Testing Bills Head to Gov. Scott" and "Bills headed to Gov. Scott for his signature".
Daniel Ruth: "Never let it be said the Florida Legislature isn't a stickler for the tiny details of governance, leaving no stone unturned in its unrelenting quest to turn the state into Groucho Marx's Freedonia meets a subtropical, redneck Pyongyang."
It's been a busy, busy, busy time in Tallahassee, or as it is better known among the capital's influence peddlers: Pols to Go.Much more at "The more they do, the worse things get".
The Legislature has been presided over by those two noted used shark salesmen of state politics, least-selling author Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Where's Mine?, who received $152,000 to pen a single copy of Florida Government — A Coloring Book, and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-A Gift? For Me? You Shouldn't Have, who while insisting he has no further electoral aspirations, still lathered himself in $365,000 in presession gratuities from deep-pocketed special interests.
Imagine how well Cannon would have done had he been consumed with ambition?
Voter suppression bill on Scott's desk
"In a move critics say is aimed at helping Republican chances in 2012, the Legislature on Thursday rewrote the rules for voting in Florida. The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Scott, a harsh critic of President Barack Obama, who needs another Florida victory to secure a new term." "Florida Legislature passes rewritten election rules critics say aim to suppress voter turnout". See also "Elections Bill Heads to Gov. Rick Scott’s Desk", "Scott gets bill cutting early voting days and making it tougher to register voters" and "Bill cutting early voting hours heads to governor".
"Florida college students, military personnel, low-income and minority voters and anyone who might change addresses between elections are all raising their voices in opposition to state House Bill 1355 and Senate Bill 2086. And for good reason. These Floridians will have the hardest time exercising their right to vote if these bills become law, according to experts." "Voter suppression toxic for democracy".
Making it easier for developers to sidestep challenges
"The Republican-dominated House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to reverse a fundamental concept that has guided Florida environmental law for the past 30 years." "House GOP votes to undo a key environmental-protection law".
"Lawmakers sent to Gov. Rick Scott a controversial proposal that environmentalists say will make it easier for developers to sidestep challenges to development. The House voted 79-36 late Thursday to approve a bill (HB 993) that was amended by the Senate this week to include a change to state law involving protests in environmental permitting. Republicans, who supported the proposal, said it removes obstacles to development and will create jobs." "Lawmakers approve controversial permitting bill". See also "Bill sent to Scott makes it harder to challenge developers", "Lawmakers Approve Controversial Permitting Bill" and "Activists appalled by environmental-law changes in Florida".
Feces ... as far as the nose can smell
"Every year, more than 90 companies across Florida pump the waste from about 100,000 septic tanks. Where does it all end up? State officials estimate 40 million gallons of it is treated with lime and then sprayed on farmers' fields as fertilizer."
But the septic tank waste is a potential wellspring of disease and can lead to water pollution and toxic algae blooms. So last year, the Legislature voted to ban the practice known as "land application" starting in 2016, and in the meantime ordered state health officials to look for alternatives."From septic tanks to fields".
This year, though, water pollution and the spread of disease are far less of a political concern, and the probusiness Legislature is poised to repeal the ban before it even takes effect.
RPOFer workin' for that federal handout
"Ander Crenshaw Battles Once Again for Nuclear Carrier in Mayport".
Drug test folly
"HB 353 requires all adult recipients of federal cash benefits — the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program — to pay for the tests, which are typically around $35. The screen would be for all controlled substances and applicants would have to disclose any legal prescriptions. Recipients who test positive for drugs would lose their benefits for a year. If they fail a second time, they lose the benefits for three years. Parents who test positive must designate another adult to receive benefits on behalf of their children." "Bill requiring welfare recipients to take drug tests headed to governor".
The Legislature at work
"Lawmakers finally pass droopy pants bill".
"The Senate sent a pair of abortion bills to Gov. Rick Scott, but not after GOP Sen. Evelyn Lynn scolded fellow lawmakers for spending too much time on the contentious abortion issue instead of creating jobs." "Rick Scott prepares to sign ultrasound abortion bill".
Playing for teabaggers
"The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature has put an amendment on next year's ballot aimed at thwarting the federal health care overhaul. Republicans derided the federal law as 'Obamacare' in debate Wednesday before a mostly party line 80-37 vote in the House." "House puts health care measure on Fla. ballot".
"A controversial bill intended to combat the state's prescription drug-abuse woes appeared in jeopardy Thursday in part due to a dispute tied to the high-powered lobbying of two workers' comp doctors." "Florida pill-mill crackdown held up by dispute over doctors' offices".
Ricky gets his
"With back-slapping praise — and Republicans applauding Democrats — the Florida House on Thursday sent a $30 million corporate income tax cut to Gov. Rick Scott." "House approves corporate tax cut for Gov. Rick Scott". See also "Florida House Expands Corporate Income Tax Breaks".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "With Gov. Rick Scott now less than two months from making his decision on SunRail, those looking to influence him on the commuter train for Central Florida have adopted two distinct styles."
The pro-SunRail side: Determined. Confident."SunRail gaining steam".
The anti-SunRail force: Complaining. Desperate.
"Lots of time trying to solve imaginary problems"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "State legislators have spent lots of time trying to solve imaginary problems, but when it comes to real problems they are paralyzed."
The Legislature, for instance, has approved a number of bills that would make it harder for women to get abortions and attempt to restrict money for abortions, which are legal procedures for which public financing already is prohibited by state and federal law. What, exactly, is the problem? Meanwhile, seven Floridians are dying each day from prescription drug abuse, and bills that would address this very real public threat remain in limbo."Last chance to close clinics".
"Insurers to pass along increases to customers"
"The Senate passed SB 408 on a 26-11 vote Thursday just moments after it was almost derailed by an amendment offered by Sen. Mike Fasano that missed being approved by a single vote. Fasano, R-New Port Richey, targeted a provision in the bill that would allow insurers to pass along increases of up to 15 percent to customers to help cover reinsurance costs." "Property insurance overhaul headed to Gov. Rick Scott". See also "Bill making major home insurance changes approved".
Never mind that separation of church and state thing
"The Florida Senate advanced a constitutional amendment Thursday that would allow state funds to be used by church-related groups for social services. The House-passed proposal was set for a final floor vote today, the last day of the legislative session, to put it on the 2012 election ballot." "Senate to vote on state funding of church-backed social services ".
"The state's inequitable taxing system"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "The Legislature is giving voters another chance to cut selected property taxes in what has become a regular exercise that has nothing to do with either local revenue needs or fairness."
Longstanding tax breaks for Florida homeowners have over time shifted the property-tax load to business. Now the Legislature wants to change the result of its pro-homeowner policy and give business a bigger break. It also wants to give a jumbo tax shelter to homebuyers who haven't recently owned a home. These cuts are defensible within the state's inequitable taxing system, but support for this sort of tinkering is a symptom of bigger problems. What Florida really needs is an entirely new and more understandable system that treats all property owners pretty much the same."Tax surgery needed, not Band-Aids"..
Entrepreneurs in action
"Labeling catfish as sole and grouper lands seafood execs in prison".
"Looming teacher layoffs"?
"The Broward School Board is looking at $81 million in budget cuts in the schools, and that means teachers are going to lose their jobs. Already, rumors are going around that individuals will be notified Friday." "Rumors swirl about looming teacher layoffs". See also "Lawmakers took 'wrecking ball' to Florida schools, union chief says", "Fewer teachers, bigger classes" and "Schools Wail Over Budget, Lawmakers Say Cut the 'Fat'".
The rich get richer
Notice who is not getting hurt in this delightful list of budget casualties: "smaller paychecks for teachers, state employees and local government workers. Some public employees also will join more than 1 million fellow Floridians who are jobless due to layoffs by state agencies and school districts. College and university students will be paying more for tuition, and many will see their state-funded scholarships shrink.
Public school classrooms will be more crowded." "Florida. budget has plenty of pain to go around".
Rotting away in Margaritaville
"The chamber's budget chairs -- meeting in their last conference of the session -- signed off on dozens of final agreements Thursday buried within the 50 or so budget conforming bills that among other things, will lower the minimum weekly average of hours of direct-care that homes have to provide nursing care from 3.9 hours a day to 3.6 hours. Nursing assistant staffing hours would also drop from 2.7 hours to 2.5 hours." "Budget deal gives nursing homes lower staffing mandates".
"Cheap and illegal labor is good for business"
Scott Maxwell writes that "with one day left in the session, the legislature hasn't done squat on immigration reform. And here's the reality: Most lawmakers never planned to, either. Their corporate masters wouldn't allow it."
Cheap and illegal labor is good for business."The death of immigration reform: Just what Big Business wants".
After all, not everyone is willing to pick tomatoes for 2 cents a pound.
Or cut grass for less than minimum wage.
So it shouldn't surprise anyone that Big Business hates the idea of mandatory E-Verification. ...
During the GOP primary, Scott's campaign website declared: "Rick will require all Florida employers to use the free E-Verify system to ensure that their workers are legal."
But then Scott won the primary … and the corporate check-writers who'd been backing McCollum started sucking up to Scott.
We haven't heard as much about E-Verify since.
There's still the slightest of chances these guys will actually do what they promised in the waning hours of this session.
But probably not.
They've already played many immigration-obsessed voters for saps once … and have little reason to think they can't do it again.
Teabagger speaks ... no one is listening
"Allen West: Did Pakistan shelter bin Laden?"
"HMOs and large health care networks are close to managing nearly all of Florida's $22 billion Medicaid program under an overhaul plan that surfaced in the final days of the lawmaking session."
The Medicaid reform plan, released and debated late Thursday after weeks of secret talks between House and Senate leaders, would require managed care companies to share profits, ban illegal immigrants from receiving benefits and give recipients the option of using a voucher to purchase private health insurance."Florida lawmakers poised to boost role of HMOs in Medicaid overhaul". See also "Legislature to Take on Budget, Medicaid Reform on Final Day".
"Almost at a loss for words"
David Lawrence Jr., president and co-chair of the Children's Movement of Florida, president of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation of Miami, and retired publisher of the Miami Herald, writes that "as a newspaperman for 35 years with a career built around an ability to put thoughts on paper, I am almost at a loss for words. How is it possible for the children of Florida to be left out in so many ways when funding decisions are made in Tallahassee?" "Legislature shows no love for children".
"The list of prominent Florida politicians with Spanish surnames is growing, a sign of the state's expanding Hispanic population. But the list is deceiving in one respect. It remains almost exclusively Cuban-American." "Cuban-Americans climb Florida's political ladder".