"In secret talks, top legislators and Gov. Rick Scott hatched a $68 billion budget deal involving a rather simple trade: tax cuts for hometown spending." "Lawmakers agree on budget". See also "House and Senate Reach $68 Billion Budget Deal", "Legislature's budget deal sets $308M in tax cuts" and "Scott satisfied with budget compromise giving him a sixth of tax cuts he wanted".
That Rick Scott sure is a big talker: "Scott drops budget veto threat after deal reached on corporate income taxes".
Today in Tally
"Today in Tallahassee: Property insurance". See also "Florida House Gears Up for a Busy Wednesday".
"Legislators spend that much renovating their offices"
"For decades, Florida has also run an aquatic-preserve program."
Preserves are hundreds of thousands of acres of protected waters, submerged lands and seagrass beds where fish breed, life-nurturing plants bloom and manatees seek refuge."Assault on environment led by the ill-informed, shortsighted".
They range from 350,000 acres in Pinellas County to 4,700 acres in Mosquito Lagoon.
These preserves support Florida industries from sportfishing to tourism — and, of course, wildlife. So a bare-bones staff patrols these waters, looking for pollution, damaged nesting areas and healthy root systems.
Yet the budget calls for closing four of the 11 offices that monitor and safeguard these preserves — mostly in north and west Florida, leaving more than a dozen preserves unprotected.
State officials make no pretenses about the impact. "Although the aquatic preserves will remain designated, all coastal education and resource-monitoring programs at these locations will likely be eliminated," said Kristin Lock, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The savings netted by abandoning these waters? About $800,000.
Legislators have spent that much money renovating their offices.
Heck, you could find that money 50 times over by simply taxing bottled water the same as we do soda. That break alone costs the state more than $40 million.
"These preserves are the basis for the entire coastal ecosystem," said Julie Wraithmell, the director of wildlife conservation for Audubon Florida. "They are the nursery for our birds. They help assure the rest of the nation that our seafood is safe to eat. They are essential."
The Tampa Trib editorial board: "The disdain the Florida Legislature has for the environment was illustrated again last week. The House rammed through House Bill 991 in seven minutes without the slightest consideration of its long-term impact."
Among other things, the bill curtails local regulation of mining, weakens wetlands protections and undermines rules designed to protect groundwater from landfill pollution."War on the environment". Related: "Bennett helps revive controversial measure in waning hours of session".
The bill would have been even more egregious if sponsor Rep. Jimmy Patronis, a Panama City Republican, had not agreed to eliminate a prohibition on public challenges. Incredibly, that provision would have forced citizens to prove a project would pollute rather than requiring the developer to show a project would not be harmful.
Such antics are all too characteristic of Tallahassee these days, where the primary concern is pleasing special interests.
State representatives this week also passed the equally lamentable House Bill 239, which would dramatically weaken water quality standards, including for the Everglades.
Workers' comp proposal dies in deal
"A budget deal reached Tuesday does not include a controversial proposal to limit how much doctors can charge for dispensing drugs to workers-compensation patients. Sen. Alan Hays, a Umatilla Republican who spearheaded the proposal, said it did not survive budget negotiations between the House and Senate. Former Gov. Charlie Crist also vetoed such limits last year." "Workers Comp Prescription Issue Not in Budget Deal".
Romney nemesis to speak to FlaDems
"The keynote speaker at the Florida Democrats' annual fundraising gala June 11 will be Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who has functioned recently as a Democratic point man on potential GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In interviews recently, Patrick, who succeeded Romney as governor of Massachusetts in 2006, has repeatedly praised Romney for something the former governor doesn't want to be praised for—passing a universal health care plan for Massachusetts that Democrats note is very similar to the plan passed by the Obama administration." "In shot at Romney, Florida Dems to host Deval Patrick".
Thrasher goes off deep end
"Thrasher goes overboard on claim that E-Verify would have stopped 9/11". See also "Senate rejects immigration proposal", "Immigration bill likely dead in Florida after emotional debate", "Florida immigration bill looks dead for this year" and "Florida senators, after emotional debate, defeat key provision of immigration bill".
From the "values" crowd
"Florida unemployment benefits would rise and fall along with the jobless rate and state businesses would get a tax break under a proposal approved Tuesday by the Florida Senate. The bill, HB 7005, now moves back to the House, where leaders want to limit state benefits — already among the nation's lowest and most difficult to receive — to no more than 20 weeks." "Florida Senate approves business tax cut that shrinks unemployment benefits". See also "Unemployment Compensation Reforms Pass Senate" and "Will "greedy and irrational" people kill off unemployment compensation reform?".
We don' need no stinkin' reger'lations
"Salmonella prompts Florida tomato recall". See also "Infected grape tomatoes from Florida farm recalled".
"The mind of typical state legislator"
Scott Maxwell offers "a window into the mind of your typical state legislator."
It's a scary place. But if we're going to deal with those who are trying to take Florida back to the Dark Ages, we must understand how they think.According to Dorworth, the
Our subject is state Rep. Chris Dorworth.
DCA was busy killing projects "all the time." There were "numerous examples." Yet the man wanting to undermine DCA couldn't cite a single one."Assault on environment led by the ill-informed, shortsighted".
This, my friends, is what passes for leadership in your state.
Facts, logic and our natural resources are becoming casualties of an ideological war.
Developers say they want to build more easily, without regard for clogged roads, crowded schools, the environment or the higher taxes you will have to pay for their far-flung projects. Dorworth and his GOP pals are happy to do their bidding.
In fact, Republicans are so smitten with Dorworth's sophisticated and well-versed take on complicated issues that they have selected him as a future House speaker.
Still waiting for superman
"Parents of students at Imani Elementary Charter Academy in Orlando may have to find new classrooms for their children with less than a month left in the school year." "Troubled Imani charter school could close".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Splitting the Florida Supreme Court into separate criminal and civil divisions and adding three justices was always more about Republican House Speaker Dean Cannon's animosity toward the high court than any pressing need. Now that Cannon's original idea has been defeated by moderate state Senate Republicans joining Senate Democrats, what's left of the proposed constitutional amendment is just distasteful, not disastrous. Even so, the changes should not be made."
what remains would still harm the independence of Florida's judiciary. It would subject Florida Supreme Court justices appointed by the governor to confirmation by the state Senate, an expensive and unnecessary step since the Senate would likely have to be called back into session. The Legislature also would be able to repeal court-established rules of practice and procedure by a simple majority vote rather than the two-thirds currently required. "Snipped court plan still wrong".
Ultimately, any changes would have to be approved by voters, who would have to pass the amendment by 60 percent. But the measure remains an untenable product of Cannon's ire at the high court for rejecting three constitutional amendments that the Republican-led Legislature wanted on the 2010 ballot.
Police and fire pensions "modestly" gutted
"Despite warnings that many Florida cities face deep deficits in their retirement accounts, legislators are allowing local governments to make only modest changes to their local pension accounts this year."
Lawmakers rejected a call from Gov. Rick Scott to require all local governments to abandon the traditional defined contribution pension plans and put all employees into 401(k)-style defined contribution plans, a move many feared would cost more money in the short term than it would save."A bill lets local governments modestly change pension accounts".
They also refrained from changing a 12-year-old law that allows them to use the money they receive from the state's insurance premium tax to help close their pension fund deficits.
Instead, the Senate has passed and the House is expected to approve SB 1128. It imposes new restrictions on how retirees calculate their pension benefits but leaves in place a provision that requires local government to use revenue from a state tax on insurance premiums to pay for additional benefits. The compromise won the support of both cities as well as union representatives, who feared deep cuts to benefits.
House Tackles Education Issues
"Florida House Tackles Education Issues as Final Week Begins".
"The state violated Florida's Constitution"
"A circuit court judge has ruled that the state violated Florida's Constitution by failing to raise the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation."
The decision means that beginning June 1, the minimum wage will rise from $7.25 an hour to $7.31 an hour. For tipped workers, it will increase from $4.23 an hour to $4.29 an hour."Judge's ruling means higher minimum wage".
Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis this week sided with groups representing Florida workers, who sued early this year, claiming the Agency for Workforce Innovation incorrectly calculated the state's minimum wage, costing workers about 6 cents an hour.
Lewis ruled that although the minimum wage can be increased due to inflation, the state constitution does not permit the wage to be decreased when the cost of living falls.
"Nelson, GOP Wage Ballot War in Wake of Bin Laden Assassination".
Will they "participate in the pain"?
"If elected county officials want to 'participate in the pain,' they will be able to voluntarily reduce their paychecks under legislation unanimously approved by the state Senate Tuesday, the day after it unanimously passed in the House. The legislation, which now goes to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature, allows county commissioners, circuit court clerks, county comptrollers, sheriffs, supervisors of elections, property appraisers and tax collectors, whose salaries are set under a formula in state statute, to voluntarily take pay cuts." "Senate OKs bill that lets county officials cut their own pay".
Public employees at work
"A wildfire has burned more than 16,400 acres of Big Cypress National Preserve, threatening endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers and Florida panthers. ... Using helicopters and swamp buggies, firefighters from across the United States are creating firebreaks in an attempt to prevent the blaze from spreading. By Tuesday afternoon, it was just 15 percent contained."16,400 acres scorched by Big Cypress National Preserve wildfire".
Florida wingnuts move to their next conspiracy
Frank Cerabino writes that "it took only a matter of minutes after bin Laden's targeted killing was posted on PalmBeachPost.com before this comment appeared":
"There is little doubt that this body is some poor towel head that stepped on his own IED and blew himself into too few pieces to be recognizable!!" the comment read. "BARAMA desprately (sic) needs this lie to shut the press up about his doctored birth certificate hoax!""Here come 'The Deathers'".
"Legalizing tax evasion"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "Floridians caught cheating on their taxes don't expect government to look the other way. But that is exactly what 77 members of the Florida House agreed to do this week for out-of-state travel service companies that evade paying all the sales taxes they owe. Now it's up to the Florida Senate to stand for fairness for all Floridians and refuse to go along." "Bill legalizes travel sites' tax evasion".