The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board writes that "Florida is a far less hospitable place to live for government workers, the elderly, the unemployed, women, students and property owners."
A raft of new laws and a shrunken state budget take effect today. The Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott have bragged they cut business regulation, corporate income taxes and property taxes for water management districts. ..."Consider just how much is different today:"
The only real winners are incumbent politicians who voted for these changes and expect campaign contributions from the special interests they served
• State workers face a fifth year without a raise, and 4,500 will no longer have jobs. ...The editors continue:
• Parents in the 50,000 poor Florida families who qualify for temporary federal assistance will be forced to pay for drug tests before the family receives an average $240 a month in benefits. ...
• The 10.6 percent of Florida workers who are out of work will see less unemployment compensation. As the unemployment rate shrinks, those still hunting for jobs will see those benefits cut again.
• A women seeking an abortion will be required to pay for an ultrasound even if she doesn't want one. ...
• Nursing home residents will likely see smaller staffs to watch over them, as the state rolled back requirements on staffing levels under Medicaid.
• Residents with landline phones will likely see bigger bills, as lawmakers deregulated the industry.
• Property owners can expect another 15 percent increase in their insurance bills, as lawmakers allowed virtually automatic increases for reinsurance costs.
• State university students will once again see 15 percent increases in tuition, while those at state and community colleges will pay 8 percent more.
• Public school students will return in the fall to school districts that have 8 percent less funding per child, a number sure to affect the classroom after four years of stagnant investment. Prekindergarten providers will see a 7 percent cut.
What the governor and state lawmakers won't be able to run from is the devastating impact this year's legislation will have on so many Floridians.
What the governor and state lawmakers won't be able to run from is the devastating impact this year's legislation will have on so many Floridians.Much more here: "Florida's a bleaker place for many".
Elections have consequences, and this is the result of the choices voters made in 2010. Scott won't be on the ballot for more than three years, but every state legislative seat will be on the ballot next year.
That will be the next opportunity for voters to make clear what they think of the sharp right turn that Florida has taken.
First round of FRS case goes against workers
"A judge has refused to set aside public employee pension contributions in a separate account pending resolution of a lawsuit challenging those payments required by a Florida law that went into effect Friday." "Judge refuses to set aside Florida pension funds". See also "No Injunction, Pension Requirement Begins", "Judge rules against unions’ request", "Judge rules against putting pensions in separate account", "Judge won't force state to set aside pension contributions from public employees" and "Leon County judge hears first round in state retirement overhaul case". Related: "State employee pension law shifts burden".
To summarize, the court denied a temporary injunction which would have required that the state place the forced deduction of 3% of gross compensation into a segregated fund pending final resolution of the FRS case. The Judge did not rule on or even consider the key issue of whether the 3% deduction was permissible, but rather left that to be decided after a trial on October 26.
Plaintiffs had argued that placing the 3% into a segregated fund would have made it easier for employees to recover improperly deducted monies should there be a final determination that the forced 3% deductions from gross compensation were improper. In that regard, the plaintiffs are variously arguing that the newly required 3% deduction from gross income are improper because (1) the deductions impair the contractual rights of FRS participants; (2) the deductions are a "taking" of FRS participants' property rights without just compensation; and (3) for unionized employees, the deductions - adopted unilaterally by the Legislature - abridge the fundamental Florida constitutional right to bargain collectively.
Judge Fulford made clear that she was not considering whether the 3% deductions are/were "lawful" in the first place, and instead deferred resolution of that issue until after the trial scheduled for October 26 at 7:30AM in Tallahassee.
The Judge merely ruled that it was unnecessary to segregate the 3% deductions to facilitate reimbursement of these monies in the event it is ultimately determined that the 3% was improperly deducted.
Yet to be decided are (1) whether the deductions impair the contractual rights of FRS participants or (2) whether the deductions amount to an unjust "taking" of FRS participants' property rights or (3) for unionized employees, whether the deductions - adopted unilaterally by the Legislature - abridge the fundamental Florida constitutional right to bargain collectively. These issues will considered at the October trial.
SunRail decision today
"Gov. Rick Scott's decision on SunRail expected today".
CNN teams up with Teabaggers
"The Florida State Fair Authority announced Wednesday that the State Fairgrounds in Tampa has been selected as the host site for a Sept. 12 Republican presidential debate hosted by CNN and the Tea Party Express." "Florida State Fairgrounds to host CNN/Tea Party Express debate".
"The Manchurian Candidate meets the Koch brothers"
Daniel Ruth would "like to welcome you to the Tampa Tea Party/912 Project Liberty Summer Camp. I see from the paperwork that you have all paid your fee for a week of exciting political re-education activities with the required beaver pelts. Before you head off to your camp bunkers to unpack your muskets, your "Gospel According to St. Ron Paul," and your spatterdashes, we'd like to review the week's thrilling schedule of proselytizing tea party events. Think of this as sort of The Manchurian Candidate meets the Koch brothers."
"As veteran pols, Haridopolos, Hasner and LeMieux will provide invaluable lectures on the fine art of pandering for votes, a skill many of you who aspire to a career in Florida politics must master."
You'll be very happy to know we've invited some special camp counselors to be on hand during the week — Republican U.S. Senate candidates: Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux and Mike McCalister, who is a retired former Special Operations officer, which means he could kill you with his left nostril if he wanted."For summer camp, line forms on the right".
While McCalister conducts a seminar on how to kill someone with your tonsils — if you want to — Hasner will provide his unique expertise on how, after once claiming to be environmentally sensitive, to properly deny that global warming has anything whatsoever to do with humankind if it will help wheedle a few votes out of fringe political groups. As we all know, global warming is simply caused by illegal immigrants.
You'll also want to play close attention to Haridopolos, who will explain the fine points of how to get paid $152,000 in public money from a community college to write a book that is the equivalent of Little Lord Fauntleroy Goes to Tallahassee, which eventually sells only 70 copies and makes $488. The man is a genius.
Finally, LeMieux will offer his views on the importance of forging lasting friendships and loyalties in public life. If you want, you can skip this session. He probably will, too.
Rich kiddies only need apply
The Sun Sentinel editors: "Florida university students will pay more in tuition, many will go deeper in debt, and they won't get the full benefit envisioned from their higher tuitions. They can thank lawmakers for it." "Thank state lawmakers for tuition rate hikes that will put more grads in debt". Related: "How Did the Bad Guys Get Their Hands on All-Republican Bright Futures?".
DWS denies assertion that Obama is losing support from Jewish Dems
"DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz denied a POLITICO assertion on Wednesday that President Obama is losing support from Jewish Democrats because of his policy on Israel." "Has Obama turned off Jewish Democrats?".
"Jeb Bush Jr. launches SunPAC to ‘promote the core Conservative values’".
FHP "cut, over and over, personnel and budget-wise"
"After eliminating thousands of rank-and-file jobs from the state work force, Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature are turning their cost-cutting attention to a more politically sensitive area: law enforcement."
A little-noticed bill the governor signed last month creates a task force on law enforcement consolidation — an idea likely to send shivers up the spines of police officers in a time of double-digit unemployment. ..."Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Legislature turn cost-cutting attention to law enforcement".
Steve Casey, executive director of the Florida Sheriffs Association, said his group opposed it because of uncertainty over whether the state would provide money to sheriffs to do that work. "We'd have to lobby for contract funds," he said. "The FHP does that now."
Casey said his group thought a better idea would be to allow sheriffs to contract with Highway Patrol on a case-by-case basis for short-term needs such as adding traffic investigation support.
The sheriffs' longtime lobbyist, Frank Messersmith, said: "We did not advocate eliminating FHP, and if you ask any sheriff in the state, every one would say FHP has been unfairly criticized. They have been cut, over and over, personnel- and budget-wise."
Tony Hill walks
"On the eve of becoming Jacksonville’s first black mayor, Alvin Brown announced that a pair Democratic legislators from Northeast Florida would serve in his administration."
Sen Tony Hill, D-Jacksonville, has accepted a position as “special assistant and liaison” to Tallahassee and Washington D.C., using his political connections to serve Brown."Hill leaving Senate to take post with Jacksonville's new mayor".
Hill -- who is term limited out of office in 2012 -- resigned his post. A special election will be required to fill his seat.
Two former lawmakers - Terry Fields and Audrey Gibson - are among four candidates who had already filed to run for Hill's seat in 2012 and have indicated they will likely run in the special election.
Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, also is taking a position as special assistant. But Jones said in a statement that the position “ “does not conflict with my legislative duties in the Florida House of Representatives” and that she would not have to resign.
An extra month of deform
"Federal officials have agreed to extend Florida’s controversial Medicaid pilot project by one month while deciding whether to give the state permission to turn health care for the poor over to HMOs." "Feds extend controversial Medicaid project".
"All the children are above average"
"More than two-thirds of Florida's public elementary and middle schools received an A or B grade on the state's annual assessment this year, the Department of Education said Thursday." "Fla. gives most elementary, middle schools A or B".
Scott whines about others matching his millions in campaign spending
"A Florida federal judge has struck down a provision of state campaign finance law that attempted to negate an advantage for millionaire candidates like Rick Scott by providing matching tax dollars to their opponents."
The decision of U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle parrots Monday's 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Arizona's campaign finance matching law."Judge strikes down Florida campaign finance matching law".
The Florida ruling, which had been expected in light of the Supreme Court decision, is a late but important win for now Gov. Scott, who brought the lawsuit during his Republican primary against Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.
The provision of the law limited Scott's campaign expenditures to $24.9 million in the primary. For every $1 Scott spent over the limit, McCollum would have received a $1 match in taxpayer funding.
Scott argued that the cap was a violation of his First Amendment rights because it restricts his free speech by benefiting his opponents' speech. He won a temporary injunction that prevented McCollum from getting taxpayer assistance in the primary, but the case was not resolved.
"Mandatory-ultrasound law goes into effect today".
"In the past week, Florida lawmakers turned down a $2.1 million federal grant that would pave the way for the state to receive $35 million in federal funding that would move elderly and disabled patients from nursing homes to their own homes during the next five years."
"Five days a week of day care costs $15,000 a year and enables a caregiver to continue working. Compare that cost for a family to $70,000 a year for nursing homes," said [Mary Ellen] Grant, who operates Share the Care, an Orlando nonprofit that provides day care and support for caregivers of the elderly."Florida rejects millions more in federal health-care grants".
It makes more sense, Grant says, to move people out of nursing homes and support them — by providing independent-living facilities or care at home with their families — than to spend more money on nursing-home care.
That's the latest example of Florida turning down federal money because it's related to the health-care overhaul. So far, the state has turned down, given back or refused to apply for at least $54 million in federal funds.
Last year, the state filed suit against the Affordable Care Act, challenging the constitutionality of the "individual mandate," which requires all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.
Bureau of Rehabilitation and Re-employment Services slashed
"Scott says he wants to get Florida back to work, but things aren't working out so well at the Bureau of Rehabilitation and Re-employment Services, which is tasked with helping injured employees get back on the job."
Effective Friday, the BRRS will lose 55 of its 82 staff positions and see its funding reduced by two-thirds. Regional offices are being consolidated, leaving some residents hundreds of miles away from services."'Ineffective' State Agency Trips Up Rick Scott Jobs Campaign".
Sunshine State News' calls to the BRRS went unanswered or unreturned. Its overseer, the state Department of Education, offered only a boilerplate recitation of the bureau's duties.
The best they could do
"State Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, will officially be named the Senate President Designate in a ceremony in September, Senate President Mike Haridopolos announced Wednesday afternoon." "Gaetz to be named next Senate President in September".
"Crist's shadow looms over the Florida GOP"
"He has been off the public stage for nearly seven months and yet Charlie Crist's shadow still looms over the Florida GOP."
The main Republican candidates for U.S. Senate held their first debate Thursday, and it sometimes felt like a game of who could sound most disdainful of the ex-governor."GOP Senate hopefuls bash Crist".
"I never supported Charlie Crist in his U.S. Senate race despite a lot of pressure to do that,'' stressed state Senate President Mike Haridopolos.
Former state Rep. Adam Hasner boasted that his antagonism to Crist was well known in Tallahassee.
Not much of a "debate"
"Florida GOP Candidates for U.S. Senate Mostly Agree". See also "Republicans bash Obama and Nelson at first Senate debate".
"Veto speaks poorly of Legislature"
The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "It's notable that the governor rejected the legislation even though it passed the state Senate with just one dissenting vote, and the House by more than 3-1. Such strong support for a broadside against the public's right to know does not speak well for the current Legislature's appreciation for government in the sunshine." "Gov. Scott gets kudos for nixing bill to close records, but veto speaks poorly of Legislature".
West: "a Tet moment"
"Fresh from a visit to Afghanistan, South Florida Congressman Allen West called Taliban maneuvering and President Obama’s troop withdrawal plan 'a Tet moment.' It was West’s way of saying U.S. forces can achieve victory, but not if they are withdrawn too quickly and our war-weary nation loses heart." "Allen West calls Afghan plan a `Tet moment".
Rubio is poised to shape the U.S. Senate race
"It happens almost every time Sen. Marco Rubio sits down for a national TV interview. Will you be on the Republican presidential ticket in 2012?"
Even if Rubio resists, he is poised to shape the race. Candidates will seek his endorsement for the same reason they want him on the ticket."Judge strikes down Florida campaign finance matching law".
He's from Florida. He's a rising national figure with tea party and establishment Republican credentials. He's the son of working-class Cuban exiles and could counter Democratic inroads into the burgeoning Latino vote.
"He's a rock star," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. "The presidential candidates are going to be knocking on his door. He's a popular guy not just in Florida but around the country."
Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a leading tea party figure and one of Rubio's earliest backers, said Rubio will be under pressure as the race narrows.
"Expensive court battle"
"A new state law requiring all welfare applicants to be drug-tested goes into effect today — even as opponents say the statute is riddled with problems and will not withstand a legal challenge. It also could end up creating an expensive court battle for the Department of Children and Families — the state agency charged with administering the federally funded welfare program — in a year when the department already has made $48 million in cutbacks." "New drug tests for welfare applicants face hurdles, questions".
Low-key Florida approach for Pawlenty
"Tim Pawlenty held a series of meet-and-greets with the state’s political elites over the past three days. Why such a low-key approach for the Republican presidential candidate?" "Tim Pawlenty’s takes low-key Florida campaign swing".