"The practice of Florida lawmakers to quietly tuck private prison proposals into the budget has attracted the attention of federal investigators."
The events surrounding the grand jury investigation began as early as February 2008 when Team Santa Rosa met privately with Gaetz, Sansom and several board members. Gaetz was a freshman state senator at the time and Sansom was incoming House budget chairman."Grand jury probes Panhandle private prison deal".
"One in four face financial ruin"
The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "At one private health-care career college in Central Florida, 26 percent of students whose loans came due in 2009 had defaulted by the end of 2010, according to recent federal statistics. That means one in four face financial ruin — wrecked credit, docked wages and no more aid if they go back to school. A more extreme case, certainly, but not entirely out of the norm in the Sunshine State." "Florida must do its part to lower high student default rates".
Term limits quagmire
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editors: "When Florida's Supreme Court took up a pair of disputed term-limits cases in 2002, it did so, in part, to clarify state law. But the resulting ruling continues to spark legal struggles around the state."
The muddle needs to be cleared up — again — and quickly. ..."Resolve term-limit limbo".
Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal recently upheld a Broward County charter rule that restricts county commissioners to no more than three consecutive terms in office. Essentially, the court said the 2002 state Supreme Court ruling did not prohibit these term limits.
That outcome is quite different from what happened in Sarasota County — where, in 2005, a circuit judge invalidated term limits the voters had placed on county commissioners. The judge, citing the same 2002 high-court ruling, indicated that the justices had found that county term limits were not authorized by the state constitution.
33% false confession rate?
"Florida's Innocence Commission, a blue-ribbon panel trying to come up with ways to keep innocent people from being convicted, is meeting today in Orlando. The panel's main point of business is what to do about false confessions. Four of the 12 Florida suspects who have been wrongfully convicted and later cleared by DNA gave false confessions." "Firing of Health Care District internal watchdog under investigation".
Watchdog fired after the first inquiry
"An internal watchdog newly hired by the Health Care District to prevent fraud and misuse of taxpayer money was fired after launching her first inquiry. Days after her firing, compliance officer RoxAnne Harris appealed to the board chairman and was reinstated with full back pay. She's been on leave since Aug. 31 while her firing itself is investigated." "Firing of Health Care District internal watchdog under investigation".
"President Barack Obama plans to visit Orlando on Tuesday as part of a nationwide tour intended to drum up support for his jobs bill — and his own re-election. With 13 months until Election Day, the once-popular president faces a steep climb to a second term, in part because of a disappointed — some say disillusioned — base. Polls in Florida show nearly 6 in 10 voters are unhappy with his performance." "Obama's visit to Orlando on Tuesday comes amid sour voter mood".
Luv 4 sale
"The next two Republicans slated to lead the Florida House have been traveling the state this summer for redistricting hearings — at the same time raising gobs of cash from health-insurance companies, Big Sugar and companies such as Walmart."
Since June, House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has raised $459,500 in big checks through a political fund he controls called the Committee for a Conservative House."Future Florida House leaders raising big money from special interests".
Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Jacksonville, a dominant player in the plans to privatize the state's $20 billion Medicaid program, kicked in $325,000 of that. The company paid $200,000 in one day on Sept. 16.
Another $27,500 came from the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which recently successfully sued to block the Legislature's attempt to privatize 29 South Florida prisons.
"Unsurprisingly, businesses are not pleased"
The Palm Beach Post editors: "In a few months, hiring foreign workers is likely to get more expensive for American businesses, and that's mostly a good thing."
Making businesses pay higher wages to temporary foreign workers encourages them to hire out-of-work Americans, something that doesn't happen nearly enough in such sectors as the hospitality industry. Particularly in Palm Beach County, resorts and country clubs need to be pushed to look harder for local workers before shipping foreigners in."A 'Hire American' boost".
Unsurprisingly, businesses are not pleased. Claiming financial ruin if new federal guidelines take effect that raise wages for temporary foreign workers hired on H-2B visas, several industry groups are suing the U.S. Department of Labor, hoping to overturn the increases.
The increases vary by industry and region but in many cases wages will rise by $3 or $4 an hour. The professional associations suing, which represent such groups as foresters, crawfish processors and hoteliers, claim the extra payroll costs will force them to hire fewer people and pass on added costs to customers.
But these wage rules apply only when companies hire H-2B workers. The fact that they are complaining now about wage rules that won't take effect until November underscores a key problem.
A sucker's bet?
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editors: "Florida is on the cusp of becoming the Disney World of gambling. Uh, make that gaming -- sounds a little more Disney-like."
This is the vision of state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican and co-sponsor of a bill to allow three multi-billion-dollar "destination resort casinos" in Miami-Dade and Broward counties."Lawmakers escape into gambling fantasyland".
"Basically, we could become the Disney of gaming," Bogdanoff said to the Naples Daily News. "Disney was built here and brings in tourists from around the world. Gaming can do the same thing."
Bogdanoff and other lawmakers who want to expand gambling have entered the Magic Kingdom. They're looking at a down economy and another lean state budget and imagining that there is a politically painless solution to these problems. And whenever public officials start looking for an easy way out of their budget dilemmas, the nation's massive and hugely profitable gambling industry is there with an answer.
We'll turn your state into one big Disney World of slots, poker tables and roulette wheels! Step right up and place your bets on the new tax -- make that gaming -- revenue machine!
It's a sucker's bet. Florida will never become the Disneyland of casinos. Even if "destination" casinos pop up all over the state, legislators will still struggle to balance the budget, the schools will still need more funding and Medicaid will continue to devour a large percentage of state revenues.
"Under threat of stiff financial and criminal penalties from the gun-friendly Legislature, cities and counties across Florida rushed to repeal all their local gun laws over the past few weeks. But now that 'No Guns Allowed' signs have disappeared from city halls, parks, campgrounds, libraries and other public buildings, local politicians are trying to figure out how to ensure the safety of government employees." "Guns in public buildings have local officials on edge".
"Chamber picking up where it left off"
Aaron Deslatte: "Florida business lobbyists were kids in the candy store during the spring legislative session, and who could blame them for being giddy?"
The Florida Chamber of Commerce invested $5.5 million to elect the biggest Republican supermajorities in history last year, and chamber President Mark Wilson proclaimed the window for pro-business legislation a "generational opportunity.""Business lobbyists gear up to ask for more in 2012".
Despite some tea-party grumbling, the 60-day session saw the GOP reward its benefactors with a historic amount of payback: 31 of the Florida Chamber's top 36 issues passed, including abolishing teacher tenure and expanding charter schools, blowing up the state's growth-management department, scaling back security at ports, freeing telecommunications giants such as AT&T from state regulation and cutting corporate taxes. ...
Now, the Florida Chamber is picking up where it left off. Tops on its 2012 agenda will be more lawsuit limitations, including restricting the use of "expert witnesses"; more freedom for insurers to withhold paying claims in so-called "bad-faith" cases; and limiting attorney fees in personal-injury-protection lawsuits.
"Last year was a fantastic success for the business community, but much more needs to be done," said chamber Executive Vice President David Hart.
The chamber's agenda was part of a broader discussion last week of job-creation ideas among House lawmakers, university-system Chancellor Frank Brogan, a Gulf Power executive and Council of 100 Chairman-elect Marshall Criser III.
"Ex-Florida U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez backs Romney".
"Florida Morning: Rick Perry in St. Pete; Mel Martinez endorses Mitt Romney".
The Rickster's "charm offensive"
"You wouldn't have known it from his campaign, but Gov. Rick Scott insists he likes newspapers."
During his campaign, Scott bucked tradition and deliberately ignored newspaper editorial boards, although he did meet with The Ledger's board — but that was the only exception. Not surprisingly, none of the newspapers endorsed him."Can Scott, Fla. Press Become BFFs?"
However, after his popularity with voters plunged in the spring, Scott has been on a charm offensive since the summer. And part of that remake involves establishing a more cordial relationship with the state's media.
Now, Scott usually starts his day with a half-hour media briefing and he has more frequent press availabilities.
And in contrast to the campaign, as of Friday, Scott has now visited some 10 editorial boards, including stops Friday at newspapers in his hometown of Naples and in nearby Fort Myers. On Monday, Scott is scheduled to appear before the editorial board at the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota.
One helluva bill
"The head of the State Board of Administration is being called back to the Capitol to address a $10,750 invoice to a state lawmaker for a public records request centered on a $125 million investment by the agency in a private equity firm." "Senators to Review $10,000 Bill for Hedge-Fund Investment Records".
Poor lil' Ricky
Nancy Smith cries that "the press flat-out didn't like Scott. His communications office sparred with reporters daily. But you would think that a few folks in the press would open up a little dialogue on why they could conduct a public records feeding frenzy on one governor, after giving the other a free pass and a kiss on the cheek." "Email Vigilance? Not During the Charlie Crist Years".
The weather is nice in Spain this time of year
"Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and space executives are in Europe this week to drum up high-tech and aerospace business for the state." "Florida Delegation Hunts for High-Tech Jobs in Britain, Spain".
Enough with the "lock 'em up approach"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board writes that "with tight budgets year after year, some conservative lawmakers are starting to see that Florida can no longer afford [the] lock 'em up approach. Legislators need to find the money to pay for more drug treatment now to achieve much greater savings in the future." "Drug treatment cheaper than cells".