Republicans shake down Tampa hotels
"A crowd of hotel managers gathered in the ballroom of the Wyndam Tampa Westshore on Wednesday expecting a routine update on plans for the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa."
Instead, a new convention contractor delivered a shock: Hotels are expected to throw out year-old room contracts with the convention's Republican organizers and sign new agreements with lower room rates."Despite contracts, Republican National Convention officials tell hotels they want cheaper rooms, higher fees".
"There were a couple hundred folks in the room slightly gasping,'' said Ron Alicandro, general manager of the Westin Tampa Bay. "We've all got signed contracts. None of us can understand it.'' Pinellas hoteliers got the same message at a meeting Thursday in St. Petersburg.
Election "mess created by the Governor"
"A dispute over Florida's new election law apparently won't be resolved before the state's Jan. 31 presidential primary."
A federal court in Washington, D.C. on Friday denied a request by Gov. Rick Scott's administration to expedite the case that involves four sections of the law and blamed Scott's administration itself for the delay."U.S. court rejects Florida bid to speed election law case". See also "Court denies state request for expedited hearing on new voting rules" and "Florida Voting Changes Won't be Rushed Through Courts".
Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning had asked the three-judge panel this summer to decide whether the four sections meet the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act. Under the act, Florida must get preclearance, or approval, in five of its counties – Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe – because of prior racial discrimination there.
The sections under review reduce the number of early voting days, put new restrictions on groups that conduct voter registration drives, shorten the time frame for gathering signatures for citizens' initiatives and change Election Day rules for voters who move from one county to another. ...
The ACLU of Florida, one of the intervenors in the case, applauded the court's decision.
"The Court was right to say this is a mess created by the Governor and the Legislature. In denying their request for a 'drive by hearing', the Court essentially said that the state's failure to take this issue seriously until recently is no one's fault but their own," ACLU Florida executive director Howard Simon said in a statement.
On a related issue, the Volusia County supervisor of elections, Ann McFall, a Republican, writes that the "Voter registration law is frustrating and unenforceable".
Biden fires up Florida Democrats
"Vice President Joe Biden fired up Florida Democrats Friday night, decrying Republicans obstructing the president's economic agenda and ridiculing their foreign policy agenda."
"Name me one major initiative on taxes, on jobs, on Wall Street, on foreclosures, on promoting innovation, on infrastructure that is any different than in the eight years that they controlled the presidency. I cannot find one,'' Biden told more than 1,000 party activists gathered at Disney World for the state party's 2011 convention."Vice President Joe Biden blasts GOP at Florida Democrats' convention". See also "At Democratic meeting, Biden blames GOP for country's woes", "Biden assures Democrats Obama will fight to win Florida", "Joe Biden: 'We Can't Win Without Florida'", "GOP getting in way of change, Biden tells Democrats, teachers union" and "Vice President Biden scolds GOP as 'obstructionist' in two Central Florida speeches".
Drawing a rousing reception, Biden scoffed at Republican presidential candidates suggesting American troops remain longer in Iraq and noted that Texas Gov. Rick Perry once suggested he'd consider sending troops into Mexico to deal with the drug war.
Entrepreneurs in action
"Gov. Rick Scott's jobs czar defended the state's economic incentive programs on Friday, saying Florida would go after companies that failed to perform." "Gov. Rick Scott's jobs czar defends Florida's economic incentive programs". Related: "Check out where the tax-incentives and jobs went".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "What's most striking is just how widespread the incentives are and how often they fail."
State leaders were so eager to help DayJet Corp. of Delray Beach get off the ground in 2005 that the Legislature approved a specialized sales tax exemption for the air taxi service's planes. Less publicized was the $2 million the company apparently received from the state's Quick-Action Closing Fund on the promise of creating 595 jobs. Just three years later, the service shut its doors after hiring only 142 people, but the database suggests it never repaid any of the $2 million."Jobs plan ineffective, too secret".
The Sun Sentinel editors support "efforts to boost private-sector job creation. Nonetheless, it's clear the state's economic development efforts — including the array of tax credits and cash incentives — need readjustment. State records released recently show that after paying six companies $37.9 million in employment-inducing contracts, the thousands of expected jobs never materialized. What's more, of the many similar efforts negotiated since 1995, the actual number of jobs that can be verified is much lower less than what was projected." "Readjust state jobs incentives".
"Florida's towering backlog of 350,000 foreclosure cases"
"Leaders of some of the nation's busiest foreclosure courts gathered Friday to discuss attorney civility, bank honesty and Florida's towering backlog of 350,000 foreclosure cases." "Lawyers, judges debate Florida's foreclosure backlog".
Florida's Renewable Energy Policy
Nancy Smith asks "What's Wrong With Florida's Renewable Energy Policy?"
"State Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, did enough in his personal disclosure letter that he didn’t violate legislative voting conflict laws when he supported a charter school reform bill last spring, the state Commission on Ethics has ruled. ... Fresen’s brother in law, Fernando Zulueta, operates Academica Inc., a for-profit organization that manages charter schools. The ruling rejected an advocate’s recommendation that Fresen didn’t fully disclose that his vote could benefit his sister Magdalena, who also works at Academica." "Ethics Commission Clears Fresen's Charter School Vote".
"A Leaner Occupy Tallahassee Returns for Third Weekend". Yesterday: "Occupy Tampa protesters charged with pushing police officer".
Intense use of off-road vehicles in Big Cypress
Bill Maxwell: "One of the benefits of living in Florida is being within easy driving distance of beautiful, wild places. But some of these places may be getting too much attention and love, and human activity has to be carefully controlled."
Big Cypress National Preserve, the 566,000-acre swamp between Fort Lauderdale/Miami and Naples, is one such place. While this treasure is home to many common animals such as turkey and whitetail deer, the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and the Florida panther find tenuous protection there. The panther is of greatest concern to environmentalists."Protecting Florida's beautiful, wild places".
The major problem in Big Cypress is the intense use of the off-road vehicle, or ORV, by sportsmen, especially hunters, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
"All-Star team of Florida lobbyists"
Aaron Deslatte: "Malaysian-based Genting wants to build a $3 billion resort casino in downtown Miami. And they're hiring an All-Star team of Florida lobbyists to make it a reality. Since summer, gaming interests of all varieties have hired nearly three-dozen lobbyists in to lay the groundwork for debate on the resort casino bill filed this week." See who these "all-stars" are here: "Lobbyists saddle up for gaming heavyweight fight".
Courtesy of the "values" crowd
"Panhandling bans pass as state cuts homeless funds".
"SunRail beginning to pay off"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "just four months after the governor grudgingly signed off on SunRail, tell the story perfectly well: The investment in the 61-mile rail line that will serve commuters from DeLand through Orlando to Poinciana already is beginning to pay off." "SunRail starting to showcase its worth".
Florida fights for insurance company profits
"Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network) has asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 'to reject a request by Florida’s Insurance Commissioner to grant insurance companies a reprieve from new Affordable Care Act requirements intended to ensure that consumers get value for the health insurance premiums they pay.' ... Insurance companies and Republicans in the state Legislature have been opposed to a medical loss ratio — mostly because it would affect the profits that insurance companies can hold on to." "Florida CHAIN asks feds to reject request by state to ‘phase in’ medical loss ratio".
"Scott trying to make Florida less appealing"?
The Sun Sentinel editorial board wonders if "Gov. Rick Scott trying to make Florida less appealing to top-notch research professors? Because he seems to be working overtime to get the job accomplished."
There is his idea — based on what is being done in Texas by Gov. Rick Perry — to base some tenure decisions on student ratings of a professor's effectiveness, along with the number of students that professor has taught."Higher ed plans don't add up".
Then there was the governor's decision to post the salaries of professors at public universities online, in what one has to conclude was an obvious attempt to have the public question whether the professors are worth their pay.
Gov. Scott has also said the state should spend less on education programs that aren't related to current workforce demands — he particularly singled out anthropology. He said more money and time should be spent on fields like technology and engineering and math.
The fact is, University of Florida President Bernie Machen, among others, has said that eliminating tenure would threaten UF's recruitment of faculty. That is hardly a way to keep Florida's universities competitive with the rest of the country.
The posting salaries of backfired on Gov. Scott, too. He claimed it was simply a matter of transparency, not politics. But it turns out the average salary of full-time professors in Florida — about $80,879 — is about $6,000 below the national average, according to the American Association of University Professors.
Yes, the salaries are public record, but the only thing transparent about putting them online in such an abrupt, unexplained way is the attempt to sway public opinion about overpaid professors.
As for Gov. Scott's ideas about what subjects students should be studying, the American Anthropological Association responded by questioning whether the governor understands the contributions to biological and medical research that the anthropology field has made.
Lloyd Dunkelberger: "A recently filed bill that would allow the creation of up to three megacasinos in Florida may say something about the state’s priorities."
The bill — filed by Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale — puts a higher dollar value on a gambling czar than the governor, at least when it comes to pay."New casino bill may indicate state priorities".
The 142-page bill creates a State Gaming Commission, which would award the casino permits and head the new Department of Gaming Control, which would replace the current Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.
The seven-member gaming commission would be appointed by the governor and have to include at least one member with law enforcement experience and another who has financial expertise in casino operations.
The commission members would be paid $125,000 a year, while a commission chairman, also designated by the governor, would be paid $135,000.
FlaDems to produce 'broadcast production' videos
"Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich announced Thursday that the Senate Democratic caucus will be producing regular 'broadcast production' videos in order to get past the capital city's "right wing spin." But it looks like mainly a YouTube production that will be available to TV outlets." "Senate Democrats take to the airwaves, via YouTube, to battle 'right wing spin'".
"The Mississippi Republican Party is changing a TV ad that falsely claimed a Democratic state senator lives in Florida rather than in her own district on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. State GOP director Tim Saler said the ad criticizing Sen. Deborah Dawkins started running Thursday and was pulled off the air Friday to be edited so the incorrect information could be removed." "Miss. GOP changes ad about where Dem senator lives".
Genting's first U.S. casino
"While it continues pushing for a Miami resort, Genting opened its first U.S. casino in New York on Friday." "Genting opens first U.S. casino – in New York". See also "Opponents line up against new casino bill", "Miami-Dade County Commission takes aim at mega-resorts casino plans" and "Two Vegas magnates disagree on Miami’s casino potential". Related: "Gaming bill sponsors say gaming won't scare off Mickey Mouse tourists".