"One year before the presidential election, President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are running neck and neck in Florida,"
Ohio and Pennsylvania, the three states that for the past half-century have predicted the presidential winner, according to the first Quinnipiac University "Swing State Poll" of the 2012 cycle released today. The president leads the other top GOP contenders, although half the voters in each state say he does not deserve a second term. Since 1960, no candidate has won the presidency without carrying at least two of these three states."November 10, 2011 - Obama, Romney Tied In Florida".
From the "values" crowd
"Among the long list of federal health grants the state has shunned in past year was a small award that would have 'reduced the burden of cancer.'" "Florida lawmakers turned away grant money for cancer control programs".
Florida's Cainites "straddling a fine line"
Adam C. Smith: "Florida launched Herman Cain into the top tier of presidential candidates six weeks ago by overwhelmingly backing him in a high profile mock GOP primary election, and it was one of the first states where the Georgia businessman put together a serious campaign operation."
But as sexual harassment accusations swirl around the former CEO, some of his highest profile Florida supporters now find themselves straddling a fine line — standing by him even as they sound skittish about fully embracing him or weighing in on the allegations."Herman Cain's Florida team largely silent on allegations". See also "Fla. Republicans favor Cain over Romney in primary, poll says" and "Florida politicos weigh impact of accusations on presidential contender Cain".
"I'm still with the campaign. … Obviously he's got some challenges he's working through right now,'' said former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, one of Cain's Florida chairmen, repeatedly declining to say whether he remains fully committed to Cain. "I've made my comments," he said.
Tampa businesswoman Kathleen Shanahan, another statewide campaign leader and former chief of staff to Gov. Jeb Bush, said she is unaware of any Florida supporter dropping off the campaign team. But she declined to comment on the harassment allegations. ...
"Naturally it gives me pause, and I pay attention to sexual harassment having been sexually harassed myself and being in a male-dominated field,'' said state Sen. Ronda Storms, a Cain supporter from Valrico.
"This kind of stuff happens. It happens all the time, but you have an affirmative obligation to come forward at the time it happens,'' Storms said, referring to Sharon Bialek, a woman who held a news conference earlier this week to say Cain tried to fondle her in 1997. "You don't get to come forward 15 years or 14 years later and say this happened." ...
Palm Beach City Commissioner Bill Diamond, helping host a Nov. 16 fundraiser for Cain at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, said the negative publicity has galvanized many supporters for Cain and ultimately could make him a stronger candidate.
Even worse than minimum wage and child labor laws
"The National Federation of Independent Business released a study on Wednesday that found that the health insurance tax (HIT), one of the key components of the federal health-care law backed by President Barack Obama, would lead to the loss of thousands of jobs across the Sunshine State in years to come." "Obama Health-Care Law and HIT Will Bring Job Losses, Business Study Finds".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Words matter."
And these should disqualify Sen. Alan Hays from sitting on a panel charged with drawing congressional and legislative districts: "We all know there are many Hispanic-speaking people in Florida that are not legal," Hays said at an Oct. 18 meeting of the Senate redistricting panel, "and I just don't think that it's right that we try to draw a district that encompasses people that really have no business voting anyhow.""Remove Sen. Alan Hays from redistricting panel".
One needn't be a grammarian to draw districts. So we'll excuse Hays' embarrassing "Hispanic-speaking" gaffe.
But we can't excuse Hays for his daft and ultimately demeaning suggestion that legislators summarily rule out drawing a Hispanic-majority district because some of the district's residents might be illegal immigrants. And it's unacceptable that he disparaged Hispanics as a group by saying "we all know" many of them are illegal.
Because Hays has refused to explain himself or offer an apology, we can only assume that he stands by what he said. And conclude that he's unfit to serve on the committee.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos should toss him off. But neither he nor the redistricting committee chairman, Don Gaetz, seem bothered by fellow Republican Hays' remarks.
Gingrich's Florida campaign finds new life
"Once written off in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is starting to focus on Florida as his campaign finds new life in the fluid race to see who emerges to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012."
A poll released on Wednesday from Rasmussen Reports found that Gingrich was making strides in the Sunshine State. Despite allegations of sexual harassment, Cain continues to lead in the Sunshine State with 30 percent. Romney stands in second with 24 percent. Gingrich comes in third place with 19 percent, his best showing in a Florida poll to date. None of the other candidates in the race breaks double digits. The poll of 788 likely Florida Republican primary voters was conducted on Tuesday and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent."Newt Gingrich Is Coming On in Florida".
Dorworth flops as local kingmaker
"Altamonte Springs Mayor Pat Bates held on to her office, fending off a challenge from CSX Transportation lobbyist Bob O'Malley in the city's first contested election in a decade."
"O'Malley's campaign was aided by the Small Business Advocacy Council in Tallahassee, which sent numerous mailers accusing Bates of being a 'liberal Democrat.' In response, Bates, who has been on the City Commission since 1997 and became mayor in 2008, maintained that she is a fiscal conservative." "Altamonte Springs Mayor Pat Bates re-elected".
"O'Malley's campaign was aided by the Small Business Advocacy Council in Tallahassee, which sent numerous mailers accusing Bates of being a 'liberal Democrat.' In response, Bates, who has been on the City Commission since 1997 and became mayor in 2008, maintained that she is a fiscal conservative.""Railroad lobbyist fails in bid to unseat Altamonte Springs mayor".
O'Malley, who had the endorsement of local Republican leaders, distanced himself from the mailer, saying he had nothing to do with the council or its mailer. A financial report showed the council was funded by two organizations started by Republican legislators: Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, whose Economic Freedom Foundation contributed $5,000 to the council, and Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, whose Citizens for Enterprising Democracy contributed $10,000 to the council. Both groups also contributed directly to O'Malley's campaign.
FRS "one of the healthiest pension plans in the country"
"The relative financial health of the 208 pension plans for public employees and elected officials of Florida's 100 largest cities have been analyzed and graded in a report released Wednesday by the LeRoy Collins Institute."
The grades range from an "A" for those pension plans that are more than 90 percent funded to and "F" for those funded at less than a 60 percent rate. The highest rated was Melbourne's general employee with a 190.1 percent funding, compared with the low of Cooper City's general employee and police pension fund with 35.48 percent funding."New report grades Florida cities' public employee pension plans".
The majority of the plans, about 53 percent, received “B” -- 80 to 90 percent funded -- or “C” grades -- 70 to 80 percent funded. "A" grades went to 14 percent of the municipal plans and nearly a third earned a “D” or “F” grade. By comparison, Florida's pension plan funding of 87.9 percent has been considered by analysts as one of the healthiest pension plans in the country.
South Florida employees skipping employer health benefits
"The rising cost of health insurance is pushing more South Florida employees to consider what had been unthinkable: Passing up medical coverage offered at work."
A strata of young, physically fit workers have always skipped employer health benefits they view as an unnecessary cost. But insurance agents say a growing number of older employees and even families are trying to save money by switching to low-priced health policies they buy on their own."More workers passing up on employers' medical coverage".
"Slade backs Lemieux"
"Former GOP chief Slade backs Lemieux for U.S. Senate race".
A tax increase in Tally?
"Prospect of online sales tax grows".
Will "judges be picked for their political leanings"?
Tom Lyons writes that there was
a perception during the past session that even though a fourth of Florida's lawmakers are lawyers, the legislature has factions that want to punish the court system for rulings they don't like. Some lawmakers have been seeking major changes without good cause, Byrd says."Ready to fend off court manipulation".
Instead of focusing on hiring more judges and replacing laid-off judicial assistants to keep courthouse dockets moving efficiently, the house speaker sought a new format for the state supreme court. He wanted it split in two, with three new justices appointed, so one division would handle criminal cases while the other dealt with civil cases.
That would have provided a chance to pack the court with judges picked for their political leanings, critics said.
Another proposal could have led to more "packing." It called for doing away with judicial nominating committees in interviews of would-be appointees to state appellate court positions. The governor must now choose from among a small pool selected by the committees. The proposed change would have given the governor far more leeway, with his choices subject to confirmation only by the senate.
Some lawmakers even wanted a provision requiring the Legislature to approve all rules of court, a realm long left to the state supreme court. Such meddling in court procedures could make fairness take a backseat to politics and political showboating ...
"A fourth straight year of heavy raids on Florida’s affordable housing fund"?
"The Sadowski Housing Coalition, an association of business groups, charities and advocacy groups for the poor and elderly, is hoping to prevent a fourth straight year of heavy raids on the Florida’s affordable housing trust fund." "Sadowski coalition looks to prevent affordable housing trust fund raid this year".
"Shaky accounting over millions in tax breaks"
"Gov. Rick Scott's new jobs agency is asking lawmakers to double-down on the amount of job-creation cash it gives out to companies despite some shaky accounting over millions in tax breaks the state has paid out in past years."
But the agency's $230-million business incentive budget request – up from this year's $93 million -- comes amid growing evidence that the state hasn't been keeping track of the millions of dollars agency documents say has been paid out to businesses that haven't met their job-creation targets."State agency that lost track of cash asks for $230 million".
Tenth Amendment wingnuttery
"State Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Meyers, and Sen. Greg Evers, R-Pensacola, are together attempting to curb the power and scope of the federal government."
Caldwell’s House Bill 553, the “Intrastate Commerce Act,” ”provides that certain goods grown, manufactured, or made in this state and services performed in this state are not subject to authority of U.S. Congress under its constitutional power to regulate commerce,” according to the bill’s summary."New bill ‘inspired’ by Tenth Amendment Center would exempt state from federal commerce rules".
The bill is strikingly similar to model legislation that goes by the same name and was created by the Tenth Amendment Center. According to the organization’s website, it is “a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism.”
Anti-choice crowd hangs tough
"Bryan Longworth, the head of Personhood Florida, says he is undeterred from his goal of placing a 'fetal personhood' amendment on Florida ballots, despite the sound rejection of a similar initiative in Mississippi".
Longworth shamelessly continues:
We’re following the William Wilberforce pattern. He didn’t win the first time, didn’t win the second time, the third time … but he kept trying.”"Personhood Florida leader ‘not deterred’ by Mississippi vote".
Longworth’s reference to Wilberforce (the leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade) is one of many allusions to slavery that anti-abortion activists often make. Longworth has no doubt that abortion, like slavery, will one day be outlawed.
Florida House Dems request hearings on state voting laws
"Following Sen. Bill Nelson’s lead, House Democrats from Florida have sent a letter to House leaders requesting hearings on the impact of new state voting laws on voter rights." "Florida House Democrats seek investigation into new voting laws". Related: "U.S. attorney general: State voting restrictions ‘inconsistent with what we say we are as a nation’".
"A proposal to expand gambling by allowing slot machines at the Palm Beach Kennel Club cleared an early hurdle Tuesday when Palm Beach County's legislative delegation endorsed a bill calling for a voter referendum on the matter." "Slots at dog track could go on PB County ballot under bill backed by local lawmakers".
Legislators "want to tell local governments how to do it"?
"Attorney Nancy Linnan said legislators won't want to see growth management this year, but there may be other issues that arise in coming years. The FSU College of Law panel was chaired by former DCA Secretary Tom Pelham, who said the Legislature is anti-planning and 'they want to tell local governments how to do it.'" "Growth-law panelists predict legislative tinkering in years ahead".
Grubbing for the Cuban vote
"Hoping to discourage oil drilling in Cuban waters near South Florida, Senators Bill Nelson and Robert Menendez introduced a bill on Wednesday that would make it easier for Americans to sue foreign polluters for damages." "Sen. Nelson tries to block Cuba drilling".
That's a relief
"Legislation would set rules for shackling of incarcerated pregnant women".
Entrepreneurs in action
"Developer never disclosed remediated landfill beneath homes".
"Six women forced out at the Department of Health in the past two weeks"
"The head of Florida's main health agency this week tried to allay fears that a shakeup in his department could be a prelude to the end of the bureau that helps out children with severe medical problems. Frank Farmer, secretary of the Department of Health sent an email Tuesday to more than 2,300 employees who work in the Children's Medical Services department after the abrupt resignation of longtime CMS director Phyllis Sloyer."
Sloyer was one of six women who were forced out at the Department of Health in the past two weeks. Division Director Lisa Conti over environmental health; Jean Kline of Emergency Medical Operations; Monica Hayes, director of the Office of Minority Health; Willie Jean Munden, director of the Alachua County Health Department; and Julie Meadows-Keefe either resigned or were terminated. ..."Health secretary emails 2,300 CMS employees to ease worry after agency director abruptly quits".
Sloyer was hired by the state in August 1981 by the administration of then-Gov. Bob Graham and worked for every governor since. She is the past president of the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs. In Florida she was responsible for the implementation and operation of the CMS Network, a managed system of care for children with special health care needs.
Sloyer is a pediatric nurse and has a doctorate in public administration – health services management. She scored a near-perfect 5 in her most recent job evaluation, which was finalized in January. Joseph Chiaro, who conducted the evaluation, noted that Sloyer is "an outstanding employee."
Sloyer was not the only one with a solid evaluation who was forced out according to Florida Department of Health records. All the women scored well on the latest evaluations.