The Saint Petersburg Times editors write: "If your taxes go up 10 days from now, you will know whom to blame: U.S. House Republicans, including all of those in Florida".
They are the ones who failed to support bipartisan legislation to extend the payroll tax cut that was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate. They are the ones who rejected an extension of long-term unemployment benefits for 3 million Americans. And they are the ones who should be held accountable in the next election for their callous indifference to the needs of their constituents."Here we are, three days before Christmas and 10 days before New Year's, and Republicans in Congress are still playing a political poker game. They are more interested in staring down President Barack Obama than in providing peace of mind to workers that their payroll taxes aren't going up and to the jobless that their benefits won't be abruptly cut. No wonder voter approval of Congress hovers just above single digits."
Voters tend to like their own representatives more than Congress as an institution, but they should hold them accountable for this failure. U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Richard Nugent of Brooksville and C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores voted with their Republican colleagues on Tuesday to effectively reject the Senate compromise. Last week in the Senate, even Republican Marco Rubio joined with Democrat Bill Nelson and voted for the temporary extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, leaving the next round of political fighting until March. But the House Republicans were more interested in joining the most extreme members of their own party and propping up a weak House speaker than in representing the best interests of Floridians."They picked party over you".
The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "Restoring felon rights a no-brainer".
FEC says "more likely than not" Buchanan broke election laws
"Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan claimed he'd been "completely exonerated" in an elections investigation. In a just-released report, however, the FEC said evidence suggested 'it is more likely than not' that the Sarasota Republican did break federal election laws."
The report also said that there were "legitimate questions'' about Buchanan's credibility and that an affidavit in which he and former business partner Sam Kazran said they knew nothing about reimbursements could indicate Buchanan was trying to hide his involvement."Credibility in question". See also "FEC report: Buchanan and campaign ‘more likely than not’ violated campaign laws".
But the FEC's Office of General Counsel had "significant concerns'' about Kazran's credibility, too. Faced with conflicting testimony and a shaky witness in Kazran, the commission closed its case against Buchanan last winter.
Asked for comment about the report, which was prepared in January but not released until Tuesday, Buchanan's Washington lawyers called it a "marvel of one-sided advocacy.''
"No amount of overstatement, distortion or speculation by (general counsel) can transform what occurred in this case into a violation of federal laws,'' the lawyers said. "It's time to … rightly conclude from the facts that no laws have been broken.''
Romney County Chairs in Florida
"Mitt Romney Announces County Chairs in Florida".
Don't expect much
"The House Speaker says that during this coming session that he intends to stick to the committee process from the 2011 session and not take up any Senate bills 'whose House companion had not reached the House Calendar.'" "Cannon: Don't expect 'major floor action' early in the session".
Scott talks Energy
"Governor says he's still working on energy issues and isn't deferring to Putnam".
Number of Floridians with private health insurance continues to decline
"According to a new report from the Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board, the number of people in Florida with private health insurance has continued to decline."
Last year, Florida had the third highest percentage of residents without insurance, according to U.S. Census data. The 2010 Census information (.xls) finds that from 2008 to 2010, Florida’s average percentage of uninsured people was 20.7 percent. The national average for uninsured citizens was 15.6 percent."Number of Floridians with private health insurance decreases".
Florida is also currently leading the fight against the federal health care reform law — a law written to expand health insurance coverage in the county. Florida and 25 other states have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the law. Hearings will commence in March.
Florida has been thwarting the implementation of the Affordable Care Act since its passage. According to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Florida is one of only five states returning grants awarded by the federal government to implement the state exchanges, as well as a slew of other grants meant to assist low-income or at-risk communities in the state. State officials have also said they will not be creating a state exchange until the Supreme Court decides to uphold the health care reform law.
"Nurses protest staffing levels"
"HCA nurses protest staffing levels".
Scott has reversed course on 'Glades
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "The halting state-federal effort to restore the Everglades has taken a positive turn. Congress authorized $142 million for the project next year, clearing the way for new construction that will vastly improve water flow into the River of Grass. And Gov. Rick Scott has reversed course and proposed a more serious starting point for state funding next year. This new spending does not entirely make up for recent cuts, especially at the state level. But it strengthens the federal-state partnership at a critical time." "Welcome new funding for the Everglades". Related: "Everglades restoration is bipartisan, Nelson says".
"Mounting criticisms against Bondi's handling of foreclosure crisis"
"Evicted this week from his home of 40 years, retired Orange County firefighter Booker T. Perry and a new coalition added to the mounting criticisms against Florida Attorney General Bondi's handling of the foreclosure crisis."
A teary-eyed Perry stood on the front steps of his white-brick home Wednesday and recounted that he received only one foreclosure notice before his eviction and the rest of the legal filings went to an attorney hired by his estranged wife. He never saw them."Evicted firefighter leads charge against Bondi".
Flagstar Bank recently sold the house to an investor who purchased it for $17,000 and ordered the eviction, which occurred five days before Christmas.
Enough with the guns in child care centers
"Months after lawmakers approved a measure to overrule cities and counties with get-tough gun laws, a Palm Beach County lawmaker on Tuesday introduced a bill to begin restoring some limits on where residents can carry guns. Saying she hopes to at least generate debate, Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, filed a proposal (HB 1087) to bar handguns from child care centers and government buildings." "Berman Bill Would Restore Some Gun Limitations".
Scott don' like Education in the Cabinet
"The governor says putting the Education Commissioner in the Cabinet as a statewide elected position would make the post too political and hurt education outcomes." "Scott smacks down proposal to move education commish to Cabinet".
Ricky's "tax increase" dance
"Gov. Scott says he would sign Internet sales tax bill, with caveat".
Scott proposes to cut road spending cut by $1.2 billion
Lloyd Dunkelberger: "Major road projects across the state may be delayed or canceled next year, as dwindling fuel taxes undermine Florida's road-building budget and its role in Florida's economic revival."
The state's road budget would drop by about $1.2 billion under the spending plan Gov. Rick Scott sent to lawmakers this month."Dip in fuel taxes could doom state road projects".
"If Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam wades further into the state gaming issues, his focus will be on the adult arcades that are commonly referred to as Internet cafes."
An existing jumble of state laws makes it difficult to regulate the store-front businesses and legislators were unable to reach consensus in the spring on the issue."Putnam: Too Much Ambiguity in State Gambling Laws".
Legislators are expected to confront the issue again in the 2012 session.
2012 Session Outlook
2012 Session Outook: "Insurance" and "Health Care".
Census numbers has Florida closing in on N.Y.
"Florida now has 19.1 million residents, making it the nation's fourth most populous state." "Florida tallies 3rd largest population increase". See also "Growth spurt since 2010 census has Florida closing in on N.Y. for No. 3 spot".
Scott backing off casinos?
"Scott said Wednesday that a bill that would allow for three Las Vegas-style casino resorts in South Florida will be tough to pass in the 2012 legislative session." "Scott: Casino bill will be tough to pass in 2012 legislative session".
Amendment would "virtually require taxpayer funding of religious activities"
"Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, one of the many groups challenging a 2012 ballot measure that would eliminate restrictions on state funding for religious institutions, says a recent rewrite of the proposed amendment is still misleading."
This week, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi rewrote the amendment, as ordered by a Leon County judge a week ago. However, she only made a minor tweak that was pointed out by the judge."Faith leaders say ‘Religious Freedom’ amendment is still misleading".
Groups maintain the small change has not made the ballot measure less misleading. Howard Simon, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said "the proposal continues to mislead voters by failing to inform them of the chief purpose and actual impact of the amendment – to virtually require taxpayer funding of religious activities of churches, mosques and synagogues."
Americans United, which joined the ACLU in challenging the amendment, says in a press release today that "the Florida attorney general’s rewrite of a religion amendment scheduled for the November ballot is disappointing."
"Neither scientifically nor constitutionally sound"
"The bill introduced by state Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville, is similar to a handful of bills seen last year in legislatures across the country: so-called 'fetal pain' bills that have been found to be 'neither scientifically nor constitutionally sound.' Current law protects a woman’s right to have an abortion up to 22-24 weeks, at least." "‘Fetal pain’ bill sponsor defends measure".
"Harsh, disheartening consequences"
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "The state Board of Education has approved new passing scores for standardized tests, raising the ante in its already high-stakes student assessments."
So why are we not surprised that part of the resulting costs could be paid through increased lottery ticket sales?"The FCAT gamble".
But the tests are not a game for the third-graders and high school students who have to pass them in order to advance. Failure means that a 10-year-old may be held back a grade while his or her classmates go forward. The teenager who fails can be denied a diploma.
Those are the harsh, disheartening consequences of failing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test at those grade levels.
"When state lawmakers came to Daytona Beach in July to solicit voter views on the once-a-decade process of redrawing political boundaries, the message they heard repeated time and again was this: Create compact districts that give us a greater say over our representation. For the past 10 years, Volusia County voters have been divided among three congressional, four state Senate and six state House districts. Flagler County has had two of each. That would change under any of the proposals being studied this week in Tallahassee." "New voting districts propose fewer representatives in Legislature, Congress".