"Scott on Wednesday put forth a state budget for next year that boosts public school spending by $1 billion, partly by sharply cutting what Florida pays hospitals to treat patients in the highly expensive Medicaid program."
In a $66.4 billion budget that he says makes "tough choices," Scott proposes to cut 4,500 state jobs, raise monthly medical premiums for highly paid state employees and legislators, increase bonus money to high performing schools, continue privatization of the prison system — despite legal obstacles — and close up to six state prisons and work camps because of a shrinking inmate population."Scott's new priority: schools". See also "Scott budget plan raises school spending by $1 billion, cuts Medicaid by $2 billion", "Scott proposes $66.4B budget with more money for schools". See also "Lawmakers, Scott agency heads weigh in on budget proposal".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Scott's $66.4 billion state budget plan would come at a high cost, cutting billions from the state's health care safety net, shortchanging other education needs, skimming money from funds dedicated for other purposes, and further cutting taxes for businesses. This isn't so much a thoughtful plan to invest in Florida's future as a short-term political calculation to increase the governor's rock-bottom poll numbers. The Republican-led Legislature can do better." "Scott's budget an improvement, but Legislature can do better".
Q Poll: Gingrich beats Romney in Florida primary; Obama beats either of them
"[A] new poll by Quinnipiac University shows that President Barack Obama is looking at a tight re-election race next November whether the Republican nominee is Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney. In either case, the candidates are in a statistical tie in Quinnipiac's survey of registered voters taken between Nov. 28 and Dec. 5. The poll shows Gingrich passing Romney among Republican voters in Florida." "Poll: Presidential race a dead heat in Florida; Gingrich leads Romney".
More from the Q poll: "Gingrich is top dog in the Republican pack in Florida, with 35 percent, followed by Romney with 22 percent and no other candidate above 8 percent." "December 8, 2011 - Gingrich Has Big GOP Lead In Florida" ("Romney with 45 percent to Obama's 42 percent; Obama at 46 percent to Gingrich's 44 percent.")
Yesterday's Time/CNN poll: "Newt Gingrich has pulled far ahead of the pack in Florida, per a new Time/CNN poll out [Yesterday] afternoon, garnering an impressive 48 percent of the vote." "Gingrich at 48 percent in Florida".
Scott refuses to "pee in a cup"
"Gov. Rick Scott and his drug-testing policy became the unwitting target of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show on Wednesday as a reporter for the show broke into budget news conference and asked the governor to 'pee in a cup.'"
“You’ve benefited from hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars over the years, so would you be willing to pee into this cup to prove to Florida taxpayers that you’re not on drugs?’’ Comedy Central reporter Aasif Mandvi asked. It was a reference to the governor’s drug-testing requirement imposed on all state employees and welfare recipients."‘Daily Show’ reporter asks governor to pee in a cup".
Scott didn’t miss a beat and said: "I’ve done it plenty of times."
Mandvi, a former Tampa resident and University of South Florida student, then attempted to hand the sealed, official-looking collection cup to the governor. "We could all turn around, that’s fine," he said. Scott ignored him.
Mandvi persuaded a reporter to hand the cup to the front row: "I hate to keep harping on this, would you pee in a cup?"
Scott shot back: "You don’t get to run this."
"A day after state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, complained about the latest congressional redistricting maps, a tea party leader told Democrats to put up or shut up." "Tea Party Leahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifder Rips Democrats' Passive-Aggressive Behavior on Redistricting".
"Large Florida Corporations Among 'Tax Dodgers'"
The Orlando Sentinel's Sandra Pedicini: "Three Central Florida companies were named in a national report released Wednesday that contends many corporations pay too little in state income tax."
Darden Restaurants, Publix and Harris Corp. are "paying substantially less than what the tax rate would suggest they should be paying," said Matthew Gardner, executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonprofit research group. It co-authored the report with Citizens for Tax Justice, an advocacy group backed by unions[*]."Central Florida companies don't pay fair share of state income taxes, report says".
Here's the report: "Large Florida Corporations Among 'Tax Dodgers' in New Report".
- - - - - - - - - -
*Not surprising that the Sentinel would try to marginalize CTJ as a group "backed" by unions. To be sure it is "funded in part by labor unions"; but, then again, so are women's and children's cancer awareness efforts.
The Associated Press version of the story didn't find it necessary to underscore the funding sources. See "Study: 8 Fla. companies underpaying corporate tax".
Casino bill to be changed significantly
"The Senate sponsor of a bill to bring destination resort casinos to South Florida faced a hostile first committee Wednesday even as economists came up with a new projection that shows the project will bring the state a windfall of between $327 million and $455 million in new revenue."
A majority of the members of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, traditionally a welcome place for casino expansion legislation, told Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff they’d like to see significant changes to the bill before they agree to support it."Casino bill faces resistance even in normally friendly committee". See also "Lawmakers begin chipping away at gambling proposal", "Associated Industries of Florida holds press conference to support casino bill" and "Mega-Casino Bill Facing Stiff Odds in Senate Committee".
Bogdanoff, for the first time, outlined the changes she is willing to make to strengthen support for the measure that would allow for three $2 billion resort casinos in Miami Dade and Broward. And legislative economist Amy Baker detailed the first independent economic analysis she has done of the proposed bill. ...
Among the changes Bogdanoff said she will introduce before the bill comes up for a vote the first week of the legislative session in January are:
- Give the South Florida pari-mutuels the same full-casino games but tax them, at the same rate as the resort casinos only after they increase the investment. For example, the pari-mutuels would be given a tax rate of 35 percent slot machines and 45 percent for all other casino games but that rate could be lowered based on the dollar value of new investment, she said.
- Increase the application fee from $25 million to $125 million, in an attempt to back stop the drop in revenue from the Indian gaming compact and buy out existing pari-mutuel permits for facilities willing to close down.
- Transfer control of the Department of the Lottery to the proposed Gaming Control Commission – a move that was greeted by significant opposition by members of the committee.
Her changes are designed to win over reluctant lawmakers, such Democrats Nan Rich of Weston and Maria Sachs from Delray Beach and Republican Charlie Dean of Inverness, who each said they wanted to see stronger protections for the existing pari-mutuels.
"A proposal to allow surplus lines insurers to take policies out of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. passed its first committee Tuesday, but not before lengthy and pointed exchanges between supporters and vocal industry critic Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey." "Bill to Reduce Citizens Customer Base Clears Committee".
Wage theft? Ya gotta problem wit dat?
"Construction workers fight for unpaid wages as bill to block anti-wage theft ordinances moves on".
"Victory for the insurance industry"
Nancy Smith: "Despite a majority contingent of speakers testifying on behalf of dispensing physicians, HB 511 -- a bill limiting how much dispensing physicians can charge for their repackaged drugs -- sailed through the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee on Wednesday. ... It was a first-round victory for the insurance industry and its business community support group, in particular the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida." "Bill to Limit Dispensing Physicians' Profits in Workers' Comp Cases Is Victorious in Subcommittee".
Scott lawyers vet County Court applicants
"Gov. Scott team interviews for county judge appointment".
"This is a panic of their own making"
Fred Grimm: "Don’t think of the electronic alerts installed in the state Capitol as panic buttons. Think of them as metaphors."
These are the devices that replaced common sense in Tallahassee. Instead of retaining security measures that had long kept prevented pistol-packing desperadoes from roaming Capitol hallways and offices, the state Senate has installed panic buttons. The House of Representatives is considering similar alarms for their own haunts."In Tallahassee, panic buttons replace common sense".
This is a panic of their own making. Our legislators are taking steps to protect themselves against their own legislation.
Florida House subcommittee votes to block local anti-wage theft ordinances
"As a Florida House subcommittee voted to pass state Rep. Tom Goodson’s bill that would block local anti-wage theft ordinances today, 35 construction workers in Miami Lakes began fighting to receive wages they are owed for several weeks of work."
Goodson, R-Titusville, filed House Bill 609 for the upcoming legislative session; the measure preempts all local laws, ordinances or rules that address wage theft, the practice of stiffing workers out of money they are owed. State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, filed the Senate version of the bill."Construction workers fight for unpaid wages as bill to block anti-wage theft ordinances moves on".
Rich Templin of the Florida AFL-CIO said during today’s House hearing that the Department of Labor “documented 9,000 cases of wage theft totaling $28 million in Florida for a two-year period ending Jan. 1 of this year.” ...
Dwight Mattingly of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1577 said, “We oppose this bill because it does not fix the probem, but continues to allow unscrupulous employers who are failing to pay workers to get away with that, without penalty. There is mention of provisions in federal law — that takes forever if Department of Labor gets to those.”
Mattingly added that supporters of Goodson’s bill have suggested that wage theft complaints should go through the courts, but he said that would “clog” the judicial system. ...
The Florida Associated Builders and Contractors supported the “Wage Protection” bill filed by Goodson during the 2011 legislative session; it did not pass then.
Scott plays blame game
"Scott continues to blame Medicaid for state budget shortfalls".
Scott's monumental flip-flop
"Marking a clear shift in priorities, Gov. Rick Scott proposed a $66 billion budget that includes a large increase in education funding." "Scott calls for more education spending, less on Medicaid". See also "Scott wants more money for public schools" and "Rick Scott eyes big education boost in proposed 2012 budget". More: "Scott's education boost comes by gutting Medicaid hospitals".
"Avoiding raising tax revenues to pay the state's bills"
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editors: "With the Legislature again facing a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, Florida's affordable-housing trust funds will once more be at risk."
As we've seen in the past, the term "trust fund" offers no protection from legislative raiders willing to go to any lengths to avoid raising tax revenues to pay the state's bills."Stop raids on housing funds".
SEIU reaches agreement covering 10,000 health care workers
"Nearly 10,000 health care workers at 19 Florida facilities of the Hospital Corporation of America — including Doctors Hospital of Sarasota, Blake Medical Center in Bradenton and Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte — voted this week to accept a collective bargaining agreement with their employers. The primary achievements listed by their union, SEIU, echo the objectives of recently unionized nurses at those same hospitals: a process to address staffing levels, scheduling and training and more dialogue with management about patient safety and workplace concerns." "Health care workers at HCA facilities reach new union accord".
Rooney gets a bill
"The bill reflects a Republican determination to block rules – such as clean-water requirements -- that they think stifle business growth and cost a lot for local communities to implement. Democrats say it would jeopardize such things as clean air and water, product safety and access to health care." "House passes Rooney bill to curb regulations".
Heaven help us
"West and Rooney to help decide defense spending".
Federal Judge certifies class action ACLU case to stop state drug testing of welfare recipients
"Federal Judge Mary Scriven has certified a class in an ACLU case to stop state drug testing of welfare recipients. Scriven had previously ordered that the state halt its drug testing program of welfare recipients, but held off on certifying a class for the case. Lawyers for the state refused to agree to certification." "TANF lawsuit now has certified class".
"Volunteer watchdog predicted he’d be fired"
"Volunteer watchdog Bill Hearne predicted he’d be fired when he told a roomful of colleagues that their program was being deliberately dismantled by Tallahassee bosses who had become too cozy with the nursing home and assisted living facility industries they oversee."
Within six weeks, he was proved right."ALF watchdog: I was dumped for doing my job".
Hearne has been jettisoned as part of what activists are calling a purge of inspectors who are serious about ferreting out abuse, neglect and filthy conditions.
The exodus comes in the wake of a series of stories in The Miami Herald, “Neglected to Death,’’ that documented the state’s failure to police the state’s 2,850 assisted living facilities, where residents suffered deadly bedsores, were strapped to their beds and ignored, locked in a closet, overmedicated, and in one case, eaten by an alligator after wandering away.
House's proposed maps make mockery of Fair Districts Amendment
The Sun Sentinel editors: "The Florida House of Representatives has unveiled its draft changes for political district maps. The good news is that lawmakers will get another crack at redoing the lines, particularly for the suggested House seat boundaries in Broward County that make a mockery of the voter-approved Fair Districts Amendment and that rob the county of representation in Tallahassee."
Legislators have fallen far short of the goals of the Fair District amendment. Redrawing legislative districts admittedly is a tough task and passing constitutional muster is by no means guaranteed."New maps mock Amendment 5".
Still, that's no excuse to discard the ideals of the anti-gerrymandering amendment, or whittle away the representation of Florida's second most populous county. Sixty-two percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 5, which requires state lawmakers to redraw legislative districts in a manner that downplays partisanship and links like communities. To date, that hasn't happened.
In fact, the likelihood is that the final maps will be determined by the courts and not the Florida Legislature. Judging by the first draft, that might be the best option.
The voters expect adherence to Fair District amendment requirements will end drawing lines to help incumbents or boost political parties. The jury unfortunately is still out on the Florida House, whose members may be sworn to uphold the Constitution, but to date still seem hard-pressed to produce reasonable political districts.
"Appeals court rules against Rinker Materials' bid to mine rock in Glades".
A "question of whether taxpayers are getting their money's worth"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "The Colt Manufacturing Co. announced it would bring 63 jobs, along with a new regional headquarters and manufacturing center to Kissimmee. In return for this $2.5million investment and positions projected to pay about $45,000 on average, the company will qualify for $1.6 million in state incentives — roughly $25,000 per job. Colt's take would be small compared to much-larger tax windfalls that other companies have reaped to come to Florida, but it raises anew the question of whether taxpayers are getting their money's worth." "To add jobs, improve Florida's quality of life".
Environmentalists' protest rejected by state regulators
"Florida Power & Light Co. and Progress Energy Florida will continue their energy conservation programs, state regulators have decided, despite a protest by environmentalists who wanted the programs upgraded." "State upholds FPL's conservation effort".