Stephen Goldstein: "Wake up, Floridians! You're about to be 'had.'"
Tea Party/GOP Gov. Rick Scott and other proponents of expanding gambling in the state are just as bad as Ponzi-schemer Scott Rothstein, maybe worse. Their con is pitching that casinos, more lottery options, slots, roulette, and similar immoral games to take people's money will flood the state with billions of investment dollars, tens of thousands of high-paying jobs, hoards of high-roller (especially rich, foreign) tourists, and buyers of expensive condos. Gambling proponents tout (especially South) Florida as a natural rival to Las Vegas. ..."Gov. Scott's lust for casinos a bad bet".
After a full year in office, the guv is failing: Our economy ain't goin' anywhere, and "tricky Rick" is trying to save his political skin by gambling on gambling to create all those jobs he promised and to make up budget deficits. But what tangled webs he weaves, when the governor deceives.
Last year, in his first budget, he went back on his promise to not decrease education funding. This year, he's going back on his pledge to not expand gambling to undo some of the damage from his going back on his promise to not decrease education funding.
To raise more money for schools, he wants to increase the number of retailers selling (the disproportionately high number of losing) lottery tickets and to add more machines where you can buy them. By the time he's through, you'll probably be able to gamble in church and on every street corner — or wager intravenously. And odds are, he'll soon want a game named after him: the "Scott Pot."
Any proposed legislation to create resort destination casinos should be called the "License to Steal Stupid People's Money" bill — and should be defeated. Any elected official who votes for it should resign or be impeached. Like other Grover Norquist lapdogs, the governor and much of the Florida Legislature signed a pledge never to raise taxes. But they have no pangs of conscience about encouraging people to bet (aka throw their money away) on anything, at anytime, anywhere, even though the odds are overwhelmingly against them.
Florida needs to attract world-class business and industry with long-term growth potential to put its economy on a solid footing. Gambling is not a substitute for sound fiscal policy and economic development.
Florida Republicans luv the Ricky
"Florida Republicans give high marks to freshman U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who rocketed to national prominence following his win over then-Gov. Charlie Crist during the 2010 election cycle, and offered a solid grade for Gov. Rick Scott."
The poll, conducted by Harrisburg, Pa.-based Voter Survey Service (VSS), found that 77 percent of likely Florida Republican presidential primary voters see Rubio as favorable, while only 10 percent see him as unfavorable. Twelve percent of those surveyed have no opinion about Rubio."Scott did slightly worse than Rubio among Florida Republicans, but remained in solid shape with them."
Fifty-nine percent said they approve of the job Scott is performing in Tallahassee while 23 percent said they disapprove of it. Seventeen percent said they are undecided on how Scott is performing. ..."Florida Republicans Give Marco Rubio and Rick Scott Good Marks".
The poll of 1,266 likely Republican primary voters was taken Jan. 11-14 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.75 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
Today in Tallahassee
"What to watch for today in Tallahassee". See also "Today in Tallahassee: House redistricting and jobless numbers".
"The reality of the condition of Florida by the numbers"
"When the 2012 legislative session opens Tuesday, the Governor and legislative majorities will begin action based on their perceptions about the needs of the state. This report shows the reality of the condition of Florida by the numbers: high poverty, high unemployment, a low percentage of the jobless receiving unemployment insurance benefits, income inequality, and an inadequate, unfair tax structure." "Condition of Florida by the Numbers".
Education funding increase on the move
"Scott has made it clear that he wants the final state budget to include that increase in Florida's education funding." "House, Senate embrace $1 billion for schools".
Privatizers running wild in the Legislature
"After hearing from private prison operators and correctional officials Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee is considering a bill to readdress a plan to privatize 26 correctional facilities in Central and South Florida."
But the committee may not include a companion effort, as has been introduced in the Senate, that changes how future privatization efforts are handled by the state."Prison Privatization Gets Warm Welcome in House Committee". See also "Prison privatization bills get fast-tracked". See also "Senate resurrects prison privatization plan" and "Major proposed changes to Florida prison system alarm workers, advocates".
Committee Chairwoman Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, said if a bill moves forward in the House, she expects a single bill aimed at reauthorizing the action approved last year.
The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday gave initial support to a pair of bills -- SB 2036 and SB 2038 -- that are aimed at privatizing the facilities in 18 counties and could keep other privatization efforts out of public view until the contracts are signed.
Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, has already referred the bills back to the Rules Committee, which will be their only stop before a full floor vote in the Senate.
In the House, the proposal that got its first public review Thursday, which appeared to get a favorable review from the majority party that approved the effort last year, is still under review.
"Romney could find himself in a competitive race in Florida"
"After a quick rise and steep fall, Texas Gov. Rick Perry exited the GOP race Thursday, leaving Florida Republican voters with four candidates for the Jan. 31 primary."
If Romney, generally perceived as the least conservative of the group, can dominate in a South Carolina full of Evangelical voters, Florida voters will likely flock to him, several strategists said. But if Gingrich either wins South Carolina or finishes a close second, Romney could find himself in a competitive race in Florida."Gingrich gets boost from Perry; how much will that help in Florida?" See also "As Florida awaits, GOP contest in S.C. takes bizarre twists for Romney, Gingrich".
That's all you got?
"Mack's U.S. Senate campaign is all about his name".
Scott stands behind $500M in lost corporate revenue
"Scott repeated Thursday that he isn’t interested in efforts by Democrats to end tax breaks for corporations that members of the minority party say cost the state $500 million a year in revenue. ... SB 1590 and HB 1335, that would require national corporations -- none were directly identified -- to pay taxes to Florida based on the percentage of business done in the Sunshine State." "Scott Firm in Opposing Rise in Corporate Taxes".
Florida receives another "F"
"NARAL Pro-Choice America, a national reproductive rights groups, today released a report analyzing the 'state of women’s access to reproductive-health care' around the country. Florida received an 'F' overall for the policies it enacted in the last year." "National reproductive rights report gives Florida an ‘F’".
Cannon rejects cuts in Medicaid payments
"House Speaker Dean Cannon indicated Thursday how the House will craft next year's state spending plan - embracing Gov. Rick Scott's call for a $1 billion boost in public school funding but rejecting his call for deep cuts in Medicaid payments to hospitals." "School-funding increase may cost transportation, environment under Florida House plan".
FlaDems try to reverse voter suppression legislation
"State Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, has sponsored legislation that would reverse some of the most controversial aspects of the elections bill passed last session by the GOP-led Florida Legislature."
Last session’s bill, which opponents have dubbed a “voter suppression” effort, contained controversial provisions that restrict the amount of time that a third-party registration group has to turn in a voter registration form, force authorities to refer an accused third-party registrar to the attorney general, create a limit on the shelf-life of ballot initiative signatures, require a voter who moves within the same county to fill out an affirmation form, and limit early voting days. The decrease in early voting has been the target of much ire from elections experts, who note the popularity of early voting in the Sunshine State."Bill reversing controversial elections measures earns Senate sponsor".
Half-million children lack health insurance in Florida, Scott sleeps
"More than a half-million children lack health insurance in Florida — even as the state is losing out on millions in federal dollars to help them."
Late last month, the federal government announced bonuses of nearly $300 million to 23 states, including Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana. But Florida met only two of the feds' eight requirements to receive the money."Why is Florida losing out on federal money to insure kids?".
State officials didn't even bother to apply for the bonuses.
Obama talks economy, GOPers talk trash
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Florida is accustomed to seeing plenty of visitors in January, especially in an election year. But the visit Thursday by President Barack Obama could mark a real boost for the state's economy. The president unveiled a new strategy to attract international tourists, which could bring more cash-flush foreigners to Florida. The plan also dovetails perfectly with the push across the region to expand the global appeal of Tampa Bay." "Delivering a jolt to Florida tourism". See also "Obama at Disney: 'America is open for business'".
Meanwhile, from way-back in the peanut gallery, Florida's empty suiters - who were sound asleep on this issue when Dubya was the resident - were quick to share their wisdom:
Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, who joined Romney on the news conference call Thursday morning, said he welcomed the president's visit and the expected tourism programs but added, "he's a day late and a few projects short." And Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, accused the president — playing off the Main Street U.S.A. location of Obama's speech — of closing down main streets everywhere."President Barack Obama at Disney World, unveils plans to boost tourism".
Mica said he welcomed the tourism initiative but said it is something he and other members of the Florida delegation have been seeking for years.
"What he is announcing today should have been done two or three years ago," Mica said.
Population swells in Manatee and Sarasota counties
"The populations of Manatee and Sarasota counties jumped by 5,700 last year, fueling the beginnings of a stronger economic recovery in the region, an economist said Thursday." "Manatee and Sarasota populations growing, economist says".
"Medicaid Cuts Will Harm Florida's Economy"
"The Governor's proposed 2012-13 budget calls for a $3 billion reduction in total appropriations. Key to achieving a reduction of this magnitude is a cut of more than $2 billion to the perennially targeted Medicaid program."
But only about one-fifth of the funds "saved" would be state general revenue dollars. In fact, the majority of the reduction ($1.2 billion) would be lost federal matching dollars."Proposed Medicaid Cuts Will Harm Florida's Economy".
The proposed cuts would be detrimental to both Florida and Floridians, undermining the already strained Medicaid system, imperiling access to care for the sickest, and siphoning off Florida's share of federal tax dollars out of the economy.
Reconciling casino bills just became harder
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Reconciling Senate and House versions of the casino bill in the Legislature just became harder. Maybe impossible. The once-matching bills have been amended to ensure the best possible reception in each chamber. Trouble is, the Senate version expands gambling in Florida, while the House bill achieves a better balance. It would scale back existing gaming and seeks to put a lid on future expansion." "Slow it down".
"The South Florida casino bill that passed its first vote in the Florida House of Representative last week has prompted bills that regulate other gaming business, while opponents move ahead aggressively in the media." "Casino debate rages in Legislature, on TV". Related: "Senate panel opts to regulate Internet sweepstakes cafes".
Fitzgerald gets a hand
"The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has launched its 'Red to Blue' program, which 'highlights top Democratic campaigns across the country, and offers them financial, communications, grassroots, and strategic support' and aims to introduce Democratic supporters to new, competitive candidates in order to help expand the fundraising base for these campaigns. One candidate earning a spot in the program is Florida’s own Keith Fitzgerald, the Sarasota Democrat running to unseat Congressman Vern Buchanan." "Florida Democrat named one of DCCC’s ‘Red to Blue’ candidates".
"The easy way out"
"Scott's proposed budget trimmed reimbursements to hospitals by $1.8 billion but there are growing signs that the Legislature is loathe to cut institutional providers that hard." "Senator won't take "the easy way out" to balance budget".
Audubon, Sierra Club split on sewage
"Scientists say Florida's springs and waterways have become choked with weeds and algae fed by nitrogen and phosphorus compounds from a variety of sources including fertilizer, stormwater runoff, sewage treatment plants and septic tanks."
In 2010, the Legislature passed SB 550 requiring septic tanks to be inspected every five years. The requirement, though, created a backlash among rural property owners, tea party members and Panhandle legislators."Septic tank inspection bill passes House panel with Audubon's support".
HB 999 would repeal the 2010 statewide requirement. Instead, 19 counties with the 33 largest "first-magnitude" springs would be required to conduct inspections unless county commissions vote to not do them.
The bill, with a strike-all amendment, passed the House Economic Affairs Committee on Thursday by a 14-1 vote. At least one committee member, Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Fort Lauderdale, said he was persuaded to vote for the bill after an Audubon of Florida representative said his group supports the measure. ...
Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said the group supports the bill as amended -- if the requirement for inspections is expanded to include counties within the basins of first magnitude springs. ...
Sierra Club Florida lobbyist David Cullen said his group has concerns including the removal of langauge in the bill requiring a measured separation of septic tank drainfields from groundwater.
"Following a last-minute amendment backers don't like but had no time to defeat, a measure restricting the price physicians can charge for repackaged prescription drugs passed its first Senate committee on Thursday. The proposal, SB 668, caps fees doctors can charge on prescriptions filled in their offices for workers' compensation patients. The fee, $4.18 per prescription, is the same fee that pharmacies get paid for similar workers' comp orders." "Repackaged-Drug Bill Advances in Senate". See also "Committee OKs bill to whack doctors fees".
Lawmakers soon to wear labels of their sponsors
"Lawmakers consider selling naming rights for roads, cafeterias, bike trails".
Making it easier for the privatizers
"A southwest Florida lawmaker says prison employees in his district told him the Department of Corrections last year had moved sicker, more-expensive inmates out of facilities the state was trying to privatize."
Rep. Paige Kreegel's comment came Thursday at a House Appropriations Committee workshop on prison privatization. He was responding to a presentation by Corrections Deputy Secretary Mike Crews. ..."Kreegel says sick inmates were moved before privatization".
Kreegel said some of the corrections officers at Charlotte Correctional Institution are his patients; the Punta Gorda Republican is a physician.
"What they tell me is that shortly after the budget was passed last year, there began a concerted effort of transferring [to north Florida] inmates who were ... expensive health-wise, HIV positive, et cetera," he said. "They were getting as replacements people who were younger and healthier, without the costly medical illnesses." ...
"I guess the insinuation here is that they were filling up the prisons to be privatized with people who are relatively inexpensive to take care of, and leaving the more expensive prisoners to the state," he added.
Cleaning up after Ricky
"Last year, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $12 million dollars from the state’s general revenue fund to the National Veterans’ Homeless Support Group for 'homeless housing assistance grants.' The item was one of the many public assistance programs Scott vetoed." "Bill giving aid to the homeless moves forward in state Senate".
"Citizens Insurance Sees Big News in a Small Drop". More Citizens: "Bill to reduce hurricane assessments breezes through Senate panel".
"An all-online university?"
"Should Florida have an all-online university?" See also "Weatherford seeks more online learning at universities, suggests all-digital state school".
School prayer fast tracked
"School prayer bill has one more stop in state Senate".
Budget-writers at work
"The House has upped its call to complete the budget, without the need for a mid-session spring break, in the regular 60-day session. But the prodding isn't expected to change the pace of the Senate's budget deliberations." "House Allocations Challenge Senate to Complete Budget". Related: "Budget-writers get to work amid talk of delay".