The Miami Herald editorial board: "So much for truth, justice and the American way — the American way being, you work, you get paid. It’s a fair and simple equation that Miami-Dade County codified in its Wage Theft Ordinance. It’s an innovative law that lets workers who haven’t been paid — as the bills pile up — file a complaint and, eventually, make the recalcitrant employer pay up."
But barely a day into the legislative session, some lawmakers don’t want Miami-Dade to have a say-so. Wednesday, most of the members of the House community and military affairs subcommittee, doing the bidding of their deep-pocketed “patrons” — the Florida Retail Federation among them — approved HB 609 to override Miami-Dade’s ordinance."It’s simple: Work and get paid".
HB 609 not only ignores Miami-Dade County’s home-rule charter, it would eliminate a program that has secured almost $1 million in wages for nearly 1,000 aggrieved workers since November 2010. The committee approved this terrible bill by a strict party-line vote. Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, subcommittee vice chair — and vice chair of the Miami-Dade delegation — gave the bill a thumb’s-up. Democrats Daphne Campbell and John Patrick Julien voted against. They seem to understand the facts on the ground. Should this bill — there is a Senate companion — become law, it would have a devastating effect beyond hurting an unpaid worker’s ability to keep the lights on and put food on the table.
And, since when is this a partisan issue? Rather it’s an issue of fairness, of good business, of boosting Miami-Dade’s economy and of a higher quality of life — things all lawmakers say they value when they’re stumping for reelection. ...
The Florida Retail Federation says that, though wage theft indeed should be rooted out, it wants a statewide law, not a patchwork of local laws. It’s a responsible stand; however, there is no crazy quilt of county ordinances. Miami-Dade’s is the only one in Florida, though Palm Beach County is considering following suit.
The thing is, at Wednesday’s committee meeting, lawmakers who voted to gut Miami-Dade’s ordinance swore up and down that they could most definitely support a uniform state law. Then they hypocritically voted down a Republican colleague’s motion to allow lawmakers to add statewide language to the bill.
More power for Scott?
"House lawmakers are advancing a response to the Florida Supreme Court ruling last summer that Gov. Rick Scott overstepped his bounds by creating a new rules office and freezing agency rulemaking on his first day in office." "House bill gives governor new power over agency rules".
Raw political courage
"Florida, a key cog in an expanding global human-trafficking network, is looking to crack down on the $32 billion industry, starting with a vote on anti-racketeering legislation Thursday." "Florida Aims Anti-Racketeering Bill at Human Traffickers, Sex Trade".
Romney, Paul working hard for Florida's absentee voters
"Voting is already well under way even though Florida doesn't hold its GOP nominating contest until Jan. 31. And both Mitt Romney, coming off of back-to-back victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Ron Paul are aggressively reaching out to voters who have requested ballots. None of their competitors has been nearly as active even though the victor in Florida would get a huge boost of momentum and all of the state's 50 delegates to the national nominating convention." "Romney and Paul get jump on Florida absentee voters". But see "Despite Iowa, N.H., successes, Ron Paul may not campaign heavily in Florida".
"Local governments throughout the Sunshine State, with its open records law, moved closer to being required to hear from their residents before voting on any topic." "Senate Committee Supports Requiring Public Comment at County, District Meetings".
Why do people need guns at child care facilities?
"State Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, and Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, announced a new bill in a press conference at the capitol today that would outlaw concealed weapons in child care facilities and government buildings." "Legislators announce gun ban for child care facilities and government buildings".
"Secretary of State Kurt Browning steps down as Florida's chief elections official and cultural affairs officer, making him the second agency head to resign during Gov. Rick Scott's young administration." "Browning quits as secretary of state". See also "Secretary of State Kurt Browning to step down".
"Scott’s cost-saving measures in his budget proposal includes shutting six prisons because of a drop in the inmate population. That’s one of the five essentials to watch for Thursday."
• The big question is, which prisons? ..."Capitol Buzz: Lawmakers weigh major cuts to prisons". Related: "New Budget Forecast Could Help Determine Length of Session".
• Also Thursday, state economists will revisit the state’s revenue picture and update it for lawmakers in a process known as a revenue estimating conference. If the latest projection is not rosy, that’s bad news for health care and education programs.
• Several of Scott’s agency heads face confirmation hearings in the Senate, including corrections chief Ken Tucker and elder affairs secretary Charles Corley.
"A Senate committee approved two maps as Democrats divided over an 11th hour submission aimed at creating more competitive districts." "Senate committee finalizes redistricting maps as Democrats split". See also "Democrats prepare for partisan redistricting debate", "Senate redistricting committee okays new maps" and "Committee redrafts congressional and Florida Senate district lines".
Lobbyists fork over nearly $20M "for lawmakers to go their way"
"Lobbying interests forked over nearly $20 million worth of reasons for lawmakers to go their way leading up to the 2012 legislative session." "Casino gambling debate money boosts state fundraising totals".
"Casino bill stalled"
"Destination gaming could face a quick end in the House after the first committee workshop on the controversial proposal to set up a statewide gaming commission and allow three casino resorts. Members of the House Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee gave no direction on how to proceed with the bill after nearly two hours of comments and presentations from gaming interests and opponents on Wednesday." "House Subcommittee Not Showing its Cards on Casino Bill". See also "Casino bill still stalled in Florida House".
Scott "robbing Peter to pay Paul"
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editors: "Scott's "state of the state" address reiterated 2-for-1 deal in his proposed budget: Make $2 billion in Medicaid cuts in order to pump $1 billion in 'new' money into public education."
This "robbing Peter to pay Paul" scenario is indicative of the budget problems in Florida: The state is still reeling from precipitous, recession-related declines in revenues; costs for Medicaid, which provides limited health care for low-income Floridians and pays most nursing home bills, have increased dramatically; federal stimulus funding is ending; voters and their elected officials have been loath to raise taxes or even consider tax reform."Robbing Medicaid to pay schools".
Education funding would still be low
The governor said education funding has been a recurring theme in his meetings with Floridians. It's no wonder: Per-student funding has diminished since 2007-08 and fell precipitously during this academic year.
Even if the Legislature endorses Scott's proposal, total funding in 2012-13 would be, according to the governor's online budget documents, nearly $1 billion less than in 2010-11 — with per-student funding at $6,372, compared with $6,897 two years ago.
School prayer bill denounced
"A bill that would allow prayer in schools during school events is set to make a stop at a state Senate Judiciary committee meeting today. The American Civil Liberties of Florida sent out a release yesterday, warning that the bill would 'skirt the Constitutional protections of religious liberty.'" "ACLU of Florida denounces school prayer bill ahead of committee stop".
"SunRail needs help to soar, U.S. Rep. John Mica says".
Just starve 'em
"Bill adding barrier to welfare, food assistance for people with drug-related felonies moves along".
"The citizens of Florida elected him governor, not God"
Joe Henderson: "It took him long enough, but Rick Scott appears to finally understand the citizens of Florida elected him governor, not God." "Scott figures out he's in a messy business".
"Adding insult to the injury"
"Second-class hotel rooms. A poor view on the Republican National Convention floor in Tampa. A loss of VIP passes."
Florida Republicans had to swallow these penalties Wednesday when the Republican National Committee's rules panel approved the punishments because the state bucked the party by holding an early primary on Jan. 31."RNC panel votes to punish Florida GOP for early primary". See also "RNC sanctions state GOP for staging early primary".
Florida already lost half of its 100 delegates — the people who technically cast votes for the party nominee at the convention.
Adding insult to the injury: The convention will be held in Tampa this August, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Meanwhile, Florida still irrelevant
"With his money, organization and the accidental help of his own opponents, Mitt Romney is getting close to walking away with the nomination even before the Jan. 31 Florida primary." "Romney close to securing nomination even before Florida primary". See also "Romney heads south with money, momentum".