Mitt Romney is blanketing Florida with ads and mailers. Newt Gingrich is planning a Miami-Orlando trip next week. Ron Paul is sending out fliers."As the nation's biggest and most-diverse swing state, Florida has more Electoral College votes than Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina combined. Without it, Republicans probably can't win the White House." "Fresh off Iowa win, Mitt Romney shifts Florida campaign into high gear". See also "Florida voters may decide GOP presidential nominee". See also "GOP rivals work behind scenes in Florida".
The Republican presidential race for Florida is kicking into high gear.
They call this "collective bargaining"?
"Miami-Dade commissioners will wrestle Thursday with the political bombshell of whether to force employees in two powerful county unions to contribute an additional 5 percent of their pay toward healthcare coverage, doubling the tab to 10 percent."
County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is urging the commission to use its authority to settle labor impasses by imposing the controversial concessions, which are needed to balance the county budget."Miami-Dade commissioners weigh imposing concessions on unions".
In September, the board adopted Gimenez’s budget plan, which lowered the property-tax rate and reversed an unpopular increase pushed through by his predecessor in 2010.
Now comes the tough part: Commissioners will have to decide whether to force the painful givebacks on labor unions that are traditionally among their most reliable fundraisers and voting blocks — and that have already made substantial concessions under recently approved labor contracts. Half of the commissioners — those in odd-numbered districts — face re-election contests in August.
The Dade Police Benevolent Association, representing 5,400 police and corrections officers, and the Government Supervisors Association of Florida OPEIU Local 100, representing nearly 4,600 professional employees and supervisors, recently approved new labor contracts that include significant cost savings to the county, but the parties hit an impasse on health insurance. An additional 5 percent contribution from the two unions would yield $35 million in annual savings to the county. For all county employee groups, the extra 5 percent health-care contribution would save some $87.6 million a year.
Not what you would call a "diverse electorate with more mainstream views"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "The next time Florida moves up its presidential primary, it ought to jump ahead of Iowa even if that means holding the election on New Year’s Eve. That may be the only way to force changes to the primary schedule that would require candidates to build initial support from a larger, more diverse electorate with more mainstream views." "Let's hear from Florida, not Iowa".
Good luck with that
"State Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, has introduced a bill that would reverse some of the controversial measures in the elections law passed by the Florida Legislature last year." "Legislator files bill to reverse controversial elections measures".
Transition documents as public records
"Senate Bill 1464, filed Wednesday by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Destin, would stipulate that records -- including electronic records such as e-mails -- held by new elected officials and their transition teams 'shall be preserved so as not to impair the ability of the public to inspect or copy such public records.'" "Bill would clarify transition documents are public records".
American Petroleum Institute launches ads
"Contentious energy ad campaign begins in Florida". Meanwhile, "New Sierra Club Florida leadership gets to work".
Insurance lobbyists crank up
"Among the items on the agenda of the Florida Insurance Council and the state arm of the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America are a reduction or elimination of personal injury protection fraud, a reduction of the state Cat Fund and an elimination of reduction of the 6 percent regular assessments for Citizens Property Insurance Corp.'s personal and commercial lines accounts." "Private insurers backing series of bills in 2012 session".
Budget & taxes session outlook
"2012 Session Outlook: Budget & Taxes".
"Why is the issue of quality reserved for blacks?"
Bill Maxwell: "Although a new year has arrived, some of America's deepest problems endure. One is the presumed inferiority of black professionals who are not entertainers or jocks, despite the 2008 election of our first black president."
I was reminded of this problem in a Dec. 17 article in the Times about the Pinellas County school district's "critical shortage" of black teachers, a legal status meaning that the number of black teachers is two or more percentage points below the percentage of black students. ..."White doubts reserved for black professionals"
But many white people cannot control the tendency to automatically question the qualifications of blacks. School Board member Carol Cook, for example, did not equivocate when she reminded her peers that quality should be the primary focus as the district attempts to comply with the order to hire more black teachers.
"I have some (concern) just because of the nature of the agreement," the Times quoted her as saying. "I don't want to turn it into hiring anybody (just) because of the color of their skin."
At first blush, Cook's comment might seem innocuous. It is not. Why is the issue of quality reserved for blacks? How often has Cook or other white board members questioned the qualifications of white prospects in such a demeaning way?
Dems for Mitt laff riot
How low can this alleged Democrat go? "Barney Bishop: Mitt and Jeb, That's the Ticket".
"Why pythons should eat politicians"
Fred Grimm explains "Why pythons should eat politicians".
War on waitresses
"The Restaurant Association writes that 'Florida businesses can no longer afford to continue to increase the pay of tipped employees who make well over the minimum wage.' The Association adds that it 'is in discussions with Senate and House leadership regarding a possible legislative constitutional amendment that, if passed, would appear on a statewide ballot to change that requirement. As of January 1, 2012, Florida’s minimum wage is $7.67.'" "Restaurant and Lodging Association outlines stance on immigration, minimum wage, casinos".
Black robe fever
"On his way out the courthouse door Wednesday, 1st District Court Judge Paul Hawkes was told by the Judicial Qualifications Commission that they'll be waiting if he ever tries to be a judge again."
Three times the JQC, the state agency responsible for disciplining judges, has investigated judicial misconduct at the court."Judicial Qualifications Commission wants future jurisdiction for former Judge Paul Hawkes".
In one instance 13 of the 15 judges filed a complaint against Judge Charles J. Kahn, who has since left the court to become a federal magistrate in Pensacola. They accused Kahn of sexually harassing women on the court system payroll. One of those women, a clerk, posted pictures of herself and Kahn at a hotel where he was attending a Florida Bar convention.
The JQC rejected the sexual harassment allegations and took no public action against Kahn. But the Commission did charge Judge Michael E. Allen with conduct unbecoming a judge because he wrote an opinion questioning Kahn's involvement in the Childers case. Kahn led an effort to reverse the former senator's criminal conviction, but his decision was upended before it was published after 10 of the court's judges stepped in and voted to uphold the conviction.
Allen questioned the public perception of a decision issued by a judge who was once a law partner of Fred Levin, a Pensacola lawyer and close friend to Childers, a longtime power player on the state's political field.
The JQC found Allen guilty of misconduct and he was given a public reprimand by the Supreme Court before he retired to return to the practice of law.
The Allen trial featured judges pitted against each other and some court employees who described the judges as mentally unstable and liars given to temper tantrums. The court's marshal testified that he had to increase security at the courthouse because one of the judges was getting a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun.
Even Rick Scott gets it
The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Gov. Rick Scott is beginning his second year in office with a markedly different and more helpful tone on Everglades restoration. " "Helpful new spirit on the Everglades".
The best they can do?
"Speaker Designate Weatherford on Governing Mags 'Legislators to Watch' list".
"City officials may have violated the law"
"A consultant hired to investigate allegations that public records were wrongfully deleted by top Sarasota officials said in a report that there is 'substantial reason to believe' city officials may have violated the law." "Consultant suggests top Sarasota officials broke law".
"The only beneficiaries ... are the carriers"
"The relative health of the market is not without its detractors. Rich Templin, lobbyist for the Florida AFL-CIO, said cost reductions and stability have come at a price of reduced benefits, which affects more than an injured worker. 'The only beneficiaries under Florida workers' compensation system are the carriers,' Templin said." "Workers' Comp System Healthy, Regulators Report".
Enough with the "no comment"
Tom Lyons: "In Florida, elected officials and other government employees are supposed to do business in the open, so we know what is going on."
We — the citizens — are the bosses, after all. State and local government belongs to us."Lyons: For governments, a lawsuit should not mean ‘no comment'".
And so, almost nothing our own employees and elected officials have done while on the job, right or wrong, can legally be hidden from us. Trying to hide things is often a crime, and almost always wrong.
So if I can make a New Year's resolution for local government, it might be this: Those who get paychecks from taxpayers will no longer duck tough questions by claiming they can't comment on a matter because of a lawsuit.
Scott wants more control over selection of judges
The Sun Sentinel editorial board: "It was open season on judicial independence in Florida during the 2011 legislative session. Lawmakers introduced a series of insidious proposals to boost their sway, or the governor's, over judges."
One of the worst proposals would have given the governor sole discretion in naming the panels that nominate candidates for appointment to the bench. It passed in the House, but was wisely rejected by the Senate amid bipartisan opposition."Defend judicial independence".
Yet Gov. Rick Scott recently said he hopes the proposal comes back. "When you're elected governor," he declared in a recent interview with WFLA radio in Tallahassee, "people expect you to not have a limit on who you can appoint."
"Session Outlook: Gaming"
"2012 Session Outlook: Gaming". Related: "Casino bill 2.0 to regulate internet cafes, roll back pari-mutuel tax rate".
Property values to drop
"Overall, state economists expect statewide property values to drop 4.2 percent this year, a larger decrease than their initial fall estimate of 3.89 percent. Property values are also estimated to fall another 3.3 percent in 2013." "State economists reduce 2012 property tax value projections".
Florida Republicans sacrificing Allen West
"Florida's new redistricting standards, coupled with the 10-year shift in population, have forced Republicans to do what is rarely done in politics — sacrifice incumbents — and that is not going over well with some Republicans."
The possible casualties include U.S. Rep. Allen West, whose Broward to Palm Beach-based district would become more Democratic in every map proposed by both the state House and Senate."New election maps could hurt Allen West, other GOP incumbents".
Broward Republicans have launched a website — "saveallenwest.com." — and are mounting a campaign to pressure legislators to revamp the maps to make them more in line with what they believe are the legal requirements of the new Fair Districts amendments. The changes they suggest would also make the district more favorable to the re-election of West, one of two black Republicans in Congress.
Florida's declares its schools all above average
"Most Florida schools earn top grades". See also "Florida's public high schools score higher performance grades".
Waffle House and Hooters to fight gambling
"With less than a week until the state Legislature convenes for the 2012 session, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association on Wednesday, representing more than 10,000 members in an industry that leads to $57 billion brought into the Sunshine State annually and more than 900,000 jobs ... came out swinging against proposed legislation by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, that would expand gaming in Florida." "FRLA Will Fight Against Gaming and Arizona-Style Immigration Law in 2012". Related: "Senate Reg chair says no more workshops for gambling bill, just a vote".
"State Rep. Dwayne Taylor met Tuesday with The News-Journal editorial board as part of an ongoing series of interviews before the start of the legislative session next Tuesday." "State representative gives views on legislative session".
Violence from the "values" crowd
"An abortion clinic that burned here New Year's Day has been in the crosshairs of the anti-abortion movement for decades: the scene of bombings, shootings and other violence. Things calmed down in the past 15 years, save for the near-daily protesters who carried anti-abortion signs, Bibles and white crosses as they marched outside of the unassuming, two-story grey building. Yet once again, the clinic is encircled by yellow police tape." "Violent decades surround burned abortion clinic".