"Newt Gingrich started to turn Florida's Republican primary into a two-man contest Friday by hitting opponent Mitt Romney from the right, left and center at Miami's Versailles Restaurant and during a headquarters opening in Orlando."
Gingrich also spoke at length to hordes of reporters and released a detailed plan on cracking-down on Raul Castro's regime in Cuba — an issue that Romney didn't discuss in-depth during his Miami stop in November when he avoided talking to local reporters."Newt Gingrich stumps in Miami and Orlando, slamming Mitt Romney". See also "Gingrich, stumping in Miami, says goal is springtime for Cuba" and "Gingrich calls for 'bold' space program, opens Orlando campaign office".
But Romney doesn't need to talk to the press. He's getting more than a third of the Republican vote, while Gingrich barely cracks 25 percent in polls.
Romney has also blanketed the airwaves and mailboxes with his message as more than 107,000 Republicans have cast mail-in ballots.
Is it too late for Gingrich, who has yet to send mail or advertise on TV?
"No," Gingrich said.
Meanwhile, "Mitt Romney wows South Florida crowd, but some still aren't convinced".
"Why might Latinos not like Republicans"
"Why oh why might Latinos not like Republicans?".
"Latest Scott reform effort"
Aaron Deslatte: "Now that Gov. Rick Scott has passed his first year as governor, it's time to start giving him some serious job evaluations. But it is impossible to evaluate his performance without something to measure." "'Accountability budgeting' is latest Scott reform effort".
From the "values" crowd
"There isn’t likely to be any new money for school construction and maintenance for the next few years, Florida economists said Friday."
That’s because state officials expect to receive less revenue next year from the Gross Receipts Tax, a tax on electric, telephone and cable bills that supports the Public Education Capital Outlay, or PECO, fund."School construction funds dry up". See also "Statewide shortfall likely to halt school building plans".
Adding to the problem, the state will no longer be able to sell a $250 million bond issue – and will have to pay down existing projects out of a cash account, said Amy Baker, director of the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.
Money well spent
"Prison privatization plan resurfaces in Florida Senate". See also "Senate will try again to privatize prisons".
Genting gets aggressive
"The New York Times ... on Genting's aggressive approach in entering the New York market and notes its similar strategy in Florida." "NY Times: Genting -- an instant force in gambling".
GOPers rake in "$7.5 million in the final three months 2011 alone"
"The Republican Party of Florida was the leading recipient of donations from big donors during the last six months before the start of the 2012 legislative session. ... [It] received $7.5 million in the final three months 2011 alone — its biggest off-year quarter in the past 15 years. The Florida Democratic Party received $1.8 million in the same period." "Casino gambling debate money boosts state fundraising totals".
Santorum's Florida team
"Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who was only eight votes away from defeating former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts to win the Iowa caucus, unveiled his campaign team for Florida on Friday. The Florida primary will be held on Jan. 31, 10 days after South Carolina Republicans hold their own primary." "Rick Santorum Unveils His Florida Campaign Team". See also "Santorum Florida leadership team includes personhood leader, Buchanan associate".
"Senate wants a session break"
"With updated revenue numbers that offered no relief from deep budget cuts, a bipartisan majority of the Florida Senate wants to cut short the regular session in February and come back later in the spring when lawmakers hope to have a rosier revenue forecast that will avoid some of the $2 billion in projected cuts." "Senate wants a session break — to wait for revenues and avoid cuts". See also "Senators Give Haridopolos Discretion to Delay Budget".
"Jeb got it wrong on higher education"
Randy Schultz: "Last week, the House Education Committee began hearings on the university system, with the presidents of the University of Florida and Florida State leading off."
The chairman is Rep. William Proctor, R-St. Augustine. He is a former college president. Of course, it was Flagler College, which is private."Tallahassee could love the state universities to death".
What's funny is to hear State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan ask for time to "make sure it gets done right." Ten years ago, as lieutenant governor, Mr. Brogan was part of the Jeb Bush administration that got it wrong on higher education and embraced the "reform" that has resulted in a "discordant, competing group of fiefdoms."
Key legislators were mad that the Board of Regents, which then ran higher education from a statewide perspective, kept rejecting unneeded, expensive graduate programs at their universities. So in 2000, those legislators led the push to abolish the regents and create the loose system of a semi-powerful Board of Governors and a set of trustees for each university.
Though Rep. Cannon acknowledged the Legislature's role in creating this mess, he doesn't envision a new system of "governance." In fact, only a return to the old "governance," along with new efficiencies and an emphasis on certain degrees, will solve the problem. Without it, Florida higher education won't be racing to the middle. It will be racing to the bottom.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
"Is Tampa the 'strip club capital of the world'?"
"And it appears to be okay"
"Dennis Jones has spent more than 30 years as a Pinellas County lawmaker, the last nine as a state senator representing the county's beach communities."
But for tax purposes, Jones' home is now more than 100 miles to the northeast in the rural hamlet of Dunnellon."Sen. Dennis Jones represents Pinellas, but for tax purposes, home is Marion County".
And it appears to be okay.
Privatization 'ho asks "What happens if I say your daughter is a prostitute?"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "North Miami mayor right to apologize".
"It should not be a witch hunt"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Floridians deserve to know how the state's special taxing districts are spending public money. The review ordered Thursday by Gov. Rick Scott can be a learning experience, but it should not be a witch hunt aimed at gutting their effectiveness or their missions." "Don't gut local control of taxes".
"Scott’s plan ... will deliver a near knockout blow to the poorest and neediest"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Scott’s plan to fix the state’s budget by cutting Medicaid spending will deliver a near knockout blow to Miami-Dade County’s public hospital, the Jackson Health System, as well as others that assist the poorest and neediest."
Reeling from a $110 billion cut in Medicaid funding this fiscal year and facing an $86 million shortfall, Jackson is in a terrible fiscal bind. Now Gov. Scott proposes a formula for Medicaid reimbursement that subtracts another $200 million or more for Jackson Memorial Hospital in the next fiscal year."Bad prescription for patients".
This one really hurts, and it’s not just Jackson that’s affected. Miami-Dade County’s hospitals would lose some $400 million in revenue.
Broward hospitals stand to lose $200 million or more. For South Florida, the net loss is more than half a billion dollars at a time when money is scarce and jobs are hard to find.
In such tough times, more people go without insurance. That’s about 3 million people in Florida, with another 2.5 million low-income families, elderly or disabled patients in the Medicaid program who need a higher level of care than the amount reimbursed by the state. It’s a big reason for the soaring costs of Medicaid and treating the uninsured.
Taxpayers absorb unreimbursed costs in public hospitals. (Private hospitals must eat the difference or pass on those costs to patients — who can’t afford it.)
Yost staffer goes public
"In an exclusive interview with The Florida Independent, a former campaign staffer for congressional candidate Mike Yost say that the Jacksonville-based Republican squandered campaign funds on personal expenses, refused to listen to his campaign managers and still owes ex-staffers large sums of money." "Former staffer accuses congressional candidate of hypocrisy, improper campaign expenditures".
Week in Review
"The Week in Review for Jan. 9 to Jan. 13".
Filling the hole "Jeb!" left
Nearly a decade ago, one of Florida's right-wing pundits had to admit that, there was
always room for tax cuts from Jeb & Co. Somehow, living "within our means" becomes a grab-bag of possibilities for the clients of high-power lobbyists knocking on legislators' doors."Jeb & Co.: Always Room For Tax Cuts".
Hand back millions of dollars to a few by cutting yet again the intangibles tax that favors well-off Floridians?
Done, Jeb says.
lawmakers ha[d] approved tax cuts totaling more than $14 billion. ..."Gov. Bush defends his record of tax cuts".
A review of tax cuts enacted during Bush's terms show the bulk of the cuts have aided businesses or investors, with cuts on estate taxes and investments accounting for nearly half of the tax cuts and cuts for businesses also well into the billions of dollars.
After "Jeb!" decimated Florida's public finance structure - largely with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy - the Florida legislature thinks it is time for a a tax increase, on consumers of course: "Push for online sales tax gaining steam in Florida".
Sanitation workers in danger from infected needles
"Florida law bans needle-exchange programs, putting sanitation workers and the general public in danger from infected needles, a new study says." "Drug-users’ needles endanger public, study shows".
"Under the new estimates released Thursday, the Revenue Estimating Conference projected revenue would grow slightly on the whole, at a rate about $46 million faster than the earlier projection for the current fiscal year, and $19.9 million lower than the earlier projections for the upcoming fiscal year. The revisions represent changes of a fraction of 1 percent." "State revenue growth changes little in updated forecast".
Will Scott testify?
"Senator announces details of voting rights hearing, invites Scott to testify".
"The attorney general says that a state law passed in 2009 does not allow slot machines outside of Miami-Dade and Broward counties without legislation from lawmakers specifically authorizing a referendum in a given county." "Bondi opinion could render slot referendums moot".
Bill would prohibit taking pictures of farming operations
"An omnibus agriculture bill containing a provision written to stop animal rights activists and food justice advocates from taking pictures of farming operations in Florida passed through an agriculture committee this week." "‘Ag Gag’ passes through committee".
Who needs regulation?
"A massive fish kill at a Florida Power & Light Co. nuclear power plant — including tons of protected goliath grouper initially reported as an 'unknown' amount of 'unidentified' fish — has prompted Florida wildlife officials to create a protocol for gathering information about fish kills at power plants." "Nuke plant fish kill leads to improved reporting procedures".
Blame the unions
In yet another laffer of a column, Myriam Marquez drools on about them evil unions, writing that "in an election year, the unions (particularly the powerful police union) seem to matter more than common sense governance and saving jobs." "Latest budget fight in Miami-Dade a tragic comedy of political manipulation".
"Pennsylvania school district runs out of money to pay teachers, but they keep teaching".
"No consensus on car insurance reform"
"What happens after you get into a car accident, and who pays the bills, could be changing."
State lawmakers are wrestling with ways to reform the state’s no-fault auto insurance law. The law requires drivers carry $10,000 worth of coverage and forces insurance companies to pay out regardless of who caused the accident."Plenty of options but no consensus on car insurance reform".
The system is rife with abuse, lawmakers say — an estimated $1 billion in fraud this year.
But there is no simple fix, and several competing proposals are being floated by Republicans in Tallahassee.
One tightens procedures for licensing medical clinics and creates a task force to help stamp out abuse. Another requires car accident victims to seek initial treatment at emergency rooms and limits the type of medical services that are covered. A third measure repeals the law entirely and replaces it with a system where the person who caused the crash pays.