"Capitol Buzz: Today’s agenda in Tallahassee". "Scott and Florida's legislative leaders will open the annual legislative session today and lay out a bare bones agenda focused primarily on the budget and redistricting."
With the exception of a proposed casino expansion and an attempt to cut down on fraud in the state's auto insurance laws, legislators plan to steer clear of as much controversy this year as possible as every incumbent prepares to run in newly drawn legislative districts."A controversy-free agenda?".
The agenda, however, belies the worst economic crisis facing Floridians in decades. Democrats say legislators want to avoid tackling the toughest issues in an election year. But Republican leaders say they accomplished so many reforms last year — from reforming Medicaid to limiting teacher tenure, cutting state employee benefits, privatizing prisons and balancing the budget that legislators are weary.
"Narrowly elected in 2010 as an outsider, Gov. Rick Scott has learned in painfully public ways that governing Florida is complicated." "Scott’s mission still about jobs". See also "Capitol Buzz: 5 things to watch today in Tallahassee", "Florida Legislature to open with unhappy activists on left and right" and "Florida legislative session will kick off with redistricting, budget battles".
Scott's second State of the State
"Scott plans to present a theme of cooperation during his second State of the State address Tuesday, but will say there's one issue that's non-negotiable: raising education spending by $1 billion." "Gov. Rick Scott to stress cooperation in State of State".
"Among other changes, the bill would shift the power to supervise state purchasing from the Department of Management Services to the Department of Financial Services and require the CFO sign off on major contracts before they take effect. The department would be tasked with creating uniform rules that govern contracting by state agencies." "Bill would put CFO in charge of policing state contracts".
Polluters have rights too
"State officials, industry and utility groups press case in federal court against water rules".
"Rush for campaign cash"
"Florida lawmakers rushed to pull in campaign checks from lobbyists before a deadline today turned off the spigot." "Florida lawmakers make last-minute rush for campaign cash".
"Senate and House PIP proposals could be on a collision course".
"Measuring Florida's economic progress is tricky"
"It's fitting to take a look at how Florida's economy is doing on the same day that Florida Gov. Rick Scott offers his State of the State address in Tallahassee."
Truth is, much of the improvement in Florida occurred without Tallahassee's help. Just as the national jobless rate has now dropped to 8.5 percent, nearly a three-year low, Florida is enjoying some of the same uptick in job growth coming out of the Great Recession."How's Florida economy doing? Let's give it a C-plus with room to improve".
Measuring Florida's economic progress is tricky.
A glut of studies in the past year pegged the Sunshine State as near the top of the country for its business climate.
Just as many reports plopped Florida right in the so-so middle of the pack of business performance.
In 2011, for example, a national poll of CEOs by Chief Executive magazine lionized Florida as the nation's third-best state for business behind North Carolina and No. 1 Texas.
Another annual ranking by Site Selection magazine used different measures but named Florida the country's 10th best state for business climate. Again, Texas came in No. 1, followed by Georgia and North Carolina.
But another 2011 analysis called "Enterprising States" from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and co-authored by regional economics expert Joel Kotkin ranked only the top 10 states for low business taxes and regulations.
Surely Florida, fixated as it is on these two exact priorities, would excel?
Sadly, Florida did not make the top 10.
No. 1 was Tennessee followed by South Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Indiana, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, North Dakota and Utah.
As the top 10 list shows, the winners were not found on the East Coast or West Coast, and only Texas was among the nation's most populous places.
In the same U.S. chamber study, Florida also did not rank high for growth, entrepreneurship and innovation, infrastructure or exports.
"Tea party groups face an uphill fight"
"Tea party groups face an uphill fight against an eclectic combination of business and religious groups. Last year, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida were joined by a phalanx of pastors preaching 'social justice' in assailing E-Verify." "Tea Parties Split Over E-Verify, Diluting Prospects for Passage".
"That should cull the herd"
Fred Grimm: "Children, in addition to a propensity to whoop in restaurants, pee in swimming pools and clog up the lines at Expedition Everest, have become Florida’s great budget busters. No other segment of the state population, with a possible exception of Tallahassee’s cadre of lobbyists, suck so much out of our faltering state economy."
Scott wants to hack a couple of billion out of the Medicaid budget. That should cull the herd. But the governor also wants to take a billion of that savings and tack it onto the education budget, bringing Florida’s per pupil outlay to $6,372 a student. That would still be one of the lower per capita spending rates in the nation, but for true fiscal conservatives, that’s just waste, considering the employment opportunities awaiting youngsters in the Florida workforce. How much schooling does a kid need to deal blackjack?"Florida’s budget solution: Ban the kids".
Besides, an outright ban means the governor could fulfill the ultimate Republican fantasy and fire the state’s public school teachers en masse.
Chamber has its hands out for federal cash
"Since 2005, the partnership between Workforce Central Florida, the region's taxpayer-funded, nonprofit jobs agency, and the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce has proved to be quite lucrative — for the chamber."
Workforce has given chamber-related groups more than $300,000 over that time, possibly in violation of federal rules and, in one instance, skirting a state directive."Chamber gets $300K from Workforce Central Florida".
The money went to a series of chamber projects designed to promote the Central Florida business community. On several initiatives, Workforce was a major contributor, providing more than a quarter of all sponsorship money.
Workforce justified the payments as "public outreach," but it's not clear the payments met federal requirements. Those regulations forbid spending federal grant money on certain "public relations" costs, including some "meetings, conventions, convocations, or other events." ...
In fact, the group's original slogan — "Let's get to work" — was the same one Scott used on the campaign trail.
RNC considering additional penalties against Florida
"Tampa is hosting the Republican National Convention, but Florida delegates will get inconvenient hotel spots, poor seating and lose guest passes, according to proposed sanctions the national GOP will vote on this week."
Florida's delegate count will be slashed from 99 to 50. RNC officials have indicated the state will remain winner-take-all, rather than a proportional allocation that would make the state a smaller prize for the winner."RNC to consider additional sanctions against Florida delegation this week".
Someone could still contest the delegate allocation ....
"State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has halted his effort to ask voters if they want to select the education commissioner and make the post once again part of the Florida Cabinet. Instead, Negron said he wants to pursue a different constitutional amendment, this one to abolish the once-a-generation constitutional revision and the taxation and budget reform commissions." "Negron Closes the Book on Asking Voters to Elect Education Commissioner".
Fla-baggery in action
"Conservative Group Posts State and Local Government Spending Watchdog Website". See also "Right-wing think tank releases salaries of public employees via new website".
What's wrong with Hillsborough?
"Alleging that campus visits by a Muslim activist are 'tantamount to advocating overturning the Constitution in favor of Sharia Law,' a conservative coalition on Monday demanded that the Hillsborough County School District "sever all connections" to the Council on American-Islamic Relations." "Coalition Demands Hillsborough Schools Cut Off 'Hamas Entity'".
"Teachers, parents meet in Miami to discuss opting out of standardized testing".
Committee votes to bring casinos to Florida
"With a standing-room-only crowd of lobbyists watching, a Senate committee voted Monday to bring destination resort casinos to Florida, but only after allowing competing parimutuels to operate as full casinos with no additional investment or voter approval." "Senate panel amends casino gambling bill to give parimutuels piece of the action". See also "Gambling bill gets initial OK, but faces uphill legislative battle" and "Odds Grow Against Casino Bill Even as Bill Succeeds in Committee".
Related: "Q-Poll: Voters barely support gambling expansion".
Fla-GOPers like their absentee ballots
"Florida's Republican presidential primary is still three weeks away, but Sunshine State voters have already requested 413,000 absentee ballots -- a total that should exceed the number of votes cast in last week's Iowa caucuses and Tuesday's New Hampshire primary combined." "With eyes on New Hampshire, Florida GOP voters not sure who they like best".
Central Florida child homelessness increases by 79%
"Central Florida child homelessness has increased 79 percent since 2009".
"A highly unpredictable business"
"The redrawing of Florida's political boundaries is a highly unpredictable business." "Redistricting lines don't always work out as hoped". See also "House GOP advances three congressional options".
Gasparilla invaders of a different kind
"This year, Florida's Republican presidential primary comes three days after Gasparilla, creating the chance that Tampa's annual booze-soaked pirate festival will see invaders of a different kind. Candidates." "Gasparilla ripe for invasion of GOP presidential candidates before Florida primary".