"Here’s what [the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau is] watching on Day 50 of the 2012 Florida Legislature:"
Tuesday marks the last day for committee hearings. By day’s end, any bills that haven’t made it through the committee process will be all but dead."Many proposals, however, will continue flying forward."
The House will take up a sweeping health care bill, HB 1419, that includes new requirements for hospitals to contract with managed care providers. ..."Capitol Buzz: It’s do or die day for pending bills in Legislature". Related: "House Democrats decry process as panel sends school sports, charter bills to floor".
Over on the Senate side, the Budget Subcommittee on Finance and Tax takes up several tax-related bills, including one that would lower the corporate income tax, update the communications tax and give voters the chance to give broader homestead tax exemptions to the spouses of military veterans. ...
Elsewhere in Tallahassee, expect a showdown at the state Department of Education. The Board of Education will take up a controversial proposal to change the school grading formula. The new formula would raise the standards — and include test scores from children who have disabilities or are just learning English. Superintendents, union leaders and advocates for children with disabilities are fighting the changes.
Public budget conference talks
"Senate President Mike Haridopolos says upcoming budget conference sessions will be fully available to the public." "Budget Conference Talks Will be Held in Public, Haridopolos Says". Related: "House, Senate leaders getting closer to a deal on budget allocations" and "Florida House and Senate leaders look to reconcile budget conflicts".
"A Catholic political action committee has released a video ad asking supporters to call upon lawmakers to pass an amendment that would roll back a recent decision by the Obama administration requiring insurance providers — with the exception of religious employers — to cover birth control as a preventive service. Critics say the amendment will allow an insurance company to exclude coverage of any health service that they deem violates their religious or moral convictions." "VIDEO: Catholic PAC releases ad for Blunt Amendment".
An ugly visual
"U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, 75, says young people identify far more with President Barack Obama than any of the Republican presidential candidates. " "Hastings says Obama is hip to hip-hop".
"State's numeric nutrient criteria would fail to protect water quality"
"Environmental groups are challenging the proposed state rules, which would replace federal rules that utilities and industry groups oppose as being too expensive and difficult to meet. On the opening day of testimony, marine scientist Brian Lapointe said the state's numeric nutrient criteria would fail to protect water quality in Biscayne Bay, the Florida Keys, Florida Bay and along the southwest Florida coast." "Hearing begins on challenge to proposed state water quality rules".
"Believe it or not, state lawmakers ... think this is a bad idea"
The Miami Herald editors: "Some employers refuse to pay their workers after the job’s been done. Others simply can’t for lack of funds. Either way, it happens far more than it should, and Miami-Dade County has come up with an innovative solution — the Wage Theft Ordinance that gives workers who have been stiffed extra muscle to go up against their delinquent employers and win."
Believe it or not, state lawmakers, including some from Miami-Dade County, think this is a bad idea. Legislators in the House are poised not only to gut Miami-Dade’s law — flagrantly overriding the county’s home-rule charter — they seem intent on making it nearly impossible for cheated employees to have any recourse at all. They should back off."Wage law".
"Hinky behavior ... in return for funneling business"
Daniel Ruth: "Pardon the silly question, but is it not unreasonable to assume that if one engages in hinky behavior by accepting material benefits from a private contractor in return for funneling business to said contractor, you could conclude that one was pretty much giving up their right to privacy, not to mention their employment status?" "Mum's the word on VA misdeed".
"Bill to break up foreclosure backlog heads to Senate floor".
Big of them
"Senate Committee Votes to End Distribution of Social Security Numbers".
"Robinson wants to move too quickly"
The Miami Herald editors: "The Florida Board of Education meets Tuesday to decide new rules to rank public schools and make them more accountable. The focus is in the right place but Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson wants to move too quickly and too broadly to institute the new rules." "Don’t pull ‘F’ trigger".
Elevating industry's interests over state's long-term needs is not the answer
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "It would be one thing if Florida lawmakers genuinely tried to improve an ineffective wetlands mitigation policy."
But elevating a single private industry's interests over the state's long-term water needs is not the answer. Changing state law so that the Department of Transportation is more likely to purchase wetland mitigation credits from private mitigation banks is another government giveaway masquerading as environmental protection. Private mitigation banks may have a role to play, but they should not be allowed to corner the market."Wetlands mitigation giveaway".
Romney flopping following his Florida victory
"Following his big Florida victory, Mitt Romney failed to take his main opponent Rick Santorum seriously, opening the door to the upstart challenger who may win Romney’s native Michigan." "Gaffes, miscalculations weigh on Romney after Florida win".
"Norman signs admission of guilt", gets challenger
"Norman signs admission of guilt for not reporting $500,000 loan". See also "Norman not tied to truth".
Meanwhile, "Former state Rep. Wallace to challenge Norman for Senate seat".
"At odds on how deeply to cut"
"With time running out on the 2012 session, Florida House and Senate leaders said Monday that they remained at odds on how deeply to cut Florida's colleges and universities." "University budget cuts divide lawmakers".
"As the Senate turns"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "With three weeks left in the 2012 legislative session last week, the news was focused on who will become president of the Senate in 2014 and 2016."
The distraction may seem odd, given the pending policy and budget choices that will profoundly affect so many lives. So why is the Capitol press corps captivated by two senators attempting to wrest power away from other senators?"As the Senate turns".
Two-tier tuition proposal
The Sun Sentinel editors: "Florida needs to raise its too-low tuition rate, we agree, but the two-tier proposal before state lawmakers is not the way to go about it." "Oppose two-tier tuition plan".
"If the state gets hurricanes, rates go up"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Florida homeowners have more evidence that this is how property insurance works: If the state gets hurricanes, rates go up." "Rigging the hurricane game". Related: "Fasano feted, but vows to fight surplus lines bill".
Two more GOPers jump in to challenge DWS
"Two more Republicans have jumped in to challenge Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Broward County's GOP chairman says a 'spirited primary' will help the party 'put our best foot forward.' Gineen Bresso and Juan Eliel Garcia joined the Republican contest in the 23rd Congressional District, bringing the number of GOP hopefuls there to six. " "Two More Republicans Announce Challenges to Debbie Wasserman Schultz".
Health advocates denounce overhaul bill
"Public health advocates spoke out against a bill aimed at reorganizing the state’s Department of Health (DOH) during its passage in a House health committee today." "Public health advocates denounce Department of Health overhaul bill". Related: "House includes top priority of potential Senate president in health agency overhaul".
"Florida's 'anti-Sharia' legislation"
"Florida's 'anti-Sharia' legislation received some added impetus last week when a Pennsylvania court bowed to Islamic sensibilities and acquitted a Muslim defendant of assault." "Bizarre Verdicts Could Fuel Rep. Larry Metz's Anti-Sharia Bill".
"Jeb!" won't go away
Afraid to alienate a potential presidential candidate, if not this year, four years from now, Florida's political reporters fluff Jebbie Bush at every opportunity; the latest: "The former governor, who served from 1999 to 2007, still plays a significant role in shaping state education policy."
This session, Bush and his nonprofit organization, the Foundation for Florida's Future, have helped to fast-track a stream of legislation that could reset the education equation in Florida. The bills, moving steadily through both the House and Senate, could gradually shift the financial and competitive advantage away from traditional public schools to private schools and charter schools, which are often managed by for-profit companies."Part of the success stems from political pull."
The foundation's board of directors reads like a who's who of former lawmakers, top education officials and other power brokers. Among them: former Senate President Toni Jennings, former House Speaker Allan Bense, former state Board of Education Chairman T. Willard Fair and former Board of Governors member Zachariah Zachariah."Lawmakers listen to Jeb Bush, whose foundation affects education in Florida".
Executive director Patricia Levesque is equally influential. Her connections run deep, particularly in the state House, where she once served as staff director of education policy. Her husband, George Levesque, is a staff attorney in the House and has the ear of Speaker Dean Cannon.
Then there's Bush's himself.
Said Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs: "When there are big issues like (the education budget), I contact him and try to get his advice and support. He's very much involved in education policy in the Legislature. His advice is greatly respected."