The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "The Florida Legislature is eyeing even more tax cuts this year, celebrating its free-market ethos by slashing business taxes and allowing consumers to 'keep more of their own money.'"
But as lawmakers take credit for handing out tax cuts to businesses and homeowners, most are not coupling the revenue reductions with equal-sized cuts in spending, leaving local governments to sort out how to balance their budgets. ..."Tallahassee tax cuts leave local governments in the lurch".
In total, the Legislature has advanced proposals for several billion dollars in new unfunded tax cuts that, if passed, will come out of the coffers of cities and counties across the state. Local governments, which have hired lobbyists to fight back against some of the cuts, say state lawmakers are leaving them with a bleak choice: Either cut already-pared-back services and salaries to offset billions of dollars in reduced revenue, or raise property tax rates to cover some of the shortfall.
"Florida has been granted a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law, which will free the state from complicated school-accountability rules and allow it to use its school grading system as the sole judge of public education." "Florida educators praise waiver from federal No Child law".
Florida's "national hero" at CPAC
"With a rapt Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) audience at his command, Rubio poked fun at 'liberals,' warned against listening to the media, bashed comments by a U.S. Supreme Court justice, and fired at President Barack Obama."
The crowd loved Rubio, who appeared here two years ago when he was still little known on the national stage. Now he is constantly speculated about as a vice presidential candidate. But some of his biggest fans see bigger things. Al Cardenas, who helped Rubio get his political start years ago and now heads CPAC, introduced the Florida Republican as "a true national hero.""Rubio sharpens barbs at CPAC".
"Someone who I know I'm going to say hello to at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue some day," Cardenas said.
One topic that did not come up: immigration. But the bind Rubio finds himself in on the issue was on display. Outside the conference, a Hispanic advocacy group protested Rubio's hard-line stance on illegal immigration. Inside, someone was circulating fliers asking if Rubio has gone soft on immigration, a nod to his calls for less heated rhetoric.
"The Week in Review for Feb. 6 to Feb 10". See also "Weekly Roundup".
Florida Supreme Court gets Legislature's redistricting plans
"Attorney General Pam Bondi sent the legislature's redistricting plans to the Florida Supreme Court on Friday - a move that will start justices' review of the maps."
Justices will have 30 days to determine whether the plans for redrawing the state's 40 Senate districts and 120 House districts comply with state law, including new constitutional standards requiring that boundaries be drawn without concern for incumbents or either political party."State Supreme Court gets redistricting plans". See also "Critics immediately challenge lawmakers' redrawn districts", "Lawsuits, upheaval greet passage of redistricting plans" and "Before the ink dries on Florida’s redistricting maps, lawsuits fly".
The Florida Democratic Party has filed suit in Leon County Circuit Court against the congressional map.
Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the plan into law next week. Scott's action is expected to bring a lawsuit by the League of Women Voters, La Raza and Common Cause of Florida, which contend that the legislature's ruling Republicans designed the plan to help the party maintain its majority in the congressional delegation.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The best thing about Florida's new congressional and legislative maps is that they are through the Legislature so the court fight can begin soon."
The goal of Amendments 5 and 6 was to keep incumbents from drawing lines to help themselves and their party. ..."New lines, old attitudes?"
Sen. Gaetz argued Thursday that even if the new maps help one party at the expense of another or help incumbents at the expense of challengers, it doesn't matter in the courts unless opponents can prove "intent."
Let's see. The Legislature tried to put competing proposals on the ballot with Amendments 5 and 6. The House spent about $1.3 million of the public's money challenging the amendments, which the public passed. Last week, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the amendments. Now Sen. Gaetz wants Floridians to believe that any failure to comply with the amendments was unintentional. Consider us skeptical.
The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board says "Go with House's districting plans".
"War of words" over water
"While HB 7051 passed the Senate 38-0 with no debate, a war of words between environmental groups and business allies flared outside the Capitol." "Senate gives final passage to bill approving state water quality rules".
Bondi coattails on California's work
"California's hard bargaining, which included a very public withdrawal from the talks in September, earned assurances of at least $12 billion in mortgage debt reductions and short sales for homeowners. Its total take is an estimated $18 billion." "Florida wins rare promise in landmark $8.4 billion foreclosure settlement".
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "A $25 billion financial settlement lets five of the country’s biggest banks buy their way out of a massive investigation into fraudulent and abusive mortgage servicing practices. Whether the deal is sound will depend upon enforcement." "Mixed bag on mortgage relief".
"Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, a Republican, said he has decided it would be a waste of time and money to challenge Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor." "Sharpe suspends campaign for Congress".
Entrepreneurs in action
"South Florida couple accused of disaster fraud".
Is West a "coward" or merely an "opportunist"?
Douglas C. Lyons: "Allen West is heading north. The GOP firebrand's decision to seek re-election in a more favorable congressional district now held by fellow Republican Tom Rooney has been called a 'cowardly act' by some of West's many detractors. The description misses the point. 'Opportunistic' is more accurate." "West goes north, but the shouting lingers on".
Padding the pockets of the state's largest businesses
"One of Florida Gov. Rick Scott's top tax-cutting priorities this year is a proposal that he and other supporters say is aimed squarely at helping the state's smallest businesses. But the biggest beneficiaries, in the long run, may turn out to be utilities, theme parks, telecom companies and the rest of the state's largest businesses." "Tax cut for small businesses could lead to breaks for big ones". See also "Gov. Scott touts another jobs coup, but lawmakers cut his incentives".
"Glitch bill" grows
"Legislative leaders said they expected a quiet 2012 session on growth management after the Legislature adopted sweeping and controversial changes last year. But SB 842 is raising concerns with regional planning councils and SB 1180 is facing opposition from 1000 Friends of Florida. Both are sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett, chairman of the Senate Committee on Community Affairs."
SB 842 by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton and chairman of the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, was supposed to be the main "glitch" bill to take care of problems created by last year's legislation."Pair of bills raise concerns during otherwise quiet session on growth management".
But the bill is raising concerns among the state's 11 regional planning councils, which review some local land-use decisions. The bill bans them from both providing paid planning services for the cities and counties and then reviewing their land-use changes.
Mica v. Adams cage match
"U.S. Rep. John Mica confirmed Friday he will run for re-election in a redrawn congressional district, but avoided talk of the brutal primary he could face with fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams of Orlando." "Mica makes it official; could face incumbent Adams". See also "John Mica vs. Sandy Adams: A 'Barnburner' in CD 7".
And Costello makes three
"Two more Republicans jumped into the 6th Congressional District contest Thursday, ensuring at least a three-way GOP primary there. Freshman state Rep. Fred Costello, R-Ormond Beach, announced his intentions a day after Rep. John Mica, R-Orlando, declared he would run for re-election in the neighboring 7th Congressional District. Mica's move sets up a primary showdown with freshman Rep. Sandy Adams there." "As Republicans Jump In, CD 6 Race Gets Crowded Quickly".
Voter suppression is expensive these days
"Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho warned advocates attending a State of Black Florida 2012 event today that last year’s elections law is costing Leon County money."
Last spring, the Florida Legislature passed an elections overhaul that tightens restrictions on third-party voter registration and reduces the increasingly popular early voting days."Leon supervisor of elections says new elections law will cost county $112,000 more".
Sancho said in Tallahassee today that absentee voting was very reliable. He explained that 5 to 6 perfect of absentee ballots typically are not counted, a factor in why he preferred expanding early voting days. But “with no warning,” he said, “with no input from supervisors of elections, early voting was cut in half” last year.
“It’s even worse than cut in half,” he added. “They said that you can have 12-hour days. That blows my budget.”
Sancho explained that staffing polling locations for 12-hour days will cost more money because he has to pay workers time and a half after eight hours. He said the new law will cost Leon County taxpayers “$112,000 more for fewer days.”
Even Scott isn't crazy enough for these people
"A Florida immigration restrictionist group put up a billboard this week saying Gov. Rick Scott is welcoming 'illegal aliens' to Florida."
Located near the Georgia border, the billboard reads: “Welcome Illegal Aliens: We offer jobs, free health care, education and welfare. Thank Governor Scott.”"Immigration restrictionist group says Scott is welcoming ‘illegal aliens’ to Florida".
Senators caught off guard
"Bill to allow student fee increase catches senators off guard".
From the "values" crowd
"The Florida Senate has released a health budget proposal that calls for deep cuts in mental-health and substance-abuse programs and includes a complicated plan that hospitals fear could cost them hundreds of millions of dollars." "Senate lays out health-care cuts".
There's a joke here somewhere
"Florida looks to get ahead of curve on driverless cars".
Nelson and Rubio agree
"Florida's U.S. senators, who often divide on controversial issues, joined a chorus of critics on Thursday pressuring the White House to abandon a new rule that would require church-affiliated groups to provide birth-control coverage for their workers. Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio said the controversial rule violates religious freedom." "Rubio, Nelson both oppose contraception rule".
"Florida House budget not in sync with Senate's". See also "Senate releases $70.7 billion budget".
"Despite the fact that a Senate budget draft distributed on Wednesday includes no money for either Everglades restoration or the Florida Forever program, Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander says he is 'seriously considering' matching the House’s line item for Everglades restoration." "Senator ‘seriously considering’ matching House funding for Everglades". More on the 'Glades: "Army Corps announcement could bode well for endangered Everglades species".
Pasco Dems have lost their mojo
"Lynn Lindeman, the newly elected chairman of the Pasco County Democratic Party, knows he has a Herculean task ahead of him. Democrats used to dominate local elections in Pasco, but during the last decade, the party has lost its mojo. Republicans hold every elected office in the county except for tax collector — and they're gunning for that seat, too." "Democratic leader wants to re-energize".
"Eliminating 'protectionist' policies that keep out newcomers"
"Small but specific moves to scale back professional laws are proceeding through the legislative process, addressing a spectrum of regulations from continuing education hours to work experience and, most controversially, eliminating 'protectionist' policies that keep out newcomers." "Florida lawmakers tread carefully with deregulation of professions this time".
"Transparency: Hiding in plain sight"
Aaron Deslatte: "Florida's Republican legislative leadership has made a point the last two years of touting the transparent nature by which they do the difficult work of telling people no. No money for affordable housing. No money for renewable energy. No money for boosting the state's higher-education system beyond the mid-rungs of mediocrity."
But a thousand other decisions are taking place in the spending plan being drafted by both chambers, often with little public discourse or debate. ..."Lawmakers' budget maneuvers often aren't transparent".
Then there are the pork projects littered throughout the $69 billion budget – with no names attached, just a wink and a nod between legislators. ...
Before he was indicted over an airplane hangar disguised as a college classroom, former House Speaker Ray Sansom and then-Senate President Jeff Atwater suspended a community budget-request system that required lawmakers to submit earmarks with their names attached. It wasn't perfect; powerful politicians always still slipped things in with little attention – like Sansom's hangar – but it provided considerable transparency.
Current House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, was asked last week why lawmakers hadn't restored that system, and he said it wasn't needed because the 400-page budget and dozens of "conforming" bills were publicly available – albeit without names attached.
"It's there," he said. "It's up to you guys and the public to review it."
Transparency: Hiding in plain sight.
"Environmentally caused illnesses"
"The Florida Senate is attempting, again, to award a health center in an area experiencing a high rate of environmentally caused illnesses half a million dollars to address the community’s health challenges." "Senate health budget awards Apopka half a million for health center".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "The Florida Legislature crafts state law, adopts an annual budget of tens of billions of dollars, and sets wide-ranging policies for the state. But for some lawmakers, that's not enough power. They like to stick their noses in the business of cities and counties contrary to Florida's 'Home Rule' authority, which became part of the state constitution in 1973." "Dictating from Tallahassee".
Gaetz says he meant no offense
"Black lawmakers are criticizing Florida state Sen. Don Gaetz for making a reference to hanging in comments to the media. The Niceville Republican, who chairs the Senate Reapportionment Committee, said on Friday that he meant no offense." "Fla. state senator criticized for hanging remark". See also "Democrats slam GOP legislator for ‘racially inflammatory statements’".