"Florida Gov. Rick Scott brought his familiar message of more jobs, less government and lower taxes to Washington, D.C., on Saturday morning, making his speaking debut at the Conservative Political Action Conference."
Scott's halting delivery seemed to confound audience members, who at times appeared unsure about when to applaud or respond. Still, his frequent mentions of freedom and opportunity drew an unmistakably friendly reaction."Gov. Rick Scott brings familiar message to CPAC".
"Prettier, but not significantly fairer"
The Tampa Bay Times editors: "They look prettier, but they are not significantly fairer."
They look prettier, but they are not significantly fairer. That is the bottom line on the new congressional and legislative districts approved by the Florida Legislature. Now it will be up to the courts to adjust the lines to ensure the districts meet the intent of the new redistricting rules approved by voters. While the Legislature took a significant step in the right direction, it did not go far enough in drawing districts that better reflect the state's political balance and comply with the state Constitution."More than 60 percent of the voters approved Amendments 5 and 6, which require legislators draw districts that do not favor or disfavor incumbents or political parties."
In theory, the new redistricting requirements should have resulted in maps that would produce a congressional delegation and Legislature that better reflect Florida's political balance. After all, Democrats hold an edge in voter registration, and the last three presidential elections have produced an effective tie in 2000, a Republican win and a Democratic win. Yet Republicans now hold 19 of 25 congressional seats, 28 of 40 state Senate seats and 81 of 120 state House seats because of the way the current districts are drawn to protect incumbents and ensure Republican control.
"District lines need work".
The new districts appear only marginally more competitive. A Tampa Bay Times analysis based on previous election results suggests Democrats could pick up three congressional seats, with two other districts competitive. If the new congressional maps meet the constitutional requirements, why would President Barack Obama have won only 10 of the 27 new districts even though he carried Florida in 2008?
"Political interference and endless tinkering"
"[A] years-long struggle over the direction and dollars behind one of the nation's largest university systems, one critics say is plagued by political interference and endless tinkering." "It’s Gov. Rick Scott vs. state officials in effort to raise tuition rates".
"South Florida’s crumbling schools"
"South Florida’s crumbling schools and how they got that way".
<Rubio got his
"Marco Rubio grew up in South Florida surrounded by a family of Cuban immigrants and working-class neighbors who knew firsthand the suffering and striving of the immigrant experience."
Today, while scaling the heights of political power, he sees immigrants stream into his U.S. Senate offices pleading for help. ...
"Rubio caught between personal, political on immigration".
Rubio is walking a fine line, mixing compassion with respect for the law while trying not to offend a party base infuriated by the illegal population, including an estimated 825,000 in Florida. When asked to reconcile these positions, he says he does not claim to have a "magic answer" but hopes to build on principles of fairness and border security supported, he says, by the vast majority of Americans. ...
Rubio [is] long on rhetoric but short on specific proposals.
Libertarian blowout in Orlando
"'More freedom, less government': Libertarian candidates for president debate in Orlando".
"Enough already" with the Chamber
Scott Maxwell: "Enough already. It's time to turn off the government spigot. After revelations that groups associated with the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce devoured an additional $250,000 — some of it for questionable purposes — it is time to cut the chamber off." "End gravy train of tax dollars to chamber".
"Medicaid privatization dealt a blow"
"Republican lawmakers' quest to expand a Medicaid privatization program statewide was dealt a blow this week after federal health officials said the state could not impose $10 monthly premiums on Medicaid beneficiaries."
The privatization program builds on a controversial five-county pilot program that started in 2006. Patients said they struggled to get doctor's appointments and doctors dropped out of the program complaining the health plans denied the treatments they prescribed. Several health care providers also dropped out of the program, saying they couldn't turn a profit, leaving patients to be deal with gaps in services as they were bounced between plans.
"Feds deny part of Florida Medicaid proposal".
There has also been little data evaluating the program. The state has not tracked what services were denied and it's unclear whether the small amount of savings was because patients got less care or because it was delivered more efficiently.
Several outspoken Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Elaine Schwartz, have hammered the importance of such data, worrying the for-profit health providers will line their pockets with administrative costs unless closely monitored. Federal health officials have insisted the state require private health plans to spend 85 percent of funds on patient care.
"Popular with constituents, unpopular with fellow Republicans"
Adam Smith is "hard-pressed to name any Tampa Bay politician more popular with his constituents and less popular with leaders of his own party than state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey." "Fasano popular with constituents, but not with fellow Republicans".
More cuts for state employees
"Last year, Gov. Rick Scott proposed capping health coverage for state employees at $5,000 annually per plan participant — leaving employees responsible for additional costs. While that plan failed to pass, lawmakers again are considering an approach that would provide a set contribution rather than a set of benefits." "State's health insurance may soon get less attractive".
Call center careers ... the best Scott can do?
"Tampa has burnished its image as a hub for call center operations with the recent announcements of more than 1,000 new jobs. Is that a good thing, given the relatively low status of such employment?" "Recent influx of call center jobs to Tampa brings promise of bigger things".
Tampa to clamp down on protestors
"With the six-month countdown almost here, local government, police and court officials are busily making plans to deal with an expected throng of 10,000 or more protesters who will demonstrate against war, for social justice, against corporate greed and for political reform." "Police, judges, jails juggling schedules, staff for RNC".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "In 1996, Florida began a grand experiment in education reform. Charter schools were placed in a statewide Petri dish. Critics warned that the public/private hybrids would siphon off funding and spell the end of traditional public schools."
And now, some state lawmakers foolishly plan to hand charter schools the hose. The Senate Education Committee has endorsed a bill requiring local school districts to share with charter schools a portion of the $1.9 billion in construction and maintenance money collected through local taxes. Money that charter schools could use to defray leases or to buy buildings that — rather than reverting to the public — private operators get to keep if the school is not renewed or goes belly up."Don't rob reeling school districts to pay charters".
This from "a lawmaker who has gained little notice despite having served in the House for more than two decades"
U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns R-Ocala has "used his powerful committee perch in Congress to begin an investigation into whether Planned Parenthood uses taxpayer money for abortions."
"For the second time in a year, Stearns was thrust into the national spotlight, a remarkable feat for a lawmaker who has gained little notice despite having served in the House for more than two decades."
Stearns seems both surprised and pleased by the uproar, which came coincidentally as controversy grew over a White House mandate that faith-based health care providers make contraception available, a decision that President Barack Obama relented on somewhat Friday.
"U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns adamant about Planned Parenthood inquiry".
And it came fortuitously for social conservatives who lost voice amid the intense focus on economic issues over the past two years. At once, the culture wars have returned.
Haridopolos plays catch with charter school lobbyist
"The Florida Senate has been moving more slowly and more clumsily than the Florida House this year, but Senate President Haridopolos looks like he doesn't have a care in the world. The Merritt Island Republican has been ducking out of his Capitol office some afternoons to toss a football on the lawn outside the Senate Office Building. Last week, the Senate president's catching partner was Chris Moya, who lobbies for charter schools, the Seminole Tribe and other clients. More recently, the Senate president was been spotted doing it again." "Senate leader's spirals".
"Prospects bleak for state's disadvantaged residents"
"While Florida's economy has shown signs of improvement in recent months, the prospects remain bleak for many of the state's most disadvantaged residents. And there is concern that things may only get worse."
The Republican-led Legislature passed a series of sweeping changes last year and is considering additional changes in 2012 that lawmakers say protect taxpayer dollars, wean residents off government assistance and position businesses to reignite Florida's dormant economy.Some "bills appear innocuous but could have dire consequences for poorer Floridians,"
said Karen Woodall, interim director of the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, a group that focuses on policies that impact low-income families. Case in point, she says: a plan to privatize portions of Medicaid, the state-managed health care system for low-income individuals and families.
"To Republican lawmakers, the changes are designed to encourage self-responsibility, retain help for the Floridians who need assistance most and best deploy the state's limited financial resources."
Health care advocates, armed with data and horror stories from a controversial five-year pilot plan, say private insurance companies have systematically denied care to the state's poorest and most vulnerable citizens.
Yet the plan is proceeding.
The state is scheduled to start shifting Medicaid beneficiaries — elderly people first — into privatized managed-care programs by January 2013.
New proposals would deepen cuts. Scott wants to cut Medicaid spending by nearly 10 percent this year to free up funds for education, and both the House and Senate propose sharp reductions in Medicaid contributions to area hospitals.
Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, D-Weston, introduced a bill this year to close loopholes in the corporate income tax and another that would ban businesses from discriminating against the unemployed.
"Legislature is leaving poor Floridians without a safety net, critics say".
Both proposals have been ignored by the Republican majorities.
"I believe that's what happens when you have a Legislature where there's not a balance as far as the members of both parties," she said.