Aaron Deslatte: "Legislative leadership fights -- fueled by personal ambitions, conflicting corporate-versus-populist agendas and shifting allegiances -- always make for interesting palace intrigue, if not much popular relevance."
But the battle that played out in the Senate last week as Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, tried to force Orlando Sen. Andy Gardiner out of the race for the 2015-16 presidency could have lasting implications for millions of Floridians."The marriage of ideologically at-odds Gardiner and Latvala could make for an interesting coupling on the campaign trail this summer. The two will have to work together to support candidates – and stay ahead of Thrasher's efforts to elect rivals loyal to him."
In the summer of 2009, Jacksonville Sen. Jim King — a lion of the old, more moderate (some would say contemplative) Senate — succumbed to cancer, and Thrasher, a former Republican House speaker who had long quarreled with Florida trial lawyers, turned in his lobbying client list to run for the seat. This was a major signal to Tallahassee insiders that times were changing in the chamber.
What followed was a no-holds-barred GOP primary in which the trial bar lobby threw more than $2 million into defeating Thrasher, and failed. ...
During that campaign, Thrasher decided to support Gardiner for president in 2015-16 and position himself for 2017-18, and the line of presidential succession in the Senate -- Sens. Mike Haridopolos of Merritt Island, Don Gaetz of Niceville and Gardiner -- helped Thrasher beat back the trial lawyer cash. ...
But Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican on his second tour in the chamber, sniffed an opportunity. The leadership's attempt to ram through controversial bills in the final hours of session last year gave him ammo to stage a resistance effort and launch his own bid for Senate president. ...
Gardiner won't elaborate on the back-room deal-making that thwarted the effort by Thrasher and Joe Negron, R-Stuart, to coax Gardiner's "pledges" to swing to them. By Thursday evening, he had secured enough votes to put down the attempted coup, and confirmed he would be making changes to address concerns that the Senate had become too top-down. ...
As part of the deal, Latvala will run for president in 2016 as the clear favorite — assuming Republicans hold onto the chamber.
This is not a power struggle stemming purely from the conflict between the business lobby and the unions/lawyers. It is about personal ambition.Much more here: "Senate presidency fight could have lasting effects".
But it has the potential to impact bigger policies affecting many more people for years to come.
Plenty of bad ideas lawmakers should kill before they adjourn
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Doctors take an oath to do no harm. The same should be required of Florida legislators. With two weeks left in the legislative session, some of the best decisions so far have been to stop bad ideas. But there are plenty of others that lawmakers should kill before they adjourn March 9." "Bad bills still lurking".
Big of them
"An emotional William Dillon looked on Friday as the Florida House agreed to pay him $1.35 million as compensation for spending more than 27 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit." "Florida House OKs $1.35 million for man imprisoned 27 years for murder he didn't commit".
"A kind of educational apartheid within the university system"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "There are troubling aspects to a bill that allows the marketplace to dictate tuition prices as if they were a product off the assembly line, and in the process creates the possible beginnings of a kind of educational apartheid within the university system." "Short-sighted approach to excellence".
"Detente doesn't happen often in Florida's environmental wars"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Detente doesn't happen often in Florida's environmental wars, particularly when mining is involved."
But a federal judge should approve the proposed settlement between Mosaic Co. and a collection of environmental groups that would create a new state park along the Peace River but also maintain good-paying jobs. Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet also need to embrace this compromise."A good deal for Florida wetlands".
"The most barbaric backwater in the nation"
Fred Grimm: "Thank God for Texas. Else we’d rank as the most barbaric backwater in the nation. Even infamously unenlightened states like Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina spend more per capita on mental health than Florida." "Here’s crazy: Reducing money to treat mental illness in Florida".
"Sorry, Charlies! George LeMieux and Connie Mack Spar Over Crist and Sheen".
"Rep. Richard Steinberg, a Miami Beach Democrat, resigned his seat Friday, two days after admitting he harassed a married Miami prosecutor with anonymous text messages". "Florida Democratic Rep. resigns after admitting sending harassing emails".
Carl Hiaasen: "Special nominee for the Darwin Awards, handed out each year to exceptionally un-evolved members of the human species: Florida House Rep. Richard L. Steinberg, a Miami Beach Democrat". "New candidate for the Darwin Awards".
Scott parties, skips the seminars
"Governors attending an annual meeting this weekend will take up the theme of "Growing State Economies," an initiative they hope will boost hiring and create jobs in their home states."
But Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has made jobs the centerpiece of his administration, will not be at the gathering."Scott will be in Washington, though."
Florida, along with Texas, Ohio and Idaho, is one of four states whose Republican governors have declined to pay annual membership dues to the National Governors Association [(NGA)]. Scott is one of just a handful of U.S. governors not going to the annual meeting — 46 governors from U.S. states and territories will be in attendance.
He and his wife, Ann Scott, will fly in Sunday for what many governors and their spouses consider the highlight of the annual weekend in Washington: a black tie dinner hosted by the president and first lady at the White House. The dinner is not affiliated with the NGA.And it isn't as if Scott won't be meeting with other Governors:
Scott [is] a member of the Republican Governors Association, which relies on corporate donors and in part on donations from hundreds of wealthy conservatives who donate to the group for access to events featuring GOP governors."Gov. Rick Scott drops Florida's membership in governors group".
Unlike the NGA, strictly a policy-based organization, the RGA's primary mission is to help elect Republicans to governorships throughout the nation. Democrat[ic*] governors have a similar political arm.
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*Disappointing that the uninformed journalist who wrote this piece, the Miami Herald's Erika Bolstad, is unaware that the proper convention is "Democratic governors", not "Democrat governors". See The New Yorker's, "The 'Ic' Factor".
"Bad, Bad Bills"
Nancy Smith "Bad, Bad Bills: Getting Consumer Protection Struck From the Statutes".
Never mind the bacteria
"Forget sharks. The things most likely to hurt you at the beach are microscopic, and soon it may be harder to know if they're out there." "Funding for beach water testing in jeopardy".
"Believing they are inscribing stone tablets"
Jac Wilder VerSteeg: "For all the fear that government will intrude on religion ... the greater threat is lawmakers who forget they're writing statutes and come to believe they are inscribing stone tablets."
The Florida Legislature provides ample evidence of the tendency, with our lawmakers working to limit abortion rights, to allow coercive prayers in public schools and increase the flow of money to vouchers that will support private religious schools - while cutting support for higher education."VerSteeg: Problem isn't too much birth control, it's too little".
"Liberty Counsel founder flip-flops on school prayer bill".
"There aren't enough judges"
The Palm Beach Post editors: "It takes nearly two years for foreclosure cases to wend their way through Florida's courts because there aren't enough judges to handle the backlog and lenders often drag their heels after filing." "'Quick' foreclosure isn't".
"Weekly Roundup: For Senate Fights, the Future is Now".
"A ludicrous decision"
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "The school was held hostage so one parochial lawmaker could get his way. And he did — at least in the Senate, which voted to make Polytechnic Florida's 12th state university. It is a ludicrous decision at a time the Senate is cutting existing universities' funding by $400 million. The vote demolishes any sense of fiscal discipline and thoughtful planning." "A flimsy foundation for higher education".
"Under a bill advancing through the Legislature, Florida taxpayers could be asked to pick up the tab for damages caused by Amtrak".
"It's a horrible public policy," said Jamie Holland, a Jacksonville lawyer who specializes in rail. "It puts the Florida taxpayer on the hook.""If Amtrak crashes, Florida taxpayers might be forced to pay".
Similar protections were awarded to CSX, the freight railroad operator, in 2009. Lawmakers made taxpayers liable for potential accidents caused by CSX on the 61-mile SunRail commuter line in Orlando.
An Amtrak attorney, Carol Licko, said the bill merely gives Amtrak the same liability protection along the SunRail corridor.
Amtrak "wanted to become part of the agreement (between CSX and Florida)," Licko said. "What this does is require the state to buy insurance to cover accidents. All that Amtrak is asking for is to get covered in that insurance agreement."
"Florida legislators passing ceremonial bills denouncing health care reform".
"Bad bill that emerged mysteriously"
The Tampa Tribune editors: "The Legislature appears eager to let die an overreaching bill that would have given all state lawmakers immunity from civil legal action for their entire lives and beyond, into eternity."
Under the proposal, staff members would not be allowed to testify in a lawsuit unless they waived immunity and also had written permission from the legislator for whom they worked. Should that elected official die and thus be unable to sign a waiver, staffers would be required to be silent forever."'Uninhibited discharge' is not good lawmaking".
The bill didn't presume to restrict what might be said in Heaven, but you get the feeling the authors would have included the afterlife if they thought they had jurisdiction.
This bad bill that emerged mysteriously from the House Judiciary Committee would have increased secrecy and weakened the open records law. Its stated purpose in granting legal immunity would be "to encourage and protect the uninhibited discharge of a legislator's duty for the public good."
From what we've seen of lawmaking in Tallahassee, a little inhibition can be useful where so much money, personal ambition and political power converge. Some of the Legislature's best work is done through compromise.
Hukill jobs bill
"The Florida House signed off on a bill Thursday designed to stimulate job growth in targeted industries, including defense contracts and space flight." "Hukill jobs bill passes House".
"Time may be running out on PIP overhaul in Florida".