"Slash in pay could be on the way for servers, bartenders"
The "values crowd" is working overtime in Tally: "Restaurant servers, bartenders and other Florida workers who rely heavily on tips are expressing outrage about a plan moving through the Legislature that could slash their hourly wages."
The bill (SB 2106), approved by a Senate committee Thursday, would allow restaurants and other employers to pay their staffs the federal tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour instead of Florida's minimum of $4.65. To qualify, companies would have to guarantee that employees would make at least $9.98 an hour, when tips are included."On Thursday, the Senate's Commerce and Tourism Committee voted 5-1 to approve the bill, which was proposed by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. The organization argues that it's necessary because the minimum wage, which under state law rises annually to cover inflation, is among the expenses financially crippling restaurants in Florida."
Supporters also point out not all tipped employees would be affected. Less-expensive restaurants would likely keep paying $4.65 an hour, because they couldn't guarantee their employees would make enough in tips."Senate panel OKs slashing hourly pay for servers, bartenders, others".
The National Employment Law Project, an advocate for low-wage workers, says employees need the money, and the restaurant industry is doing just fine. It points to National Restaurant Association projections last year saying Florida and Texas will experience the nation's strongest restaurant-job growth during the next decade.
Tampa-based OSI Restaurant Partners, which owns Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba's, supports the bill.
Rubio shills for polluters
"Rubio introduces bill to force EPA to implement state-drafted water pollution rules".
"The unmitigated gall of engaging in due diligence"
Daniel Ruth: "In the end, a career in public service eventually comes down to a simple proposition. After you leave office, how do you want to be remembered?"
In the case of state Sen. JD Alexander, R-The Snidely Whiplash of Scholarship, the verdict alas is likely to be … well, unkind."When history written, it won't be kind".
Alexander is in the sunset of his time in the Florida Senate, a term-limited, lame duck, shallow pol who will probably best be recalled as the guy who tried to implode the University of South Florida in a fit of immature personal pique.
By now, Alexander's plot to put the onus of statewide higher education cuts on the backs of USF and its students, faculty and employees because he didn't get his way in winning immediate approval to spin off the school's USF Polytechnic Lakeland campus as an independent institution has become the stuff of legendary Tallahassee thuggery.
The effort to saddle USF with a 58 percent budget cut clearly was the handiwork of Alexander, R-Mr. Dithers, who as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee asserts a Caligula-like thumbs up/thumbs down on virtually every appropriation request.
And merely because He Who Must be Obeyed was confronted with the inanity of trying to free up USF Poly before it could be properly accredited, the mother ship back in Tampa had to pay for the unmitigated irresponsible gall of engaging in due diligence.
If this power play had been the result of just another slack-jawed Tallahassee political troll, the whole thing might simply be written off as another example of scruples rotting under the rotunda.
But in Alexander's case there is much more historical irony abounding here.
Even The Tampa Tribune editorial board says "Remove Alexander from budget panel".
Republican leadership in Tally
"Florida has one-fourth of nation’s foreclosures". Related: "A year after robo-signing revelations, Florida foreclosures on the rise again".
"Scott has his office working to determine what he can do to keep up the effort to bid out the services of up to 26 Central and South Florida correctional institutions this session." "Scott Moves to Keep Prison Privatization Alive".
"Sneaky attempt by brazen lawmakers to bend the law"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Call it the Thursday afternoon surprise. Out of nowhere, the Florida House Judiciary Committee produced legislation that would grant state legislators and their staffs absolute protection from being required to testify or produce documents in civil court cases."
The committee approved it along generally partisan lines, and now this dangerous four-page bill appears headed straight to the House floor with just three weeks left in the legislative session and no public scrutiny. There is no need for this blanket protection, and its supporters' motives are suspect at best. ..."Another power play by brazen lawmakers". See also "Bill would shield state lawmakers from testifying", "With redistricting lawsuit looming, legislators want immunity" and "Lawmakers vote to shield themselves from questions".
A suddenly appearing, proposed committee bill with no legislator's name attached to it. One quick committee hearing. A straight shot to the full House as the session nears its usual frantic end. This is another sneaky attempt by brazen lawmakers to bend the law to benefit themselves, and it is an affront to Floridians who demand fairly drawn legislative districts and open government.
Redistricting moves to the courts
"The action will now move to the courts, with the Florida Democratic Party and voting-rights groups claiming the new district lines favor Republicans and incumbents." "Gov. Rick Scott signs off on new congressional districts". See also "Scott Signs Off on New Congressional Districts". More: "Gov. Scott approves congressional districts, triggering new lawsuit".
Like flies ...
"Republicans Flock to Fill Connie Mack's Congressional Seat".
"Jeb!" anti-public school bill rammed through without debate
"Legislation moving quickly in the Republican-controlled Legislature would let parents 'trigger' turnaround plans for failing public schools that could include management by for-profit companies."
The measure (HB 1191) has drawn opposition from Democrats and parent groups, but House Education Committee Chairman Bill Proctor, a St. Augustine Republican, rammed it through his panel without allowing debate today because time was running out on the meeting."Fla. bill would let parents decide failing school's fate".
Supporters include StudentsFirst, an organization founded by former Washington public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who has advised Gov. Rick Scott. It's also supported by former Gov. Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida's Future and California-based Parent Revolution, which successfully lobbied for a trigger law in that state.
The Florida PTA and Fund Education Now, a group that's suing the state over what it contends is insufficient school funding, are among the opponents.
Mica hints at Precourt and Adams collusion
"Three weeks ago, state lawmakers sat down for what could be best described as a cleanup session: a chance to make final changes to a new map that would set the lines of congressional seats for the next decade."
Left unsaid, however, was the ripple effect that has helped steer two incumbent Republicans on to a potentially cantankerous collision course. One of the shifts in the lines added the Orlando-area home of freshman U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams into the Seminole County-centered district — designated CD 7 — that she considers her natural political home and much of which she now represents."Last-minute change puts Rep. Sandy Adams' home in her district".
Three days later, Adams declared for that seat — a move that ultimately became the first salvo in a turf war with fellow Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica of Winter Park, a 10-term lawmaker who also can lay claim to Seminole County.
Now Mica and his supporters are raising concerns over the last-minute change, hinting that the amendment Precourt pushed might have been done to accommodate the needs of Adams, an old friend from their days together in the Florida Legislature.
"Go back and check it. Precourt on Friday the 27th. And the [Adams] announcement on Monday," Mica said recently.
Adams and Precourt both adamantly deny communicating about the change, especially because any proven collusion would violate new constitutional rules that prohibit the Legislature from helping incumbents when drawing political borders.
"I can tell you unequivocally that the congresswoman did not call members or staff or consultants about the maps," said Charlie Keller, her chief of staff. "And I didn't either or anyone on staff."
No-Fault insurance revamp
"Scott on Thursday came out in favor of how the House of Representatives is trying to revamp the state’s no-fault insurance program. After watching the Florida Highway Patrol demonstrate how accidents are staged in order to illegally collect insurance payments, Scott said there are elements of the separate personal injury protection reform bills still making their ways through each legislative chamber." "Scott Encourages House Effort to Reform No-Fault Insurance to Fight Fraud".
Ricky, "Don't trash tenure"
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "It's hard to see what benefit is to be gained by eliminating university and college faculty tenure, other than scoring political points. Yet some observers think the idea is still alive in the halls of the Florida Legislature, although no bills have been filed this session."
The Legislature eliminated tenure for new K-12 teachers last year, and proposed ending it for community college professors. Gov. Rick Scott, enamored by education reforms in Texas, also has questioned whether university professors need it."Higher education: Don't trash tenure and undercut reform".
The answer is simple: yes. And not just for the benefit of the professors, but for the benefit of students, and the entire higher education system in Florida.
Another greedy public employee
"Narcotics detective killed in gunfight near Jacksonville".
Goin' after public-safety pensions
"A Senate panel decided to delay its decision on a pension measure on Thursday, allowing time for various labor organizations to work out their different concerns."
The bill would do something all the unions say they support. It would roll back an increase in the retirement age for special-risk employees, such as police and firefighters, that lawmakers passed last session."Pension bill stalls in Senate panel as unions sort out objections".
However, state law requires changes to public employee retirement benefits to be actuarially sound, and provisions intended to offset the cost of that change have proved contentious for organizations that represent other employees, including some firefighters.
The cost-saving portions of the bill would increase the vesting period for the defined-benefit retirement plan from eight years to 10, and make the defined-contribution investment plan the default retirement option for new hires. Although neither change would affect current employees, the unions worried that SB 1334 would essentially require other classes of employees to subsidize the rollback of the retirement age.
Closing a tobacco company tax loophole
"The Consumer Federation of the Southeast, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, released a statement yesterday asking Florida lawmakers to close a tax loophole for a Florida-based tobacco company." "Consumer advocacy group asks legislators to close tax loophole for tobacco company".
"Compromise in Senate bill could lead to litigation limits".
"An aftertaste of Tallahassee politics"
"This week in the Legislature, a USF student body president Matthew Diaz met the tart tongue of Sen. Evelyn Lynn. She publicly scolded Diaz. One day life will be sweet. Right now, he has an aftertaste of Tallahassee politics." "A dose of Tallahassee politics".
"Trying to fix one of Florida’s systemic problems"
The Tampa Bay Times editors: "An influential state Senate committee looked past a short-term crisis Thursday to try to fix one of Florida’s systemic problems. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee embraced a plan that would require most Internet vendors selling to Floridians to collect and remit sales taxes." "Sales tax fix gains traction".