The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board: "The Florida Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on a budget that, like the version approved by the House of Representatives, focuses on the spending side of the ledger and ignores the potential for new revenue sources."
The leaders of the Senate and House — and Gov. Rick Scott — tout this strategy as good for Floridians."Legislature's one-sided budgeting".
But they fail to recognize that this one-sided approach to budgeting and governance is also bad for Floridians — not only those who rely on government-supported programs, but everyone who has an interest in an educated and healthy populace, as well as safe neighborhoods and communities.
As Zac Anderson recently reported in the Herald-Tribune, Scott, House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos have signed pledges not to increase taxes, no matter the demonstrable need. What's more, Anderson reported, many legislators fear being targeted during future campaigns for voting to pursue new forms of revenue — unless they are offset by reductions in other revenues.
As a result, both the House and Senate budgets rely on deep cuts in spending on higher education, health care, mental-health treatment and other programs that benefit Florida and its people.
Stopping the charter school madness
"The perennial push to funnel construction funds to charter schools is running into another brick wall of political opposition erected by school districts and a liberal advocacy group." "Attacked From Left, Charter Schools Fight for Right to Funding". See also "Scott, GOP legislators, business organizations to promote charter schools at Tallahassee rally".
"5 things to watch today in Tallahassee"
"Capitol Buzz: 5 things to watch today in Tallahassee".
"Bill would unwind a half-century of smart transportation planning"
The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "The Florida Senate will consider a bill this week that would unwind a half-century of smart transportation planning." "Senate's transport takeover".
Jacobs goes after Lois Frankel
"Calling for a new era of civility, Broward County Commissioner formally launched her campaign for Congress on Monday. And she promptly went after her opponent in the race for the Democratic nomination in the Broward-Palm Beach County 22nd District, calling Lois Frankel a divisive insider." "Kristin Jacobs announces bid for Congress, goes after Lois Frankel".
Spats-and-ascot set complains about the corporate media
Nancy Smith complains that "there is no such thing as a level playing field when Republican candidates are looking for a fair shake from the media." "Only If You're a Republican Are Your Fundraising Tactics Deplorable".
Claims bills often fail
"In Florida, sovereign immunity laws protect government bodies from huge liability payouts. So, victims are at the mercy of the Florida Legislature, which has the power to waive immunity by passing a 'claims bill' directing government to pay a specific sum to the victim or the victim's family." "Claims bills seek money for victims – but often fail".
Buchanan's former partner acknowledges violating campaign laws
"A former business partner of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan has settled a Federal Election Commission case, acknowledging violating campaign finance laws to support Buchanan’s 2006 and 2008 congressional campaigns." "Ex-Buchanan parter settles with FEC".
"Sink sounds like she wants a rematch with Scott"
"Alex Sink feels regret. That's understandable when you come within 1 percentage point of being elected governor of Florida."
The Democratic former chief financial officer lost the 2010 race for governor to Republican Rick Scott by that margin."Alex Sink regrets defeat to Rick Scott in 2010, thinks about 2014 rematch".
She lost by 61,550 votes out of more than 5 million cast, in a year that was disastrous for Democrats, not just in Florida but all over the country.
"Some days I wake up and I think, 'Why couldn't I find those extra 60,000 votes?' " Sink says. "And with a great sense of regret that we didn't get the Democratic turnout, particularly in South Florida. It was very low. But then the next day, I wake up and say, 'How in the hell did I come so close?' "
Sink lost to a political neophyte who spent $73 million of his own money, most of it on TV ads, and whose popularity remains low.
Sink is back on the speaking circuit. She has launched a nonprofit think tank, the Florida Next Foundation (FloridaNext.org), to promote a Democratic agenda on issues affecting families and small businesses.
Lately, she sounds like she wants a rematch with Scott.
Not to be confused with the with the Age of Enlightenment
Daniel Ruth writes that, "up to this point, no one would confuse the intellectual firepower on sputtering display in the Republican primary with the Age of Enlightenment." "U.S. politics could use a French lesson".
Scott's latest publicity stunt
"Despite questions about its constitutionality, a Florida House committee signed off on a proposal backed by Gov. Rick Scott that would give any state or local government agency the ability to randomly drug-screen workers up to four times a year."
The House Appropriations approved the proposal largely along party lines the day before a federal court hearing scheduled Wednesday in Miami over a challenge to a drug-testing policy imposed on state workers by Scott last year. After the ACLU and the state workers union sued the state, Scott in June quietly reversed his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the case."Florida House panel advances bill allowing random drug testing of state employees". See also "Scott backing renewed attempt to drug test state employees", "On second thought, House panel approves state worker drug tests" and "House budget committee passes resurrected state employee drug testing bill".
Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, amended his bill (HB 1205) Tuesday in response to concerns from even fellow Republicans that the drug tests could create a financial hardship for the already cash-strapped state. Whereas Smith's measure originally allowed random testing of the state's 112,000-plus employees without limits, it now would allow state agencies to randomly drug test up to 10 percent of their workers but without any extra money from the state to pay for the tests, which cost between $10 and $40. Workers would not be charged for the tests.
The changes did not help, argued ACLU of Florida attorney Pamela Burch Fort.
"Nothing has changed," Fort said. "House bill 1205 remains unconstitutional," she said.
Swiftmud stocked "with politically beholden folks"
"Maybe you thought the state's water management districts had been picked on as much as possible, that they had been left so broke and powerless they were no longer worth anyone's trouble."
After all, the Legislature had already slashed the districts' budgets, and Gov. Rick Scott had stocked the board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District with politically beholden folks — including two former members of his transition team — and then stood by as Swiftmud's basin boards were dismantled."Political bullies target water policy".
But it turned out all this was just a warm-up for the real bullying.
Later this week, the state Senate is expected to take up a piece of legislation (SB 1986) that will restructure the way the districts' budgets are set and, along the way, undermine the founding principle behind the formation of a statewide network of districts 40 years ago.
"Like throwing chum into the open ocean"
"There's nothing like an empty seat in Congress to get politicians dreaming of moving to Capitol Hill. 'An open seat is like throwing chum into the open ocean,' said Ron Mills, a South Florida Democratic activist and political consultant. "The sharks are going to go after it."" "Allen West's open seat in Congress entices political hopefuls". Meanwhile, "Allen West announces February town halls".
"Must be an election year"
The Miami Herald editors: "Let it be clear that there is no prohibition for a Florida public school student to pray in a classroom — many a student has done it quietly before a meal or a test. Let it be clear, too, that there is no prohibition against students of like mind meeting to discuss their faith on school property, so long as there is no proselytizing to other students."
So what exactly is the Legislature trying to achieve with a bill, sponsored by Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, that would authorize “inspirational messages” that amount to prayer at “non compulsory” high school activities and graduations, as the Senate-passed bill initially sought to do?"It’s still praying". Related: "Family Policy Council echoes objections to school prayer bill".
Worse yet, the bill that will be taken up Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee has morphed into an all-encompassing dictate that would apply to elementary schools, too, and include mandatory assemblies.
Must be an election year, as this over-reach is clearly unconstitutional.
"From foes to political allies"
"What a difference 20 years makes. U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings praised Lois Frankel and endorsed her bid to join him in Congress on Tuesday – two decades after they faced off in an especially nasty South Florida political contest, a primary campaign in which the two Democrats went head to head for the same congressional nomination." "Hastings and Frankel: From foes to political allies".
Enough with the raw sewage
"A U.S. District judge on Saturday ruled that limits on sewage, manure and fertilizer contamination in state waters must take effect by March 6. Judge Robert Hinkle supported a set of federally mandated criteria for Florida waterways in his ruling, but argued that two portions of the EPA-drafted rules are 'arbitrary and capricious.'" "Judge orders state water pollution limits to go into effect by March 6".
So that's where private university tuition goes
"Florida Catholic university sues feds over birth control mandate".
"An anachronism embraced only by hard-liners from a bygone era"
The Saint Petersburg Times editors: "The absurdity of the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba was evident from the moment of its inception 50 years ago this month, when President John F. Kennedy ordered press secretary Pierre Salinger to buy 1,200 H. Upmann Cuban cigars before signing the order. The embargo failed in its primary objective to remove the Castro brothers from power and has imposed undue hardship on the country's 11 million citizens. It is an anachronism embraced only by hard-liners from a bygone era."
In fact, the embargo has been gently lifted when it suited U.S. economic interests. In 2011, despite the embargo, the United States exported an estimated $328.3 million in mostly agricultural products to Cuba. In 2008, the number was even higher — $711.5 million in exports to the island."U.S. embargo on Cuba: a half-century of failure".
Recent baby steps in allowing limited travel to Cuba are welcome. But they are not enough. Lifting the full embargo would rekindle formal diplomatic relations, reunite families, boost tourism and allow American business interests to broaden their investments. History has proven that engagement is a more effective foreign policy tool than estrangement. The embargo against Cuba has been a 50-year failure.
"The House Appropriations Committee approves a reorganization bill that looks more like its Senate counterpart, but differences remain. Bill sponsor Matt Hudson says the differences between his bill and the Senate's aren't insurmountable." "House keeps county health departments under state umbrella".
Restricting benefits for the poor
"Committee approves 2 bills that restrict benefits for the poor".
Bill sponsor owns land where drilling would have been permitted
"A Senate committee did not take up SB 1158 during its last committee meeting of the 2012 session because of concerns raised by the governor's office. Sen. Greg Evers, the bill's sponsor, said he is unlikely to introduce the bill next year after The Florida Current reported on Monday that he owned land surrounded by Blackwater River State Forest, where a company wants an agreement to explore and drill for oil and gas." "Senate bill that encourages oil exploration and drilling on state lands likely is dead".
Redistricting battle of the briefs
"Supporters and opponents of the state's new legislative districts took their battle to court Friday, filing a series of briefs with the Florida Supreme Court spelling out the cases for and against the House and Senate maps." "Redistricting foes clash in Supreme Court briefs".
Wage theft ... 'ya gotta problem wit dat?
"The House version of a GOP-sponsored bill that would prohibit Florida cities and counties from passing ordinances that crack down on wage theft, the practice of stiffing workers out of money they are owed, will appear Wednesday in a Judiciary committee session." "GOP wage theft bill to be debated in the House Wednesday". Meanwhile, "GOP wage theft bill amended, then stalled in Senate committee".
"The environmental law firm Earthjustice [yesterday] announced that it has filed a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue the U.S. Forest Service to protect imperiled manatees and shortnose sturgeon, two species the firm alleges are blocked from migrating in the Ocklawaha River because of a dam operated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection." "Earthjustice to file suit against U.S. Forest Service". See also "Environmental groups warn they'll sue to require removal of Rodman Reservoir dam in Putnam County".
"New projections released Tuesday by state education officials indicate the number of failing schools in Miami-Dade could climb to 50, from the current five. Broward’s F schools could spike to 27, from five." "New grading formula could mean more F’s for Miami-Dade, Broward schools".
"The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is denouncing a bill that would regulate the 'application of foreign law in certain cases,' set to be heard in a House committee meeting t[Wednesday]. The group says the bill is anti-religion, and specifically anti-Islam." "CAIR speaks out against ‘foreign law’ bill up in House committee" ("A similar bill was introduced last session by the same lawmakers behind this year’s version: state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and Rep. Larry Metz, R-Eustis.")
"The way the bill is written, only UF and FSU would qualify"
"The legislation would let top-tier research universities set higher ‘market rate’ tuition, but the way the bill is written, only UF and FSU would qualify." "UF, FSU would set tuition rates under new bill".