"Florida Democrats are sending a blistering message to Republican legislative leaders about next year's budget deal and calling on Gov. Rick Scott to veto it."
Democrats call the $70 billion spending plan a reckless pork-barrel budget that continues an assault on education in Florida."Florida Democrats Bash State Budget Plan for Next Year". See also "Florida legislative session ending with much unresolved".
They're blasting the Legislature's decision to cut $300 million from the budgets of Florida's 11 state universities. They say that will likely cause double-digit tuition increases for students and force schools to cut services.
They say $840 million of new money for K-12 education does not restore the $1.3 billion cut last year.
Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith is also critical of the Legislature's decision to split off the Polytechnic campus from the University of South Florida and turn it into the state's twelfth university. That action was spearheaded by Sen. JD Alexander.
Tax relief for Florida businesses
"Legislature puts business-property tax cut on ballot". More: "Legislature Votes to Give Businesses Break on Unemployment Tax Hike", "Florida Senate passes $830 million business-tax break", "Tax relief bills for businesses sails through Legislature" and "With hours left in session, $800 million in tax relief for Florida businesses passes".
"Only in Tallahassee"
The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Only in Tallahassee would it be considered a victory to cut $300 million from higher education and still establish a new university with no students, no faculty and no accreditation." "Not good enough for Florida".
Firefighter dragged by car, expects pension
"Driverless car hits woman, drags firefighter".
Michael Mayo: "The pattern of shoot-first-ask-constitutional-questions later has again come back to haunt Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature, this time with the 2011 law requiring government workers to contribute three percent of their salaries toward the state’s pension plan."
We’ve seen it with Florida’s mandatory drug testing for welfare applicants, which a federal judge halted last year after ruling the program likely wouldn’t pass legal muster."State pension plan ruling a victory for Florida worker rights".
And now we’re seeing it with the public-sector pension reform that was a top priority for Gov. Scott when he took office last year.
A Tallahassee judge has ruled that Gov. Scott and Legislature acted unconstitutionally in enacting the changes, a de facto pay cut that hit middle-class workers like teachers and prison guards hard.
Crooked ALFs may dodge bullet
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Talk about a cliffhanger. As time ticked down on this year's session of the Florida Legislature, slated to end today, lawmakers were still trying to hammer out an agreement on what should have been among their first priorities — reforming and strengthening regulation of the state's assisted-living facilities to better protect their vulnerable residents." "Assisted-living residents need lawmakers' help".
Floridians to fund Bay of Pigs Museum
"Bay of Pigs Museum, Disney Transit Line Among $70 Billion Budget Plans".
State lawmakers push budget problems on counties
"Local government officials are growing increasingly frustrated as state lawmakers appear to have settled their budget problems in part by pushing them off on counties. Over the objection of the counties, lawmakers have agreed on a formula to force county governments to pay Medicaid bills under a disputed system. It has a $325 million price tag." "Counties upset that state budget heaps costs on local governments".
"Richard the Lionhearted of Umatilla"
Daniel Ruth writes that, "if state Sen. Alan Hays, R-The Crusades, is to be believed, it's only a matter of time before we will be forced to pray five times a day in the general direction of Two Egg."
If you want to pause here and get a head start on slapping your forehead, go right ahead."If there's no threat, he'll bravely fight it".
Yes, brothers and sisters, we have entered that twilight zone of the waning hours of this year's session of the Florida Legislature, democracy's answer to a Three Stooges pie fight. This is when all the paranoid, lunatic fringe conspiracy theorists, who make Oliver Stone seem downright stable, come out to play spin the black helicopter.
Which brings us to Hays, who has taken on the mantle of defender of the U.S. Constitution, which apparently is at risk of being turned into the Koran.
Hays is the sponsor of a bill that would void marriage, divorce and custody contracts grounded in foreign law. But the real effect of the measure is to address a burning, critical, vital issue that doesn't exist: the fear on the part of the jack-booted storm trooper-at-the-gates community that there is a plot to impose Islamic sharia law on Americans.
The Richard the Lionhearted of Umatilla insisted that his foreign law bill had nothing whatsoever to do with officially banning sharia law from the state and federal court systems. This was probably totally unrelated to Hays' nose growing to 37 feet.
Raw political courage
"Florida is poised to enhance the penalties for human trafficking." "Lawmakers get tough on trafficking; reach out to victims".
On the desk
"Caylee's law, high school sports bills among many sent to Scott Thursday".
Trib editors embarrass themselves
The Tampa Tribune editorial board issues an embarrassing editorial this morning: "If a Leon County circuit judge's ruling is correct, then state employees enjoy far greater privileges than private employees, and state lawmakers' historic powers are meaningless."
But we think the judge's interpretation is too broad and urge that the ruling be overturned on appeal, which Gov. Rick Scott is pursuing.And the following is just country club cocktail hour talk:
Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford on Tuesday ruled that legislation adopted last year requiring state workers to contribute 3 percent of their salaries to their pension plans is unconstitutional. If upheld, the state would have to find $1 billion to repay workers' contributions, plus interest, which would require layoffs and harsh cuts to public services.
The contribution requirement had been challenged by public employee unions that argued the move violated their contract, and Fulford agreed. "To find otherwise would mean that a contract with our state government has no meaning, and that the citizens of our state can place no trust in the work of our Legislature," she wrote.
That is a stretch. When state workers are hired they do not sign a contract guaranteeing the terms of their employment will never change. They are informed of what they are entitled to under the Florida Retirement System.
Benefits in the private sector are always subject to revision.[*] Why should government workers be different?
Without question, the 3 percent contribution represented a hardship on state workers, who have not received a raise in almost six years. And public employees can question the fairness of being forced to pay into their retirement fund when current retirees did not."Faulty pension ruling should be overturned".
But private workers can show them life is not fair. The sour economy is forcing businesses and their workers to make unprecedented sacrifices. Jobs have been eliminated, and salaries have been reduced. Public employees should not be exempt from such economic realities.
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*Unless the private sector employees are unionized, but never mind that.
"Ghastly Outdated Party" name game
"Although none of the Republican candidates looking to defeat Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson commands a monopoly of support, North Florida’s major Republican players seem to agree on one thing: the U.S. Senate race in Florida is a virtual two-way between former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV." "Connie Mack Collects More U.S. Senate Endorsements, North Florida Heavyweights Still Divided".
"Farmworkers fasting outside Publix HQ"
"Orlando churches, activists support farmworkers fasting outside Publix HQ".
"Mica's highway bill in tatters"
"Tea-party opposition leaves Mica's highway bill in tatters".
Cat fund fix
"Sen. Alexander tries alternate route to Cat Fund fix -- in conforming bill". See also "Senate introduces last-minute plan to trade tax breaks for 'Cat' fund contributions".
Trigger vote today
"'Parent trigger' bill ready for final vote after testy Senate debate".
Tally GOPers apparently listen to Limbaugh
"Florida’s $70 billion budget will strip about $4.4 million in family planning dollars from the state’s Medicaid budget. The state’s funding for controversial crisis pregnancy centers, however, remains intact."
Though funding for family planning services is in jeopardy, state funding for crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) remains intact for the seventh year in a row."State budget strips $4.4 million for family planning from Medicaid, keeps CPC funding intact".
Year after year, CPCs, which are mostly religious centers that aim to dissuade women facing unplanned pregnancies from having abortions, have received $2 million from the state’s coffers. Some of these centers have been found to distribute medically inaccurate information about abortion and receive little oversight and regulation from state agencies.
Democrats have long tried to unsuccessfully strip CPC funding from the budget, as other health services have suffered deep cuts under increasingly austere budgets. The centers serve fewer patients and offer fewer services than other groups that deal with women facing unplanned pregnancies, such as Planned Parenthood or Healthy Start.
GOPers fight off early voting
"Attempt to expand early voting fails in Florida Senate".
Senate "mood seemed to be darkening"
"Last year a meltdown swept the Senate on the final night of session as Sen. Jack Latvala led a revolt against Senate leadership. Thursday, the mood seemed to be darkening as speculation arose that bills were being held up for political payback. 'A lot of it's becoming personal over there,' Rep. Ron Saunders said of the Senate." "'Weird vibe' pervades Capitol as observers look for signs of final-day meltdown".
Prison health watchdog agency
"Bill restoring prison health watchdog agency goes to Florida governor".
Rubio kow tows to TeaBaggers
"Despite his meeting yesterday with an immigrant Miami high school valedictorian who was to be deported, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, has reiterated his opposition to the DREAM Act." "Despite meeting with Miami student, Rubio maintains opposition to DREAM Act".
Update: For undisclosed reasons, the "Miami valedictorian who faced deportation gets to stay - for now".
Labor groups march on Capitol
"Labor groups march on Capitol to protest budget cuts".
"A coalition of representatives from the Governor’s Office, Chief Financial Office, House and Senate has been working on a strike-everything amendment that — with just one day left to go in session — is meant to salvage the state’s 40-year-old no-fault system." "Can the strike-all amendment save auto insurance reform from failure?".
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Consumers or scammers?". The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Pass PIP reform". The Miami Herald editors: "Fix PIP now". The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "The Legislature should not leave Tallahassee without passing reform of Florida’s auto accident insurance law." "Don't let reform of PIP slip away". See also "Gov. Rick Scott: pass tough PIP reform".