"Floridians keep two words in mind: Dade Behring"
"As Mitt Romney returns to Florida on Wednesday for two days of campaigning and money-raising, Democrats are trying to ensure Floridians keep two words in mind: Dade Behring."
It’s the name of a former medical equipment manufacturer in Miami that Romney’s venture capital firm bought and then closed in the late 1990s, walking away with $242 million in profits."As Mitt Romney hits Florida, Democrats attack Bain Capital’s history of profits and layoffs". See also "Democrats target Bain" ("Dade Behring, the Miami manufacturer that Romney’s firm bought and then closed, walking away with $242M in profits and more than 800 lost jobs.")
“Obviously you need to make a profit to be successful,” Cindy Hewitt, Dade Behring’s former human resources officer, said Tuesday, at a Miami news conference organized by President Barack Obama’s campaign. “My concern is when businesses are used to generate wealth for a small number of people and businesses are run to the ground and the lifeblood is sucked out of it and all of their employees lose their jobs.”
The case of Dade Behring in Miami, where some 850 jobs were lost while Romney led Bain has been well-documented. But there’s a new wrinkle: The company under Bain’s leadership sought and received millions of dollars in tax breaks for creating jobs in Puerto Rico — shortly before closing its facilities, costing nearly 300 jobs.
At the heart of Romney’s presidential campaign is an argument that his successful business record makes him best equipped to turn around the economy. Democrats are aiming to turn his [claimed] strength into a vulnerability — a strategy that has worked before.
Romney started and led Bain Capital from 1984 to 1999, when he left to lead the Salt Lake City Olympics. He became extremely wealthy in the process, and investors profited mightily. But along with the Bain success stories are multiple examples of businesses that went bust and employees who lost jobs.
No problem: just lower the passing grade
"Shocked by dismal results on this year's writing FCAT, the state decided today to lower its definition of proficiency in order to insulate schools' crucial A-to-F grades from the plunge." "Back to the future: State reverts to old 3.0 grading scale to help bolster FCAT writing scores".
"An emergency meeting of the state Board of Education on Tuesday lowered the passing scores on the 2012 FCAT writing exam in an effort to hold districts 'harmless' over plummeting test performance." "Holding Schools 'Harmless,' State Lowers Bar on FCAT Writing Scores". See also "Florida board lowers FCAT writing test passing score" and "Education board lowers FCAT writing standards after scores plummet". Meanwhile, "Schools won't be held accountable for this year's low FCAT writing scores".
"Public anger at the overuse of high-stakes standardized tests finally boiled over"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "The Florida Board of Education was in crisis mode Tuesday, holding an emergency meeting by telephone to change on the fly the illogical scoring of this year's FCAT writing test. Public anger at the overuse of high-stakes standardized tests finally boiled over, as more than 800 people listened in to the conference call and queued up to question how this mess happened — and what it means for their children and their schools. What it means is that there is too much emphasis on standardized tests and that the state's manipulation of the rules render the test scores meaningless."
The so-called solution? The Board
dropped the passing score to 3 (out of 6) instead of keeping it at a 4. That makes the results look more plausible and avoids the inaccurate perception that student performance dropped off a cliff overnight. But that answer is only a stopgap, and it raises significant issues about the meaning and the value of the FCAT, which affects everything from school grades to teacher bonuses. "FCAT fiasco points up failures at top".
Those are issues that the board and Education Commission Gerard Robinson need to revisit if Florida's accountability system is to retain any of its quickly collapsing credibility. Robinson's failure to anticipate this mess also erodes confidence in his ability to chart a clear path for education in this state.
Nancy Smith: "Camel Schmamel! No Wonder FCAT Scores Took a Dive".
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Poor FCAT scores point to more than quick fix".
Million dollar babies
"With an early legislative session speeding up action in the Capitol, at least three lobbying firms collected more than $1 million in fees during the first three months of the year, according to new reports."
The reports also show that an additional eight firms raked in between $500,000 and $999,999 for their work in the Legislature. Those totals could grow, as lobbyists faced an 11:59 p.m. deadline Tuesday for filing quarterly compensation reports."Lobbying firms get big paydays in Tallahassee". See also "Lobbying Firms Get Big Paydays".
The three firms that topped $1 million were Ballard Partners, Ronald L. Book PA and Southern Strategy Group. The reports don't give the exact totals collected by the firms, but they detail some of the largest payments made by clients.
Ballard Partners, for example, collected $77,000 from Automated HealthCare Solutions Inc., a technology company that opposed bills aimed at limiting how much doctors can charge for dispensing drugs to workers-compensation insurance patients. The bills ultimately died.
Book, meanwhile, collected $50,000 or more from five clients, including $50,000 from Florida Power & Light and $50,000 from West Flagler Kennel Club, a pari-mutuel that was involved in a fierce debate about whether lawmakers should allow up to three resort casinos in the state. The casino proposals failed to pass the House or Senate.
With reports still being filed Tuesday, it is too early to compare lobbyist compensation during the first quarter with the same period in previous years. But a once-a-decade redistricting process caused the 2012 session to begin in January and end in March, squeezing it all into the year's first quarter — unlike typical years when the session starts in March and ends in early May.
The reports list the clients represented by lobbying firms and give broad ranges of the total amounts of money that firms collect. The eight firms that reported receiving between $500,000 and $999,999 were Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Karlinsky & Abate: Dutko Worldwide; Johnson & Blanton; Foley & Lardner; Fowler White Boggs; Smith, Bryan & Myers; The Rubin Group; and Tsamoutales Strategies.
Among the biggest corporate spenders this year appears to be AT&T, which successfully backed a bill that made changes in the state's communications-services tax. The reports show AT&T paid $50,000 or more to at least seven lobbying firms; paid between $40,000 and $49,999 to seven other firms; and paid $30,000 to $39,999 to five firms.
Well, there are only so many 7-11 jobs
"Public employees constitute the biggest block of workers in 51 of Florida's 67 counties, a new TaxWatch survey shows. And in 40 counties, government workers make up two of the three largest employment groups." "Government Sector Dominates Florida Work Force, Study Finds".
Rubio sets himself up for failure
"The Florida Republican, who is huddling with Senate leaders from both parties this week, is emerging as a prominent player in the contentious debate over immigration. His search for an acceptable compromise on the long-sought DREAM Act has drawn tentative support across the party divide, raising the chances for passage in this election year. Of course, the encouraging words from political adversaries could set up Republicans for blame if his fledgling proposal gets killed by conservatives in the U.S. House. But for the moment, Rubio's plunge into the prickly politics of immigration adds some substance to his rise as a national figure."
Rubio, who plans to unveil his bill in a few weeks, has consulted with opponents and proponents of the DREAM Act. In a videotaped message to Floridians, he said his proposal would provide non-immigrant visas but deny in-state tuition rates and welfare benefits."Marco Rubio breathes life into limited DREAM Act". Related: "Shift on marriage energizes immigration activists".
He also has consulted with many of the "dreamers" — undocumented children who yearn for a chance to become legal, get drivers' licenses and work permits. They want the full DREAM Act, which would include a path to citizenship. But many would settle for Rubio's more-limited version, a chance to at least live and work here legally.
"These kids have been in legal limbo for far too long, and their lives have been on hold for far too long," said Cheryl Little, executive director of Americans for Immigrant Justice, based in Miami, which represents dreamers and other immigrants. "We need to extend a lifeline to them now. Even if it's temporary relief at this point, I think most of them will go ahead and take it because they need to move on with their lives."
Little, who has talked with Rubio about his as-yet unwritten bill, remains doubtful about its prospects. "While I think there's likely a fair amount of support in the Senate," she said, "I'm very concerned there's not sufficient support in the House."
In fact, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, already has warned that in this "very hostile political environment," chances of passing even a limited version of the DREAM Act "would be difficult at best."
"Tangled in partisan politics"
"A proposed charter amendment that would make Osceola County Commission races nonpartisan has become tangled in partisan politics." "Drive to change Osceola elections mired in partisan disputes".
Just what Florida needs: the "Jacksonville Cavalry"
"Adam Hollingsworth, Jacksonville Cavalry".
"A national resolution to urge education administrators to rely less on standardized testing is gaining a wave of support in South Florida." "Time Out From Testing Resolution To Abandon FCAT Gains Momentum In South Florida".
GOP Candidate Depicts Wasserman Schultz in Dog Collar
"Businessman Ozzie deFaria is running in the GOP primary in Florida's 20th Congressional District for the chance to take on Wasserman Schultz in November. He has launched a website devoted to mocking Wasserman Schultz, saying she is 'Nancy Pelosi's East Coast Twin and Obama's biggest Attack Dog.' At the top of the site is a photo of the congresswoman, manipulated to show her in a dog collar". "Debbie Wasserman Schultz Depicted In Dog Collar On GOP Candidate's Website".
The best the RNC could do?
Kevin Derby: "The flurry of Republican National Committee (RNC) conference calls with the media Tuesday focused on key battleground states in the presidential election -- and in those calls Florida featured an unlikely speaker in U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla."
On Tuesday, Ross went to bat for the RNC, attacking President Barack Obama’s managing of the economy and the federal debt in his call with the press. ..."Dennis Ross Goes to Bat for Mitt Romney".
Ross bashed federal spending under Obama’s watch, hitting him on everything from taxpayer dollars going to Solyndra to signing the health-care law back in 2010. The Florida congressman attempted to contrast Obama’s record with that of Republicans in Congress and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, the presumptive Republican candidate who will challenge Obama in November.
Ross said he had high hopes for Romney, saying the former Massachusetts governor would make “one of the strongest presidents fiscally we’ve seen in decades” and insisting that he had “a history of being fiscally prudent.”
47 million gallons of untreated human waste dumped in SoFla
"Miami-Dade County’s antiquated sewer system has ruptured at least 65 times over the past two years, spewing more than 47 million gallons of untreated human waste into waterways and streets from rural South Miami-Dade to the ritzy condos of Brickell Avenue to the Broward County border." "Miami-Dade’s leaky pipes: More than 47 million gallons of waste spilled in past two years".
"Seminole teachers get $500 bonus, but no raise".
"The Florida Department of Education has resolved a contract dispute between companies vying to provide a testing system tied to the state's Race to the Top grant after the company that originally won the bidding agreed to steer some of the business to the company challenging the decision."
The department in April awarded the contract for a computer-based testing system, worth tens of millions of dollars, to NCS Pearson [the same company that graded the controversial FCAT tests]."Department of Education settles Race to the Top contract dispute".
Another company in the running for the contract, CTB/McGraw-Hill, challenged the decision with the Division of Administrative Hearings and asked an administrative law judge to give the department a chance to resolve the dispute "by mutual agreement."
The case, which had been set for a hearing next week, was officially dismissed on Monday, and the department said in a filing Tuesday that it would award the contract to Pearson.
The companies agreed to a settlement in which CTB will supply some of the test questions to Pearson, which will pay CTB $4.6 million.
"Nelson riled up by a misleading attack ad on Medicare"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is riled up by a misleading attack ad on Medicare. Sen. Nelson is so riled up by the ad's claim that his vote for the Affordable Care Act will lead to $500 billion in cuts to seniors that he has asked Florida TV stations to stop running the ad. Sen. Nelson, though, had no problem misleading voters about his attempts to amend the law and score political points."
The latest distortion comes from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of a series launched against Democratic candidates in Florida. The ad calls the Affordable Care Act "a nightmare for Florida seniors," and questions whether Sen. Nelson considered "the consequences when he cast the deciding vote for Obamacare," since "seniors will see $500 billion in cuts.""No cure for Medicare lies".
Those supposed cuts are actually needed savings for Medicare. Calling them "cuts" has been a GOP strategy to scare seniors, and the charge has been around since before President Obama signed the law in March 2010.
In fact, the law slows the cost growth of Medicare from nearly 7 percent in 2019 to 5.3 percent, through reductions in provider payments and efforts to reduce waste and fraud. It protects guaranteed benefits and provides new benefits and services. It eliminates over time the "donut hole" for seniors receiving Medicare's prescription drug benefit. The law also eliminates $136 billion in subsidies to insurers that provide benefits through private plans known as Medicare Advantage. ...
Democrats have been just as misleading in their claims about changes to Medicare in the House Republican budget of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. They claim that the Ryan budget would "end Medicare as we know it." In an ad from the liberal Agenda Project, a Paul Ryan look-alike throws an elderly woman from her wheelchair off a cliff. In fact, Medicare would not die under the Ryan budget, and current beneficiaries and those who join over the next 10 years would not be affected.
A real yawner
"Live Video: Romney speaks at campaign stop in St. Petersburg".
"Controlling protests at the Republican National Convention"
"The Tampa City Council will take a final vote this week on Mayor Bob Buckhorn's 'event zone' proposal aimed at controlling protests at the Republican National Convention. The temporary ordinance spells out the rules that protesters and other downtown visitors must follow during the week-long convention that starts Aug. 27." "RNC 'event zone' goes to final city vote".
This way to the Mons
"RNC media in Tampa for early look at venues".
Palm Beachers don' like unions
"The stagehands union has filed another charge with the National Labor Relations Board in its long-running dispute with the Kravis Center."
The union and the center have been at odds since talks broke down in September 2000 and the Kravis stopped using union stagehands in Dreyfoos Hall."Stagehands union files charge against Kravis Center with National Labor Relations Board".
The union filed its first charge in March 2001. In December 2008, a federal appeals court upheld two lower-court rulings that the center had engaged in unfair labor practices when it ejected the union. The center resumed hiring union workers in March 2009.
The union filed a second charge in March 2011, alleging that the Kravis acted illegally when talks faltered in January 2011 after two years of negotiations and the center imposed its final offer. The board has combined the cases, Diaz said.
The board has not finished computing the amount the Kravis owes workers for back pay for the period when it did not employ union workers. The union and the Kravis disagree on the amount, which the union claims is at least $3.6 million.
Scott: "the most important thing is all the grass roots [sic]"
"Gov. Rick Scott, who spent more than $70 million of his own money to lift himself from political obscurity and win office in 2010, told Republican activists tonight that money won't be the most important factor in America's largest swing state this year."
"It's important to be able to raise the money to be able to run the ads that we need to run to win these races," Scott told a crowd of about 250 at a Boca Raton Republican Club dinner. "But the most important thing is all the grass roots." ..."Gov. Scott gives Boca audience tips on winning Florida in this year's elections".
Scott got a standing ovation from the crowd at the Town Center Marriott and was applauded when he highlighted his conservative fiscal policies. ...
Scott is not scheduled to join presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney when Romney campaigns and raises money in Florida on Wednesday and Thursday.
Romney avoids Scott
"Mitt Romney will make some money stops in Florida on Wednesday and Thursday, including a $50,000-a-plate dinner at private equity mogul Marc Leder's Boca Raton home. Romney visits the Tampa home of Dick and Cornelia Corbett on Wednesday afternoon, then heads to Coral Gables for a reception at the Biltmore and a dinner at the home of Phil and Pat Frost." "Romney's Florida fundraising includes $50,000-a-plate dinner in Boca Raton".
Romney is avoiding Scott: "Scott is not scheduled to join presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney when Romney campaigns and raises money in Florida on Wednesday and Thursday."
Real estate industry is continuing to improve
"A survey of real estate professionals finds sentiment in the industry is continuing to improve, reaching levels not seen since the middle of 2007." "Real estate pros say things are looking up, survey says".
Race to the bottom
"GOP Senate Candidates Continue to Clash Over Conservatism".
Runnin' Citizens like a bidness
"If Citizens Property Insurance Corp. moves forward with a controversial plan to uncap rates for new customers, the price to join state-run insurance will increase by an average of 30 percent next year."
Data prepared for a Citizens committee meeting on Thursday show the plan would lead to significantly higher premiums in most cases and homeowners, in some parts of the state, would pay twice as much as their neighbors for the same coverage."Citizens Property Insurance plan could send rates soaring for new customers". Related: "Atwater taps housing finance executive for Citizens board".