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413 posts from April 2009

April 28, 2009

Senate just says no to sex with animals

The Senate just voted 38-0 for Sen. Nan Rich's bill making bestiality (SB 448) a third-degree felony.

And you thought the $3-billion budget deficit was the only important issue confronting Florida and her lawmakers....

Senate passes 5 percent glide path; Guv likes it

The Senate just passed the bill (SB1950) to allow gradual hikes in Citizens rate premiums, and will send it back to the House, where representatives will be asked to accept the Senate's annual maximum cap of 5 percent. The House version has a 20 percent cap.

The Senate vote was 34-2, with Sens. Rudy Garcia and Eleanor Sobel opposed..

Governor Charlie Crist this morning said he likes the 5 percent cap, which was proposed by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey.

"This bill is the work product of a lot of members in the chamber," said bill sponsor Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples. "Thank you."

Senate will give phone dereg bill a whirl on the floor

Gov. Charlie Crist said this morning he doubts the bill to deregulate landline telephone service (SB2626) will make it to his desk, but sponsor Sen. Mike Haridopolos will try today for chamber consideration anyway.

The bill has been largely watered down from its original form to appease concerns from various groups, including the AARP. But Gov. Crist has been skeptical from the start, and Rep. Will Weatherford said Monday afternoon he's waiting to see how the Senate receives the proposal before airing it in the House.

The version going to the Senate today will ensure basic phone service prices cannot rise, and any annual hikes on non-basic service in areas with competing phone companies would be limited to 10 percent (current law is 20 percent.)

The bill also expands eligibility for Lifeline, the phone subsidy program for low-income residents, opening it up to an additional half-million Floridians.

The Senate Democrats said this morning they won't oppose the bill, which has been backed by powerful telecomm companies such as AT&T.

'Life is good.' Budget deal near. Repubs toasting with OJ.

Sounds like Senate President Jeff Atwater and Larry Cretul are closer than ever to announcing a broad agreement on how to allocate money in the budget, making an end to the legislative session likely by next Friday.

However, there is no solid agreement yet on the allocations themselves (i.e., how much to allot to each silo of the budget/the bottom lines of what taxes and fees to raid). If there's a deal, budget conference could begin today or this evening.

One lead budget negotiator, Rep. Dean Cannon said he could "neither confirm nor deny" the report. Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander was circumspect as well.

"I feel much better today," Alexander said from the Senate floor. "Life is good."

New Port Richey Sen. Mike Fasano chimed in: "Want some orange juice? We just toasted."

In fairness, it looked like Alexander was drinking coffee. But the reference was clear, recalling the 1997 oj-toasting ceremony of Republican lawmakers when they took control of the Capitol. We highlighted the issue and the concerns of Republicans like Fasano in this weekend story.

During back-and-forth talks, we gather, the Senate is willing to take $100m from the state transportation trust fund (House wanted $420). Senate will also take tens (if not hundreds) of millions from the Inland Protection Trust Fund that helps clean up leaky fuel tanks that poison underground water supplies (House wanted $175m). There's also a cig tax (c. $900m) and some time type of gambling money ($380m?). Also, state universities bear a cut in Senate budget (somewhere between $20m and $100m)Details to come.

Again, caveat: No guarantees. A House budget chief, Miami Rep. David Rivera, describe whether there's a done deal as "medium well." Senate Republican leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla said they're "very close" to a firm deal and therefore an announcement.

More trouble for college president Bob Richburg

Northwest Florida State College president Bob Richburg, who could find out later today whether he'll keep his job following an indictment with Rep. Ray Sansom, is the target of an ethics complaint accusing him of not disclosing business ties with former state Sen. Charlie Clary.

Clary's DAG Architects has done work with the college over the years and he and Richburg are partners in a holding company and Beach Community Bank. Read the complaint here.

A similar complaint has also been lodged against college trustee Jody Henderson, who told the Northwest Florida Daily News that, as a result, he will not be able to participate in a vote today on Richburg's status. The college trustees will also decide the fate of the $6 million airport building that serve as the backbone of the grand jury indictments.

Continue reading "More trouble for college president Bob Richburg" »

April 27, 2009

Siplin rethinking Jesus license plate

Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, now says he's thinking about taking the Jesus image off the proposed "Trinity" plate to benefit the Toomey Foundation for the Natural Sciences.Jesusplate

"Not that I don't like the idea," Siplin said. "I mean, I'm proud of Jesus."

Siplin said the thought now is to make the plate say "Trinity" with maybe a "cross, and some nails and a dove, do the trinity."

The mega license plate bill, SB 642, was not taken up Monday in the Senate as expected, but the House version (without either religious plate, Siplin's and one proposed by Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico) passed 88-29.

Charlie Crist, he was a day...tripper

Gov. Charlie Crist toured the Florida Department of Education in Tallahassee Monday -- and made time for a guitar-playing break.

Visiting an office that featured guitars and Japanese flutes hanging on the wall, Crist grabbed a shark-shaped electric guitar and started playing, asking the gaggle of DOE employees around him to guess that tune.

One ventured it was a Beatles song, but not which one: "Day Tripper." (No, he didn't sing along.)

"I love music," Crist said. "It's very important."

Crist praised everyone from Education Commissioner Eric Smith to Mark Rosenberg -- the former chancellor of the State University System and newly elected president of Florida International University -- during his visit.

On Smith: “He’s uplifting, that’s what I like so much,” Crist said. “If you have somebody at the head of the department who’s gloom and doom, it’s probably not as fun to come to work in the morning." On Rosenberg: "I got the opportunity to chat with him and congratulate him," Crist said. "He'll do a great job down there."

Briefly, Crist also referred to the elephant in the room: the still-pending state budget.

"We're working on it, we're working on it," he said. "I've got my fingers crossed."

"I'm sure we'll be fine. We always have been," he added "The stimulus will help a lot." (More on Florida finally submitting its application here.)

Oil drilling bill is dead -- for now -- in Senate, JD says

Moments after the House Republicans overwhelmingly supported a bill to open Florida waters to oil drilling, the Senate budget chief told reporters the idea has run out of time this session for the Senate and they will not be linking it to the Senate bill on renewable energy.

"The Senate president has said that's a very big issue that he believes should go through a proper process,'' said Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales. "We don't have any intention of using the other bill as a vehicle.''

Fasano scores more moderate 'glide path'

Sen. Mike Fasano just scored a victory in his fight to keep Citizens property insurance rates low. A 5 percent victory, to be exact.

That's the annual max rate hike allowed for Citizens property insurance holders, under the Fasano amendment that just passed the Senate. The final vote on SB 1950 will come tomorrow, Tuesday.

Fasano's amendment to SB1950, Sen. Garret Richter's "glide path" bill, will set up an interesting series of negotiations with the House when the Senate sends its bill across the rotunda. The House bill, passed Friday night, allows for maximum premium increases of 20 percent for any individual policyholder.

"You want a glide path?" Fasano told fellow senators. "I've got your glide path right here. 5 percent."

Continue reading "Fasano scores more moderate 'glide path'" »

Martinez to vote no on Obama Cabinet pick

U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez says via Twitter that he will oppose the nomination of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services Secretary because "her ability to do the job will be adversely affected by her extreme views."

Some Republicans and anti-abortion leaders have criticized Sebelius for accepting campaign donations from a Kansas doctor who performs the procedure. She has opposed increasing restrictions on abortion clinics and late-term abortions.

Sebelius is expected to be confirmed Tuesday.