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322 posts from May 2009

May 06, 2009

Special session costs: More than $50K a day

Lawmakers returning to Tallahassee tomorrow and Friday to vote -- a week late -- on next year's budget will likely cost taxpayers upwards of $50,000 a day. Not the $40,000 a day figure cited for so many years.

In honor of the extended session, we figured it was time to get a more accurate update on costs.

Turns out the cost is more like upwards of $50,000 a day, based on figures for travel, food, per diems and utility costs from recent special sessions.

See the attached files for the travel, food and per diem costs for the past three special sessions. The most recent, in January of this year, cost $46,378 between the two chambers. And according to the Department of Management Services, the utility bill for the nine-day special session added nearly $6,000 in utility costs to the January bill (when compared to the January '08 bill, and factoring in utility rate hikes). That adds up to nearly $53,000 a day.

And yes, those are taxpayer dollars being spent so that lawmakers can come to agreement on how to save taxpayer dollars.

Download House Special Sessions

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White House: We don't need political posturing when it comes to hurricanes. Confirm Fugate

White House press spokesman Robert Gibbs called out Louisiana Sen. David Vitter today for putting a hold on FEMA nominee Craig Fugate, calling it "political posturing.

"We're three weeks from hurricane season, beginning the first of June. And we have nominated somebody that has a stellar bipartisan record, originally nominated by Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and supported by Democrats and Republicans alike," Gibbs said at the White House press briefing. "He is somebody that deserves immediate Senate confirmation, not political posturing from a senator from Louisiana who should understand as well as anybody what's at stake in responding to a hurricane.  And we expect that he'll be confirmed quickly."

Gibbs said he didn't know if President Obama had talked to the Louisiana Republican, but said there may be an effort today to seat Fugate.

"I think I would let Senator Vitter know that the best way to get moving on any concerns that he has with FEMA is to get somebody of the utmost regard at the helm of FEMA to make progress.  And I think his constituents would expect that same level of professionalism," Gibbs said.

Charlie Crist calls GOPers 'wacky' on stimulus

Now that $5.3 billion in federal stimulus money is being pumped into next year's proposed budget, you're no longer hearing any second-guessing about the wisdom of taking the cash.

Asked if he felt vindicated in pushing for the money, here's what Gov. Charlie Crist said: “Obviously, it was right. We needed it for the children of Florida, and for the students of our state and for them to have a bright future. I mean that’s the point. As an executive, as the chief executive, to not take that money to help people would have been wacky.”

Dudley Goodlette not a candidate for chancellor

Goodlette Former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette said today that he is not a candidate for the state university chancellor job and he doesn't intend to be.

"I think having more of an academic involvement in the academic community than I have had as a lawyer for 30 some years would be a prerequisite for that job that I would think would be important," Goodlette said. "So for that reason and just because I’ve been so busy with my full-time job as the chief of staff of the Florida House, I just really haven’t had an opportunity to apply and I don’t anticipate it."

Goodlette, a Naples Republican who is serving as House Speaker Larry Cretul's chief of staff, had expressed interest in the job several weeks back, but said he was too busy to apply. Now he says he owes a phone call to the Texas search firm helping the Board of Governors find candidates to let them know he's not interested.

Continue reading "Dudley Goodlette not a candidate for chancellor" »

Senate widens gamble divide; House abruptly walks out

With the governor and leaders of the Seminole Tribe sitting the front row, Sen. J.D. Alexander offered to return to the Senate position and give all Seminole casinos full banked card games. On Tuesday, they had offered to limit the options to just blackjack at the tribe casinos outside of Tampa and Hollywood.

"That may be receding a bit with our offer but in discussions with the leaders of the Seminole nation if we want them to be able to make real payments, we have to give them an opportunity to generate the dollars.”' he said. 

On parimutuels, the Senate agreed to offer electronic gaming to Palm Beach Kennel Club, Tampa Bay Downs and any other facility that is adjacent to a county with electronic gaming, including counties next to the Seminole's casinos. But the language specifically reqiures those counties to conduct a referendum and receive voter approval and it excludes Hialeah from the option until it has run two years of live races.

That, and a series of other issues, left the House chief negotiator Rep. Bill Galvano miffed. "With all due respect, the Senate ... is moving backwards from where we want to go from an expansion standpoint, backwards form where the House is heading. I'll look at your offer and will let you know if it's necessary to meet further,'' he said. 

As Galvano, stood up to leave, Alexander said: "Well, that didn't go real well.'' 

Continue reading "Senate widens gamble divide; House abruptly walks out" »

Jeb makes the cast of Survivor: The GOP edition

The folks at the Democratic National Committee are out with a web video casting Republicans as, well, castaways on a GOP edition of Survivor.

Which one, the spoof asks, "will battle for the heart and soul of the GOP?"

Among those making the casting call: Rush Limbaugh, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Dick Cheney...

Rubio warns of 'American socialism'

When former House Speaker Marco Rubio announced the other night on Univision-Channel 23 that he is, indeed, running for the U.S. Senate, he said, "I'm very much interested in what is happening with the taxes and the economy in this country, and the kind of American Socialism that they want to establish in the United States."

Hispanic politicians frequently deliver that kind of politically charged message to Cuban- American audiences but not to English-speaking ones. Does Rubio really believe President Barack Obama is trying to establish socialism in this country, or is he merely trying to fan flames in the exile community?

How badly do Dems want Sink to be gov?

Very badly, by the crowded look of Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink's latest fundraising invitation, which lists roughly 40 co-chairs and hosts -- even though Sink doesn't have a re-election opponent in sight. Chairs and co-chairs are asked to raise $10,000-$5,000 each for the May 14 event at the Riverside Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. Check it out here.

Sink is widely expected to run for governor if Gov. Charlie Crist runs for the U.S. Senate. His decision could come as soon as next week, giving Sink's fundraisers a strong selling point.

Tebow named to Governor's fitness council

The latest: Governor Charlie Crist has appointed the UF quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner to be  co-chair of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness. Tebow will join council chair Derrick Brooks, former linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and co-chair Shannon Miller, Olympic gold medal gymnast.
 
Tebow is in some prestigious company: former NHL star Dave Andreychuk, tennis star and Olympian Jennifer Capriati, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, Boston Red Sox third-baseman Mike Lowell, Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O’Neal, world champion surfer Kelly Slater, and Olympic swimmer Dara Torres.
 
"Tim Tebow’s leadership and servanthood both on and off the field make him an ideal candidate to serve as co-chair of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness," Governor Crist said in a press release.  "Tim is a true role model who consistently demonstrates the fitness and healthy living characteristics the council is responsible for promoting."
 

Florida's property tax debate is on again

With a nudge from Gov. Charlie Crist, the great Florida property tax debate is back on.

Proposed property tax cuts, approved late Friday with little fanfare, hold big savings for businesses and first-time home buyers while creating new winners and losers. But this time there is some unusual opposition: the business community.

''It's a big mistake. This is a band-aid to a broken property tax system,'' said Bill Coleman, a commercial tax expert in Orlando who traveled to the Capitol last month to argue against the plan.

The proposal, which will go before voters in November 2010, calls for a new homestead exemption for first-time home buyers and reduces an existing assessment cap for nonhomestead property.

Together, they could save property owners about $570 million over three years, according to estimates from state economists. (story here)