« February 2011 | Main | April 2011 »

467 posts from March 2011

March 31, 2011

Enu Mainigi ends role as Rick Scott's transition director

Five months after Election Day and three month since Gov. Rick Scott took office, Enu Mainigi is officially out as transition director.

But Scott would not say the transition is complete. "I don't know if it's ever done," Scott said. "It seems like it's everyday. But yeah, it's pretty much finished."

Pretty much? Scott still has not hired anyone to head the Department of Transportation, has an interim director at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, former Gov. Charlie Crist appointees in several departments and the state education commissioner resigned last week.

"She's pretty much finished," Scott said of Mainigi. "She helped a lot on finishing up the agency heads, but we're finished."

It's unclear what role Mainigi will continue to play for Scott. A D.C.-based attorney, Mainigi has been an adviser for Scott since he was head of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain. Scott's director of appointments and personnel, Elaine Jordan, will take over much of Mainigi's duties, Scott said.

Democrat scolded for saying 'uterus' on House floor

During last week's discussion about a bill that would prohibit governments from deducting union dues from a worker's paycheck, state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, used his time during floor debate to argue that Republicans are against regulations -- except when it comes to the little guys, or serves their specific interests.

At one point Randolph suggested that his wife "incorporate her uterus" to stop Republicans from pushing measures that would restrict abortions. Republicans, after all, wouldn't want to further regulate a Florida business.

Apparently the GOP leadership of the House didn't like the one-liner.

They told Democrats that Randolph is not to discuss body parts on the House floor.

"The point was that Republicans are always talking about deregulation and big government," Randolph said Thursday. "And I always say their philosophy is small government for the big guy and big government for the little guy. And so, if my wife's uterus was incorporated or my friend's bedroom was incorporated, maybe they (Republicans) would be talking about deregulating.

"It's not like I used slang," said Randolph, who actually got the line from his wife. He said Republicans voiced concern about young pages hearing the word uterus.

"I think it's a sad commentary about what we think about sex education in the state," he said.

Mike Haridopolos dismisses 'idle threats' of S.C., Iowa over convention

Florida Senate President and U.S. Senate candidate Mike Haridopolos wants South Carolina and Iowa Republicans to chill out about punishing Florida for having an early primary:

"It continues to amaze me that Republican leaders in other states feel threatened by Florida in next year’s presidential preference primary.  I have said all along that Florida does not want to jump the traditional early states of New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina or Nevada.  We simply want to go fifth.

As the ultimate swing state with a population reflective of the country’s demographics, Florida should have a significant role as early in the nominating process as possible. Vice President Biden said last week that the President Obama’s fortunes for reelection rest on Florida. That should be our total focus.

 Idle threats by other states are not productive.  Unified Republicans will gather in Tampa in August 2012 to select the person who will replace Barrack Obama as President of the United States."

Continue reading "Mike Haridopolos dismisses 'idle threats' of S.C., Iowa over convention" »

Senate budget takes hits to lowest wage workers

As details emerge in the Senate plan to cut retirement and salary benefits to save the state money, the Senate Budget committee chairman acknowledged the $1.1 billion in savings will hurt lower wage workers but, he said, he hopes they will be able to find a compromise to reduce the blow .

"Lower earning employees being overly burdened -- that's a legitimate issue,'' said Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales. "But when you take a layer off you have to take it off everybody."

The Senate budget jettisons a compromise proposal crafted by the Senate Government Oversight Committee that would have exempted from the salary cuts all workers in the Florida Retirement System who make $40,000 or less. Those making between $40,000 and $75,000 would have taken 2 percent salary cuts for their retirement and those making more than $75,000 would have faced 4 percent cuts.

Instead, the Senate unveiled a proposal that cuts 3 percent from all employee salaries and uses the money to offset the state contribution into the FRS. The bill also eliminates the traditional defined benefit plan for all but special risk workers; ends the deferred retirement program known as DROP and raises the retirement age for police, fire, parimedics and other public safety officers. Also, the cost-of-living adjustment will end for any service earned after this year, starting July 1. Anyone in FRS now will keep the COLA they have earned.

Continue reading "Senate budget takes hits to lowest wage workers " »

Rick Scott gets child-only health care coverage claim wrong in op-ed

To mark the one-year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, Republican leaders have been rallying their voices and calling for a repeal of the health care measure.

From television advertisements like this one featuring Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to newspaper opinion pieces, Republicans continue to drum their talking points against the health care overhaul. Likewise, Democrats have also been using the anniversary to grow support for the measure by hosting events like community picnics and forums.

Gov. Rick Scott was among those adding to the Republican chorus of dissent against the law. On March 23, 2011, he penned an opinion piece for the Tampa Tribune decrying "ObamaCare."

"Before this law was enacted, Florida parents who were laid off or who couldn't get dependent coverage at work were able to purchase inexpensive 'child-only' coverage for their children," Scott wrote. "The law's 'consumer protections' have now eliminated that choice in Florida and 17 other states."

Only that's not right, PolitiFact Florida found.

Gobble, gobble. Senators poised to stuff $4m in earmarks today in budget

They've called them "turkeys" in Tallahassee, "earmarks" in Washington -- and critical "fair-share" hometown spending items in those legislative districts that benefit from the dedicated funding sources targeting specific projects.

These member projects used to be the life's blood of the legislative process, a good way for lawmakers to show they could bring home bacon for needy people and services in their communities. The hometown projects were a great way for legislative leaders to control rank-and-file lawmakers as well. But that was in the days when there was enough fat in the budget to go around.

Regardless of their worth, Gov. Rick Scott pledged in his campaign ads to end the process of inserting member projects (though he inserted one for his Lt. Gov., Jennifer Carroll in his budget, $1.9 million, but whatever).

Looks like the Florida Senate doesn't want to give up on the earmarked spending. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has the most sponsored earmarks (though many of them benefit Miami-Dade, so this is a favor to Dade lawmakers). He joked at the criticism of member projects.

"Everything in the budget is a member project because the members decide how to spend the money," he said. Negron pointed out that he's pushing relatively small spending items to help poor people eat or ensure that the developmentally disabled get some help.

In some cases, the members are pitted against each other -- budget chief J.D. Alexander takes $750,000 from a Miami-Dade College project in Hialeah, for instance, and gives it to Santa Fe College for a crime lab. Other money would be drained from the governor's quick-action closing fund, which is used to lure business to the state.

Here's a list of the hometown projects we could find in the amendment packet for today's budget debate:

 Amount  Recipient Sponsor
 $   750,000.00 Santa Fe Community College Alexander
 $   500,000.00 Dan Marino Foundation Negron
 $   500,000.00 Loveland Center Negron
 $   200,000.00 Farm Share Hays
 $   200,000.00 Food Banks Hays
 $   860,000.00 Exponica Trade Summit and Exponica International Gaetz
 $   300,000.00 Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers Negron
 $   430,298.00 Allapattah Hot Meals Program Negron
 $     20,000.00 Governor's Mentoring Initiative Lynn & Wise
 $     50,000.00 Facts.org Lynn & Wise
 $   200,000.00 Base Realignment and Closure Commission Gaetz
 $4,010,298.00 Total  


Bucking some in his party Marco Rubio calls for military action and Qaddafi's ouster

Putting himself at odds with some conservatives in his party, Rubio is calling for a resolution to authorize military action in Libya and Muammar Qaddafi's removal. He also wants President Obama to recognize the interim Transitional National Council as the legitimate government in Libya.

"As long as Qaddafi remains in power, he will be in a position to terrorize his own people and potentially the rest of the world," Rubio said. "In fact he has vowed to turn rebel strongholds into ‘rivers of blood.’ If he succeeds, it will provide a blueprint to repressive regimes across the Middle East in the use of force against unarmed civilians. And unlike the conflicts in other nations in the region, the rebels in Libya have requested and welcome our support."

The push come as Rubio steps up his national profile and the conservative Weekly Standard takes note, suggesting its a "striking bid by a freshman senator to exercise foreign policy leadership, in the face of opposition from some in his own party and reluctance by the Obama administration."

March 30, 2011

Big dereg bill gets thumbs-up from House Appropriations

After more than two hours of testimony and debate -- more time than was spent on the House's $66.5 billion budget -- the House Appropriations committee on Wednesday voted 15-8 in favor of a bill that would deregulate 20 professions. The vote was along party lines, with Republicans supporting the measure. Among the businesses affected: Commercial interior designer, auto repair shops, auctioneers,  charities, intrastate movers and hair braiders.  

Supporters of the bill, which will drain state coffers of more than $6 million and result in more than 100 layoffs, say it's good for business. Opponents say it is a threat to public safety.

Ninety people signed up to speak before the House panel on the issue, most of them interior design students who feared the time and money they spent in college working on design degrees would be wasted. Some broke down in tears as they spoke.

"A lot of you have jobs. We don't. We have dreams," said LLilian Perez, who traveled to Tallahassee from Miami with about 20 fellow students. "Please help us."

Their pleas seemed to work. Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, said an amendment would be introduced on the House floor to remove interior designers from the proposal. Two Republican representatives, Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, and Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, said they, too, would like to see Florida continue to regulate and license commercial interior designers.

"If you deregulate interior designers, I would find it very hard for my structural engineering firm to be able to hold a designer or interior designer accountable if they didn't have the license behind them, if they didn't have the  professional liability behind them," Williams said.

Panel members also expressed concerns about deregulating yacht and ship brokers, auctioneers, auto repair shops and hair braiders.

Bill sponsor Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, said many of the professions slated for loosening from regulation get little to no oversight by state officials.

"We need to distinguish between what is almost a pure registration and what is regulation," she said. When choosing what professions to deregulate, the committees that moved the bill forward considered public safety along with helping commerce, she said.

More than 60 different areas were examined, and the original bill called for deregulating about 30 professions. But some, including barbers, landscape architects, surveyors and geologists, were removed.

No surprise: Mayfield moves to reconsider online travel bill

Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, may have been an opponent to the bill but stepped in to rescue the online travel bill Wednesday, which had died on a 12-11 vote. She moved to reconsider the vote to allow members to rework it, she said.

Bill would give confidential tax information to school-voucher provider

A bill under consideration in the Florida Legislature would make it easier for big businesses to pay less in state taxes -- and spend that money on school vouchers instead -- by giving a nonprofit access to confidential tax information.

First, some background: The state's Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program provides vouchers for low-income students to attend private schools. Funding comes from companies that get a state tax credit for every dollar they put toward the vouchers. The single largest operator of the program is Step Up for Students, a Tampa-based nonprofit.

House Bill 965 would allow the Florida Department of Revenue to give Step Up for Students a list of the 100 companies that have the greatest tax liability in the state. That way, Step Up could reach out to those companies to let them know that they can spend money on vouchers instead of on the corporate income tax, for example, or taxes for oil and gas production and insurance premiums.

That information is currently confidential. Step Up would not receive details on each company's tax burden, and it would be prohibited from sharing the information -- but it would be the only company receiving it.

"We want them to fish where the fish are," said Rep. Mike Horner, a Kissimmee Republican and the bill's sponsor, told the House Finance and Tax Committee Wednesday.

Continue reading "Bill would give confidential tax information to school-voucher provider" »