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Five-plus Takeaways from Tallahassee – the 'don't just Boo Rick Scott' edition

By on April 2, 2011

With Tampa’s municipal elections finally over, I returned to Tallahassee this week for the first time in a month. There is not much left of the hope or enthusiasm which was ever present just two months ago. An imperial Governor ‘doth bestride the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves.’

Just consider all of what has occurred/been enacted since the Legislature plunged into Session:

No wonder I haven’t been to town in a while. Then again, as a summary in Mother Jones describes, this week may have been the worst of them all as the Legislature attempts to:

1) Hike up the cost of state education! College tuitionwill likely rise 15 percent next year (again), the maximum permitted by law. But reducing access to public colleges for the worst-off students may not be enough to kill off the state’s deficit woes, so other steps will need to be taken, like:

2)Killing off tenure for college professors! It took all of a few minutes Tuesday for a state House committee to approve a measure that would force all professors into one-year renewable contracts and leave them vulnerable to firing for “poor performance,”however that’s defined.

3) Privatize the jails?specially in blue counties! On a straight 15-8 party line, the House appropriations committee approved language to turn all of the Broward and Miami-Dade County jails over to private firms. Hopefully, they can be filled with freshly convicted felons before the next election, amirite?

4) Make evictions of tenants easier in Miami-Dade, which is ground zero for the mortgage bust…as well as a Democratic bastion where it’s much harder to vote when you don’t have a place of residence. (Maybe they can ship transients to those newly privatized jails.) Even law enforcement was against this one. But hey, they’re unionized public employees!Who can trust ‘em?

5) Speed along a “Deregulation of Professions” bill, which would get rid of the state’s agencies for licensing and regulating

“yacht & ship brokers, auctioneers, talent agencies, athlete agents, persons practicing hair braiding, hair wrapping, or body wrapping, interior designers, professional fundraising consultants & solicitors, water vending machines & operators, health studios, ballroom dance studios, commercial telephone sellers & salespersons, movers & moving brokers, certain outdoor theaters, certain business opportunities, motor vehicle repair shops, sellers of travel, contracts with sales representatives involving commissions, & television picture tubes…”

How much will this triumph of deregulation save state taxpayers?It will save them negative $6 million, and negative 100 jobs.

And its only April 3. We still have a month left to go before the Legislature leaves town.

Every year as the Senate and House finish up work on their respective budgets someone utters the clich?now the real work begins as the two sides of the Capitol prepare for the horse trading of conference, opines David Royse of the News Service of Florida.

But if what? to come is the hard work, don? tell that the people who spent the last week ?or for that matter much of the last month ?sweating over the individual Senate and House budgets.

It? already been one of the toughest weeks of one of the toughest years in the last decade for lawmakers, who have had to face crowds of people who will be affected by painful budget cuts, state workers who will lose their jobs, and fellow lawmakers who have pleaded, there must be another way.

“I wish the decisions were simpler and easier,” a tired Senate Budget Chairman J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, lamented this week.

“It’s a tough year,” said House Appropriations Chairwoman Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring. “We’ve been forced to make some very tough decisions.”

It? already been serious work, so to think that it? going to get even more difficult is a bit hard to imagine.

But at the end of this week, as the Senate passed its budget out of its final committee and sent it to the floor with significant differences from the smaller House budget, Grimsley acknowledged that the conference indeed may even be harder.

“It’s just going to be tough to try to reconcile our differences,?said Grimsley. The chambers are nearly $3 billion apart just in their bottom line, not to mention vast differences in approaches to spending.

The House? $66.5 billion budget passed its Appropriations Committee on Wednesday and the Senate? $70 billion plan was made ready on Thursday for the full chamber. Both chambers plan to bring their respective plans to a vote this week on the floor. One of the main differences in the bottom line amount is what is included. The Senate puts more on the books, folding in, for example, water management district spending, while the House keeps that money separate.

There are big differences ?such as the Senate relying heavily on significant prison privatization ?putting almost 1 in 4 prisoners in a private prison, while the House has a more limited privatization plan. In some areas, they?e already in synch: both cut about 5,000 state jobs.

With the death of his bill which would have permitted casino gambling at five “Destination Resorts” throughout the state, have we seen swan song of one of Senator Dennis Jones, one of Florida’s last great political moderates?

Quick question: Where the heck is Scott’s Chief of Staff Mike Predendergast? Scott’s public schedule will go days without Prendergast showing up on it. Undoubtedly, Scott is his own Chief of Staff, but I was expecting to see more of the highly-regarded Prendergast. Maybe he will emerge now that Enu Mainigi is heading back to Washington D.C.

Speaking of Chiefs of Staff, a rumor is floating around town that Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll does not have final say over who will be her CoS. Further, Carroll wanted Republican consultant John Davis, but he was innegotiations to be CoS of DCF had Vivian Myertus not gotten the job.

It’s amazing to think that Scott is able to keep Carroll on that tight of a leash.

Senator George LeMieux will announce he is running for the US Senate this week. Hearing that he has signed up Harris Media to handle social media, the same role they performed so well for the Rick Scott Campaign.

All in all, a pretty crappy week for Florida. After all, what can you say when the highlight of the week is the booing of the Governor at a baseball game?

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