Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Gas Prices Rise 9 Cents in One Week

I noticed the higher gasoline prices while driving around this past weekend.  Average prices spiked from $2.00 to $2.09 per gallon for regular gasoline last week.  I figure it’s just the oil and gas industry’s way of getting more money from us as we hop into our cars more often for weekend trips and summer vacation.  But, the oil refineries are also making the annual switch from their winter blend to their summer blend fuel which also tightens up gas supplies.  Makes it a little tougher on Floridians to run errands and travel during a recession, though.

I guess we should all be thankful anyway.  As this Orlando Sentinel article points out, last year at this time we were paying an average of $3.34 per gallon for regular gasoline.  It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

Filed under: Florida, ,

Lawmakers: Charlie Crist MIA

The day Florida students and parents travelled to Tallahassee to rally against proposed cuts to education, Charlie Crist fled town to attend a town hall meeting in Mayport where questions had to be submitted online and pre-approved by the Governor’s staff.  The day Florida’s unemployment rate approached double digits, the Governor went on vacation.  His eternal optimism was one of his selling points when he ran for office, but his refusal to deal with reality is quickly becoming his Achilles heel.  His disengagement is starting to wear on lawmakers, something even the Governor has started to notice.  Perhaps realizing that his future political ambitions are dependent on an occasional display of leadership, the Governor has promised to pay more attention.

Gov. Charlie Crist’s policy of disengagement is testing the limits of lawmakers’ patience and raising questions about his leadership.

As the legislative session nears the midway point, Crist keeps at a safe distance from the politically turbulent talk of painful budget cuts and higher taxes swirling about him.

For instance, on Friday, as the state announced that Florida’s unemployment rate spiked to 9.4 percent, the highest since Gerald Ford was president, Crist took the day off. The week before, he took two days off. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , ,

Florida Jumps to 5th Most Dangerous State

CQ Press has released their latest ranking of the most dangerous states for 2009 and the news isn’t good for Floridians.  Florida jumped from being ranked 9th last year to 5th for 2009.  CQ Press compared states against the national average for six crimes, each carrying equal weight. 

No. 5: Florida

Oh, Florida! While you were the 9th most dangerous state last year, you jumped all the way to the 5th most dangerous for 2009.

Rankings in Crime (out of 50 states)
(1 = Worst, 50 = Best)
Assault: 6
Burglary: 6
Murder: 12
Motor Vehicle Theft: 11
Rape: 20
Robbery: 3

Filed under: Florida, ,

College Students Educating Lawmakers

The student body presidents of Florida’s nine state universities travelled to Tallahassee this week to lobby for education funding and to share their thoughts on the quality of Florida’s public education system.

Meyer of FIU said it “really sends a message” that Florida has to ask for a waiver to get federal stimulus money because the state doesn’t spend enough on education. “That says something,” Meyer said.

Morgan of USF said Florida schools are slipping farther behind other states in quality. “We’re at a pivotal point,” Morgan said. “The students are really starting to worry about the worth of their degree.”

Hicks of FSU told Crist about a student-led program to raise $100,000 in small donations to give bonuses to good professors in hopes of preventing them from leaving. The program is called POP, for Protect our Professors.

Reilly of Palm Harbor thanked Crist for supporting a tuition hike of up to 15 percent at each school, and politely but firmly challenged Crist to stand firm in opposing any more higher education cuts.

“We ask you to take another bold stand,” Reilly said.

“We boldly go there,” Crist replied.

In a followup e-mail, Reilly said the proposed tuition increase is a step in the right direction but added: “The revenue it will generate is a drop in the bucket compared to the cuts that we have had to face over the past year and that we stand to face this session. Classes, programs and departments have been closed, faculty and staff have been laid off and many support services have either been scaled back or shut down altogether.”

The full story here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , , , , , ,

State Misled Employees on Pension

Can one imagine the outrage from politicians if a private company were accused of this?  From the St. Pete Times:

The people who run Florida’s giant public employee pension plan recently distributed a report reassuring hundreds of thousands of workers that their retirement fund was financially healthy and running a surplus.

The plan “was fully funded for the 11th consecutive year, with an estimated $8.7 billion surplus, a major achievement considering the fact that most state public pension funds in the United States are underfunded,” the report said.

But records show that almost three weeks before distributing the report on March 5, the people who run the pension fund knew that it faced a massive funding deficit.

Keep reading here.

Filed under: Florida, , ,

Rally in Tally for Education


Nearly 1,000 parents and educators gathered on the west steps of the state Capitol on Wednesday to call upon lawmakers to better fund the state’s public schools.

People boarded buses from Jacksonville and other communities around the state before dawn to head for the “Rally in Tally,” an event organized by the Florida PTA.

Holding signs saying “Invest In Children” and “Education Cuts Never Heal,” the group chanted and listened to several speakers, including Duval County’s school superintendent, Ed Pratt-Dannals.

The full story here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , ,

Charlie Crist takes dig at Bobby Jindal, Mark Sanford

Charlie Crist is not going to be out-hustled by fellow GOP Governors Bobby Jindal (LA) and Mark Sanford (SC).  He’s also not going to miss an opportunity to get a little dig in on them.  From the St. Pete Times:

Gov. Charlie Crist signed the paperwork today to officially certify that Florida, like every other state, wants a piece of the federal stimulus pie. But unlike some other Republican governors (Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and South Carolina’s Mark Sanford) who bashed the stimulus on one hand while holding the other out for money from Washington, Crist was unabashedly pro-Washington money.

“I find that a little amusing,” Crist said. “I have colleagues who have at least intimated that this money from Washington is not something they welcome with open arms, yet 49 of 50 show up to get it.”

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , , , , , ,

Could State Workers See A 5% Pay Cut?

This is one of the latest proposals being tossed about as lawmakers scramble to close a $6 billion deficit.

Florida taxpayers could save upward of $304 million if the Legislature cut every state worker’s salary by about 5 percent, according to an analysis produced by the state Senate.

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander confirmed Monday that staffers have analyzed a variety of pay-cut scenarios in order to help legislators figure ways to fill a budget deficit that could reach $3 billion next fiscal year.

“It’s a challenging, difficult time,” Alexander said. “There are not easy times and for those of us who prefer to do things that are popular it’s really hard.”

You’ve got to consider that many of these employees are not six-figured individuals.  They are middle class individuals making an average wage.  A 5% pay cut could be potentially devastating to many of these individuals, particularly if they are sole wage earners or have a spouse also in state government, or even worse, have a spouse who has lost their job.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , ,

Former Rep Cites State Farm in Calling Crist a “Risky Bet”

From the Palm Beach Post:

Former state Rep. Don Brown, R-Defuniak Springs, says in a letter in today’s Palm Beach Post that State Farm pulling out of Florida is a sign that that Gov. Charlie Crist’s property insurance plans are “unraveling.”

Those who know the world of finance say that State Farm has the money to pay claims, at least for now. But having been denied a much-needed rate increase, State Farm can’t guarantee that will be the case much longer.

So, going into this hurricane season, are you betting on the governor or State Farm to be able to bring cash to the disaster? If you’re betting on the governor, good luck. You may need a lot of it.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , ,

Special Interests Funnel $6 Million to Lawmakers

From the St. Pete Times:

In the latest election cycle, dozens of Florida legislators raked in $6 million in special-interest campaign money and spent a good deal of it on themselves for meals, rental cars, plane trips and hotels.

Some lawmakers are feeding at the trough of contributors, enjoying expensive dinners at upscale restaurants with donors’ money at a time when one of every 10 Floridians is on food stamps. Others are churning cash from one political committee to another, using it to finance direct contributions and attack ads for other candidates, thereby strengthening their own clout in a virtually untraceable shell game.

All of this is legal. Florida law bans legislators from accepting so much as a cup of coffee from a lobbyist, and individual campaign contributions are limited to $500.

But there is no limit on the amount of cash lawmakers can collect from all manner of special interests in separate fundraising committees the lawmakers create to advance broadly defined public purposes, such as getting one another re-elected.

“If I do it over coffee, I have to pay for my own coffee, but I can accept a $10,000 check,” said Sen. Dave Aronberg, a Democrat from Greenacres who has used political committees to recruit candidates and steer money to several Democratic legislative campaigns.

Read the full article here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , ,

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