Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Issues and People to Watch in the Legislature

With the 2009 Legislative Session set to open tomorrow, here’s a list of issues and people to watch during the “silly season” according to the St. Pete Times.

Issues to Watch:

After a series of spending cuts totaling nearly $7 billion over the past two years, legislators may have to cut more as tax collections continue to slide. From where? Schools and health care account for most spending from general tax dollars.

New taxes and fees on smokers, motorists, bottled-water drinkers and others could be on tap as legislators grope for money to cover a massive deficit that federal help can’t completely hide. New property tax-cut proposals are on the table, too.

It’s a perennial issue for lawmakers who must confront it on two fronts. The hurricane catastrophe fund isn’t big enough to meet its obligations, and State Farm Florida’s retreat from property policies is set to scramble an already fragile market.

Gov. Crist cut a deal with the Seminole Tribe to allow more gaming in exchange for a share of the money — without getting approval from lawmakers. They sued and won; now Crist is seeking their support for a new deal. But the lobbyist-heavy parimutuel industry will want something from the state, too.

An army of state and local officials, business leaders and lobbyists is pushing for legislative approval of a $1.2 billion Central Florida commuter rail project called Sunrail. Trial lawyers and labor unions halted it last year, but the venture has gained new momentum: Crist is leading the charge.

People to Watch:

Sen. JD Alexander R-Winter Haven
The strong-willed, plain-spoken citrus grower is the Senate’s chief budget writer. He’ll be squarely at the controls of virtually every major decision of the session.

Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla R-Miami
The Senate majority leader is a campaign consultant with a shrewd political mind whose duties include nailing down enough votes to move the Republican agenda.

Sen. Don Gaetz R-Niceville
A retired business executive and former Panhandle school superintendent, he figures to play a leading role as chairman of a Senate committee on Florida’s economy.

Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff R-Fort Lauderdale
In a year in which lawmakers will look to raise revenues, the South Florida lawyer chairs the House Finance and Tax Council, the destination for all tax bills.

Rep. Dean Cannon R-Winter Park
The next-in-line speaker is always influential, but the House leadership shakeup that ousted Ray Sansom as speaker has hastened the rise to power of this Orlando-area lawyer.


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This is a budget cut?

I am still trying to figure the following bill out – especially how it figures into the budget cutting equation. 

Representative Ellyn Bogdanoff, (R-Broward and Palm Beach Counties and Majority Whip 2006-2008) has filed House Bill 11A.  Essentially, this bill would require that any time the State outsourced human services related to mental health, substance abuse, child welfare, or juvenile justice and passed a new governmental mandate that was not in place when the human services were contracted out, the State must renegotiate the contract  if there is a “material adverse financial impact” on the contractor. 

A “material adverse financial impact” is defined in the bill as increase in reasonable costs that is the lesser of 1) 5% of the maximum obligation amount or  unit price of the contract; or, 2) $10,000 in the aggregate for all new governmental mandates taking effect during the calendar year of the contract term; or an action that affects the core and primary intent of the contract.

In addition, the contractor’s employees’ cost-of-living wage increases are tied to raises given to state employees.  There are also a bunch of new reports and recordkeeping requirements placed on the state agencies.

So exactly how is this a budget cut? 

I thought it was supposed to be cheaper to outsource, but when you are paying private employees the same pay increases that you are giving state employees, requiring the State agencies to do more analysis, and essentially guaranteeing contract modifications for additional government mandates by giving the contractors a right to a hearing if the agency refuses to modify the contract, where are the cost savings? 

Maybe I’m missing something here.

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