House Republicans supported Speaker Will Weatherford's attempt to overhaul the pension system, closing it to new members in 2014. Many of these lawmakers are enrolled in the pension, choosing not to select an alternative option that is more similar to a 401(k).
That puts lawmakers in the awkward position of lobbying to close a program to new employees that they currently enjoy.
Here is an excerpt of a story in Saturday's paper that digs into the issue:
Florida House Republicans tried to close the state's pension system to new employees this year, saying it's a ticking time bomb that could cripple the state's budget for years to come.
But many of those same GOP lawmakers are members of the state pension system themselves, according to aTimes/Herald review.
In fact, more than half of House Republicans could see the perks of the pension when they retire, forgoing the riskier 401(k)-style plans they wanted to force upon new state employees.
Several of those same Republicans debated in favor of closing the pension system when it came up for a vote in March. Most of them did not respond to interview requests Friday. …
Gov. Rick Scott has all but guaranteed a veto of the three-percent tuition increase in the state budget and he recently reached out to an unlikely group to aid his cause.
All 12 state university presidents were asked to sign a letter initiated by the governor’s office that says they do not want more tuition revenue. In the process, they would have rejected an automatic 1.7 percent increase to cover the cost of inflation.
“As a result of this [year’s] historical support for state universities, we are pleased to report that we will not be seeking any tuition increases for the upcoming school year and intend to maintain tuition at current levels,” reads a draft of the letter, which is signed “INSERT PRESIDENT SIGNATURE” and addressed to Scott.
Scott’s office did not respond to a request for comment about the origin of the letter. University system Chancellor Frank Brogan and several school presidents also declined interview requests.
University presidents participated in a hastily organized private conference call Friday afternoon to discuss the letter. Their reactions ranged from concern to outrage, according to those familiar with the conference call discussion
A signing ceremony for the texting while driving bill (SB 52) has been set for 2-3 p.m. May 28th in Miami, according to an email listed on Project Sunburst, a website that displays executive staff emails in the Governor’s office, but Jackie Schutz, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, wouldn't confirm the information.
She said the governor hasn’t yet received the bill and he is still "reviewing the legislation.
"There’s nothing to announce,” Schutz said.
Other emails on Sunburst noted signings for a few other bills, including HB 705 relating to economic development on June 3 in West Palm Beach and HB 1129, requiring care of infants born alive during a failed abortion, on June 5th somewhere in the Panhandle. …
Rep. C.W. Bill Young, 82 years old and in his 22nd term, recently turned to an aide and said, "Get me geared up a year earlier."
Already bombarded with Democratic attacks, including a robocall this week, Young is prepping for another campaign. And Pinellas County Republican says he's ready for a fight.
"I'm getting older. I'm getting more aggressive and I'll probably be more political than I've ever been," Young said Friday afternoon outside the House chamber. "I'm going to respond where I need to respond."
Later this month in St. Petersburg, Young will hold a re-election fundraiser and he has two scheduled in June. He raised $58,000 in the first quarter, marking an earlier than usual start for him. (Last cycle he raised $1 million for the first time) The Democrat he easily dispatched last November, Jessica Ehrlich, has already declared she'll run again.
As the House Ways & Means Committee today grills outgoing IRS Acting Director Steven Miller, Florida Rep. Tom Rooney has another idea:
Dump the agency.
“The revelations of the last week have confirmed that it’s time to reduce or completely eliminate the IRS, and build a new tax system that treats American taxpayers with the fairness, honesty and integrity they deserve," Rooney said in a statement. "That is why today I have cosponsored three bills that will significantly reduce or eliminate this sinister, out-of-control agency, and I hope the House and Senate will consider them promptly."
Getting rid of the IRS is hardly a novel idea but the imbroglio over the targeting of conservative groups have given new voice to its critics.
Gov. Rick Scott reappointed three agency heads to their posts today, and they'll get another shot at Senate confirmation next year. If that doesn't happen, Surgeon General John Armstrong, Corrections Secretary Michael Crews and Department of Economy Opportunity executive director Jesse Panuccio will be out of a job.
Although the Senate confirmed dozens of Scott appointees during the session, there were many others who were passed over. Many were for specific reasons, such as Armstrong, who rubbed senators the wrong way, and members of the board overseeing the controversial Florida Polytechnic University. In other instances, the Senate said it simply ran out of time.
In total, the governor reappointed 42 people to their positions, including dozens of board and commission members. He has 45 days after session to reappoint anyone who failed to receive Senate confirmation, though if it happens two years in a row that person must leave the position. …
Fox News said today it has hired fomer Florida Rep. Allen West as a contributor, offering political commentary across various daytime and primetime programs.
“Representative West’s congressional and military experience along with his fearless approach to voicing key issues will provide a valuable point of view to the FOX News lineup," said Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming.
West, who was defeated by Democrat Patrick Murphy in November, earlier this year became director of Next Generation TV Programming with PJ Media.
Even before TaxWatch published its annual list of budget items they consider "turkeys," Senate leaders had gone out of their way to defend their decision to fund projects that may not have been in state agencies' initial budget requests. Today the group released a list of $107 million in spending it believes Gov. Rick Scott should veto, just like it does every year in the days before the budget is signed.
Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, isn't amused. He didn't mince words about what he thinks about TaxWatch and its list of turkeys. He calls the report "arrogance of the elite" and says the group is "irrelevant 364 days a year."
Gaetz argues that teacher pay raises could be considered "turkeys" using the TaxWatch definition and that the group put meaningful and helpful programs on it suggested veto list. Scott is expected to sign the budget and unveil his actual vetoes either Monday or Friday.
Here is Gaetz's long, but entertaining statement: …
Florida TaxWatch finds 107 line-item projects in the new state budget totaling $107 million that it says Gov. Rick Scott should veto because they bypassed the Legislature's own standards for transparency and competitiveness.
The organization said the projects it identified "appear in the budget at the last minute, bypassing the legislatively-established competitive process and receiving little or no public review." The flagged projects have nothing to do with the worthiness of the projects, but rather are a statement about the process lawmakers used to craft the budget.
The projects run the gamut of state spending, from improvements at colleges to programs for the disabled to renovations of historic buildings to museums. Miami-Dade had more projects on the list (18) than any other county. Among the projects that made the TaxWatch list:
* $14 million for a science and technology building at Gulf Coast State College in Bay County.
* $4 million for the Clearwater Aquarium Film Project.
* $2.3 million for IMG Academy, a sports academy in Bradenton.
* 1.5 million for a Dan Marino Jobs Program for Children with Disabilities.
* $1 million for a Black Cultural Tourism Enhancement Commission. …
Florida congressional candidates Jessica Ehrlich and Gwen Graham are among a handful of women being highlighted by the Democratic group Emily's List.
" 'On the List' is a new way to make sure EMILY’s List members can engage with and support promising candidates all across the country even earlier in the election cycle. By putting these women 'On the List,' EMILY’s List is ensuring that they have access to this powerful network of supporters," the group said.
Ehrlich is again challenging Pinellas County Rep. C.W. Bill Young. Graham is taking on Rep. Steve Southerland of Panama City.
The others named today are Ann Callis (IL-13), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Eloise Reyes (CA-31), and Martha Robertson (NY-23).
Last month, staff analysts in the Florida Senate said emphatically that a two-thirds vote was required, because the proposed sales tax exemption for manufacturing equipment would put a significant dent into local government revenue.
“Therefore, this bill requires passage by 2/3 of the membership of each chamber,” the legislative analysis dated April 2, 2013 states. The House analysts also raised the two-thirds vote as a possibility, and a top official in Scott's office told the Herald/Times in February he believed asupermajority vote was required.
On May 2, an amended version of the bill cleared the House in a hurriedly cast 68-48 vote, with all Democrats and a few Republicans voting against it. Despite falling short of the 80-vote supermajority previously cited, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, quickly declared the bill passed, and brushed aside concerns about its constitutionality. Democrats immediately promised to sue.
“We think it is extremely constitutional,” Weatherford said after the contentious vote, stating that he had discussed the issue with legislative legal staff. He followed up with a statement asking “Who would sue to stop a tax cut”? …
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who likes to joke in speeches that his book An American Son is available on Amazon, earned $800,000 off it in 2012, his newly filed financial disclosure shows.
The Florida Republican used the money to strike an albatross from previous disclosures: more than $100,000 in college loan debt.
The $800,000 advance from publisher Penguin Group puts Rubio in a league with other recent senators who have become national figures. Former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts got a $700,000 advance for his book in 2010. In 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama listed $147,000 in royalties for one book and a $425,000 advance for another.
Rubio — a much-talked-about possible 2016 presidential candidate — stands to make a lot more. His deal calls for royalty payments of 15 percent of sales of the hardcover edition; 7.5 percent to 10 percent of paperback (due out May 28); and 25 percent of audio editions.
The big state House special election victory by Northwest Florida tea party leader Mike Hill, an African-American conservative, taking on some establishment favorites, is generating national attention. Former Panhandle congressman Joe Scarborough suggested Hill's victory may partly reflect fallout from the IRS's targetting of tea party groups.
In some ways, Mark Sanford, the newly elected Republican representative from South Carolina, felt as if he had never left Capitol Hill.
“I walked in and C-SPAN was on, with John Mica talking,” Mr. Sanford said, referring to Representative John Mica, Republican of Florida, with whom Mr. Sanford served in Congress during his first spin through the House in the 1990s. “Is it 13 years or is it just one minute?”
His return to Congress, Mr. Sanford concluded, was “sort of surreal.”
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