One lawmaker's turkey is another's......
There wasn’t enough cash this year for rank-and-file legislators to submit hometown spending requests (aka “member projects” aka “turkeys” in some Tallahassee talk aka “pork” in D.C.). But legislative leaders are still writing a few priority issues into the budget:
$600,000 for a UF student dental clinic. A priority of House Speaker Larry Cretul, it became a flashpoint when Miami Republican Rep. Juan Zapata tried to strike it from the budget, only to be over-ruled. Zapata said it was a priority of House Speaker Larry Cretul, which Cretul's office denies.
$1.7 million to help Marissa Amora who was horridly abused. This is a priority of Senate President Jeff Atwater, who successfully carried her claims bill last year.
$760,000 to help Kimberly Godwin, who was also horridly abused. This is a priority of former Senate President Ken Pruitt.
$6.7 million for the Prodigy program for troubled kids. The chairman of the Senate's criminal justice budget committee, Victor Crist, sits on the the board of one of the 13 nonprofits that form Prodigy. He says the decade-old program got cut this year.
$500,000 for charter schools in Lake Wales, home of Republican Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander.
$5 million extra for the University of South Florida’s expansion in Lakeland in Alexander’s home county of Polk.
$1,298 to help move the Department of Citrus from Lakeland to Bartow.
$250,000 for the FIU Democracy Conference at the behest of Miami Republican Rep. David Rivera, a House budget chief. Rivera, however, backed off special budget language limiting Cuba travel and stem-cell research.
$11 million more for FIU to complete a medical school, another issue championed by Rivera and (likely) Miami Republican Rep. Anitere Flores. They’ll face each other in a Senate race that also features the other House budget chief Marcelo Llorente, who helped back Jackson Memorial’s call to bank surplus hospital cash.
The FIU Democracy Conference spending appears in a line item with the CAMACOL (Cuban American Chamber of Commerce) film initiative ($150k); and a Small Business Development Center Network ($250k). They’re listed below the Florida Association of Volunteer Action/Caribbean & Americas ($300k); Southeast US/Japan & FLOR/KOR and Gateway Florida ($250k each).
Rep. David Rivera said CAMACOL and the FIU Democracy Conference have both been funded in past years. (It appears yes on Camacol, but we couldn’t find the Democracy Conference in either FY 09 or 08 budgets)
"A member project is something that hasn't been funded before," Rivera said. He said he and Gov. Charlie Crist have both been keynote speakers at past conferences, as part of an ongoing effort to establish Miami as the capital of the Americas.
Besides, how can a project be a turkey if The Miami Herald is involved in it? Rivera's office produced a letter signed by Herald publisher David Landsberg, dated April 22, offering to enter into a five-year partnership for the Americas Conference.
Asked about his spending items, Alexander is quick and calm to point out that everything has been discussed in public meetings or been placed on public agendas.
“It went through the Ways and Means Committee, it went through the full Senate.”
While the above list is cursory at best, it certainly shows that membership still has its privileges. A few odds and ends caught our eye in the 408 pages of the $66.5b plan:
$400,000 to "prevent, combat, and publicize the dangers of unlicensed real estate activity in Florida." Indeed, "publicize" might be the key word here.
$150,000 for alligator marketing. 'Nuff said.
$2 million to make a task force that will "develop legislative recommendations relating to stormwater management system design in the state." In poll after poll, constituents have been screaming about stormwater management system design. Tallahassee hears your cries.
$706,000 for a hospitality education program. This is provided for in a DBPR catch-all bill that also adds new regulatory language for talent agencies and mediates an interior-designer dispute over office-cubicle installation (an issue that was just solved in conference). But they didn't have time to ban bestiality?
$2 million for nicotine patches. Considering that the state is raising cig taxes to get more revenue, do we want to pay to have fewer smokers?
$1.1 million for a compulsive gambling-treatment program. This line item is a few below the proviso that directs legislative analysts to figure the best "return on investments" for advertising the lottery. So we entice people to gamble and then have to pay for compulsive gambling treatment?
$13.4 million to build an ammunition storage facility, "ambush live fire" and machine-gun range at Camp Blanding in Starke. As if the prison and execution chamber in town didn't make Starke scary enough.
-- Marc Caputo