What a bunch of kooks! In a time of deep economic anxiety, record-high gas prices, and a broadening recession, does anyone even care what the hail they are doing up there in Tallahassee? Let's take a peek:
Of the myriad losers in a state budget that cuts a record $4 billion in spending, public education will lose the most -- with Miami-Dade and Broward schools getting hit hardest of all.Hey, at least we're number one at something!
The two biggest counties together will shoulder more than a third of the $332 million in cuts to K-12 classroom spending in the proposed budget lawmakers will approve when the legislative session ends Friday.
Those school cuts are a fraction of the total slashed from education: $2.3 billion -- 55 percent of the total cuts -- which will reduce spending on everything from construction to class programs in kindergarten through graduate school.
But classrooms won't be the only ones feeling the pinch of a $66.2 billion budget that represents the largest one-year drop in state spending. In the next few months, Floridians will pay more for boat registration, driver licenses and court fees as well as drunken-driving fines and college tuition.
Meanwhile, reimbursements for hospitals and nursing homes are decreasing, as is money for foster care and financial aid for students at private colleges.
The biggest budget winner: prison builders. They'll get $305 million to build one private and two public lockups. By the end of the budget year on June 30, 2009, the prison population is anticipated to swell to 107,000.''If you build them, they will come,'' fretted Sunrise Democrat Sen. Nan Rich.
Hold on, there is someone trying to do something good up there -- WPB litigator Rowdy Roddy Tennyson:
As the House prepares to vote on the rental bill, which is sailing through both chambers unopposed, Crist signaled Thursday he might reconsider his veto of the penalties. The "new language that offers more protection to the renter or the consumer is encouraging," Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey said.Research before signing a rental agreement? Good luck, Rod. Things really are different up there.
Ron Book, a lobbyist for the Florida Apartment Association, said allowing the renter to choose whether to accept the early-termination fee should allay the fears of the governor and consumer groups.
"Do I think it's much more tenant-friendly? Yes. Did the [governor's] veto drive us to do it? Yes," Book said.
"The tenant gets the choice. One of the complaints had been landlords can put [early termination fees] in the lease, and they have to take it or leave it. Meeting with the governor's folks, they wanted more options for the tenant."
West Palm Beach attorney Rod Tennyson, who won class-action lawsuits against landlords that were illegally charging early termination fees, said that by giving the renter the final say, it's "getting closer to being a fair bill."
Renters might be better off with the two-month penalty, if they're renting from a complex with low occupancy rates — cases in which the landlord could keep charging rent while it takes months and months to find a new tenant, Tennyson said.
"Before you sign the lease, do a little research and check the box that helps you the most," he said.