Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Legislative Update

"As they say around the Legislature, if you can't drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against 'em anyway, you don't belong in office." - Molly Ivins

The Florida Legislature is still in session and will likely come back for yet another special session to deal with property taxes, never mind the fact that the costs of property insurance were people really need relief. Lets see what they're up to now:

Property Tax

Miami-Herald - Property Tax Reform and What it Means to You, News-Press - Two tales of Florida Tax Reform, Sun-Sentinel - Portability needs thorough review

St. Pete Times - Crist: Let's seize the moment with property tax deal

With the main players in general agreement over property taxes, a deal could be formalized in the next few days and lawmakers may begin deliberations by the weekend, Gov. Charlie Crist said Monday night.

"If you have consensus," he said, "why not seize the moment?"

Lawmakers will wrap up work on the budget Friday morning, and the hope is the special session could be simply extended rather than taking a break and reconvening later this month.

That would save travel expenses and build on the goodwill and momentum of an easier-than-expected budget-cutting session.

At the cost of $40,000 a day for the legislature to be in session, I hope they come up with a solution soon, but at the same time we shouldn't exchange thoughfulness for the sake of expediency.

Speaking of the Budget:

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the Council on Efficient Government, noting the irony of its name given that its designed to make outsourcing more efficient rather than government.

Anyway, during this "easier-than-expected budget-cutting session" the entity that that is in charge of making sure colossal outsourcing mistakes which have cost Florida taxpayers millions of dollars like the equally ironically titled "People First" personnel system and the "Aspire" accounting system is being subjected to cuts in the form of removing 5 positions.

As noted by Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat:

Besides the human-relations and supplier-diversity offices, Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee, said she was especially worried about the proposed staff cuts of the new Council on Efficient Government. The council was created to prevent the kind of "outsourcing" fiascoes that have marked privatization of state personnel services, and problems with purchasing and accounting contracts.

No surprise there, the Republicans don't actually support fiscal responsibility or accountability, especially when it might impact the businesses that fill up their campaign coffers. It is about what it best for them, not Florida's taxpayers. We need more oversight on contracting and outsourcing, not less.

No really ...

Palm Beach Post - Pricey GOP consultant eludes state budget cuts

House Speaker Marco Rubio's House is paying former Jeb Bush budget chief Donna Arduin $10,000 a month, even though theres little evidence of any work being produced.

Most of Arduin's advice was provided verbally, [Rubio's spokeswoman, Jill] Chamberlin said. There is no log of those conversations, she said, but Arduin speaks with Rubio one-on-one as well as on conference calls and attends formal and informal meetings of legislators and staff.


"She works every day," Rubio said Friday. "I talk to Donna all the time. And so does our staff and so do our members. She's been a valuable member of the team and a great adviser. I think one of the best decisions we made was to have her on board helping us."

Democrats wonder whether Arduin's value is to the state or just to Rubio and his particular ideology.

"Maybe she's worth $10,000 a month to him," said Rep. Susan Bucher, D-West Palm Beach. "But I really don't know that we're seeing a direct benefit. I've never had a conversation with her. I would be a member also. So if you're paying her contract with state dollars, it's questionable whether or not we all benefit."

While $10,000 is small change, it didn't stop Rubio's House from going after even smaller sums from the budget of the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court, Nova Southeastern University, the Attorney General's Office and the Department of Corrections.