Welcome to The Dean’s List — an Ed Dean-style look at which Florida’s political leaders and issues made the grade and who didn’t. What you see here is strictly my opinion, not necessarily the editor’s or the rest of the staff at Sunshine State News.
Who Made the List:
Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. Brandes once again is leading the charge to ban red-light cameras across the state. His bill would prevent local municipalities from using the cameras to draw revenue. Brandes has received criticism from local officials who defend their use, insisting they help with safety issues. The St. Pete Republican doesn’t buy it, claiming they’re driven by monies collected. Last year, statistics showed after red-light cameras were installed, there was actually an increase in red-light traffic accidents.
Florida Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami. Fresen, who chairs the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, notes over the past decade 30 percent of Florida public schools have shown a “disturbing pattern” of inflated costs when it comes to school construction. The Miami Republican blames local school superintendents on this front. But the Florida Association of District School Superintendents insists Fresen doesn't have his facts straight. Oddly enough, the superintendents don’t disagree about overspending on school construction and blame Tallahassee for spending limits. Fresen rightfully points out that the spending limits are higher than ever before. Cost overruns for school construction might not be new, but there needs to be more local focus on how schools spend their money.
Florida Rep. Neil Combee, R-Auburndale. Back in 1999, under Gov. Jeb Bush, “10-20-Life” was a Republican mantra. The law established mandatory minimum sentencing regarding the use of a firearm during the commission of a forcible felony with no exceptions. Now there’s clamor to change the law. Combee has a bill to eliminate “any unintended consequences” dealing with 10-20-Life such as cases where individuals fire warning shots. Sure, the law as it was enacted in 1999, helped lower crime. But laws should be subject to reevaluation and improved on if possible. Combee’s effort helps improve an already good law and should be commended.
Who Didn’t Make the List
Florida Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami. The powerful Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee has killed a few bills from members of his own party. The real shame is he won’t even allow the bills to come up for a vote in his committee. The Open Carry gun bill which passed the Republican House “is on life support” in the Senate, Diaz de la Portilla said. Two bills dealing with illegal immigration are also in trouble in the Judiciary Committee. Those bills would have gone after sanctuary cities in Florida and would have made it a first-degree felony to harbor illegal aliens reentering the state after being deported.
Florida AFL-CIO. This labor union sent out an email criticizing Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $1 billion tax cut. In the memo, the AFL-CIO states instead of tax cuts, money should instead be used to meet the needs of “working families.” The same old union rhetoric claims that the $1 billion in tax breaks are mostly for major corporations and big box retailers as Republicans want to give a handout to corporate interests. What the union fails to mention is that many of the tax cuts are directed at small businesses that will benefit from lowering the commercial lease tax. Families will also benefit with tax holidays for hurricane preparedness and back-to-school shopping.
Florida Reps. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, and Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach.These two legislators brought out a bill which would almost double the pay for Palm Beach port commissioners -- a part time position. The current salary for the part time position is $9,500 a year. Under Hager’s and Powell’s bill it would increase to $16,000 a year with a 3 percent annual increase thereafter. It’s a bad idea, a bad precedent for a part-time position that in many parts of the country is honorary and unpaid.
Ed Dean, a senior editor with Sunshine State News whose talk show can be heard on radio stations in Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Daytona Beach, Orlando, the Space Coast, the Treasure Coast and South Florida from West Palm Beach to Miami. It can also be heard in parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio.