Tuesday, March 31, 2009

U.S. study backs shelter, drink for homeless alcoholics

"A program that gives shelter to homeless alcoholics but allows them to keep drinking and not be forced into treatment could save taxpayers millions in public costs, according to a study published on Tuesday. The study also found that daily alcohol consumption fell by 2 percent per month for those in the shelter."

"The results were based on a look at 95 people admitted to a program in Seattle called Housing First from 2005 to 2007. They were compared with others who were still on the street and on waiting lists to get into the shelter."

"After 12 months in the shelter the total public costs relating to the care of the 95 individuals was cut by more than $4 million compared to the year before, the researchers said.

"In the year before entering the shelter, those who got in had run up more than $4,000 each per month in costs for jail, detox center use, hospital-based medical services, publicly funded alcohol and drug programs, emergency medical services and the like, the study team said."

"But after they entered the housing arrangement, their individual monthly costs for using such services fell to $1,492 after six months and to $958 after a year -- a reduction in total costs of more than $4 million, the researchers said."

"Each of them had cost state and local governments an average of $86,062 per year before being housed, compared to an average of $13,440 it costs per person per year to administer the housing program," Larimer said."

House Energy Bill Seeks to Cap Greenhouse Gases

"The economy may be in the tank, but that hasn't stopped Washington from taking aim at global warming. First, President Barack Obama lived up to his campaign promises by including caps on emissions of greenhouse gases in his proposed budget, and telling his Environmental Protection Agency to start moving on regulations under existing laws. Now, House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) has fulfilled his promise to move aggressively on climate legislation. On Mar. 31 he and Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the energy and environment subcommittee, released a draft of a massive 648-page bill that tackles both climate and energy. "This legislation will create millions of clean energy jobs, put America on the path to energy independence, and cut global warming pollution," Waxman claims."

"On the energy front, the proposal takes the controversial step of requiring 25% of all electricity to come from renewable sources (or energy efficiency steps) by 2025. It promotes a "smart" transmission grid, more energy-efficient buildings, higher-mileage cars, and training programs for green jobs. But the climate provisions are getting the most attention, prompting a flood of responses from environmentalists and business groups."

Few Floridians sign up for low-cost health care

"Gov. Charlie Crist and the state legislature thought they had found a solution to these problems when they created Cover Florida, a low-cost, unsubsidized health insurance for adults. When Cover Florida took effect in January, Crist said it could extend coverage to nearly 4 million of the state's uninsured."

"Yet three months into the program, less than 1,500 people have enrolled statewide."

"It's disappointing to me," Crist said Monday during a press conference at a medical clinic in Hialeah."

"It's certainly easy to qualify for the insurance - you need to be between the ages of 19 and 64, have been laid off from your job or have not had health insurance for six months. Those with pre-existing health conditions will not be denied enrollment to Cover Florida, but plans can exclude payment for treatment of certain pre-existing conditions for one year."

"The average monthly premium for the program is $155. Some policies cover only the basics such as office visits, screenings, emergency room care and prescription drugs. Others will offer hospitalization and catastrophic coverage, but they cost more; children and seniors are not covered because there are other state plans available to them. Premiums vary according to age, gender, geography and options, such as deductibles, that consumers can choose."

Free Medical Care for Some Who've Lost Their Jobs

"Free Medical Care is being offered for certain people who've lost their jobs. It's all part of a program called "Take Care Recovery." And, it's being offered at certain Walgreens all across the country."

"The clinics at these Walgreens will offer free "sick" visits. For instance, if you feel like you have the flu, you can stop by to get checked out for free."

"The "free" part only applies to those who are already members of Walgreens Take Care medical service and those who have lost their jobs starting today."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

D.O.T. Wants New Toll Road

"The Florida Department of Transportation hopes to make a beltway connecting I-10 in Duval County and I-95 in St. Johns County a toll road. "

"The 46.5 mile beltway would use part of Chaffee road on the westside, go down through Clay County and create a new Shands Bridge."

"The entire project would cost two billion dollars. The D.O.T. is hoping to hire a company to build the beltway, then maintain the road by charging a toll."

"It says by using tolls, the project could be done in five to seven years. By comparison, the D.O.T says the entire State Road 9A project took 20 years to complete under more conventional funding methods."

Labor Agency Is Failing Workers, Report Says

"The federal agency charged with enforcing minimum wage, overtime and many other labor laws is failing in that role, leaving millions of workers vulnerable, Congressional auditors have found."

"In a report scheduled to be released Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office found that the agency, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, had mishandled 9 of the 10 cases brought by a team of undercover agents posing as aggrieved workers."

"In one case, the division failed to investigate a complaint that under-age children in Modesto, Calif., were working during school hours at a meatpacking plant with dangerous machinery, the G.A.O., the nonpartisan auditing arm of Congress, found. "

Public university students could pay 'green' fee

"College students in Florida could pay a new "green" fee that would help pay for solar energy and other types of renewable energy."

"The Senate Higher Education Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that allows the state's 11 public universities to charge the fee if students approve it in a referendum. The fee could be up to $5 per credit hour or $150 a year for a full-time student. The money would be used to reduce the greenhouse gases or energy needs of university campuses."

Public university students could pay 'green' fee

"College students in Florida could pay a new "green" fee that would help pay for solar energy and other types of renewable energy."

"The Senate Higher Education Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that allows the state's 11 public universities to charge the fee if students approve it in a referendum. The fee could be up to $5 per credit hour or $150 a year for a full-time student. The money would be used to reduce the greenhouse gases or energy needs of university campuses."

Freddie Mac portfolio reaches record $822B

"The Obama administration is counting on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to revive the mortgage market, and McLean-based Freddie Mac did its part last month by increasing its retained portfolio of mortgages by $23.1 billion to an all-time high of $822 billion."

"The total of those guarantee commitments eased 1.4 percent in February to $1.82 trillion. Adding that to Freddie’s retained portfolio, the company’s total of loans owned or guaranteed increased 3 percent during the month to $2.2 trillion."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Unemployment hits harder among Latinos, blacks

"Since the recession began in December 2007, Latino unemployment has risen 4.7 percentage points, to 10.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Black unemployment has risen 4.5 points, to 13.5 percent. White unemployment has risen 2.9 points, to 7.3 percent."

Election 08 Results by District

District 4 - Presidential Results for 2008:

Obama: 37%
McCain: 62%

District 4 - House Election Results for 2008:

Jay McGovern: 34.74%
Ander Crenshaw: 65.25%

Only 1% voted third party. That is very depressing.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

House passes bill taxing AIG, other bonuses

"The Democratic-led House overwhelmingly approved a bill on Thursday to slap punishing taxes on big employee bonuses from AIG and other firms bailed out by taxpayers."

"The vote was 328-93."

"We want our money back and we want our money back now for the taxpayers," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif."

"The bonuses, totaling $165 million, were paid to employees of troubled insurer American International Group, including to traders in the unit that nearly brought about the company's collapse."

"In all, 243 Democrats and 85 Republicans voted "yes" on the bill. It was opposed by six Democrats and 87 Republicans."

"The bill levies a 90 percent tax on bonuses paid to employees with family incomes above $250,000 at companies that have received at least $5 billion in government bailout money."

Study: Fla. No. 3 for business

"Florida moved up in the ranks to become the third-best state in which to conduct business, according to Chief Executive magazine."

"The magazine evaluated states on natural resources, regulation, tax policies, quality of living, education and infrastructure, among others. Florida ranked No. 10 in 2008."

"However, Florida didn't rank as high in some of the categories. For example, the Sunshine State ranked No. 42 when it comes to the cost of business, No. 18 for transportation, No. 39 for education and No. 23 for quality of life."

Fannie Is Handing Out Its Own Sizable Retention Payouts

"Fannie Mae is due to pay retention bonuses of between $470,000 and $611,000 this year to some executives, despite enormous losses at the government-backed mortgage company. Fannie's main rival, Freddie Mac, also plans to pay such bonuses but hasn't yet provided details."

"But the Fannie bonuses are still considerable and come at a time when Fannie and Freddie are receiving increasing amounts of funding from the Treasury. For 2008, Fannie and Freddie reported combined losses of about $108 billion, largely stemming from a surge in home-mortgage defaults. The Treasury has agreed to provide as much as $200 billion of capital apiece to Fannie and Freddie in exchange for preferred stock. The two companies have said they will need a combined $60 billion of that money to cover their losses so far."

"A recent Fannie securities filing, providing details on a bonus plan announced last year, says that Michael Williams, the company's chief operating officer, is due to receive cash retention awards of $611,000 this year, atop a similar award of $260,000 in 2008. His base salary is $676,000 a year."

"The company also disclosed plans to pay retention awards this year of $517,000 to David Hisey and $470,000 each to Thomas Lund and Kenneth Bacon. All three are executive vice presidents."


"One of my highest priorities is to help promote more livable communities through sustainable surface transportation programs," said Secretary LaHood."

"This partnership will help expand every American family's choices for affordable housing and transportation," said Secretary Donovan. "HUD's central mission - ensuring that every American has access to decent, affordable housing - can be achieved only in context of the housing, transportation, and energy costs and choices that American families experience each day."

"DOT and HUD have created a high-level interagency task force to better coordinate federal transportation and housing investments and identify strategies to give American families:

  • More choices for affordable housing near employment opportunities;
  • More transportation options, to lower transportation costs, shorten travel times, and improve the environment; and
  • Safe, livable, healthy communities."

Fed pumps $1.2tn into US economy

"The biggest surprise was the announcement that the Fed would buy up to $300bn worth of government debt, known as US Treasuries, over the next six months."

"It also said it would buy an additional $750bn of mortgage-backed securities to boost mortgage lending, bringing total purchases of this type to $1.25 trillion."

"It added that it would buy a further $100bn in debt issued by government-sponsored agencies like Freddie Mac, which supports the mortgage market."

Some librarians dispute law on lead in children's books

"But a new federal law banning more than minute levels of lead in most products intended for children 12 or younger — and a federal agency's interpretation of the law — prompted at least two libraries last month to pull children's books printed before 1986 from their shelves."

"We're talking about tens of millions of copies of children's books that are perfectly safe. I wish a reasonable, rational person would just say, 'This is stupid. What are we doing?"' said Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the American Library Association's Washington office."

"A CPSC spokesman told The Associated Press in a recent interview that until more testing is done, the nation's more than 116,000 public and school libraries should take steps to ensure that children are kept away from books printed before 1986."

U.S. births break record; 40% out-of-wedlock

"More babies were born in the United States in 2007 than any year in the nation's history — and a wedding band made increasingly little difference in the matter. The 4,317,119 births, reported by federal researchers Wednesday, topped a record first set in 1957 at the height of the baby boom."

"Behind the number is both good and bad news. While it shows the U.S. population is more than replacing itself, a healthy trend, the teen birth rate was up for a second year in a row."

"The birth rate rose slightly for women of all ages, and births to unwed mothers reached an all-time high of about 40%, continuing a trend that started years ago. More than three-quarters of these women were 20 or older."

"Cesarean section deliveries continue to rise, now accounting for almost a third of all births. Health officials say that rate is much higher than is medically necessary. About 34% of births to black women were by C-section, more than any other racial group. But geographically, the percentages were highest in Puerto Rico, at 49%, and New Jersey, at 38%."

Fake Outrage? AIG Bonuses Known Months Ago

"For months, the Obama administration and members of Congress have known that insurance giant AIG was getting ready to pay huge bonuses while living off government bailouts. It wasn't until the money was flowing and news was trickling out to the public that official Washington rose up in anger and vowed to yank the money back. "

"Why the sudden furor, just weeks after Barack Obama's team paid out $30 billion in additional aid to the company? So far, the administration has been unable to match its actions to Mr. Obama's tough rhetoric on executive compensation. And Congress has been unable or unwilling to restrict bonuses for bailout recipients, despite some lawmakers' repeated efforts to do so."

"While administration officials insisted Tuesday that neither Mr. Obama nor Geithner learned of the impending bonus payments until last week, the problem wasn't new. AIG's plans to pay hundreds of millions of dollars were publicized last fall, when Congress started asking questions about expensive junkets the company had sponsored. A November SEC filing by the company details more than $469 million in "retention payments" to keep prized employees. "

"Around the same time, Congress and Mr. Obama's team were passing up an opportunity to put in place strict laws to revoke bonuses from recipients of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. In February, the Senate voted to add such a proposal to the economic recovery bill that cleared Congress, but in final closed-door talks on the measure, that provision was dropped in favor of limits that affect only future payments. "

Characteristics of Private Schools in the United States: Results from the 2007-08 Private School Universe Survey

Read page 18 of the PDF file.

Graduation Rate for 12th Graders of Private Schools: 99%

Graduation Rate for 12 Graders of Duval County Public Schools: 65.9%

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sales tax hike for education?

"The idea of a sales tax increase to support education appears be gaining steam in the Legislature. On the same day that two Democrats and the state’s largest teachers’ union held a news conference touting a temporary one-cent increase in the tax, Gov. Charlie Crist said he wouldn’t rule out the proposal."

"The plans being discussed would bump the statewide sales tax from 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents, with any local taxes tacked on to that. The proposal floated by the Florida Education Association, a 140,000-member union, would expire after three years."

Interesting chart from the article:

1 cent

The amount of the proposed sales tax increase


The amount the Florida Education Association says it would cost a family of four each week.

$3 billion

The amount the increase is expected to raise annually for public education and colleges and universities.

$31.2 billion

Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed education budget for the coming fiscal year.

Corrine Brown Video Regarding the Gator!

An interesting video of Corrine Brown (D) a representative of Jacksonville in the House of Representatives.

Health care reform likely $1.5 trillion

"Guaranteeing health insurance for all Americans may cost about $1.5 trillion over the next decade, health experts say. That's more than double the $634 billion 'down payment' President Barack Obama set aside for health reform in his budget, raising the prospect of sticker shock at a time of record federal spending."

"The health care plan Obama offered as a candidate would have cost nearly $1.2 trillion over ten years, according to a detailed estimate last fall by the Lewin Group, a leading consulting and policy analysis firm. The campaign plan would not have covered all the uninsured, as most Democrats in Congress want to do. But it is a starting point for lawmakers."

"John Sheils, a senior vice president of the Lewin Group, said about $1.5 trillion to $1.7 trillion would be a credible estimate for a plan that commits the nation to covering all its citizens. That would amount to around 4 percent of projected health care costs over the next 10 years, he added."

Soaring Costs Jeopardize Missile Defense Systems

"Congressional auditors estimated that the national missile defense programs could have cost overruns of $2 billion to $3 billion, reinforcing widespread expectations that they will be subject to cuts by the Obama administration."

"The G.A.O. said that the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency has spent almost $56 billion since it began developing and fielding defense systems in 2002, and it is likely to spend $50 billion more over the next five years."

New-home construction logs unexpected gain

"The government says construction of new homes rose sharply in February, defying economists' forecasts for yet another drop in activity."

"The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that construction of new homes and apartments jumped 22.2 percent from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 583,000 units. Economists were expecting construction to drop to a pace of around 450,000 units."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Administration Is Open to Taxing Health Benefits

"The Obama administration is signaling to Congress that the president could support taxing some employee health benefits, as several influential lawmakers and many economists favor, to help pay for overhauling the health care system."

"The proposal is politically problematic for President Obama, however, since it is similar to one he denounced in the presidential campaign as “the largest middle-class tax increase in history.” Most Americans with insurance get it from their employers, and taxing workers for the benefit is opposed by union leaders and some businesses."

"Mr. Obama’s proposed limit on deductions would raise an estimated $318 billion over 10 years, or half of his proposed “health care reserve fund.” That is a fraction of the revenues that could be raised from taxing employer-provided health benefits."

"In the campaign, Mr. McCain estimated that taxing all health benefits would raise $3.6 trillion over a decade — “a multitrillion-dollar tax hike,” one Obama advertisement said".

"The Congressional Budget Office says that including health benefits in taxable income could mean $246 billion in additional revenue for a single year. Stopping short of full taxation, as Mr. Baucus and others suggest, would mean less new revenue."

Obama calls AIG bonuses an 'outrage to the taxpayers'

"President Obama reacted angrily today to reports that American International Group Inc. employees received $165 million in bonuses -- even as the giant insurer was being sustained by billions of dollars of taxpayer money -- and said he would use his administration's power to block the bonuses."

"Under these circumstances, it's hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less $165 million in extra pay," Obama said. "How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?"

"In the last six months, AIG has received substantial sums from the U.S. Treasury," he continued. "I've asked Secretary Geithner to use that leverage and pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole."

"It was unclear what the White House could do legally to stop the bonuses, which reportedly ranged from $1,000 to $6.5 million and were mainly being paid to executives in AIG's financial products division."

"The AIG situation is especially galling for many policymakers and Americans alike because the company has received $180 billion in federal bailout funds."

Proposed Florida seat belt law could lock in funds, cut costs

"At issue is whether Florida will join 25 other states and the District of Columbia in approving a "primary" seat belt law and claiming federal dollars that would come with the change."

"Law enforcement officers in Florida now have to pull over an adult driver for some other offense, such as speeding, before writing a ticket for not wearing a seat belt."

"Under a primary enforcement law, an officer could pull over a driver just because he or she isn't wearing a seat belt."

"The main motive for pushing the measure, supporters say, is its ability to protect Floridians. Backers of primary enforcement say it could save 124 lives a year and prevent 1,700 serious injuries."

"But some black lawmakers have either co-sponsored the bill or voted for it in committee, citing recent research that shows racial profiling concerns might be misplaced or noting that law enforcement officers have to note the ethnicity of the driver on any ticket issued for not wearing a seat belt. Studies also have shown that young black men are less likely to wear seat belts than other people, but more likely to do so in states with primary enforcement laws."

American Adults Flunk Basic Science

"According to the national survey commissioned by the California Academy of Sciences:
  • Only 53% of adults know how long it takes for the Earth to revolve around the Sun.
  • Only 59% of adults know that the earliest humans and dinosaurs did not live at the same time.
  • Only 47% of adults can roughly approximate the percent of the Earth's surface that is covered with water.*
  • Only 21% of adults answered all three questions correctly."

Obama defends tax hikes, promises to steer clear of protectionism

"President Barack Obama defended his tax increases on those making more than $250,000 a year to a contingent of CEOs Thursday and promised not to let the current recession steer a course toward protectionist trade policies."

"Obama defended his plan to raise the top federal income tax bracket from 35 percent to 39.6 percent for couples making $250,000 or more. Small business owners have criticized that plan, worrying it will not help job growth or investments and the determination that amount of income is considered rich. Obama’s tax plans also would raise some investment taxes."

"Obama told the CEOs “It will still be lower than they were during the Clinton era. You will pay a tax rate on capital gains and dividends that is also lower than it was during most of the 1990s. And the revenue that results from these changes will reduce the deficit by $750 billion over the next 10 years,” Obama said."

U.S. household wealth falls $11.2 trillion in 2008

"U.S. households suffered a record 9 percent drop in wealth and pared debt in the fourth quarter as a deepening recession battered confidence and finances, Federal Reserve data showed on Thursday."

"Household net worth dropped by $5.1 trillion from the prior quarter to $51.5 trillion. For the full year, net worth dropped by $11.2 trillion, reflecting steep declines in the housing and stock markets."

"The declines in household net worth were the largest since quarterly and annual records began in 1951 and 1946, respectively, said the Fed -- the U.S. central bank."

"Since a second-quarter 2007 peak of $64.4 trillion, household wealth has dropped by about 20 percent, effectively wiping out four years of gains. That has put a chill on consumer spending and added to Americans' anxiety about their economic well-being."

Congress still slated to get automatic pay hike

"Congress' automatic pay raises are in little immediate danger of being scrapped for good, even with the economy slumping and millions of Americans unemployed."

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday would not commit to holding a vote on a bill to do away with the annual cost-of-living increases. She pointed out that Congress recognized the economic crisis by voting this week to skip next year's raise."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

College freshmen study booze more than books

"Nearly half of college freshmen who drink alcohol spend more time drinking each week than they do studying, suggests a survey involving more than 30,000 first-year students on 76 campuses who took an online alcohol education course last fall."

"Students who said they had at least one drink in the past 14 days spent an average 10.2 hours a week drinking, and averaged about 8.4 hours a week studying, according to findings being presented today at a conference in Seattle for campus student affairs officials. Nearly 70% of respondents (20,801 students) said they drank. Of those, 49.4% spent more time drinking than studying."

Fla. teens given probation for videotaped beating

"Two teenage girls accused of taking part in a notorious videotaped beating of a central Florida girl last year have been sentenced to probation and required to write letters of apology."

"A judge sentenced April Cooper to two years probation on Wednesday. Kayla Hassall was given one year probation."

"Five teens were charged in connection with the beating last March. Authorities say Victoria Lindsay was hit several times and knocked unconscious. The 16-year-old suffered a concussion, bruises and other injuries."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

PACs Hit Record Numbers — and Dollars — in 2008

"Federal registrations by PACs increased by 9 percent, according to the Federal Election Commission, growing from 4,234 on Jan. 1, 2008, to 4,611 by Jan. 1, 2009. It was the largest jump in registrations since 1984, with 360 new committees being added to the rolls during the last six months of the year, the most for such a period in 30 years."

"As the number of PACs increased so did the amount they contributed either directly or indirectly to campaigns, according to a CQ MoneyLine study of PAC contributions. All together, committees donated a record $418 million during the 2008 election cycle, eclipsing the 2006 election by $41 million and the 2004 election by more than $100 million."

"Most of the 2008 PAC money went to Democrats, who received $235 million compared to Republicans, who got $183 million."

Florida lawmakers consider ban on bestiality

"The act of bestiality is a step closer to becoming illegal in Florida now that a Senate agriculture committee voted to slap a third-degree felony charge on anyone who has sex with animals."

"Florida is one of only 16 states that still permit bestiality -- a fact that animal-rights activist and Sunrise Sen. Nan Rich learned to her horror when a Panhandle man three years ago was suspected of accidentally asphyxiating a family goat that he held by the collar while engaged in a sex act."

Wal-Mart donates $1.2 million for Clay park

"Wal-Mart donated $1.2 million to Clay County government today to help build and design a county park on land also donated by the retail chain."

"The park, behind the newest Wal-Mart Supercenter on Blanding Boulevard north of College Drive, is expected to cost $2 million to $2.5 million and be complete in 2 to 3 years, said county Parks and Recreation Director Tom Price."

Supreme Court limits reach of Voting Rights Act

"The Supreme Court limited the reach of the Voting Rights Act today, ruling that there is no duty to draw voting districts that will elect black candidates in areas where blacks are less than a majority."

"In a 5-4 decision, the court said officials need not consider race when drawing districts for state legislatures, county boards, city councils and school districts, so long as blacks do not make up a voting majority in a particular area."

"State lawmakers believed the Voting Rights Act required them to draw districts that would give black candidates a realistic chance of winning."

"But in today's opinion, the court said they had misread the law. It said the law applies "only when a geographically compact group of minority voters could form a majority in a single-member district," Kennedy said."

Poll: Rise In Americans With No Religion

"A wide-ranging study on American religious life found that the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined and more people say they have no religion at all. "

"Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according to the American Religious Identification Survey."

"In 2008, Christians comprised 76 percent of U.S. adults, compared to about 77 percent in 2001 and about 86 percent in 1990. Researchers said the dwindling ranks of mainline Protestants, including Methodists, Lutherans and Episcopalians, largely explains the shift. Over the last seven years, mainline Protestants dropped from just over 17 percent to 12.9 percent of the population. "

"About 12 percent of Americans believe in a higher power but not the personal God at the core of monotheistic faiths. And, since 1990, a slightly greater share of respondents - 1.2 percent - said they were part of new religious movements, including Scientology, Wicca and Santeria. "

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Even in a recession, some companies are hiring

"While the recession has claimed 4.4 million jobs, the economy has created others, many of them for highly trained and specialized professionals. More than 2 million jobs openings now exist across a range of industries, according to government data."

"Job seekers beware, though. An average of nearly five people are competing for each opening. That's up sharply from a ratio of less than 2-to-1 in December 2007, when the recession was just starting and nearly 4 million openings existed."

"Human resources executives say companies that are hiring are benefiting from a top-notch talent pool as applications pour in from a larger base of job seekers. The number of unemployed Americans has soared, to 12.5 million last month, from 7 million when the recession began. "

"Broadly, jobs are being added in education, health care and the government, the Labor Department said, with the government adding 9,000 new jobs last month alone."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fla. unemployment jumps to 8.6 percent in Jan.

"Florida's unemployment rate jumped a full percentage point in January from the month before to 8.6 percent, with 800,000 workers out of a job, state officials said Friday."

"It's the highest the state's seasonally adjusted, nonagricultural jobless rate has been in more than 16 years - since September 1992, when it hit 8.9 percent."

"Florida's January rate also was a full percentage point above the 7.6 percent national figure for that month."

"That's due largely to Florida's heavy reliance on construction and the continued decline in the housing market, said officials with the Agency for Workforce Innovation."

"Gov. Charlie Crist already has signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to increase weekly unemployment benefits by $25. That increase went into effect Feb. 22. Unemployed workers should start getting the extra dollars by the end of March."

"Crist also has recommended to the Legislature that about $81 million in stimulus be spent this budget year, which runs through June 30, and nearly $77.8 million in the next one to match job seekers with businesses and train workers."

"The governor also has proposed using $32 million in stimulus over the next two years to improve and expand the agency so it can better handle the crush of unemployed workers seeking compensation and job-finding assistance."

Jacksonville Journey Could Get $4 Million From Stimulus

"According to the city, Jacksonville could get about $38 million from the federal stimulus package. $4 million would come through the State Department of Justice for the Jacksonville Journey. It's a project not everyone has been on board with."

"I think that the Journey has received $31 million, and I think that if any additional funds come into Jacksonville, they need to go to grass roots organizations," says Donald Foy with Mad Dads."

"Foy used to be on of one of the Journey's committees but later stepped down, after saying he didn't feel it was serving the community the best it could."

"The answer to the murder problem in Jacksonville is not going to just be one solution. I think those after school programs are good, but we want to stop the murder problem. Most of the murders are happening between the ages of 19 to 34 years old. I think the resources need to be given to groups that are not already apart of the Jacksonville Journey that are working at the grass root level of the community," says Foy."

"The city says the Florida Department of Transportation is expecting to get $20 million for projects. $12 million will go for energy efficiency projects and $2 million will be through community development block grants."

"The Jacksonville Journey allocated close to $31 million for the 2009 fiscal year. $10.8 million went towards increasing police presence"

Sink: Fla. not doing enough to get federal grants

"Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink says Florida isn't doing enough to get its share of federal money."

"Sink sent a report to lawmakers on Wednesday saying Florida ranks 45th when it comes to getting money for everything from health care to transportation. She says the state could get $6 billion a year more if Florida received the national average."

"Sink says she has no idea what the state's Washington D.C. office does or even how much money it spends. That office reports directly to Gov. Charlie Crist. Sink added that there's lack of coordination between the Legislature and state agencies."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Freedom in the 50 States: Index of Personal and Economic Freedom

"We find that the freest states in the country are New Hampshire, Colorado, and South Dakota, which together achieve a virtual tie for first place. All three states feature low taxes and government spending and middling levels of regulation and paternalism. New York is the least free by a considerable margin, followed by New Jersey, Rhode Island, California and Maryland. On personal freedom alone, Alaska is the clear winner, while Maryland brings up the rear. As for freedom in the different regions of the country, the Mountain and West North Central regions are the freest overall while the Middle Atlantic lags far behind on both economic and personal freedom. Regression analysis demonstrates that states enjoying more economic and personal freedom tend to attract substantially higher rates of internal net migration."

Insurance taxes could fund private school vouchers

"Insurance taxes may pay for private school vouchers for low income children."

"A House committee on Tuesday approved a measure that would allow insurance companies to send money to groups that provide vouchers to nearly 25,000 children across the state. Insurers would receive a tax credit against what they owe to the state. Corporations already participate in the program."

"The House PreK-12 Policy committee approved the bill, HB 453, along party lines. Democrats complained that the state should do more to help public schools. But Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said the program saves the state money because vouchers cost less than what the state spends in public schools."

Fla. county may declare itself disaster area

"Just five years ago, Port St. Lucie was America's fastest-growing large city. Then the foreclosure crisis slammed it like a hurricane."

"Today it sits in one of the hardest-hit counties in the nation. Thousands of houses are empty or unfinished. Neighborhoods are littered with for-sale and foreclosure signs and overgrown, neglected yards. Break-ins are on the rise."

"But one politician believes he has a unique solution: Declare St. Lucie County a disaster area as if it had been hit by, well, a hurricane."

"This is a manmade disaster," County Commissioner Doug Coward acknowledged. But he said that is why "we've got to do something. Clearly, the economic crisis of the country far exceeds the ability of local governments to solve it, but we're trying be a part of the solution."

"The declaration would act like a mini-stimulus plan, giving government officials access to a $17.5 million county fund usually reserved for natural disasters."

Monday, March 2, 2009

Prison Spending Outpaces All but Medicaid

"One in every 31 adults, or 7.3 million Americans, is in prison, on parole or probation, at a cost to the states of $47 billion in 2008, according to a new study."

"The increases in the number of people in some form of correctional control occurred as crime rates declined by about 25 percent in the past two decades."

"States have shown a preference for prison spending even though it is cheaper to monitor convicts in community programs, including probation and parole, which require offenders to report to law enforcement officers. A survey of 34 states found that states spent an average of $29,000 a year on prisoners, compared with $1,250 on probationers and $2,750 on parolees. The study found that despite more spending on prisons, recidivism rates remained largely unchanged."

"One in 11 African-Americans, or 9.2 percent, are under correctional control, compared with one in 27 Latinos (3.7 percent) and one in 45 whites (2.2 percent). Only one out of 89 women is behind bars or monitored, compared with one out of 18 men."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Washington state to allow assisted suicide

"Terminally ill patients with less than six months to live will soon be able to ask their doctors to prescribe them lethal medication in Washington state."

"But even though the "Death with Dignity" law takes effect Thursday, people who might seek the life-ending prescriptions could find their doctors conflicted or not willing to write them."

"Many doctors are hesitant to talk publicly about where they stand on the issue, said Dr. Tom Preston, a retired cardiologist and board member of Compassion & Choices, the group that campaigned for and supports the law."

"There are a lot of doctors, who in principle, would approve or don't mind this, but for a lot of social or professional reasons, they don't want to be involved," he said."

"The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that it was up to states to regulate medical practice, including assisted suicide, and Washington's Initiative 1000 was passed by nearly 60% of state voters in November."

"It became the second state, behind Oregon, to have a voter-approved measure allowing assisted suicide."

Ban urged on insurers' use of credit scores

"Credit scores and credit reports should not be used to set car and home insurance rates, some Florida lawmakers say."

"State Rep. Priscilla Taylor, a West Palm Beach Democrat, said especially now, credit history shouldn't affect the price of Floridians' insurance premiums."

"She and state Sen. Ronda Storms, a Valrico Republican, have filed bills that would forbid insurers from considering credit scores, credit reports, level of education or occupation when setting rates -- unless the job involves using a vehicle."

"The bills are HB 683 and SB 1524."