Monday, December 19, 2011

Jacksonville City Council action

Issue: JEA pay raises

What it means: The council considered five bills that would authorize new labor contracts for unionized JEA employees. About 1,730 employees would get up to 3 percent base pay raises.

Bill Nos. 2011-677 through 2011-681

Action: Vote delayed until Feb. 14

Issue: Parking garage subsidy

What it means: The council considered changes to a contract with Metropolitan Parking Solutions, which operates three downtown parking garages that receive city loans because they annually lose money. The changes would give the city two more years to buy out the MPS contract and lower the return on investment the city has guaranteed MPS.

Bill No. 2011-700

Action: Approved

Issue: Meat packer incentives

What it means: The council was asked to endorse a package of $1.2 million in state and city aid for Bruss Co., a meat packing subsidiary of Tyson Foods. The company would spend about $10 million updating a factory at 5441 W. Fifth St. that would employ 200 people.

Bill No. 2011-728

Action: Approved

Jacksonville City Council action

A look at some of the issues Jacksonville’s City Council considered in its meeting Tuesday:

Issue: City election dates

What it means: The council was asked to authorize a referendum in November 2012 on changing city election dates to coincide with Florida’s gubernatorial elections.

Bill No. 2011-654

Action: Denied

Issue: Poker room rezoning

What it means: The council was asked to rezone part of the site of a planned poker room at 201 Monument Road across from Regency Square mall. The effect was to make the entire property zoned CCG-2, a designation that allows the sale of liquor as well as beer and wine.

Bill No. 2011-585

Action: Approved

Issue: Fire and rescue projects

What it means: The council was asked to defer for a year a set of projects once intended to improve the city’s fire and rescue services.

Bill No. 2011-657

Action: Approved

Jacksonville City Council action

Issue: Curb, gutter and sidewalk bills

What it means: The council was asked to raise the price the city charges people who want curbs, gutters and sidewalks built at their property. The price hasn't changed since 1989 and would rise from $12 per linear foot to $35.

Bill No. 2011-410

Action: Approved

Issue: Council members using computers

What it means: Council members considered whether to allow themselves to use city phones and computers to stay in touch with their outside jobs. Other city employees can't do that. Council members wouldn't be allowed to run up special costs to the city. Bill No. 2011-576

Action: Approved

Issue: Kernan speed zone

What it means: The council was asked for permission to agree to a joint project with the Duval County School Board to set up flashing lights and other controls for a speed zone on Kernan Boulevard near Kernan Trail Elementary and Kernan Middle School. The city could spend about $100,000. Bill No. 2011-594

Action: Approved

Duval School Board action

Item: Ready for Tomorrow contract.

What it means: Consider a contract not exceeding $270,000 to continue the Ready for Tomorrow tutoring and mentoring program at Raines and Ribault high schools and North Shore Elementary School and offer it at Andrew Jackson High School.

Action taken: Approved 7-0.

Item: Upgrade the SuccessMaker program for 13 elementary schools designated
Correct II schools.

What it means: SuccessMaker is a computer-based software program that provides adaptive, individualized intervention in both reading and math concepts and skills. Purchasing the upgrade would cost up to $638,000.

Action taken: Approved 7-0.

Item: Per-capita and examination fees for 2011-12 to International Baccalaureate North America for Stanton College Preparatory School, Paxon School for Advanced Studies and Ribault High School.

What it means: The cost would not exceed $123,325 for Stanton, not exceed $58,000 for Paxon and not exceed $10,500 for Ribault. Legislated incentive funds for passing schools on exams will be used to refund the school district for the cost of the exams.

Action taken: Approved 7-0.

Duval School Board action

Item: Selection of initial option for first-year intervene schools Forrest High School, A. Philip Randolph High School and Ed White High School.

What it means: The board decided to select the option to reconstitute the three high schools and make them "district-managed" high schools. The district will have to proceed with the option if the schools fail to make enough progress this school year.

Action: Approved 7-0

Item: Selection of an option for third-year intervene schools Andrew Jackson, Raines and Ribault high schools and North Shore Elementary.

What it means: The board selected the option to hand the schools over to a management organization for the 2012-13 school year if the schools fail to make the needed progress this school year.

Action: Approved 7-0

Duval School Board Action

The Duval County School Board had its monthly meeting Tuesday. Among the actions taken were:

Item: KIPP's charter school applications

What it means: Despite its first school earning the lowest area FCAT score last year, the charter school organization wants to open two elementary schools in the 2012-13 school year.

Action: Delayed approval; will invite KIPP to discussion at Oct. 18 meeting. (6-1, Hazouri)

Item: Public hearing and vote on a new policy for teen-dating violence or abuse

What it means: State law mandates all school districts adopt policies addressing teen-dating violence and institute curriculum designed to teach teens how to recognize if they are in an abusive relationship and how to seek help.

Action: Approved, 7-0

Item: Suspensions without pay

What it means: Frederick Richardson, a teacher at Highlands Middle, faces a 15-day suspension for choking a student and pinning him against a concrete wall. Richardson got into a physical altercation May 9 with a student he said was disobedient and disruptive in class. This would be Richardson's second time being suspended by the district for his conduct as a teacher.

Action: Richardson was suspended for 5 days (6-1, Wright).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Due to time restraints, I will now only post local issues and voting records for local representatives.


Key Vote: Cumulative Regulatory Analysis

Cumulative Regulatory Analysis
- Vote Passed (249-169, 15 Not Voting)

The House passed this bill that would delay the EPA’s implementation of two air pollution regulations. The bill also requires the president to establish a commission to report on the cost of certain EPA regulations. The Senate is unlikely to take up the bill.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES

Key Vote: Short-Term Continuing Appropriations

Short-Term Continuing Appropriations
- Vote Passed (219-203, 11 Not Voting)

This bill would fund the government through the first seven weeks of the 2012 fiscal year, which starts on October 1. The bill offsets an increase in federal disaster aid by reducing funding for two Energy Department loan programs. The Senate subsequently rejected the bill and scheduled a vote on an alternate version this week.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES

Key Vote: Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act of 2011

Trade Adjustment Assistance Extension Act of 2011
- Vote Passed (70-27, 3 Not Voting)

The Senate passed this bill that would provide additional assistance to workers affected by foreign trade agreements. It would also revive the Generalized System of Preferences program that is intended to help developing countries expand their trade. Speaker John Boehner said the House will consider the bill if the president submits trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to Congress.

Sen. Bill Nelson voted YES
Sen. Marco Rubio voted NO

Key Vote: Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act

Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act
- Vote Passed (238-186, 9 Not Voting)

The House approved this legislation to limit the authority of the National Labor Relations Board. The bill prohibits the board from ordering an employer to restore, shut down or relocate operations. The Senate is unlikely to take up the measure.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES

Key Vote: Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act

Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act
- Vote Passed (365-54, 12 Not Voting)

The House passed this bill to expand successful charter school programs, the first part of an effort to overhaul and reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act. The Senate is likely to consider charter school legislation as part of a broader reauthorization of No Child Left Behind rather than as a stand-alone bill.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES

Key Vote: Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011

Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011
- Vote Passed (92-6, 2 Not Voting)

On Thursday, the Senate approved this bill to extend FAA programs through January 2012 and surface transportation authorization through March 2012. The House had passed the bill by voice vote earlier in the week. Aviation programs were scheduled to expire on September 16, and highway programs would have expired this week. The president signed the bill on Friday.

Sen. Bill Nelson voted YES
Sen. Marco Rubio voted Not Voting

Key Vote: Emergency Supplemental Disaster Relief Appropriations Resolution, 2011

Emergency Supplemental Disaster Relief Appropriations Resolution, 2011
- Vote Agreed to (62-37, 1 Not Voting)

The Senate agreed to add supplemental disaster relief funding to legislation extending the trade sanctions on Myanmar, still commonly known as Burma. The bill, later passed by unanimous consent, would provide $6.9 billion in immediate aid. The vote came after the Senate rejected two proposals to offset the cost of the funding.

Sen. Bill Nelson voted YES
Sen. Marco Rubio voted YES

Key Vote: Intelligence Authorization Act, FY 2012

Intelligence Authorization Act, FY 2012
- Vote Passed (384-14, 33 Not Voting)

This House bill would authorize spending for the 16 intelligence agencies in the upcoming fiscal year. The cost of the bill is classified. The Senate is expected to take up the bill later this year.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES......send e-mail
or see bio

Key Vote: Motion to Proceed; Debt limit disapproval

Motion to Proceed; Debt limit disapproval
- Vote Rejected (45-52, 3 Not Voting)

The Senate rejected this motion to take up a resolution that would have disapproved a $500 billion debt limit increase. Under the budget law enacted on August 2, the debt limit was increase by $400 billion. A second increase of $500 billion will take effect unless Congress passes a disapproval measure.

Sen. Bill Nelson voted NO......send e-mail
or see bio

Sen. Marco Rubio voted Not Voting......send e-mail
or see bio

Key Vote: Leahy-Smith America Invents Act

Leahy-Smith America Invents Act
- Vote Passed (89-9, 2 Not Voting)

The Senate gave final approval to this bill that would change the way patents are awarded from “first to invent” to “first to file.” The overhaul is intended to speed up the process of awarding patents. The House passed the bill in June. President Obama is expected to sign it into law.

Sen. Bill Nelson voted YES
Sen. Marco Rubio voted Not Voting

Study gives Florida an A in civil rights education

Florida has received an A for education about the civil rights movement - one of only three states given the top grade in a nationwide study.

No Smoking for State Prison Inmates; No More 'Lighting Up'

A new law taking effect Oct. 1 in Florida means no tobacco for state prison inmates and no more "lighting up" behind bars.

Cigarettes and lighters will now be considered contraband inside prison fences.

The ban is being implemented for two reasons, said Gretl Plessinger, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections.

She said the state spent almost $9 million on hospital bills for inmates for tobacco related illnesses. Additionally, to smoke you need a lighter.

City paying millions to keep Jacksonville garages afloat

Jacksonville has lent $16 million in five years to subsidize a parking company it picked to own and run three downtown garages.

Now, the city could spend $50 million buying its way out of the deal.

That would leave City Hall owning and operating garages it never wanted and hoping that spending big money up front can cut taxpayers' losses - eventually.

The city approved a deal with Metropolitan in 2004, while new buildings from the Better Jacksonville Plan were popping up across downtown. Headed by businessmen from another firm, Signet Development, Metropolitan was one of five companies that answered a city notice for proposals to build and run new garages.

To have parking for sports and music fans - and eventually for courthouse visitors - the city helped Metropolitan issue $50 million in bonds for construction, with the company solely responsible for repaying investors who bought them. The company also brought $3 million of its own to the table and the city held notes on $5.7 million spent buying the sites.

The city agreed that if Metropolitan couldn't break even once the garages opened, it would lend enough to cover the company's losses, along with a $240,000 yearly return on the company's investment. The loans would be repaid with interest once the garages turned a profit.

The company has collected nine loans from the city since 2007, ranging from $859,000 to $2.3 million, usually through payments in May and September.

This summer the company requested an additional loan of $2.3 million to cover losses from the first half of 2011.

With the company still obligated to pay off bonds that will last more than 20 years, auditors say the city should expect to lend millions year after year.

"It's conceivable that one day the city will have $100 million loaned to this developer," Billy warned council Finance Committee members.

Court: Fla. must pay for defending poor suspects

The Florida Supreme Court says the state, not counties, must pay for new legal offices that help represent indigent defendants.

The justices unanimously ruled on Thursday that a 2007 law creating the offices unconstitutionally passed overhead expenses to Florida's 67 counties.

48 Jacksonville cops laid off as standoff continues between union, sheriff

Forty-eight Jacksonville police officers are being laid off as the Sheriff's Office cuts payroll to handle a shrunken 2012 budget, Nelson Cuba, the police union's president, said Tuesday.

Cuba said he learned the number of layoffs from a letter sent to the union from the city's Human Resources Department. Another 23 vacancies have been eliminated, along with an uncertain number of civilian employees, Cuba said.

The police layoffs, from the last two police academy classes, occurred Monday and Tuesday.

Rutherford has been repeatedly critical of the police union opposing a 2 percent salary cut, which the sheriff said would allow him to fund the positions. Cuba called that argument "smoke and mirrors."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jacksonville City Council action

Issue: Outdoor bar seating

What it means: The council was asked to let bars around downtown's Bay Street Town Center entertainment zone have outdoor seating, and rename the area the E-Town Zone.

Bill No. 2011-443

Action: Approved

Issue: Foreclosure intervention

What it means: The council was asked to release $425,000 to homebuyer counseling and foreclosure intervention programs from fees collected by registering foreclosed properties.

Bill No. 2011-371

Action: Approved

Issue: Green building lease

What it means: The council was asked to approve a five-year, no-rent lease for the U.S. Green Building Council's North Florida chapter. The council would pay to build a sustainability center inside an unfinished, dirt-floor storefront area in a city-owned parking garage at 33. W. Adams St.

Bill No. 2011-494

Action: Approved

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Florida Turns Down Millions in Federal Aid; Accepts Abstinence Only Sex-Ed Money

After turning down millions of federal dollars for Florida related to the Afforadable Health Care Act, Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature have finally decided to accept one.

But now they've accepted a $2.5 million grant for abstinence only sex education, and some health care advocates are calling the move inconsistent.

According to Governor Scott's office that list so far includes $4.5 million in grants they've returned, and 11.9 million they have not persued.

Report: 40 states passed immigration legislation in 2011

Nearly 250 new immigration laws and resolutions were enacted in 40 states during the first half of 2011 indicating a growing frustration with the federal government's handling of the issue, according to a new report.

The laws range from hiring restrictions to voter identification and allowing in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, according to the report released Tuesday by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Jacksonville personal income rises 2.8% to $54B

Metro Jacksonville residents earned $53.8 billion last year, placing it 42nd among the nation’s 366 metros.

That marked a 2.8 percent rise over the area’s total personal income for 2009.

Volunteerism on the rise in Jacksonville area, study shows

Almost 28 percent of residents in Northeast Florida volunteered some time in 2010, according to the annual "Volunteering in America" report. The average rate since 2008 is 27.6 percent, and that number boosted the city from 33rd in the nation to 22nd.

Of the more than 332,000 people who did some volunteer work from 2008 to 2010, according to the study, about 33 percent said they volunteered with a religious organization.

New hires at Jacksonville City Hall must live in Duval starting July 1

The new rule will take effect July 1. People living outside the county could still be hired but would have to move within six months.

The changes don't affect existing employees who live outside the county, a group that Brown said early this year totaled more than 1,500. It would apply, though, to people who left the city payroll and were hired back.

IRS: 1,470 millionaires paid no income tax in '09

Not the best day to report this, but the IRS says 1,470 millionaires paid no federal income taxes in 2009.

More than 235,000 taxpayers earned $1 million or more in '09, with 8,274 making more than $10 million, the Internal Revenue Service said. All told, there were 140 million taxpayers.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reported last month that 46% of American households (known as "units") actually will not pay federal income taxes for this year nor will receive refunds. That's because of low incomes, credits for children or other dependents, or exemptions.

UNF makes No. 19 on Forbes Best Buy Colleges list

UNF is the only Northeast Florida university to make the list and came in at No. 19 among best buy colleges in the country.

The three other Florida universities to make the top 20 are the University of Florida (No. 11), Florida State University (No. 13) and New College of Florida in Sarasota (No. 16).

Jacksonville City Council action

Issue: Enterprise zone boundaries

What it means: The council was asked to approve boundary changes to an enterprise zone at Imeson industrial park that would help Kaman Aerospace qualify for incentives if it adds 200 jobs there.

Bill No. 2011-383

Action: Approved

Issue: Pension study

What it means: The council was asked to delay until next year an actuarial study on the city's general employee pension system. The city has not budgeted for an additional multimillion-dollar payment the study could decide is needed, and advocates say the cost can be handled better with time to plan a funding source.

Bill No. 2011-377

Action: Postponed two weeks

Issue: Elections records

What it means: The Supervisor of Elections Office asked for an ordinance change requiring local candidates to file treasurer reports electronically.

Bill No. 2011-409

Action: Approved

Issue: Mothballing buildings

What is means: The council was asked to let homeowners in historic districts "mothball" properties that could be bulldozed for code violations. Owners would have to make the building structurally stable and watertight, then maintain the exterior in return for a three-year delay to make improvements.

Bill No. 2011-408

Action: Approved

Bad Economy Means Good News For Amtrak

The poor economy is making the train more attractive to travelers. Amtrak says it expects to exceed 30 million passengers for the first time this fiscal year. Amtrak says 2.6 million passengers rode its trains nationwide in June. In Jacksonville, 6,872 riders got on or off the train in June. That's a 14% increase compared to the same time last year.

Obama administration to offer No Child Left Behind waivers

The Obama administration will provide qualifying states a waiver from No Child Left Behind after Congressional inaction on reforming the program, the Department of Education said on Monday.

States that seek relief from certain provisions of NCLB must demonstrate commitment to education reform, Barnes said, adding that the President's process is "not a pass on accountability."

The administration proposes to reform NCLB by a more flexible and targeted accountability system based on measuring annual student growth on college- and career-ready standards, focusing on data and quality of teachers and principles.

Standard & Poor’s downgrades Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac

On the heels of its surprise downgrade of U.S. long-term debt from AAA to AA+, Standard & Poor’s has downgraded the credit ratings of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

S&P lowered its credit rating on both Fannie (OTCBB: FNMA) and Freddie (OTCBB: FMCC) one level from AAA to AA+.

Dow plunges 634 points; Nasdaq, S&P fall almost 7%

Final numbers: Dow closed at 10,809.85, a loss of 634.76 points, or 5.55%.

The S$P 500 ended at 1,119.46, a drop of 79.92 points, or 6.66%. (Uh-oh, the "devil's number" ...)

The Nasdaq finished at 2,357.89, a daily loss of 174.72 points, or 6.9%.

Mayor Alvin Brown releases transition reports

The eighteen transition committees set up by Mayor Alvin Brown released reports today that included about 300 recommendations for changing city government.

They're available on the city's website here.

The reports examine city government procedures and look for ways to make them more efficient.

"It is an absolute treasure trove of work," said Peter Rummell, a co-chair of the transition effort. He said the ideas grew from 3,800 hours of meetings that involved 217 volunteers and about 125 city staff and subject experts.

IRS will not go after airline fare hikes

The government does not plan to go after more than $400 million in airline revenue from fare increases that were facilitated by a two-week ticket-tax holiday resulting from a congressional dispute over aviation funding.

The ticket tax, which amounts to about $30 million per day in receipts, funds a federal trust account the FAA uses to help pay its bills.

Postal Service posts $3B loss, warns of default

For the nine months that ended June 30, the Postal Service lost a total of $5.7 billion. Mail volume continued to decline, led by first-class services, as more consumers relied on e-mail and electronic bill-paying. Total volume fell to 39.8 billion pieces, a drop of 2.6% from the same period a year ago.

Though regulated by Congress, the USPS does not receive taxpayer funding. The default threat has raised the specter of a bailout.

FAA Goes Back to Work

After two weeks of finger pointing and blame game in Congress, the Senate on Friday approved a short term extension of the underlying law that authorizes the Federal Aviation Administration, getting 4,000 furloughed workers back to their jobs, along with thousands of workers on construction projects at various airports.

S&P downgrades U.S. credit rating from AAA for the first time since 1917

The back and forth came after Standard & Poor’s, one of the world’s three major credit rating agencies, cited “difficulties in bridging the gulf between political parties” as a major reason for the downgrade from U.S.’s top shelf AAA status to AA+, the next level down. The rating agency has essentially lost faith in Washington’s ability to work together to address its debt.

The downgrade, hours after markets closed on Friday, is a first for the U.S. since it was granted an AAA rating in 1917. S&P warned about a downgrade as far back as April. Its decision came just four days after fractious debate over raising the nation’s debt ceiling ended in a compromise that would reduce the country’s debt by more than $2 trillion (euro1.41 trillion). S&P said Friday the cuts did not go far enough.

Study: Healthier eating means higher grocery bill

But the study found introducing more potassium in a diet is likely to add $380 per year to the average consumer’s food costs, said lead researcher Pablo Monsivais, an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and the School of Public Health at the University of Washington.

“Almost 15 percent of households in America say they don’t have enough money to eat the way they want to eat,” she said. Recent estimates show 49 million Americans make food decisions based on cost, she added.

The 19 most hated companies in America

It's interesting to note that so many of the 19 are monopolies or regulated utilities. Companies like that don't have normal worries about the marketplace, or they are in an industry with limited competition and don't do a hot job as a result.

The worst company in America is Pepco, an electric service provider in Washington, D.C., and Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland. I used to pay a monthly bill to them when I lived in Maryland.

Rounding out the Top 5 are Delta (No. 2), Time Warner Cable (No. 3), Comcast (No. 4) and Charter (No. 5). Note again that four of the first five worst companies face limited competition because they were granted monopolies.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Richer minorities seen living in poorer neighborhoods

The most successful blacks and Hispanics are more likely to have poor neighbors than are whites, according to a new analysis of Census data.

The average affluent black and Hispanic household — defined in the study as earning more than $75,000 a year — lives in a poorer neighborhood than the average lower-income non-Hispanic white household that makes less than $40,000 a year.

"Separate translates to unequal even for the most successful black and Hispanic minorities," says sociologist John Logan, director of US2010 Project at Brown University, which studies trends in American society.

"Blacks are segregated and even affluent blacks are pretty segregated," says Logan, who analyzed 2005-09 data for the nation's 384 metropolitan areas. "African Americans who really succeeded live in neighborhoods where people around them have not succeeded to the same extent."

How many district administrators does Duval County Public Schools have?

Do you know how many district administrators Duval County Public Schools has? Go ahead, take a guess.

The number is 288.

Some readers may say this is too high, but consultant group Education Resource Strategies says the district spends significantly less on administrators than other districts.

U.S. says insurers must fully cover birth control

U.S. health insurance companies must fully cover women's birth control and other preventive health care services under Obama administration rules released on Monday.

The mandate from the Health and Human Services Department represents a landmark decision in a decades-long debate on women's health issues that has pitted family planning groups against conservative organizations.

"Under the law, we're making it illegal to charge women more just because of their gender," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Monday.

UNF grads score well in teacher ratings

About 78 percent of the teachers with education degrees from UNF saw at least half of their students improve on the FCAT, according to the study. Only Miami-Dade College and three private colleges - Barry University, University of Miami and University of Tampa - saw a higher percentage of its teachers with student growth.

U.S. Report Finds Security Deteriorating in Iraq

Over the past year, security in Iraq has deteriorated and electricity shortages and corruption have continued unabated, according to a report released Saturday by a special inspector appointed by Congress to oversee Iraq’s reconstruction.

Obama Reveals Details of Gas Mileage Rules

President Obama announced new automobile fuel-efficiency standards on Friday that require an average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

Administration officials said Friday that the new fuel rules also contained an intricate set of “credits” for auto companies to achieve the new target of 54.5 miles per gallon for their fleets in 14 years.

Anthony Trial Cost Almost $700,000

The Casey Anthony murder investigation and trial cost taxpayers almost $700,000, based on new tallies on Friday from the major agencies involved in the case.

How the U.S. Racked Up $14 Trillion in Debt

Click on the title to view a few important charts relating to the "debt crisis."

Florida No. 5 for government job growth

Florida has added 21,400 government jobs since 2006, one of 35 states that saw an increase, according to new On Numbers analysis.

Texas led the way with 168,600 new federal, state and local government workers added between the midpoints of 2006 and 2011, according to seasonally adjusted data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Key Vote: Budget Control Act of 2011

Budget Control Act of 2011
- Vote Passed (269-161, 3 Not Voting)

The House passed this bill that raises the debt limit, caps discretionary spending for ten years, establishes a bipartisan committee to identify additional spending cuts, and requires a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. The Senate gave final approval to the bill the next day, clearing it for the president.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES

Key Vote: North American-Made Energy Security Act

North American-Made Energy Security Act
- Vote Passed (279-147, 1 Present, 5 Not Voting)

This House bill would require the White House to decide by November 1 whether to allow construction of a 1,700 mile oil pipeline running from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast. The application to build the pipeline was made nearly three years ago. The White House said the State Department is committed to completing its review by the end of the year and called the bill "unnecessary."

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES

Key Vote: Budget Control Act of 2011

Budget Control Act of 2011
- Vote Agreed to (74-26)

The Senate gave final approval to this bill to raise the debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion and cut spending by as much as $2.4 trillion over the next ten years. President Obama signed the bill into law a short time later.

Sen. Bill Nelson voted YES
Sen. Marco Rubio voted NO

Key Vote: Confirmation of Robert S. Mueller III to be Director of the FBI

Confirmation of Robert S. Mueller III to be Director of the FBI
- Vote Confirmed (100-0)

The Senate agreed to extend the term of Federal Bureau of Investigation director Robert S. Mueller III through September 4, 2013. The FBI director is limited to one 10-year term and Mueller’s term began in August 2001. The president signed legislation earlier in the week to allow Mueller to serve an additional two years.

Sen. Bill Nelson voted YES
Sen. Marco Rubio voted YES

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Key Vote: Legislative Branch Appropriations, FY2012

Legislative Branch Appropriations, FY2012
- Vote Passed (252-159, 21 Not Voting)

This $3.3 billion bill would fund the legislative branch in the upcoming fiscal year. It marks a 6.4 percent reduction from the current funding level. It is not clear when the Senate will take up the bill.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES

Key Vote: Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act of 2011

Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act of 2011
- Vote Passed (241-173, 18 Not Voting)

The House passed this bill to alter the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a mortgage and credit card watchdog group created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law. The bill would raise the threshold by which the Financial Stability Oversight Council can overturn CFPB regulations and require Senate confirmation of a director before the CFPB can begin operating. The Senate is unlikely to pass the bill.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES

Key Vote: Cut, Cap, and Balance Act

Cut, Cap, and Balance Act
- Vote Passed (234-190, 8 Not Voting)

The House passed this bill that would make a debt ceiling increase contingent on passage of a balanced-budget constitutional amendment. The White House indicated the president would veto it. The Senate rejected the bill later in the week.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES

Key Vote: Motion to Table; Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011

Motion to Table; Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011
- Vote Agreed to (51-46, 3 Not Voting)

The Senate agreed to this motion to table the House-passed "Cut, Cap and Balance" debt ceiling and balanced-budget plan. The move essentially kills the bill.

Sen. Bill Nelson voted YES
Sen. Marco Rubio voted NO

Key Vote: Military Construction-VA Appropriations, FY2012

Military Construction-VA Appropriations, FY2012
- Vote Passed (97-2, 1 Not Voting)

The Senate passed its version of the military construction and Department of Veterans Affairs appropriations bill for the upcoming fiscal year. The $144 billion bill differs slightly from the House version that passed on June 14. A conference committee will work out a final bill.

Sen. Bill Nelson voted YES
Sen. Marco Rubio voted YES

Key Vote: Energy-Water Appropriations, FY2012

Energy-Water Appropriations, FY2012
- Vote Passed (219-196, 16 Not Voting)

The House passed this 2012 fiscal year spending bill that would provide $30.6 billion to the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers and various water projects. The Senate has not written its version of the bill yet.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES

Key Vote: Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011

Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011
- Vote Passed (239-184, 8 Not Voting)

This House bill would limit the EPA’s authority to override a state’s water pollution standards in favor of stricter standards. It is unclear if the Senate will take up the bill. The White House has issued a veto threat.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES......send e-mail
or see bio

Key Vote: Better Use of Light Bulbs Act

Better Use of Light Bulbs Act
- Vote Failed (233-193, 1 Present, 4 Not Voting)

The House rejected this bill that would have repealed energy efficiency standards that are expected to lead to a phaseout of the traditional incandescent light bulb. A two-thirds vote was necessary to pass the bill under suspension of the rules. The bill is likely to come up again under a rule or as part of another bill.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES

Key Vote: Fiscal 2012 Defense Appropriations

Fiscal 2012 Defense Appropriations
- Vote Passed (336-87, 8 Not Voting)

The House passed this $649.2 billion bill to fund the Defense Department in the next fiscal year. The bill marks a $17 billion increase over the 2011 spending level. The Senate is expected to work on its version of the bill later in the summer.

Rep. Ander Crenshaw voted YES

Charter schools aren’t measuring up

The governor and the Legislature have invested their rhetoric and your money in the notion that charter schools will improve student achievement. Except the results haven’t been so grand. Less than 12 percent of the state’s schools are charters, but they account for 15 of Florida’s 31 failing schools. In Broward, for example, all four of the schools deemed failures were charters. Statewide, charters were more likely to receive a D rating, but less likely to earn A’s, B’s or C’s than traditional schools.

Study on Teach for America's effectiveness in Duval schools

The report found that Teach for America teacher's students made more gains than other Title I teachers with similar experience levels.

There are about 110 Teacher for America teachers in the district and the district pays about $1,500 per teacher.

U.S. Default: Sovereign And Local Government Debt Defaults Extremely Rare

Sovereign default events are rare. Since the mid 1990s Fitch has recorded a total of eight sovereign defaults, including the Jamaican default event. The list of sovereign defaults includes Indonesia and the Russian Federation, both in 1998; Argentina (2001); Moldova (2002); Uruguay (2003); the Dominican Republic (2005) and Ecuador (2008).

Even more infrequent are municipal or local governments defaulting on their debt.

Jacksonville City Council action

A look at some of the issues the City Council considered in its meeting Tuesday:

Issue: Property tax rates

What it means: The council was asked to adopt an emergency resolution listing proposed and "rolled-back" property tax rates for the coming year, which the county property appraiser mails to property owners. The proposed rate - the same as this year - is the highest the council can impose without mailing new notices.

Bill No. 2011-401

Action: Approved

Issue: Restricting mobile vendors

What it means: The council was asked to withdraw a bill that would have forbidden mobile vendors such as roadside rug or plant merchants from setting up shop within a mile of a similar business.

Bill No. 2010-856

Action: Withdrawn

Issue: Kaman Aerospace aid

What it means: The council was asked to approve an agreement for Kaman to seek up to $2.1 million in state and city aid if it adds 200 jobs to a plant in the Imeson area. It could also get a $231,000 grant.

Bill No. 2011-384

Action: Approved

Issue: St. Johns River City Band funds

What it means: The council was asked to retroactively approve grants to the band and remove it from the auditor's list of groups not complying with city finance rules.

Bill No. 2011-318

Action: Withdrawn

Popular medications are going on the cheap

In the next 14 months, seven of the world's 20 best-selling drugs will be available in generic form, dramatically slashing the cost for patients but also decimating sales for the drug companies that created them. CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy explains what they are and what this means.

So what are the two biggest drugs to go generic? Cholosterol drug Lipitor in November and blood thinner Plavix in May 2012. About 4.3 million Americans take Lipitor, while 1.4 million are on Plavix.

Generic drugs cost 20 to 80 percent less than brand names. When heartburn drug Protonix went generic, the price dropped from $170 per month to just $16.

By 2016, dozens of popular drugs -- Lexapro, Avandia, Lunesta, Singulair -- with $255 billion in global sales will go generic. Pharmaceutical company profits are expected to plunge.

Drugs Help Keep Seniors from Emergency Care, Study Finds

Seniors with access to affordable prescription drugs require less spending on emergency and short-term nursing care, according to a study of Medicare Part D released Tuesday.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the report shows that the federal program -- which subsidizes prescription drugs for seniors -- "significantly" reduces non-drug medical costs for those who had limited coverage before the program began in 2006.

In real terms, their non-drug health care costs dropped $1,200 per year below what would have been expected without Part D, according to the report.

Recession Study Finds Hispanics Hit the Hardest

The study, which used data collected by the Census Bureau, found that the median wealth of Hispanic households fell by 66 percent from 2005 to 2009. By contrast, the median wealth of whites fell by just 16 percent over the same period. African Americans saw their wealth drop by 53 percent. Asians also saw a big decline, with household wealth dropping 54 percent.

The declines have led to the largest wealth disparities in the 25 years that the bureau has been collecting the data, according to the report.

Median wealth of whites is now 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, double the already marked disparities that had prevailed in the decades before the recent recession, the study found.

The share of Americans with no wealth at all rose sharply during the recession. A third of Hispanics had zero or negative net worth in 2009, up from 23 percent in 2005. For blacks, the portion rose to 35 percent from 29 percent, and for whites, it rose to 15 percent from 11 percent.

About a quarter of all black and Hispanic households owned nothing but a car in 2009. Just 6 percent of whites and 8 percent of Asians were in that situation.

Whites were less affected by the crisis, largely because their wealth flowed from assets other than housing, like stocks. A third of whites owned stocks and mutual funds in 2005, compared with 8 percent of Hispanics and 9 percent of blacks.

The median value of stocks and mutual funds owned by whites dropped by 9 percent from 2005 to 2009. In comparison, the median value of holdings for those blacks who held stocks dropped by 71 percent, most likely because they had to sell when prices were low, Mr. Taylor said.

Charter Schools $55 Million:Public Schools $0 For Repairs

Duval schools were expecting $10 million this school year for maintenance, repairs, renovations and remodeling, but the legislature has opted not to give public schools a penny.

Last year, Duval County schools received $7 million from the legislature for maintenance, remodeling and repair; this year it was expecting $10.3 million but will get nothing.

Last year public schools in Florida received $122 million for maintenance but this year lawmakers declined to appropriate a dime.

Yet, they approved $55 million dollars for maintenance and repair of charter schools only.

Obama certifies repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'

President Obama has certified the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," clearing the way for gays to serve openly in the military.

The certification will take effect in 60 days. Obama signed the congressional repeal in December.

Jacksonville the least walkable city in the USA

Jacksonville was named the least walkable of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. by Walk Score, a company that evaluates the walkability and transportation of cities.

The River City earned a walk score of 32.6 based on a scale of zero being the least walkable and 100 being the most walkable. Based on the data, about 80 percent of Jacksonville residents live in vehicle-dependent neighborhoods.

JEA ranked No. 2 for new solar power capacity in 2010

The Solar Electric Power Association recognized JEA as one of the nation’s top utilities driving solar electric power growth.

With 29.1 watts per customer, JEA ranked seventh out of 10 utilities in the 2010 Annual Solar Watts-per-Customer category and was ranked second in the nation for annual municipal utility solar megawatt capacity. California’s Silicon Valley Power topped the list with 39.9 watts per customer.

Wells Fargo fined $85M over subprime mortgage practices

Wells Fargo & Co was fined $85 million for steering potential creditworthy borrowers into more costly subprime mortgages through a subsidiary, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday.

The fine is the largest the Fed has assessed in a consumer-protection enforcement action.

Training of Teachers Is Flawed, Study Says

The National Council on Teacher Quality, an advocacy group, is to issue a study on Thursday reporting that most student-teaching programs are seriously flawed. The group has already angered the nation’s schools for teachers with its plans to give them letter grades that would appear in U.S. News and World Report.

The council’s report, “Student Teaching in the United States,” rated 134 student-teaching programs nationwide — about 10 percent of those preparing elementary school teachers — and found that three-quarters of them did not meet five basic standards for a high-quality student-teaching program.

Fatal shootings of police officers are on the rise

Overall officer deaths are up 14% so far in 2011, while deadly shootings have increased by 33%, according to a midyear report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks law enforcement fatalities.

Police deaths

Number of fatal police shootings by year: 2007: 69
2008: 40
2009: 49
2010: 59
Source: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund

Forbes: Jaguars the least valuable NFL team

As the least valuable NFL franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars are still worth more than any pro basketball or hockey team, according to Forbes, which recently published a list of the world’s 50 most valuable sports teams.

At $725 million, the Jags are also worth more than all but five Major League Baseball teams.