The Miami Herald editorial board weighs in on the ballot security issue: "Florida Secretary of State Sue Cobb should take a cue from Attorney General Charlie Crist. Instead of berating Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho for trying to improve ballot security, the state should question vendors who can't guarantee tamper-proof systems." "Protecting the ballot".
Save Our Homes
Michael Peltier writes about the Save Our Homes legislation:
In 1992, tax-weary voters launched a revolution to protect homeowners from skyrocketing property taxes brought on by rising values of their homes."Michael Peltier: Lawmaker seeks voter insight on property tax initiative".
Overwhelmingly approved by voters, the popular Save Our Homes initiative went underground for several years as tax assessments on homesteaded property inched up at a maximum rate of 3 percent a year while non-protected property — second homes, rental units and commercial property — gained in value at a much larger clip.
For a while, the gap didn't seem that large. But like compound interest, the amendment's effects accelerated over time so that by 2006, the amendment would provide Floridians $350 billion in savings, up from $48 billion just five years before.
Such a trend is spurring at least one Florida lawmaker to launch a counter revolution to rein in an exemption he says has disproportionately benefited the wealthy at the expense of renters, business owners and first-time home buyers forced to pick up the tab for local government services.
"Undo wrongful convictions"
"No justice system is perfect. Consider that in Florida, since 2000, five men convicted of heinous crimes have been exonerated by DNA tests that showed their innocence. This is why the Legislature should cancel a July deadline for convicted felons to get DNA tests that could determine if they have been wrongly convicted" "Undo wrongful convictions".
"A bill in the Florida Legislature would allow people to resell tickets for sporting events, concerts and plays for up to 25 percent above face value. The legislation also would permit sellers to unload tickets online for as much as the market will bear." "Give All Scalpers Freedom To Sell".
GOoPers "Don't Understand" Constitution
"Republicans regularly take cheap shots at all courts - it got real bad during the Terri Schiavo case - but they save their deepest scorn for the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Bar is worried enough to ask that the Legislature require more civics education. And it all goes back to a myth from the Gore-Bush election recount.
Columnist George Will perpetuated that myth most recently when, yapping about the voucher ruling, he claimed that the state's high court had been "rewriting state election laws." In fact, there was no law to "rewrite.""Draw the line at Republican court-bashing".
In 2000, Florida election law contained two incompatible provisions: a deadline for getting results to Tallahassee and a process for seeking a recount. They were incompatible because no one had envisioned a statewide recount, much less one with the presidency at stake. So the court tried to strike a balance on behalf of the voters - horrors! - but with its second recount ruling fell into an equal-protection trap that the U.S. Supreme Court had set.
But for those who howled about that second ruling, which ordered a statewide hand recount, here is this inconvenient fact: In 2001, Gov. Bush's elections task force recommended unanimously that there should be hand recounts for statewide elections in which the margin is less than one-fourth of 1 percent.
As a newspaper consortium that included The Post reported, a hand recount in 2000 could have gone either way. Point is, the court was neither reckless nor partisan. Nor was it "rewriting" law. It issued rulings favorable to Mr. Gore and rulings favorable to Mr. Bush. It doesn't rule "for" or "against" either party.
The Florida Bar is right to worry about court-bashing, but many GOP court-bashers took civics. Some are lawyers. They've read the constitution. Problem is, they don't understand it.
The Florida Medical Association wants more:
The Florida Medical Association's raison d'etre is to serve "as an advocate for physicians and their patients to promote the public health, to ensure high standards in medical education and ethics, and to enhance the quality and availability of health care.""Florida Medical Association's Agenda Will Not Protect Patients".
Unfortunately, the organization's legislative agenda this session has only one goal: protecting physicians' turf.
The organization's top priority is to make it harder for out-of-state physicians to testify as expert witnesses in Florida malpractice cases. It's a bad bill meant to intimidate doctors who testify against other doctors.
"What happens when you try to rehabilitate youth in trouble with the law on the cheap? It doesn't work. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice continues to ignore that fact, despite an abundance of proof among the more than 95,000 youth under its supervision." "Cut-rate rehabilitation ruining juvenile justice".
"Overall, juvenile programs across the state are more than $100 million in the hole. It would take $33 million in the current budget to restore programs to the 1994 level of funding." "Robbing justice" ("Fortunately, ... [t]he House budget proposal now includes $16 million more for juvenile programs; the Senate is currently at $8 million more.")
Florida's Greenbelt Law
"The Senate Agriculture Committee decides to study for a year changes to a law giving agriculture land tax exemptions some say are unfair":
Some say Disney, developers and others are abusing Florida's Greenbelt Law, which provides tax breaks to farmers who own agricultural land and was in the crosshairs of state House and Senate reform bills proposed this legislative session to overhaul it."Farm tax breaks are spared".
The 1959 law, which saves Florida agriculture landowners $950-million annually, was intended to keep farmers in business, but critics say it is used to shelter developers and landholders from big tax bills on property they intend to sell or build upon.
But opposition from farmers and the political pressure of an election year have already killed the reforms. On March 21, the measure died in its first hearing after the Senate Agriculture Committee decided to postpone a vote and study the issue for a year, with potential changes next session.
"The Florida House will spend much of this week getting down to the only business it is required to complete. House leaders expect to pass a $71 billion budget out of the lower chamber by the end of the week, spending part of Wednesday and most of Thursday and Friday debating the massive spending plan. It's the only bill the Florida Constitution requires lawmakers to pass every year." "On tap: House to take on budget".
I'm Not Saying This Explains Why Florida Is A Red State, But ...
"The Florida Bar Association has launched a campaign to increase awareness and knowledge of civics, a long-neglected subject in schools across the nation, including most school districts in Florida.":
A pervasive lack of knowledge about such basic concepts weakens our democracy."Return civics to class".
Paving Over The Keys
The Tampa Trib editorial board finds it "it is galling to see that state lawmakers want to weaken protections for the islands." "Lawmakers Take Aim At Florida Keys".
Higher Ed Funding Requests Slashed
"House, Senate slice budget request in half". "Universities won't get what they want".
"This is the Convergys-People First! thing again. As you've probably heard, DMS last February found out that a Convergys subcontractor had hired one or two companies in India to process some state employee records. It's still under investigation." "Looks like junk mail, but isn't".
"Soft money's still too squishy"
"These are informally called 527s, or Committees of Continuous Existence (CCEs), which are named after a chapter of the IRS code and allow candidates and public officials to set up personal causes for funneling money. The personal cause is generally re-election of self or loyalists, though the account may have a name that suggests almost any well-meaning concept, like 'good government.'" "Not there yet".
"When the speaker of the House announces his hatred for legislation and the author declares his own bill dead, it usually adds up to a bleak outlook for an idea. But there was Bradenton resident Melissa Wandall and a contingent of supporters pounding the halls of the Florida Legislature, trying to revive hope for a new law to put cameras at intersections to catch drivers who run red lights." "Plea helps red-light bill gain new life".
What "law-and-order legacy"?
"Decorated soldier Jim McDonough tries to turn around Florida's decayed prison system, which is reeling from multiple investigations and nipping at Gov. Jeb Bush's law-and-order legacy." "New prisons chief shakes up system".
A Sense of Entitlement
"Democrat Maria Sachs spared her party a splitting headache by deciding against a primary challenge to state Rep. Richard Machek, D-Delray Beach. But her plan to run for the seat being vacated by state Rep. Anne Gannon, D-Delray Beach, is drawing incumbent-like indignation from Democrat Harriet Lerman. 'I feel really sad that she would want to challenge me,' Lerman said of Sachs. 'That really bothers me, that she's challenging me.'" "Sachs' plans for Gannon's seat irks Lerman".
"The latest screw-up ..."
"The latest screw-up at the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office didn't change the course of a presidency, but it raised fears of what could happen in November's elections. Mangonia Park Councilwoman Frances Elien went to bed Tuesday night believing that she had retained her seat by a 47-vote margin, only to learn Wednesday that she had lost by six votes." "A vote of no confidence".
Business, NRA Fops
as dependably as the swallows returning to Capistrano, lawmakers in Tallahassee try to darken Florida's strong sunshine laws. This year is no different with two particularly destructive measures already through committee and awaiting a vote in the House."Shading business, gun owners".
One (H.B. 687) would exempt from public records the list of people in the state who have been granted concealed-weapons permits. The other (H.B. 7017) would renew an exemption that shields records related to secret business deals. Both violate the spirit of the state's constitutional guarantee of open government and demonstrate that lawmakers are more interested in serving the interests of the NRA and big business than protecting the people's right to know.
There are 350,000 Floridians who hold a concealed-weapons permit but that pales in comparison to the number of state residents who hold other kinds of licenses and permits. Yet, if the bill passes, concealed-gun owners are going to be the one category of state licensee that doesn't have to declare itself to the public. From a public safety standpoint that makes no sense.