The Next Big Thing - Stem Cells
"Dueling petition drives about embryonic stem-cell research have cast Florida as the next ground zero for the explosive debate on bioethics."
Attorney General Charlie Crist has asked the state Supreme Court to determine whether a political committee's proposal to bankroll embryonic stem-cell research with state money can legally appear on the 2008 ballot. The proposal would require the state to grant $200 million in a 10-year period to Florida nonprofit institutions for such cell research."Florida's Stem Cell Division".
Meanwhile, a rival political committee awaits the same consideration of their initiative to ask voters to ban state funding for "experimentation that involves the destruction of a live human embryo."
Both groups have gathered more than the 60,000 signatures to qualify for review by the high court, but each will have to gather 611,009 signatures by Feb. 1, 2008, for their questions to appear on the ballot. The Supreme Court also must rule by April 1, 2008, that the questions would not mislead voters or ask them to decide more than one issue.
"Power Shift"? I'll Believe It ...
when I see it: "Legislators last week got marching orders for the next two years in what is likely to be a power shift at a state capital where a strong governor has ruled the roost for the past eight years." "Michael Peltier: New era coming at state capital".
It Is The Democratic Party
A long time pet peeve of mine is addressed by the St. Pete Times editorial board today; let us see if the Republicans in Tally pick up on this in connection with the so-called "Power Shift":
If he wanted to, President Bush could change the tone in Washington with a single syllable: He could just say "ic." That is, he could stop referring to the opposition as the "Democrat Party" and call the other side, as it prefers, the Democratic Party."Perhaps to president, the "ick" is implied".
The derisive use of "Democrat" in this way was a Bush staple during the recent campaign. "There are people in the Democrat Party who think they can spend your money far better than you can," he would say in his stump speech, or, "Raising taxes is a Democrat idea of growing the economy," or, "However they put it, the Democrat approach in Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win and America loses."
But even as he promised to work to change the tone in Washington after the elections, the president couldn't manage to change his language. In his day-after-the-elections news conference, Bush employed this needling locution five times. "This morning, I spoke with Republican and Democrat leadership in the House and Senate," he began, adding, "it is clear the Democrat Party had a good night last night." That was followed by references to "Democrat leaders," "Democrat leadership" and "Democrat votes," as in, "We got some tax cuts passed with Democrat votes." Geez, you'd think he'd at least give them the -ic when they vote for his tax cuts.
The president isn't alone in his adjectival aversion to "Democratic" when it comes to the party. The provenance of the sneering label "Democrat Party" stretches back to the Harding administration. William Safire traced an early usage to Harold Stassen, who was managing Wendell Will-kie's 1940 campaign against Franklin D. Roosevelt. A party run by political bosses, Stassen told Safire for a 1984 column, "should not be called a 'Democratic Party.' It should be called the 'Democrat party.'"
Bill Cotterell: "It's not going to mollify his critics, but the status of women and minority employees in state government has steadily improved in Gov. Jeb Bush's second term. And the gains have been accomplished despite some built-in obstacles, such as state government's downsizing, outsourcing and low pay scales." "Minority hires gained under Bush".
CD 13 Audit
"A seat in Congress hangs in the balance as a team of experts from the Florida Secretary of State Division of Elections office is set to audit Sarasota County's voting machines starting Tuesday." "Vote machine audit to begin".
Jennings Is Right
"The Editorial Board has 11 members, none of whom works in the newsroom, and we have asked ourselves whether we would urge a comprehensive audit of the election results and a contest in court if Jennings, whom we endorsed, had won. We think the answer is yes."
We have not, as some critics have suggested, written that Jennings should be awarded the seat or a revote should be conducted. The evidence uncovered so far hasn't supported such a rare, extreme step -- one that would have wide-ranging implications. (For one thing, fewer people would probably vote in a revote.)"Working backward on the District 13 undervote problem".
But that doesn't mean we believe Jennings -- and, more important, the system -- should just move on.
There are times when more time is needed -- to audit, find facts and make informed decisions on complicated challenges.
This is, in our view, one of those times.
Pundits on Jennings
Daniel Ruth had these words of "wisdom" in a column last week: "By hook or by crook, or by fluke, the Jennings campaign lost. And no amount of legal maneuvering, wishful thinking or pouting will change that reality." "Hardest Words For A Politician To Say: 'I Lost'".
Daryl Lease has a different take in "Contest to get voters fired up".
The Other Undervote(s)
"The undervote in Florida's District 13 congressional race is getting statewide, even nationwide attention. But the undervote in two Palm Beach County elections isn't getting the attention it deserves."
On Nov. 7, about 21 percent of those who went to the polls did not cast a vote in the Group 13 race between Jerald Beer and David French for a circuit court judgeship. Almost one-fourth of voters did not make a choice in the Group 2 race between Stephen Brannock and Frank Castor for the county court bench. In Sarasota County, the debate is over a roughly 15 percent undervote. The losing candidate, by 369 votes, is suing over the result."End the judicial politics".
In Palm Beach County, no one is suing, even though Mr. French beat Mr. Beer by just 2.7 percentage points. Unlike the situation in Sarasota County, no one is claiming that the touch-screen machines failed to register votes. There are two reasons for the difference. One is that the judicial races were farther down on the ballot, where voting usually tends to drop off. More important, there is general agreement that people avoid judicial races because they don't know much about the candidates, who aren't allowed to take positions on issues that might come before them.
That large undervote for such important elections - many judges have more power than politicians - shows why Florida should abolish all judicial elections in favor of appointments, an option that voters refused in 2000.
"Congressional negotiators say the House next month is likely, though not certain, to pass a Senate-approved bill that would keep drilling at least 125 miles off the Florida Panhandle and 234 miles off Tampa Bay, in exchange for the right to explore millions of acres of the eastern gulf now closed to oil and gas rigs." "Drilling deal to hang on House".
The administration wants to drill, according to "Spills or not, Gulf drilling will be messy":
The federal government says the odds are a minuscule 0.5 percent that an oil spill from expanded drilling in the central and eastern Gulf of Mexico would hit Florida beaches.Will Mel do his master's bidding on this, or will he get a pass (the likely scenario) so some other party hack can speak to the joys of drilling in the Gulf?
Environmentalists scoff at the math. Even if the number is correct, however, installing new drilling rigs and pipelines is certain to gouge the ocean floor with anchors and trenches and release billions of barrels of sediment, cuttings and contaminated water.
Moreover, some planned lease sales are expected to prompt hundreds of tanker trips per year to bring oil from the deepest platforms to shore, a practice that would be new to the Gulf and which some drilling foes argue would boost the odds of big spills.
The Minerals Management Service, part of the Interior Department, last week released its most detailed portrait yet of what expanded drilling operations in the Gulf would entail.
"Florida's Leadership ... Hypocrisy"
"When it comes to hypocrisy, you simply can't beat Florida's leadership. For two years, we were told how the Legislature didn't want slot machines in Broward, even though voters approved the machines. There were threats about getting the slots amendment repealed. State officials talked about how gambling was bad and immoral and the social health of our state was in danger if we got slots. You can be sure they are none too happy that slots finally came to Broward this month. Ah, but playing the lottery -- that's just good sense." "Gambling".
Jebbie's "Ideological Arrogance"
"Bush, however, isn't taking any chances that Mr. Crist might want to move Florida away from the governor's excessive reliance on high-stakes testing, his silly FCAT-based school grading system and his wish to use public money for private-school vouchers."
Though the governor has asked for the resignations of not just his top aides but many in midlevel appointed positions, there is one key exception: Education Commissioner John Winn, who practically boasted this year that he would be around no matter who became governor."Jeb leaving office, not leaving schools to Crist".
That sort of ideological arrogance made Mr. Winn a perfect match with Gov. Bush. Previously, Mr. Winn had been chief of staff to Jim Horne, the first appointed education commissioner. In that role, he went along with Mr. Horne's policy - dictated by Gov. Bush - of making nontraditional public schools more important than public schools. While public schools have to deal with the FCAT, voucher schools don't have to give it, nor do they have to be accountable for the public money they take.
Just read it.
Whew! ... At Least It Isn't A "Tax"
"Florida's university students could have up to $300 heaped on their school bills next year, if lawmakers go along with a plan to charge a per-credit fee to pay for new computers and the upkeep of current systems." "Tech fee could cost university students $300".
DCF Straightens Up
"Three days after a circuit judge threatened to jail the head of the Florida Department of Children and Families for failing to treat mentally ill inmates as required by law, the agency announced it will move 85 people waiting in local jails and ask the legislature for money to help more." "DCF says it can place 85 inmates".
"At the last minute, Sarnoff [a local activist who parlayed his publicity in leading the fight to stop a Home Depot in Coconut Grove into a successful political campaign] switched from being a Republican to a Democrat and drubbed [incumbent Miami commissioner Linda] Haskins nearly 2-to-1. He got 64.46 percent of the 5,467 votes; she got 35.5 percent. That represented a 15 percent voter turnout for the [Miami District 2 commission seat] that snakes north from Coconut Grove through downtown Miami and up to Morningside." "Activist who won in upset: Let's work in harmony".
"Let voters decide fate" ("Term limits aren't a good idea even if a candidate such as Keller made a pledge.").
Another "Blunder" by Jebbie
"Florida failed to seriously compete for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a $450 million federal lab that's become the hottest ticket in the race of regions to build high-tech economies."
And from Bush's office came a lengthy response not rooted in reality. It said the governor's office and others worked together "flawlessly" on the bid. "In all respects, Florida's efforts to secure the Agro Defense facility were superior, and exceeded expectations," the statement continued."A Biotech Blunder And No Explanation".
Well, if the governor considers a letter of a few short sentences that did nothing to tout the state's combined strength as a biotech center is considered a "superior" performance in winning a big federal contract, Florida ought to be seriously concerned about its economic development strength. Not even Port St. Lucie officials were willing to spin this as the state's best effort.
Florida needs economic development leaders who spot opportunities and move quickly, and who have the courage to explain why some may be passed up or other opportunities lost. State leaders need to be in search of biotech income, not just eager to give handouts.
And it needs to identify who's responsible for spotting opportunities for Florida to keep another huge failure from happening again.
The Rich Are Different
"When a gate divides the $600,000 houses from the $700,000 houses, the excluded side takes offense." "Haves vs. the have- mores".
Maxwell Takes a Dive
I missed this very disappointing piece of alleged journalisim from Scott Maxwell last week: "Mel Martinez's remarkable journey".
Here's An Idea
"As property values soared, various anti-tax movements rose up -- from those who just want their taxes cut outright to those who propose "reforms" of the tax system. The danger is to reform a flaw with another flaw. That's where Florida property tax law appears to be heading."
One of those reforms, the one with particularly strong backing from Governor-elect Charlie Crist and county property appraisers, is the concept of "portability": Florida homeowners who benefit from the 3 percent cap, the reform's backers say, shouldn't lose its accrued benefits when they move to another home in Florida. The cap's portability would not be open-ended. It would itself be capped at 50 percent of previous savings. In other words, a homeowner selling a $200,000 home with an assessed value of $100,000, and buying a $200,000 somewhere else would have an assessed value of $150,000. The 3 percent cap would pick up from there, and on up to a maximum portable assessment saving of $400,000. Beyond that, regular assessments apply."More legs than brain".
It's an appealing idea, especially in the way the Florida Association of Property Appraisers is presenting it: The 50 percent portability gives the principle some progressivity, even though a too-generous one if the portability cap extends to $400,000 in potential breaks.
That aside, however, the idea remains a fix on top of a flaw. The main problem with Florida's property tax law is not lack of portability of the 3 percent cap. It's the cap itself. "Reforming" it in such a way that it extends even further, even if diluted by half, only perpetrates an unfair system that digs deeper the gap between those who benefit from the cap and those who don't.
The appraisers' proposal isn't without merit. The principle behind it could actually be the basis for fairer reform. A cap on the increases in the taxable value of a $150,000 or $200,000 home makes sense, if it protects the homeowner from tax bills that spiral up too fast. But protecting a $200,000 home isn't the same as protecting a $500,000 or $1 million home. If the system is based on progressive taxation, protection in those cases becomes a subsidy -- at other taxpayers' expense. The more expensive the home, the smaller the taxable value cap should be.
The Tampa Trib blames communism for too thin Cuban sandwiches: "Riddle Of Thin Cuban Sandwich Bewilders Socialists In Havana".
Book Your Flight
Well maybe it is a bit premature to book a flight, but "Cuba-embargo foes see hope in new Democratic-controlled Congress".
More From The "Values" Crowd
"Teacher's aide gets satisfaction, but little money".