"Property tax reform promises to be one of the hottest topics in the state capitol this spring."
State legislators will be wrestling with the best way to adjust a property tax system some say has gone out of kilter since the Save Our Homes amendment went into effect more than 10 years ago. It created an inequitable division between longtime homeowners enjoying controlled property tax increases, and new buyers shouldering unpredictable and much larger rises."Cities wary of looming tax-cap battle with state". See also "Michael Peltier: Property taxes top 2007 agenda".
If some sort of cap is imposed -- and property values level off -- municipalities could be in for a struggle to make ends meet, local officials say.
Rid Florida of Jebbie's "Culture of Contempt" for Teachers
The St. Pete Times argues that "one of the quickest ways Gov. Charlie Crist can help classroom teachers is to remake the state bureaucracy that routinely shows contempt for them."
Crist will find that such attitudes are pervasive in the Department of Education. He also will find that Winn, and commissioner Jim Horne before him, chased off many of the seasoned professionals who once worked in the Turlington Building in Tallahassee. In their places are people such as Yecke, who ran for Congress in Minnesota and once derided her academic critics as following "the hate-America agenda.""Crist sweeps out problems".
DOE has become a revolving door for ideological opportunists, and one result has been a series of embarrassing management blunders. Legislative and administrative audits have sharply criticized the agency for its persistent lack of controls over school vouchers. It had to ask the Legislature for $7.6-million after buying a computer system on the mistaken belief a federal grant would cover the cost. It handed out $1.1-million to students of a private online school who were clearly ineligible under state law. It allowed a Gainesville man with a history of racketeering arrests to oversee voucher tax money, with police then accusing him of stealing $268,000.
DOE needs a housecleaning, and Gov. Crist has begun the task. On Wednesday, he pulled back the appointments of Fair and Phil Handy, the two board members most responsible for the culture of contempt. On Friday, Winn abruptly "retired."
Brace yourself, in this piece about the new head of the House Insurance Committee, state Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, the term "Flip-Flop" actually appears:
In just one week, Republicans leaders who argued that cutting insurance rates would be impossible were almost falling over each other with ways to cut rates."A Winter Wallop".
The flip-flop has given pro-insurance industry lawmakers such as Reagan no place to find political refuge, said House Minority Leader Dan Gelber, D-Miami.
Early Test for Sink
"How Sink manages those employees and negotiates the political traps that exist for the only statewide elected Democrat in Tallahassee may well determine the political future of both Sink and the Florida Democratic Party."
But her most vexing problem the next few months is likely to be ''Project Aspire,'' the ambitious program to replace Florida's accounting system with a totally new set of software and databases to track every purchase and every check sent out by the state."Finance chief tested early".
The project was already behind schedule. But Bearing Point ended its work on Dec. 22 because lawmakers did not set aside more money for the project and because the state failed to seek more money for changes the company says the state wanted.
State officials contend that the company has defaulted on its contract.
Florida has already spent $57 million, and it will likely cost at least another $40 million to get the system running.
State Proposes To Shift Driver Licensing to Counties
"Now, the state has a proposal to shift driver licensing to county tax collectors. The 67 counties already handle vehicle registration and 31 offer some level of licensing, ranging from routine renewals to full road tests." "Licensing may see changes".
"None of the Above"
Palm Beach Post editorial board: "The Legislature could eliminate the chance of another Sarasota County-style election controversy by requiring a simple addition to the ballot: 'None of the above.'" "'No choice?' Good choice".
"Those who paid attention to the drama swirling around a tent city for the homeless in St. Petersburg over the past week learned something about this place they call home. First, the homeless have a face and voice. In an extraordinary City Council session, the residents of tent city got a rare chance to make their case for understanding and empathy. Mostly, they succeeded." "Shelter, empathy for those in need".
"By definition, the legislative session beginning Tuesday is 'special' because it has been organized outside of the traditional spring 60-day meeting of state lawmakers."
"Lawmakers Heard Outcry". See also "Making reform a reality" and "Leaders: Insurance help is on the way".
But there is something else special about this week's session. In the past, legislators have gathered in the off-season after doctors complained that too many malpractice lawsuits were crippling their practices. They acted in overtime when the business lobby said the workers' compensation system was in crisis. They've gathered when the governor decided that the state's Medicaid system needed to be overhauled.
Tuesday, lawmakers will respond in special session to an entirely different constituency: the people they represent back home.
The Pensacola News-Journal warns that "Insurance rates grab focus, but are not the only problem".
Who knew which Legislators were insurance agents? "7 lawmakers pulled 2 ways on premiums".
"Citizens Property was created in 2002 as the state's insurer of last resort. It was supposed to hold down rates, saving policyholders money. And for a while, it did just that. Until the storms began." "The Citizens nightmare".
Clean Water Act Ruling
"A federal judge's recent ruling in Florida that the U.S. Clean Water Act requires the state to obtain permits before pumping contaminated water from farmland and urban run-off into Lake Okeechobee has put the state's flood control operations -- and similar programs around the country -- in limbo. It also could affect a multibillion-dollar federal and state effort to restore the Everglades, critics of the ruling say." "Court ruling worries state water managers".
"For years, unions have hypothesized about the Sunshine State's 'organizing potential.'"
Nearly 4,000 nurses, technicians, professionals and other workers at six Florida hospitals have voted to form a union with the Service Employees International Union since October."Labor has had particular luck with hospital workers, recruiting nearly 4,000 since October".
PSC AWOL on Hurricane Blackouts
"The Public Service Commission is taking too long to address issues that slow down Florida Power & Light's hardening of its power grid, the largest in the state. Hurricanes will not wait for the PSC's glacial rule-making process." "Prevent a repeat of hurricane blackouts".
"Corporate Connections and Political Motives"
"Many are not aware of the hidden activities, corporate connections and political motives that permeate the otherwise noble-sounding intent of the No Child Left Behind Act." "Public schools target of destructive No Child act".
"This Time, Please Read the Fine Print"
"Insurance bills are complicated. The devil is in the details. Last year, lawmakers produced a bill with yet another onerous increase for consumers that many legislators later claimed had been slipped past them. This time, please read the fine print. This time, give us relief, not excuses." "Legislature must offer relief on insurance".
Steinberg for Gelber?
"Miami Beach City Commissioner Richard Steinberg is eager for a promotion. He has announced -- 21 months before the election -- that he is running for the Florida House seat currently represented by Dan Gelber. Gelber, the House Democratic leader, cannot run for another term in 2008. Steinberg, an attorney and a Democrat, was elected to the Miami Beach City Commission in 2001." "Beach commissioner is aiming for House seat".
"Plenty of Palm Beach County politicians have changed party labels over the last two decades, but Republican-turned-Democratic County Commissioner Warren Newell is among the few to do so while holding office." "Newell's switching of parties while in office county rarity".
"Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who will speak at the county's Lincoln Day event on March 9. 'The fact that, so early in the process, a major presidential candidate is dedicating time and attention to voters in Florida demonstrates the state's importance,' said state Rep. David Rivera of Miami. Rivera is advocating a bill that would move Florida's primary from March to late January or early February, further pushing the state into the national spotlight." "Romney to Speak at Dade Dinner".
"Jeb Bush may be gone from Tallahassee, but his political machine is active and plotting a course that would make Florida a major player in picking the Republican Party's candidate for presidentJeb Bush may be gone from Tallahassee, but his political machine is active and plotting a course that would make Florida a major player in picking the Republican Party's candidate for president." "Bush allies back Romney, Oct. straw poll".