"Rep. John Quinones, the first Puerto Rican Republican in the Florida Legislature [House District 49], said Thursday that he will step down to run for the newly drawn Hispanic-majority Osceola County Commission seat. ... Crist has not scheduled a special election to fill Quinones' seat. A spokesman for the Division of Elections said it would be 'very difficult' to set one before the annual legislative session begins March 6."
"Though [HD 49] has been represented by a Republican for the past four years, the district is home to about 9,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. Hispanic voters are the largest single demographic, making up more than 42 percent of registered voters." "State legislator new contender for revamped Osceola district".
Orlando Sentinel GOPer apologist George Diaz (recently a sports writer) makes an absurd statement about Quinones: "to dismiss him as minority window dressing is myopic, if not absurd."
Adios Touch Screens?
"Crist on Thursday moved to delete the controversial touch-screen voting machines from Florida's political memory, as he endorsed a $32.5 million plan to convert all of the state's counties to a paper-based voting system." "Governor's paper-trail plan gets mostly good reviews". "Crist to seek millions for voting machines that leave paper trail". See also "House Speaker backs Crist plan to scrap touch-screen voting", "Goodbye to most touch screens?", "Gov. Crist wants paper trail in time for 2008 presidential vote" and "Crist's paper trail plan draws raves".
The St. Pete Times joins the Palm Beach Post ("Dump the touch screens? Problems won't go away") in urging caution: "We understand Crist's sense of urgency in getting a recent vote-counting controversy in Sarasota County behind him, and maybe paper ballots are the way to go. But he should have given this matter a little more thought and consulted the experts more thoroughly before sending the state off on another elections adventure." "Crist casts a ballot for trouble".
Moving on Up?
"As state lawmakers consider moving up Florida's presidential primary, they have company: Other states are considering earlier primaries, too." "Florida working to move up primary voting".
"With both parties' nominations in play this year, leaders in Florida -- and many other states -- are eyeing earlier primaries. Their eagerness is understandable. As the fourth-largest state, Florida deserves some say in the selection of nominees. But if Florida, California and Texas push their primaries forward, other states are likely to keep leapfrogging to maintain position. Where does it end, primaries the day after a presidential election?" "Leapfrog primaries conflict with orderly elections".
"Crist says he wants to look beyond FCAT scores when rewarding Florida's top teachers under a new, controversial merit-pay plan. Some hope he will also look beyond test scores when grading public schools. But those familiar with his thinking say the new governor is most likely to propose tweaks -- not major overhauls -- to Florida's school-accountability system." "Crist likely to tweak FCAT, schools".
"Corrections Corporation of America, one of two private prison contractors that state auditors say were overpaid $12.7 million, did nothing wrong, a spokeswoman said a day after Gov. Charlie Crist ordered an investigation." "Private prison firm says it did nothing wrong". See also "Corrections company will cooperate with investigation".
And isn't this a nice touch:
Private prisons operating under lease-purchase agreements with the state will remain exempt from paying millions of dollars in local property taxes after the Florida Supreme Court reversed course Thursday and let stand an appellate decision."Supreme Court denies appeal of tax exemption for private prisons".
"In the days after Mark Foley resigned from Congress in disgrace, the political money floodgates opened for his challenger, Tim Mahoney." "PACs put big bucks behind Mahoney".
Don't Get Vern Wrong
Vern Buchanan has moved quickly to dispel any concern that he was motivated by the plight of low wage workers in voting to increase the minimum wage:
Although the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups opposed the increase, Buchanan told the pro-business crowd Thursday morning that he voted for it for competitive reasons."Buchanan explains early votes". To the extent you are interested in more of Mr. Buchanan's wisdom, see "Buchanan confronts 'perfect economic storm'".
"If were wearing my chamber hat I probably wouldn’t have" said Buchanan, former president of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and of the Florida Chamber.
Buchanan said since Georgia still has a lower minimum wage, he feared Georgia businesses would have an unfair advantage over Florida businesses that are required already to pay over $6 an hour because of a state constitutional amendment that passed in Florida.
Over the next few years, the state minimum wage will be close to $7.25 an hour. Buchanan said if Florida is already going to have the higher wage, he wants to make sure surrounding states have the same wage.
"Lawmakers will gather in Tallahassee on March 6, and reforming the way cities, counties and special districts hit up homeowners is now their top priority." "Property Taxes Targeted".
Pamela Hasterok writes that the "Tax cuts will hurt cities, you":
So where else could cities and counties find the money to keep providing services, reporters asked him at a Wednesday press conference.Hasterok answers her own question: "You can't."
Where else? Growth.
If the other answers were little white lies, the last was a big, fat canard. Crist expanded the growth-will-pay-for-itself mantra to the growth-will-pay-for-everything promise. But it's hard to fathom how cities and counties that don't have enough money to serve current residents will be helped by acquiring new ones.
Nor does the governor give local governments credit for picking up more of the tab for state programs like public schools, juvenile justice and health care. Much of the gains in education money in recent years came from requiring homeowners to kick in more. The state used to get 30 percent of its school budget from local taxpayers -- now it gets 40 percent.
So how do you cut property taxes for homeowners, businesses and landlords and not bankrupt cities and counties?
South Florida Under Water
If the GOP keeps its head in the sand about global warming, they are definitely going to lose the (South) Florida vote.
"A much-debated U.N. report on climate change to be released today raises the specter of rising sea levels and hurricanes that could eventually swamp much of South Florida."
Specifically, experts are looking at predictions of sea level rise over the next 50 years from 2 feet to 10 feet."Global warming could swamp Florida, U.N. report suggests". See also "About the report" and "28 South Florida mayors sign pact to reduce greenhouse gases, energy use" (" As world climate experts in Paris worked on a long-awaited report on global warming, South Florida cities were joining a growing national movement to fight climate change at the local level.")
A rise of 10 feet could swamp the state's highly populated coastline and send salt water spilling into the freshwater Everglades, said a leading South Florida-based scientist.
"It's an outlying estimate, but a 10-foot rise is within the realm of possibility," said Stephen P. Leatherman, director of the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University. "If that happens, not only do you have rising water to the east, but you have saltwater encroachment in the Everglades. It essentially becomes part of the ocean to the west of us.
"At that point, forget about Everglades restoration ... Most of this area is maybe 10 feet above sea level, so if you're talking about a 10-foot rise, and rising tide on top of that, then it's all over."
"The situation with mentally incompetent inmates being kept in jail beyond the 15 days allowed by law had reach a crisis level. Under Lucy Hadi, DCF's previous head, there were hundreds of mentally ill inmates being held in local jails for months beyond the legal limit." "From court fight to caring".
The Díaz-Balarts speak:
Two of South Florida's Cuban-American members of Congress called on Democrats to push for a comprehensive immigration overhaul and for the Bush administration to grant temporary protected status to Haitians in a program that already benefits people from several Central American countries."Democrats are urged to address immigration".
''We're concerned because the Democrats . . . have given no signs of giving any importance or priority to immigration,'' said U.S. Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart, a Miami Republican. "It's time for the Democratic leadership to put up or shut up.''
Rolling the Dice
"As bad as Florida's insurance market is, at least one company is willing to enter it." "Regulators approve new insurer".
"Crist said Thursday he was concerned about lawbreakers who are licensed to carry guns in Florida and was planning to meet with the commissioner in charge of issuing the licenses to discuss the problem." "Gov. Crist calls for meeting on gun loopholes".
"Crist has reappointed Miami businessman Rodney Barreto to the state's wildlife commission. Barreto, a real estate investor and founding partner in an influential lobbying firm, was among 283 people whose appointments by former Gov. Jeb Bush to state boards were canceled by Crist when he took his place in office last month." "Crist keeps Bush's pick for wildlife commission".
"Register By Monday To Vote In March 6 Tampa Election".
Mel Not Wingnutty Enough?
Check out this site, brought to our attention via the Q's "Go Home Mel Martinez".
"Who is the 'Brightest' member of the Legislature?"
Who You Callin' An "Inept Political Hack"?
Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits "accuses commissioners of trying to detract attention from a 'culture of corruption' in their offices, even suggesting some of them would do better to find criminal defense attorneys than 'pick a fight' with him. ... The ugliness didn't end there, either. Nikolits took potshots at Parrish, too, implying she's an inept political hack who's running afoul of the law and the state constitution." "Property Taxes".
Another "Jeb!" Legacy
Strange that this Tampa Trib editorial fails to mention who presided over this disaster: "What a shame that Florida will lose out on $20 million from the federal government this year to provide health insurance for children of the working poor."
Florida doesn't spend enough to earn the full federal match, so Washington sends the money to states more strongly committed to giving low-income children their best shot at a healthy life. Since 1998, Florida has lost out on $140 million in federal money. ..."Stingy Budget For Health Care Leaves Florida Kids Uncovered".
[W]ith as many as 750,000 uninsured children in Florida, the state has a moral obligation to enroll as many as possible.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board remids us that "a new report by the Pappas Consulting Group, part of the Board of Governors' effort to spark a statewide dialogue (www.flbog.org), underscores that the way to make UF a national powerhouse in a strong state university system has been lost on the Legislature. Tallahassee's meddling has contributed to the inefficiency of the system." "Taking care of business".
Good Bye Miss Ivins
"She said of a certain beloved former president while he was in office that 'if you put his brains in a bee, it would fly backwards' and that 'if he gets even more sedate, we will have to water him twice a week.'" "She served outrage with a scoop of joy".
What A Mess
"Floridians who have received notices that their residential-property insurance policies aren't being renewed have flooded state phone lines and made angry inquiries with insurance agents this week to learn whether a new state-ordered freeze on cancellations applies to them."
Insurance regulators hope to have the answers as early as today. But it's clear that an emergency order that Gov. Charlie Crist's aides drafted last weekend has created a consumer frenzy."Insurance firms spark fury with cancellations". See also "Insurers ask state to clarify rate ban".
The rule that Crist and the Florida Cabinet approved Tuesday, coupled with just-passed insurance legislation, is intended to have the combined effect of preventing insurers from dropping any Florida homeowners until hurricane season ends in November.
But the rule did not specifically state how to deal with policyholders who were told they wouldn't be renewed before the emergency order was signed. Lawyers for the state are now trying to sort it out.
Bringing RPOF Business Principles to State Government
This strange case is mentioned in an article today about private prisons avoiding taxation:
the Supreme Court in November reinstated a suit by the department seeking to overturn the auctioning of the Lake City Correctional Facility for failure to pay property taxes in Columbia County.Presumably the prison had possibilities as a condo conversion.
A trial judge had upheld the tax deed sale because the state missed a filing deadline, but the Supreme Court reversed. The justices ruled the state is exempt from a law that requires "taxpayers" to challenge assessments within 60 days after they are certified.
A couple and their two daughters had paid $132,313 for a tax deed to the multi-million-dollar prison.