"Crist's promise to slash property taxes for beleaguered homeowners would apply to only about two-thirds of the taxes most homeowners pay, top aides told legislators Tuesday, igniting criticism from Democrats that the tax-cut plan could be a 'bait and switch.'"
Crist announced last week that he could call for a special election this year to ask voters to approve a series of property tax changes -- including increasing the tax break now given to Florida residents who own their home.Sounds like another flip-flop:
But details of the plan were sketchy and, on Tuesday, the governor's education budget chief told lawmakers that Crist did not plan to have the homestead exemption apply to all property taxes, only a segment of them that would save homeowners $1 billion a year.
House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber said shifting the school funding burden onto homeowners has resulted in a property tax crisis that is now proving difficult to repair."Cuts wouldn't cover all property taxes".
''Florida has been conducting a bait and switch on homeowners for decades, and now we're just seeing it at a higher level,'' said Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat. "This year, if all we do is lower property taxes and increase funding on homeowners, we're perpetuating the bait and switch all over again.''
School districts have warned since last summer, when Crist first advocated doubling the homestead exemption, that it could have devastating results on funding for education. Plus, they said it could run afoul of another promise in the Constitution that each child in Florida deserves the same level of education regardless of where he or she lives.
Republican legislative leaders have embraced the idea of asking voters to alter the state's property tax scheme but were cautious Tuesday when asked if they favor Crist's latest proposal.
"There are fears that doubling the homestead exemption would force school districts to raise their tax rates. There are also concerns that Crist's plan -- which would allow individual local governments to decide for themselves whether to raise the exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 -- could lead to big disparities in education funding among school districts." "Crist's office revisits tax plan". See also "School districts may not face tax cuts" and "Tax proposal may not touch schools".
Florida "Wild About Charlie"
"New Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who has led bipartisan efforts to lower property insurance rates and replace touch-screen voting machines, is getting overwhelming support from voters, a poll released Tuesday shows." "Floridians strongly approve of new governor’s first month". See also "Crist riding wave of popularity, new poll shows", "Crist receives high marks from residents", "Crist wins praise for achievements, but critics say real tests are around the corner", "Crist Gets High Marks In Poll", "Crist enjoys bipartisan honeymoon" and "Poll shows voters just wild about Charlie -- so far".
Jack Kemp an ACLU, NAACP Lobbyist?
"Is Gov. Charlie Crist finally getting ready to move on his campaign promise for restoration of voting rights for former felons? A meeting scheduled for last week in the governor’s office, cancelled because of the tornados, suggests he may be."
Crist was to meet Friday with former presidential candidate, congressman and HUD Secretary Jack Kemp. The subject, said Kemp, was to be rights restoration, which he said he favors "with conditions." ..."Crist Looking At Rights Restoration?".
Kemp, a former GOP star who’s now a lobbyist and civic activist, said the meeting was scheduled at the request of the NAACP and the ACLU, and hasn’t been rescheduled. The two plan to talk by phone instead.
Kemp, whose wife is involved in Charles Colson’s prison ministry, said such moves would “encourage behavior modification in prison … I want the prison population to know that there is redemption.”
But he acknowledged the move is controversial and that former Gov. Jeb Bush, whom he called "one of my heroes," opposes it.
"Hit and miss with governor's first budget"
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editors:
Florida expects its governors to hit the ground running. In the first month of a new governor's administration, he is expected to review dozens (if not hundreds) of staff positions, including new department heads; consider appointments to boards and prepare his first legislative agenda. The most daunting task, however, might be to draft recommendations for the state's $71 billion budget."Big Picture".
Not surprisingly, a new governor's first budget is seldom evenhanded, and Charlie Crist's proposals, released last week, are no exception. Crist directed money to fulfill campaign promises, including local tax cuts, new voting machines and additional incarceration for more probation violators. In many cases, the budget focuses on details to the detriment of the big picture.
"Last week's severe storms and tornadoes have caused enough insured damage to meet the industry's own definition of a catastrophe." "Tornado damage expected to exceed $25M, ISO says".
The Rich are Different
"No matter how Katherine Harris decides to follow her political career, residents of this tony key will always have a special affinity for the former congresswoman." "Harris named LBK Kiwanis top citizen".
"A fourth Florida insurance company is putting on the brakes because of changes in state law and an emergency freeze on rate hikes and policy cancellations." "Fourth insurer stops taking new business".
"As students began taking this year's Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, state education officials on Tuesday outlined plans to rewrite the test over the next four or five years to conform to new standards." "State beginning FCAT rewrite as students begin this year’s test".
Charlie's Proposal Will Gut Local Budgets
"Orlando officials say that if Gov. Charlie Crist is successful in his push to overhaul the state's property-tax system, they could be forced to raise tax rates to avoid deep cuts in services."
Doubling the homestead exemption would remove $4.9 million from the budget. But the biggest impact would come from extending the Save Our Homes benefit, which mandates that property assessments can increase no more than 3 percent a year, to businesses, second homes and out-of-state owners. Elwell said that would have reduced the city's budget by $21.9 million this year."Tax proposal could cost Orlando millions".
To avoid cutting services, the city could raise its property-tax rate to make up the difference, but the average homeowner would end up paying more because he or she would have to cover new savings enjoyed by businesses.
"Crist's proposal to double Florida's homestead tax exemption to $50,000 would cost Manatee County $14 million a year and Sarasota County $11 million a year, county budget officials say." "Crist's tax ideas causing plenty of concern".
And Broward County is already in trouble: "The shortfalls could reach $61 million a year if property values and taxes stay the same as they are now. And that's not counting the loss of revenue from a new senior citizen homestead exemption and some major new expenses the county may be unable to avoid. " "County Budget".
"A U.S. shantytown"
Elizabeth Aranda, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Miami, writes that
At first, I was dismayed by Rep. Tom Tancredo's comments about Miami resembling a ''Third World country.'' Why would an elected official question an entire city's level of development just because of the higher likelihood that one would hear a language other than English spoken?"Poor and homeless in Miami".
Recently, however, I've been coming around to Tancredo's point of view (although I much prefer the term, ''global South'' over "Third World''). That's not because of immigration or language issues, but because of public policies (like the ones that Tancredo supports) that skim off of the poor and middle classes for the benefit of the corporate and leisure classes (the elite), thereby creating a large gap between the two segments of the population. From this perspective, Miami's class dynamics increasingly resemble those found in countries of the global South.
"Though city council races are nonpartisan, the candidates' political stripes shine through when they talk about a variety of issues facing Tampa." "It's Democrat Vs. Republican In A Nonpartisan Race". See also "Alvarez Endorses Tamargo".
"New Jersey Democrat says Fla. undervotes will help proposal"
On the eve of the first U.S. Senate hearing about touch-screen voting machines, a New Jersey Congressman re-introduced his own legislation to ban paperless voting in America."Bill filed to ban touch-screens".
It's not Democratic Rep. Rush Holt's first try.
"Florida lawmakers are proposing laws that crack down on the hiring of undocumented immigrant workers." "State proposals target undocumented workers".
Charlie's Anti-Murder Act
"A Senate panel unanimously endorsed Gov. Charlie Crist's top legislative priority Tuesday, approving his so-called Anti-Murder Act, which would send more probation violators back to jail." "Crist's Murder Act Sails Over Its Initial Hurdle".
"Citizens Property Insurance, cursed and dreaded since its inception, is becoming the lowest-cost coverage option for some homeowners. The massive insurance reform bill that was passed last month allows homeowners covered by a private carrier to opt into Citizens if they're paying rates 25 percent higher than what the state-run insurer charges." "More in S. Fla. may jump into state pool".
"Burger King said it won’t help boost wages for Florida farmworkers by paying more for the tomatoes on its Whopper, but it will send recruiters to help the workers find a job at one of its restaurants. Florida tomato pickers won a penny-per-pound raise through a boycott against Taco Bell two years ago and had been in talks with Burger King about a similar plan. ... The coalition has also targeted McDonald’s in its efforts to boost the wages of tomato pickers, protesting at the company’s corporate headquarters in Illinois." "Burger King rejects farmworkers’ call to pay more for tomatoes". See also "Burger King rejects tomato price hike, but offers job help".
"Florida led the nation in the number of high school seniors taking AP exams and was among national leaders in the overall percentage of students who pass the challenging tests." "Florida getting excellent grades on AP exams". See also "State leads nation in intrepid scholars".
"An imported, fast-growing plant called giant reed is being touted as an energy crop that Florida farmers could turn into ethanol. The import from South Asia has been used as a landscape ornamental in Florida for many years and has not been considered a threat to native vegetation. But planting thousands of acres of the stuff would raise the threat considerably. ... California has found it costs up to $17,000 an acre to get rid of it." "Keep Thirsty E-Grass Out".
They Didn't Drink Excessively
Cooper "City commissioners did not break the law when they used taxpayer money to eat and drink privately before meetings, according to a three-month state investigation report released Tuesday. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also found that commissioners did not drink excessively at the dinners, did not drive to City Hall under the influence and did not violate the state's "Government in the Sunshine" laws by discussing city issues privately." "Eating on taxpayers' dime didn't break law, state says".
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board thinks picking majors is silly:
Until lawmakers and education officials rethink this misguided effort, the FCAT won't be the last pressurized situation the students face."Major Bother".
"Buried beneath the headlines about warming oceans, harmful algae blooms and dwindling seafood stocks is the fact that it is within our power to make immediate, measurable progress toward solving the problems facing our oceans. Innovative state leaders are showing us the way, and the federal government needs to follow their example." "Look to states for initiatives that can rescue dying oceans".
"The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission is poised to pass a new rule banning people from keeping tigers and alligators in residential neighborhoods, which is a good thing. The commission should apply the same logic to venomous snakes." "Goodness Snakes, Toughen Serpent Rules". See also "Tighten rules on wildlife".
"State legislators want to have a say in the negotiations between Florida's Seminole Tribe, the federal government and Gov. Charlie Crist over operating Las Vegas-style slot machines, like the ones currently spinning at two racetracks in Broward County." "Lawmakers want say on slots".
"Floridians who used paper ballots were slightly more likely to register a vote than those who used paperless electronic touch screens in November's U.S. Senate and governor's races, a new report says."
- In the Senate race between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and unsuccessful Republican challenger Katherine Harris, 1.98 percent of touch-screen voters cast blank ballots while 1.31 percent of those who used paper optical-scan ballots did not register a choice. The Senate race was the top race on the ballot statewide."Study: Blank ballots less likely with paper".
- In the governor's race between Republican Crist and Democrat Jim Davis, 0.94 percent of touch-screen voters didn't record a choice, compared with 0.88 percent of voters who used paper ballots.
- All paper voting is not equal. A voter casting a paper ballot at a polling place was more likely to record a vote than a voter filling out a paper absentee ballot. Polling places have optical scanners that warn voters if they have made an invalid double-vote or left their entire ballot blank. Absentee voters don't have that safeguard.
"A local mom hopes her efforts to persuade state lawmakers to clarify what constitutes emotional child abuse will result in a bill for the state legislature to vote on this year - but she faces a looming deadline to find a sponsor in the state Senate." "Mom's on a mission to change state law".
The Insurance "Reforms"
A Crist mouthpiece: "Reforms will force insurance competition".
"As Florida lawmakers prepare to spend 10 times more on anti-smoking programs this year than they did last year, state health officials said Tuesday that expanded services should be restricted to pilot programs in six to eight counties." "Pilot programs urged on tobacco".
"Florida Public Service Commission rules recognize the need for a variety of sources to power electricity production in Florida. The shutoff of natural gas pipelines following Hurricane Katrina showed the problem of relying too heavily on a single source." "Debate starts to heat up over Glades Power Park".
"Jeb!"'s Kinda Judge
"The state judicial watchdog filed formal charges against Broward Circuit Judge Cheryl Aleman on Tuesday, accusing her of 'a pattern of arrogant, discourteous, and impatient conduct.'"
Using unusually strong language, the state Judicial Qualifications Commission charged her with violating several canons or rules, and acting in a manner that "erodes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary." If the allegations are proven, Alemán faces anything from a public reprimand to removal from the bench."Broward judge criticized by state board as 'arrogant, discourteous, and impatient '".
Aleman, 48, has been involved in numerous controversies in her five years on the Broward criminal court bench. As the former head of an activist conservative Christian group for lawyers, Aleman was a contentious appointment in December 2001 by then-Gov. Jeb Bush. And she alarmed some judges and attorneys when she made religious remarks as she was sworn in a month later.
A Florida Thing
"James S. Henry of Sag Harbor, N.Y., was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence. He was photographing voters on a Sunday afternoon before the November 2004 election in West Palm Beach when a sheriff's deputy ordered him to stop and tried to grab his camera." "Charges dropped against photographer at 2004 polling site".
"Florida's House freshmen take a seat in the front" "Florida's House freshmen take a seat in the front". See also "State's senators gain power in new session".
"Add Kissimmee Democrats Ruth Ann Raia and Ana Maria Mendez to the list of candidates for the House District 49 seat, which John Quinones resigned last week to run for Osceola County Commissioner." "More Democrats join House 49 race".
"With just days left before its next meeting, the Florida Elections Commission still has not been given a new chairman by Gov. Charlie Crist."
If Crist fails to act by Feb. 16th, it will mean that former state legislator Chance Irvine will get to keep her job as chairman for one more meeting."Crist yet to tap new elections commission chairman".
So far five people have put in applications for the post: Current member and attorney Jorge Cruz-Bustillo, attorney Anthony Salvage from Fort Lauderdale, attorney Richard Cotter of Fort Myers (who is also a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association), attorney Richard DeNapoli of Hollywood and Michael Cochran of Tallahassee.
"Crist's budget revives Jeb Bush's plan to turn Medicaid long-term care for seniors over to managed-care organizations,"
but it will be state lawmakers who decide whether to go through with it - over objections from Florida's 2.8 million-member branch of the AARP."Crist's Medicaid Managed-Care Push Faces Resistance".
Florida Senior Care is the final plank of former Gov. Bush's plan to overhaul the state Medicaid program by partially privatizing it. Medicaid, a $15 billion state-federal partnership, pays for 63 percent of all nursing home days spent by Florida's roughly 3 million seniors.
"State Democratic Chairwoman Karen Thurman is trying to find "missing" votes."
She says in an e-mail to Democrats that the Secretary of State's statewide voter file is missing votes from 494,928 Floridians who apparently did vote last year. ..."Crist Dads' vote missing?"
She's directing folks to www.fladems.com/missingvotes to determine if their vote is missing.
Kathleen Parker excuses GOPer flip-flopping: "To flip is to flop -- or not".