On the property tax debate: "The growing danger is that state support to communities will continue to diminish proportionately, while state lawmakers tie the hands of local governments to generate revenue for projects their citizens need and want, and unfairly make local governments keep paying for so-called 'unfunded mandates.'"
There's little question that, if voters throughout the state get to decide whether to double their homestead exemption, they will pass the referendum overwhelmingly. Everyone likes lower taxes.The prescription according to the Tallahassee Democrat editorial board:
If there isn't sufficient revenue to pay for a needed road or school, however, citizens howl, often neglecting to connect the dots. It's easy to suggest that there's too much budget fat, because sometimes there is. But when candidates are elected, they often discover that the spending practices they complained about during the campaign aren't so flabby after all.
This is why it's crucial that the highly charged issue of property-tax reform - which unquestionably is needed - proceed with due care.
What's really needed is a comprehensive review of Florida's tax system - not only property taxes, but also the hundreds of sales-tax exemptions totaling multibillions of dollars. That requires strong political will, not just sound bites."Fiscally firm".
That Silly Sunshine Thing
"The Florida House seems to be suffering from a case of shyness. For the second time in recent weeks, questions have arisen over discussions lawmakers had without giving notice to the public. Tuesday, Rep. Ray Sansom, the House budget chairman, told about 30 members that budget constraints might kill requests for local projects. The meeting where this was said began as general budget primer hosted by former Rep. Ken Sorensen, who has been hired by Speaker Marco Rubio to assist young lawmakers." "State House meetings skirt public notice rule".
A Difficult (Paper) Trail
"More than six years after Florida decided the presidential election by hanging chads, the state is still struggling to prove to voters that their votes are counted, and counted accurately."
With voters going to the polls early next year to vote for the next presidential nominees, Gov. Charlie Crist and his secretary of state are seeking answers in paper-trail technology."Paper Trail Difficult To Blaze".
Several options exist - and every one is flawed.
The Charge: Walking While Black
"It isn't against the law to stand on a street-corner or walk to one's aunt's house at dusk. In Bunnell, it can get you arrested." "Injustice's corner".
"The unused $255,000 will be given to those the governor says are committed to kids." "Inaugural funds to go to charities".
The Trough Beckons
"The AP reports that former U.S. Sen.(and Charlie Crist mentor) Connie Mack is the senior policy adviser of a new lobbying operation in Tallahassee called Liberty Partners of Florida. The office will be staffed by Mack's former state director Jamie Wilson, who is leaving a local lobbying firm headed by Van Poole, and Jennifer Jankowski Green, formerly the lead lobbyist for the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Others associated with Liberty include Steve MacNamara, an associate professor at Florida State University where he teaches mass media law and political communications; health care lobbyist Allison Hunt, and former Mack Senate aide [and Martinez campaign manager] Scott Barnhart." "Connie Mack opens Tallahassee shop". See also "Mack will work for lobbying firm".
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board:
state leaders should start looking for a more rational and fair-minded approach, starting with a cool-headed look at civil unions."Baiting for bigotry".
A civil-union statute wouldn't give gay and lesbian couples the justice they deserve, but it would provide protections against many of the problems that beset committed same-sex couples. For example, gay couples would gain legal status to settle property and child-custody matters without lengthy, expensive and often painful court battles. It would be easier for same-sex partners to obtain health coverage -- a benefit some of the state's largest companies already extend to the partners of their employees. And lifelong partners would be able to make health-care decisions for each other, instead of being pushed away from the bedside of the person they love.
The state should also reverse its cruel and illogical ban on gay couples adopting -- a goal that's easily accomplished with legislation that elevates a child's best interests above all other considerations. ...
Instead of justice, a cadre of GOP leaders chose division and rancor. Instead of priorities all Floridians share -- property insurance, public safety, education -- this same group is spending party money to exploit same-sex families for political gain. It's time to stop.
And The Band Played On
"A Senate bill expected to make its way through the Florida Legislature would help protect music fans from unknowingly paying to see impostor bands." "Old bands fight the great pretenders".
"For what are supposed to be nonpartisan races, the City Commission elections are heading down a decidedly political road." "Parties playing bigger role in nonpartisan city election" ("The Democratic Party has acknowledged that it is important to keep a majority on the five-member City Commission, and Republicans want to hold onto the two seats they have.")
Scott Maxwell, in "FEMA foibles -- political or what?", asks:
If FEMA has more than 400 workers stationed right here in Central Florida, why did the agency spend money and resources bringing in as many as 150 outside workers to respond to the recent tornadoes?Good question.
Well, one possibility is that FEMA feared another disaster -- this one of the public-relations variety -- since the person running our local office had virtually no experience in emergency management when he got the gig in 2005.
Scott Morris's chief qualification, after all, was loyalty to the Republican Party. He helped run campaigns for George W. Bush and Bob Dole as well as the Republican National Committee.
In short, he seemed qualified to respond to Category 5 political ads. But virtually nothing in his background seemed to suggest he was any kind of an expert on non-campaign-related disasters.
So you have to wonder if, when tornadoes ripped through Central Florida recently, the feds were worried about having another Michael Brown-Katrina crisis on their hands.
Sink Hires Milligan
"Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democrat, has named Republican former state comptroller Bob Milligan as Florida’s insurance consumer advocate." "Sink Picks Milligan As Consumer Advocate". See also "Milligan signs on as Sink's consumer advocate", "Milligan Returns", "Familiar face returns to fight for consumers", "Insurance consumer advocate lauded as 'people person'" and "Sink crosses party lines to fill post".
"It sounds like a joke -- and not a very amusing one at that. Where groundbreaking scientific research was once supposed to take root, developers want to put a full-scale theme park, complete with rollercoasters, 15 hotels, a 12,000-seat amphitheater, restaurants and nightclubs." "Mecca Farms".
Keller Sees the Writing on the Wall
"U.S. Rep. Ric Keller of Orlando said [yesterday] on the House floor that he opposes Pres. Bush’s plan for a troop surge in Iraq, and will support the anti-escalation resolution proposed by House Democrats. Keller reportedly was one of a group of 10 House Republicans to take that stance. By contrast, two other central Florida House Republicans, Tom Feeney of Oviedo and Adam Putnam of Bartow, have taken a lead in backing Bush’s plan and opposing the resolution." "Ric Keller Opposes Iraq Surge". See also "Keller's warpath".
Daniel Ruth asks: "What's the point of having all sorts of political clout, power, juice, if you can't abuse it?"
Sort of takes all the joy out of influence peddling, doesn't it?"That has caused dithering among the chattering and political classes, who have argued a national primary front-loaded with elections in the bigger states would make it impossible for lesser-known candidates to compete, raise money and get their messages out to the people." To which Ruth responds:
So it's been fun the past few days watching the Florida Legislature extending - figuratively, of course - that internationally known single-finger gesture, loosely translated into "Have a nice day," in the general direction of the Republican and Democratic national committees.
Much to the consternation of the RNC and DNC, the Legislature is pondering a proposal to move up the date of the state's presidential primary so that the vote has some effect on the selection of the eventual nominee.
Yeah? So?"Presidential Politics Isn't About Fairness".
The St. Pete Times editors: "You might think a tomato farmer in Manatee County has a lot in common with an Iowa corn farmer. When it comes to federal crop subsidies, however, they are worlds apart."
To Uncle Sam, Florida's vegetable and fruit growers are the unwanted stepchildren to the favored sons who grow corn and soybeans in the Midwest."Bush tackles waste in farm subsidies".
But in a surprising reversal of decades-old agricultural policy, President Bush is proposing that the government begin to trim its wasteful farm subsidy program. ...
Charles Bronson, Florida's agriculture secretary, praised the new approach. "For the first time ever, there is a strong focus on fruit, vegetable and nursery crops, which now make up almost 55 percent of cash receipts in agriculture," Bronson said.
The chairman of something called "Cut Taxes Now Inc.", one David McKalip, has this less than surprising position: "Florida needs tax cap".
Florida Ranks Third
"Florida ranks third in the volume of child pornography viewed and distributed, according to the federal Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force - proof that stiff penalties are needed to curtail Internet crime." "Trapping Predators On The Web".
The News-Journal Joins the Spin
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board writes today, in connection with continued RPOF funding of the anti-gay marriage (or substantial equivalent) amendment petition drive, that "when Crist said he doesn't think the GOP should waste any more money fighting the issue, it was a strong rebuke against the leaders of his own party." The editors also credit Charlie with "disapproval" of the anti-gay petition. And there's this:
Crist could have taken a far bolder stand in favor of human rights for same-sex couples. But his statement still carries a lot of weight.Restated, Charlie has been credited with taking a "stand in favor of human rights for same-sex couples", though not as "bold" as it could be.
With all due respect, Crist did not "rebuke" anyone, strongly or otherwise; nor did he say that RPOF funding of the anti-gay petition drive was a "waste" of money or specifically "disapprov[e]" the petition drive. And he certainly has not taken a "stand in favor of human rights for same-sex couples".
Let's remember what Charlie said. Crist - who is playing both sides of the fence on this issue (see yesterday's "Burning the candle at both ends") - merely said "he would 'probably not' support sending more money to the amendment's backers." Indeed, he is specifically keeping his - and his RPOF's - options open on this issue, joining his hand picked RPOF chair, Jim Greer, who, like Crist, "also did not rule out spending more money on the [petition] campaign, which some strategists think could help the Republican Party in 2008 by drawing social conservatives out to vote." This is hardly a "stand in favor of human rights for same-sex couples".
We understand that the media, ever hopeful, and perhaps intending to cajole Charlie into doing what it perceives to be the "right thing", is spinning Crist's words into some sort of "rebuke" of the neanderthals that form a dominant component of the RPOF. However, as reviewed yesterday - Crist, who has signed the petition, formally endorsed the petition, and "sidestepped a question Tuesday about whether he still thinks the measure should go on the ballot" - has rebuked no one, and is specifically keeping open the possibility of further RPOF funding of this traditional GOPer wedge issue.
Until Charlie makes an unequivocal statement in opposition to further RPOF funding of the petition drive, and takes steps to enforce it (after all, the "New RPOF chairman leaves no doubt who's the boss"), let's not credit him with taking a "stand in favor of human rights for same-sex couples".
"Fred Dickinson, Florida's longtime highway safety director and a skillful survivor of the capital's political battles, resigned Wednesday after 15 years on the job." "State's highway safety director resigns". See also "Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles director resigns".
You remember Fred, "state auditors criticized him for awarding a five-year contract to a private agency to distribute the Official Florida Driver's Handbook. His wife, Sherry, formerly his agency's director of legislative affairs, lobbied for the company that landed the contract [one of six (6) she firms represented firms did business with her husband's agency]." "Dickinson Out".
Apparently another imbroglio was in the offing: "Dickinson's resignation came two days after state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, sent a letter to Dickinson asking him to cancel a contract with National Safety Commission Inc. to print the state's official driver's handbook." "Florida's highway director resigns".
Connie's "Pissing Match"
"Republican Rep. Connie Mack Wednesday challenged former Rep. Joe Kennedy to a debate, charging he’s been a political prop for Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez."
Florida Atlantic University political science professor Robert Watson called the "symbolic pissing match" a way to get attention with the public. "For a Republican to pick a fight with a Kennedy is a win-win proposition.""sMACKdown?".
"Sen. Ronda Storms wants to make it more difficult for minors to get abortions without getting their parents' permission." "Tighten abortion waiver, Storms says".
"Over dinner at the Imperial Lakewoods Golf Club last week, members of the newly formed North River Democratic Club met to socialize and talk about the war in Iraq and the upcoming primary season." "North Manatee Democrats meet".
"Former U.S. Rep. Joseph M. McDade, R-Pa., 75, must appear in Lee County court to face a charge of exposure of sexual organs, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to a summons issued Wednesday." "Former congressman faces exposure charge".
"Gang members and stalkers would be among the new additions to the state's growing DNA data bank under a bill that received initial approval Wednesday from a state House committee." "Panel OKs bill to put all felons in DNA data bank".
"Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California [yesterday] asked government auditors to investigate electronic voting machines nationwide, including those used recently in a controversial Florida election." "Senator wants investigation of voting machines".
"Hollywood turnout is embarrassing"
"Even Richard Blattner was disappointed by the embarrassingly low turnout in Tuesday's special election in Hollywood. And Blattner was the winner." "Elections". See also "Cash, apathy rule in Hollywood".
Charlie's Secret Paramour
"Crist’s spokeswoman was mum when Q asked with whom the governor spent the day designated for lovers, and chided Q for asking. Whoever Crist’s paramour is, if anyone, may have a strong hold on the 50-year-old divorcee. Crist is taking a personal day on Thursday, as well." "Is There Romance In The Air?".
No More "Cheap Water"
"South Florida's era of cheap water is ending. Water managers are set to make that bold promise today as they vote on a rule limiting how much cities and counties can draw from the Everglades or the Loxahatchee River during the coming decades." "'Bold' limits on water, and higher bills, a step away".
"Profiling may be unacceptable when the cops do it, but it remains acceptable when the insurance industry does it. Florida is asking whether it should be. Last week, the Office of Insurance Regulation heard Geico, Liberty Mutual and AIG explain why they charge higher auto rates for drivers who have less education and work in certain jobs. Those with a graduate degree pay less for the same coverage than those with a high-school diploma, despite the same driving record. Lawyers pay less than postal clerks. According to the Consumer Federation of America, the difference can be as much as 40 percent." "Drive a hard bargain".
"Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp told business leaders [at a Florida Chamber of Commerce meeting] Wednesday that promoting the film business and getting the space industry to make more of its components in Florida are vital to attracting well-paying jobs and diversifying the state's economy." "Wanted: More jobs in aerospace, film".
"Crist can offer life preserver to Florida's oceans, coasts".
Another "Bold, Innovative Educational Reform"
Jac Wilder VerSteeg manages to mix the FCAT and Jebbie's silly education "reforms" into his column today about Florida's botched execution of Angel Nieves Diaz
The panel ex-Gov. Bush appointed to kill time while the story blew over is supposed to offer recommendations by March 1. The panel will deal with many issues, such as making sure that the inmate being executed doesn't feel pain. Murderers, I'm sure, soon will convene a panel to explore ways of ensuring that their own victims don't suffer."Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist at Columbia University Medical Center, testified last week that, 'Lethal injection is a very complicated way of killing people.' The drugs must be given in the proper combination and at the proper time so that the anesthesia kicks in before the painful poisons."
While preventing pain during state-run executions is a must - the constitution says so - no issue is more important than making sure that the executioner knows how to execute.
Real doctors, though, can't do it because professional ethics forbid them to inflict harm. So, there is a demonstrated need for experts competent to carry out executions. What's lacking is a pool of qualified candidates to fill that need. The solution? I think it could begin with Florida's public schools.VerSteeg continues:
One of former Gov. Bush's countless bold, innovative educational reforms requires eighth-graders to pick a major for high school. The state has approved lists of majors to accommodate nearly every career path, including curricula for aspiring biologists, translators, actors, writers, mechanics or chefs.Don't miss the column: "Inject EXCAT into state schools".
But there's nothing for the special youth who wishes to become an executioner. In retrospect, given the importance of conducting competent executions to preserving Florida's safety and reputation, the omission is a serious lapse.
Easily corrected, thank goodness. Majors need to take four courses in their field. For execution majors, courses could include: Injections I, Injections II, Injections III, Injections IV (not to be confused with IV Injections), Right Arm Anatomy, Left Arm Anatomy, Dosage Do's and Don'ts, Veins In-Depth and Gurney Maintenance and Repair.
It has become Florida's practice to administer a high-stakes test in all critical areas of education, such as reading, writing, mathematics and science. Obviously, to maintain accountability, the state should develop and administer the EXCAT.
The hazing law's author, Rep. Adam "Hasner said he isn't interested in rewriting the hazing law, which doesn't define serious bodily injury, a point raised in the trial and likely be used upon appeal. In contrast, Florida's drunk-driving law defines serious bodily injury as 'substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.'" "Hazing law's author not interested in changing it".