"After months of promising 'simple' changes, state lawmakers today will host a tax-cutting summit where they'll be confronted by this complex reality of property tax policy: It's a zero-sum game in which many homeowners have benefited to the disadvantage of Florida newcomers and owners of businesses and second homes." Some ideas under consideration:
- Raising the state sales tax by two to three cents in exchange for repealing the $7.5 billion state property tax that pays for schools. In the past, any tax increase -- regardless of a decrease elsewhere -- was viewed as an increase in the GOP-controlled Legislature."Creative options are on the table in property tax crisis". See also "No easy fixes on property taxes".
- Allowing for taxable, unlimited casino gaming, from roulette to blackjack and Las Vegas-style slot machines, to offset residential property taxes -- also an idea once viewed as anathema by Republican lawmakers.
- Modifying or dismantling the Save Our Homes tax cap so that it more equally distributes the tax burden -- a change that would affect the program that, according to a new study, has kept a whopping $404.4 billion of taxable homeowner property off the tax rolls this year by shifting the tax burden to others.
- Allowing homeowners to carry part of the Save Our Homes tax savings with them to a new home -- only one time -- in exchange for a cap on tax benefits for any homes purchased in the future.
- Capping local government spending to force cities and counties to lower taxes in the face of rising growth in real estate values. Local governments are predicting cutbacks in services if they're deprived of tax money.
Scott Maxwell notes this morning that Ric [sic] "Keller's most ardent critics have decided to have some fun at his expense. The Victory Caucus is staging a contest where folks are asked to photoshop Keller into various lawn-mowing scenarios. For example, Keller's face in a movie poster for a sequel to Lawnmower Man with the catchphrase: God made him simple; Metaphors made him God. Not all are nice. But all are here">here." "Kellers gets mown over".
The Tampa Trib editorial board wants Florida's primary moved, and could care less about the threatened sanctions:
the Republican Party promises that sanctions will be imposed if Florida shifts its primary to an earlier date. Remember, this is the same party that turned its back on Florida's first-rate bid to host the convention in Tampa. Someone should tell the party - perhaps Florida Senator Mel Martinez, its new chairman? - that we're not feeling the love here."The Democratic Party's threat is even more ominous. "
It says any presidential candidate who campaigns in a state that moves up its primary will receive no delegate votes from that state. Talk about a party that keeps shooting itself in the foot with Floridians."Ignore Threats, Get Out Front".
"Two Republican presidential hopefuls, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain, have discovered Florida early in their campaigns and attracted Florida political insiders for their Sunshine State teams, both drawing from the sizeable number of operatives left by former Gov. Jeb Bush." "Florida is early choice for GOP candidates".
Save Our Homes Debacle
Tom Blackburn: "Florida remains a low-tax state, 39th among the 50 states in state and local tax burden in 2006 according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. Save Our Homes, like everything else Florida does with taxes, passed with the implicit hope of laying the tax burden on someone else." "Cut-rate taxes cut house values".
The Touch-Screen Paper Trail Option
The Tampa Trib editors: "Crist and Secretary of State Kurt Browning want to spend $32.5 million to replace touch-screen machines with optical-scan technology that reads paper ballots. Before writing the check, they should first ensure that touch-screen manufacturers are incapable of building a printer that can be certified as working right."
Given what's at stake, surely these companies can build a printer that doesn't jam, the biggest criticism for such a solution."A Printer Could Save $32 Million".
The governor is right to want a paper trail to restore voter confidence. ATMs give receipts, he notes, so why not a voting machine? Good point. But ATM printers rarely jam, so why can't the same standard be developed for touch-screen printers?
That way, voters could see a printed receipt of their choices before depositing them in a lockbox at the precinct or before the paper advances like the paper roll in a cash register.
"Perhaps politics didn't come up during the interview. University of Miami President Donna Shalala -- a former Democratic Cabinet official -- has hired a top Republican political operative from the White House. Rudy Fernández will serve as the university's vice president for government affairs, responsible for reaching out to federal, state and local governments." "Top Republican Hired for UM VP Position".
Affordable Housing Crisis
"A fledgling activist group of [FIU] college students plans to erect a mock shantytown on the Florida International University south campus this week to draw attention to the region's affordable housing crisis and show support for 40 squatters living in the Liberty City political protest-turned-homeless commune known as Umoja Village." "University students seek attention for South Florida housing crisis". See also "County's compassion deficit" ("Palm Beach County won't confront its homeless problem.")
A number of commuter rail stories today.
"Rail opponents describe all the new trains carrying passengers in cities across the country as costly failures that fleece taxpayers. They must not be talking to taxpayers in Dallas, Denver and Portland. Experts from these cities came to Tampa on Friday, hosted by the Metropolitan Planning Organization, to tell local leaders that their residents gladly tax themselves for rail." "Why Voters Love Rail Transit". See also "Conserving commuter rail costs" (central Florida) and "FEC tracks tracks hold key to commuter train linking S. Florida's downtowns" (the east coast).
WPB: Ethics Task Force
"Mayor Lois Frankel created the task force last year,"
after revelations that City Commissioner Ray Liberti was on a city contractor's payroll. Liberti resigned in May and was convicted of unrelated federal corruption charges."West Palm Beach task force shapes ethics advice".
Another commissioner, James Exline, resigned last month and said he would plead guilty to tax evasion.
Waves of public criticism and political agitation have been washing over city hall, now less than a month shy of the March 13 mayoral election.
Amid that backdrop the 10-member task force has been laboring since August and hopes to release a draft of its recommendations next month. It recently weathered criticism from a grand jury investigating corruption issues, which called the group elitist and too tied to the mayor.
Sun-Sentinel Hearts Charlie
The Sun-Sentinel editors declare that "Crist is showing that he is not going to cater to the extreme right wing in his own party, which is a welcome change from predecessor Jeb Bush."
Crist has come out and said he doesn't want the Republican Party of Florida spending more money to get a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the 2008 ballot."New Governor".
Crist has said that issues like property insurance reform, property tax reform, and others are what the administration should be concerned with. When asked whether the Republican Party should contribute more to a group gathering signatures for the same-sex marriage ban, he said, "Probably not." Under Bush, the Florida Republican Party spent $300,000 pushing the amendment.
"New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson -- one of several Democrats who have opened exploratory committees in potential presidential bids -- is the featured speaker at the Broward County Democratic Jefferson Jackson Dinner Feb. 24." "Hispanic eyeing run for president to speak".
"Early Voting Begins".
"Mere months after the Sarasota City Commission unanimously approved signing a new 30-year-lease with the Cincinnati Reds, three commissioners up for re-election are expressing doubts about the deal." "Stadium becoming hot issue in race".
Barreiro Gets a Job
The Miami Herald reports: "Former Miami Beach Rep. Gus Barreiro is in talks to head the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, a group that lobbies for contractors with the Department of Juvenile Justice. A formal announcement could come as soon as today."
The Orlando Sentinel's editors: "There's already talk that Merck & Co., Gardasil's manufacturer, is targeting Florida as well. Gov. Charlie Crist and lawmakers would be smart for now to let parents decide what's best for their daughters." "Not so fast". The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board thinks differently: "Make it mandatory and save lives". "HPV vaccine".
Just Do It
"Right now, you can walk along the state's footpath that connects cypress swamp in South Florida to grassy hills north of Orlando and extends to beaches of the state's far western Panhandle."
It's the 40-year-old Florida National Scenic Trail, crossing nearly 1,500 miles of wild lands on public or other conservation property. There are only seven other such federally designated trails in the country, including the renowned Appalachian Trail."Now is time to preserve land, advocates say".
But true to life in Florida, the natural trail is interrupted by scenes of human development. On nearly a fourth of the distance, hikers are forced out of forests and sandhills to trek along highways, some rural and others congested.
Trail advocates say now is the time to move those 361 remaining miles onto protected lands before Florida's rapid development makes that impossible.
"A scene out of a third-world torture chamber"
"It must have seemed like a scene out of a third-world torture chamber, or a nightmare."
A man was strapped to a gurney, with needles injecting caustic chemicals into the flesh of both arms. Needles meant to be inserted into veins had missed, a mistake that would raise foot-long blisters on the condemned man's arms. Witnesses say he twisted and appeared to be gasping for air -- a reaction that one expert anesthesiologist says might have indicated that the man felt as though he were suffocating.The bottom law according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal editors:
The sadistic scene played out for more than half an hour, as appalled witnesses, including members of the man's family, looked on.
When it was all over, the state of Florida had accomplished its objective: Angel Nieves Diaz was dead, executed for the murder of a bar manager nearly 27 years ago. But at what cost?
There's no compelling rationale behind this cruel and unusual punishment. States that apply the death penalty see no benefit in lower murder rates. The death penalty is applied so randomly that one Florida Supreme Court justice referred to it as "lightning striking." And as scientific evidence of innocence frees more people each year from Death Row, the doubt grows about using such an irrevocable means of punishment in such a deeply flawed system."Lethal horror".
Palm Beach County: "with the county lacking a major public hospital, the district has been forced to again stand in the gap to help ensure access to medical care - and not just for the county's poor and uninsured." "Is public ATM for ERs?".
Mean People Suck
"Bullying and road rage will greet lawmakers this week as members convene for a week of committee hearings in preparation for the 2007 session." "Bullies, slowpokes targeted".
If Melbourne Can Do It ...
"To combat global warming, the city [of Melbourne] might soon assume the lead role in Brevard County to reduce greenhouse gases." "Council takes up global warming".
"The proposed rules, sponsored by Commissioner José 'Pepe' Diaz, would allow only registered voters to circulate petitions [in Miami-Dade]. The private companies often hired to obtain signatures often use inexpensive labor, high school students and undocumented immigrants. The rules would also require petitions to also be printed in Spanish and Creole. The bill was approved 5-1. The full commission's final vote on the bill will likely come next month." "Petition Drives About to Get Harder".
"The manatee may be mellow but opponents of a state proposal to strip the mammal of its endangered status have been anything but." "Critics of manatee proposal speak out".
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Before the special session, Gov. Crist and legislative leaders made clear that they wanted private companies to pass along savings from what came out of the session. That would be the rate relief. Obviously, the governor and the Office of Insurance Regulation suspected that the companies would rush to get increases and shed policies before the bill Gov. Crist signed could take effect. Since some rate filings went in just after the session, that suspicion seems justified. No one wants to drive the private companies out of Florida. But if the private companies intend to take what the state gives and give nothing back to consumers, the state can't let that happen. And clearly won't." "State steps in to protect new insurance rate relief".
Guilty by Media
Isn't this nice of the Sun-Sentinel editors:
The Florida Elections Commission did the right thing by dropping all charges and potential fines against the former Broward elections supervisor [ Miriam Oliphant]. She has already paid a stiff price for her incompetence in botching the primary election in 2002. Anything more would have been overkill."Elections".
We've never been Oliphant cheerleaders here, but this editorial is simply gratuitous. We might be less offended if we had perhaps seen a similar level of vitriol directed at, say ... Jebbie, for his "incompetence in botching" (Insert Policy of Your Choice).