Naked Politics: "Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, the newly named chair of the Republican national party, will spend next weekend at Walt Disney World - with lobbyists who will pay $5,000 to his political action committee for the privilege, reports the New York Times."
According to the story that spells out how members of Congress have found ways to work around new ethics rules that bar goodies from lobbyists, Dana Harris of Bellwether Consulting, a Republican firm that "specializes in courting lobbyists' political action committees" has set up the event."Mel: I'm going to Disney World".
Congress now prohibits lobbyists from paying for lawmakers' meals, but it doesn't prevent lobbyists from contributing money to a politician's political action committee, which then pays for the lawmaker's trip.
Charlie Assails Local Government
"As they push for sweeping property-tax cuts, Gov. Charlie Crist and many legislators have painted Florida cities and counties as lavish tax-and-spenders, their budgets bloated by soaring land values and frenzied construction."
But state leaders in Tallahassee have taken advantage of rising property taxes, too."Schools tangle tax-cut proposal".
During the past eight years, the amount of property-tax money the state forces local school districts to charge has ballooned by 92 percent. Growth in personal income, by comparison, has been about 54 percent during the same period.
This year alone, the state will force property-tax payers to kick in close to $7.4 billion to run Florida's public schools. And the total would swell by another $450 million next year under the budget Crist submitted to lawmakers this month.
Eight years ago, property taxes accounted for just more than 38 percent of the state's main public-school funding program. Today, they make up nearly 47 percent.
Democratic lawmakers have long accused the Republican-controlled Legislature of dumping more of the cost of operating public schools onto property-tax payers even as it touted big increases in education spending. The issue is drawing fresh attention now that the Legislature and Crist are considering separate property-tax cuts that could cost cities and counties billions of dollars.
Could it be that the chickens will come home to roost
"Listen more and posture less"
The St Pete Times editors: "The legislative session is still a month away, but Crist's revision of his own homestead exemption proposal ought to put lawmakers on notice. Their simplistic campaign pledges may make for backward, or even unconstitutional, tax policy. They need to listen more and posture less." "Reality check on property tax".
In the meantime, "the Florida Legislature is holding property tax reform hearings around the state where home and business owners have complained that taxes are forcing them to shutter storefronts or flee the state." "Inequities in property taxes cited".<
Early Primary Debate
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board argues that "there are sound reasons for Florida making its move - and despite opposition from both GOP and Democratic national parties who suggest that, if big rambling Florida weighs in, candidates with the most money will be favored." "Vote early".
Here's an Idea
The St Pete Times editorial board has a wild and crazy idea! "Before Gov. Charlie Crist doubles the bonus money for top-performing teachers, he needs to ask teachers what they think of Florida's performance-pay plan." Yah think?
What he will find is that the bureaucratic obsession to link teacher pay with standardized tests has produced a peculiar result. The state is offering $147.5-million this year for bonuses that many teachers don't accept. ..."On bonus pay, listen to teachers".
Unfortunately, the Special Teachers Are Rewarded plan is anything but fair and workable. ...
Crist has said teachers generally should be paid more, and market conditions may ultimately force the state to raise salaries. But he and Gaetz would do well to listen to teachers before throwing too much money at pay plans that are designed to inspire the best work. So far, politicians have been so eager to claim victory that they have ignored the teachers whose hard work they ostensibly want to reward.
AgJOBS and the Klan
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editors on illegal immigrants: "The proposal in Congress is called the Agriculture Jobs Opportunity and Benefits Act, sometimes packed into the acronym AgJOBS. It's not a perfect bill. Under the proposal, undocumented migrant or farmworkers would get a 'blue card' on two conditions. Those who qualify would have to pay a $500 fine up front. They also would have to provide proof of having worked in the United States 150 work days out of the past two years. The terms are more lenient than previous proposals, which included $1,000 fines, the payment of back taxes, more extensive proof of employment and the requirement that those workers here for only a few years would have to go back to their country of origin before becoming eligible for a worker's permit -- with no guarantee that they would."
Unfortunately, one powerful pressure group -- the American Farm Bureau Federation -- has not endorsed the legislation for just one reason: The bill also would raise wages for farmworkers. There are efforts in Congress to kill that provision. That would be a shame. But if the rest of the bill survives, it's still worth supporting as higher wages may, in any case, trickle from workers' more protected immigration status. One month ago U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., helped reintroduce the AgJOBS bill in the Senate. This is one immigration bill that has the making of bipartisan success. It also may show the way to more comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform."Fresh way to legal status for undocumented".
Meanwhile, "the floodgates of hatred are widening as the federal government fails to reach a bipartisan consensus on comprehensive immigration reform. A new report released by the Anti-Defamation League points to an increased presence among groups linked to the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads and neo-Nazis, energized by the anti-immigrant backlash. The South, in particular, has seen a spike in Klan chapters." "Begin new chapter".
"[T]he plate would almost certainly face resistance from the Republican-led Legislature. Sales of the plate would benefit sex education programs that do not focus solely on abstinence." "'Pro-choice' backers press for license plate".
How kind of the reporter to put it this way:
Crist, for instance, has retreated somewhat from his campaign promise to double the homestead exemption to $50,000 -- which would save Orange County homeowners close to $500 a year -- because of concerns about the amount of money it would drain from public schools.A less invested writer might call it a flip-flop.
In "A better way",the Orlando Sentinel editorial board notes that "Florida rushed to embrace touch-screen voting after the 2000 presidential election debacle in the state, with its infamous hanging chads." Another disaster on Jebbie's watch.
"Bright Futures" Too Easy?
The Tampa Trib editors don't like the Bright Futures "program's second-tier, the Medallion Scholars Award". They argue that "Florida shouldn't reward below average performance with substantial tuition discounts, particularly since a portion of these students can afford to pay. Lawmakers should concentrate the merit scholarships on top students, while directing more money to need-based programs and first-generation college student aid, which are paid from sources other than lottery funds and can rise along with tuition." "Raise Bar On "Bright Futures" To Improve Florida Universities".
Recall the rape victim whose jail nurse "allegedly refused to give her the second dose [morning-after pill], citing religious beliefs."
In response, "State lawmakers will consider a bill requiring doctors and nurses to offer the so-called 'morning-after pill' to rape victims." Even
State Sen. Mike Fasano and state Rep. Ralph Poppell, Republicans who are outspoken opponents of abortion, said they would consider voting for the emergency contraception proposal. Rep. Dennis Baxley, a leading conservative voice, said his belief that life begins at conception would preclude his support."Pill for rape victims urged".
The Sun-Sentinel editors: "A proposal to vaccinate Florida middle school girls to prevent cervical cancer is sure to cause controversy. But people must not shut their minds or bury their heads in the sand so deep that they cut off the debate before it ever starts." "Public Health".
"Pay to Play"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel's politically motivated attack on the 'pay to play' grand jury has left Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer no choice but to empanel another jury and continue the investigation into the city's business/political dealings." "Frankel might not like WPB pay-to-play replay".
"Crist wants to hire an advocate to manage an increasing number of complaints about run-ins between people and the rebounding population of the endangered Florida panther." "Crist proposes advocate for endangered panthers".
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Bravo to state Rep. Juan Carlos Zapata, R-Miami, for trying to right a wrong. For four years he has proposed legislation that would allow undocumented students who are Florida residents to pay in-state tuition at state universities. Opponents have killed the bills each time, saying that, 'We can't help people who break the law.' But Florida shouldn't be doing the work of federal immigration authorities." "For equal education".
See "District 4 Tampa City Council Candidates Address Issues" and "District 4 Race Grows Costly".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Crist is right to push for more money so the mentally ill don't languish in jails."
The solution seems simple enough:"On right track".
Pump $79 million into the yearly state budget to help alleviate the crunch of mentally ill patients languishing in jails because there aren't enough beds to move them elsewhere. Keeping those inmates longer than 15 days in jail is against state law.
Gov. Charlie Crist certainly shows more fiscal compassion on issue than his predecessor Jeb Bush, who slashed Department of Children & Families' budget requests for programs and services for five years.
But the problem runs much deeper than finding and funding a suitable place to sleep.
Of course it was not merely "fiscal compassion" driving this; it happens to be the against the law to have the mentally ill "languish in jails". Our previous Governor, with the complicity of the RPOF run Legislature, disdained the law.
Democratic leader of the Florida House, Rep. Dan Gelber: "Much work on Citizens undone".
Better Things to Do?
"Lawmakers from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach held a tri-county meeting Wednesday to talk about affordable housing and school and transportation funding. But the gathering was short on Republicans, especially those who represent Miami-Dade. Hmm, wonder if it was because it conflicted with a fundraiser hosted by House Speaker Marco Rubio, Rep. Ray Sansom and Rep. Dean Cannon for Rep. Adam Hasner and Rep. Dave Murzin?" "Political beat".
"A few weeks ago, Crist proposed a $71.2 billion spending plan, about $2.5 billion less than lawmakers approved, and Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law last year. In a fast-growing state that automatically assumes the costs of hundreds of thousands of new residents every year, the governor's move seemed to many more fancy than fact. But the proposal may have been not so outlandish, and in fact politically savvy." "Gov. Crist's proposed spending plan less revolution than reality".