"A compromise over a contentious teacher performance pay program is headed for a floor vote in the Senate next week after the legislation received final committee approval there Thursday."
The agreement also received endorsements from critics of the existing Special Teachers are Rewarded, or STAR, program, including Florida's statewide teachers union, before the Prekindergarten-12 Education Appropriations Committee voted unanimously for the Senate version (SB 1226).Even those mean, all powerful teachers unions have signed on to goodness gracious, a "merit pay" plan:
An identical House bill (HB 7021) is set for a Policy and Budget Council vote there Friday before it, too, goes to the floor, also probably next week.
The compromise would abolish the STAR program lawmakers passed last year. It would be replaced with a more flexible alternative to be called the Merit Award Program for teachers and in-school administrators."Teacher merit pay compromise set for floor vote next week".
The new program would give school districts more latitude in developing local merit pay plans, and prohibit the state Department of Education from dictating criteria as it did with STAR. Like STAR, it also would be voluntary, but school districts would lose their share of state merit pay money if they choose not to participate.
"The Florida Education Association said the new plan, while an improvement, falls short of its goals of higher pay for all teachers. 'We are looking for a competitive basic salary,' said Mark Pudlow, union spokesman. 'Then we can have a performance-pay plan on top of that.'" "State looks for new way to reward top teachers".
Regarding Jebbie and the sycophantic Legislature, the Tallahassee Democrat editors have this to say: "That teachers had almost no input in developing the [STAR] bonus plan was doubly infuriating to them."
The implicit message from Mr. Bush and former Education Commissioner John Winn was that teachers' ideas didn't matter, and that they knew what was best anyway."STAR-crossed".
So when legislative leaders on Wednesday proposed a substitute for STAR, it all but signaled a death knell for what now appears to be a short-lived vestige of the past administration. ...
the only real listening going on was one-way last May, when legislators dutifully did the Bush administration's bidding and put into the budget $147.5 million for the teacher bonus plan, including guidelines for how school districts should distribute the money.
The Miami Herald has a lengthy story today: "In one of several recent phone conversations with The Miami Herald, K described how her parents connected her to Townsend and, through the birth mother's allegations, to Crist. ... K herself thinks that Crist might quietly seek her out after she turns 18, and she'd be pleased to meet him." "She's a freshman at a small Southern college, a psychology major/international...".
"Florida Democrats asked a U.S. House committee Thursday to begin reviewing a disputed election in the state's 13th Congressional District after the disclosure that touchscreen voting machines used in Sarasota County had an anomaly. The nine Florida representatives cited press reports that Elections Systems & Software had informed state and local election officials of the matter nearly three months before the November election, which was decided by just 369 votes." "Florida Democrats urge congressional action on election dispute". See also "Democrats seize on ES&S memo" and "Florida Democrats demand inquiry into Sarasota election".
"[O]n Thursday, news of the memo, which had remained mysteriously out of public view during a debate over why thousands of voters apparently failed to cast a ballot in the Sarasota race, revived the sagging hopes of some Democrats still eager to claim the seat. The losing Democratic candidate, Christine Jennings, planned to use the new information in her pending lawsuit and Florida Democrats in the U.S. House urged congressional leaders to launch an investigation." "'Smoking gun' or minor problem?".
"Legislature: Day 10 at a glance" See also "Session snapshot" and "Upcoming at the Capitol".
"Far Less" Than Expected
I wonder if this will receive the same fanfare? "Most home insurers have filed their required rate cuts, but the savings are far less than the average 24 percent that lawmakers and state regulators had been expecting." "State Farm rates drop 7%". See also "State Farm Florida files for lower hurricane insurance rates", "Savings on property insurance may be much less than state officials predicted" and "State Farm Florida files rate-cut proposal" ("The still-arriving rate-cut proposals showed a mixed bag for Florida homeowners. Regulators said earlier in the month their calculations indicated an expected average 24-percent reduction from the cheaper availability of reinsurance.")
Some newspapers have put the story front and center: "Big insurers offer small reductions to homeowners" ("For thousands of frustrated Floridians, the big homeowners insurance rate reductions promised by state lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist may never materialize, judging by the companies' own filings.") The Orlando Sentinel has this front page story today: "The insurer's request for a statewide decrease comes in well below Florida's estimate of 24% average savings." "State Farm offers 7% property rate cut"; the lede: "Florida's biggest private-property insurers have requested rate reductions that are far less than state estimates -- which, if left unchanged, means many homeowners won't see the sizable savings that state officials predicted earlier this year."
In the meantime, the CFO is overseeing whether these filings amount to "Real Relief".
"This year, Tallahassee's whipping boy is local government, a convenient target for state lawmakers to point to as the cause for rising property taxes."
The mantra is: Counties and cities larded up their budgets with the property-tax windfall of the five-year housing boom. Legislators are going to force them to tighten their belts by bringing tax relief to property owners. Problem solved."Cities, counties aren't the culprit".
If only it were that simple. Floridians who rely on local governments for police and fire-rescue responders, running water and a host of other services should not be beguiled by this Tallahassee blame-game. Yes, equitable property-tax relief is necessary, but whacking cities' and counties' budgets for that relief will only create other problems. Scapegoating local governments is also hypocritical of a Legislature that likes to dump state-program costs onto counties.
Florida GOPers Planning for 2008
Bill Cotterell reports: "Leaders of Republican Party clubs across Florida have been summoned to Orlando for a weekend strategy session in preparaton for the 2008 elections. Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer, who was elected last January, has spent about five weeks organizing his headquarters staff and contacting party leaders at the city, county and congressional district levels. Greer said recently in Tallahassee that one of his duties is issuing charters to scores of Republican clubs and that he wanted to tap into those grassroots in getting ready for next year's campaigns." "Summons to the GOP Summit".
"President George Bush said Thursday he will name Villages developer H. Gary Morse to the Air Force Academy's Board of Visitors. Aside from being a developer, Morse is a major Republican donor. The Villages retirement community in Central Florida played host to Bush in a rally during the 2004 presidential campaign." "Bush taps Villages head".
"Epilepsy patients are lobbying to stop pharmacists from switching them to generic drugs without their doctors' consent, arguing that the practice is causing some patients to have seizures." "Epileptics Fight Generic Drugs".
The Democrats' Plan
"Under the Democrats' plan, the state would base tax exemptions on the median assessed value for single-family homes in each county. Owners of primary homes would get a homestead exemption equal to half that amount, plus the existing $25,000 exemption." "Democrats' proposal would sharply raise homestead exemption".
Committee Vote Today on the Revised House GOP Plan
The House Policy and Budget Council votes on the GOP property tax plan today:
Rural counties with exceptionally low property values [30 small counties that are classified as 'fiscally constrained' under existing law would be covered by the exemption], hospital districts and children's services councils will be exempted from a key property tax relief bill, House Republican leaders said Thursday.And then there is the "second part" of the House plan, a proposed constitutional amendment which will be voted on by the committee next week:
That bill (HB 7001) would roll property taxes back to their 2000-01 levels with allowances for inflation and population growth. It already exempts school districts.
The chairman of the House Policy and Budget Council, Ray Sansom, R-Destin, said his panel will be asked to include the three additional exemptions before it votes on the bill Friday. ...
The House council also will be asked to add another provision to the bill designed to limit the assessment of properties according to the "highest and best," or potential, use instead of how they actually are utilized.
The amendment would abolish property taxes on primary homes, known as homesteads, but make up part of the revenue losses by increasing the statewide sales tax from 6 percent to 8.5 percent. It also has a rollback provision similar to the one in the bill for other properties."House GOP to modify property tax reform plan". See also "House's property tax reform halted as parties offer changes, new versions", "Big savings with revised tax-cut plan" and "House GOP tax cut panned" ("House Republicans say they're still serious about passing sweeping property tax reforms this year. But it's clear the wind is no longer at their backs.")
Strategic Vision Poll
"A new poll by Strategic Vision LLC, an Atlanta-based, Republican-oriented political and public relations consulting firm, shows Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton with substantial leads in their respective presidential primaries in Florida." "Strategic Vision Poll: Clinton, Giuliani Lead Florida Primaries".
"Senate President Ken Pruitt said Thursday he wants to fast-track a $5 million claims bill to compensate the family of a 14-year-old Panama City boy who died last year after being roughed up by guards in a state-supervised boot camp program." "Senate leader wants to fast track claims bill for teen's death". The Orlando Sentinel editors think the settlement is the "Right thing to do".
"State taxpayers would put up $60 million over 30 years to help build a retractable-roof stadium in Miami for use by Major League Baseball's Florida Marlins, under a bill that was approved unanimously Thursday by House and Senate committees." "Plan to give state money to Florida Marlins moves closer to floor". See also "Stadium subsidy for Marlins advances" and "House, Senate Panels Vote For New Marlins Stadium".
"California joined a torrent of states hosting earlier primaries and caucuses for party nominees. Florida may do so, also." "Presidential nominees may be picked early". See also "Early primary bill gains in House, faces Senate snag", "House close to vote on primary" and "Primary Bill Moves Forward In House".
Cell Tax Cuts
"Florida cell-phone users, businesses with land-line phone systems and satellite-television subscribers would get relief from some of the taxes on their monthly bills under legislation advancing in the Florida Legislature." "Tax cut could save cell-phone users money".
Avoiding a NASA "Train Wreck"
"The chairman of the U.S. House science committee said Thursday that NASA is headed for "a train wreck" if the space agency isn't better funded to finish building the international space station and develop the next-generation spacecraft." "Some in Congress seek more NASA money".
"The days of wanton lawn watering are over. Water managers on Thursday slapped usage limits on South Florida -- restricting homeowners from Key West to Palm Beach to three morning wettings a week and requiring golf courses, nurseries and other thirsty businesses to cut back by 15 percent." "Water cutbacks ordered for South Florida". See also "Water-use restrictions start next week in South Florida" and "Water restrictions imposed due to critical South Florida shortage".
Public Money, Public Issues
"An interesting little argument is brewing in the Legislature about using public money for the public discussion of public issues."
If Justice's bill passes, there will be zealots who harass their local officials with costly legal complaints for using the office fax machine or phone when replying to a reporter's questions about an agenda item, or using a city car to drive to a meeting where they speak out on a pending issue."To persuade at public expense ... or not".
But if Justice's bill fails, there will be instances of cities and counties using our money to persuade us that we need to annex a certain part of the county -- or not annex it -- or that we should or shouldn't increase the hotel "bed tax" to finance tourism programs
"Why not just bore holes along the seashore"?
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "Why not just bore holes along the seashore from the Panhandle to the Keys? The threat to Florida's coastline and waters wouldn't be all that different. The Craig-Dorgan bill is a cynical piece of legislation that dangles environmental goodies before lawmakers and lobbyists with one hand only to offer a windfall to the oil industry with the other." "Cynical legislation". See also "D.C. drillers are back".
"Flanked by Seminoles and Miccosukees, Gov. Charlie Crist dedicated the third in a series of bronze sculptures depicting the state's Indian heritage Thursday before weighing in on a variety of issues." "Crist lauds Florida's tribal past".
The Castro Bogeyman
"Crist Thursday got a security briefing detailing the state's plans when Cuban leader Fidel Castro dies." "Crist learns post-Castro plan".
In the meantime, the zealots can relax: "Floridians can therefore go back to worrying about hurricanes, tornadoes and inadequate insurance coverage -- until, that is, Raúl Castro figures out that a new weapons program might be the ticket to achieve normal relations with the United States." "Cuba -- How scared should we be?".
"Obama Has Five South Florida Events".
Here's An Idea
Did you know that
so many items are exempted by law from the state's sales tax that if those loopholes were closed, state legislators could reduce or even eliminate property taxes on residents' homes, according to official state estimates released Thursday."Want to wipe out high property taxes? End exemptions to sales tax, study says".
Bad Site Design
"It’s a familiar elections melodrama in Palm Beach County — Tuesday night confusion and Wednesday finger-pointing triggered by the law of unintended consequences. In the latest episode, which featured West Palm Beach mayoral candidate Al Zucaro and others mistakenly thinking they had won because of incorrect results on the official county elections Web site, a software firm that got $241,000 to design the site is taking the blame." "“More crisp” means more confusion".
"West Palm Beach voters gave Mayor Lois Frankel another four-year term on Tuesday, and with it a chance to repair the damage from her first term." "Frankel vs. Frankel".
"Florida lawmakers pushing for federal intervention in the troubled insurance market got a boost Thursday from the chairman of a key committee. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Democratic chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told reporters it is time to create a federal backstop for states hit with mega-disasters." "Key lawmaker supports federal insurance help".
"National Democrats are aggressively working to recruit someone to run for C.W. Bill Young's Congressional seat, pegging it as one of their top targets in the country." "Democrats target Young's seat".
"A proposal to restrict the number of underage passengers in vehicles driven by teenagers was held up in a state House committee Thursday after a lawmaker argued it would hinder teens from getting to work." "Teen Passenger Limits Delayed".
"Florida May Sing A Different Tune".
My Safe Florida Home
"Florida would add no-interest loans to the state's home-hardening program, under a House bill crafted by a Tampa lawmaker." "My Safe Florida Home may get help".