Crist Fumbles Restoration
"Crist postponed a decision on the automatic restoration of civil rights for felons."
Chairing his first meeting of the state clemency board on Thursday, Gov. Charlie Crist denied the restoration of voting rights for dozens of felons, approved the rights for several others and postponed a vote on a plan to automatically restore the rights for many more in the future.What kind of leadership is this? Charlie acts like he didn't know that McCollum toes the standard RPOF line on restoration?
But the governor needs a consensus on the four-member clemency board and he was unable to forge the compromise he had sought without isolating a fellow Republican, Attorney General Bill McCollum, as the lone ''no'' vote.So Charlie is giving McCollum, a knuckle dragger from the get go, the ultimate authority? Apparently so:
''Obviously, I favor the restoration of civil rights and I am optimistic we will be able to get to that point, but I want to build a consensus before we go there,'' he said after the four-hour meeting."Crist delays vote on restoring rights to felons automatically". See also "Drive for Automatic Restoration of Rights Stalls", "Crist postpones clemency vote on felons rights", "Restoring rights quickly is revisited", "Drunken driver denied clemency" and "Crist delays decision on felons' civil rights" ("Despite an intense, behind-the-scenes lobbying effort, Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday postponed an anticipated vote on a plan to automatically restore the civil rights of most convicted felons who have completed their sentences.")
Crist hoped to find agreement among McCollum, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink to approve the automatic restoration of felons' civil rights for the majority of crimes.
And what is this supposed to mean: "Crist said he would continue to press for automatic restoration for some, but only when he felt he had the 'appropriate majority' of votes." "Crist delays taking up felons' rights". "Appropriate majority"?
"Florida news media have well-placed allies in this year's effort to scrap the state's 'false light' doctrine for suing publishers or broadcasters over accurate, but irritating, statements in news reports. Proponents see it as a protection for unfettered news reporting. But a lawyer who teaches communications at Florida State University warns that taking away the option to sue for 'embarrassment, humiliation and ridicule' will diminish the common-law right to be left alone." "Effort to scrap 'false light' law has powerful allies at Capitol".
If you are unaware of the Orlando Sentinel's poltroonery on this subject, please take a look at "Oh ... The Hypocrisy".
"Insurance Law's Savings Pegged In Double Digits". See also "Florida homeowners to see reduction in insurance cost", "Insurance rates will begin dropping soon" and "State: New law should give insurance savings up to 50 percent".
"Less of A Democracy"
Mark Lane takes a look at the S. V. Date book on Jebbie: "Jeb book ties past to future" (if Jebbie were president, "we would be less of a democracy at the end of his term.")
"Florida's executioners need better training, and the mix of chemicals now used in lethal injections should be re-evaluated, a commission charged with reviewing a botched December execution said in a report released Thursday." "Report: State's killings flawed". See also "Review of executions on Crist's desk" and "Crist gets lethal injection report, takes no immediate action".
The St Pete Times editorial board:
If Gov. Charlie Crist is puzzled about why teachers from his home county overwhelmingly rejected bonus pay, he need only look at the seven local formulas that state education bureaucrats rejected. Performance pay, as it is being hastily mandated throughout Florida, has become a game of political gotcha. And teachers want no part."The teachers are not the only ones showing their disgust, either."
In Pinellas, teachers rejected the bonus plan by a staggering vote of 4,266 to 191. In Broward, the margin was 97 percent against; in St. Lucie, 96 percent; in Hendry, 95 percent; in Duval, 75 percent.
At least eight elected School Boards have put their own counties at financial risk by refusing to send a bonus plan to the state Department of Education. In Pinellas, the effort was led by a board member, Jane Gallucci, who is currently president of the National School Boards Association. As Gallucci put it: "If you let the bully bully you, you get bullied again.""Grades are in: Bonus plan is farcical mess". See also "Legislature should speed pay plan's demise". But see "FCAT-based teacher bonuses reluctantly approved in Martin".
The bully is Tallahassee, and newly elected state Sen. Don Gaetz, a former Okaloosa school superintendent, knows the score. Of the Special Teachers Are Rewarded mandate, he says: "It wasn't debated. It wasn't subjected to a committee process, to testimony, to review, to analysis. ... The STAR system was poorly designed and ... is inherently flawed."
And this piece by a high school history teacher, in "creativity-crushing FCAT style" no less, is worth a read: "Describe a dim STAR in five 'graphs".
The Tampa Trib editors: "Today it makes sense to repeal no-fault car insurance because ambulance-chasing lawyers and unscrupulous doctors are scamming the system in new ways, forcing Floridians to pay the nation's sixth highest auto insurance rates." "Florida Should Let The Sun Set On No-Fault Auto Insurance".
Wexler Hearts Obama
"U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler is backing Barack Obama for president, bringing the Illinois senator a potentially strong base of support in Democrat-rich South Florida." "Wexler backing Obama". See also "Obama Is Going to Have A Very Busy Sunday In Florida".
What About Employers?
"Board of Governors considers mandatory health insurance for college students." "Universities".
what America's governors obviously understand on a federal-state level, Florida's elected state leaders conveniently forget when it comes to state-local relations. Cities, counties and school districts throughout the Sunshine State have complained for years that the Legislature, with the complicity of the governor, whoever it happens to be, passes down to them sometimes very big bills to pay for laws that it requires."Unfunded, unfair".
An Orlando Thing
George Diaz laments: "Orlando's identity has taken enough hits already, with the proverbial cheap shots because of our ties to Mickey, Minnie, the Grinch, Shamu and the rest of the cuddly creatures who drive our tourism industry." "Art purchases fly best when doors are open".
"The leader of a probusiness group Thursday attacked legislation he said would undo a law passed last year to prevent defendants in lawsuits from having to pay for damages caused by other parties."
Judges and juries, under the new law, no longer can order defendants with "deep pockets" to pay most or all of a verdict when other defendants are unable to pay their shares regardless of how much each had been at fault."Business group fights suit bill".
This year's legislation (HB 733 and SB 1558) also would bar the practice, supported by business interests, of considering the faulted parties not included in a lawsuit when deciding how to divide responsibility for paying damage
"The gambling interests that want voters to approve Las Vegas-style slot machines in Miami-Dade County began quietly searching for a new campaign team this week that could include Miami state Rep. David Rivera, a top lieutenant to the anti-gambling leader of the Florida House of Representatives." "Dade slots fight may resume".
"Not so fast"
"House Republican leaders promise that by abolishing property taxes for all full-time residents and rolling back rates for everyone else, they will save property owners thousands of dollars a year and also stimulate the economy."
Not so fast, economists say."Sales tax plan shifts the burden". See also "Tax reform would force budget cuts" ("County officials on Thursday shared some dire predictions as they discussed what could happen if state legislators overhaul Florida's tax system, possibly raising the sales tax while, for homesteaded residents, eliminating the property tax altogether.")
The massive property tax reform plan being trumpeted by House leaders heading into Tuesday's start of the legislative session is drawing two big red flags from economic experts.
First, many experts say the plan, which eliminates property taxes for full-time Floridians in exchange for a voter-approved 42 percent hike in sales tax, would benefit wealthy property owners and shift more of the tax burden to the poor and middle class.
Second, by relying on unstable sales tax income more than ever before, state and local governments would be forced to slash budgets every time Floridians change their spending habits.
Overall, the plan is fraught with risk, economists say.
The Buzz: "National Journal's new Congressional vote ratings peg"
Robert Wexler as the most liberal member of Florida's U.S. House delegation (No duh), and Ric Keller as the most conservative (some duh). ..."Liberal Robert, conservative Ric".
In the Senate, Mel Martinez was more conservative than 79.3 percent of members, and Bill Nelson was more conservative than 66.2.
Draining the Guard
"Florida Guard officials said the shortages, while significant, pose no critical threat to their ability to respond to a domestic disaster such as a hurricane - yet." "Equipment ruined or still needed".
"Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland asked for an investigation into his office this week after a security video surfaced this week showing a woman voting twice within 45 minutes during early voting in August. State Attorney Harry Shorstein said he hoped to have an announcement in the case today." "Elections chiefs: 1 ballot per voter".
The Other Clinton
"For a two-term president married to a U.S. senator running for the White House, Bill Clinton delivered a speech at the University of Miami Thursday with barely a trace of politics." "Serve the public, Clinton tells young". See also "Former President Clinton addresses UM students".
"Conservative anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist isn’t the forgiving type. In talking to him last week about Rep. Vern Buchanan’s early votes in Congress, Norquist refused to give Buchanan much cover for voting to repeal some gas and oil subsidies." "Norquist isn’t happy with Buchanan".
Mahoney Votes Right
"Hazing ramped up this week for a clique of moderate freshman Democrats who won in traditional Republican strongholds last November, making them targets for interest groups ready to twist arms for votes."
Business groups paid special attention to a trio of moderate Democrats -- Reps. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, Tim Mahoney of Florida and Nancy Boyda of Kansas -- in a campaign against a pro-union bill that pitted business interests against organized labor."Moderates feel heat from business, GOP".
The bill passed 241-185 Thursday, mostly on party lines and with support from all three. The lobbying underscored that circumstances of their 2006 victories will resonate until the 2008 elections.
"After a scandal-filled year in Palm Beach County politics, the head of the nonpartisan Voters Coalition felt compelled to remind a banquet room full of elected officials, judges and campaign operatives Thursday night that not all politicians are crooked." "Most pols honest, vote group says".
Bill Berlow: "Truth is, the wonks have been saying for years that Florida and other states were like a fast-moving train that was bound to wreck without major tax reform."
In 2005, University of Florida economist David Denslow sounded almost prescient in "Tough Choices: Shaping Florida's Future," a report by the LeRoy Collins Institute at FSU on Florida's most pressing public policy challenges."But Denslow was hardly a lone ranger."
The first chapter - written by Denslow and titled "Florida's State and Local Revenues" - identifies the statewide housing boom as both blessing and curse.
The increase in property values means that city and county coffers are more full, which gives rise to the allegation that local governments are irresponsibly drunk with newfound riches.
As Denslow noted, however, building booms end. The most recent boom is now showing clear signs of doing that, and policymakers are left to deal with the consequences.
"There is the danger the housing boom will lull policy makers into complacency, since the gains come early and the pain later," he wrote. "The immediate benefits are the rising revenue and increasing employment. The costs are the gradually declining levels of public services as government operations are stretched thin and infrastructure is increasingly crowded."
Last year, a report by the National League of Cities concluded that the entire system of public finance throughout the country is badly flawed and "woefully out of date" because of the shift from goods to services and the rise of the knowledge-based economy.Remember,
The League's goal was to spur discussion in state legislatures, county courthouses and city halls around America. Great goal, but as the events of past weeks have already shown, the political process moves much faster, and usually less thoughtfully, than policy experts would like. And Florida's legislative session hasn't even begun yet.
it's all about the 2008 presidential race and how Florida figures in so prominently. Both Republicans and Democrats want to be perceived as the people's party, and if that means cutting taxes at the expense of local services, that darn-tootin' will be the price we pay."Tax reform: It's about politics, not policy".