"In this strange, post-Jeb Bush era, Democrats in Tallahassee are struggling to make sense of their new buddy in the Governor's Mansion."
Florida's most powerful Republican pays homage to the teachers union and speaks so passionately about civil rights that one legislator dubbed him "Florida's first black governor.""So far, everybody loves Charlie".
What's a Democrat to do?
"Gov. Crist is a political nightmare for the Democrats," said state Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller. "How do we run against somebody who whenever we come up with a good idea, he goes, 'Hey that's a good idea, let's do that.' "
State Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, called Crist "one of the best Democratic governors Florida has ever had."
"Legislature: Day 3 at a glance". See also "Session snapshot". On the agenda: "Upcoming at the Capitol".
Property Tax Fight Continues
"Florida counties Thursday launched their most aggressive defense yet against property-tax cuts proposed by Gov. Charlie Crist and the state House, denying charges they have wasted a rich bounty of tax dollars flowing to them."
A study by Orlando economist Hank Fishkind found that the $11.4 billion in extra tax money collected between 1999 and 2005 has gone chiefly toward law enforcement and schools, spending that county officials say is demanded by Florida's growing population."Counties counter tax-cut claims". See also "Counties stress their thrift", "Counties deny charges they've been squandering tax revenues", "Counties protest House tax-cut plan", "Counties Defend Use Of Revenue" and "Fla. counties dispute ’villain’ label on property tax increases".
The GOPers are seizing on facts like this: "County spending has gone up 78 percent since 1999, while consumer spending has only increased a fraction of that - 17 percent." However,
Fishkind contends the increase in counties' spending during that time is based on a 17 percent increase in population in Florida and an average increase of 58 percent in the cost of county expenses for asphalt, pensions and gasoline. ..."Expert backs counties on taxes".
he warned that if lawmakers force deep cuts in local government services, it could lead to unintended consequences that will cost more to fix later.
He said that while property-tax revenues increased by $11.3 billion throughout Florida since 2001, much of it went to schools -- $4.2 billion -- while $3.9 billion went to counties and $1.7 billion went to cities.
House Republicans, reverting to their normal behavior during the "Jeb!" years, "refused a request from Democrats to allow Fishkind to present his report to members," and
immediately found fault with his conclusions, saying they failed to explain how much of the money was spent. The Senate, by contrast, listened to Fishkind's report and offered its critique:"Counties protest House's tax cut concept".
''They had the money and they spent it, as opposed to rolling back taxes,'' Sen. Mike Haridopolous, a Melbourne Republican and chairman of the House Finance and Tax Committee, said after Fishkind presented his report. "That's why we're all in agreement we're going to change the tax system. The question is how.''
In the meantime, the man who had to take the bar exam three times "said Thursday he doesn't buy" the arguments from local government. And over in the Senate, the first proposal is "to abolish the practice of assessing real estate according to its highest and best use, the head of the chamber's finance and tax committee said Thursday." "Lawmaker: 1st Senate property tax proposal focuses on assessments".
Oh yeah, the Dems: "A ranking Democratic lawmaker [Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors] said Thursday he will unveil his own strategy for reforming Florida's taxes today: a proposed cut in property taxes of up to 30 percent, twinned with a 2-cent increase in the state sales tax to help fund public schools." "Democratic legislator: Cut property taxes 30%, raise sales tax 2 cents".
"A measure to make it harder for Floridians to amend the Constitution made progress in the Legislature." "Push on to slow Florida constitutional changes". See also "Panel OKs strings on petitions" and "GOP senator gets approval to make petitioning for ballot initiatives tougher".
"The race comes down to a strip club king and a former schoolteacher. Can the strip club king win?" "Miller, Redner An Intriguing Matchup".
Waffle Houses at Full Employment
"State's jobless rate unchanged in January".
Early Primary in "Legislative Limbo"
"A proposal to bump up Florida's presidential primary was in legislative limbo Thursday, reflecting the overall disarray of the 2008 election calendar." "Senators hesitant over early primary". See also "Senate panel: Change state's primary date", "Committee Puts Brakes On Primary Move-Up Bill" and "House, Senate Dates For Presidential Primary Differ".
Ethics Charge in Deltona
"The Florida Commission on Ethics has thrown out a complaint against Deltona Mayor Dennis Mulder that alleged he used his position to try to find space at a local school for his wife's tennis organization." "State ethics panel tosses complaint about Mulder".
GOPer Immigration Quandary
"Presidential candidates who call for a crackdown on illegal immigrants risk alienating the influential Hispanic vote in Florida." Here's the problem:
Statewide, more than 55 percent of Republican voters agree with legislation that would give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, according to a Miami Herald poll conducted before the September 2006 primary."GOP candidates divided on immigration debate". See also "Romney’s Immigration Stance May Conflict With Martinez".
''The issue will loom large in the presidential primary because it's a high-intensity issue that appeals to conservatives, and Romney is positioning himself [taking 'the hardest-line immigration stance of any major contender' to woo the extreme right], but it's not where the majority of Republicans are,'' said pollster John Zogby, who conducted the Herald survey last year. "If the Republican nominee takes a hard-line position on immigration, that candidate could be disastrous for the party. Hispanic support for Republicans went down in the last election, in part because of this issue.''
President Bush, as well as Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez, supported the immigration legislation sponsored last year by McCain and Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. McCain's proposal also appeals to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, a Cuban-American Republican.
March "McCain, Romney Announce Backers".
"A city manager facing dismissal after going public with plans to get a sex change said Thursday he plans to fight to keep his job, because his case represents the struggle 'to deal with morality, sexuality and gender.'" "Largo city manager who wants sex change will fight to keep job".
Sarasota -- "A few thousand pieces of campaign literature can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,200, and candidates labor over their layout, color palettes, photographs and text." "Candidates work hard to craft flyers".
"State's Plan For New Roads Favors Developers Over Taxpayers".
Martinez and Mikulski
"Martinez announced bipartisan support Thursday for an effort to pump more money into Hope IV, the federal housing program that restores dilapidated public housing -- but has come to spell turmoil in Miami. Under the bill, introduced with Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., the program -- now set to expire -- would keep running through 2012. The program was created by Mikulski in 1992 with the aim of replacing aging public housing with mixed-income developments. " "Sen. Martinez backs federal program". See also "Martinez defends threatened housing grants".
"For more than 75 years, the portrait of Lee has hung in the main chamber of the county's historic, postcard-pretty courthouse. Flanked by state and American flags, the general peers across the room into a second-floor balcony -- the section that blacks were restricted to until 1963." "In county named for Robert E. Lee, portrait divides community".
"Having your car towed can be one of life's more aggravating experiences. For many people, the towing begins a descent into a nightmarish world where the rules vary by address, ZIP Code, operator, town, city or county. Did we mention time of day? State Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, wants to bring some order to this chaos of rules and regulations with a law that would require uniform, statewide licensing and certification of towing companies and their drivers." "State needs uniform vehicle towing rules".
"First came the Conch Republic. Then Margaritaville. Now, some in Key West hope to claim another title for the island's tourism repertoire: Gay Spring Break Capital of the World." "Key West recruits gay spring breakers".
"The appointment of University of Miami President Donna Shalala and former Sen. Bob Dole to head the inquiry into military healthcare is the best news to come out of this shameful scandal so far. Neither is likely to accept phony explanations about why wounded and traumatized veterans have been treated with such appalling neglect. Both are proven public servants, unlikely to settle for anything less than concrete solutions to the problem of how to ensure that veterans get the best medical care." "Neglect, red tape exposed in care of vets".
"Crist focuses on biotechnology today when he heads to South Florida." "Biotechnology on Crist's mind today".
"Just as Florida insurers begin to announce huge returns from 2006, regulators say the state's new law limiting excess profits by property insurers won't curb premiums." "New law may not lower insurance premiums".
"Democrat Bob Graham may be retired from public office, but the former U.S. senator and governor is hardly retired from public service. He and Lou Frey, a Republican who once represented the Orlando area in the U.S. House of Representatives, have joined forces to battle the dangerous drop in the level of civic education and participation." "Need to know".
Sarasota -- "Three local Democratic Party leaders quit Thursday in a dispute sparked by the seating chart for a weekend gala, gutting the party's upper ranks just days before a pivotal city election."
Former county party chairman Henry Bright and his wife, Virginia, resigned when they discovered they would have to sit next to -- and possibly take the stage with -- their rival, Harold Miller."Seating spat has Dems in a tizzy".
Next to quit was current chairman Phil Rains, who had been on the job for less than two months, thanks largely to support from the Brights.
He responded to their resignations by resigning himself, frustrated because his attempt to broker a peace accord between the warring factions had backfired.
Lights, Camera ...
"A state House committee green-lighted a proposal backed by Gov. Charlie Crist to offer $75 million a year in tax credits to entice more TV and film productions to Florida." "House committee sets stage for TV, film".
"Most violent criminals who violate probation would back go to jail or prison, unless a judge says they're no danger to the community, under a bill the House passed unanimously Thursday and sent to Gov. Charlie Crist. Passage of the bill gives Crist the second major victory of his new administration, sending him a bill he has said was his highest priority." "House OKs Crist's top-priority bill". See also "Crist gets antimurder bill", "Governor's top-priority crime bill sails in House", "Crist crime bill sails through House".
Bloomberg Passes on Photo Op
"New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who left for Miami while the city was reeling from one of its deadliest fires in years, defended his decision to go and said he never considered canceling the trip." "NYC mayor defends decision to go to Florida after fatal fire".
"Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Palm Beach Gardens, asks the basic question about President Bush's 'surge' in Iraq. If it works, 'So what?'" "Challenge for Democrats is to shift Iraq debate".
"It's about time"
"Former Gov. Jeb Bush hated the evils of gambling so much he wanted no part of dealing with the tribe. Gov. Charlie Crist says negotiating a compact with the Seminoles is the smart way to go. It's about time." "Casinos".
"Floridians curious to learn how much influence costs these days will have an easier time unraveling the next round of the Legislature's lobbyist compensation reports." "Keeping track of state lobbyists' dollars is about to get easier".
"A Pinellas lawmaker wants to stop cities and counties from using public money to sway voters, but it was clear Thursday he still has some convincing to do." "Cities' use of taxes is targeted".
"When Hillsborough Court Clerk Pat Frank discovered recently that her office had fallen behind processing legal documents, she called the media, explained the problem and set a deadline to fix it. When reporters asked Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson how he came to change two polling places in Tampa's city election Tuesday, what followed was seven hours of misinformation and spin that symbolizes the wall Johnson has built between his office and the public." "This Buddy system fails voters again".