"Gov. Charlie Crist testified before a congressional panel Friday that Florida, which just can't seem to shake a reputation for voting mishaps, is entering 'a new era' in voter confidence by moving toward paper ballots."
But while Crist exuded confidence in Washington, his quest for $30 million to junk most of the touch-screen voting machines in 15 counties and replace them with optical scan machines faces an uncertain future."Crist's push for paper ballots runs into resistance over funding". See also "Crist: Get rid of touch screens", "Crist updates Congress on plans to eliminate touch-screen voting", "Slight Change in Paper Trail Plan", "Crist touts elections overhaul" and "Crist Wants Voting Upgrades".
Florida lawmakers have yet to consider his proposal and both chambers have thus far refused to put the money in their budgets.
''The issue is whether you fund what looks like a mistake,'' said House Speaker Marco Rubio, a West Miami Republican, adding, "I don't know why [the counties] gave into temptation to buy these touchscreen machines and listened to the lobbyists for the companies who sold these.''
The religious right is "a cause some say is waning or dead ... There's little question that movement has suffered setbacks recently, culminating in the elections that put a moderate in the Florida governor's mansion and Democrats in control of both houses of Congress."
In Florida, said Derek Newton, a Democratic political consultant in Miami, "I think it's fairly clear their power or influence is on the decline. I don't think you can look at recent election results and conclude anything else.""Religious Right At A Low Point".
Although the movement has taken some hits, it would be a mistake, political experts say, to call it dead.
"This is clearly not a great time for them," said University of Florida political scientist Ken Wald, who specializes in religion in politics. "But you have to think of this as a cyclical movement that has highs and lows."
"Jeb!" No Gator
"More than three dozen UF faculty members snubbed the Republican Party celebrity this week, killing a proposal to give him an honorary degree." UF president Bernie
Machen said the degree denial is "unprecedented" in UF history.Bushco is furious:
"I just think it was a horrible decision based upon some people that really don't know all the things Jeb Bush did for education, and especially for the University of Florida," Machen said Friday. "I don't know, I guess someone's trying to make some kind of a statement."
Bush could not be reached Friday, but some longtime supporters were outraged.This story isn't over:
"We name buildings after people who have questionable backgrounds," said former UF student body president Steve Uhlfelder, a Democrat and former state university system leader who practices law in Tallahassee.
Uhlfelder pointed out that UF's basketball arena is named after former university president Stephen C. O'Connell, who as Florida Supreme Court justice wrote the 1956 opinion to keep a black student from entering the UF law school.
Machen said he's not giving up on making Bush a Gator."UF faculty to Bush: You can't be a Gator". See also "UF faculty senate votes against honorary degree for Jeb Bush", "No sheepskin for Jeb", "Former Gov. Bush denied honorary degree at UF".
House Tax Plan Advances
"After weeks of debate and three different proposals, a key House committee approved an ambitious Republican plan Friday to cut $15 billion in property taxes and raise state and local sales taxes by as much as $9.2 billion instead. But as the Republican-controlled House Policy and Budget Council raced headlong into a party-line vote, the Florida Senate remained silent. Senate leaders say there is no support for the House plan, but they are not compelled to bring an alternative forward." "Property tax cuts are facing Senate silence". See also "New House plan would put crimp in cash flow", "Rubio's Massive Tax-Swap Clears First Hurdle", "Property-tax relief passes first key vote", "GOP's tax-cutting plan faces a stormy future", "Property-tax shake-up moves forward", "Cities and counties are still fighting revised House GOP tax plan", "House committee approves GOP plan to cut property taxes", "House releases prop tax impact" and "Tax plan finds weak support".
The Sun-Sentinel editors warn that "Lawmakers are in such haste to do something they could unwittingly create other consequences, much as happened with the Save Our Homes amendment." The Palm Beach Post editors: "Still the House special, still not good tax reform".
"As the tax debate rages in Tallahassee, the Florida House is attacking the messenger. It's an intriguing strategy, and its pettiness is telling." "Rocks fly from (glass) House in tax debate".
"Neither of the lawmakers who control committees that write Florida's insurance policy believe in global warming." "Warmth surge may get price tag".
And who are these bright lights? Sen. Bill Posey, a Rockledge Republican and State Rep. Don Brown, a DeFuniak Springs Republican.
GOPers in a Jam
"Worker and company property rights are at odds in a gun bill being debated in Tallahassee." "Gun bill seeks to clarify property rights". See also "Lawmakers to consider bill to allow guns in cars at work".
She St Pete Times editorial board:
It's an effective strategy: Starve roads, ignore mass transit, tolerate sprawl and then complain the state cannot afford to meet the demand for transportation. The Florida House passed a bill Thursday the Republican majority preordained for years. It would allow investor-owned companies to lease existing toll roads and build new ones and charge users whatever they saw fit. The move drives transportation planning in the wrong direction and the Senate should resist it."Wrong direction on Florida roads".
"Freshman Sen. Ted Deutch and other Florida lawmakers have scheduled a telephone conference call Monday with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rally support for a pair of bills that would force Florida to back out of billions of dollars in investments with companies tied to Iran and Sudan." "Deutch urges yanking billions from firms tied to Iran, Sudan".
"An international custody battle over a Coral Gables girl is quietly playing out in Miami-Dade County's juvenile courthouse. ... DCF is represented in the case by Jason Dimitris, a former state and federal prosecutor recently named chief of staff for agency head Bob Butterworth." "U.S.-Cuba custody fight brews over girl".
Raw Political Courage
"A budget crunch has not killed lawmakers' desire to offer Floridians sales tax relief for school shopping, hurricane supplies and energy-saving light bulbs." "Lawmakers plan sales-tax breaks".
Bowing to Billboards
"The state of Florida, however, appears to be flexible to a fault when it comes to its position on billboards. The fault, in fact, is likely to cost taxpayers a $15 million federal fee - you might call it a fine - for allowing some billboards to be put up again after they were damaged, many of them by hurricanes in 2004. It's a problem because these nonconforming billboards go back up without meeting existing codes. In addition, Florida is risking as much as $161 million in lost federal transportation money if it continues with its plan to weaken regulations governing the re-erection of billboards that are damaged." "Billboard break".
"Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Walt McNeil Friday unveiled a new draft mission for the embattled department, one that seeks to broaden its approach from public protection to prevention, intervention and treatment." "DJJ head unveils overhaul plan".
Charlie "Hears our Pain"
"Crist hears our pain: Taxes, crime and growth".
"The Real Stunner ..."
"A ranking by a national child-care organization suggests Florida's regulations governing commercial day cares are already lax compared with other states. But the real stunner is that most of those rules don't apply to any facility run by a church." "Day-care rules".
"Special masters have been named by leadership in the House and Senate to begin hearing evidence in the $5 million compensation claim for the family of Martin Lee Anderson." "Anderson deal goes to Legislature".
McCollum Holds a Press Conference
"Television and radio advertisements aimed at keeping teenage girls from posting their pictures and personal information on the Internet will be hitting airwaves across the nation, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and the U.S. Attorney's Office announced Friday." "Ads to warn teen girls about posting photos, data online". See also "Campaign targets Internet crime".
"Florida lawmakers have a chance to cut through the hype, hysteria and disgust. First, they should recognize that the vaccine, dubbed Gardasil, represents a genuine health-care breakthrough that could eventually spare the lives (or fertility) of thousands of women. But just as importantly, they should understand that many parents are uneasy about giving their child a vaccine that has been on the market less than a year. It's time to consider a middle road, trusting Florida families to make their own health-care decisions." "HPV vaccine impasse".
Cuts Too Small?
"Florida regulators have begun to challenge insurance rate cuts they say are not deep enough." "Experts: Insurance cuts too small".
St. Petersburg Democrat, Sen. Charlie Justice:
"I just, philosophically, don't think we should use tax dollars to say vote yes or vote no on a ballot issue," Justice said."Senator wants curbs on tax-funded fight of ballot initiatives".
His bill would create a $1,000-per-count fine when local governments use public dollars to advocate for or against things like bond referendums and ballot initiatives in places like newspapers, direct mail or the Internet.
"Florida moved a step closer Friday to using "clean-burning" coal technology. The powerful House Budget and Policy Council unanimously approved a measure that would extend the same breaks lawmakers last year gave to nuclear plants to "integrated gasification combined cycle'' plants that convert coal to electricity." "'Clean' coal gets one step closer in House".
Largo Rubber Stamp
"Impassioned speeches from dozens of supporters failed to sway city commissioners as they finalized the firing early Saturday of the city manager who is seeking a sex change operation. Following a six-hour hearing, commissioners rubber-stamped the 5-2 vote they made last month to fire Steve Stanton after his announcement that he planned a new life as a woman but wanted to keep his job running this city of 76,000 residents west of Tampa." "Commissioners vote to fire transgender city manager". See also "Largo reaffirms firing of transgender official".