"Call it a perfect storm for Democrats."
They have a populist governor who has appointed two Democrats as agency heads and who has personal connections with both."Democratic leaders in perfect storm".Tallahassee Roundup
They have GOP politicians smarting from the Nov. 7 elections in which Republicans were thrown out of office nationwide and the state House lost seven seats to Democrats.
They have a fractured GOP caucus in the state Senate that forced Senate President Ken Pruitt of Port St. Lucie to reach out to Democrats.
And they have minority leaders in both chambers who are articulate, intelligent, well-respected and politically savvy.
"Everything has come together to give the Democrats in this particular two-year cycle unprecedented influence, which includes the division in the Republican Party and includes the new voices from the top from both the governor and the Senate president.
"The weekly roundup of key issues and what's ahead:" "2007 Legislature roundup". See also "Legislature: Day 4 at a glance" and "Upcoming at the Capitol".
From the "Values" Crowd
"Pediatricians, school nurses or any other health providers who find out that a girl under 16 is pregnant would have to tell the police, under a bill anti-abortion lawmakers are pushing in the Florida Legislature. Abortion providers would also be required to collect a DNA sample from girls under 16 who end a pregnancy, as well as from the aborted fetus." "Florida doctors call police on young pregnant girls, under bill".
House Property Tax Proposal
"Cities and counties threatened to unleash prisoners, shutter libraries and lay off police before a panel of House lawmakers who are moving swiftly to impose massive property-tax cuts to appease steamed homeowners." "Cities, counties lash out at lawmakers over tax-cut plan".
"House Republican leaders heard a torrent of criticism Friday about their plan for cutting property taxes, with many of the complaints coming from officials representing usually steady GOP voting blocs." "GOP bastions pan tax-cut plan" See also "Local officials expect trouble over tax cuts", "Pleas on property taxes get cool House reception", "City, county officials make their case" and "Local Officials Criticize Proposed Sales Tax, Property Tax Swap". But see "Rise in home, business values means cities keep raking in tax dollars".
"An Associated Press check of property records shows one of the groups that would do well: the Republican House leadership. Most would save thousands unless they are exorbitant spenders." "Homeowners, lawmakers gain from GOP tax reform. Is it fair?". See also "Homeowners, lawmakers gain from GOP tax reform. Is it fair?" and "Some interesting numbers".
"House Republican leaders put the brakes on the plan they had fast-tracked earlier this week. They postponed a vote on the plan until next Friday as the House Policy and Budget Committee heard a mounting list of concerns from business groups, small counties, cities and legislators -- many of them Republicans." "House rethinks tax-cut drive".
Up Next week: "The House Policy and Budget Council is expected to vote next week on the proposal to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to eliminate property taxes and replace local revenue with a 2 1/2-cent increase in the state sales tax. The council also is expected to consider a plan to roll back government spending to 2001 levels. Senate leaders are expected to unveil their plan next week.")
The "Tax-Swap" Experience In Other States
Florida's "most radical proposal, forwarded by House Republicans, would scrap the property tax on homestead properties and raise revenue for local governments by boosting the statewide sales tax at the cash register by 2 ½ cents on the dollar. That tax-swap strategy was employed to lesser degrees by Idaho, South Carolina, Texas and New Jersey last year, according to Stateline.org. In addition to Florida, Indiana and Illinois are considering it this year. Many find such swaps palatable because of the nature of the property tax." "Florida Not Alone In Tax Woes".
HD 49 Sentinel Endorsement
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Democrats voting in the March 20 special election for state House District 49 should choose Darren Soto. They might just have a hand in launching their party's next rising star." "Soto in District 49 primary".
"Crist sets example for open government". However, "There's no system in place to track open government violations".
"Somewhere along the line, Florida leaders faltered in their commitment to their own groundbreaking KidCare program. While other states were forging ahead, signing up as many children as possible for their health care initiatives, Florida lawmakers found ways to turn families away." "Fixing KidCare".
"A surge of frustration with Florida's newest merit-pay plan for teachers is prompting state lawmakers to consider getting rid of the program just a month before districts are supposed to start divvying up money." "Lawmakers do homework on failing teacher bonus pay".
Raw Political Courage
"Sexual predators would face tougher sentences under Florida bill".
"Sen. Nancy Argenziano is now one of 12 people vying for two open spots on the Florida Public Service Commission after a nominating panel on Friday unanimously moved her to the semifinal round. Argenziano, a consumer advocate and a harsh critic of the utility regulatory board, is said by a source in the governor's office to be a favorite of Gov. Charlie Crist, who will make the final picks." "Republican lawmaker may have edge in joining PSC".
"Redner Fighting City He Wants To Serve". See also Steve Otto yesterday: "Election Short On Voters, Not Moments".
Romney In Miami
"Mitt Romney railed against Cuban leader Fidel Castro but did not repeat prior calls for a crackdown on illegal immigration in a speech Friday to the Miami-Dade Republican Party." "Miami cool to Romney's stance". See also "Romney launches early Florida push" and "Romney courts South Florida voters".
Poor Mitt, he's having a hard time dragging his knuckles:
In his speech to the Conservative Political Action Committee last week, Republican presidential candidate called for immigrant children to be taught school in English."Romney Wants English Only In Schools, But Not Ads, Dems Say".
But at the same time, Romney, in preparation for a campaign trip to Miami, was running a Spanish language radio ad there appealing to anti-Castro Cubans.
In a press release today, the national Democratic Party calls that hypocritical, and says Romney has switched sides during the presidential race, from a moderate stance on immigration to one designed to appeal to conservative hard-liners.
Lauren Ritchie contends "There's just one artist perfect for new state song" I ask again, "How about 'Honeymoon in Palatka'?" (scroll down).
"An arbitration panel has ruled the state must allow a 75.4 percent increase in the hurricane premiums charged by Homewise Insurance Co. to its 31,000 policyholders." "Insurer wins rate hike appeal".
"Governors past and present sat side by side Friday and spoke of hope that, as far as Scripps Florida is concerned, the second time's the charm. After all, it was the second groundbreaking in so many years for the high-tech medical research center that promises to streamline science, technology and pharmaceutical development for lifesaving medical advances." "Shovels turn for Scripps biomedical research center in Jupiter". See also "Post: Crist lauds Bush's tenacity on biotech hub".
Nova Boots Newly Unionized Janitorial Firm
"Nova Southeastern University has worked hard to promote itself as a dynamic, fast-growing private school that serves the community. But critics of the university's decision to switch janitorial contractors after low-wage service workers sought to unionize say the Davie-based school let the community down." "Union raises pressure on NSU after school switches janitorial companies".
"Bean, a Republican from Fernandina Beach, wants his colleagues to ditch sweets and set a good example in a state where more than 60 percent of the population is overweight and 22.8 percent are obese, according to a 2005 study. Bean has set up a contest to see which House and Senate members can shed the highest percentage of their body weight during Florida's 60-day legislative session." "Lawmakers vow to take on the fat: their own".
Massive Development on the Skids
"The massive hotel and condominium resort a St. Petersburg surgeon wants to build in rural Taylor County suffered a major setback this week, drawing severe criticism from the state's growth planning agency." "State questions plans for N. Florida resort".
"Working on safe home program".
"The Color of Money"
"When it comes to protecting Palm Beach County's Agricultural Reserve, the [South Florida Water Management ] district's 'green' intentions, however, too easily have been overcome by greenbacks." "Deals 'preserve' ability to skirt development rules".
"A big $40 million 'whoops!' in estimating the costs of a new coal-fired power plant in Taylor County, coupled with inquiries from the governor's office about how this $4.5 billion plant might affect Gov. Charlie Crist's climate-change initiative, should cause Tallahassee to pause in its headlong rush toward participation in the Taylor Energy Center." "Coal toll".
"Florida orange crop expected to be lower this year".
Early Primary Slowdown
"The state Senate is taking its time deciding a new date for Florida's 2008 presidential primary. The Senate Ethics & Elections Committee postponed a vote this week on a bill that would move the primary up to Feb. 19." "Of (presidential) primary concern".
"A dozen House Republican freshmen, including Gus Bilirakis and Vern Buchanan, have co-signed a letter to President Bush expressing concern over the conditions at a Walter Reed Army Medical Center outpatient facility." "GOP Freshmen Concerned About Walter Reed Conditions".
"Ducking Blame For Problems".
"it was altogether rewarding Friday to see the League of Women Voters of Hillsborough County Friday present [Former U.S. congressman and state legislator Sam]Gibbons its Lifetime Achievement Award. Gibbons, who retired from office in 1996, isn't in the spotlight much anymore. But the recognition is richly deserved for a man whose fingerprints are all over the region's prosperity and quality of life." "Gibbons' Sweeping Contributions".
"Former gubernatorial candidate Sen. Rod Smith recently joined the board of Associated Industries of Florida." "Smith on AIF Board".
Tornado Warning System
"Recent deadly tornadoes have prompted governments to consider better tornado warning systems. The temptation is for officials to look for one perfect system - but no such thing exists." "A State Tornado Warning System Can't Depend On One Solution".
"Virtual schools" - you know, private "schools" paid for with public money where the kiddies can stay at home so they don't have to be around gangstas - are getting some scrutiny.
"The popularity of the schools, a futuristic novelty when the Legislature first agreed to pay for them, is soaring in Florida and nationwide. That's why it's time for a reality check on publicly funded virtual schools, some legislators say." After all,
The schools generated heated controversy when they were first introduced in 2003, with critics saying the program was funneling millions into private companies that catered to homeschooling families.And then there's Joe:
A year later, it was discovered that the schools had illegally enrolled students who did not attend public schools the year before, which is a requirement in state law.
"I think that debate essentially has quieted down considerably," said Rep. Joe Pickens, R-Palatka, a longtime supporter of the schools.And
Pickens is in favor of expanding the number of kids eligible to enroll in the schools and wants to keep the House budget provision that puts the schools into the state funding formula instead of making them wait for the year-to-year grant from lawmakers.
Jebbie Charlie agrees:
The governor's proposed budget includes $7.2 million for the kindergarten through eighth grade virtual-education program, a big boost over past years."Rethinking popular online schools".