"'The hoo-ha' starts promptly at 10 a.m. tomorrow. That's when the Legislature of the fourth largest state in the union convenes in Tallahassee for the start of its 2007 lawmaking session." "Little rest, little pay in Tallahassee".
Track developments in Tallahassee at the Tallahassee Democrat's new site, Florida Capital News. This is a well designed site with a detailed daily calendar and lots of articles on the issues, like these: "Stem cell research", "State employment", "Property taxes", "Energy", "Environment", "Elections", "Criminal justice", "Health Care / KidCare", "Felons", "Education" and "Insurance". The site also promises daily blogging from all the members of the Democrat's Florida Capital Bureau.
The Tampa Trib editorial board: "The 2007 Florida Legislature's chances of successfully dealing with insurance, property taxes and other serious challenges would increase immensely if lawmakers would focus on priorities, not trivialities." "There Ought Not Be A Law".
Dem Property Tax Proposals
"Challenging Republicans on a politically sensitive issue, Florida House Democrats are seriously exploring property-tax-cut options that would slash costs for a broad swath of Floridians, including renters, without savaging budgets of local governments or giving the most relief to the wealthy."
Republicans, who have proposed eliminating property taxes, say they are open to a bipartisan tax-cutting package and would proceed with caution."State lawmakers suit up for dueling tax proposals". See also "Florida Democrats to unveil property-tax plan that helps renters, middle class".
A prime tax-cut option House Democrats are studying would increase the current $25,000 homestead exemption but base additional exemptions on a percentage of median property values within a county.
Another tax-cut option House Democratic leaders expect to officially unveil Wednesday is a new "renters' homestead" that would give income-based rebates to people who don't own their homes. The goal is to ensure that property-tax cuts enjoyed by landlords are shared with tenants.
Good For Business
"Florida's economic development leaders expect this legislative session to be good for business. Their business agenda runs long, as the state's lawmakers prepare to hunker down and get to work on the thousands of bills they've churned out already. The 2007 legislative session begins Tuesday." "Busy with business".
"Tepid Reception" to
Arduin Rubio Proposal
"Backers call it a bold, innovative idea that will immediately put money in the pockets of every Floridian. Critics call it voodoo economics based on a 30-year-old "trickle-down" concept that they say is a proven failure and only will make the rich richer and the poor poorer."
House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-Coral Gables, is defending an ambitious plan to quell the property-tax revolt gaining ground statewide by doing away with property taxes for homesteaded homeowners and replacing the billions of dollars lost to local governments with a 2 1/2-cent statewide sales tax hike."Tax cut balkers exceed backers". See also "Property tax on legislative burner". Jeremy Wallace notes that the Sarasota delegation ain't thrilled with Rubio's idea: "No ringing endorsements". The Palm Beach Post also has this collection of commentary: "The great property-tax debate", "Proposals sound good on surface, but each has its drawbacks", "Hard choices will mean lower taxes" and "Portability of tax break is an answer".
But even before his tax reform proposal is formally introduced as a bill, Rubio, on the eve of his first regular legislative session as speaker, is under attack by some of his fellow Republicans as well as by some homeowners, who say they'd rather pay reasonable property taxes than go without the services that cities and counties threaten would be cut under the plan.
Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Senate are giving Rubio's plan a tepid reception, indicating that the package that finally passes may bear little resemblance to the House Republicans' original proposal.
Regarding Arduin, see "The Real Culprit".
"An Insider's Guide"
"So you've heard all about the property tax and homeowners insurance debate. Now it's time to take a look at some of the legislative tidbits that don't make the headlines every day." "Legislature 2007: An Insider's Guide".
Competing Stem Cell Amendments
"The Florida Legislature likewise is expected to wade into the moral minefield during its session that begins this week, debating whether to join seven other states that have dedicated funding to stem-cell research. Gov. Charlie Crist has proposed spending an unprecedented $20 million on the nascent field. But hoping to avert a political firestorm, he calls for research using only stem cells derived from adults, umbilical-cord blood or amniotic fluid -- not from embryos."
Ultimately, Florida voters could decide on which side the state should fall. Two proposed constitutional amendments might be headed to the Florida ballot in 2008. One would dedicate $200 million in state spending over 10 years to support research on embryonic stem cells derived from discarded fertility-clinic embryos. The other would forbid any state spending on any research that would destroy an embryo."Stem-cell debate's fate could fall to voters".
"Legal experts say Florida's death penalty system has far more severe flaws than a shaky lethal injection protocol. Those flaws, they say, render the state's death penalty nearly ineffective." "Juries, appeals process criticized".
"Republican Gov. Charlie Crist burnishes his bi-partisan image today, attending a ceremony honoring one of the state’s most popular Democratic politicians. Crist attends the 5 p.m. dedication on Adams Street, a few blocks from the Capitol, of the 'Jamerson Building,' named for former Education Commissioner Doug Jamerson." "Crist honors popular Democrat".
"Lavish Care and Feeding" Required
"Avoiding even the appearance of impropriety has been bad for business in a town where industry thrives on the lavish care and feeding of politicians." "Businesses feel the pinch of gift ban".
"Arts teachers would like to change state's tune".
"Lawmakers might want to watch what they say as the legislative session starts Tuesday."
State Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, could be taking notes for his students."Political science professor moves up".
While most of the Legislature's 160 members have second jobs in business or law, Fitzgerald stands out. As a political science professor at New College in Sarasota, he is the only lawmaker who has devoted his life to studying the very game he and his colleagues will play for the next two months.
His job has done more than help him win a leadership position as the deputy policy chairman of the House Democratic caucus, a rarity for a first-term member.
Charlie Delights Editors
The Tampa Trib editors are "delighted to hear Florida Governor Charlie Crist - in Washington last week to lobby for the cat fund - say he might throw his political influence behind the presidential candidate who most strongly supports a national cat fund. As a political strategy, it's priceless." "Crist Uses Clout For Florida".
"The idea is to simulate - at least in the imaginations of the participants - an event resembling the Mariel boatlift of 1980 or the Haitian exodus and Cuban rafter crisis, both in 1994." "Mass migration drill to prepare for possible crisis".
"Leaders of state's Senate, House provide study in contrasting styles". More on Pruitt: "As his career hits its peak, senator's ambition dwindles".
"Organizations, ranging from universities and local governments to children's advocates and military units, reserve the Capitol courtyard, steps of the Old Capitol or the rotunda to showcase their activities. Here's a list of some of the sideshows." "Beyond lawmaking". See also "County to court legislators at event".
"As president visits Latin America, some S. Floridians wonder: Is it too late?". See also "Jeb Bush encouraged brother to pursue ethanol" ("a greener-sounding Bush is about to depart for a trip to Brazil, where he hopes to forge a biofuels partnership that officials believe could revolutionize America's fuel industry and transform its relations with Latin America. Critics suspect the president's biofuels conversion is only superficial, a late-in-the-day effort to build a less oil-splattered legacy.")
The St Pete Times editors note that "Florida has worked hard over three decades to build ties throughout Latin America and expand its global presence in the aviation, health care and financial services industries. But since 9/11, the federal government has missed the mark in balancing national security concerns with the state's economic interests." "Security red tape chokes off jobs, dollars".
"Figures released by the state Office of Insurance Regulation last week project savings of between 24 percent and 50 percent for those insured by private companies. The relief could start arriving in June, just in time for hurricane season." "Storm Season".
"As they gear up to tackle the most pressing issues affecting Florida's largest county, state lawmakers from Miami-Dade face a big hurdle: each other." "Dade lawmakers trying to unite". See what is "On the Agenda".
Jeremy Wallace: "Nancy Detert is no longer in the Florida Legislature, but the Venice Republican is still getting plenty of political attention. ... Although Detert came in second in the 13th Congressional District Republican primary, she won Sarasota County by 5 percentage points despite being heavily outspent by her opponents."
They "Wouldn't Change It, Even If They Could"
Bill Cotterell doesn't think the Florida Legislature gives a damn about state employees: "Documenting, to the penny, how state salaries are lower than comparable wages in the private sector, or those of their peers in other states, is like pointing out a sunrise. Legislators are already well aware of it - and wouldn't change it, even if they could." "AFSCME ready to plead its case in session".
"Paris or Orlando"?
"Whether it's Paris or Orlando, the premise remains the same: To dismiss art as a frivolous accessory is wrong." "Enough already".
"The Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today about how to resolve issues surrounding the use of secret dockets." "Can court cases be hidden?"
"Problems at Pigeon Key are causing concern that the historic island in the middle Keys may be turned into a more commercial venture." "Pigeon Key fighting development".
The St Pete Times editors argue that "officials need to fully and fairly air the proposal to build a 147-mile corridor from Polk to Collier counties. The Heartland Parkway, supporters say, presents an opportunity to manage growth and preserve endangered habitat while creating a transit and economic link vital to Central Florida. Ensuring that balance should guide this debate." "Road to where?"