"House members are expected to take up their property tax relief package this week as lawmakers return to continue committee work and advance affordable housing measures during the session's third full week." "Property tax aid, affordable housing on tap this week in state Legislature".
"Dizzying Array of Approaches"
The "once-soaring housing market and troubled tax system are prompting lawmakers to propose a dizzying array of approaches to slash property taxes. But there is little agreement among lawmakers about what to do." "'Silver bullet' eludes tax proposals".
"In previous years, the Senate has been the brake when the House moved too quickly. Slow also is better than fast this year on taxes, since the House plan looked like the Unintended Consequences Express. It carried guesses on everything from how hard the cut would hit local governments to how much relief renters could expect from reductions in their landlords' taxes. Fortunately, Rep. Rubio didn't pout or posture. As he did during the special session on property insurance, he pledged to consider any idea that might lower tax bills. And there is no shortage of ideas." "Plenty of ideas on taxes, but still no tax plan". See also "Tax reform effect unclear" ("As Florida legislators move toward tax reform, officials say the proposals are likely to evolve and it may be a bit early for a gloom-and-doom prediction from local governments.")
"Faced with a citizen revolt over property taxes in 2005, Nevada lawmakers came up with changes that protected homeowners, renters and others. Could they provide a road map for Florida?" The
Nevada Legislature passed tax revisions that mollified longtime homeowners and protected renters, first-time home buyers, newcomers and even snowbirds. One key provision: Home buyers inherit the seller's capped tax bill -- no matter the home's selling price."Nevada may have model for solving tax crisis". For what other states are doing see "State's solutions".
As Florida lawmakers debate a similar crisis, they might take notice of Nevada's experience, especially since the two states' economies have much in common. Both have no income tax, rely on the tourism industry to fund state coffers, and have a large labor force of modestly paid hospitality workers.
Speaking of taxes, the GOPers just can't help themselves: "Despite a nearly $1 billion cut on estimated revenues over the next 18 months and talk of reducing local tax revenues by nearly $6 billion by rolling back property taxes, state lawmakers are nonetheless looking for ways to cut taxes more by targeting particular groups. For example, lawmakers want to make it cheaper for individuals to own planes." "Michael Peltier: Tax breaks at a time like this?".
The Sink Advantage
"Alex Sink brings a wealth of banking background to her new job as Florida's chief financial officer. So while she's quickly adjusting to the idiosyncracies of the public sector, Floridians are likely to soon see the advantages of having a CFO with private-sector experience." "FLHealth".
"Seeing Red Over Green"
"Florida's farmers are seeing red over green this legislative session. As they battle for more sales tax breaks on electricity, buildings and irrigation, they're hoping to protect their 'greenbelt,' a classification that lowers the assessed value of their land and their property taxes." "Farmers say legislation changing 'greenbelt' rules would hurt them".
The Skeleton in the Closet Thing
"Townsend named Crist as K's father in adoption records leaked to the media during last year's nasty Republican gubernatorial primary. He has denied it angrily, and aides have said the allegation and its timing were an effort to damage his campaign." "Possible Crist link doesn't bother teen". For a compilation of stories on this issue see yesterday's post, "'Crist's Accuser'".
Mitt's Savvy Florida Advisors
"There are cultural land mines to avoid when campaigning among Cuban Americans, as Mitt Romney painfully discovered."
The gaffes were surprising, considering that Romney has surrounded himself with savvy Florida advisors.Read what he said here: "Presidential candidate bungles speech in Miami".
"A Gay-Straight Alliance at Okeechobee High School can continue its lawsuit against the county school board over alleged discrimination, a judge has ruled." "Judge: Gay-Straight Alliance discrimination lawsuit can continue".
"Just months after voters opted to make it more difficult to alter the state constitution, lawmakers are pushing for further restrictions." "Petition power may be reduced".
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "The truth is Gary Siplin is toxic. He is the only convicted felon who has ever served in the Florida Legislature. Senators should have expelled him months ago after he was convicted of misappropriating tax dollars to pay staffers on his 2004 election campaign. He even lost his right to vote in elections after the conviction, yet senators said he could continue to serve until his appeal was decided." "Taking up space".
Out In The Fields
"Florida farmworkers won a few battles last year. Their advocates hope they will win a few more this legislative session. But the atmosphere is tough, as state legislators grapple with a tight budget and Congress considers comprehensive immigration reform that could affect all farmworkers who are here illegally." "Their battle isn't over".
"New Source of Electricity"
"Off the shores of Dania Beach, a team of researchers is designing giant underwater turbines to harness the swift currents of the Gulf Stream and turn them into a powerful new source of electricity." "Researchers seek to unlock treasures of Gulfstream off S. Florida's shores".
"Talk about your budget crunches. Too little funding of NASA's program tracking asteroids has the space agency behind schedule in its important mission to monitor space rocks that could devastate or extinguish life on Earth." "Out of this world".
"Makes no Sense"
"Fortunately, Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez have vowed to fight these provisions, just as they teamed up to defeat equally offensive drilling measures in the last two years. Allowing oil and gas drilling so close to Florida's coastline makes no sense, particularly after Congress crafted compromise legislation that protects the Eastern Gulf coastline until 2022. That legislation established a significant no-drill buffer that extends 325 miles off of Naples, 235 off of Tampa Bay and 125 miles off of Pensacola. This buffer should be settled law." "Protect Florida's coastline, economy ".
More Misery for Teachers
"This may be a bad time for Florida's teachers. Low salaries. High property taxes. Yet more mandates from politicians." "Budget crunch, new requirements could mean misery for Florida's teachers".
"Lawmakers owe more to children in custody"
"When the state takes children into custody, it has the highest degree of duty to keep them safe. But too often, children taken into the juvenile-justice system are treated more like underage criminals. And there's no better evidence of that than the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson." "Justice for the young".
"We've been here before: A prolonged spell of dry weather prompts the imposition of water-use restrictions. Doesn't seem right, does it? Water, water everywhere . . . and yet the restrictions make sense and should be strictly enforced." "Straight to the point".
From the "Values" Crowd
The Sun-Sentinel editors: "The truly sad thing about the proposal to repeal the ban on gay adoptions in Florida is that even the sponsors aren't optimistic about its passing. Barring a miracle during the legislative session, Florida will shamefully spend another year with the most sweeping law in the country against gap adoption." "Homosexuals".
South Florida Water Management District Board
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Crist still hasn't filled four vacancies on the nine-member South Florida Water Management District Board."
Among the many applicants are people whose qualifications actually outweigh their political credentials. Since the governor has expressed strong support for Everglades restoration and cleaning up Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, he should give the governing board the environmental voice it has lacked for eight years."Break up this chorus".
For starters, he should not reappoint Chairman Kevin McCarty or the other three board members who last week approved a water permit for an unneeded Palm Beach County golf course at the edge of the Everglades that will suck a million gallons a day from South Florida's shrinking water supply. The board simultaneously limited lawn-watering because of drought. Mr. McCarty's term expires this month. So do those of Irela Bague and Alice J. Carlson. Gov. Crist had rescinded the term of Miya Burt-Stewart, appointed by Gov. Bush.
"The state Capitol is teeming with ambitious people craving the chance to seek higher office as they hone their skills in the Florida Legislature."
But something is missing: candidates lining up to challenge U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton. Despite the presence of three prospects among the Republican legislators from Broward and Palm Beach counties, Jeff Atwater, Ellyn Bogdanoff and Adam Hasner have all declined to take on the congressman, though the easiest time to pick off an incumbent in Congress is his or her first re-election campaign, which Klein faces in 2008."Sun-Sentinel: U.S. Rep. Klein still without challengers". More on the "Potential candidates for House seat".
Virtual Schools Racket
"The K-8 virtual school voucher was written into the budget four years ago after lobbyists for online education companies persuaded lawmakers to experiment. ... The home-school students may well deserve free curriculum and materials from the state, but lawmakers are being played for fools if they think it costs $5,200 a student to do so. Some House members even propose to pay these companies by subtracting money that would otherwise go to public school districts. As government contracts go, this one is quite a racket." "Hit reset on state's virtual voucher".
"Giuliani is leading Republicans in polls nationally and in Florida, but has been behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain of Arizona in building a campaign team in Florida for the Republican nomination." "Giuliani defends his connection to Citgo and Chavez".
"Florida's attorney general long has served as a guardian of the laws that require government to conduct its business in public. The Government Accountability Project announced Tuesday by new Attorney General Bill McCollum, then, takes a logical next step. He aims to move disclosure from paper to computer. Let the government sun shine online." "Shining new light into state records".
"In a tight budget year, Miami-Dade school officials are hoping a business-based approach will bring them increased state funds." "Schools lobby is all business".
"This is the annual lobbying day for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. AFSCME represents about 64,000 state workers in professional, administrative, clerical and operational jobs, along with about 30,000 in state universities and local governments across the state, and it has a busy legislative agenda." "State workers hope for luck of the Irish".
"Sun: Legislator backs program helping his land interests".
Money in Numbers
"Marc Fratello lives in a $3 million house on Florida's west coast and makes his money dealing with numbers. Election totals, to be exact. He has a software product many believe no one else has, providing quality graphics for elections supervisors to show vote results on the Internet. The firm is proud of its track record, and clients - including elections supervisors in at least 17 Florida counties, including the six from Miami to Vero Beach - praise it. But when things go wrong, they go wrong in a very public way, with elections supervisors, candidates, the media and voters all tearing out their collective hair." "Glitch in election tally puts spotlight on firm".