"Florida's new Republican governor's 100th day appeared to begin in typically Republican fashion: an early-morning interview with Fox News."
Appearances, though, can be deceiving: Gov. Charlie Crist talked about neither immigration nor the Iraq troop surge. Instead, he explained why he had made it easier for most ex-felons to get their civil rights back.And the Jebbites?
As his first three months have made clear, his occasional appearances on Fox are among the few typically Republican things about Crist. He has championed alternative energy and put Florida on the global warming bandwagon. He is pushing for paper trails for voting machines. He is naming a firebrand consumer champion to the panel that regulates utilities.
"When Jeb Bush walked out of Tallahassee, it was the lifting of a ton off of everybody he'd been associated with in this town," said Tom Slade, former state GOP chairman. ..."Crist's first 100 days depart from Republican profile, but enhance his".
Crist has largely ignored the orthodoxy of his party and pushed positions more traditionally associated with the Democratic, Green or even Reform parties. ...
For more conservative Republicans, Crist is undoing many of the gains made under Bush.
"I think he's trying to be the most popular governor ever, and he's making some major mistakes," said Barbara Wilcox, a conservative Christian and GOP activist from Tampa who opposed Crist in last year's primary but supported him against Democrat Davis.
One conservative GOP operative said privately that, although there are "rumblings" from the right wing of the party about Crist's stances, his popularity would make it nearly impossible to defeat him in a primary in 2010.
"Today in Tallahassee" "Legislature".
Poor Mel, He Can't Help It
"Florida Sen. Mel Martinez -- the national Republican Party's new top fundraiser -- could potentially be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars after federal auditors found repeat violations of federal election law in his 2004 Senate campaign." "Florida Sen. Martinez could face fines".
"Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink rebuked the state's insurance commissioner Thursday for hosting a political fundraiser on behalf of the wife of one of his employees. Sink also said she has ordered the department's inspector general to investigate whether Kevin McCarty's office used state equipment for political purposes." "Sink rebukes state official". See also "Inquiry sought over insurance commissioner's lobbying" and "Shake-up at state insurance office". Meanwhile, "Crist is unsure what to make of Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty's asking lobbyists and officials of the companies he regulates to contribute to the campaign of an employee's spouse."
Property Tax Cut
"With the state Senate passing a property tax rollback a day after the House OK'd its proposals, members of both chambers need only to work out differences. ... Details will emerge in the next 15 days, as a select group of lawmakers from the state House and Senate hash out competing bills that seek to manage Florida's property tax system in different ways." "Property tax cut is down to the details". See also "Senate rushes through tax rollback", "Senate vote sets up negotiations with House over property taxes", "Senate brisk with its tax cuts" and "Senate passes tax-reform bill".
However, "amid all the uncertainty swirling around the property-tax cut proposals in the Florida Legislature, some things emerged crystal clear Thursday":
Whatever lawmakers eventually agree on likely will include a rollback of tax rates, a cap of future tax collections by cities and counties and a tax break on business equipment, exempting 1 million companies."Sizable tax breaks for homes, businesses look like real deal". See also "Lawmakers narrow down tax-reform proposals" ("the possibilities -- at least as far as lawmakers are concerned -- have become a whole lot clearer.")
"The House Policy and Budget Council today passed out on an bi-partisan vote a plan to hold a special election in November to ask voters to approve a plan to allow homeowners to transfer their Save Our Homes tax savings with them when the move." "House council passes portability bill".
"A reckless progun bill was defeated in the Florida House on Wednesday despite arguments that a vote was inappropriate just two days after the Virginia Tech tragedy. Rep. Baxter Troutman, R-Winter Haven, had hoped to delay debate, saying the subject matter was 'highly inappropriate' considering media coverage of the massacre, in which a disturbed student named Cho Seung-Hui murdered 32 classmates and faculty members. The bill, which would have denied employers the right to ban guns from cars in company parking lots, was rejected by a key House committee and is likely gone for this session." "Reckless gun bill defeated".
"The Legislature is considering bills that would allow the state to borrow more money for toll roads that are unable to soon pay for themselves."
Existing law does a good job of guarding against speculation in projects designed to create demand rather than meet existing needs. Now, a Turnpike project can't be built unless studies show it will be able to repay half its bond debt by the end of 12 years and all its debt by 22 years. The change would require that its bonds be paid off in 30 years with no short-term restriction."Beware Big Debts For Roads Designed For Future Travelers".
The implications are clear. The new policy would allow toll roads to be built based on projected demand many years from now. New expressways through remote areas, where new cities could be built, would have a much better chance of meeting this new definition of economic feasibility.
In effect, toll roads could be built to encourage development in rural communities.
"Election is months away, but Wexler-Graber race is already heating up". See also "Hastings and Wasserman Schultz: Wexler's our man".
"Are Florida's young people self-absorbed? A national study suggests they are." "Volunteerism".
From the "Values" Crowd
"State lawmakers seem to be having a hard time finding enough money to help hospitals pay for health services to the poor and the uninsured. It's hard to imagine the Florida Legislature having difficulty finding the $65 million from its general revenue budget that is needed to snare even more millions from the federal government for the Low Income Pool Fund, a Medicaid formula for hospitals to help the less fortunate get medical care. The House at least has budgeted $51 million for the state's share of the pool. The Florida Senate? Zero, zilch, nada, which will make for an interesting debate when lawmakers from the two chambers meet this weekend to craft a final budget." "Social Services".
Big of 'Em
"Panel rejects bill to alert police to pregnant girls" ("Joining Storms in favor of the measure were Sen. Carey Baker of Eustis and Sen. Mike Haridopolos of Indialantic."). More: "Under-14 pregnancy bill killed by panel" and "Storms' bill flops; she's undaunted".
"A front-page photo today in a Capitol Hill newspaper of Rep. Adam Putnam escorting former Sen. Fred Thompson – a possible presidential candidate—to a closed-door meeting with other GOP lawmakers is raising eyebrows in Washington. A Putnam spokesman acknowledges the Roll Call photo is generating inquiries about whether the Bartow Republican is readying to cast his lot with the 'Law & Order' star, should the Tennessean decides to run for the White House." "Putnam A Fred Fan?".
Stem Cell Debate
"So the stem-cell debate is finally front and center in Florida."
"Broaden Stem-Cell Debate In Tallahassee".
Gov. Charlie Crist saw to it when he recommended in his budget that the state spend $20 million on stem-cell research but with a caveat: No state money would go for embryonic stem-cell research.
Crist's calculus disappointed many people who believe research using stem cells derived from developing embryos has the potential to lead to cures of life-threatening illnesses or catastrophic injuries. But there are a significant number of people, even including those who are sick or hurt, who do not want public money spent on research they consider immoral because it means the destruction of human beings at their earliest moment of life. ...
So what's happening in Tallahassee? The Senate Commerce Committee this week approved two bills: one that would apply state dollars to embryonic stem-cell research and another that would ban it.
"A seventh panther dies on Polk highway".
"Republican Rep. Ginnie Brown-Waite of Brooksville,"
who blasted a proposal backed by Democrats for a national study commission on insurance rates, co-sponsored two bills to do the same thing last year."The Republicans And The Insurance Study Commission, Part 2".
Brown-Waite and five other Florida Republican congress members signed a letter Monday criticizing Senate Democrats for moving to create a commission.
Their letter to Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat who chairs the Senate’s Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, depicts it as a waste of time when Florida homeowners want solutions quickly.
Other signers were Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key, and Mario Diaz-Balart, Lincoln Diaz Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, all of Miami.
But the letter doesn’t mention that the bill they criticized is co-sponsored by Florida’s Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, and embraced by Florida’s Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. Nor does it mentioned House bills H.R. 5891 and H.R. 5587, co-sponsored by Brown-Waite last year, that did the same thing.
"Puzzling,: is how Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin responded Wednesday to Brown-Waite’s criticism.
"American Dream Slips Away"
"Across Florida, the American dream slips away from once-hopeful homeowners. The state led the nation in mortgage foreclosures for February, and has the second-highest ratio of subprime loans, which often target people with poor credit or allow buyers to take on more house than they can afford. Meanwhile, the industry that once serviced these high-risk and often predatory loans is crumbling, perhaps deservedly so -- but the collapse is taking hundreds of Florida jobs with it. As the state's stock of unsold housing mounts, the homebuilding industry struggles, wiping out even more construction jobs. Lost jobs mean even more Floridians struggling to make mortgage payments." "Home safe home?".
"You'd think that something like the sanctity of the democratic process and assuring the accuracy of elections would be enough to motivate lawmakers to listen to Gov. Charlie Crist and scrap touch-screen voting machines in favor of more reliable paper ballots."
You'd be wrong."Get it right".
"Lawmakers and children's advocates are working on bills to simplify KidCare, a $418 million state program that provides health coverage to children." "First aid on tap for KidCare". See also "Crist, senators see eye to eye on KidCare".
"Discounts? What Discounts?"
"Discounts? What discounts? Florida homeowners were promised relief from soaring windstorm premiums. That was the mission of a special legislative session, where Gov. Charlie Crist turned up the heat and lawmakers passed a massive insurance reform bill." "Windstorm rate cuts come up short".
"Trying to catch up to the rapidly changing world of Internet crime, the Florida House gave final approval Thursday to a measure that would strengthen penalties for the possession of child pornography and require sexual predators to register their e-mail addresses and online chat names with authorities." "Legislators OK a bill to fight porn, predators". See also "Legislature passes sweeping cybercrime bill".
"More than 100 developmentally disabled people and their supporters rallied at the Capitol to protest proposed cuts to their program." "Disabled people rally for care funding". See also "Families attack cuts in disability aid", "Advocates push for state reserves to aid disabled", "Health services on budget-cutting block" and "Disabled balk at proposed cut to programs".
"A proposal to regulate out-of-state winery orders flowing to Florida connoisseurs looks likely to stall again, after the bill was postponed indefinitely in one House council Thursday." "Out-of-state wine proposal corked".
One Man's Terrorist ...
"Cuba's communist government on Friday blamed the White House for the release of an anti-Castro exile wanted in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner, as outraged Cubans pressed demands that the man they call a terrorist be brought to justice." "Cubans angered by U.S. release of foe they consider terrorist".