"Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to announce as early as Monday that he has reached agreement with two other Cabinet officials to end Florida's Jim Crow-era law and allow for the automatic restoration of rights for most felons in Florida who complete their sentences."
The draft proposal, reviewed by the American Civil Liberties Union, could give as many as one million Floridians newfound rights to vote, serve on a jury and obtain occupational licenses with one hitch -- they pay their court-ordered financial obligations before their rights are restored, not after."Crist set to unveil felons' rights plan".
That hitch has riled civil rights advocates, who have long sought the change. Argues ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon: Most felons are already locked out of jobs because they don't have their civil rights. To require them to pay their court-ordered fees before they can get the jobs to repay their debt is a ''backwards'' way of approaching rights restoration, he said.
In an e-mail to hundreds of allies across the state on Saturday, Simon warned that Crist's proposal ''continues to perpetuate a system that disenfranchises people of limited financial means.'' He urged people to petition the governor and Cabinet and ask them to reconsider the plan before it votes on it on Thursday.
May We Suggest the Bush Family Family Favorite, "My Pet Goat"
"As a tribute to Jeb Bush's emphasis on reading, the Governor's Mansion has a new formal library dedicated to the state and its authors. Got any books you'd like to donate?" "Florida by the book".
"Oceana is our friend"
"Municipalities are balking at a proposal by lawmakers that restricts influencing of voters on the public dime." "Curb cities' tax-paid activism?".
Florida's Booming Economy
"The 2001 state law that reformed the payday-lending business in Florida is being ignored by some of the companies it was designed to regulate." With the challenges to
Florida's authority, the state should revisit its payday-loan law, says Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who, with the governor and other members of the Cabinet, oversees financial regulation as the Florida Financial Services Commission. ..."Some payday lenders flout state's reform law".
State regulators have already assessed more than $1 million in fines against nearly 50 payday lenders for various violations of the 2001 law. Still, it's not clear whether the law has altered Floridians' borrowing habits in a meaningful way.
The state's payday-loan industry has boomed in the years since the law took effect. Outlets have grown almost fivefold, from 252 in 2003 to 1,200 in 2006, and consumers took out 4.3 million loans for more than $1.6 billion in 2005 alone, according to a study by the Center for Responsible Lending.
The 600,000-plus borrowers in 2005 averaged more than seven loans each during the year.
"Crist looks intent on making the regulatory board overseeing Florida utilities more consumer friendly. But a downside of the move for the moderate governor is that he could get a more conservative state Senate in exchange. Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon, is among six finalists who were steered to Crist last week for selection to the Public Service Commission. Argenziano, like Crist, has earned a reputation for being willing to play hardball with Florida electric and phone companies. She's seen as the governor's likely pick. But a front-runner to succeed her in the state Senate, if she goes to the regulatory panel, is Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who last week pumped $100,000 of his own money into the campaign account he just established for a possible Senate run." "Dominoes may fall to right of consumer-friendly pick".
Hiaasen: Charlie's DEP to OK Business Using Florida as a "Sewer"
Carl Hiaasen writes this morning that we may have to say "goodbye to the days when you dipped a toe in a lake to see if it was warm enough for a swim."
Soon that toe will be the only part of your anatomy that you'll dare immerse in certain waters, and only then if you're not especially worried about arsenic, cyanide or fecal bacteria."If you like polluted rivers, you'll love this".
Florida's Department of Environmental Protection is steaming ahead with plans to reclassify state waterways for the benefit of corporate and agricultural polluters.
Rather than requiring paper mills, phosphate mines and ranches to clean up their effluent, the DEP has devised a ranking system that could forever surrender some of the most damaged rivers, lakes and canals to those who are using them as a sewer.
The Rev. Henry J. Lyons is Back
"He is seeking to head a Florida Baptist group again. Now his candidacy is in churches' hands." "Prison in past, Lyons hears God's call to lead".
The Palm Beach Post editors say there is "another way Florida can provide more affordable housing: 'Scrap the cap' on the state's affordable housing trust fund." "No ceiling on trust fund".
Randy Schultz: "Everyone knows how the property insurance industry has played the market in Florida: dropping policies it doesn't want, refusing to cover what it doesn't want to cover. Now, though, suspicions are rising about the medical malpractice industry. What a surprise." "New insurance target draws the state's eye".
The Miami Herald editorial board:
A bill that would allow the University of Florida to charge a ''fee'' on top of tuition has worthy intentions, but it is at best a stopgap approach. Florida universities need a better long-term plan for funding and teaching students who will keep this state competitive in a globalized world. The state-university system also needs to improve access for students with financial constraints."The high cost of low-cost tuition".
"America's mayor and presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani is planning a stop in St. Petersburg Wednesday, according to Pinellas Republican chairman Tony DiMatteo. DiMatteo said Giuliani is to appear at St. Petersburg High School at 2:30 p.m. for what's being billed as a town hall meeting." "Giuliani to host town hall meeting". See also "Giuliani pressed over former partner during South Florida stop".
"Crist, lawmakers pushing for mandatory elementary school phys ed".
RNC In Action
Aaron Deslatte: "Barack Obama's Friday stop in Tallahassee did draw the ire of national Republicans. The Illinois senator told a crowd inside a fundraiser at the Challenger Discovery Center that, 'I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution.' Minutes after the comment started showing up on Web sites, the Republican National Committee pointed out that Obama's campaign had made the same mistake in literature from his 2004 primary. He was never a professor at the University of Chicago. The university's law school lists him as a senior lecturer on leave. And the school's online biography of Obama looks like it hasn't been updated in some time." "Obama's fuzzy faculty status".
Adam Smith defies "anyone to name a Democrat better equipped to take Florida than New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson." "Richardson knows governors, not senators, win race". See also "President Bill Richardson?" ("a tax-cutting, NRA-supported progressive Democrat who can make a strong case in the conservative Panhandle; and the first Latino presidential nominee sure to energize the crucial Hispanic vote in South Florida and Central Florida.")
"Home for the Passover and Easter holidays, lawmakers may have a hard time showing constituents progress on the hot topic of property tax cuts." "Lawmakers a long way from tax cut consensus".
"If current no-fault insurance law isn't replaced or extended, Florida drivers may need to buy extra coverage to be sure medical payments are covered in case of accidents." "Florida drivers face changes as PIP could expired".
Mark Lane the other day on the early primary "Florida pandering not easy".
"Carbon Fee" Proposal
"It may not happen during this congressional session, but one of these years, the bill for combatting global warming is going to come due. FPL Group, owner of Florida's largest utility and a company with billions at stake in the debate over controlling green house gas emissions, wants the federal government to set a price on polluting sooner rather than later. The company released a plan Friday promoting a 'carbon fee' that would be tacked on to fossil fuel charges based on the amount of carbon dioxide released from burning them." "FPL suggests carbon fee to control gas emissions".
"Negotiators for teachers and the School Board in Seminole County are heading back to the bargaining table next week to rethink a merit-pay plan that has caused a wave of discontent among classroom instructors."
Negotiators meeting Tuesday could dump the controversial Special Teachers Are Rewarded bonus plan, which the School Board approved in a unanimous vote last month under pressure from the Florida Department of Education. Last week, the state Legislature agreed on changes to merit pay, which Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law Thursday."Seminole rethinks teachers' merit pay".
A Young Republican whines about Charlie:
Where will the leadership of the state's conservative movement come from? Who will keep the momentum going? As Reagan said in another era, this is a time for choosing. Who will push for new ideas and new ways to achieve a conservative dream for Florida, a state with a vibrant and inviting economy, low taxes and superb schools? It won't be Charlie Crist, who seems content with co-opting Democratic issues to achieve short-term political victories and press praise.The solution?
Republicans must get a bit of that old rebellion back and move beyond Crist's genial smile, handsome face and good hair. Rubio is bright, talented, ambitious and bold. He has the stuff to lead a new generation of conservative dreamers. Will he take up the challenge? His actions by session's end will be the answer.Go read it: "Crist won't deliver the conservative dream for Florida".
Lipstick on a Pig
Jebbie acolyte, Mike Thomas thinks "Jeb!"'s charter schools program - demonstrated by the Orlando Sentinel in a series last week to be "Missing the Grade" - simply needs a little tweaking: "Charter schools: Good idea, but tighten rules".
The St Pete Times' editorial board thinks the problem is a bit more severe than Thomas puts it: "A decade after creating its first publicly funded charter school, Florida has turned a worthy educational experiment into a blank check for eager entrepreneurs. As a new report by the Orlando Sentinel suggests, the push for quantity has supplanted the pursuit of quality. And the students are the ones who suffer." "Charter schools run wild". See also "Way too loose".
The Tampa Trib had this the other day: other day"Lunsford Ponders Book Deal, Politics" Linda Fiorilli at Political Safari notes that "he’s a Democrat, but the GOP seems to like him better, according to some officials of both parties quoted in the Trib’s story." Fame Comes Calling For Mark Lunsford.
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "A business decision".
Just Tax It
The Tampa Trib editors: "Every time they have been asked, Florida voters said they don't want casino gambling in this state. But in 2004 they were tricked into answering a different question."
Now the only option is to tax it and not take at face value future attempts to change the state constitution."Crist Must Play Hand He's Dealt In Taxing New Slot Machines".
The question in 2004 seemed straightforward, and many voters missed warnings in the press about the unstated implications. Voters were asked to allow some slot machines at a few pari-mutuel tracks in just two counties if voters in those counties agreed.
In a close vote the measure passed. Bingo! As soon as one county, Broward, voted for the local slots, the result was a statewide winner for the Native-American tribes who weren't mentioned in any of the ballot language. Under federal law, the reservations qualify for whatever gambling is allowed elsewhere in the state.
Now all Florida can do is grab some of the pot for the state.
"Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton called Saturday for stricter home loan standards during a small [Orlando] gathering." "Clinton talks mortgages".
At the same time, The Buzz reports that she "raised $1.3-million in Florida Saturday, including $900,000 for events with producer Timbaland and Chris Korge. That apparently comes close to Bill Nelson's $1.4-million record for federal money raised in Florida in a quarter post-McCain-Feingold. Hillary raised nearly that in a single day." "Hillary's huge haul".
"Sad and Dreary"
Steve Otto: "when I remember the Florida I grew up in, with its seemingly plentiful springs, lakes and streams, and then I think of 'sad and dreary' in the song's chorus, it all seems to fit." "'Sad, Dreary' Commentary On Change".