"Following weeks of public hype and private persuasion, House Speaker Marco Rubio will finally have his tax-cutting plan debated today by state representatives, who will hash out two separate pieces of legislation, propose more than 20 amendments and finally answer a long-standing question:"
Will Rubio have the votes to get the measure passed out of his own chamber?As for Rubio's RPOF support for his plan, GOPer
Chances are he does -- but it won't be easy.
state senators -- annoyed that the state GOP was supporting Rubio's plan to the detriment of their own -- persuaded the party on Monday to take down the website promoting the House plan, nomorepropertytaxes.com."It's day of reckoning for Rubio's tax plan". See also "Group heads to Tallahassee in search of tax relief".
''The purpose of the website was to get people to talk about property tax reform and, now that all Republicans are in agreement that we all need real reform, we decided it had run its course,'' said Jeff Sadosky, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida.
Now, without the backing of the party, Rubio is relying on organized support from more than 1,000 angry property owners who are expected to show up at the Capitol today to protest their property taxes. A quarter of them -- 250 from Miami-Dade County -- are being bused to Tallahassee by mortgage brokers and the Latin Builders Association, who see the House plan as a sure-fire way to revive their struggling businesses.
Here's a twist: The state constitution in Article 7, Section 18, states "that the legislature cannot 'reduce the authority that municipalities or counties have to raise revenues' except by 'approval of each house of the legislature by two-thirds of the membership.' House Speaker Marco Rubio and his leaders, however, have said they do not believe they need a two-thirds vote to pass their bill that would roll back county and city property tax collections to the 2000-01 level, adjusted for growth and inflation, but only a simple majority." "Simple majority vote to cut taxes may be illegal".
The Tallahassee Democrat editors urge Legislators to "Take it easy", and "mix tax relief with tax reform".
Bad news for Rubio's plan: "Former Gov. Jeb Bush has broken his silence on Florida government since he left in January and tells the Herald that of all the plans out there to revamp Florida's property tax code, he likes the one being pushed by the House." "Jeb and Graham weigh in on prop tax debate".
"Legislature: Day 27 at a glance" See also "The day in Tallahassee, Monday, April 16, 2007" and "2007 Legislature roundup".
RPOF Chair Fails to Pay Taxes
"Even as Florida lawmakers wrestle over how to lower property taxes, Scott Maxwell found out that Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer owed more than $13,000 in taxes on a company he owned in Seminole County." "GOP Chair Owed More Than $13K in Back Taxes".
Maxwell writes this morning:
The head of Florida's Republican Party has been very supportive of efforts to give residents tax relief. But until Monday morning, it looked like Jim Greer had found his own personal way to keep tax bills down -- by not paying them.One would expect this story will get wider coverage.
According to records with Seminole County's tax appraiser and property-tax office, Greer, who lives in Oviedo, had "delinquent taxes" totaling more than $13,000 on a company he owned.
The records showed that Greer Holdings Inc. had about $6,800 in unpaid taxes for both 2005 and 2006.
Stem Cell Research
"Lawyers for groups on both sides of the embryonic stem cell research debate argued Monday on whether competing proposals to get the issue into the state constitution meet requirements that they are clear and simple enough to be placed on the ballot." "Justices hear debate on stem cell research". See also "Stem cells debated around Tallahassee", "Stem cell divide plays out in Capitol" and "Voters may decide stem cell debate if measure makes ballot".
"Democratic presidential candidates have so far this year swept up more Florida donations than Republicans, which observers attribute to uncertainty about the Republican field, and the level of energy among Democrats." "Florida cash going to Democrats". See also "D's outraising R's in Florida", "Clinton Leads In Florida Fundraising" and "Florida Is A Political Cash Cow".
HD 49 Special Election
"In what could be a preview of the 2008 elections and the focus on Florida's often-pivotal Interstate 4 corridor, political parties and special-interest groups are pouring thousands of dollars into a special election for an Orange-Osceola seat in the state House." "Special House race rakes in donations".
A GOPer Thing
"Rep. Don Brown on Monday qualified the apology he made last week for e-mailing a cartoon poking fun at illegal immigrants, and asked for a state investigation to determine if they are a burden to Florida's taxpayers." "Lawmaker backpedals on apology". See also "Brown: I'm done apologizing", "Reaction to e-mail brings change of heart", "Don Brown's not done talking about immigration", "Lawmaker wants state investigation of illegal immigrant costs" and "'Illegals' cartoon defended".
CD 13 Task Force Starts Work
"A House task force will take the first steps today in an investigation of the disputed election in Florida's 13th Congressional District, a race decided by just 369 votes amid reports that machines failed to count thousands of electronic ballots."
The House, which has final authority over its membership, typically waits until legal challenges are completed before taking action in election challenges."Probe into Sarasota vote set for today". See also "Congress to look into House race".
But Florida Democrats last month asked the House Administration Committee to begin reviewing the election after reports of an anomaly in the touch-screen voting machines that recorded about 18,000 skipped votes in the congressional race in Sarasota County.
Committee Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif., created a three member task force to investigate the issue and report back to the full committee.
The representatives cited news reports that voting- machine manufacturer Elections Systems & Software informed state and local election officials of the problem nearly three months before the November contest between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan, who was declared the winner after a recount.
Bill Cotterell: "Not that anyone would try to pull a fast one, but the 2007 legislative session is entering into a politically hazardous phase when lawmakers will be tugged in every direction by anxious favor-seekers who desparately need one or two little changes in a law, a bill or an amendment. In the fast-pased final weeks of a session, things can happen with unintended consequences — things that can come back to bite a member at re-election time." "It's snooker time in the session".
From The "Values" Crowd
"The Senate cuts, while not as much as those the agency proposed, are being vigorously opposed by advocates for the disabled. They would affect up to 6,000 people who are neither severely nor mildly disabled, but rather have medium cases of disabilities, including those who are blind or deaf or have cerebral palsy or Down syndrome." "Cuts to disabled services proposed".
"Debbie Cenziper of The Miami Herald won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting Monday for a series that revealed waste, favoritism and lack of oversight at the Miami housing agency." "Miami Herald wins Pulitzer for investigation of housing agency".
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "So far so good when it comes to protecting Orange County voters' right to decide whether to elect a School Board chairman next year. Supporters in the Legislature have managed to stop an end run that would kill this effort to bring sorely needed leadership and accountability to the schools."
It's no surprise that Orange County School Board members are lobbying to repeal the law passed last year and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush. They delayed putting the issue before voters until next year's presidential primary election, hoping they and other turf-protecting school boards around the state could throw their weight around this year."Needed leadership".
Fortunately, Rep. Andy Gardiner and Sen. Dan Webster have managed to put the brakes on the repeal effort.
"Some of Gov. Charlie Crist's major department heads are up for confirmation hearings today in Senate committees, along with a series of appointees to college and university boards." "Major confirmations come before Senate today".
"Lawmakers celebrate Dade County at the Capitol".
Graber v. Wexler
"After decades in politics, including a recent failed bid for state Senate, former Broward County Commissioner [and Democrat] Ben Graber intends to challenge an 11-year incumbent for Congress. Graber said Monday that he will run against Congressman Robert Wexler for the seat in District 19 that includes northern Broward and southern Palm Beach counties." "Former Broward mayor to run for Congress".
"There's not even an opening for the job yet (at least, not officially), but an early mass mailing has already gone out in the District 3 state Senate campaign -- featuring a tribute to the candidate's father, more than the candidate himself." "Race for Argenziano's seat is an odd one".
The Pardon Power
"Crist said Monday that he has asked lawyers to begin researching the case of Jim Morrison, the Florida native who was convicted of indecent exposure and profanity in 1970 for an infamous concert held in Miami the year before. Morrison died in 1971 while his case was on appeal. Fans of the Lizard King have been clamoring for years for a posthumous pardon, but they launched a new effort again when Crist was elected." "Crist delving into Morrison pardon".
"Holocaust-era Insurance Policies"
"Two South Florida members of Congress [Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, and Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton] are sponsoring a bill that would require insurance companies doing business in the United States to publicly disclose all Holocaust-era insurance policies. The bill would allow Holocaust victims and their heirs to bring action in U.S. courts to resolve claims." "Bill to help Holocaust victims with insurance claims".
"The Miami-Dade delegation's long-sought attempt to use tax money to build a new Florida Marlins baseball park is experiencing resistance from the unexpected: Miami-Dade's own delegation members. Noting the state's stingy budget that cuts services for the developmentally disabled, Miami Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla is balking at the price tag of a new economic development package that would help the Marlins. The proposal: Take about $100 million from the state's budget and divide it equally among three teams: the Marlins, the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team and the Orlando Magic." "Delegate unsure of Marlins subsidy after cuts for disabled". See also "Senate looks at aiding Magic".
Wetland Protection in Jeopardy?
The Palm Beach Post editorial board:
On Wednesday, a Florida Senate committee will consider legislation that could end the power of local governments to protect wetlands."Keep wetlands protection".
Senate Bill 2082 is a companion to House Bill 957, which Gov. Crist has threatened to veto because an amendment would prohibit local governments from having stronger wetlands protections than the state. Gov. Crist is right, especially with the region in a record drought. Legislators have no business trying to kill local government's power to protect wetlands, which are key water-storage areas.
"Martinez announces office hours".
"The head of the State University System enlisted six student body presidents Monday to support a bill letting universities tax students for better computer services on campuses." "Student leaders back a fee hike". See also "Students back bill to fund new technology".
Florida's Booming Economy
"A deluge of South Floridians are falling behind on their monthly house payments, raising fears that many of the delinquent property owners will lose their homes to foreclosure this year and next." "Foreclosures rise overextended S. Floridians struggle with mortgages".
"Looking to fend off challengers, the two South Florida members of Congress most at reelection risk raised more than $400,000 each -- putting them at the head of the class of freshman Democrats intent on maintaining their party's newly won majority status, according to first-quarter campaign fundraising reports."
Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, who defeated veteran Republican Clay Shaw last November, pulled in a solid $611,446 -- second only to Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, who raised $667,795."Key S. Florida Democrats build up campaign chests". See also "Buchanan Raises Money For Re-Election" and "Buchanan Campaign Committee $1.4 Million in Debt".
Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Palm Beach Gardens, a top GOP target who only narrowly won the race to replace disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley after Foley resigned in September over sexually explicit instant messages between himself and teenage pages, raised $459,926 -- a figure topped collectively by the three Republicans who've already filed to run against him.
"Blaming state politics as much as hurricane risk, United Services Automobile Association says it will drop coverage for 27,000 second-homes owned by retired military, and issue new coverage in Florida only to active-duty members. ... Specifically, the company is unhappy with Crist's continued push to allow Citizens to compete with private insurers, and the Legislature's requirement that insurers lower rates in trade for an expansion of state-provided hurricane backing." "Two insurers drop all policyholders but servicemen, women".
Too Busy With the YRs
"Florida is next to last when it comes to the number of young people willing to help others, according to a recent national study on volunteerism." "Florida is next to last in amount of young people who volunteer".
"Florida's drought has all the makings of becoming one of the worst in state history, requiring water managers to drain water from the Everglades to pump into drinking-water wells, state officials warned Gov. Charlie Crist on Monday. Without emergency action, South Florida's drinking water could be poisoned by saltwater intrusion, causing damage to the water supply that could last a decade, they said." "Drought may force Glades action". See also "Everglades still may be tapped", "South Florida may tap conservation areas" and "Ebbing water levels alarm state officials, farmers".
The Sun-Sentinel editors: "Absolutely not. That should be the federal government's unequivocal response to a request from the South Florida Water Management District to draw more water from the Everglades to fight the region's drought. Doing so would threaten wildlife and the health of the 'River of Grass"'itself." "Drought". The editors also write that "the drought offers is a critical reminder of how deeply South Florida relies on Lake O as the reservoir of last resort." "Environment". that
Obama's Tampa Visit
"Obama leaves a lasting impression".
"Faced with a drought that threatens to fuel wildfires, drive up grocery prices and stop Floridians from washing cars or watering lawns, Gov. Charlie Crist urged Floridians Monday to save water and pray for rain." "Crist, Nelson push water conservation".
"Former Rep. Mark Foley's campaign committee paid more than $200,000 in legal fees between November and January, according to campaign filings." "Foley campaign cash goes to the lawyers".
"Two South Florida lawmakers want to require more guardrails for roadside canals around Miami-Dade." "Road barriers to canals pushed".
"Travels With Charlie".
"On the Edge of the Everglades"
"A coal-fired power plant on the edge of the Everglades would foul the famous River of Grass, increase global warming and be a boondoggle for customers, Southwest Florida critics told regulators today." "A familiar argument: Should a coal plant be built in rural Florida?".
"Florida Atlantic University students in Boca Raton organized a boycott of campus vending machines Monday to deter the $577,950 in severance pay going to former chief fundraiser Lawrence Davenport." "Students boycott machines in protest".
"In the final days of city elections last month, ElectionWatch-Florida sent out a series of campaign pieces attacking City Council candidate John Dingfelder. The mailers derided Dingfelder as odd and arrogant, and blasted him for raising property taxes even though Dingfelder helped pass the city's first property tax rate cut in 20 years. ... Brown, a former assistant city attorney for Tampa, said she didn't know until now who was behind ElectionWatch-Florida."
One $25,000 donor is J.C. Davis Management Co. Inc., headed by Spencer Ford, who once leased office space from Hank Brown, the husband of Dingfelder opponent Julie Brown. ..."Reports show who paid for mudslinging".
McDonald's franchise owner Blake Casper, who hosted a fundraiser for Brown, also put $25,000 into Election-Watch Florida, as did Newton Herack, a company headed by R. Park Newton, who hosted Brown's campaign kickoff.
The final top-dollar donor: C.C. "Doc" Dockery, husband of Republican state Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland.
A "Shout Out" to Charlie
"Singer Sheryl Crow has campaigned for several Democratic politicians, including former presidential nominees John Kerry and Al Gore, but Monday she gave an endorsement of sorts to Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. Between songs at a rally to stop global warming at the University of Florida, Crow gave a shout out to Crist, who was sitting in the front row." "Crist, Crow bring attention to climate change".
"The Legislature has got Your Back[side]"
"For all you skeptics, here's proof the Legislature has got your back: Sen. Victor Crist, a Tampa Republican, is pushing legislation to require restaurants to supply toilet paper in every restroom stall. " "Seat of power: Toilet paper mandate rolls on in Legislature".
Guns at Work
"Florida's business community is ratcheting up its fight against an NRA-backed bill that would allow Floridians to leave guns locked in their vehicles at work." "Businesses, gun lobby prepare to square off over firearms at work".
"The Florida Chamber of Commerce released a poll showing 56 percent of people oppose the bill to allow employees bring guns to work and keep them in locked vehicles."
Thirty-six percent supported the bill. (In Jacksonville and Tallahassee, more people supported the measure. But every other geographic area was opposed. ..."Poll: No guns-to-work". See also "Chamber says survey backs gun curbs".
Asked if they would support a candidate endorsed by the Chamber or the National Rifle Association, 56 said the Chamber and 21 said the NRA. The tactic message to lawmakers: Don't let the NRA intimidate you.
Sen. Alex Villalobos, R- Miami in the Miami Herald this morning:
When legislators get information from experts, lobbyists and other interested parties, we must be able to have confidence that it is the most accurate information possible. That is why when people appear before the Legislature, there is an expectation that they will tell the truth. Unfortunately, this does not always translate to reality, and when that happens, there is no penalty for those who misinform, mislead or flat out lie. This is simply unacceptable."Testify before lawmakers under oath".
My belief in the importance of truth and honesty in the legislative process is the reason I have filed the Truth in Government Act in the Senate, and Rep. Marcelo Llorente has filed the same bill in the House. This bill would require all testimony given before the Legislature to be given under oath. That oath would carry with it civil and criminal penalties for lying or otherwise deliberately misleading legislators.
"Usually, when people in charge recognize that something is broken, they see to it that it gets fixed. But just the opposite is the case when the Legislature is confronted with claims bills." "For justice's sake, fix claims-bill process".
Herald Reader Responses
"The Tax Imbalance, a report published in the Sunday edition of The Miami Herald about similar homes being taxed at vastly different rates, generated an outpouring of online responses and suggestions for reforming the tax system in Florida." "Tax reporter draws reader reaction".