"The Senate unveiled its election-reform plan today, a $28 million proposal that would meet Gov. Charlie Crist's demand to get rid of most touch-screen voting in Florida."
But Secretary of State Kurt Browning expressed serious concerns about where the Senate would get the money, dipping into a $91 million federal Help America Vote Act fund that is supposed to go toward maintaining a statewide voter registration list for the next eight years."Election-reform plan revealed". See also yesterday's "Ballot reforms too little, critics say" ("legislation to change Florida's election law won't protect all voters and will keep the state as the 'butt of late-night talk show' jokes, election reform advocates claimed Monday.")
"Legislature: Day 25 at a glance" See also "The day in Tallahassee, Tuesday, April 10, 2007" and "2007 Legislature roundup".
Argenziano Gets It
"Crist confirmed Tuesday he will appoint fellow Republican and consumer champion Sen. Nancy Argenziano to the state panel that regulates utilities and telephone companies." "Crist pushes Argenziano's consumer mindset for PSC spot". See also "Crist to nominate Argenziano for PSC" and "That’s Commissioner Argenziano, to you".
Now That's An Insult
"Calling a recent snub of Jeb Bush an insult, state lawmakers demanded Tuesday that the University of Florida find a new way to honor the former governor. Their solution: Rename the UF College of Education after the Republican governor."
A House panel unanimously voted to force the state's largest university to honor Bush after a decision last month by UF's Faculty Senate to reject a proposal to award Bush an honorary degree. ..."GOP legislators want UF to honor Jeb Bush". See also "UF slight takes a substantial turn", "UF college could be named for Jeb Bush", "Jeb Bush U." and "House panel wants to name UF College of Education for Jeb Bush".
Bush, however, doesn't want the honor, said Patricia Levesque, who now heads the Foundation for Florida's Future, the nonprofit organization that Bush set up to promote his education reforms.
Political Safari notes that "the scramble to put Jeb Bush’s name on something, anything affiliated with the UF name is a reminder that all state institutions can and will be turned into political footballs." "A Game Of Diploma-cy".
"A plan to spend state dollars on adult stem-cell research passed House and Senate panels Tuesday, but without guarantee of funding this year." "Stem-Cell Bills Advance; Funding Uncertain". See also "Florida lawmakers want to pay for adult stem cell research", "Lawmakers reach stem-cell compromise", "No funds for embryonic stem cells", "Stem-cell measures advance" and "Money woes trim stem-cell research hopes".
The First 100 Days
"For eight years, Florida's teachers were in the wilderness: A Republican governor with little patience for the public education system and a disdain for organized labor shut them out and rammed through proposals they hated. He treated their statewide union as his chief political foe. That's why, when the new Republican governor walked into a meeting room to sign a teacher-pay bill last month, the response was stunning: About a hundred teachers and union officials gave him a standing ovation." "Crist wins plaudits in first 100 days". See also "Promises & results".
This is a bit much, though: "Lefties for Crist?".
Rubio Pushes Tax Issue
"Speaker Marco Rubio has ordered a full House vote next week on his sweeping plan to trade lower property taxes for higher sales taxes, but top lawmakers signaled Tuesday that they might not try to put it on the ballot until next year." "Speaker pushes for vote on taxes". See also "Rubio sets House property tax vote", "Republicans may postpone tax-reform plan until 2008", "Rubio goes to phone, again, to sell tax plan", "Rubio Still Trying to Whip Up Prop Tax Support" and "The Big Debate Begins Next Week".
Meanwhile, "S. Florida officials say property tax cuts would force them to slash services".
There is a silver lining in all of this, at least for the GOPers: "the Florida Republican Party raised $3.9 million over the past three months, a sizable chunk of cash coming even amid the non-election year doldrums. With property-tax reform the top issue of the session, perhaps it's no surprise that the Florida Realtors Political Action Committee was among the top contributors to the ruling party. Flowing into GOP coffers was $205,000 this quarter from agents at the front lines of the state's ice-cold housing market. Benderson Management of Buffalo, N.Y., which develops property across Florida, was another big giver with $50,000. Anchors Street of Destin, another development company, gave $100,000. The Villages, the Central Florida retirement community, also contributed $100,000." "Tax Reform Pays for GOP" (also recall that "the Florida GOP raised a stunning $40.3 million in the two months before Crist's election last November.") See also "GOP's pre-session haul: $3.9-mil" and "Florida GOP rakes it in".
"U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite of Brooksville, wants her House colleagues from Florida to join with her in asking the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services to carefully weigh the impact of downgrading the manatee from endangered to threatened." See also "Florida Rep. Concerned About Manatee Designation". Background: "Manatees no longer endangered".
The Tampa Trib editors: "Crist wants every teacher in Florida's voluntary pre-kindergarten program to have a bachelor's degree by 2013. While a worthy aspiration, the goal is too far reaching." "Crist's Mandate Is Excessive To A Degree".
More From The "Values" Crowd
"As lawmakers discuss more than $150 million in spending cuts for disabled Floridians, family members struggle to cope with the possible consequences." "Budget cuts scare parents of disabled".
Guns at Work
"So far, 15 state senators have subscribed to the NRA's contention that an individual's right to bear arms does not stop at the entrance to the company parking lot. Four senators have voted in the opposite direction, believing businesses have the right to enter into contractual agreements with employees in which they may decide that keeping the workplace safe means keeping guns off company property, including parking lots." "NRA-driven gun bill headed to Senate floor". See also "Senate panel passes NRA bill" and "TV ad campaign mobilized against pro-gun bill".
"With all due respect to Sen. Bill Nelson, Gov. Charlie Crist says he’s got assurances from 'my general' that the Florida National Guard is ready to meet challenges of the upcoming hurricane season." "Crist: Florida National Guard is Ready for Hurricane Season".
This in the face of news yesterday that the "Florida National Guard has only 53 percent of the dual-use equipment it once had for responding to a storm or domestic disturbance, a recent analysis by the Government Accountability Office found." "Florida Guard stretched thin, Nelson says".
The Sun-Sentinel editors argue that even though "the Guard says sufficient equipment and manpower are available to respond to a major storm, and additional supplies could be borrowed from other states or rented ... how long would that take, particularly with other states also facing equipment shortages? And how much bureaucratic red tape would be involved?".
"A private school voucher program struck down by the Florida Supreme Court would be revived by a pair of bills that won a Senate committee's approval Tuesday, even though they could trigger another legal challenge."
The high court last year ruled the Opportunity Scholarship Program - a keystone of former Gov. Jeb Bush's school accountability policy - created a separate school system for the voucher students. That violated the Florida Constitution's requirement for a uniform system of free public schools, the justices ruled."Senate panel approves bill to revive stricken voucher program". See also "Voucher backers take new approach" and "Bill backs shifting money for voucher plan".
Apparent Fundraising Violations
"Three state lawmakers [State Rep. Juan Zapata, and Sens. Gwen Margolis and Franklin Sands] accepted campaign donations after the legislative session began in March, an apparent violation of the Legislature's rules." "Three lawmakers appear to have violated fundraising ban".
"Parents helped beat back an attempt Tuesday to gut a new state law that prohibits school districts from starting classes earlier than 14 days before Labor Day." "Lawmakers save summer vacation". See also "School bells won't ring earlier" and "Broward parents' calls and letters scuttle bill to allow early August school starts".
"The House Ethics Committee, in its current form, would be scrapped under a new bill (H.R. 1754) introduced by a group of freshman Democratic House
members that includes Tampa’s Kathy Castor. In its place, a 12-member House Ethics Commission of former House members who are not lobbyists would police the ethical wrongdoings of elected representatives." "Castor, Others Want New Ethics Police".
"The Senate's most prominent supporter of Florida A&M University and one of the Capitol's most powerful lobbyists said Tuesday FAMU Board of Trustees Chairwoman Challis Lowe has virtually no chance of staying on the board." "Lowe may lose her seat on FAMU board". See also "House budget chief: FAMU will keep control of engineering school's dollars".
"Responding to a surge in gang violence, especially in gang-plagued Palm Beach County, the Legislature took a major step Tuesday to enacting a tougher, broader approach to addressing the problem. " "Florida House moves forward anti-gang legislation".
"Although the election has been over for months, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is still donating money to his 2006 campaign for Congress. At the end of March, Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, donated $52,187.06 to his campaign to pay for expenses related to the November election, according to new paperwork he filed with the Federal Election Commission. He donated another $47,812.94 to his September primary election. With the extra $100,000, Buchanan adds to the Florida record he set last year for self-financing a campaign for the U.S. House." "Buchanan still donating to own campaign".
AFSCME Wins One
"A Senate committee quickly approved a plan Tuesday for raising pensions of workers in state hospitals to the same level correctional officers receive in Florida prisons." "Senate panel OKs bill to aid hospital workers".
"The soft-spoken man took just 18 seconds to tell state senators the story of how the state robbed him of a quarter-century of his life ... Crotzer, 46, didn't need to say anything else Tuesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which quickly approved a bill to compensate him and any other ex-convict $50,000 for every year they spent in prison for crimes they didn't do. Crotzer's compensation: nearly $1.25 million." "Freed man closer to state payment". See also "Clock ticking for bill to compensate Crotzer".
"A House council endorses an overhauled version of the $500-per-semester proposal. A governor's aide urges caution." "UF's fee proposal gets a boost".
My Other Brother Geller
"Blood is thicker than water -- except, Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller insists, when it comes to fundraising during the session. Geller, D-Cooper City, is catching some mild heat after invitations for a fundraiser on behalf his brother -- Joe Geller, who's running to replace term-limited House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber of Miami Beach -- were sent out on stationery bearing both Gellers' names." "Geller's Not Seeking Cash for Geller -- But Says He Could" See also "Geller for Geller? In Spirit Only".
"Another Wacky Story From South Florida"
The Miami Herald editorial board:
National news outlets have had a field day with last week's Associated Press report about five sex offenders living under the Julia Tuttle Causeway with the state's blessing. ''Another wacky story from South Florida,'' seems to be the subtext here. But it's really a cautionary tale; a recognition that allowing sex offenders to live under the bridge -- right down to daily visits from their parole officer, no less -- is glaring evidence of the unintended consequences of overly broad local ordinances that restrict where these offenders may live."Housing bans don't stop sexual crimes".
"State officials turned off the tap last week on water withdrawals from the Everglades, another step toward helping the River of Grass live up to its name. The new rule, adopted by the South Florida Water Management District, means cities along the southeast coast must develop alternative water sources to meet the needs of their growing populations." "Turning off Everglades spigot is good first step".
"Crist met Tuesday with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to talk about negotiating with the Seminole Indians in their bid for Las Vegas-style slots at tribal casinos." "Crist meets to discuss Seminole negotiations".
"Legislation inspired by last year's disappearance of Orlando's Jennifer Kesse cleared a Senate committee Tuesday, but it may face long odds of winning full approval this spring. The measure (CS/SB 2864) would expand the state's Amber Alert system for missing children to include anyone under age 26. That would make it easier for a parent, blood relative, partner or spouse to get a quick response from law-enforcement officials when a young person is feared missing." "Kesse legislation no sure thing".
"Look who's talking the 'I-Word'"
The Sun-Sentinel editors say "it's not going to happen,"
but when state lawmakers begin muttering the words "personal income tax," you know sheer desperation is setting in. ..."Tax Revenue".
Amending the state Constitution to enact an income tax is a political non-starter. It's also an indication of how hard it is to fix Florida's tax structure.
With at least three proposals already out there, and another one expected soon from Senate Republicans, there's no sign of consensus and little patience for fantasies about an unfeasible tax alternative.
"Rep. Ron Klein, a Boca Raton Democrat who last fall defeated veteran Republican Rep. Clay Shaw, has drawn an official re-election challenge, reports CQ Politics.com. Marc Flagg, a Republican whom the website identifies as a former Navy pilot whose parents were killed on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, filed to run April 4 with the Federal Election Commission." "Competition for Klein".
"Republican state Sen. Jeff Atwater, running for Senate President for the 2009-10 session, raised $334,110 during the first quarter of this year for his 2008 reelection bid. That’s far and away the most money raised by any Florida legislative candidate during the first quarter, according to reports filed Tuesday." "Atwater top money-raiser in state".
"The mysterious attack ads slamming John Dingfelder during the recent city council campaign were financed by people with close business ties to his opponent's husband."
The business associates of Julie Brown's husband poured at least $50,000 into the campaign, according to finance reports filed Tuesday.Apparently it was another Republican dirty trick:
Brown said during the campaign that she didn't know who was behind the ads.
In the final days before the election, an electioneering group called ElectionWatch-Florida mailed four fliers to south Tampa residents, attacking Dingfelder. The ads, titled "Presenting: Ding'felder Follies," criticized Dingfelder's ethics and his position on taxes."Brown Linked To Fliers".
ElectionWatch-Florida is run by Jack Hebert, who runs a political consulting firm called The Mallard Group. The group has worked with several Republican lawmakers.
The Rules Are Different Here
"Crist has asked the Florida Legislature to set aside $36.7 million, enough to treat 4.8 million people [for bird-flu]. But neither the House nor the Senate, which soon plan to put the final touches on their individual proposals for a $70 billion-plus state budget, have included the funding. That would make Florida the only state in the nation not in the federal program." "Money for bird-flu drug not in budgets". See also "Legislature rebuffs Crist's call to buy and stockpile anti-flu drugs".
An Orlando Thing
"Investigators in Florida and New York believe that tens of thousands of people across the country bought steroids and growth hormones illegally over the Internet from an Orlando pharmacy." "To reduce steroid abuse, start targeting suppliers".
A Family Affair
The Palm Beach Post editors: "On Tuesday, Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty didn't try to duck blame. She asked for it. We're happy to oblige. An editorial in Tuesday's Post annoyed Commissioner McCarty because it annoyed her husband, South Florida Water Management District Board Chairman Kevin McCarty, who hopes to be reappointed." "Enough blame for both".
"State Sen. Ronda Storms had mixed success Tuesday with two bills involving teenage girls and abortions."
Her bill requiring judges to consider and document certain factors when deciding whether a minor must notify parents she is having an abortion passed unanimously through a Senate committee."Storms Aims To Notify More Parents Of Abortions".
But a separate committee - which she chairs - ran out of time before she could present her other bill. That proposal, which may be amended in coming weeks, would require health care workers and abortion clinics to take DNA samples from children yo
"The fizz from January's special session on property insurance now tastes like flat champagne. ... The benefit to consumers from the special session has been underwhelming. Yet the insurance industry wants more breaks. Giving them only would worsen the hangover." "Insurance: More to do".
"Coming to a ballot near you in 2008: Joe Redner. Two weeks after losing a bid for a Tampa City Council seat, the strip club owner said he's planning to run next year for a county commission seat." "Redner To Make 2008 County Commission Run". See also "Redner’s Planning to Run Again—For County Commission".