"After weeks of mystery, the Florida Senate will unveil a property tax plan today that would roll back and cap local government budgets and may allow people carry the Save Our Homes benefit to new dwellings."
The long-awaited Senate plan is significant for a number of reasons:"Senate to unveil tax plan". See also "Senate property tax bill has less savings". Details of the plan are under wraps until later today. "Pruitt on tax plan: 'Loose lips sink ships'".
Unlike the House plan, it will have bipartisan support. It likely will be a lesser financial hit on cities and counties, who are apt to support it as an alternative to the House plan.
The question is how the House will react - with just 12 days left in the 60-day session.
"Legislature: Day 37 in Tallahassee". See also "2007 Legislature roundup".
"An act of political theater"
"In an act of political theater, the outnumbered House Democrats failed and knew they would. But they scored political points - their goal all along." "In school tax fight, loss may be a win".
"During a debate Wednesday over the state budget, [Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West] and his fellow House Democrats attempted to wipe out 20 percent of the $7.9 billion that property owners would pay in the coming year to help finance schools."
The Democrats would do that by replacing that percentage with cash from state reserves."Saunders said he planned to return with another version today that would eliminate $545 million in property taxes, which is the proposed increase in property taxes over what the state collected this year." "Raise in property taxes eyed".
But the Republican majority didn't like the looks of the amendment.
Republicans argued that the property tax increase for schools is necessary because of the voter-approved constitutional amendment that requires state money be spent to reduce class sizes.
"Democrat Barack Obama comes to Tampa Sunday for a different kind of fundraiser. Rather than writing a check for $1,000 or more to see a private speech and munch on cheese cubes, people can see Obama at the Cuban Club in Ybor City for $25." "A campaign fundraiser for just $25? Yep.".
"Crist is starting a weekly radio address for use on Florida Public Radio and other stations around the state", so he can tell everyone how he will, try not to laugh, "'make Florida the brightest star in the American sky.'" "Radio Charlie".
Meanwhile, Charlie continues to draw national attention, such as this piece in USA Today (via The Buzz).
Birds of a Feather
"Brandon Sen. Ronda Storms is only halfway through her first session, but she's already getting praise from Senate President Ken Pruitt." "Senate president praises Storms". See also "Senate Taken By Storms".
"Richard Corcoran, the former top aide to House Speaker Marco Rubio who's running for the Senate, has received contributions from hundreds of early donors. The Crystal River lawyer reports raising $186,000, with nearly 25 cents of every dollar ($41,000) from Tallahassee." Find out who some of the well known donors are here: "Richard Corcoran's donors".
Dubya Disses Charlie
"Despite pleas for help from Gov. Charlie Crist, the Bush administration on Wednesday bluntly opposed creation of a national catastrophe insurance fund to rein in homeowner premiums, saying federal intrusion would disrupt the private market and burden taxpayers." "Bush opposes national disaster fund, saying it would hurt insurance industry". See also "White House opposes catastrohe fund" and "Gov. Crist Asks Senate For Catastrophe Fund".
"The Florida Legislature is poised to pass a $70 billion-plus budget that pumps new dollars to classrooms, the Everglades and prisons by relying on higher property taxes and college tuition rates." "State budget nears passage". See also "School taxes, spending are focus of budget debates in Legislature " and "$1.5 Billion Gap Remains In House, Senate Budgets".
The Sun-Sentinel editors: "Broward County elections officials plan to provide ballots in Creole by the 2008 general elections. The change is welcome, even if it has an 'it's about time,' 'belated' and 'long overdue' feel to it." "Voting".
"There ought to be a law"
Howard Troxler: "Good grief! The government, telling people which way to vote? And using tax dollars to do it?"
There ought to be a law."Stopping an abuse of local tax dollars". Check out the new "TroxBlog".
There are bills in this year's Legislature, both in the Senate and House, to ban it. But those bills are in trouble.
Senate Bill 734 is by Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg. Here is the key sentence:
A local government or a person acting on behalf of a local government may not expend, directly or indirectly, public funds to support or oppose an issue, referendum, or amendment that is subject to a vote of the electors.
Local elected officials could still state their opinion. Local governments could still put out truly "informational" material that didn't take sides.
Justice's bill passed unanimously in the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, but has idled since.
The bigger problem is that House Bill 749, sponsored by Rep. Janet Long, D-Seminole, is stuck at the starting gate. Long's bill is unlikely to be heard in the House Ethics & Elections Committee.
"South Florida lawmakers tried and again failed Wednesday to undo a school financing formula that for the past three years has favored Central and North Florida schools." "Schools budget still tilts toward north, central". See also "State rejects funding revision for schools", "S. Florida schools lose fund fight" and "S. Florida legislators fail to restore school funds they lost to rural counties".
"A state proposal to require many Florida homeowners to buy storm shutters faces rising criticism from residents who say such mandatory purchases will increase their property taxes by driving up the value of their homes." "Hidden shutter cost alights".
"The Florida House on Wednesday decided the state should start making preparations for a possible outbreak of bird flu by buying a stockpile of medicine. House members approved a proposal by Rep. Shelley Vana, D-West Palm Beach, to set aside $8 million in the $70 billion-plus state budget to buy anti-viral drugs. The Senate has earmarked no money for the program." "House backs plan to buy stockpile of flu drugs".
Just Another Constituent
"The dock at Shebel's home on the Tarpon River was too short for his 48-foot Hatteras. He appealed to local officials and has, at times, had to rent a $30,000-a-year marina slip to berth the Sail Seeker."
Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, has taken on the issue this year. She says she's not doing a favor for Shebel, a constituent and contributor to her legislative campaigns. Shebel and Associated Industries have given at least $7,200 to Bogdanoff's campaigns since 1998."Boaters get help in capital".
Last week, Bogdanoff, the House majority whip, tacked an amendment onto another legislator's bill. It would ban state or local governments from preventing neighbors from sharing a dock, as long as the dock does not exceed 100 feet in length.
"A House panel moved quietly Wednesday to strengthen an $85 million plan to protect Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers it pollutes." "Panel makes changes to protection plans".
"The Senate takes up global warming today just as an environmental group releases a study showing what it claims is a dramatic rise in green house gasses in the state." "Lawmakers grapple with global warming".
"Moralizing sex education"
"The Bush administration came to power on the wings of lofty rhetoric about fixing or getting rid of government programs that don't work, and doing so with 'sound science' and 'outcome-based' evidence. More than six years of the administration's 'sound science' have shown it to be -- on global warming, on stem-cell research, in the war in Iraq -- the science of politics and ideology over fact. Moralizing sex education to the point of calling sex outside of marriage psychologically damaging for all people (as federal law codifies the matter) isn't just outdated. It's damaging to the very aims of sensible sex education focused on informing and protecting teens rather than scaring them." "Abstinence-only rebuke".
From The "Values" Crowd
- "House Plans Cuts To Developmentally Disabled Service". See also "Budget cuts scare parents of disabled" and "Budget would limit services for developmentally disabled in Fla.".
- "State may limit aid that helps poor buy homes".
"Affordable-housing advocates have struggled to be heard in Tallahassee, thanks to a tight budget year and the raging property tax debate." "Property tax plans obscure housing".
"The drying marsh of the Everglades may wither along with suburban lawns, and scientists fear the damage could be severe." "Drought could cripple Everglades' life".
Jebbie's "Faster executions at a cheaper price"
The St Pete Times editorial board: "There are no shortcuts to justice."
The only real way to prevent innocent people from being executed is to abolish the death penalty or provide competent, professional lawyers. In Florida, that kind of representation has come from the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel (CCRC). These state-run regional offices are staffed by experienced lawyers who know the ins and outs of the capital appellate process."A capital corrective". See also "Legal defense office for inmates may be restored".
For years, the CCRC system worked well, until Jeb Bush as governor decided it was working a little too well. He resented the successes the offices had in representing their clients and sought to close them all down. He wanted faster executions at a cheaper price, and he thought that he could make that happen by turning the cases over to private lawyers whose hours-per-case would be sharply limited. It was a way to pretend that death row inmates received due process, while handicapping their representation.
Even "without disputing the Fish and Wildlife Service's conclusion in a five-year review that manatees no longer face extinction, it should be obvious that the protections credited most with boosting the marine mammal's numbers from an estimated 1,200 late in the last century to 3,200 today should remain strictly enforced. That is especially crucial when Florida's rapid growth of human population and boating traffic, coupled with reduced spring and warm power plant flows (critical to winter survival), are considered." "Status lists aside, it's protection that counts". See also "Manatees not yet ready for downlisting".
Take It, Its Yours
"Once doomed because of a road dispute, a compromise bill that allows Palm Beach County to give about 1,949 acres of land to Broward County unanimously passed a House council Wednesday. The bill (HB 1315) makes the annexation contingent on Palm Beach County removing University and Riverside drives from its long-range road plan and the state approving the change." "P.B. County shift to Broward gains".
Not A Healthy Start
"Alarming infant-mortality rates, especially those for black babies, has children advocates and legislators dueling for state dollars for the Healthy Start program." "Healthy Start may face budget crisis for children".
"Crist joins civil rights leaders and what organizers say will be thousands of parents and students at a Capitol rally to support the state’s two remaining voucher programs." "Crist supports remaining voucher programs".
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "In one of the most notorious displays of his political heft, U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler threw his considerable influence behind an unqualified candidate -- an elections neophyte vying to be elections chief -- all to unseat Theresa LePore after Palm Beach County's troubled role in the 2000 election fiasco."
Wexler was successful, at least in getting Arthur Anderson elected. But the ballot-box victory has not translated into the kind of success the congressman wanted most: a smooth-running elections system."Elections".
Three years later, not only has Anderson failed to push for the paper trail his campaign promised, he has hosted a string of botched elections that left candidates confused and the public leerier than ever.
"The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill by Sen. Stephen Wise to create an endowment for the popular Florida Prepaid Scholarship Program, which would get the slot machine taxes and use the endowment to help financially needy students." "One-armed bandit helps pay college tuition".
"Buzz spotted Rep. Dennis Baxley ducking out of the Governor's Club Wednesday evening, where, coincidentally, Tagg [sic] Romney was in town campaigning for his dad, presidential candidate Mitt Romney." "Spotted". See also "Tagg Romney Recruits In Tallahassee".
Speaking of Tagg's dad, "The Hill today reports that the Mitt Romney campaign has spent about $298,000 on TV ads in Florida (Tampa and Orlando markets)". "Romney's TV buy".
"Florida's renters could soon see some relief from rising monthly rents - a rebate check from the county tax collector. A proposed committee bill (PCB GEAC 07-23) that unanimously passed the House Government Efficiency and Accountability Council without debate Wednesday is designed to help a sector of residents that had yet to be specifically addressed in property tax relief plans." "House committee OKs rebate for renters bill".
"Florida A&M University officials said Wednesday its finances are not as bad as they look." "FAMU responds to audit questions".
CD 13 A Fundraising Boon for Dems?
"A Washington-based group dubbed the Florida 13 Recount Fund poured $55,500 into the state Democratic Party over the last three months, helping the party raise $1.3 million overall. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee plowed in another $38,000. Among the Dems' biggest corporate contributors: Blue Cross and Blue Shield ($55,000), the Florida Association of Realtors ($54,000), the HCA hospital chain ($40,000) and BellSouth ($30,000)." "Cash to Contest Election Fuels Florida Dems".
"House Speaker Marco Rubio has tapped Winter Park Republican Rep. Dean Cannon to lead the House's property-tax negotiating team when talks with the Senate began in earnest next week. Cannon is a key member of Rubio's inner circle, and he's in line to become speaker himself in four years. Rubio also signaled this morning that he expects the property-tax debate to become awfully heated during the session's closing weeks." "Cannon Will Lead House Prop Tax Talks".
Stem Cell Fight
"Citizens for Science and Ethics has hired a top GOP gun, Brett Doster, who ran Tom Gallagher's unsuccessful campaign for governor last year and led President Bush's re-election campaign in Florida in 2004. The group is pushing legislation and a constitutional amendment that calls for stem cell research without human embryos." "Fundraising for stem cell research".
Advice For Mel
"Sen. Martinez should take a page from Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's handbook. Rather than going for comprehensive reform with a Hail Mary pass to the end zone, the senator should move the ball as far down the field as possible and come back to tackle the rest on another day." "If Congress Refuses Reform, Martinez Should Seek First Down".
Ros-Lehtinens To Yale
"Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her husband, Miami attorney Dexter Ros-Lehtinen, are heading to President Bush's alma mater for appearances before the Yale University College Republicans - an invite that comes courtesy of daughter, Patricia, who is active in the club." "The Ros-Lehtinens hit the campus".
"A House panel Wednesday approved a bill that would classify attacks on homeless people as hate crimes." "Panel OKs hate label for attacks on homeless".