The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Four weeks remain in the regular session of the Legislature. How many Floridians believe that gives Tallahassee enough time to write a responsible tax reform plan that pleases the governor and at least 75 percent of the Legislature? Here's where we stand on taxes:"
House Republicans want to roll back local government property-tax collections to the 2003-04 budget year and limit annual spending increases to the inflation rate plus new construction. They want a statewide vote on ending the schools tax for homesteads, making up some of that by increasing the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. They want a statewide vote on requiring each county to decide on another shift of taxation from homesteads that could raise the sales tax another 1.5 cents. They want a $25,000 tangible property-tax exemption for businesses.The editors argue that if "Crist wants a tax plan for this year, as he insists that he does,"
Senate Democrats reject any increase in the sales tax. They would cut local spending less, though still impose annual spending limits, and they would ask Save Our Homes-protected Floridians to double the amount their value could rise in a year. They favor the business tax break, and they want to let homesteaders take some of their Save Our Homes break when they move.
It's a better, fairer plan, but the Democrats are in the minority. Senate Republicans promise a plan soon. Since getting any amendment onto the ballot would require three-fourths approval in each chamber, however, Democrats can block any plan they don't like.
the governor should say now that he intends to keep calling special sessions until he gets a responsible one. Otherwise, four weeks won't be enough. Either way, is this how Florida should make tax policy?"A tax deadline looms, and it isn't with the IRS".
"With half a session to go, Florida legislators face property taxes, the budget, college tuition, stem cells and voting machines." "For lawmakers, ticktock time". See also "Legislators optimistic about rest of session" and "Lawmakers enter second half, budget dominated this week".
"Remember the legislative session in January that state lawmakers held to tame vicious property-insurance rates?"
Many lawmakers probably wish you've forgotten it by now -- especially the guarantees they made that followed it."Unfulfilled promise".
Rates will plummet, they promised. And by 22 percent to 24 percent.
They ended up dipping a paltry 3 percent to 14 percent, however, in requests made to state regulators by Florida's largest private insurers.
No one still paying exorbitant rates has likely forgotten the session and the promises. And no one will likely forgive lawmakers for promising much but delivering little, either, if they don't do something in the current legislative session to provide significantly more relief.
"Crist's 100 Days"
"Crist on Wednesday will reach 100 days in office. But with the legislative session entering its final weeks and his signature issue of property-tax reform still unsettled, there won't be much time to bask in what even political rivals have called his remarkably successful start." "Taxes tangle Crist's 100 days". Meanwhile, "'People's governor' optimistic".
"In legislative lingo it's referred to as the "I-word," and the mere mention of it can send shivers down a Florida politician's spine."
It's a personal "income tax," a revenue source tapped by most state governments but outlawed by the Florida Constitution since 1924, when the Sunshine State was on the threshold of a historic land boom."Mentioning 'I-word' is the kiss of death for Florida politicians".
The idea behind the ban was to lure Northerners with income and wealth to Florida. It succeeded.
It became a perennial given in state politics. Today, Florida remains one of only nine states without a personal income tax, and it would take a statewide vote to alter that.
With homeowners this year clamoring for tax relief, legislators are casting around for a way to cut taxes on homes and other types of real estate, but so far remain stumped over how to replace the lost revenue. Some legislators privately say a personal income tax would be the fairest and best way because it would tax each Floridian according to his or her ability to pay -- but most Republicans and Democrats agree there is neither the political will nor the requisite popular support for such a drastic change in the constitution and public life.
Only A Start
the Sun-Sentinel editorial board contends that State lawmakers should consider a "bill that would repeal the current requirement that a felon's civil rights must be restored as a condition of employment. Decoupling that condition from the clemency process would end a cumbersome barrier to employment for many and return the oversight of employment and licensing to the state regulatory agencies where it belongs." "Felons' Rights".
"Chamber the Florida House of Developer Representatives"
"It can be confusing to watch the Florida House work this session. On the one hand, representatives are proposing legislation to give cities and counties total control of land use permitting for residential and commercial development".
On the other, lawmakers are attempting to strip counties of their own wetland rules and ability to limit mining. But look closely; there's a common theme."Whose representatives?"
Each change favors developers, miners or other private special interests to the detriment of irreplaceable public resources. If the bills pass, it would be fitting to rename the chamber the Florida House of Developer Representatives. But hopefully the House hasn't been overrun with shills for these special interests. Apparently the House Environment and Natural Resources Council has been.
No Local Control
"Lawmakers are considering legislation that could limit or prevent local governments from regulating limestone rock mining. A Senate bill would require local boards to address how land use or permit decisions on mining proposals would impact rock supply for the local area, region or the state. But a stronger House version would block counties or municipalities from enacting or enforcing any rule that prohibits or prevents operation or construction of quarries on land zoned or designated for mining." "Legislation could give state control over limestone rock mining".
The Tampa Trib editors argue that "Florida should be spending more to remind people that Florida is a fun place to spend money." "Rivals Lure Sunshine Tourists As Florida Skimps On Advertising". See also "Tourism tweak".
"Today, cities, counties and colleges seeking a bigger slice of the federal pie against competitors are turning in greater numbers to experienced Capitol Hill advocates to present their sometimes highly specialized priorities to congressional committees and federal agencies." "Public Entities Spend More On Mouthpieces In D.C.".
"The manatee, Florida's imperiled environmental icon, last year suffered its most dismal year on record."
Of a population of about 3,200, 416 died in 2006, the highest number of deaths recorded in 30 years of statistics. Many died in collisions with boat propellers."Manatee's protection status may be endangered". See also "Feds: Manatee 'no longer meets the definition of an endangered species'".
Now, according to an internal memo, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been drafting plans under which the celebrated marine mammals would lose their protection as an endangered species.
The Miami Herald reported in June 2006 that the state's seven-member Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had approved ''down-listing'' the manatee in a unanimous vote and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was in the process of reevaluating that designation. All seven members of the commission were appointed by then-Gov. Jeb Bush.
The planned reclassification of the slow-moving sea cows from ''endangered'' to ''threatened'' is expected to elicit a barrage of criticism from environmental groups who see it as a part of the Bush administration's push to poke holes in the Endangered Species Act.
"More than 3.2 million foreigners of different immigration statuses and national origins lived in Florida in 2005, the last year for which updated figures are available. An estimated 850,000 were in the state illegally, but most have some sort of temporary or legal status." "Immigrants see Florida as a path to American dream".
"State legislators have a chance to help save women from cancer. Instead, they have chosen to just talk about how women could be saved." "Choose life? Not here".
Tom Blackburn, one of the best in the business, hits a home run this morning: "Tribute well-deserved, at the time".
"In a dramatic sign of the shrinking American role in the world sugar market, the historic mill that U.S. Sugar Corp. opened just north of Pahokee in 1962 is to be shut down, dismantled and sold in parts to foreign producers." "U.S. Sugar closes historic Bryant Mill as industry struggles in Florida".
"One of the Nation's Worst"
"Florida is being judged as one of the nation's worst pre-K programs, what one national expert called a "poster child" for spreading standards and money too thin." "Florida's pre-K promises unkept".
Mahoney and Buchanan
"Although U.S. Rep. Tim Mahoney, a Democrat, sided recently with his party to set a withdrawal date for Iraq, he said he is convinced the United States will have soldiers there for 20 years. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican, went the other way, opposing a withdrawal, yet he says the Bush administration has nine months to show progress or lose his already "tenuous" support for the troop surge that began earlier this year." "Rookies defend voting on Iraq".
Jeremy Wallace reports that "Mahoney is finding out that being one of the most targeted members of Congress has its advantages. National Republicans have started campaign blitzes against him, sent White House political strategist Karl Rove to his district, and marked him as one of their top five targets for defeat in 2008. Yet, when Mahoney was in Port Charlotte last week, he was relaxed and laughing.".
"Youth gangs in Florida are spreading from urban areas into rural sections of the state, where the recruiting is good." "Youth gangs growing in Florida's rural areas".
"This year's biggest budget fight in the Florida Legislature won't be over schools, health care or state-employee salaries.It's whether to shave more from your property-tax bill or cut time off your commute to work."
Facing the first year-ending revenue decline in three decades, the Florida Senate is pushing a plan to lubricate Florida's sluggish growth engine by pouring billions of dollars into speeding up construction projects from toll roads in Miami-Dade County to libraries, college campuses and an Opera House in Sarasota. ..."Senate proposes funds for infrastructure".
Conversely, House Republicans have countered with a private-sector alternative focused on tax cuts, most notably a $6 billion reduction in local property taxes.
"Wildly Different Premiums"
"If a mechanic and a lawyer are the same age, have similar driving records and drive the same kind of car, they should pay roughly the same amount for auto insurance, right? Not necessarily. A report by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation says that some auto insurers use education and occupation as factors for determining rates, and that the result can be wildly different premiums for people with similar driving experiences." "When bias results, review the input".
"Eight state senators want the Florida pension fund to dump all investments in multi-national corporations doing business in Iran. Lacking a House companion, their bill (SB 2250) is probably a long shot. But it makes a statement. The State Board of Administration's investment portfolio - now estimated at $129 billion - has been used to make moral points before, at some expense." "No pension money for Iran, say lawmakers". See also "Legislators: Keep pension money away from firms linked to Iran, Sudan".