From Quinnipiac: "Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has opened double-digit leads over top 2008 Democratic presidential contenders in Florida, beating either New York Sen. Hillary Clinton or former Sen. John Edwards 50 – 40 percent, and topping Illinois Sen. Barack Obama 52 – 36 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today."Poll: Rudy and Hillary lead".
This compares to a 47 – 42 percent Giuliani lead over Sen. Clinton in a March 7 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.
There is a lot more; the complete poll results are here: "Giuliani Widens Lead Over Clinton In Florida, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds" ("From March 21 - 27, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,061 Florida voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points. The survey includes 445 Republicans with a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percentage points, and 405 Democrats, with a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points.")
A "Jeb!" hangover: "Strapped for money to build new roads, House Republicans want to lease new highways to the private sector. It's billed as a bit of innovation, but this is a one-way street lawmakers should avoid." Little seems to have changed from the "Jeb!" era: "The bill, HB 7033, is loaded with provisions that favor private firms over the public interest." "Transportation".
"Upcoming at the Capitol". See also "After 'halftime,' lawmakers face a hectic second half" and "Legislature".
GOPers Fight for the "Working Stiff"
"Who says the Florida Legislature doesn't look out for the working stiff?"
A bill (SB 2356) that so far is breezing through the Senate would stop employers from banning guns in their parking lots. Imagine the persuasive power of a worker (particularly if he is disgruntled) mentioning that his AK-47 is only a few steps away when asking for - no, demanding! - a raise."NRA power play stomps on safety".
Actually, there is nothing funny about this bill and a similar one (HB 1417) in the House. It's just another audacious power play by the National Rifle Association to prove it can make the Legislature do almost any stupid thing the bullying gun lobby wants.
Property Tax Reform
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "A property tax reform plan offered by Senate Democrats last week includes intriguing ways to provide relief, but it's not the complete answer Floridians are clamoring for." Some fear "that lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist won't be able to put together an effective plan by session's end. Or, worse, that they will agree on one that is politically palatable but chock full of unintended consequences later on." "Legislature 2007".
"Political Pragmatism and Moderation"
"Lift travel restrictions to Cuba, re-establish diplomatic relations and create a national dialogue between exiles, dissidents and the Cuban government:"
These are the tools a majority of Cuban-Americans surveyed support in their quest for change on the island, according to a Florida International University poll released today."Local Cuban-Americans favor dialogue, no more isolation, poll shows".
The survey reflects a trend toward political pragmatism and moderation as newer waves of Cuban migrants with strong ties to their homeland arrive in South Florida, said FIU researchers who conducted the poll last month of 1,000 Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent.
"Instead of just being a tussle between Sarasota County residents Vern Buchanan and Christine Jennings, the battle has spilled over, pulling in members of Congress from around the country who are unfamiliar to area residents." "Sarasota election is still echoing".
"GOP field fallow"
"The 2008 elections may be a long way off, but there’s lots of action in three of Palm Beach County’s congressional districts. Freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Klein has already raised at least $400,000. Three Republicans who want to challenge freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Mahoney have raised $100,000 apiece. And a potential Democratic primary foe of U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler has taken out ads blasting Wexler on Iraq." "2008 congressional races heat up". See also "Klein makes hay; GOP field fallow".
"Not an empty promise"?
"Under Gov. Bush, DCF spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending an indefensible case. Gov. Crist has expressed a willingness for the state finally to do right by Marissa. By fast-tracking the payments to the Amoras this year, Gov. Crist would demonstrate that his was not an empty promise." "Talk for a little girl, but not nearly enough walk".
Big Beach Changes
"Chasing the tracks of hurricanes, an Alabama company promises Florida's beach residents protection from nature's constant attack." "Beaches could see big changes".
"Their Sinclair Moment"
"The crusading journalist Upton Sinclair stunned the nation in 1906 with his book The Jungle, which exposed deplorable, dangerous conditions in the slaughterhouses of Chicago. Later that year, Congress acted, and the rules it set in place forever changed the way Americans thought about meat, and the safety of their food supply. But fruits and vegetables never got their Sinclair moment." "Tomato growers push for tougher food-safety rules".
"In crafting new programs and curriculum for high schools and colleges, lawmakers are trying to transform the state's economy."
"It's not to make education a slave to industry," Gaetz said. "It's to make sure students who graduate can move on to good jobs. ..."Programs would smooth path from school to work".
Even Florida education leaders who support the legislative proposals concede there must be a careful balance between what is best for students and what is best for Florida's economy.
Emphasize the needs of industry too much, and you run the risk of pigeonholing students and depriving them of a broad, liberal arts-type experience that includes not just science and vocational training but history, civics, literature and the like.
"Boon for utilities, developers and other big landowners"
"Amid all the property-tax changes that lawmakers are considering this spring, one little-noticed plan is drawing criticism from Florida property appraisers as a potential boon for utilities, developers and other big landowners." "Property appraisers: Bill helps developers".
And, as we read yesterday, this little gem is already in place in Dade: "Some Miami-Dade property owners saved big on their tax bills through a process marked by quick public hearings and secretive evidence." "Owners find fast way to tax breaks".
"South Florida has the nation's highest rate of children with kidney failure, doctors say, about eight new cases per million population, or about 24 cases a year, compared with a national average of six cases per million. ... The disease may be more prevalent in South Florida because of the large immigrant population, high premature birth rate and growing number of children who are overweight or obese -- all risk factors for kidney disease." "Kidney failure rate soars among S. Florida's children".
"But they fail to mention ..."
"In the midst of the debate over how to cut property taxes, state lawmakers relish pointing fingers at local governments for reaping the benefits of the housing boom without lowering taxes."
But they fail to mention that the state has enjoyed its own enormous windfall from a little-known real estate tax, and it has never moved to slash it back."State uses stamp fees to fatten its coffers".
The culprit: Documentary stamp fees. Income to the state from the stamps grew 266 percent, to $4 billion, between 2001 to 2006.
The tax is collected every time someone closes a real estate deal or refinances a mortgage in Florida, at a rate of 70 cents on every $100 of real estate value. As low interest rates fueled a refinancing boom and property values increased, the state has been raking in money. The tax on a $250,000 home: $1,750, paid as part of closing costs.
But rather than lower the tax to ease the burden on property owners, legislators used the ballooning ''doc stamp'' account to pay for programs.
Evading the Moratorium
"Under Florida's swamps, forests and cane fields lie crucial materials for the construction of roads, bridges, houses and shopping centers. And a fight has begun in the state Legislature over how -- and whether -- to extract them. Hoping to tap vast underground deposits of limestone and sand, state legislators have proposed bills that would overturn Palm Beach County's moratorium on new limestone mines and set up a commission to find ways to extract more of these construction materials from other parts of the state." "Tallahassee lobbyists target Palm Beach County's moratorium on limestone mines".
McCollum speaks: "Proposal on felons' civil rights is reckless".
"While Florida Talks"
"Florida is finally, officially taking global warming seriously. Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet, with the leadership of Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, will hold a series of meetings beginning Tuesday on how to position Florida in a globally warming world -- and what to do about it. The Cabinet summoned a list of experts for guidance in a state precariously vulnerable to one of global warming's most immediate threats: rising sea levels. But while Florida talks, California already has leaped farther ahead than any other state -- and most other countries -- to battle global warming." "Florida's warming".
District 69 GOPer Scramble
Jeremy Wallace: "A day after former Sarasota County School Board member Laura Benson, a Republican, filed to run again for the House seat, word came that another Republican is getting in the race."
Benson, who lost to state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, in 2006, was hoping for a clean shot at the District 69 seat, which had been held by Republicans for the last six years. She said that given 18 months to build a campaign -- and raise money -- she could retake the district for Republicans."Miller, the chief executive officer of a medical supply company, said she is probably going to file this week to run for the seat."
But Alexandra Miller, who lost her bid for the Sarasota County hospital board last year, had a different idea.
Another "Jeb!" Hangover
Sounds like yet another "Jeb!" hangover: "A bill scheduled for debate this week in a Florida House council could open the door for longer school days, more foreign-language classes and increased emphasis on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test." The legislation is devoid of standards or funding:
The bill is broadly written and says the new standards should "prepare Florida's students to compete globally with students around the world."You see
It leaves many of the specifics to be sorted by the state Board of Education, which would seek recommendations from a 12-teacher panel and a team of national and international education experts from think tanks such as the Hoover Institution.The right wing Hoover Institution, run by luminaries like Richard Mellon Scaife? You read that right:
At the request of former Gov. Jeb Bush, the Hoover Institution evaluated Florida's K-12 system last year and called for expanded state voucher programs, tougher reading and math standards and the removal of voter-approved limits on class sizes."Education bill's global focus would add rigor to classes".
The report, Reforming Education in Florida, guided House staff as it drafted the current bill. The editor of the report, Paul Peterson, also served on Gov. Charlie Crist's transition team.
"In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Congress is considering an array of plans that could bring the embattled property insurance industry under federal rules. State regulation has dominated since the nation's birth." "Insurance frustration may open door to federal regulation".
Getting Rid Of Those Burdensome Paperwork Requirements
"State agriculture officials can hire legions of inspectors, and the Legislature can write volumes of new laws, but the abuse of pesticides will remain a threat to farmworkers and consumers until growers improve their record-keeping."
Administrative Law Judge Lawrence Stevenson made that clear last week when he threw out dozens of state complaints against Ag-Mart that cited violations of pesticide use in Florida fields. Judge Stevenson said he could neither sustain the complaints nor absolve Ag-Mart because the company's records left him unable to tell whether rules were broken. The state doesn't require accurate documents, so companies don't keep them. "These cases demonstrate a gap in the enforcement mechanism of the Florida Pesticide Law," the judge wrote. "It does no good to know when pesticides were applied to a field if there is no way of knowing when workers first entered the field or harvested tomatoes after spraying.""Record fine, petty cash".
Judge Stevenson dismissed 85 percent of the state's charges and about $100,000 in fines, but he was able to uphold a dozen violations, and recommended that Ag-Mart pay $11,400. Florida law is so weak that Ag-Mart's reduced fine will go down as one of the largest ever. Why should any company think twice about breaking safety rules and cutting corners when the penalty for getting caught is petty cash?
McCain, Obama Interviews in Jax
"Two presidential hopefuls, U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., visited Jacksonville last week. McCain spoke to about 400 people during a stop Wednesday at Fleet Landing, a retirement community, and answered questions of local and regional significance. Obama was in town Friday at a private fundraiser at the Avondale home of Jacksonville attorney Steve Pajcic." "Visiting Senators McCain, Obama answer queries".
"Lawmakers, urged on by developers, are proposing to strip local governments of their power to protect wetlands, environmentalists and critics warn." "Bill would threaten wetlands, critics say".