"House Speaker Marco Rubio muscled his controversial plan to abolish property taxes on primary homes through the Florida House on Wednesday, setting up a late-session showdown with a Senate that so far has shown little interest in a package that also involves raising the sales tax." "House approves sweeping tax plan".
"Months of debating over how best to lower property taxes came to this on Wednesday: The state House of Representatives couldn't settle on one plan, so it passed two."
The most popular, a proposal to slash taxes an average of 19 percent for all property owners in the state and require deep cuts in government spending, won unanimous approval. The other plan, to ask voters to wipe out taxes on homestead property in exchange for a hike in sales taxes, was the preferred choice of House Speaker Marco Rubio but mustered only a party-line vote of 78-40."One property tax cut, but House slices it 2 ways" ("Democrats supported the larger rollback only on the condition that it be made more 'reasonable' when the House negotiates with the Senate.") See also "Florida House passes Republican property tax reform measure", "House OKs tax shift bill", "House reform plan raises sales tax", "House clears tax overhaul" and "House passes bill to kill taxes on primary homes". More: "Palm Beach County expects big budget cuts if property taxes are reduced".
Rubio's plan is likely dead in the Senate, where leaders say they have unanimous support for their bipartisan plan to scale back all property taxes 7.6 percent without raising sales taxes to do it.
The two chambers will begin to hash out the differences next week, after the Senate votes out its own plan Friday.
Strengthening the Senate's negotiating hand is the House's schizophrenic approach to slashing taxes. One House bill -- the one that passed unanimously -- cuts taxes by $6.3 billion by rolling them back to 2001 levels. The other cuts them by $4.4 billion to 2003 levels.
"Two fairly prominent Republicans – Reps. Gayle Harrell of Stuart and Andy Gardiner of Orlando – voted against it. ... But the slight peeling of support was negated by three Democrats casting votes against their caucus – Reps. Ed Bullard of Miami, Luis Garcia of Miami Beach, and Michael Scionti of Tampa." "Mixed feelings on House tax plan".
"As lawmakers try to out-do each other with promises to cut property taxes, the farther from reality their predictions may become, and the deeper the mistrust from voters."
The risk of highlighting promises of deep cuts in insurance rates or property taxes lies in the reality that such cuts take time to happen and probably won't completely reverse the recent increases."Tax-cut talk met with skepticism".
House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, raised the possible tax-cut potential of his plan this week from $25 billion over five years to $35 billion. Senators similarly adjusted their projected savings from $11 billion over five years to more than $12 billion.
But the promises are grounded less in firm analysis and more in the need to win political support as the two plans battle for public favor.
Fortunately, the "People's Governor" is showing courageous leadership on the issue. See "Crist stays out of tax fray".
"An Elegant and Well-Considered Trade"?
"A bill moving Florida's presidential primary elections forward -- pushing the state to the front of the pack of states choosing nominees for the 2008 elections -- will die unless House leaders approve strong paper-ballot legislation, Senate leaders said this week. It's an elegant and well-considered trade. There's no denying the eagerness of House leaders to move up the primary date. The Senate's logic is impeccable: The state wants a say in choosing the next presidential nominees -- but it's hardly fair to claim that voice without ensuring that the wishes of Florida voters are recorded accurately and accountably." "Fair trade for voters".
Not everyone agrees: "The Legislature is basing critical decisions about how Florida conducts elections on haste, political expediency and horse-trading. That sort of ineptitude won't produce reasonable election reform." "Tallahassee's ballot error".
"Legislature". See also "The day in Tallahassee, Wednesday, April 18, 2007" and "2007 Legislature roundup".
Mel's Campaign Violations
"Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida repeatedly violated federal election law during his 2004 campaign, including accepting donations that exceeded legal limits, a new audit shows. ... Many of Martinez's donors tried to give too much money in either of the two cycles. His staff then failed to process the contributions properly." "Audit faults election reporting" ("Whether the FEC findings would lead to civil penalties is unknown.")
In addition, "Martinez's 2004 U.S. Senate campaign has been forced to refund nearly $95,000 in contributions after a federal audit that also found information lacking on nearly half its contributors." "Lax Finance Reports Cost Martinez Campaign $95,000".
Soto Endorsement in HD 49 Special Election
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Mr. Soto is far and away better prepared to represent the residents of District 49. In fact, Mr. Suarez seems uninformed on important issues, including property-tax reform." "Soto in District 49 election".
"An inmate whose baby died after being born over a jail cell toilet has received a $1.25 million settlement from the company that provided health care at the facility." "Company settles in death of baby born over jail toilet".
Faulty State CD 13 Investigation
"Two computer science professors said they found 'significant gaps' in the state investigation into allegations electronic voting machines in Sarasota County failed to count about 18,000 votes in a contested congressional race decided by only 369 votes."
David Dill, a Stanford University computer science professor and critic of electronic voting, compared the state audit of Florida's 13th Congressional District race to a plane crash in which investigators comb through specific sections of wreckage and ignore other key areas. ..."Professors: State audit of electronic voting was inadequate". Read the study here (.pdf format).
Dill and Wallach's study found state experts did not focus on the vote selection process despite complaints from voters the machines did not register their votes. The tests also did not follow standard debugging and simulation tests, the report said.
They recommended a more thorough analysis of the source code and ES&S's internal bug databases. Jennings is suing for similar access.
"Without doubt, the undervote rate in Sarasota County's general election in November 2006 reflected a failure of the ES&S iVotronic systems to accurately capture the intent of Sarasota County voters," the report said. "We still have no conclusive evidence demonstrating the cause or causes of the unusual undervote rate."
"A candidate for circuit judge in Leon County is getting a boost from the well-heeled insurance industry, thanks to her husband's boss." "Lotane camp gets boost".
Mark Lane yesterday:
I don't think I'm going way out on limb to say that yesterday's anti-property tax rally in Tallahassee fell flat on several levels. If this is the high-water mark of anti-tax rage, well, the Senate doesn't have a lot to fear. It was basically just a real-estate industry and homebuilders lobbying day.Mark closes with this: Rubio "just isn't the political wunderkind and genius everybody says he is." "Revolt of the haves" (via Political Safari). See also "Who’s Behind The Signs?"
Speaker Marco Rubio promised 1,000 people. And even with the backing of the state Republican Party, robo-calls all over the place and help from the real estate industry, mortgage lenders, homebuilders, The Latin Builders Association, etc., they only managed to bus in 300-400 people.
Rather than an I'm-mad-as-hell-and-I'm-not-going-to-take-it-anymore tax rebel as the group's spokesman, they have lobbyist, Tom Gallacher campaign manager and Bush-Cheney campaign official Brett Doster. For Central Floridians, there's the also the involvement of faux-populist sleaze Doug Guetzloe.
It's always fun watching the Republican establishment dress up as rebels. Meanwhile, the astro-turf nature of this "populist revolt" is clearer every day.
"Say Hello to Carey Baker"
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "You would think that saving lives would be a noble enough cause to build consensus in the Florida Legislature. Why then, is a bill that would allow local law-enforcement agencies to set up red-light cameras at selected intersections sitting idly in the Senate? Say hello to Carey Baker. As head of the transportation committee and a strong proponent of so-called privacy issues, Mr. Baker is refusing to hear the bill." "Red alert".
Thomas Has A Better Idea on Property Taxes?
Thomas thinks the pending legislation sucks:
The Florida House would abolish property taxes on homesteads and replace them with a 2.5-cent sales-tax increase. This gouges the working class and makes us dangerously dependent on a volatile revenue source.Thomas believes "property taxes are evil. So like the House, I eliminate them on homes. But I don't raise the sales tax to make up for about $9 billion in lost revenues. Instead, I tap into three other sources." Those other sources of revenue?
The Senate has a more complicated plan that sounds good until you realize it barely makes a dent in your property taxes.
- "The first is the gas tax. Florida's state levy on gas is one of the lowest in the nation. I would raise it by 25 cents per gallon. ... A 25-cent tax on each gallon of fuel would bring in about $1.9 billion.""Spreading pain best way to end property taxes".
- "The second source of money would come from increasing the tax on real-estate transactions. ... I would structure this tax in a way to raise $1 billion."
- "Lastly, I would revisit a sales tax on services. These services would include legal fees, accounting fees, landscaping services, advertising and so on. Such a tax was passed in 1987, but screaming from special-interest groups caused politicians to repeal it and raise the sales tax instead."
- "And one more thing: I would roll back property taxes on non-homestead property to 2003-04 levels."
"Immigration problems are better handled by the federal government, said members of a state House committee Wednesday that voted down a proposal to punish businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. The idea of increasing penalties for those companies had little chance in the House Environment and Natural Resources Council, where several members are in the agriculture business - one of the main industries targeted by the bill (HB 119). It was defeated 12-1." "Business Gets Blame For Hiring Illegals".
"Republican Rep. Ginnie Brown-Waite of Brooksville, who blasted a proposal backed by Democrats for a national study commission on insurance rates, co-sponsored two bills to do the same thing last year." "The Republicans And The Insurance Study Commission, Part 2".
Tampa Trib Editorial Board
In case you're wondering about the biases of the Tampa Trib editors, take a look at this: "Partial-Birth Abortion Ruling Is A Victory For Humanity". Note how the editors refer to physicians as "abortionists".
Delightful. "Panama City residents call for defeat of claims bill".
No Guns at Work
"Business groups lauded the defeat of a bill that would have kept them from banning guns in locked cars from company parking lots." "Legislature rejects 'guns at work' bill". See also "Guns-at-work bill fails in Florida", "House panel defeats gun bill", "House panel defeats gun bill as NRA vows to try again", "House: No guns in cars at work", "Guns-at-work bill defeated", "House Panel Muzzles Proposed Employee Gun Bill" and "It was not a good week for the NRA".
Meanwhile, the courageous "Charlie Crist is being very careful not to take sides on a bill -- rejected by a House committee Wednesday -- allowing employees to carry guns with them to work." "More Crist on Guns".
No Free Lunch
"The Legislature's ban on lobbyist gifts has claimed another victim: Palm Beach County delegation meetings. In years past, the county's 17-member delegation met weekly over lobbyist-funded lunches, strategizing about issues and funding priorities of local interest." "Legislative delegation meets less".
"Advocates rally at the Capitol today to protest proposed budget cuts that threaten to deny services to nearly 9,000 disabled Floridians." "Proposed budget cuts bring advocates to the Capitol".
"The same Legislature that voted to cut more than $100 million in services for mentally and physically disabled Floridians may give $100''million to three pro sports franchises so millionaire athletes, many of whom live outside the state, can have new digs. How's that for misguided priorities?" "Welfare for millionaires".
"A Senate committee gave environmentalists somewhat of a break Wednesday,"
but they still face bills that could severely affect the state's wetlands and further endanger sea turtles."Senate measures face debate over wetlands protection".
The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee passed a series of measures, including one that would allow owners of waterfront homes or businesses in danger of falling into the ocean to use "geotextile tubes" to shore them up.
Another approved bill would allow developers to pave over or dredge and fill wetlands and mangroves on properties 1 acre or smaller. But that bill, which now goes to the Senate floor for a vote, faces an uphill battle getting approved because of the way it was amended. ...
Unlike the House plan (HB 957), the Senate measure would not allow the state permitting process to supersede local governments that have stricter requirements for wetlands to be destroyed.
"I have a feeling we're just not going to be satisfied until the wetlands are gone," said Rich, who voted for her amendment but against the bill.
"The bill (HB 871) also wouldn't allow municipalities to enforce rules that prohibit the 'respectful' display of the flag. While the measure is making progress in the House, there is no companion bill in the Senate." "House panel backs Trump over flying of giant flag".
Convention Center Rebate
"Under a bill (SB 2124) unanimously approved Wednesday by the Senate's Community Affairs committee, counties with large convention centers, including Palm Beach County, would be eligible for a rebate of up to $1 million in sales tax money generated by their convention centers." "Convention center rebate advances".
Big of 'Em
"After an innocent man who spent more than 24 years in prison told them 'my life is gone,' members of a House council approved a plan Wednesday to pay freed inmates $50,000 a year for lost time when they are proved innocent." "Council OKs plan to pay the exonerated". See also "Bill to pay the wrongly convicted moves forward".
"Florida requires all motorists to insure themselves against physical injury and vehicle damage, but lawmakers are about to steer off this road. Without quick agreement on a no-fault law set to expire in October, the state could end up with a decidedly callous policy toward car crashes." "Car policies headed for an overhaul".
"Without debate, the Legislature is poised to pass a law that gives private companies continued access to individual Social Security numbers for business purposes." "Bill opens Social Security access".
"Christian skywriter to pen religious messages at Air & Sea Show".
"A task force to study fireworks use and sales and to suggest comprehensive changes in state regulations is poised for approval by the Legislature." "Fireworks Study Lights Foes' Fuses".
No Confederate Memorial Day
"For the first time in many years, Hillsborough County will not recognize Confederate Memorial Day." "Holiday lacks support".
"Florida lawmakers are pushing to keep the state from investing in companies that enrich Sudan and Iran, citing a responsibility to ensure state workers' pensions are guilt-free." "Florida could divest billions from U.S. foes". See also "Targeted firms" ("Companies that deal with Iran that the state could divest from: BG BHP Bow Valley BP Darkhovin Eni Gazprom GVA Consultants LG Lukoil")
"Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez canceled plans to fly to Washington today, instead sending top aides for the face-to-face negotiations with federal housing leaders who are moving to take over the troubled Miami-Dade Housing Agency." "Mayor Alvarez sends others to talk to feds".
AG Sits on His Hands
The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board
In contrast to Mr. Butterworth's aggressive and community-serving use of his position as the state's top lawyer to save St. Mary's in 2000 and return the financial benefit to Palm Beach County, Attorney General Bill McCollum is merely "open to facilitating any discussions between the parties." Mr. McCollum, according to a statement from his office, "is committed to monitoring the progression of the settlement agreement.""County needs McCollum to act like Butterworth".
Committed to monitoring?
Oh, and Mr. McCollum added that the foundation and health-care district always can sue Catholic Health East. Yes, but doing so would cost money and time better spent meeting health-care needs.
And, excuse us, but who's the attorney general? Mr. McCollum should intervene. That action alone might end the delay. Mr. McCollum can make sure that Catholic Health East understands that the money belongs to the community - and has for a year.
"Kid left in car could be crime". See also "Penalties for leaving kids in vehicles OK'd".
"If you've ever had an urge to buy a giant constricting snake -- resist. The state soon could charge you $100 a year for it. Bills moving quickly through the Legislature would require the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to mandate permits and fees from owners of certain reptiles." "Rules put squeeze on snake owners".
Florida's Boomin' Hi-Tech Economy
"Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp turns economic cheerleader today, traveling to East Milton to mark the opening of a call center for Clearwire Corporation. ... Workers for the Washington state-based company will take calls from customers with technical questions about their high-speed Internet service." The Company "promises 400 higher-than-average paying jobs", which makes one wonder what the "average" pay is in East Milton? "Kottkamp celebrates new jobs".
Get Over It
"Ever since voters approved the strong mayor referendum in February Miami-Dade commissioners have been obsessing over power. It is time they get over the changes and move on." "Grasping for control".