"With hundreds of anti-tax demonstrators outside the Capitol urging them on, the Florida House on Tuesday tentatively approved Speaker Marco Rubio's sweeping plan to slash property taxes by billions of dollars and ultimately abolish them on many homes in exchange for a higher sales tax." "Sweeping tax cuts head for House vote".
"With the hot-button issue of property taxes dominating the state Capitol on Tuesday, House Democrats failed to kill a controversial tax swap that is a key component of the chamber's relief plan." "Sales Tax Swap Survives In House Relief Measure". The debate wasn't pretty:
Should local property taxes get rolled back three years without making Floridians pay more sales taxes? House Republicans voted against the idea Tuesday."Though the votes on the tax plan and all the failed Democratic amendments were foregone conclusions before the first ''nays'' and ''yeas'' were shouted, the process was a political must: It was all about posturing."
How about letting homeowners transfer their longtime tax breaks to a new home? House Republicans opposed that, too.
What about making sure that the tax cuts don't cut emergency-management services? Again, House Republicans rejected the plan.
And so it went -- for 6 ½ hours -- on the floor of the House of Representatives, with Democrats, outnumbered 79-41, repeatedly trying to pick off and water down selected portions of House Speaker Marco Rubio's tax plan.
House Republicans used Tuesday's discussion to flex their political muscle and give Rubio the backing he needs to negotiate with the Senate and its plan that offers far smaller tax cuts. And Democrats let Rubio know that his tax plan is an increasingly partisan endeavor, despite Rubio's pledges of running a bipartisan chamber."Tax talk turns more partisan". See also "House, Senate debate property taxes" and "What's next on property taxes". On a related note "Harrell peels off" ("State Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, was the lone Republican to vote for a Democratic amendment this afternoon that would have removed the sales tax increase from House Speaker Marco Rubio’s plan for property tax reform.")
Meanwhile, "hundreds of Floridians traveled hundreds of miles to beg for property tax relief in Tallahassee." "Floridians demand tax relief". See also "Hundreds of homeowners pressure legislators over property tax cut", "Floridians call on legislators to 'cut taxes now'", "Aided by cheering in street, tax cut plan heads to a vote", "Demonstrators rally around Rubio plan" and "Tapped-out taxpayers plea for state reform".
Who are these people? "Floridians for Property Tax Reform, the group that organized today's anti-tax rally at the Capitol and which has heaped praise on House Speaker Marco Rubio, hasn't yet had to disclose the bulk of its donors. But organizers said today that development interests are helping to finance the group, which they say has raised nearly $100,000. 'Builders, real estate guys, mortgage brokers and concerned citizens,' said Brett Doster, the former Tom Gallagher campaign manager who put the group together. " "Who's Bankrolling Anti-Tax Group?".
The Tampa Tribune editors, after a good review of the pending legislation, argues that if "lawmakers can't agree on a plan that makes taxes lower and fairer for everyone, they should postpone the issue until a special session." "Tax Animosity In Tallahassee Not Translating Into Smart Reform". The St Pete Times editorial board: "Good, bad and ugly tax reform".
Whatever happens, "Counties brace for a big hit to wallet".
This morning: "With fewer than three weeks to reach an agreement on property tax relief before the regular legislative session ends May 4, Minority Leader Steve Geller told Senate Democrats to prepare for the possibility of a special session next month." "Senate Dems float idea of special property tax session".
"A closed-door briefing on Tuesday yielded few answers on how Congress would proceed in its probe of a contested House election last year in the Sarasota area. The chairman of a team assigned to study the race said lawmakers still were debating what role Congress should play in investigating a Florida contest plagued with suspicions of voting-machine failure." "Sarasota election decision? Not yet". See also "First meeting offers Jennings little hope".
"Legislature: Day 28 at a glance". See also "2007 Legislature roundup".
The "Jeb!" Era Is Over
"'Obviously, slavery was one of the darkest periods in American history, one of the saddest and most tragic,' said House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami. 'I think it [an apology] would merit discussion. There aren't a lot of defenders of slavery left.' Senate President Ken Pruitt, a Civil War history buff, said he would be 'very supportive' of an attempt to address Florida's role in condoning the institution of slavery." "Lawmakers consider apology for slavery".
Real Estate Ramifications
"Realtors, mortgage bankers and developers -- as eager for property tax revisions as Florida's homeowners -- are pushing lawmakers for relief that will reignite home sales." "Housing industry hopes property tax plan ups sales".
Early Primary and Paper Trails
"The Senate offered to move up the date of the 2008 presidential primary in Florida if the House agrees to replace touch-screen machines with paper-ballot devices." "Senate offers House a deal on advancing primary". See also "Senate Ties Early Primary To Paper Trail For Voters", "Voting issues tied together", "Senate bill sets early primary", "Political jockeying clouds future of two election proposals in Legislature", "Bill links paper trail to early primary" and "Senate ties early primary to voting machines with paper trails". See also "Paper trail for votes gains pace across both chambers".
"Karl Rove's Florida Frankenstein" promises to be a good boy:
In a press release sent out at 6:44 p.m. Tuesday, Florida Sen. Mel Martinez announced that the Federal Elections Commission had released its "final audit report" on the 2004 campaign that won him his Senate seat—and promised he wouldn’t do it again."FEC Audit Of Martinez Campaign Announced—Sort Of".
The Tampa Tribune had reported in 2005 that the campaign finance reports from Martinez’s campaign were so badly done that nearly a year after winning his seat, his campaign treasurer was unable to tell the FEC exactly how much the campaign had raised, spent and borrowed.
"Crist ponders pardon for dead rock icon".
One Man's Terrorist ...
"The aging militant and former CIA operative was ordered deported in 2005. But a federal immigration judge in El Paso ruled that he could not be sent to Venezuela, where he is a naturalized citizen, or his native Cuba, because of fears that he could be tortured. Governments of both countries want Posada extradited to Venezuela to face charges that he was in Caracas when he plotted the 1976 bombing of a Cuban jetliner, an attack that killed 73 people." "Court rules that government can't hold Posada until trial".
"Miami-Dade politics and a budget squabble between the House and Senate stalled a proposal Tuesday to hand $100 million over to three pro sports teams to build new homes or renovate the facilities where they now play." "Bill for pro-sports rebate may get benched".
"Other states joining Florida in revolt against rising property taxes".
"Crist's support is hollow if lawmakers don't move a pair of compensation bills now stalled in committees. With just 13 working days remaining in the legislative session, a Senate bill has two required committee stops and is not on any calendars. A House version is scheduled to be heard today before going to the full floor." "Crist Endorses Compensation Bills For Those Wrongly Incarcerated". See also "Crist, Crotzer meet".
"Ben Graber, the new Democratic primary challenger to U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Delray Beach, said this morning he’ll raise at least $1 million for his 2008 race against the six-term incumbent." "Graber: I’ll raise at least $1 million".
Florida's Booming Economy
"Law enforcement officials estimate that if the Florida were a country, it would rank seventh in the world for the amount child porn generated." "Florida takes aim at online predators".
"The nation’s most powerful oil industry lobbying group demonstrates new drilling technology in the Capitol today at a time when lawmakers are debating Florida’s response to global warming." "Oil lobbyists demonstrate new drilling techniques".
He Said It
"Baxley said the tragedy at Virginia Tech, from his perspective, reinforces his argument that workers as well as other Floridians should have the right to keep their guns in order to protect themselves. Baxley said university employees seeking that right have contacted him since the incident." "Employee gun bill pushed despite massacre".
Update: "The guns-to-work bill failed its one and only House stop Wednesday, killing the measure for the year. The vote was 4-10." "NRA bill fails".
GOPers Say No The Commission
"Three House Republicans from the Tampa Bay area have joined with three of their GOP colleagues from Miami to urge the U.S. Senate not to waste time creating a commission to study ways to deal with skyrocketing homeowners’ insurance rates in hurricane-prone states." "Fla. Republicans Don’t Want National Commission To Study Insurance". See also "Crist makes good case for a U.S. disaster fund".
"Study: Global warming may hinder hurricane formation".
"Children advocates and Sen. Mandy Dawson were broadsided Tuesday by an amendment to the Senate version of a KidCare bill designed to expand the number of children benefiting from the insurance program for working-class families. ... Sen. Durell Peaden, who sponsored the 'strike all' amendment, said it was suggested by the governor's office and was an attempt to save money." "KidCare slated to get 'trim'".
"Insurance rates shouldn't be based on pay, education".
"Central Florida donors give little so far to 2008 hopefuls" More: "Hillary's Florida Rainmakers", "McCain, Not Romney, Had Top Florida Fundraising Total", "Giuliani, Clinton lead parties in county" and "Floridians Pony Up Millions To Candidates". See also yesterday's "Democrats lead GOP in raising funds in Florida".
Paige St. John:
Remember the budget?"No Talking".
The only thing the Legislature is required to do while in session?
Lawmakers were on a fast-track a week ago when both chambers passed their versions of the budget, adopting spending plans $1.6 billion apart.
Florida's financial blueprint remains on the back-burner while the Legislature wrestles with the politics of property tax reform.
"James K. Isenhour took more than $268,000 from a Florida school voucher program without providing a single voucher for the low-income students who were supposed to benefit."
How could he do that without being sent to prison? He had a lot of help from Jeb Bush."Voucher scam, legalized".
"Expanding state-backed Citizens Property Insurance is the best hope Floridians have for stabilizing the state's insurance market and moderating insurance rates. The solution isn't perfect. A series of bad storms or a huge Category 5 hurricane hitting South Florida still could leave policyholders on the hook for enormous losses. But with efficient management, more-competitive rules and some luck, Citizens can protect Florida's economy from a meltdown and residents from unsustainable premium hikes." "Spread the risk of windstorm insurance".
Is This News?
Edwards is being gored by AP: "Looking pretty is costing John Edwards' presidential campaign a lot of pennies." "Edwards' haircuts cost a pretty penny".
"State Rightly Intervenes In Cancer Case".
Obama's skills as a first-rate orator were on vivid display in the Cuban Club courtyard as the senator wowed his audience with a stirring speech outlining his improbable rise to the national scene underscoring perhaps why he looms as a legitimate alternative to the presumptive front-runner, New York's Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton."Obamarama Tour Stops In Ybor City".
"Florida has done a horrible job managing its growth. For the most part, it has allowed developers to run roughshod over the environment. That's what makes the job of state growth czar so important. This is the person -- as head of the state Department of Community Affairs -- who can say 'no' to local governments wanting to break all the rules." "Time to get it right". See also "Panel Should Approve Pelham".
On a related note, "State Sen. Gary Siplin's anger shocked the normally congenial process. The target of Siplin's fury, Tom Pelham, was expected to breeze through Senate confirmation as head of the Department of Community Affairs." "Program has support - of founder".
"Senate committees quickly approved seven of Gov. Charlie Crist's department heads Tuesday, with just one protest vote against the 'raging bull' leader of Florida's prison system." "Committees OK appointees".
"Putnam Names Chief of Staff".
"Why aren't the insurance rate cuts promised homeowners being realized, CFO Alex Sink wanted to know." "Real Rate Relief".
"Kottkamp attends a candlelight vigil tonight at Florida State University for the 32 Virginia Tech students and teachers who were gunned down Monday in the nation’s worst mass slaying." "Kottkamp to attend VA Tech vigil".
GOPers Heart Taxes, Particularly the Regressive Kind
"A scene from Senate Democratic Caucus:"
"I'm very surprised that the House Republicans are pushing so hard for a sales tax increase, I don't understand," said Senate Minority Leader Steven Geller, talking about where the two chambers are on plans for property tax relief."Republicans Like Taxes?"
"They like taxes," injected Sen. David Aronberg.
"An environmental consultant testified Tuesday that Florida Power & Light will make an expensive mistake if it builds a $5.7 billion coal-fired power plant in Glades County." "Consultant: Coal plant an expensive mistake".