"Senate leaders set the stage Thursday for the Legislature's end game on lowering property taxes, unveiling a multi-billion dollar, bipartisan plan leaders said would offer comprehensive relief without delivering a punishing blow to local governments." "State Senate set to introduce final tax plan".
Homeowners and businesses could save $11 billion in property taxes over five years under a plan unveiled Thursday by the Florida Senate that would hand new tax advantages to home buyers while forcing cities and counties to roll back taxes and limit further collections."Competing tax-cut ideas to duke it out in capital". See also "Florida Senate announces bipartisan property tax reform plan", "Senate's tax-cut plan less reaching", "Legislative leaders agree on $11 billion in property tax cuts over 5 years", "Senate plan cuts taxes, helps first-time buyers", "Senate Speaks on Tax-Cutting" and "Senate unveils tax plan".
The Senate has "set up a multibillion-dollar showdown with the House." "Senate unveils property tax cuts".
The Orlando Sentinel editors: "It's not flashy, but the Florida Senate's plan for property taxes is more fair and fundamentally sound than the idea of replacing the tax on homes with an increase in the sales tax." "A good start".
"Legislature: Day 38 at a glance" See also "Tallahassee ticker".
Brown In Hot Water
"The e-mail, forwarded by Rep. Donald Brown from his state-issued account, had a clip-art cartoon and read: 'Reminder: April 15th. Don't forget to pay your taxes . . . 12 million illegal aliens are depending on you!'"
Offensive."'Aliens' e-mail stirs furor". See also "'Cute' e-mail lands state Rep. in hot water", "Brown offends legislators, immigrants" and "Lawmaker draws criticism for illegal immigration joke".
All these words were used by Miami-Dade lawmakers to describe their thoughts when they -- like other House members and staff -- received the e-mail from the DeFuniak Springs Republican.
An outraged Hispanic Caucus even said Thursday that it's considering filing a complaint. The caucus meets Monday. If they decide to do so, Brown could face a reprimand.
While we're on the subject of Don Brown, Political Pulse reports that "Brown, R-DeFuniak Springs, publicly rebuked Crist, who was still sitting in the front row of the audience [at a hearing yesterday]." "Crist Gets Rare Public Rebuke from a Fellow Republican"
"State lawmakers in the Senate and House approved similar plans for the state budget Thursday, highlighted by school spending plans that were nearly identical." "Lawmakers close on budgets". But see "Budgets $1.5 billion apart" and "2 budgets must be made one".
"A House panel Thursday gave the grocery giant [Publix] another victory when it voted to give all businesses the right to ban signature gatherers from private property."
The Economic Expansion and Infrastructure Council approved the measure (HB 559) over the objections of the League of Women Voters and other critics."House allows business to oust petitioners".
''The league is against anything that would make citizen involvement more difficult,'' said Marilynn Wills, a Tallahassee organizer for the volunteer group that sponsors voter-registration drives.
Critics say the move would make grocery stores and shopping malls - the most popular, voter-rich gathering spots - off-limits. They also complained that businesses would be encouraged to invite some signature drives but discriminate against others.
And that's the way it should be, said David Daniel, a lobbyist for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
To Replace Winn
"Former public schools Chancellor Jim Warford appears to be the leading candidate to run the state's Department of Education for Gov. Charlie Crist. Warford, once the elected school superintendent of Marion County and now the executive director of the Florida Association of School Administrators, was forced from his job under Gov. Jeb Bush after he questioned the fairness of Bush's school grading plan. Last year he supported Crist's rival in the Republican primary for governor, Tom Gallagher." "Ex-chancellor could head Department of Education".
A Bushco Thing
The Palm Beach Post editors: "When the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - made up of Jeb Bush appointees - wrongly reduced protections under state law for Florida's endangered manatees, the gentle sea cows still had federal protection. Now, the George W. Bush administration, with the help of defeated California Republican Congressman Richard Pombo's former policy director, wants to remove the manatee's protections as a federal endangered species." "Stop stalking sea cows".
"Responding to outrage from local governments, state officials moved Thursday to redirect a $100-million federal grant from the My Safe Florida Home mitigation program to victims of Hurricane Wilma." "State steers $100-million to storm aid".
"Hurricane supplies to be tax-free again during 12-day shopping period".
The Sun-Sentinel editors think it is "foolish for state lawmakers not to tap into a federal program that offers, at a sharp discount, antiviral drugs to combat avian influenza. With just a few weeks before they wrap up the 2007 session, neither the House nor Senate has included the $36.7 million for the medication in its draft budget. If lawmakers don't act, Florida will be the only state in the nation that won't have the antiviral on order with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services program." "Public Health".
The Miami Herald editors: "White House and congressional critics who rejected Gov. Charlie Crist's call for national catastrophic insurance are either remarkably uninformed or shamelessly out of touch with reality. Whatever the case, Gov. Crist and other coastal-states leaders who understand the serious threat of major storms to the nation's economy, not to mention the lives of tens of millions of people, should continue to argue for relief. Their message eventually will get through -- sooner rather than later, we hope." "Clueless on storms".
"An Ocala correspondence school operator who received $268,000 in corporate tax credit voucher money but awarded no vouchers has had his grand theft conviction overturned by an appellate court."
Jurors had found James Isenhour guilty of stealing the money after a three-day trial in November 2005, but a three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal agreed with the trial judge that, because of the loosely written law creating the vouchers, the state did not prove that it had a legal right to the money."Appeals court throws out '05 conviction of voucher fraud".
"Despite pleas from a fellow Republican, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, the Bush administration has come out against creating a national catastrophe fund to spread risks and bring down insurance premiums for people in high-risk states like Florida. Crist says President Bush just last year seemed to support such a fund by saying, 'Maybe it's time we did this.' But the president must have heard from his friends in the insurance industry since then." "Catastrophe".
Mad As A Wet Hen
"Crist upset about proposed tuition hikes in state budget".
Florida Considers Local Mail-in Elections
"Some legislators want to bring local voting even closer to home by authorizing mail-in elections. And Pembroke Pines officials say their city is the perfect test case. A measure struggling to get a hearing in the Legislature would give counties the option of conducting local elections completely by mail, a move that could save money and increase participation, said Pembroke Pines Commissioner Angelo Castillo." "Pines ponders mail-in voting".
"An appeals court on Thursday blocked the release of anti-Castro Cuban militant Luis Posada Carilles, who was set to be freed on bond." "Appeals court blocks release of Posada from jail".
Kids in Cars
"Leaving a child alone in a motor vehicle could leave you with a criminal record and possibly time in prison. A bill (SB 2) that the Senate tentatively passed Thursday would increase the penalty for leaving a child unattended or unsupervised in a vehicle from a traffic citation to a second-degree misdemeanor. " "Senate advances bill on kids, cars".
"Like his predecessors, Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Bob Butterworth has proposed major changes for the agency that he says, without overstatement, affects people more than any other. But this time, the 50,000 abused, neglected or abandoned children in DCF's care actually will benefit from the changes." "Right changes at DCF".
Here's An Idea
"The Hillsborough County supervisor of elections thinks young adults would be more likely to vote if they were registered at the same time they got their first driver's license, at 16.".
Here's Another Idea
The St Pete Times editors remind us that "Florida could reduce property taxes by $2-billion a year if lawmakers would only collect sales taxes already owed on Internet purchases. Regrettably, no one is even trying." "Click, shop, evade taxes of $2-billion".
"South Florida lawmakers waged another losing battle Thursday to alter the state's school-funding formula -- but this time there was at least a debate before the final vote. In the end the state House agreed to set aside $750,000 in the state's $70-billion-plus budget to do a comprehensive study of the complex formula that is used to parcel out money to each school district." "House OK's school funding study".
"A Stroke of Good Timing"
"Crist is enjoying a stroke of good timing that will allow him to wait until the regular legislative session ends May 4 before he promotes state Sen. Nancy Argenziano to the Public Service Commission." "PSC job to wait for end of session".
"Florida lawmakers are now considering several bills that would create a healthcare information network, where physicians could access a statewide Internet database of medical records. Despite concerns over expense and privacy, advocates -- including the Florida Medical Association -- say electronic records promise greater patient safety, more efficiency and reduced healthcare costs for consumers." "Lawmakers consider statewide medical database".
"House approves $8M cut for USF's Byrd center".
"Florida A&M University responded to a harsh state audit with explanations for missing money and plans to improve as the Legislature softened its tone on the problems." "FAMU: Audit findings not so dire". See also "FAMU responds to criticisms".
"U.S. Reps. Adam Putnam of Bartow and Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor are both losing staff members." "Putnam, Bilirakis Staffers Leave".
"Wine-Shipping Bill Fails After Fishy Vote".
Charlie and Wolf
"Interviewed on his trip to DC by CNN, Gov. Charlie Crist dismissed a suggestion that Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain will drop his presidential bid - and be replaced by former Gov. Jeb Bush."
"Anything can happen in politics and Gov. Bush was an extraordinary leader for our state, so he would be a great candidate, there's no question about it," Crist told CNN host Wolf Blitzer who asked Crist whether a Bush candidacy was "at all in the cards." Blitzer noted his colleague, former Clinton strategist James Carville had suggested that "at some point John McCain might drop out and Jeb Bush could be drafted to throw his hat in the ring.""Crist: McCain's in to stay".
But, Crist added, "I don't see John McCain dropping out though, in all candor. I mean somebody who was a prisoner for 5 years in Vietnam is not the kind of person who quits."
Crist also told Blitzer he believes a Jan. 29 primary in Florida is "about a done deal.
"A city manager fired after revealing his sex change plans taped a segment Thursday night for CNN rather than appearing live on the network as was previously scheduled, said a spokeswoman for a nonprofit group representing him." "Fired transsexual city manager takes his case to television".
"Tenet [Healthcare Corp.] also has been a major political donor in Florida. The company has given to candidates of both parties, but most heavily to the Republican Party. From 1996 through last year, Tenet contributed $162,500 to the state party." "Jeb Bush Lands Corporate Board Gig".
"Two insurance bills that had languished for nearly a month jumped on the fast track this week after Gov. Charlie Crist made personal appearances to lobby for the proposed legislation." "Insurance bills advance with help from Crist". See also "Crist pushes for larger role for Citizens", "Crist makes push for insurance bill", "Bill gives Citizens leg up in market" and "Governor plugs Citizens insurance".
"Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions"
"A plan that could make Florida one of the nation's most aggressive states in reducing greenhouse gas emissions was approved by a Senate committee Thursday - the same day a new 14-year study ranked the state second in the country in the increase of carbon dioxide pollution." "Florida lawmakers move expansive energy plan forward". But see "Panel passes 2 energy plans" ("The future of Florida's $83 million effort to free itself from foreign oil and fight global warming grew murky Thursday when a Senate panel passed competing plans.")
"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is demanding that the Justice Department explain why it has not expanded a program that shares crime and terrorism information among federal, state and local agencies." "Nelson: Why can't cops share more?".
"An icon of Florida's civil-rights movement told students, parents and education administrators Thursday that giving poor families school choice is 'a continuation of the dream' that black leaders envisioned 40 years ago." "Civil-rights leader: Give parents choice in schools". See also "Thousands rally for scholarship programs".
The Tampa Trib editorial board asserts that "Florida has a huge problem with its uninsured, but the solution doesn't include taking people out of private insurance plans and putting them into a government-run program." The editors take a jab at
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, who is leading the charge for a $50 billion, five-year reauthorization of the federal program that pays 71 percent of the cost of caring for children whose families meet a certain income test. The state pays the rest."Pick The Right Fight With Kids' Insurance".
Castor hopes to keep Florida from being penalized for having created enrollment barriers that significantly lowered the number of children covered. Legislation in Washington would split new money among states based on their current enrollment. Castor wants to see the count averaged over several years, which would improve Florida's chances of receiving its fair share.
As important as this program is, it is unfortunate to see Democrats positioning children's health care as the first step toward a universal health care system.
Shining a Light on Another Failed Jebacy
"Usually, state confirmation hearings are a breeze. The governor appoints someone. The Senate has that person over, asks some questions, swears him in, and says congratulations."
That's not what happened Thursday to Tom Pelham, Gov. Charlie Crist's pick to lead the Department of Community Affairs, the agency that oversees community growth."Times: Crist's pick for the Department of Community Affairs faces one particularly upset senator".
As Pelham stood before the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, rigorously questioned Pelham concerning the DCA's funding of the Front Porch Florida Initiative.
Front Porch, the brainchild of former Gov. Jeb Bush, was created under the DCA in 1999 to help stimulate economic growth in distressed urban communities. Siplin pitched the idea to Bush way back then to help attract private investors to low-income areas.
But over the years, Front Porch has been plagued by reports of mismanagement, most recently making headlines in Pensacola, where one of Front Porch's 20 local organizations is under investigation for allegations a community liaison used the money to pay herself, her mother and her private property taxes.
"Florida consumers could soon get free insurance for their cellphones. But consumer advocates warn they'll likely pay for it somewhere in their monthly minute plans. The House Jobs and Entrepreneurship Council gave the OK Thursday to a proposal that would carve out an exemption in the law that generally prohibits offering free insurance products, usually considered an unfair or deceptive trade practice." "Critics wary of free cellphone insurance".
"Crist wants Gov's mansion to go green".
"State water managers ordered the deepest water-use cutbacks ever across South Florida on Thursday and started the formal process of extending restrictions year-round." "State approves tighter tap restrictions".