Corcoran Bags It
"A key adviser to House Speaker Marco Rubio who left his $175, 000 job to run for state Senate abruptly dropped out of the race Monday. Richard Corcoran's decision - just hours before candidates officially qualified - took the Capital by surprise. He had shown himself a formidable fundraiser, gathering $185, 000 in two weeks, and had secured endorsements from the top three Republicans in the Senate."
And what does this tell us about the delightful SD 3: "A Florida Chamber of Commerce survey conducted last week showed Corcoran's favorability/unfavorability ratio at 23-14. Dean's was 49-9 and Dennis Baxley's was 32-9." "Aide who left Rubio drops out of Senate race". See also "Taking aim at Corcoran", "Will Corcoran hook up again with Rubio?", "'No plans' for Corcoran to return to House" and "Baxley, Dean push on".
Meanwhile, a new candidate Has jumped in: "A surprise entry was Republican Don Curtis of Perry, owner of a forestry-management company. He rushed to Tallahassee from a weekend fighting wildfires near Lake City." "Three enter race for open Senate seat".
GOPers Gut FEC Investigations
"Chance Irvine, a former GOP legislator from Orange Park and the outgoing chairwoman of the commission, called on Crist to veto a comprehensive elections bill that moves Florida's presidential primary to Jan. 29 and includes nearly $28 million to replace touch-screen voting machines with paper ballots."
Irvine, who was appointed to her post by former Gov. Jeb Bush, is upset with a provision slipped into the bill by the Florida Senate that would sharply limit the number of investigations that could be undertaken by the Elections Commission. She called the measure ''regressive'' and said it would undermine ''open and honest elections'' in Florida."Republican legislators who sponsored the elections bill have defended the provision dealing with the Elections Commission, contending it will cut down on unfounded complaints investigated by the panel, whose members are selected by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders."
''Governor, if you would like to disband the Florida Elections Commission, please do so openly and honestly,'' wrote Irvine, who will preside today over her last meeting as chairwoman. "Don't leave the people of Florida thinking election laws are being enforced after you sign this bill.''
The legislation says a person filing a complaint must have personal knowledge of an election law violation, instead of relying on hearsay information from others or newspaper reports. A complaint, however, could be based on public records."Elections panel leader opposes part of voting bill".
''It makes it more difficult for frivolous complaints to be launched,'' said Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican. "If Chairman Irvine believes she's better able to make elections law, she could consider running for office again.''
Rep. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat, said Democrats were opposed to the change, but were warned by Republicans that the bill would die if they pushed any last-minute amendments. Gelber predicted that state attorneys will wind up being asked to pursue election law cases because of the new measure.
"The Florida Democratic Party has launched an attack against U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, who is under federal investigative for his relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff." "Democrats target Feeney". The Dems even have a website collecting all the negative Feeney press - and there is a lot of it: Feeney's Full of It
"For the second time in two years, a Leon County judge has certified a class-action lawsuit against Citizens Property Insurance for homeowners continuing to press for their unpaid 2004 hurricane claims." "Judge OKs class-action suit against Citizens Insurance".
Florida Wants National Help
"Florida consumers would save $4.1 billion on property insurance premiums each year - or $539 per household - if the state's disaster insurance fund was backed up by a similar national pool, a group of actuarial consultants estimated Monday. " "Report: Floridians could save big on insurance if state fund backed by national pool".
A Good Start?
The Tampa Trib editors: "Finally, lawmakers are talking about a tax plan that will grow stronger as it is debated and modified."
House Speaker Marco Rubio has wisely, if belatedly, dropped his proposal to replace property taxes with a higher state sales tax. Now he's talking about exempting from taxes a high percentage of the value of each homesteaded property. This approach is more understandable and fair."Sensible Tax Plan Emerges That Florida Voters Will Buy".
However, Rubio's target of taxing only 20 percent of a home's value is too aggressive. Taxing half the value, which would give most taxpayers a noticeable cut, would be a better starting point for debate.
Taxpayers should be encouraged because excitement is growing about this simple plan to make Florida's property tax system more equitable and competitive.
Weldon Seeks an Eighth Term
"Dave Weldon of Indialantic announced today that he would seek an eighth term in Congress, setting up a likely 2008 match-up with Democrat newcomer Paul Rancatore. ... Weldon has about $353,000 cash-on-hand for his bid, according to recent election reports. Rancatore, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve, also recently declared but has not yet filed a fundraising report." "The doctor is 'in'".
"Florida Democrats are looking for a way to salvage the party’s importance in the presidential primary season, fearing the Republican-imposed date of Jan. 29 will drive candidates away from the state." "Florida Democrats May Want To Take A Political Cue From California".
My favorite part of the big cable TV bill just passed by our Legislature is that it transfers complaints about poor service to Tallahassee."The bill ends local video regulation in Florida. The premise is that if both your cable company and your phone company want to sell you video, we don't need local regulation any more."
Yep. I can just see the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the agency assigned to this task, swinging into action.
That includes customer service. That includes price. That includes the requirement to serve all areas. No need for any such pesky rules at the local level. Instead, we'll have one-stop licensing of video companies at the state level."Cable bill: Viewer discretion advised".
Now, in the real world, there is conflicting evidence on whether merely going from a one-company local monopoly to a two-company duopoly really solves all evils, or even reduces prices in the long run.
But for the Legislature, this bill was ready to pass from the instant that Florida's cable and telephone industries made a devil's deal with each other. The cable guys dropped their opposition to the phone guys, on the condition that they got to play by the same new rules.
It was like watching kings dividing up the peons.
There's just one, teeny little remaining hurdle for House Bill 529: the governor.
Making Life Easier For Developers
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "House Bill 7203 makes life easier for developers. Tired of those painful and potentially costly state reviews of local land-use laws? Just turn to the HB 7203 pilot program, which allows significant changes to local growth plans, now allowed twice a year, to be considered anytime according to no particular schedule. That change - to be tested in Broward and Pinellas counties and Miami, Hialeah, Tampa and Jacksonville - is aimed at making it harder for residents fighting development on their own time to track changes. The old way was meant to assure a comprehensive look at all the changes at one time. By allowing piecemeal consideration, this approach gives developers an unnecessary advantage." There's more: "Veto pro-sprawl bill".
Low-Income Senior Homestead Exemption
"Local governments are moving quickly to boost the maximum homestead exemption for poor seniors, which has stood at $50,000 for years. That $50,000 figure includes the standard $25,000 exemption offered to all homesteaders, along with an additional $25,000 for seniors meeting certain income requirements. A constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved by Florida voters last year allows local governments to double the low-income senior exemption to $50,000. Add in the normal $25,000 exemption and that's a total of $75,000 in property value that poor seniors won't pay taxes on. Although approved by voters last year, local governments only recently began taking up the increased homestead exemption because the Legislature first had to pass a law spelling out how it would work -- something it did this spring." "Seniors likely to get a homestead boost".
"Crist called it a town hall meeting, but a Monday evening event came across more like an antitax rally. Crist fired up a crowd of more than 500, most of them Haitian-Americans, by promising that the Legislature will bring tax relief. Audience members here, a place that usually supports Democrats, roared their approval." "Crist's tax message wins crowd approval". See also "Crist rallies North Miami town hall meeting on property taxes".
"A long-time lobbyist has lost his livelihood after pleading guilty to a felony charge of misappropriating public money while serving as a faculty member at the University of Florida." "Lobbyist barred from lobbying". See also "Once a professor and a lobbyist, now a felon".
Best in the Country
"Gator Nation has more to brag about: Gainesville is the best city in the United States. That's according to Cities Ranked & Rated: More Than 400 Metropolitan Areas Evaluated in the U.S. and Canada" "Gainesville named nicest place to live".
Pigs at the Trough
"Three capital city groups squabbling over a half-million dollars in business to produce a hurricane awareness campaign have been paid nearly $6-million by the state over the past three years, most of it to the Florida Association of Broadcasters, state records show. Late last week, Gov. Charlie Crist canceled a $450, 000 contract awarded to Ron Sachs Communications after it was contested by the Florida Association of Broadcasters and Mike Vasilinda Productions."
The contract would have been a big breakthrough for Sachs, who has worked largely in the private sector - winning 11 state contracts the last three years worth $94, 289."3 groups got $6M from state for ads".
Vasilinda's company has earned $276, 600 with 48 contracts during that period, not including what he receives as subcontractor on a lucrative contract with the Lottery Department.
The big player is the Florida Association of Broadcasters, created as a not-for-profit trade organization and headed for the past two decades by Pat Roberts, who has five full-time employees at the Tallahassee headquarters. Its 120 television and 500 radio station members pay dues based on their market size.
After Crist yanked the contract, Sachs, Vasilinda and Roberts engaged in a name-calling contest and said the controversy ruined some longtime friendships.
Here's an idea: why doesn't the state just bring the work in house?
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Mr. Crotzer was moved to tears when he got an official apology from Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami. He deserved the apology. But he also deserves compensation for the 24 years Florida stole from his life. The Legislature must find a fair and faster way to provide financial justice for Mr. Crotzer, and for any others the state has injured. " "Pay for 24 stolen years".
The schedule Florida is abandoning was set in 1971 at the urging of House Speaker Richard A. Pettigrew, who believed that Florida needed a centrist like Muskie to win its primary and hold the state in November against Nixon, who had defeated Hubert Humphrey (and Wallace) in 1968. Florida's primaries had been meaningless, coming late in the year and attracting few candidates. Pettigrew's law required all presumed candidates to be listed unless they disavowed the ambition."Florida's futile rush to be first".
The real winners, as it turned out, were the Republicans. Wallace, running as a Democrat again, embarked on a strident antibusing campaign just as federal court desegregation orders were beginning to take effect in Florida. The Republicans, encouraged by the White House, took advantage of an early 1972 legislative session to put a nonbinding but emotionally charged antibusing straw vote on the March primary ballot. Seeing the danger from Wallace, some Democrats had already called for the primary to be changed. But Pettigrew refused. He insisted on the right of the voters "to choose from a complete slate of contenders instead of from among only those contenders who deem it politically expedient to run in Florida."
Wallace won with 41.6 percent. Muskie ran not second but fourth, behind Humphrey and Henry Jackson, with only 8.9 percent. The media pronounced him politically dead. McGovern, who had not been expected to run well in this conservative state, suffered nothing from his fifth place finish.
Pettigrew's primary finally paid off four years later, giving Jimmy Carter the opportunity to dispose of Wallace in a Southern state. Meanwhile, President Gerald Ford, threatened by Ronald Reagan, gave Florida a new Bay Pines veterans hospital. But then other states began to steal a march, to the point where the two distinguished former Florida governors who ran for president -Reubin Askew in 1984 and Bob Graham in 2004 - were forced out before their own people had a chance to vote.
But that won't be fixed by yet another futile rush to be first. Those who ignore history are almost always condemned to repeat it. Suppose, for example, that the Republican front-runners fracture the establishment vote, leaving Sam Brownback to be pronounced the Florida winner?
"The State Board of Education will meet Tuesday morning in Orlando, but Gov. Charlie Crist has been silent so far on what he plans to do with Dr. Akshay Desai, a prominent GOP fundraiser and St. Petersburg physician and CEO of Universal Health Care." "No word yet on whether Crist will keep Desai".
"Not enough water is being conserved under the South Florida Water Management District's restrictions to cope with the worst drought in recent memory. In a region that relies on new development to underwrite its economy, resource conservation remains a hard sell. In truth, though, the era of blithe -- or blind -- belief in the infinite state of such essentials as drinking water ended long before now. It's just that not enough policymakers took notice." "Water conservation a public/private duty".
Jebbie Not As Fat
To the extent anyone cares:
Former Gov. Jeb Bush, looking tan and leaner than his Tallahassee days, gave a lengthy interview to Eliott Rodiriguez of CBS 4 in Miami that aired last Friday. Bush used the opportunity to talk primarily about ethanol, but he also spoke about his adjustment to domestic life, his own political future, and property taxes. ..."Jeb: Working out, losing weight and not talking about Charlie".
Bush did say that he liked House Speaker Marco Rubio's original proposal to swap a higher sales tax for getting rid of property taxes on homestead property. Bush said he thought it would create "a huge economic surge for the state." (The interview was done before Rubio unveiled his new plan that no longer calls for the swap.)