Bill March: "State House Speaker Marco Rubio, who proclaims himself a leading opponent of high property taxes, says Gov. Charlie Crist’s vetoes of state budget 'turkeys' won’t provide the ability for the Legislature to cut the property taxes it requires the counties to collect."
The argument, between Republican Rubio and legislative Democrats, is an elaborate game of political positioning being played in advance of a special session on property taxes to be held in June."Rubio: Nix On Cutting State-Required Property Taxes". See also "Plan ties budget vetos, tax cuts", "House Democrats want vetoed spending used to cut taxes", "Rubio shoots back at Democrats tax relief plan", "Rubio to Gelber: Sorry (pen) pal" and Aaron Deslatte's "Rubio, Man of Letters" ("Jefferson and Adams, it ain't. But House Speaker Marco Rubio and Democratic counterpoint Dan Gelber are suddenly trading letters like a Blackberry revolt.")
The underlying fact is that Crist vetoed $459 million worth of legislator’s pet projects, sometimes called “turkeys,” when he signed the state budget bill this week.
Some legislators couldn’t help but notice that amount was close to the amount by which the Legislature in the regular session forced counties to increase the property taxes they collect for schools—the so-called “Required Local Effort.” Did that mean Crist was laying the groundwork to demand a tax “cut” of the same amount? Crist said it was just a coincidence.
But Friday, Democratic House leaders seized on the vetoes as an opportunity to suggest an easy tax cut. They sent a letter to Crist and GOP legislative leaders suggesting that since Crist had cut the budget $459 million, they could eliminate the increase in property taxes they forced on the counties by the same amount.
Rubio responded within hours in a letter of his own, saying no way.
It is a bit of a guilty pleasure to see "Karl Rove's Florida Frankenstein" complaining about his party's wingnuts: "'It's understandable when you have a bipartisan solution there are going to be extremists' on both sides of the issue." "Martinez takes flak on immigration". See also "Martinez: Man in the Middle" and "Sen. Martinez at heart of immigration debate".
"Charlie Dean picked up the endorsement of the Associated Industries of Florida Service Corporation on Friday, while Dennis Baxley blasted Dean for conspiring with the trial lawyers on a 'smear' attack." "An endorsement and an attack in SD3".
No "Last-Minute Gifts"
"Millions of dollars that HMOs plowed into lobbying and political contributions over the past year may have won them a series of last-minute gifts from the Legislature, but not from Gov. Charlie Crist. On Thursday night, Crist axed legislation that would have boosted state payments to Medicaid health-maintenance organizations and ripped out existing protections for mentally ill patients." "Crist Veto Pulls Plug On HMO Proposals". See also "Crist vetoes Medicaid changes".
More: "Gov. Crist Mostly On Target In Wide-Ranging Turkey Hunt", "Crist vetoes measure for extra tenant fees", "Crist missed chance to jump-start region", "Crist vetoes baffle, raise hackles" and "Turkey list's fat targets".
"Former state Education Commissioner John Winn told The St. Petersburg Times on Thursday that last year's spike concerned him. In 2006, the percentage of students performing at grade level or better went from 67 percent to 75 percent. Winn said he ordered reviews by three groups, but none found anything amiss. Reached Friday by The Miami Herald, he said his comments were accurate, but he declined to answer any further questions." "Senate seeks to probe FCAT". See also "FCAT mistake fuels critics, upsets parents" ("Critics are lining up to blast the Florida Department of Education for the error that artificially boosted last year's FCAT reading test for third-graders. ")
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "When FCAT testing looms, students of one well-regarded middle school English teacher in Palm Beach County take this letter home to their parents:"
"If there is something of greater import, it is beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. I am now 13 years old, and my future hangs in the balance. If I do not perform well, worlds will collide, nations will crumble and Miss America will lose her dream of world peace.""FCAT credibility gone as make-or-break test".
Obviously, the note is tongue-in-cheek, but the FCAT has so warped Florida education policy that it isn't that much of an exaggeration. The overemphasis on FCAT scores was a mistake even before Wednesday's revelation of serious errors in the 2006 test. Now that the state belatedly has admitted that the test is - gasp - fallible, Gov. Crist should lead the effort to restore the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to its original, diagnostic purpose.
Gov. Crist's reaction when he learned of the flaw - "Well, it doesn't raise my confidence" - is in itself a welcome change from the Jeb Bush regime, which wouldn't concede that anything could be wrong with the FCAT or the school grades concocted from the results.
"The spring home-selling season is proving to be a misnomer. Although real estate agents tout low-interest rates and a slew of bargains, many buyers are holding off. They're waiting for prices to keep falling, experts say, and for lawmakers to fix the property tax mess during a special legislative session in June." "Buyers waiting for tax solution, more bargains".
"Souvenir shops that line this sugary white Panhandle beach display Confederate flag beach towels, window decals and T-shirts. Hooters and other bars fly POW-MIA, Marine and Navy flags and cater to the sailors and Marines from the nearby base. Vacationing Southern families usually fill the hotels and condominiums in this slice of paradise long nicknamed "The Redneck Riviera." But every Memorial Day they mostly stay away as this Florida Panhandle town becomes more like trendy Miami Beach - 700 miles and a world away. Starting in the mid-1980s, gay men from New Orleans and other nearby cities began gathering here for a three-day party that has grown into one of the South's largest gay gatherings, attracting more than 60,000 people in 2004 before hurricanes Ivan and Dennis destroyed many beach roads and buildings. Following two years of rebuilding, organizers anticipate 50,000 this weekend - and the resulting culture clash." "'Redneck Riviera' home to large gay Memorial Day bash".
"A May 14-18 Datamar poll shows Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in a dead heat among likely Florida primary voters and Fred Thompson nipping at Rudy Giuliani's heels". "Edwards winning in Florida?" More at this FLA Politics post: "New Poll Shows Competitive Primary in Florida".
"Merit in Second Chances"
"For a Republican Congress that spent more than a decade cutting its teeth on cutting rehabilitation programs in the name of law and order, last year's Second Chance Act was uncharacteristic for its charity and humaneness. It would offer states $86 million to underwrite prisons' efforts to ease inmates' re-entry into society. The money could pay for drug treatment, (needed by up to two-thirds of inmates in Florida), education, job training -- anything to keep inmates from committing crimes again, as a third of them do within three years in Florida." "Nation, Florida rediscover merit in second chances".
Another Delightful Jebacy
"Few regular folks have heard of the Florida Transportation Commission. The nine volunteers on its board aren't elected. They don't keep minutes of key meetings."
It's an anonymity that conceals their power to shape how the state spends billions in tax dollars on roads, rail, airports and seaports."Leftover board uses clout".
For more than a year, a Transportation Commission board [all of whom were] appointed by Jeb Bush when he was governor has been a key sponsor of a controversial plan to lace the state with a series of massive toll roads.
And earlier this year, the board violated Florida's open meetings law when it led a search for the person who could help decide the fate of those toll roads, the secretary of the state Department of Transportation.
The commission is required by law to nominate three finalists for transportation secretary. The governor has no choice but to pick one of its nominations.
When You "Elect" A Car Salesman ...
... you get a car salesman: "It wasn’t until the question and answer period that Buchanan ventured into the topic [of Iraq] when pushed by a question from the audience. 'It’s a bad business deal,' Buchanan responded." "Buchanan: U.S. is nation building in Iraq".
Gallagher Gets A Pass
"Under the joint stipulation that will go before the full [Florida elections] commission at its June 8th meeting, it states that 'the public interest would not be served by proceeding further.' The commission found that in July 2006 that enough evidence existed to say that former insurance commissioner Gallagher had broken state ethics laws when he purchased stock in two companies whose subsidiaries were regulated by the Department of Insurance." "Gallagher ethics charges will likely be dropped".
"In a conference call [Friday evening], John McCain challenged his Republican presidential primary opponents to propose their own immigration reform plan or else support his, and said he’s going to make a speech on the issue in Miami June 4." "McCain To Opponents: Put Up Or Shut Up On Immigration".
"Crist to ballyhoo Florida in Israel".
"Kurt Browning seemed to have the ideal resume to preside over Florida's unpredictable voting system - a job that includes frequent clashes with fiercely independent local election supervisors."
It's Browning's fate to repair the strained relationship between election supervisors and the Secretary of State's Office at a time when a new voting system is coming."Kurt Browning's tough road".
Seven short years removed from the chaotic day of punch cards and hanging chad, Florida is again replacing its voting machines. This time, the state is junking touch screen machines for optical scanners that provide a paper trail, which Crist sees as a tonic for the Sarasota-inspired lack of confidence in old-fashioned vote counting.
Touch screens must be gone by July 1, 2008, to make way for the first statewide paper trail primary on Aug. 26, 2008. A few will remain for voters with disabilities.
That's not all supervisors face. Random audits of precinct totals. An earlier presidential primary that puts a bigger focus on Florida. More election-day data demanded by the state and less time to compile it all. A still-untested "ballot on demand" system for early voting that offers more convenience for voters and more work for poll workers.
All of it was tucked inside the elections bill Crist signed amid great fanfare Monday.
The bill is House Bill 537.
Yes, 537, the exact number of votes by which George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in Florida in 2000.