"Florida Democrats face another vote-counting quandary they can blame on Republicans: whether to stage their first presidential caucus in modern history."
The caucus could lure primary candidates to the state and nurture Democratic grass-roots organizations and fundraising. But staging an alternative contest to the traditional primary could cost the party millions of dollars as well as its credibility, after years of vowing to make every vote count."Early primary date makes minefield for Democrats". See also "Cost Of Dems Caucus: $6M-Plus".
The Democratic dilemma was triggered by the GOP-led Legislature's decision to make the presidential primary one of the earliest in the country on Jan. 29. The move defied national party rules governing the primary calendar. Scofflaw states lose half of their delegates to the nominating conventions.
"'Governor Charlie Crist today met with representatives of consumer groups to learn more about how rising property taxes have affected the Floridians they represent,' is the opening line of the press release from the governor’s office."
But a few paragraphs down comes the explanation that Crist met "with representatives of the following consumer groups: Associated Industries of Florida, Florida Association of Realtors, Florida Bankers Association, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Home Builders Association, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and Florida Retail Federation.""Consumer Groups?".
"Consumer groups"? The Chamber of Commerce, the Bankers Association, the Home Builders Association, and Associated Industries, long known as the state’s most powerful business lobby? All are industry trade associations.
"Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, and Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Miami Beach, believe more ought to be done to inform consumers. They introduced versions of a 'Healthy Dining Act,' which would have required restaurants to post conspicuous signs warning patrons of the trans fat content in their food. The bills died in both chambers of the Legislature this year following strong opposition from the ['consumer group', the] Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association." "Healthy Eating".
Charlie Has Been Warned
business ['consumer'] groups and their lobbyists cautioned Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday against shifting more of the tax burden their way in his drive to slash property taxes." "Business interests caution Crist on property tax relief".
That's Our "Jeb!"
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a habit of developing new ways to undermine its own credibility. But the corps outdid itself last year when it bought dozens of drainage pumps to protect New Orleans from hurricane flooding."
Not only did a Deerfield Beach company with strong ties to Jeb Bush and the Republican Party win the $32 million contract, Moving Water Industries Corp. also sold the government its typographical errors. The corps sent out bids for the pumps with specification language copied verbatim from the company's catalog, typos included. The phrase "abrasive resistance steel" should have read "abrasion resistant." The bid request also parroted other erroneous references in the catalogue, including the type of steel required. ..."Pump deal's defects clear in the not-so-fine print".
The appearance of a rigged deal is further enhanced by the connection with Mr. Bush. The former Florida governor worked for MWI in the 1990s and helped create a legal dispute with deal-rigging charges that remain unresolved. Plaintiffs, including the U.S. Justice Department, have challenged the company's sale of $74 million worth of pumps to Nigeria with taxpayer-backed loans. Cynics who connect the dots can look at the deal as a fine example of publicly financed election campaigns.
Florida's Booming Economy
"The cost of living is rising faster in South Florida than the average for the rest of the nation. And you can guess what is to blame: gas prices and housing costs." "Prices are rising faster for South Florida than rest of the nation".
"According to The Hill, which interviewed three new aides in the Weston Democrat's office and said they talked about their boss 'in such a way that it seems as though they believe she has reached cult status.'" "http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2007/05/debbie_wasserma.html".
"Mounting a campaign to erode public support for Gov. Charlie Crist's reforms, the Florida insurance industry claims he has overstated the rewards, and underplayed the risks." "Insurance industry report refutes Crist".
Florida Political Blogs
The Florida Progressive Coalition has an interesting piece on the Florida political blogosphere, such as it is: "What’s Wrong With the Florida Progressive Blogosphere?".
"A consultant conceded her proposal to shift the focus of certain state universities to undergraduate studies almost exclusively is going nowhere after hearing more criticism of the idea at a symposium Tuesday." "Consultant concedes university role switch won't work".
The Palm Beach Post editors: "After further review, the differential tuition legislation awaiting Gov. Crist's signature makes even more sense. If the governor can't sign it, he at least shouldn't veto Florida's small step toward having a world-class public university system." "Don't veto tuition plan".
"Competition for new state song".Back Scratching
"Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has launched a statewide investigation of student-loan practices, asking 46 institutions of higher learning to explain their relationships with companies that lend money to students. ... Investigators want to know whether universities have been receiving perks from lenders, and, if so, whether the schools steered students toward companies with less-favorable loan terms." "Colleges' ties to lenders scrutinized". See also "They dine on lender dimes" ("Sources of student loans routinely sponsor events for college aid officials.").
"A father who lives in Cuba appeared in court in Miami to battle for custody of his daughter. All parties are under a gag order." "Elián's memory shadows Cuban custody case".
"Rubio's latest plan, however, isn't about tax burdens or equity. It's about tax ideology. Momentously cutting the property tax locally is a first step toward abolishing it and replacing it with a sales tax -- a dream of conservative ideology. Meanwhile, inverting the homestead exemption to cover the greatest majority of the assessed value on most properties would not only cut taxes for property owners, but make moving easier, as a homesteaded property owner's limited tax bills under Save Our Homes would become portable. It's yet another short-term attempt to resuscitate the latest real estate boom. This would make life better for those who already have it best, but undermine the mission of already burdened city and county governments aiming to preserve a good life for the rest." "Rubio's plan: Sly step to sales tax shift". See also "House tax relief plan raises questions".
"From new homeowners and buyers to poor seniors and business owners, many Florida taxpayers would get a break under a revamped plan by Democrats in the House of Representatives that seeks to trim nearly $4 billion from next year's tax rolls."
The plan creates a system of so-called ''super'' tax exemptions to give relief to those who need it most, but it excludes one taxpayer group: longtime homeowners who have no plans to move and have seen their tax bills freeze -- or even drop -- because of the state's tax cap."Final deal on property tax cuts gets closer". See also "Exemptions key to tax proposal". More: "Democrats to suggest own tax-cutting ideas".
House Democrats first proposed the idea during the regular lawmaking session, only to see it go nowhere until Republican House Speaker Marco Rubio recently embraced a version of it in preparation for a June special session on taxes.
"Remember Stan? Gov. Crist won't let you forget him".
The Sun Sentinel editorial board asserts that "in reality, you could be looking at 400,000 more residents squeezed into Broward in the next 13 years -- and you thought the roads were crowded now -- which presents planners and government officials, and the public as well, with challenges and decisions to make." "Growth".
"Sen. Mel Martinez could not say no when President Bush asked him to serve as head of the Republican Party, even knowing the position would make him a bigger political target and sometimes create conflicts with his elected position. It was not just that Bush is his country's and party's leader, but the president also lifted Martinez out of an elected county position and made him a Cabinet member. Then, less than four years later, Bush's political team helped Martinez win his Senate seat." "Martinez struggles to balance".
"You would think with a name like Reagan, you’d be pretty safe in avoiding a GOP primary."
But State Rep. Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, knows otherwise now."Reagan gets a challenge".
Sarasota Republican Marie Nisco has filed to run against Reagan next year in state House District 67. Reagan has already declared his intention to seek a final two-year term in the Florida House. Term limits prevent him from running again in 2010.
"Not satisfied with banning touch-screen voting machines, a citizens panel now wants to end [Sarasota] county's relationship with the company that provided them." "Citizen panel's advice snubs touch-screen maker".
Cash "Shamefully Left on the Table"
"It's imperative that Gov. Charlie Crist and leaders of the Florida Legislature add the KidCare health insurance program to the agenda for June's special session. Otherwise, Florida could walk away from millions in matching federal funds needed to provide health care to low-income children - money that Florida has shamefully left on the table for other states to grab." "Fix KidCare If You Really Care About Kids".
"For the second straight year, rude Miami drivers have earned the city the title of worst road rage in a survey released Tuesday." "Miami tops rude driver list; Tampa 16th".
"A transportation bill on Gov. Charlie Crist's desk could lock in Florida's worst planning mistakes well into the next century. HB 985 would allow investor-owned companies to lease existing toll roads and build new ones. It's bad enough to pawn public assets to raise immediate cash. But this legislation also would pave the way for more sprawl and worsen congestion. Developers would have every incentive to make money twice - first by building expressways to nowhere, then by building up entire communities around the roads. Crist's veto would tell lawmakers to get serious about transportation and growth management." "Transport bill deserves veto".
"Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff may yet help the political fortunes of U.S. Rep Tom Feeney of Florida." Read how here: "Scandal leads to new post for Feeney". More: "Feeney to take GOP's top spot on space panel".
"As Largo's city manager for 14 years, Steve Stanton worked with Rep. C.W. Bill Young's office, but never met the long-term Florida congressman face to face. But Tuesday, as a fired transgender official, Susan Stanton, chatted with Young in his Capitol office for almost an hour." "Stanton uses status to lobby". See also "Stanton Lobbies Congress Over Discrimination", "Stanton takes a shot at Sarasota job" and "Stanton a Sarasota job finalist".
"Bipartisan deal on immigration is near". See also "Time running out to strike immigration reform deal".
Here's a shocker from the pro-death Tampa Trib editorial board: "Medical doctors still will not administer the lethal dose - the American Medical Association forbids doctors from participating in executions and most medical professionals take oaths preventing them from doing harm. But it doesn't take an advanced degree to learn how to inject a needle without inflicting extreme pain." "With Fixes In Place, Crist Is Right To Lift Ban On Death Penalty".
"Youngsters who completed Florida's preschool program arrived at kindergarten better prepared to learn than children who did not take part or dropped out, state officials announced Tuesday." "Wee ones in pre-K do better, state says".