"Who has the bigger bullhorn in Florida: the governor or the House speaker?"
Whether lawmakers can reach a compromise on property tax reduction in the remaining days of this spring's legislative session may well depend on how the speaker, Marco Rubio, answers that question."Resolution on property taxes hinges on speaker's decision". See also "Lawmakers take negotiations on property tax underground".
For three months, Rubio has pushed to eliminate property taxes on homesteads and replace some of the lost money with a sales tax increase - and for three months, he has found no interest in the Senate and only slightly more from Gov. Charlie Crist, a fellow Republican.
Now, with only three days to go before the scheduled adjournment, Rubio must decide whether it's smarter to accept a compromise that does not include a sales tax hike or risk a possible special session in which he has less control of the agenda.
On Tuesday, it was unclear which direction he was heading. Negotiations between the House and Senate, which stalled last week, remained nonexistent, even as all involved expressed optimism that an agreement would come together.
"Unable to resolve major differences in assorted property tax proposals and with only three days left in the session, legislators could be forced to return for a special session this month." "Special session enters picture". See also "Still no tax plan as deadline looms".
"Legislature: Day 34 at a glance".
"A plan to expand gambling across Florida surfaced Monday in the state House and was immediately linked to the ongoing legislative battle to slash property taxes." "House ties gambling proposal to tax cuts".
Charlie's take: "Crist: Gambling bad, but taxes worse".
The Tampa Trib editors: "It's not surprising to see big-time gaming interests offer an 11th hour solution to the property tax debate in Tallahassee, given the industry's insatiable desire to expand its tentacles in Florida." "Solution To Property Tax Puzzle Won't Be Found In Gambling Sites". More: "Video lottery costly sellout for tax relief". See also "Florida's costly addiction" ("This dishonest expansion of gambling, under cover of helping education, cheapens Florida. If it gets through the Legislature, Gov. Crist should kill it.")
It Was A Fine Idea At The Time
"A grand plan to give Florida a bigger say in presidential politics by holding one of the earliest primaries in the nation could backfire and leave Democrats in the largest swing state with less power than in Rhode Island."
A bill expected to pass the Legislature this week would set the vote for Jan. 29, 2008 -- one week after New Hampshire's -- jumping over the Feb. 5 start date set by the national parties to try to stretch out the primary schedule."Primary shift could be costly to Democrats".
During a visit to Miami by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean on Tuesday, the party made clear that any candidate who stumps in states that break the Feb. 5 rule would forfeit all delegates to the nominating convention. That means, for example, that if Sen. Hillary Clinton campaigned in Florida, she would not win a single delegate even if she won a majority of the primary vote.
"The Florida House voted Tuesday to give the parents of Martin Lee Anderson $5 million in a settlement with the state, but it came with much regret that the bill did not include compensation for a man wrongly imprisoned more than 24 years."
A House council Monday amended the bill (SB 2968) to include a $1.25 million payment for Alan Crotzer. That payment is for the time he spent in prison as a result of a wrongful rape and kidnapping conviction in 1982. He was proved innocent by a DNA test."House approves Anderson payment". See also "Two wrongs; one is repaid" and "House Calls Senate Bluff on Anderson and Crotzer".
The Crotzer amendment was dropped on the House floor Tuesday when sponsors learned it would kill the measure in the Senate.
Heaven Help Us
"Claiming that the Florida High School Athletic Association is 'arrogant' and biased against private and parochial schools, the Florida Senate signed off on a last-minute proposal Tuesday that would allow private schools to have their own high school sports governing board and championship competition." "Senate plan splits public, private schools in athletics".
"U.S. election officials gave Florida the go-ahead Tuesday to use federal money to pay for voting machines with a paper trail, easing the way for the state Legislature to scrap touch-screen machines in Miami-Dade, Broward and 13 other counties." "Paper ballot switch gets federal aid". See also "Florida permitted to use federal funds to replace voting machines", "Federal funds for paper ballots" and "Paper Ballot Funding OK'd".
However, "Legislation to create a statewide paper trail for Florida voters got so sullied on its way through the Florida Senate that it doesn't deserve support, regrettably. "
The state needs paper-ballot records for recounts. The bill would replace touch screens used by 15 counties (Broward and Miami-Dade included) with optical scanners."Paper trail would come at a high cost". See also "Dumping touch screens an expensive non-solution" and "Accuracy counts".
The Senate bill was filled with obnoxious provisions that limit voter participation, not expand it. The measure, likely to pass in the House, will bring the needed paper trail, but it also disregards the civil rights of disabled Floridians, makes voting access harder and risks future election debacles by rushing the 15 counties into using scanners in the 2008 presidential election -- 19 months away. ...
The bill would impose fines against third-party groups that register voters and do not quickly turn over forms to election officials. This repeats an existing provision being challenged in court by the League of Women Voters and other civic groups. They maintain that this law would shut down their voter-registration drives in Florida, thereby reducing access to voting.
The bill unadvisedly removes two of the nine acceptable forms of photo identification to qualify for voting -- employee ID's and buyer's club cards. The purpose is to prevent fraud, but a recent federal study of national elections found little fraudulent voting with fake ID's. This puts more burdens on voters. A few years ago, all you needed to prove you were a qualified voter when lacking photo ID was to sign an affidavit.
As we said, this bill is likely to pass in the House. Gov. Crist made getting a paper trail a priority, so he likely will sign it.
Even the League is holding its nose and supporting the measure for the sake of seeing the paper trail become a reality. This bill takes with one hand and gives away with the other. Lawmakers' goal should be to make voting more accessible and accurate, not more onerous.
Dubya in Tampa
"Bush visit stirs small protest in Tampa".
"The House tentatively agreed today to let the University of Florida and Florida State University increase tuition up to 40 percent over four years, but the measure faces a likely veto by Gov. Charlie Crist." "Tuition increase a possibility".
"Crist says he has not given up on further insurance reform in the last days of session." "Crist: Still time to rework insurance". See also "Senate poised for vote on insurance reform package".
"Rates for Citizens Property Insurance Corp. customers would remain frozen through 2009 under a bill debated Tuesday in the Florida Senate. Consumers also could choose to remain covered by the state-run insurer if the rates of another company were 15 percent higher, according to the proposal, which is part of an effort by Gov. Charlie Crist to strengthen Citizens." "Citizens rates frozen under Senate plan".
"Renters could face steep fees if they break their lease agreement after state lawmakers passed legislation that would allow landlords to collect what critics called 'double rent.'" "Renter fees bill passes". See also "Early termination fees for renters approved", "Breaking a lease may get costlier" and "Landlords get a boost under new state rental rules".
"Thousands of immigrants and their supporters across the state waved American flags and demanded a pass to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally, echoing similar demonstrations across the country Tuesday." "Immigrants and supporters gather around Florida for rallies".
"Mitt Romney’s campaign sent out a list of young professionals supporting the former Massachusetts governor for president. Among them are three who worked with former Gov. Jeb Bush - Jill Bratina, former communications director; Ryan Duffy, former speechwriter and Kimberly Fritts, who worked on Bush’s 1994 campaign. She was also scheduler for Connie Mack when he was in Congress. " "Make That Three Jebsters for Mitt".
"The Taxman's Hand"
"While debate over high property taxes has dominated the legislative session this year, few people complain about the taxes they pay on such things as electricity, phone service and gasoline, in part because many Floridians don't know what these taxes cost them." "The taxman's hand may be deeper in your pocket than you realize".
"Long-term negative consequences"
"A last-minute change in funding rules for HMOs could have long-term negative consequences for poor, mentally ill Floridians and their communities. The change would lift a state mandate on how much health maintenance organizations must spend on care for Medicaid patients with severe mental illnesses. As a result, communities could pay more for jails, shelters and hospital beds." "Less care for Medicaid recipients".
"The Legislature wants help in expediting an aging dike's repairs." "Lake O".
"Schools districts designated as "high performing" would be exempt from state rules regarding the development of reading plans, certain program spending, portable classrooms and instructional material choices, under a bill (SB 574) that passed the Senate Tuesday and the House Monday." "Elite schools may not have to follow rules". See also "Law would give schools freedom".
"Thirty-five years after the women's rights movement reached a fever pitch with a constitutional amendment to guarantee women equal protection under the law, the Florida House won't give the notion the time of day." "Equal Rights Amendment sinks in legislative tide".
"High school wrestlers, football players and baseball players would be subject to random testing for anabolic steroids starting next school year, under a one-year pilot program embraced by lawmakers." "Prep steroid testing okayed".
"With the end of the legislative session in three days, cracks in legislative bi-partisanship showed Tuesday when Republicans in one House Council voted to keep several Democratic bills from getting a vote on the floor." "In final days, some Democratic bills get bumped from House votes".
"Senators Rebuff Crist's Bid for More Sway Over Citizens".