"U.S. Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.,"
want the Justice Department to probe charges that Republican operatives illegally suppressed voter turnout in African-American voting precincts in Jacksonville in the 2004 presidential election."Dems seek probe of 2004 vote in Jacksonville". More at Senator Kennedy's website. For background: "BBC TV Reveals: New Florida Vote Scandal –Republican 'Caging List'".
Their request targets Tim Griffin, an interim U.S. attorney in Arkansas and a protege of White House political adviser Karl Rove. While working for the Republican National Committee in August of 2004, Griffin wrote two e-mails that the senators said referred to "caging" of about 2,000 black voters in Jacksonville.
"Caging" is the practice of seeking to disqualify voters who fail to sign for registered political mail sent to their homes.
"As if determined to uphold Palm Beach County's reputation for election controversy, frustrated county commissioners Tuesday raised the possibility of defying Florida's new ballot 'paper-trail' law because they say the state isn't providing enough money to pay for it." "Officials may deviate from new election paper trail". See also "Palm Beach County threatens to keep touch screen voting machines".
Meanwhile over in Broward: "Five years after buying ATM-style voting machines, Broward County began another election changeover Tuesday. County commissioners agreed to buy new voting machines that use paper ballots and to turn over to the state almost all of the county's 4,500 touch-screen machines. The switch won't be cheap. While the state will foot most of the bill through federal aid, almost $10 million in county money is also needed." "Broward County to scrap touch-screen voting machines in 2008".
"The lowly gopher tortoises finally got a break. The reptiles use front feet designed like shovels to dig tunnels, which they share with burrowing owls, indigo snakes and mice. For years, Florida has allowed developers to pay fines to bury gopher tortoises alive, filling in their burrows and paving over them. The tortoises die a long, slow death, starving or gasping for breath underground. No more. Starting July 31, under a new policy the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved last week, developers can't entomb gopher tortoises but must move them. The policy, except for developers whose license to kill is "grandfathered" for now, is temporary until the commission completes a new permitting process." "Florida digs out of a hole".
"An Orphan in its Own State"
"This is no manufactured crisis. It is simple math. Tuition pays only a fourth of the cost of a university education, and the Legislature has been balancing its budget in recent years by pretending the other three-fourths are free. They are not."
Crist and legislative leaders want taxpayers to think that lunch is free, but that's not the way a university can operate. At FSU, the bills have to be paid and next year high school seniors will have 1, 800 fewer chances to gain admission. This is what happens when higher education becomes an orphan in its own state."Is anybody listening to universities?".
"The debate over property taxes unfortunately occluded an important disagreement between lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Crist on higher education funding. Lawmakers wanted more money from students, but Crist turned them down. The Legislature was right." "College Tuition".
"A New Snag"
"The state's bold decision last January to accept some of the hurricane risk for insurance companies, in exchange for lower premiums for consumers, has hit a new snag: Insurance companies don't trust it." "Insurers leery of state fund".
"Democrat Tim Mahoney’s quest for a perfect voting record is over, but he’s still one of the most reliable voters in the Congress from Florida." "Who has missed the fewest, most votes in Congress?".
Never Forget ...
Last night Charlie "signed a bill into law paving the way for rate-hikes on the state's toll roads by linking the levies to inflation. The controversial measure will also make it possible for the state to lease existing toll roads to private companies and to enter into deals allowing companies to build new toll roads altogether." "Crist Signs Law Leading to Higher Tolls". See also "Highway projects move closer" ("Crist signed legislation Tuesday that could put some toll roads in private hands").
Crist on Tuesday signed nearly 50 bills into law, including a controversial bill, HB 985, that will require automatic toll road hikes on toll roads. Crist also signed SB 1822, which will require carbon monoxide detectors in the boiler rooms of hotels. The legislation was pushed in the wake of the death of a tourist at a Key West hotel. Crist also vetoed HB 97 dealing with Medicare supplemental insurance policies."Crist vetoes insurance bill, signs toll hike legislation".
Crist in a letter said that he was in favor of the comprehensive transportation bill that includes the automatic toll rate hikes because it has "tools" that will help "maximize" the expansion of Florida's road system, including the utilization of "public private partnerships." These tools, however, are what got Democrats to oppose the legislation, saying it would lead to the privatization of Florida's roads.
Never forget that Good Time Charlie is a GOPer through and through: in one swell foop, he managed to open the door (1) to toll road increases (mind you these are "toll" increases, not "tax" increases, and (2) privatization of Florida's toll road system. The "People's Governor" at work.
Mark Lane: "Surprise! Across the state, fast-growth counties raised taxes a lot. Slow-growth counties raised taxes a little."
In the 10 counties with the smallest increase in taxes between 2001-2006, the population between 2000-2005 grew by a tepid average of 7.4 percent a year. Well below the state average of 12.1 percent."Is growth pushing tax boosts?".
In the 10 counties with the biggest increase in taxes between 2001-2006, the population grew by a mind-blowing average of 23.9 percent a year. Just under twice the state average.
Angry taxpayers often ascribe tax increases to greed, corruption and maladministration. And while there's certainly enough of that to go around in the Sunshine State, there's a good argument that runaway growth is a major force driving up city and county budgets all around the state.
Turning rural land into suburban land, and turning the countryside into subdivisions full of people demanding urban services is not a cheap process.
Growth doesn't pay for itself. And by the time tax reform is finished, it might pay even less than before.
"The University of Mobile [private, Baptist-affiliated school ] scrapped plans for syndicated conservative columnist Cal Thomas to speak at a scholarship banquet when it found out Florida's former governor was available, the Mobile Press-Register reports." "Jeb!" apparently didnpt come cheap, and the "wouldn't say how much the school is paying the former governor." "Jeb: Still in demand".
Co-Opting The Media
Charlie is adept at making gestures that the MSM luvs: "Crist on Tuesday created the state's first Open Government Reform Commission, which will search for ways to make Florida more open to residents. The nine-member panel will review hundreds of exemptions to public records laws that have multiplied in recent years. It also will examine fees charged to the public and media to inspect and copy records as well as the use of the Internet to improve public access to government information." "Crist creates a panel for open government". See also "Crist creates open-record commission", "Governor's panel to study state's open-meetings laws" and Governor forms panel to study public access issues"Crist forms Commission on Open Government". More: "Crist willing to open up clemency records" ("The past policy of the board has been to only give out the names and basic information about those felons who had their rights restored. Floridians, for example, can't find out who, or more importantly, who did not, vote in favor of rights restoration or a pardon.")
The luv is already on its way. See "A matter of openness".
"Business Groups are Mobilizing to Crush a Citizen Initiative"
"Florida's largest business groups are mobilizing to crush a citizen initiative they say would slow development and kill the state's economy." "Florida's largest business groups are mobilizing to crush a citizen initiative they say would slow development and kill the state's economy.".
"A law signed Tuesday will subject Florida high school athletes in football, baseball and weightlifting to random steroid tests.Steroid testing is state law" See also "Governor signs bill for high-school steroid testing" and "Bill signed to begin steroid testing of high school athletes".
The Primary Thing
"Florida Democrats are pressing forward with their party's Jan. 29 presidential primary, despite the continued threats of sanctions from Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean. The state party has begun the 30-day period for public comment on its delegate selection and affirmative action plan, which can be found at the party's website." "Florida Democrats' primary objective".
"As the Senate struggles to craft a national energy plan, Sen. Mel Martinez has placed a "hold" on any consideration of an amendment to allow oil and gas drilling as close as 45 miles off Florida's Gulf coast. ... Martinez's hold on the measure, a parliamentary privilege senators have, means the amendment by Sens. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, and Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, is virtually dead." "Martinez Blocks Effort To Drill Off Gulf Coast".
"Commission wants more info about power campanies' storm preparations The state's power companies appear to be on track with multi-million-dollar storm-hardening plans, but regulators want to know more." "PSC to hold hearings on utilities' storm preparations".
"President Bush has nominated Nancy Goodman Brinker of Palm Beach, to be the next Chief of Protocol for the United States, the White House announced today. Brinker, who was U.S. ambassador to Hungary from 2001 to 2003 and founder of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, is also a major Republican Party fundraiser." "Floridian Nominated for Chief of Protocol". See also "Florida woman named WH hostess with the most-est".
"The state Board of Education on Tuesday rejected a plan to suspend a portion of the school-grading formula that puts a bigger spotlight on struggling students." "FCAT penalty stays in place". See also "For schools, good grades harder to get".
More: "Inflated scores on Florida's standardized assessment test will largely be excluded from the calculation of Florida's A to F grades for schools, the State Board of Education voted Tuesday." "2006 third-grade FCAT scores will not count toward school grades, state says".
"During the past few days, more than 200 of the seabirds have been recovered, either dead or sickly, along the Atlantic coast, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They're emaciated and starving, but state officials aren't sure what is behind the sudden die-off, commission spokeswoman Wendy Quigley said." "Open-ocean birds wash up along coast".
"Florida set a minimum standard for its pre-kindergarten providers Tuesday, which means 556 pre-K providers statewide are now considered 'low-performing' and must develop improvement plans." "Standard set for pre-K providers".
"Accurate, But not Necessarily True"
"One local official acknowledged this week that Gov. Charlie Crist's estimates of a $9 billion reserve pool scattered among local governments statewide is probably 'accurate, but not necessarily true.'"
That assessment gets to the heart of the hue and cry coming from city and county governments, as well as from agencies operating under them, about how Mr. Crist's number doesn't really apply. To them."Calculating".
Whether it's fuzzy math, as some argue, or a sweeping generalization meant to keep everyone's eye on cutting property taxes - and logically the 2008 elections - the reality is that government budgets are almost impossible for the average or even above-average citizen to fathom.
This makes a local government vulnerable to easy generalizations, overstatements or old-fashioned knee-jerk reactions from citizens - as well as elected officials who may not know exactly what they're talking about either, but should.