"State lawmakers cut short another meeting on property taxes Monday as they struggle to get past the vague contours of a deal to lower rates for homeowners and businesses. But even as they scheduled another hearing before the June 12 special session, there were growing signs of doubt." "It's crunch time for taxes".
"Florida voters can decide property-tax relief on Jan. 29, the same day they pick a presidential nominee, House and Senate leaders said Monday."
Lawmakers revealed the date they plan to put constitutional tax reforms to voters, but little else on Monday as they inch closer to agreement ahead of a June 12 special session. ..."Tax reform to have Jan. 29 vote". See also "State's leaders struggle to make a tax cut plan", "Legislative leaders agree to presidential primary tax relief vote", "Tax plan needs time" ("Legislators said they needed more time to review their ever-complicated property tax cut plan, but they pushed ahead with an earlier primary date"), "Floridians will vote on reforming the property tax system on Jan. 29", "Property tax reform, primary may both go on Jan. 29 ballot", "Tax reform to have Jan. 29 vote" and "Secret talks precede session".
The committee met three days after House Speaker Marco Rubio and Senate President Ken Pruitt announced the framework of a deal for lowering taxes for homeowners.
It calls for rolling back property-tax rates levied by cities and counties before November and basing the amount of reductions on a tiered system that would target the biggest cuts to local governments that raised taxes the most in the past five years.
The proposals would also require 60 percent of voters in January to approve a new, super homestead exemption that would be tied to the value of the individual home.
Monday's meeting was supposed to outline proposals for lowering property taxes for businesses and rental properties and low-income seniors, but Democrats spent most of the time complaining about the lack of details in Friday's announcement.
The pressure is on Rubio: "House speaker bets political future on tax plan".
The St Pete Times' editors observes that "Florida's property tax system needs an overhaul, but springing a complicated backroom deal on lawmakers, local governments and homeowners at the last minute is a prescription for disaster."
The governor, back from a weeklong trip to Israel, also needs to get engaged. Crist made a cameo appearance Monday at a legislative committee meeting on tax relief, expressed optimism and received applause. For a governor whose own future could turn on the outcome of the property tax debate, that is simply not good enough. He needs a firm grasp of the details, and he needs to offer more to a skeptical public than vague assurances that everything will be just fine."Vague, secret deals". See also "Back Stateside, Crist Pays a Visit to Lawmakers". More editorial comment: "Getting there".
More: "Business owners call for tax relief" ("most of the proposals trumpeted by legislators as the answer to the state's tax inequities barely touch the subject of commercial property.")
The Tallahassee Democrat's SD 3 Endorsements
"Of the two Democrats competing for their party's nomination, the Tallahassee Democrat editorial board recommends Mark Ravenscraft, former president of the Democratic Club of North Florida and owner of a marketing firm here. Suzan Franks, a homemaker from Citrus Hills is also running. Of the three Republicans seeking their party's nomination, we urge voters to support former Citrus County Sheriff and state Rep. Charles S. Dean of Inverness. He is far more moderate and skilled at consensus-building than outgoing Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala. A third contender is Don Curtis, a career forester from Perry, who lacks public policy experience equal to the challenges of this important Senate seat." "District 3". See also "Primary election today for state Senate, House vacancies".
"Here's a question that has come up a lot lately: How come the government keeps letting people build new stuff in a drought?" "A ban on growth won't help drought".
"A scholarship program heralded by former Gov. Jeb Bush as a way to increase minority enrollment in Florida's colleges and universities was given no additional money by lawmakers this year, severely limiting the number of students who will benefit." "Budget limits first-generation college grants".
"Facing criticism for thousands of 2004 and 2005 hurricane claims still open, Citizens Property Insurance seeks to rein in the lawyers and freelance adjusters it alleges are whipping up disputes in order to pocket large fees." "Citizens asks for time limit on claim disputes".
"Perhaps the most astonishing political story of 2007 has been the rise of Charlie 'Just Call Me Charlie' Crist, a people's governor who seems more interested in genuinely winning the hearts of Floridians than forcing Floridians to drink his own personal flavor of Kool-Aid."
Crist has been so successful in his short tenure - standing up to the insurance lobby, tearing down walls to public records, delivering an election paper trail and even (gasp) making it easier for most ex-felons to vote - that he has emerged as a potential Republican vice-presidential candidate. As the candidates for president beat up on one another in this longest of primary seasons, a running mate who could swing the GOP toward the center while delivering Florida could prove crucial in overcoming the negative public perception of President Bush."Who does Charlie! really love?".
Charlie!'s populism comes across with such natural assuredness that it's difficult to separate from the calculating approach of the modern politician. He has been so overtly governed by what he calls the right thing to do - has he mentioned lately that we, the residents of Florida, are his bosses? - that in five months he's cleansed Florida of the scent of eight years of Bush decree.
It was Jeb Bush who campaigned with an exclamation point after his name. But it is Charlie who warrants one. Where Jeb! was plodding and ideology-driven, Charlie! is engaging and idea-driven. Charlie! is the guy who bends an ear to hear, well, anyone who stops him on his way. He's the governor who set up one-on-one, five-minute sessions with any resident with a gripe.
Did I mention that he made it easier for ex-felons to vote? Jeb! tried to make it harder, contorting himself so pitifully that he went against his own ideology of sparse government to build an elaborate bureaucracy to ploddingly review every case. What did Charlie! do? He tore down the bureacracy and gave all but the most violent offenders their rights automatically. "To not do so is more than reckless or irresponsible," the new governor said. "It is unjust."
But with Charlie!, it's hard to tell whether the populist approach is some sort of fantastically orchestrated political act, designed to win the center that Republicans following the George W. Bush model have shunned. ...
More important for Floridians is a larger question: Is Charlie! committed to the state? Or are Floridians just the arm candy he's using so he can become arm candy for John McCain or Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney? Is Charlie! all show or a natural? It's up to Floridians to pop the question.
"Growing up near Detroit, Rep. Vern Buchanan said he’s really no stranger to tough neighborhoods or gang violence. But sitting in downtown Bradenton earlier today, Buchanan could hardly contain his astonishment at having to talk about gang violence in this area." "Buchanan gets crash course on gang violence".
"As the countdown toward a launch of Atlantis on the first space shuttle flight of the year was set to begin, another clock ticked away Monday toward a possible strike by several hundred workers at Kennedy Space Center. The 569 space workers who last weekend rejected a contract offer from United Space Alliance could go on strike as early as Saturday, just a day after the first attempt to launch Atlantis, officials said. The company is the space agency's primary contractor for preparing space shuttles for launch." "Space center faces workers' strike".
Adoption Law Challenged
"Unmarried men who fail to register with the state as potential fathers before a child is adopted should lose their parental rights, an adoption agency lawyer told the Florida Supreme Court on Monday." "Agency challenges state adoption law".
"Are You Two Chuckleheads Certifiably Insane?"
Daniel Ruth: "As bold, decisive, visionary moves go, this latest flummoxocity on the part of the Democrats falls somewhere between King Arthur's flaccid assault on the Castle Arrrghh in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' and Uday and Qusay's escape plan."
This was supposed to vault Florida to its rightful place at the top of the presidential primary food chain. ... But the Democrats, who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, are now flirting with turning their presidential primary into a banana republic debacle that makes Hugo Chavez look like a walking "Federalist Papers." ..."Democracy Is Hidden In Plain Sight".
At the moment, state Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman is holding talks with national Chairman Howard Dean on how to resolve the ballot brouhaha. Party spokesman Mark Bubriski said an agreement is expected this summer.
However, one plan under active consideration would call for a meaningless nonbinding beauty queen vote Jan. 29 with the actual delegates determined at a later date by party caucus.
A simple question for Thurman and Dean - are you two chuckleheads certifiably insane?
My PDA Did It"In an email to supporters of his GOP-sponsored 'No More Property Taxes' initiative, House Speaker Marco Rubio said that part of the framework for property tax cuts that he and Senate President Ken Pruitt agreed to last week includes a flat exemption for owners of non-homesteaded property. 'Wrong,' Rubio admitted Monday, blaming it on drafting the email from his PDA." "Rubio says 'never mind' on pieces of prop tax letter to supporters".
"George P. Bush, a nephew of President Bush, has contributed to the prospective presidential campaign of Fred Thompson and signed an e-mail asking friends and associates to do the same, The Politico has learned. ... The involvement of a Bush family member highlights a stream of former Bush-Cheney aides and supporters who are signing on with Thompson, in some cases quietly." "Key Bush backers rally to Fred Thompson" (via The Buzz).