"Reacting to public outrage over property taxes, the Legislature ordered cities and counties Thursday to roll back tax rates and offered voters a chance to award themselves a much larger homestead exemption." "On Day 3, a tax deal". See also "Taxpayers could reap $31.6 billion in relief", "Legislature OKs tax-cut plan with choices", "Taxes cut; more may come", "It’s Over: Senate, House Approve Property Tax Relief Measures", "Potential cuts average $1,300 as lawmakers OK historic property tax reform" and "Huge tax cut OK'd". More: "Q&A: Lower bill won't arrive for months".
It ain't over: "After approving the largest tax cut in state history Thursday, state lawmakers now face an even tougher task of selling a major part of the complicated $23.6 billion plan to Florida voters. ... Opponents, though, were already marshaling forces." "Taxes cut; new fight looms". See also "Save Our Homes choice added at last minute", "The tax plan passed on Thursday", "Voters Will Decide Sweeping Tax Overhaul After Bitter Vote" and "What you'll see on the ballot".
The Dems: "After kvetching that the constitutional amendment to change the Save Our Homes tax cap might force people into an uncertain situation, Democrats in the Senate just barely made a voice vote opposing a Republican effort to keep homeowners in their certain situation." "Dems: Keep Save Our Homes! Wait. Don’t keep Save Our Homes".
As for the timing of the amendment vote: "After House Democrats joined in the unanimous vote to put the tax-cutting constitutional amendment on the Jan. 29 ballot, Senate Democrats went along with the idea." "Senate Democrats cave on Jan. 29 vote".
Meanwhile, "Leaders in South Florida are trying to figure out how to cope with the revenue they will lose because of property tax relief." "Reality hits as counties weigh cuts".
Do Floridians fully realize this result of the wonderful tax cuts?
As legislators this week debated proposed property-tax cuts that could lop off $7.2 billion from school board budgets across the state, a nationwide report came out showing that Florida ranked 45th among states on high school graduation rates."1 grad forward, 2 back as lawmakers gouge schools".
How reducing education funding can help local school districts turn around that abysmal standing is a mystery. But one proposed tax cut, in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment, would do that. For the Volusia County School District, it could mean $44 million less in revenue next year; for Flagler, $13.2 million less.
Some legislators have said they would make up the difference, but such promises can't be guaranteed -- or budgeted. And even if the state kicked in more funds next year, legislators can't make binding promises for future lawmakers.
"Mack Daddy of a Controversy"
"But his connection to the land owner who stands to gain the most from the interchange may be more significant than he lets on, a political analyst said. In June 2005, Mack reported about $6,600 in the form of in-kind contributions by members of the Aronoff family, including Daniel Aronoff, who owns about 4,000 acres east of the proposed interchange. More than just a check, in-kind contributions, which could include catering, retails or a trip, suggest at least a close working relationship with the congressman’s staff, said Keith Ashdown, chief investigator for the Taxpayers for Common Sense." "A Mack daddy of a controversy; Congressman and developer east of I-75 linked". See also "Unwanted $10 million Florida road may lead to Alaska congressman".
Scott Maxwell on Kottkampgate:
I say pipe down the outrage -- and pump up the laughter! Cuz it is funny. I mean, I don't think I've heard Charlie Crist even say Kottkamp's name since the day last year when he announced him as a runningmate ... and heard a deafening silence in response from an underwhelmed state. And then we finally hear about ol' Kott again -- and it's cause he's spending his time in the executive office editing out an online profile? Kinda confirms what a lot of people already thought about just how busy lieutenant governors are."What Lt. Govs do all day". Here's Dave Harper's response to Maxwell.
Poor Mel, there's a reason they call him the "Cellophane Man". On
Wednesday night, speaking to a room for of GOP donors at a fundraising gala in Washington, Bush seemed to forget where his old friend Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Florida, resides."Florida, California...it’s all the same".
"I appreciate the chairman of the Republican Party, the general chairman, Mel Martinez -- Senator Mel Martinez from the state of California, and his wife Kitty," Bush said in his speech, according to the official White House transcript.
This isn't the first time for poor Mel. Timothy Noah once wrote (in Slate) the following about Dubya's remarks when Mel left HUD:
Tellingly, Bush did not mention any programs that Martinez created or administered during the three years he was parked at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That was entirely appropriate, since Martinez didn't do anything worth remembering. ..."Bush's Mr. Cellophane".
Martinez is the Mr. Cellophane of the Bush cabinet. "Mister Cellophane" is a song in the musical Chicago, sung by Amos Hart, the hapless and inconsequential husband of Roxie Hart, a publicity-seeking floozy jailed for killing her lover. Amos calls himself "Mr. Cellophane"
'Cause you can look right through me,
Walk right by me
And never know I'm there …
... You could argue that HUD has a long history of harboring Mr. Cellophanes, because the place is a migraine-inducing tangle of audit-resistant subsidies working at cross purposes. President Reagan famously once failed to recognize his own HUD secretary, Samuel Pierce. But Pierce, at least, was famous for being obscure. Martinez isn't even that.
It is of course wildly unfair to say so, but what really clinches Martinez as a Mr. Cellophane is his astounding physical resemblance to John C. Reilly, the Oscar-nominated actor who played Amos Hart and sang "Mister Cellophane" in the movie version of Chicago.
Why hasn't this eerie resemblance been noted in the press? Because the press hasn't paid Martinez any attention. Why hasn't the press paid Martinez any attention? Because he's Mr. Cellophane.
Florida's Millionaires Club
"Rich congressman, poor congressman".
"A federal judge ruled Friday that the state's practice of back-pumping polluted water into Lake Okeechobee without a permit violates the U.S. Clean Water Act." "Judge declares state violations of U.S. Clean Water Act".
Beg Your Pardon?
"2 seek, 1 gets a full pardon".
From the "Values" Crowd
"Students who want to attend Florida State University in 2008 will most likely have a harder time getting in, and the school is blaming, in part, low tuition for forcing it to cut enrollment." "FSU may cut enrollment". See also "University president announces enrollment freeze" and "State reluctant to follow FSU's enrollment cutoff".
Swampland for Sale
"Swampland is still for sale in Florida. In fact, it is the same swampland that was sold more than 40 years ago. But this time, as state investigators look into real-estate fraud, they are trying to get the land off the market entirely." "State wants swampland off market".
CD 13 Saga
"The months-long debate about a 2006 congressional election in the Sarasota area could come one step closer to conclusion on July 27 when government auditors present their findings to a congressional task force. Whether this ends the debate is another question." "An answer to Sarasota election on July 27?". See also "Panel asks investigators in District 13 inquiry for results by July 27".
Florida's Booming Economy
"Foreclosures soar, hurting minorities".
The Wall Street Journal:
Florida: Not only has this big state elbowed to the front by scheduling Jan. 29 primaries, but its early-voting law could mean some Floridians would vote before New Hampshire's results are in, unless New Hampshire moves up its vote."'Super-Duper Tuesday' May Be Too Big to Matter". The Fix also has this yesterday: "Endorsement Elite: Florida Republicans". See also "Romney banks three 'Endorsement Elite'".
Mr. Giuliani, facing obstacles in the earlier states, aims to do well here among moderate Republicans, particularly northern transplants. But Mr. Murphy, a past political adviser to former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, says there are fewer transplants in the electorate than Florida's stereotype suggests. Moreover, since its primaries aren't open, only registered partisans vote. That means social conservatives will be a force in the Republican primary.
Florida's Hispanic population also makes it more sympathetic to Mr. McCain's support of controversial legislation to give illegal immigrants a way to citizenship and create a guest-worker program. Other Republicans have lambasted that plan, putting them at odds with two men whose endorsements they all want: Jeb Bush and current Gov. Charlie Crist.
"A law that requires railroads to post 'no trespassing' signs before they can arrest people for trespassing will remain on the books after Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a repeal Wednesday. Crist also vetoed bills that would have transferred the state's organ and tissue donor registry to a nonprofit agency and repealed a local law requiring the closure of sizable clay pits and other depressions in Escambia County." "Crist vetoes 2 bills, cites safety issues".
"Fifteen Republican members of the Florida House signed a letter Thursday urging actor and former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee to enter the race for the GOP presidential nomination." "Florida legislators urge Thompson to join presidential race".
"Let the Campaign Begin"
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "County and municipal governments, plus other taxing districts, stand to lose $15.6 billion in the first wave of cuts. Then, if voters agree to the proposed constitutional amendment on the January ballot, there will be another $8.4 billion reduction. The $24 billion total is less than the $31 billion in the total package initially put together, but it will require public entities to sharply reduce budgets and services. Expect some heavy-duty campaigning by opponents, with commercials and the like, between now and late January." "Property Taxes".
GOPers Fail To Authorize Offshore Drilling
"A bid to relax the long-standing moratorium on new offshore oil drilling died Thursday in the Senate as an energy bill became bogged down by fights that underscored the regional nature of energy politics. Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., lost 44-43 in his attempt to open the door to natural gas exploration off Virginia. Five of Warner's fellow Republicans, all from coastal states, joined 37 Democrats and two independents in opposing the effort." "Senators keep ban on drilling offshore".
Talk, Talk, Talk
"Governor says he's committed to higher salaries for teachers".
Your FDLE at Work
"A Pinellas Park man was granted a full pardon after testifying that a state [FDLE] agent conned him out of $150,000 in diamonds." "Governor pardons man tied to jewel scam".
$40,000 A Day
"Here's one ballpark estimate: $120,000 - a bill that will be passed to Florida taxpayers." "What it cost us to have a special legislative session".
"Florida isn't last, but we might as well be considering the only state ranking lower in providing a higher ratio of university faculty is hurricane-torn Louisiana."
Here is the ugly result from a study released by the Board of Governors that oversees Florida's university system. The Sunshine State posted an average of 29.7 students for every tenured or tenure-track professor. The national average is 24.5, and Hawaii tops the list at 16.8 students."Universities".
Florida's ranking, and its inability to not even match the national average, speaks poorly for a state that aspires to produce top-notch educational institutions.
How Could We Have Missed This?
Carl Hiassen last weekend: "Our very own road to perdition".