Property Tax Deal?
"Legislators have hammered out some differences in a property tax-cut plan but have left many unanswered questions." "Deal on property tax struck, but details few".
The package agreed to Friday by the Legislature's Republican leaders has two parts. The first would force cities and counties to slash property taxes this year and limit future tax increases to the rate of personal-income growth."You're a step closer to property-tax relief". See also "Basics of tax relief get nod", "Property Tax agreement?", "House, Senate leaders agree on basics of property tax relief", "Details of possible tax cut will take shape at a special session starting June 12" and "Rubio and Pruitt Sketch Outline of Prop Tax Deal".
Some other local government entities, such as water-management and hospital districts, would also be required to cut taxes, though likely at a lesser level. School districts would be spared from cuts.
That round of reductions would be followed by a constitutional amendment, which voters would have to approve later this year or in 2008, that would create a super-sized homestead exemption for homeowners. It would be based on a percentage of individual property values, and it would be designed to direct the biggest savings toward less-expensive homes.
In short, "Cities and counties with the highest property tax increases would be forced to make the deepest cuts under a new tax reform plan that Florida Senate President Ken Pruitt and House Speaker Marco Rubio announced Friday." "Tax plan aims to deflate big hikes".
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, "Tax proposals devastating, Hillsborough official says".
"Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the poster child for gay marriage? How about Sen. Mel Martinez, the Florida Republican who once accused an opponent of playing to the 'radical homosexual lobby'?"
A coalition of civil rights groups that back gay marriage is using photos of prominent couples like the former Republican governor and his Mexican-born wife, Columba, along with the Cuban-born Martinez and his American-born wife, Kitty, in an advertising campaign marking the 40th anniversary of Loving vs. Virginia, a U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave interracial couples the right to marry."Opponents of gay unions featured in 'Freedom to Marry' ad".
"Property taxes, insurance prove double-whammy".
"Romney's County Chairs" (with complete list). See also "Romney names county chiefs" and "Romney Names County Chairs".
"If lawmakers don't fix the law requiring motorists to carry personal injury protection insurance, the requirement will disappear Sept. 30. "
"Sunset on coverage".
Insurers are already salivating at the prospect. They stand to reap a significant windfall if they're no longer required to offer the coverage, which covers the first $10,000 of a policyholder's medical bills resulting from a collision. (It's a no-fault system, meaning everyone is covered by his or her own policy.)
But hospitals are understandably nervous. Their own studies show that roughly 40 percent of the people who show up in hospital emergency rooms with accident-related injuries don't have health insurance other than their mandatory PIP coverage -- and usually can't afford to pay the bills that come after the coverage limit is exhausted. The impact of dropping PIP could reach $3 million in the coming fiscal year for Halifax Medical Center, and the total impact statewide could reach $350 million annually. These costs would necessarily be shifted to other patients or taxpayers.
"Former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Ray Liberti received $126,000 in secret payments from the developer of the City Center project, a lawsuit against two of the company's executives alleges. While Liberti was on the payroll of Republic Properties Corp. between 2004 and 2006, he repeatedly made motions and cast votes to advance the $154 million city hall/library complex. He never disclosed that he was working for Republic and its top two executives, Steven A. Grigg and Richard L. Kramer." "Liberti's other payments also need legal scrutiny". See also "Frankel, Liberti testimony sought".
"Florida education officials took the first public step Friday toward fixing artificially high scores on the 2006 third-grade reading exam by seeking advice from school administrators from across the state."
The Orlando meeting gave administrators an opportunity to express discontent and even outright suspicion about the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Many urged the state Department of Education to deal with the third-grade problem immediately -- the agency plans to rescore more than 200,000 tests -- but then take a wider look at the entire state testing program."Inflated FCAT scores prompt some to call for testing overhaul". See also "State moves to hire auditor to review FCAT mistake that inflated reading scores".
However, as observed in this St Pete Times piece, "Scoring not FCAT's only fault".
"Based on 2003 data, the UF study showed every dollar of revenue generated in turn generates another $1.44. And for every job created, another 1.08 jobs are in turn created. A separate study several years earlier projected that for every public dollar invested in universities, Floridians realize a $5 return. It's consistently hopeful information. What is sometimes less encouraging is the reluctance of some policymakers to fully appreciate what powerful economic engines our universities already are, and how much more juice they could provide to regional and state economies if provided with additional support." "Priming the pump".
"For Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, going to Israel is about building friendships with a vital U.S. ally, an essential stepping stone for any ambitious American politician."
But when the mission ends Sunday, the most important friendship is likely to be the one between the Republican gover nor and Democrat Robert Wexler, a Palm Beach County congressman who played a key behind-the-scenes role in orchestrating the trip, advising on some of the smallest details."Beyond friendship".
Their friendship, while genuine, also furthers the political aims of both men.
For Wexler, Crist provides a key ally, which paid off when the governor approved paper-trail voting machines, a cause that Wexler has championed since 2001.
For Crist, Wexler provides a way to expand his base among Florida's sizeable Jewish population, which is largely in South Florida and overwhelmingly Democratic.
"Five state lawmakers will head to Las Vegas next week for an educational conference on gambling that is in part being funded by a foundation that accepts money from companies with gambling interests." "Gamers' gifts pay for meeting".
Out Here In The Fields
"Florida guest farmworkers: Contractors steal from our salary".
"The Florida manager of a half-billion-dollar FEMA program to fortify public buildings and improve flood-prone roads quit Friday, with money set aside nearly three years ago for the projects remaining largely unspent." "Head of storm-aid effort quits as projects pile up".
"U.S. immigration laws already read like a jumbled alphabet."
Add to the mix a proposed point system to score immigrants -- part of a bipartisan Senate immigration bill that seeks to legalize most of the nation's 12 million undocumented immigrants -- and one inevitable question arises: ``How will this affect me?''"Immigration point plan won't help many in S. Florida".
Miami immigration attorney Wilfredo ''Willy'' Allen says he hears it from his clients every day.
The proposed point system, which values employment skills, education and proficiency in English above family connections or time spent in this country, might not do much for thousands of South Florida immigrants' chances of becoming legal residents. A proposed application fee of $5,000 for undocumented immigrants to become legal would be particularly burdensome, immigrants say.
upset at their higher tax bills, due mostly to the rapid rise in valuations in the last six years and the state's lopsided tax system that protects homesteaded properties at the expense of non-homesteaded ones. But louder complaints don't make for fresher ideas, let alone good ideas. The Legislature in a special session on taxes in two weeks is lurching toward what could result in the biggest property-tax cut in the state's history. Legislators like Rubio call it reform. Local governments call it a catastrophe in the making: The property tax pays for most local services -- police, fire, ambulances, parks, roads, schools. Slash it, and those services will be slashed, too. Yet that's not the worst of the tax "reforms" making noise."'Fair tax' is a regressive deceit".
A small group of local activists is peddling one nutty idea on taxes in particular -- the abolition of the property tax in favor of a much higher sales tax. To call that idea reform is as misleading as calling it fair. "Fair tax" proponents are doing both. Their idea, as riddled with deceptions as its name, shouldn't be given more credit than it's worth. But it should be exposed for the worthless fraud that it is.
"The debate over Florida Power & Light Co.'s proposed generating plant west of Lake Okeechobee can be simplified this way:"
FPL says it needs the 1,960-megawatt Glades Power Park by 2013-14 to keep up with demand. Because the state urged utilities to diversify fuel sources, FPL did so. The plant would run on coal, with updated technology to reduce emissions. The move would protect customers from price spikes for natural gas, which now generates half of FPL's electricity."Delay huge power plant?".
Critics oppose the plant for two reasons: Stronger conservation measures would take care of demand, and the massive size would produce dangerously high amounts of mercury and other emissions that would harm the Everglades just as the state is trying to clean it up.
The problem for those who must decide, based on need and environmental impact, is that FPL and its critics make well-informed arguments. Last week, the staff of the Florida Public Service Commission, which will rule on need, reflected the difficulty of the decision by making three recommendations.