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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a semi-daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


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The Blog for Thursday, June 14, 2007

Property Tax Update: Webster Amendment

    The Buzz reports this morning that "Sen. Daniel Webster plans to offer an amendment later this morning to the property tax plan proposal."
    In the original property tax proposal, the bulk of the tax savings (and cuts) came from a ballot initiative that -- if approved by 60 percent of voters -- would move homesteaded homeowners into a new homestead exemption (which exempts 75 percent of the first $200,000 of value and then another 15 percent of the next $300,000) in lieu of Save Our Homes, depending on which plan gave them the larger tax cut.

    Critics of the plan pointed out that while the new homestead exemption benefits most homesteaders today and now, many of the same homesteaders actually end up losing money and paying more in taxes over the long run. That's because these homesteaders would no longer accrue long-term savings under the annual Save Our Homes cap, which caps the appreciation of taxable value at 3 percent each year.

    Under the Webster amendment, people could chose which plan they wanted to be in. Meaning they could chose whether they want the bigger short term savings or to keep the long term savings.
    "Senate Tax Plan Change". Where's Good Time Charlie? Why, our dear Governor "Gov. Crist is content to stay low-key in debate over property tax reform".

    New Poll

    "From a 6/6-7 Florida Insider/InsiderAdvantage poll of 500 registered FL Republicans and 500 registered Democrats: Rs: Rudy Giuliani (31%);Fred Thompson (21%); Mitt Romney (17%);John McCain (12%) ... Ds: Hillary Clinton (41%);Barack Obama (35%);John Edwards (14%)". "Poll: Barack gaining, McCain Sinking".

    Tax Fight

    "Republicans are ready to slam a tax-cut package through the Legislature, touching off a partisan feud with Democrats over school money."

    Republicans labeled Democrats ''obstructionists'' Wednesday for not agreeing to let voters decide the second phase of the tax cut in January. Democrats said Republicans were acting like a Soviet-style ''politburo'' pitted against schoolkids, firefighters, cops and hospitals.

    The plan was hammered out in near-secrecy by House Speaker Marco Rubio of West Miami, Senate President Ken Pruitt of Port St. Lucie and a few top aides before it was sprung on their colleagues late Friday. Democrats, until then part of tax talks in the Senate, blanched at the $7.2 billion in cuts to schools over four years. ...

    But most Democrats won't vote for phase two: a plan to supersize homestead exemptions to as much as $195,000 and phase out Save Our Homes, which caps yearly tax assessment increases at 3 percent for principal homes. That $16 billion plan includes the school cuts. Democrats also say the plan does not provide as good a tax shield as Save Our Homes.

    Democrats acknowledged they're in a Catch-22: If they vote against the plan, Republicans can paint them as big-government supporters against tax relief. If they vote for it, they risk the wrath of teachers' unions and parents.

    Republicans need a vote from three-quarters of each chamber to put phase two to voters in the presidential primary on Jan. 29. But they need only a three-fifths vote to put it on the ballot for the general election in November 2008.
    "Property tax plan is near, with school cuts intact". "Representatives met for a rare 6 p.m. House session and discussed the legislation until shortly after 10 p.m., following a day of caustic discourse that reflected how blatantly partisan the tax debate has turned." "House Prepares Tax Cuts For Vote". See also "State very close to historic tax cuts", "Legislature ready to vote on plan for $31 billion in property tax cuts", "The tax plan and what it needs to pass", "Q & A: Effects of tax plan still hard to measure", "Property-tax bill takes a few steps forward", "GOP pushes tax vote as debate rages on" and "House Debate on Bill Ends for the Evening".

    Try not to laugh too hard at this: "Rep. Pickens admits education won't be protected but says again: trust us". The Tallahassee Democrat editors: "If it were not for the governor's 70-percent approval rating, more critics might be willing to say publicly that citizens shouldn't mistake such baloney for filet mignon. ... It remains to be seen whether statesmen are in charge or political partisans." "Trust whom?".

    Poor little GOPers are all in a dither: "Tempers Flare in House -- Between Republicans". See also "Rubio cuts off colleague in tense debate", "Rubio's On the Verge" and "Tensions Rise Ahead of Late Night in the House". Rubio: "'over the next 24 hours, the opponents of tax relief are going to make their last stand.'" "Property tax amendment heading for close vote in Legislature".

    And then there's this:
    After months of hearing about historic tax cuts, super-size exemptions and property taxes dropping "like a rock," homeowners may be disappointed when they get their tax bills in November.

    The first phase of the $31.6 billion tax-cut plan the Legislature is expected to approve this week will save most homeowners no more than 7 percent, according to local property appraisers.

    Many cities and counties will shave just 3 percent off tax bills.

    Statewide, legislators say savings will average $174 per homeowner.
    "Taxes could drop, but maybe not as much as you'd hoped". See also "Tax-overhaul forecast: Unpredictable" ("a growing chorus of critics isn't convinced the exchange would be better for homeowners in the long run.") More in yesterday's "Tax-cut letdown: Numbers may not add up" "Florida lawmakers are discovering they may not be able to cut property taxes sharply while maintaining vital services."

    As for "vital services: "Firefighters gathered Wednesday in front of the old Capitol, at least 500 strong, unified against property-tax reform." "Firefighters protest tax reform they say would hurt services".

    The pundits weigh in: "Republican legislators have produced a terrible constitutional amendment to replace Save Our Homes. Even if the amendment makes the January ballot, voters won't pass it, because it wouldn't make the tax system fairer for business owners, landlords and snowbirds, wouldn't make it easier for people to move and wouldn't leave most homeowners better off." "Tax-cutting amendment offers state false promise".

    Mike Thomas analyzes the legislation: "we now find that most of a promised $31.6 billion tax cut could wind up being a tax increase for most people." Thomas argues that its all "a scheme to persuade us to vote away Save Our Homes, which sharply restricts how much the government can raise your property taxes each year." "Voters not likely to buy 'cut' that will raise taxes". Troxler: "Everyone hates it, so it's gotta be good?".

    Pamela Hasterok: "Two days into the special session to cut property taxes and here's all you need to know: The Legislature will force cities and counties to cut taxes. Voters won't." Read Hasterok's insightful column here: "Voters will rescue lawmakers after cuts".


    "More than 15,500 ex-felons have had their voting rights automatically restored in the two months since the clemency board approved rules that allow the Parole Commission to give back those rights without a hearing. That compares to fewer than 14,000 former offenders that had their rights restored without a hearing in the 12 months before the rule changes, according to Gov. Charlie Crist's office." "State trying to speed along ex-felon voting rights restoration".

    "Web Mystery Solved"

    "A Web mystery solved: Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp admitted he changed an unflattering entry on [the Florida Progressive Coalition's] website but says he was just trying to update biographical information." "".


    "The Florida Legislature's plan to slash property taxes by more than $31 billion is striking a dissonant chord throughout the nonprofit community." "Nonprofits fear effects of tax reform".

    "Just Bluster?"

    "Florida legislators' chronic underfinancing of the state university system has tested even the conciliatory demeanor of Board of Governors Chairwoman Carolyn Roberts. Add Gov. Crist's recent veto of a 5 percent tuition increase, and her board members are hinting that they will show at today's meeting that they're not gonna take this anymore. Or is that just bluster?" "Showdown over tuition?".

    FCAT Fiasco

    "The state's attempt to repair an FCAT blunder took an unexpected turn Wednesday."

    In a surprise move, the Florida Department of Education recommended changing the way it calculates annual A-to-F grades for public schools.
    "State pulls surprise by suggesting revised school-grading system". See also "Panel: Schools shouldn't suffer for FCAT test problem".

    Meek 'N Hill

    "U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek made his endorsement of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign official." "Rep. Meek confirms Clinton endorsement".

    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

    "Developers will no longer be allowed to bury gopher tortoises alive during construction under a moratorium approved Wednesday by state wildlife commissioners. Also Wednesday, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioners voted to proceed with upgrading the manatee's status from endangered to threatened, meaning scientists believe the species has rebounded from the brink of extinction. The move will not be finalized until the commission's September meeting, at the earliest." "Gopher tortoises win reprieve from live burials". See also "State's gopher tortoises win protection from being buried alive".

    We Like Cheap

    "John Edwards' stop in Key Biscayne this week was part of a 'Small Change for Big Change' tour that delivered an anti-poverty message and a $15 ticket price." "Rarity: Candidate access costs $15".


    "Appellate Judge Michael Allen asked a hearing board of the Judicial Qualifications Commission to dismiss charges of ethical misconduct against him, saying the basis of the complaint is without merit."

    In May, the commission began formal proceedings against Allen, based on a complaint brought by Martin Levin - son of Fred Levin, the prominent Pensacola attorney in the middle of the ''innuendos'' Allen leveled against fellow appellate Judge Charles Kahn in a 2006 First District Court of Appeal decision, which upheld the bribery conviction of legendary Florida politician W.D. Childers.

    In Allen's 2006 concurring opinion, Allen said Kahn's failure to recuse himself from Childers' case could be seen as a conflict because he was a former law partner in Fred Levin's firm and appointed to the bench by former Gov. Lawton Chiles. Allen drew connections between Levin, Childers, Chiles, Florida's landmark $13-billion tobacco settlement, the $250 million in fees associated with the case, and ultimately, Kahn.
    "Allen asks board to dismiss ethics charges".

    "Ghost in the Congressional Machine"

    "Christine Jennings is a ghost in the congressional machine. Six months after her Republican opponent moved into a Capitol Hill office she picked out, Jennings is still trying to get Congress to throw out the 2006 election results in Florida's 13th Congressional District. Her legal challenge is bogged down in Florida appellate court. On Thursday, Jennings will return to a hearing room just two floors below the office she thinks she won to hear an update on the congressional investigation into her race." "Sidelined congressional hopeful takes on election reform". See also "Jennings awaits word on challenge".

    Tornado Bill

    "Months after tornadoes tore into Volusia County and other parts of Central Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist has signed a bill that will offer tax breaks to storm victims. The bill, signed Tuesday, will offer up to $1,500 in property-tax reimbursements to residents whose houses were destroyed or heavily damaged in tornadoes that hit Feb. 2." "Bill offering tax relief to tornado victims signed".

    Railroad Bill

    "Crist Vetoes Railroad Bill".


    "Many of South Florida's top water managers practice what they preach when it comes to water conservation, but utility records show at least three used more water this year than they did before drought restrictions." "Three top South Florida water officials using more water during drought".

    Not Cool

    "A proposal that would require Florida college students to carry health insurance received an unenthusiastic response from the university system's policymaking board Wednesday." "Insurance plan gets cool reaction".

    That's Our Buddy

    "Buddy Johnson Must Defend Big Bill For New Voting Machines".


    The Tampa Trib editorial board:

    We think Florida lawmakers pushing a massive cut in local property taxes have been cavalier about the needs of local governments and the costs of community services.

    But when you see the Tampa fire department propose to charge victims a fee for emergency service, you can understand why some lawmakers - and taxpayers - don't trust local governments' spending decisions.
    "Demolish Rescue Fee Proposal".

    Raw Political Courage

    "Governor signs bill creating NASCAR license plate".


    "Parading across the street from the Capitol on Wednesday, about a hundred advocates of HIV/AIDS patients protested against Florida choosing another vendor to operate its HIV/AIDS disease-management program." "Protesters take on new HIV/AIDS health-care vendor".

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