You Knew This Was Coming
"While Florida lawmakers bask in the afterglow of their mammoth property-tax cut, cities and counties are weighing whether to launch a legal fight to undo the new law. Next week, representatives from more than two dozen local governments are gathering at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Airport hotel for an 'emergency briefing' from a South Florida law firm over the implications and possible legal challenges to the property-tax rollback Gov. Charlie Crist signed Thursday." "Cities, counties weigh fighting property-tax rollback".
On a related note (and we are not making this up), "House Speaker Marco Rubio's office this week refused to comment ... citing attorney-client privilege."
Meanwhile, "Support for tax referendum slow to emerge": "It's easy to see who's lining up to fight the proposal to increase the homestead exemption: cities, counties, unions, sheriffs, firefighters and the Democratic Party, which calls the tax cut a record cut in school spending. But who's leading the charge to get people to support it? Influential statewide business groups that like low taxes and usually support Republican policies are showing very little enthusiasm for the property tax referendum."
A Bushco Thing
The Palm Beach Post reminds us today of Bushco's penchant for politicizing the prosecutorial function: "In Florida, the 20 state attorneys work for the governor, and he can intervene. Admittedly, that power also can be problematic. In 2002, his reelection year, Jeb Bush removed the Miami-Dade County state attorney, a Democrat, from an investigation. Katherine Fernandez-Rundle was checking fraud allegations against a group seeking a referendum to overturn a gay rights ordinance. His move came one day before the group faced a contempt hearing." "Judicial emergency brake".
And remember this? "A month before voters went to the polls [to vote on the FLSA amendment], criticism of ACORN mounted. ... the [Florida] Department of Law Enforcement took the unusual step of publicizing the fact it was investigating ACORN; and another lawsuit filed in state court in Tallahassee, but later withdrawn, alleged the group committed fraud in collecting petitions for the ballot measure." "Politicization of the FDLE".
After all, as former FDLE spokeswoman Elizabeth Wimberley Bernbaum wrote,
During his first term, Gov. Jeb Bush regularly inserted himself into ongoing investigations of political or particularly sensitive natures while I worked with FDLE by requesting continuous updates and tacitly pressuring the agency at every level."Witch Hunt" ("June 16, 2004 Orlando Sentinel guest column, "FDLE Sheds Core Values" (available on LEXIS)").
And then there was the Buddy Dyer thing. "A special prosecutor on Wednesday dropped all charges alleging that Mayor Buddy Dyer and three others violated a state law that prohibits payments for collection of absentee ballots, a spokesman for the mayor said. ... Dyer, a Democrat who had been suspended by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush when the charges were announced March 11, will be automatically reinstated as mayor with dismissal of the indictment. ... Dyer had denied that he or anyone connected with his campaign had violated any law and insisted the charges were politically motivated." "Mayor cleared of absentee ballot charges". More here.
To be sure, as Mike Thomas put it in connection with the Dyer affair, Jebbie "looks like a doofus for putting a Republican prosecutor in charge of investigating Democrats, then booting a Democratic mayor out of office because of that investigation, then having to reinstate him."
However, as recent events show, it is not merely "Jeb!" looking like a "doofus" - which of course was and remains true - but, much more importantly, is further proof of Bushco's politicization of the law enforcement/prosecutorial function.
A Politically Expedient Exaggeration?
"The 24.3 percent average property insurance rate cut policyholders across the state were told they could look forward to likely will be closer to 15 percent, according to the state's top insurance official." "Home insurance savings come up short from early estimates".
"Need proof that Democrats are feeling like winners in Florida these days? Just listen to them talk about their chances of gaining more ground in Congress during the 2008 election. ... It makes Florida a pivotal state in what both parties see as a critical election that will also pick the next president, and one that could potentially see seven congressional incumbents in heated battles to keep their seats. ... For Democrats, the targets are Reps. Vern Buchanan, Ric Keller, Dave Weldon, Tom Feeney and C.W. 'Bill' Young."
- Buchanan barely won his District 13 seat in the Sarasota area after spending more than $5 million of his own money on the race. He won by 369 votes. His opponent, Christine Jennings, believes touch-screen voting machines lost thousands of ballots and that she would have won if all votes had been counted."Florida will be a congressional battleground again in 2008".
- Keller promised to leave office after eight years, then decided after the last election to break his vow. He'll have to use resources in a primary before facing a Democratic opponent. Democrats see signs the District 8 seat that includes the Orlando area could favor one of their candidates, and they'll make a case that Keller's voting record doesn't reflect the interests of his constituents.
- Weldon underperformed at the polls last year when he was re-elected in District 15, which represents the Atlantic coast from Vero Beach north to Cape Canaveral. He was re-elected with 56 percent of the vote, but against a weak Democratic candidate who spent far less money. A stronger, better financed candidate could be a challenge.
- Feeney's District 24, which stretches from the area north and east of Orlando to Brevard and Volusia counties' coastline, would normally be considered safely his. But Feeney's golf trip to Scotland with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff could taint the congressman as Democrats continue to make ethics an issue in 2008.
- Young's District 10 seat, which represents Pinellas County, is slightly Republican, but trends show the large independent voting bloc favors Democratic candidates. Young also hasn't been seriously tested in years.
Feeney Denies He's A Crook
"U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney has established a legal-defense fund to pay costs relating to an ongoing Justice Department inquiry into his ties with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff." "Feeney sets up legal fund amid Justice inquiry". See also "More coverage of Tom Feeney's connection to Jack Abramoff".
Newspaper Editors Fete Charlie
"Crist, whose first official act as governor was to create the Office of Open Government, received an award Friday at a newspaper convention for advancing the idea of open government."
Before receiving the award Crist, praised editors for their work."Crist given open government award at editors' convention".
"I feel a kindred spirit with you, in all seriousness, because you're public servants too," he said. "Together we serve the people of this great state that you and I love so much."
More From The Liberal Media
The firefighter bashing continues, this time in The Miami Herald:
Yes, firefighters, like police officers, put their lives on the line. This week, a tragic reminder of this came when nine firefighters died after a ceiling collapsed in a blazing furniture showroom in Charleston, S.C. Hazards for first responders cannot be understated."A Platinum Standard for Firefighters". The audacity of firefighters to insist on decent pensions (via those pesky firefighter unions). If trends like that continue, the MSM may be compelled to actually provide decent pensions for their own employees.
Still, it can be said safely that no U.S. firefighter, paramedic or police officer has been coerced into choosing that particular career. They know the risks up front when they freely choose these professions.
"Department of Children & Families Secretary Bob Butterworth used words like 'unconscionable' and 'inexcusable' Friday to describe a privately run Tampa Bay child welfare agency's supervision of a 2-year-old foster child who was found last week in a Wisconsin home where another boy was tortured." "Tampa agency criticized for letting tot disappear".
"Since Jan. 2, 'the people's governor' has been advancing a 'people's agenda' with the help of 'the people's Legislature' and, not least of all, the people."
But which people?"Florida didn't elect John Q. Public".
The people suffering under the weight of high property taxes?
Or the people being shipped to the unemployment line so cities and counties can absorb these state-mandated tax cuts?
Is it the people who believe government is bloated? Or the people who know Florida ranks near the very bottom of states in per-pupil spending and high school dropout rates? Is it the people who want college tuition to be as cheap as possible? Or the people running our universities who say rock-bottom tuition is cheating our kids?
Simply put, is it the mob that screams the loudest?
"A poll [.rtf download] conducted this week for the Florida Chamber of Commerce shows Republican Charlie Dean up 54-34 over Democrat Suzan Franks in the Senate District 3 contest." "Poll: Dean up 20 points".
"The countdown clock is running for the mothballing of the space shuttle in 2010, but Florida's efforts to save 5,000 Kennedy Space Center jobs have been on hold." "Efforts to save space center jobs on hold".
"While Florida voters waited for the property tax reform that lawmakers promised them, the two men charged with crafting the proposal sat in an Orlando-area business office eating chicken nuggets and waffle fries. The two Republican lawmakers - one a state senator in the twilight of a political career of nearly three decades, the other a third-year House member hoping to lead his chamber in 2011 - gnawed on concepts and fused competing plans while they munched on take-out from Chick-fil-A during the month between the legislature's regular and special sessions."
From the House, lead negotiator Rep. Dean Cannon, 38, of Winter Park refused to budge from the $47 billion that his leadership team wanted to cut over five years. House leaders wanted to eliminate property taxes on primary homes, known as homesteads, and replace some of the lost revenues with a state sales tax hike."Cool heads crafted tax cut".
Senate Republican Leader Daniel Webster, 58, of Winter Garden wanted a package worth $15 billion in cuts. He criticized the House's tax swap as "regressive" and nearly walked out of a joint House-Senate meeting in frustration as lawmakers failed to close the gap between the two chambers.
All committee meetings on tax reform were called off, and Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, and House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, assigned Webster and Cannon to continue their talks privately. Florida law requires meetings involving three or more lawmakers discussing legislation to be open to the public.
"Orlando area political consultant Doug Guetzloe faces $4,000 in fines for violating election laws during the 2003 city elections in Daytona Beach. Judge Daniel Kilbride, with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings in Tallahassee, issued an order Monday finding Guetzloe failed three times to file timely election finance reports and failed to file any report on actual expenditures of $9,790.84." "Judge fines ex-Daytona candidate over election reports".
"The Federal Emergency Management Agency must turn over to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and other news organizations the addresses of 1.3 million disaster aid recipients, a federal appellate court in Atlanta ruled Friday."
FEMA had been fighting to keep the information secret for almost three years."Court rules FEMA must turn over documents to Sun-Sentinel".
The Sun-Sentinel sought the addresses as part of its reports on fraud and mismanagement in FEMA's disaster aid program after Hurricane Frances lashed Florida during Labor Day weekend 2004.
"Climbing Out From Under Jeb's Legacy"
"There are two state Departments of Children and Families. One is the bureaucracy that former Gov. Bush 'overhauled,' funneling state responsibility for abused, neglected and disabled children and adults to private agencies and hiding details of wrongdoing. Then there's the new DCF, the one - lawsuit by lawsuit, apology by apology, new policy by new policy - climbing out from under Jeb's legacy." "DCF under Butterworth changing case by case".
Is It A Newspaper Or Not?
The Tallahassee Democrat editors: "In the history of journalism, one tool has been consistently used to hush voices of opposition. The very system of laws that gives us the right to a free press are used to hamstring that press when someone doesn't want to hear what's being said, or read what's being published."
That's the trouble Julia Hanway ran into when the Florida Elections Commission decided that the newspaper she self-published, The Wakulla Independent Reporter, with its lack of commercial advertisement, wasn't a newspaper at all."Unbought and unbossed".
The troubles began when someone in Ms. Hanway's readership area - like kings, lawmakers and public figures before them - decided they didn't like what she was writing about and filed a complaint with the commission following the 2004 elections. More than $10,000 and three years later, Ms. Hanway's operation has been nearly crippled by the legal battle, a victory for those who do not see her work as an exercise in freedom of the press.
But like that of Silence Dogood, which was Benjamin Franklin's pen name, and blogger contemporaries, Ms. Hanway's work is necessary for the sake of society's conscience. Raising awareness and criticizing the actions of policymakers are the bark and bite of watchdog journalism.
Your Tax Dollars at Work
"House approval this week of a huge increase in funding for a controversial program to promote democracy in Cuba delivered a legislative victory for anti-Castro advocates from South Florida. But critics warn the money could be squandered on attempts to influence public opinion rather than used to help dissidents. The House action, on a vote of 254 to 170, was the first test of strength on Cuba policy under the Democratic-run Congress, and the first round went to embargo hardliners." "U.S. House votes to increase funding for program to promote democracy in Cuba to $45.7 million".
"Voters Didn't Know What They Were Doing"?
"Two weeks ago, lawyers for some Florida hospitals argued that the voters didn't know what they were doing in 2004."
That year, by a 4 to 1 margin, voters amended the state constitution to allow patients "the right to review, upon request, records of health-care facilities' or providers' adverse medical incidents, including those that could cause injury or death." The idea was that patients could shop around, based on past performance."Open doctors' records".
But in 2005, medical lobbyists persuaded the Legislature to limit the amendment's reach to incidents after Amendment 7 passed, and to incidents that involve "the same or substantially similar condition, treatment or diagnosis." So, patients could shop around, based on what hadn't happened, and the shopping was limited. Doctors also are allowed to post on the Department of Health Web site only the information they want to reveal.
Patients in malpractice cases challenged the 2005 law. Lower courts determined that the Legislature's limit on the scope of the amendment was unconstitutional. The courts differed, though, on whether the amendment could be applied retroactively. The case has reached the Florida Supreme Court, where the hospitals' attorneys asked the justices for a two-fer: Limit the amendment's reach, and keep it from being retroactive.
"Towson Fraser, the current director of legislative affairs for Gov. Charlie Crist, is getting promoted to deputy chief of staff. Crist's office made the announcement Friday. In the release Crist said that the 41-year-old Fraser, who once served as communications director for former House Speaker Allan Bense and is a new father, would continue to serve as legislative affairs director in conjunction with his new job. ... Fraser is replacing Jim Rimes, who stepped down from his post to become executive director of the Republican Party of Florida." "Towson Fraser gets a promotion from Crist". See also "Crist Aide Gets a Bump".