"Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade County, regarded for years as a solidly Republican catch for statewide and national candidates stumping in Florida, are increasingly becoming free agents. Less than half of the county's Hispanic voters are registered Republicans, down from 59 percent less than a decade ago, The Miami Herald found. ... the shift is occurring even in the Cuban-American community at large, a bedrock for Republicans from George W. Bush to Jeb Bush, who cultivated their loyalty with fiery anti-Castro rhetoric and friendly Spanish-language ads." "Hispanics shunning party labels".
The Tallahassee Democrat Editorial Board: "To the detriment of students and schools in our state, political ideology has held too much influence in weighting the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test for the past several years."
Always intended as a diagnostic and accountability tool, the FCAT came to life when Lawton Chiles was governor but took on a life of its own under Gov. Jeb Bush."FCAT scan".
Mr. Bush made it the centerpiece of his education reform efforts. He and his lieutenants dismissed criticism from educators and others who supported having a test, but opposed Florida's system of rewards and other aspects of the FCAT.
Now a genuine dialogue is under way instead of a one-way conversation from on high. Finally.
Another Fine Corporate Citizen
"Railroad titan [CSX] denies it is dodging property taxes in Florida."
For at least a decade, railroad giant CSX Corp. has avoided paying taxes on several Florida properties because of mistakes by state and local governments."Blunders derail tax bill for CSX".
In 2006 alone, the unpaid tax bill could be as much as $1.9-million.
State officials are trying to shut down what they now call an elaborate tax-avoidance scheme.
CSX, a Fortune 500 firm based in Jacksonville, vehemently denies ducking its tax obligations and says the state Department of Revenue is misinterpreting the law.
"Last time Democrats almost won Florida's electoral votes, then-Attorney General Bob Butterworth was in the thick of things, leading Al Gore's Florida campaign in 2000. Today? Butterworth has little enthusiasm for any of his fellow Democrats running for president." "Butterworth left cold by Democratic field".
"In an election cycle packed with artificial campaign events, the Iowa straw poll, which consumed the nation's pundits this weekend and was won as expected by Romney, may be the most overhyped. But given the tens of thousands of Republicans and hundreds of journalists gathered in Ames on Saturday, it was hard not to question why Florida party leaders opted against having their own pseudo-election." "Did Florida blow it on straw polls?"
"The state Republican Party's executive committee voted Saturday to send its full delegation to the 2008 national convention despite threats from the national party that it could be sanctioned for moving up the Florida presidential primary." "State Republicans ignore RNC's threat to penalize Florida". See also "State Republicans ignore RNC's threat to penalize Florida". See also "GOP to send full delegation".
"Support may be cracking"
"For years, teachers and others who opposed private school vouchers in Florida could count on black lawmakers to stand with them. But there are signs that support may be cracking." "Black leaders rethink vouchers".
Troxler on Allen
"Good news! Of the 120 members of the Florida House of Representatives, there are 119 who are not currently accused of offering somebody $20 in a men's room for, uh, personal services."
That means that 99.2 percent of the Florida House remains men's-room-accusation free, and able to continue with its fine work of fixing our state's insurance, tax and budget problems.Read the rest of Howard Troxler's observations here: "Keep him if guilty, boot him if innocent".
The other 0.8 percent of the House consists of Rep. Bob Allen, a Republican from Merritt Island on the east coast. Unfortunately for Allen, he is not men's-room-accusation-free, not since his arrest on July 11 in a Titusville park.
The initial reports are not running entirely in his favor. A surveillance tape showed Allen entering the park restroom three times. An undercover police officer in the restroom reported that Allen offered him the $20.
"Being a Republican isn't cool"
"The good-looking hipster with the slicked back, slightly mussed hair looks out from his dark shades. 'He's a Republican,' reads the billboard spotted around South Florida in recent weeks. 'But you don't see that.' A Sunglass Hut official denied that the company's ad is a political statement, but its message is clear: Being a Republican isn't cool (unless you have fabulous hair and expensive sunglasses)." "Be a Republican, look cool".
"Florida Democrats are seeing and hearing less from their presidential candidates than Republicans, partly because of the uncertainty over Florida's Jan. 29 presidential primary." "Dems Making Few Fla. Visits".
Those Silly Subpoenas
"State officials postponed an upcoming public hearing over State Farm Insurance's plans to drop about 50,000 homeowners policies to give the insurer more time to submit required documents. ... Documents provided Wednesday to the insurance office did not meet the requirements of the subpoenas, but Kees said Friday that State Farm is still expected to produce the information and just needs more time." "State Farm Insurance hearing postponed over subpoenaed documents".
"Democrat Christine Jennings didn’t plan to talk about her payroll taxes on Saturday. Heading into the speech before the Democratic Club of Sarasota, Jennings said she didn’t expect to talk about why her campaign has had to pay $85,000 in back taxes and penalties to the IRS for failing to pay federal payroll taxes for more than 3 years. Instead the retired banker said would focus on all the big issues for the 2008 campaign. Iraq, health care and stem cell research, were among them." "Jennings avoids tax issue -- almost".
"Florida Hometown Democracy"
Mike Thomas likes "Florida Hometown Democracy"
A group called Florida Hometown Democracy wants to put a referendum on the 2008 ballot that would require voter approval of growth plans."Here's a chance for the people to protect state".
If Orlando wanted to put a Wal-Mart where it doesn't belong, the people of Orlando would have to agree.
Your signature on the above petition is required to accomplish that.
This is a bombshell in the good-old-boy system by which Florida is being paved. The notion that developers and political leaders would have to justify their dealings to the public has panicked the entire Growth Industrial Complex in Florida.
Their business model is based on growth plans that are drawn in invisible ink. And so the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the home builders and the sugar growers are all lined up to nip this in the bud.
Knowing they can't win on the merits of their past actions, they have resorted to their bag of dirty tricks.
Smoke and Mirrors
Alva James-Johnson: "Crist may have good intentions as he travels the state touting a tax relief plan that initially puts less than $200 back in the average homeowner's pocket."
But from where I sit, it seems like the whole 'drop like a rock' tax cut initiative is shaping up as a major letdown for taxpayers who will have to sacrifice their quality of life for a pittance."Quality of life suffers with tax cut".
Indeed, "most Broward County homeowners will not save money from a proposed overhaul of property tax breaks, contrary to what legislative leaders proclaimed when they set a special election on a new 'super exemption.'"
An analysis of tax data by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel shows 31,000 fewer property owners would benefit than the 221,000 that the Legislature estimated. That means four out of 10 homeowners stand to gain rather than the slight majority that the state projected."Most residents will see little relief from state's tax overhaul".
Even then, the savings for many is small.
Moreover, "about half of Central Florida's cities are indicating they may ignore the state's orders to slash their tax rates. Local elected leaders last week outlined their spending plans for the year ahead, and 26 of 55 cities and counties in the Greater Orlando area set preliminary tax rates higher than those mandated by legislators. Until they approve their budgets in September, local officials still have the option to cut taxes. If they don't, they risk losing money from the state." "Cities set to defy state on tax rates".
"As U.S. Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Palm Beach Gardens, says, anyone who ran for any office in Florida last year - himself included - supported a national catastrophic disaster fund as a way to lower property insurance costs. But now, he and Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, have drafted legislation to create such a fund, and no one is saying no." "National disaster fund: The forecast is improving".
"Ex-Palm Beach County Commissioner Warren Newell could not have received $500,000 in improper payments without the help of SFRN, the engineering firm where he worked for decades. Basically, the firm acted as Newell's bag man." "Fire Newell's bag man".
"The problem-plagued agency could be Bob Butterworth's toughest challenge yet." "DCF's chief known as fixer".
Randy Schultz begs to
interrupt the continuing report on the irrelevance of "traditional media" to bring you this bulletin:"'Traditional' values of the old media".
"Traditional media" remain relevant. If you want proof:
Ask Tony Masilotti.
Ask Jim Exline.
Ask Bill Boose.
Ask Warren Newell.
All these gentlemen are, or soon will be, guests of the federal government for several years. They are going to prison because they committed crimes by misusing their office - in the cases of Masilotti, Exline and Newell - or their profession - in the case of Boose - and were caught by The Palm Beach Post. ...
Here's a real scoop: Talk radio and many Web sites couldn't function without "traditional media," which supply talk radio and the bloggers much of their basic information. And without "traditional media," what would provide ammunition for the conspiracy theories that drive radio ratings and Web clicks?