First, we have Charlie's property tax scam, which will drain millions of dollars from services and schools. Now, we have the Florida Supreme Court's decision, requiring voter approval for bonds (for, among other things, new school construction) that use property taxes to pay them off. A double whammy for sure, particularly since Jebbie's intangibles tax cut for the wealthy "sliced more than $1 billion from the state's annual revenue stream".
Perhaps this well help, though it is extremely unlikely: "The Florida Supreme Court was asked Monday to reconsider, or at least clarify, its landmark reversal earlier this month that changes and clouds how local governments borrow money. The Florida Association of Counties was among those seeking new hearings, reconsideration and clarification of the ruling that's thrown local governments into a tizzy by saying voter approval is required for bonds that use property taxes to pay them off." "Court asked to clarify borrowing decision".
If "business leaders" like it, it must be good
"Crist stepped in Monday to kick-start a property-tax ballot measure that a recent poll showed is losing support among voters and dragging down his approval ratings."
Crist joined business leaders in Tampa to launch "Yes On 1 -- Save Our Homes NOW," aimed at winning passage of a Jan. 29 constitutional amendment to create a new supersized homestead exemption. ..."Crist takes to road for property-tax measure". See also "Crist talks up new tax plan", "Gov. Crist tries to revive sagging support for property tax reform" and "Crist to back amendment plan to change homestead exemption".
The Republican governor's move puts him at odds with Democratic legislators and many local government officials, who warn the exemption would drain millions of dollars from services and schools.
"I don't think it's right that we're giving Floridians a choice of a tax break, but only if they want their schools to suffer," said House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber of Miami Beach.
The amendment is expected to cut property taxes by $8 billion over four years. If approved, tax collections for schools are expected to drop by $1.8 billion next year -- which lawmakers have said they will offset with state dollars. But that will prove difficult, as a sour state economy will likely require more spending cuts on top of the $1.1 billion legislators may cut next month
"Claiming that a 2-year-old voter registration law will unfairly block minorities, including Hispanics, from registering to vote, the Florida branch of the NAACP and a Miami-based Haitian group filed a federal lawsuit Monday that seeks to throw the law out."
Florida law requires that a citizen's name on a voter registration form be matched with a Social Security number or driver's license number. Florida legislators made the change to comply with the Help America Vote Act."Lawsuit calls voter-registration law unfair". See also "Groups sue state over voter identification law", "Suit challenges state voting law", "Lawsuit: State law prevents legitimate voters from registering" and "Voting law challenged in court".
The lawsuit, which was filed with the help of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, says the measure violates federal voting rights law because bureaucratic ''errors'' will block people from being able to vote.
Florida "Values Voter Presidential Debate."
"On a night that opened with 90 minutes of prayers, gospel music and Bible verses, seven Republican presidential candidates gathered in Fort Lauderdale to try and win over an evangelical voting bloc that has been a political powerhouse in past elections." "GOP hopefuls woo faithful in Lauderdale debate". See also "GOP front-runners sit out debate with 'values voters'".
"Head of Florida Highway Patrol Resigns".
"The state Board of Education this morning narrowed its seven remaining candidates for education commissioner down to three finalists: College Board administrator Eric Smith, New York state education official Joseph Marinelli and current Florida public schools chancellor Cheri Yecke." "Education commissioner finalists chosen".
You recall Yecke; the Palm Beach Post editorial board today:
Mr. Winn appointed her after she lost her job as education commissioner in Minnesota, in part because of her willingness to let schools teach creationism as an alternative to evolution. That typifies the ideological bent of Gov. Bush's education department, which warped intended reforms. Jeb acolytes were so unwilling to question FCAT procedures and school grades that unqualified graders were hired and flawed tests approved."Pick an education leader who will break with Jeb".
The unquestioning attitude toward vouchers allowed private schools to take money without enrolling students. Six years after the Legislature created the $88 million program, private voucher schools don't have to give tests that would allow comparison with public schools.
Florida has a depressing achievement gap between white and minority students. The graduation rate is too low. Reading gains in lower grades are lost in high school, the result of treating the FCAT like a cure instead of diagnostic test.
Jeb's education reforms were all about Jeb and his political résumé. Attempts to protect his legacy are all about Jeb. To solve Florida's education problems, the Board of Education, Gov. Crist and the next commissioner have to turn the focus back to students.
"As talks continued in Tallahassee Monday on ways to reform Florida's controversial no-fault auto insurance law, agreement is emerging on capping fees for medical care after an auto accident. Finding an acceptable method to contain these costs has been a major sticking point for lawmakers eager to preserve the no-fault law." "No-fault insurance talks gain momentum". See also "Lawmakers urged to act on no-fault auto coverage" ("Crist's staff and state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink stepped up pressure on lawmakers Monday to either resurrect or reform Florida's no-fault automobile insurance before it disappears Oct. 1.")
Nukes vs. Welands
"Florida Power & Light plans to dramatically expand nuclear power output at Turkey Point -- a project some environmentalists fear would destroy hundreds of acres of wetlands and consume too much of the area's already dwindling water supply." "FPL files to expand Turkey Point plant".
The Tampa Trib editorial board:
Crist is thinking about selling the state lottery to a private investor who would pay enough to solve the state's immediate budget problems. He should think again."Selling State Lottery A Bad Risk".
The sale would be a bad idea for Florida's financial future, its public education and society in general.
"Putnam Praises AG Nominee".
Easier Said than Done
"The next time a mayor, council member or county commissioner threatens to cut police, fire or other vital services to meet the state's mandated tax cuts, look them square in the eye and ask them how much they spend on travel."
And if you happen to live in a city or town that refused to reduce its tax rate this year, ask commissioners how much they're paying in membership dues."Get a clue".
It's amazing how many local leaders still don't get it. Certainly spending on travel and membership dues is not enough to make or break a budget. But cutting these luxuries sends a strong message in tough economic times that local governments are doing everything they can to stretch tax dollars. Refusing to do it sends exactly the opposite message.
"The Christian Coalition of Florida recently released its annual legislative report cards -- and some surprising results."
Earning failing grades, for instance, were loyal Republican senators such as Mike Haridopolos, Evelyn Lynn and Bill Posey."Coalition doesn't gamble on grades".
That put all of them solidly behind the likes of Democrat and convicted felon Gary Siplin, as well as Republican Bob Allen, who is slated to go on trial this week for charges (that he denies) of soliciting prostitution. Both of those guys earned passing grades.
"Giuliani, who frequently touts his crime-fighting record when he was mayor of New York City, said Monday that Miami Police Chief John Timoney 'made the right decision' in allowing officers to start carrying assault weapons." "Giuliani: Assault weapons for police `the right decision'".
"A case that pits South Florida's casinos against a coalition of anti-gambling forces reached the Florida Supreme Court on Monday in a lawsuit that, if successful, could undermine the legal basis for slot machines at casinos in Broward and Miami-Dade counties."
The suit, filed three years ago, charged that a petition to put the slot machine question on the statewide ballot was riddled with fraudulent signatures. The constitutional amendment gave Las Vegas-style slot machines to the two counties if voters later approved locally."Challenge to slots too late? State justices must decide". See also "Justices weigh slots case", "Florida Supreme Court to decide on future of Broward slot machines", "Lawyers say outcome only thing important in slots-fraud case" and "Slot machine amendment challenged in Supreme Court".
After the state's voters approved the amendment -- with about 51 percent -- Circuit Judge Nikki Ann Clark of Tallahassee ruled that the claims of fraudulent signatures were moot.
But the coalition of opponents, including Floridians Against Expanded Gambling, the U.S. Humane Society and Greyhound 2K, a national group that opposes greyhound racing, pressed on until the dispute reached the state's high court on Monday.
A lawyer for the coalition argued that the fraud claims were made before the election, so the case should still be heard.
Kissing the Ring
"Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson brings his campaign to the state Capitol on Tuesday, becoming the latest in a series of GOP hopefuls to call on Gov. Charlie Crist." "Thompson latest GOP hopeful to meet with Crist".
"An unusual fight between a Panhandle property appraiser and the state Department of Revenue intensified Monday with the county official complaining about a 'retaliatory' audit. Flanked by two state lawmakers, Santa Rosa County property appraiser Greg Brown came to Tallahassee to challenge the need for the in-depth review and complained afterward that the agency was singling him out." "Panhandle tax fight heats up".
General Mel declares: "we have Al-Qaeda on the run"
"U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., offered a cautiously upbeat assessment of U.S. progress in Iraq at Monday's luncheon meeting of The Forum Club of the Palm Beaches' 'The surge has worked beyond the expectations of most observers,' Martinez told the crowd of about 460 at the Kravis Center's Cohen Pavilion. 'I believe we have Al-Qaeda on the run.'" "Martinez sees progress in Iraq".
"Florida may soon have a new way of teaching math and science if revisions to the Sunshine State Standards are approved today. The state Board of Education is meeting in Tampa for its monthly meeting. Many district and state administrators are in favor of the revisions because there were too many benchmarks for students to meet. With fewer benchmarks, the revised format will be more in-depth." "Education board weighs changes to state standards".
"The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees came up with something different in talks at the Department of Management Services last week. AFSCME, which represents tens of thousands of state office workers and laborers, sought to find out if Gov. Charlie Crist is willing to touch part of ex-Gov. Jeb Bush's legacy ... Service First, Bush's sweeping revision of the state personnel system." However,
despite all of Crist's more moderate positioning, he's still a conservative Republican. He's not going to carry Leon County, or need to, in 2010. And AFSCME, despite some GOP endorsements last year, will probably be supporting the Democratic nominee against him."Union tries to nibble at Bush's Service First".
Six years ago, Bush took personnel rules that were stuck in the 1950s and streamlined them for the workplace of the Internet age. Now, the "people's governor" might want to lend an ear to AFSCME's ideas for treating the people's employees more like people.
If He Hates Muslims, He's My Guy ...
"Giuliani's successes as mayor of New York City, especially his performance immediately after the World Trade Center bombings in 2001, was a popular subject at the gathering."
"It was a toilet and now it's not," said Rita Thompson, who on this year's 9/11 protested a Muslim parade in Manhattan. "How could (Michael) Bloomberg let that go on?" she wondered of the current mayor. "You can bet Giuliani wouldn't have.""Giuliani fans greet 'the Mayor' in Tampa".
"A University of Florida student was Tasered and arrested after trying to ask U.S. Senator John Kerry about the 2004 election and other subjects during a campus forum."
Videos of the incident posted on several Web sites show officers pulling Andrew Meyer, 21, away from the microphone after he asks Kerry about impeaching President Bush and whether he and Bush were both members of the secret society Skull and Bones at Yale University."UF student Tasered at Kerry forum after election question". Watch the video here: "Student from Weston Tasered at John Kerry forum". The tasee has a website: www.theandrewmeyer.com, with more links.
``He apparently asked several questions _ he went on for quite awhile _ then he was asked to stop,'' university spokesman Steve Orlando said. ``He had used his allotted time. His microphone was cut off, then he became upset.''
Even though the Florida Alligator reporter who was there wrote that "Once Meyer was removed, Kerry continued to answer Meyer’s question about why he did not contest the 2004 election", the Miami Herald's Naked Politics writer can't help himself, and takes a cheap shot at Kerry: "Kerry, who tried to get the matter resolved peacefully, never answered the question ...".
Perhaps these purportedly "neutral" reporters (in this case one Marc Caputo) ought to take a gander at this article in the current (October 2007) issue of Vanity Fair: "Going After Gore": " as the 2000 election heated up, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other top news outlets kept going after him, with misquotes ("I invented the Internet"), distortions (that he lied about being the inspiration for Love Story), and strangely off-the-mark needling, while pundits such as Maureen Dowd appeared to be charmed by his rival, George W. Bush." The lengthy piece, available on line, is well worth a read.