"Crist's willingness to let legislators vote on a possible casino gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe has aroused a powerful force: the tribe's competitors who own horse and dog tracks and have lots of clout in the state Capitol."
For decades, Florida's parimutuel industry has been among the biggest donors to political parties and campaigns. The industry employs some of the most seasoned lobbyists in Tallahassee."Legislature could hold wild card".
Despite that, the parimutuels never get all they want. It took them seven years to get poker rooms. They have tried vainly for years to legalize video lottery terminals.
But any gambling deal needing legislative approval would give the tracks a platform to complain about unfair competition - especially if the compact included games not legal in Florida, such as blackjack and baccarat.
Meanwhile, "a lawsuit with the potential to overturn the statewide vote in 2004 that gave Broward and Miami-Dade counties the right to have slot machines at parimutuels by voter approval heads to the Florida Supreme Court Monday for a showdown three years in the making." "Supreme Court to hear anti-slots case".
Caving in to the Gun Lobby
The Daytona Beach - News Journal editorial board observes that
even as the body count climbs, it seems doubtful that state lawmakers will see reason and make it tougher to pack heat. Florida residents do have the right, however, to expect state lawmakers to stop caving into the gun lobby and start saying no to laws who push gun-nuttery to ludicrous heights."Gun in pocket or purse; are we safer?".
One good example of this firearms extremism passed two years ago, with the approval of legislation that allows any person to shoot at someone he or she feels poses a credible threat. That law, known as the "castle doctrine" or "shoot first (and ask questions later)" law, has already spread to 15 states.
Expect the Legislature to face more pressure. A bill that would force property owners to allow anyone to bring guns onto their premises -- even schools and universities -- was derailed this year by the bloody Virginia Tech shootings, but it's bound to come back. The National Rifle Association is also pushing hard against mental-health screening and safety training requirements.
At some point, however, Floridians (and their elected representatives) should face reality. The state's gun-friendly culture hasn't made it any safer; in fact, most evidence points in the other direction.
Don't Be So Sure
"The funding of school crossing guards, on the other hand, probably was not the kind of service that most Floridians have in mind when state politicians talk about tax cuts." "Crossroad".
One suspects that a good of the residents of this den could care less about paying for school crossing guards: "Retirees' dreamland is Republican bastion". After all, they paid for public schools up North, and it would be terribly unfair to make them pay for it again.
"What will the Charlie Crist era mean" for education?
"If the Jeb Bush era in Florida education meant an emphasis on public school testing and private school vouchers, what will the Charlie Crist era mean? A big part of the answer could come starting this week. The state Board of Education interviews seven candidates today for the post of education commissioner, a job that could pay as much as $275,000, more than twice what the governor makes." "As interviews start for education chief, Crist's goals await".
Meanwhile, the Tampa Tribune editorial board notes that "the Florida Board of Education today will interview seven finalists for state education commissioner, including someone whose candidacy raises a red flag. Before applying for the Florida job, Philadelphia schools official William Harner was a candidate for the superintendent's job in Toledo, Ohio. Talks broke down, however, when officials refused his request to pay the cost of sending his teenaged daughter to private school." "Red Flag On Education Candidate".
Freddie Courts Nitwit Vote
The Orlando Sentinel has a puff piece on Freddie, who is trying to convert his status as a sweet talking right winger as an empty suit into votes; with nitwits like the gentleman quoted below voting in the Republican primary, he may have a chance:
With his honey-soaked baritone, front-porch manner and instantly familiar face -- thanks to endless Law & Order reruns -- Thompson fills a void for many voters even if they can't yet say why."Thompson, in role of a lifetime, captures Republicans at gut level".
"It just feels like he's the only candidate who represents the ideas this nation was founded on," said Buddy Reynolds, a 54-year-old Titusville resident. "It's more of an intuitive, gut-level feel."
Thanks to the Sun-Sentinel editors for this observation: "Teachers, at all levels, should get the pay and benefits they deserve so they don't need to live in parking lot apartments in what could be a dorm-style arrangement. We don't set up special housing for cops, firefighters, paramedics and other public servants in South Florida who don't make gigantic salaries, and we shouldn't have to do it for teachers." "Teacher housing plan doesn't get passing grade".
The "Right" To Vote
Tom Blackburn reminds us that
we have no right to vote in the presidential primary. Not incidentally, we have no right to vote in the general election for president, either."If that saddens you, consider presidential elections."
In the 2000 election, most of us learned that we have no right to vote for president. Yes, we vote for electors, and they vote for president; you learn about the "indirect" election in high school. But we don't have a right to vote for electors, either."You have no right to vote for president".
Tom Feeney, then speaker of the Florida House, asserted that the Legislature decides how the electors will be chosen, and it can pick them itself without consulting the general public. In fact, as the Supreme Court was settling that election, the Florida House voted for the George W. Bush electors, and the Senate was poised to follow. That would have made the flawed election and 36 days of vote-counting and courtroom arguments into irrelevancies.
Mr. Feeney is no constitutional scholar. But his position was supported during oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court by no less than Justice Antonin Scalia - who is - and the point found its way into one of the court's opinions, although not as the controlling point.
The point is now back in the holster until the next time a strong party needs to draw it. But, in short, the only voting right you have in presidential elections is the right to hope that the Legislature doesn't decide not to let anyone vote.
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., offered House Joint Resolution 28, which would launch a constitutional amendment creating, for the first time, the right of the people to vote for president. He has 58 cosponsors. The closest one to us is Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami. Mr. Feeney went on to Congress from a Central Florida district. He drew attention there by sponsoring a sense of the House resolution telling the Supreme Court not to pay a nickel's worth of attention to the opinions of high courts in other democratic countries with laws similar to ours.
His hostility to foreign things does not extend to the choice of golf courses. He was among the congressional junketeers who played the game with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in Scotland when the bloom was on the heather.
But most of us owe to Rep. Feeney the discovery that, when it comes to electing presidents, we fundamentally don't matter. We have had seven years to do something about that. And we haven't. We must like it that way.
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Hometown Democracy would make the land-use plan much more difficult to revise, so developers want to get their changes approved now. An irony is that big pushes for wholesale changes are what motivated supporters to launch Hometown Democracy. Plans are now so changeable that people can't count on them. Defending plans has become an endless battle that wears folks down. But citizen approval of every amendment would require voters to understand technical issues that are not always what they seem. Indeed, it's difficult to read the proposed plan amendments and immediately know if they are good or bad." "Reforming Title Insurance Industry Should Be State Priority".
Right Wing Meccas
Yesterday we read about this: "Retirees' dreamland is Republican bastion"; today we get this:
Ave Maria University was founded in 2002 by Tom Monaghan, the multimillionaire founder of Domino's Pizza and conservative Catholic philanthropist, who moved the campus from Naples, Fla., to a 5,000-acre tract five miles from Immokalee, which is 30 miles northeast of Naples."Before it was transformed by more than $400 million in private investment, the land on which Ave Maria rises was home to tomatoes and citrus harvested by migrants, many of them undocumented, who earn as little as 45 cents for every 32-pound bucket picked." Now, "residents in neighboring Immokalee worry that the new town, which covers thousands of acres of farmland and promises to bring more development to the area, will undermine their livelihoods and their community."
It is part of an ambitious development called Ave Maria Town, which will include 11,000 homes, three golf courses and its own water park, all oriented around a towering church.
After years of picking tomatoes, [Lucas] Benitez co-founded the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, an organization that fights for better wages and working conditions for farmworkers."Florida town: City of God or City of Cash?".
He sees Ave Maria as ''the NAFTA of Immokalee,'' and says its backers want to replace the farms with gated communities.
''They aren't talking about improving the town or creating more employment,'' he said. ``They are talking about getting rid of the workers who have lived here for decades.''
Benitez said the impact was already being felt through Collier County's crackdown on trailers where the farmworkers live. In the past year and a half, 226 trailers have been condemned, said Nancy Freeze, the Immokalee director of the Health Department.
"Lawmakers have failed to do their job"
The Miami Herald editorial board:
The biggest problem in Florida's auto-insurance stalemate is a lack of leadership. Legislators haven't fixed or replaced the existing no-fault law in the four years since they approved sunsetting the law on Oct. 1."Buckle up: Confusion ahead for motorists". The Orlando Sentinel editors argue that "Leadership needed" ("Lunchtime is over. Mr. Crist needs to manage this crisis.")
Lawmakers have failed to do their job. As a result, confusion and unintended consequences lie ahead for motorists. By default, the old system is set to disappear, and it is unclear how a new system might work. Florida will become the only state in the country that doesn't have mandatory medical coverage for people injured in traffic accidents.
This is unacceptable. Gov. Charlie Crist, House Speaker Marco Rubio and Senate President Ken Pruitt need to take a stand. They should insist that legislators finalize no-fault reforms. The reforms should be approved in a quick special session this month. Failing this, lawmakers should rewrite the law during the budget-cutting session -- now set for Oct. 3 -- and save Floridians from needless grief.
Doing the right thing
"Some Palm Beach County cities are avoiding state-ordered budget cuts by not reducing property taxes required by the Legislature."
In all, eight of the county's 37 municipalities have said they are not going to lower their taxes as much as they were instructed, according to state records and an analysis by the Palm Beach Post."South Florida cities just say no to tax cut".
The Legislature approved a $15.6-billion property tax relief package that requires most of the state's 67 counties and municipalities to cut their tax rates to the 2006 level and reduce property tax revenues by up to 9 percent.
However, the mandate allows local elected officials to override the law.
How Green is our Charlie?
"Crist has recommended that lawmakers during a special session cut the $5 million of red tide money for this year as they attempt to pare $1 billion off the top in response to lower than expected revenues. Red tide is a bloom of naturally occurring algae that releases toxins that kill fish and aquatic mammals. It causes respiratory irritation in humans. Red tides have been recorded in Florida since the 1840s but are occurring more frequently, lasting longer and causing more problems." "Crist proposal would slash red tide funding".
They're Just Birds, What's the Problem?
"Florida's roaring development has taken a toll on some of the state's emblematic birds, reducing their populations during the past decade,according to the latest bird-count statistics." "Florida's birds try to wing it".
The Miami Herald editors:
Faced with a $1.1 billion shortfall in state-budget revenues, Gov. Charlie Crist is thinking outside the box. Among other things, the governor is considering turning over the Florida Lottery to a private operator. It's easy to see why. Florida could get a lump-sum payout of as much as $31 billion for leasing the Lottery to a private vendor for 30 or 40 years. ...But they can't help themselves, and just have to go the extra step to make sure everyone recognizes that they are "balanced":
That kind of cash could make Florida's deficit go bye-bye in a hurry. It also could resolve some costly problems, such as reducing class sizes and boosting teacher pay. Nevertheless, giving a private firm control of a gaming enterprise approved by voters 21 years ago as an ongoing source of funds for education is a bad idea. Gov. Crist and Lottery officials should think long and hard before giving up this asset.
States have valid reasons for turning over some of their traditional services and functions to private companies"Florida Lottery faces a roll of the dice". Pray tell, what "traditional services and functions" should be performed by private companies?
Do the Herald editors think this is a good idea: "Largest private prison in state set to open today in Graceville"? "The big business of incarceration comes to the Panhandle town of Graceville this week, as Florida opens what will be its biggest for-profit prison in a competitive system marked by controversy. ... But critics maintain that private prisons do it by scrimping on pay and benefits, or cutting corners on staffing levels, health care and inmate education programs." Oh, I get it: privatization allows the state to avoid union contracts (such as they are) and paying into the state employees' defined benefit contribution plans. Neato.
What's Next? Bazookas?
"A rise in assault rifle use by criminals has spurred Miami's police chief to authorize patrol officers to carry similar weapons, he said Sunday." "Miami Police to give officers assault weapons".
"The charges were stunning: Seven Miami men were accused of trying to join forces with al-Qaeda to blow up the FBI headquarters in Miami Beach and the Sears Tower in Chicago."
Their plans, according to prosecutors, included blowing up the 110-story Sears Tower, taking over a Chicago-area prison and turning the inmates into an army, and launching terrorist attacks allegedly described by lead defendant Narseal Batiste as "just as good or greater than 9-11.""Terrorists-in-wait or just misfits?".
For a more sober look at what these "terrorists" were about, read "Paintballers Plotted World Takeover".