"Outnumbered Democrats in a rare position of power"
"When property tax notices arrived in mailboxes this summer, Florida had a Where's The Beef? moment. Yes, tax bills went down, as legislators promised. But homeowners hoping for dramatic relief were sorely disappointed."
Don't worry, lawmakers said. The big savings will come in January after the vote on what's become known as the "super homestead exemption" amendment."For GOP, fixing tax bill could kill it".
But on Monday a state judge struck the amendment from the ballot, ruling that the language was confusing and misleading. Now the Legislature faces an Oct. 29 deadline if there's to be a vote in January.
Time is the least of the Legislature's worries.
The legal setback has revived bitter divisions among Republicans in the House and Senate over the depth of property tax cuts. In so doing, it may have put outnumbered Democrats in a rare position of power, where their votes might be enough to kill the amendment.
Foley "a symbol for a weakened Republican Party"
"A year removed from his stunning retreat from power, Mark Foley is not just a man. He is a symbol for a weakened Republican Party and, experts say, a lingering liability as his old allies try to regain their political footing." "Former Congressman Mark Foley's scandal seen as turning point". See also "A year later, Foley fallout lingers".
"On the chopping block"
The Palm Beach Post editors:
When legislators conclude the special session scheduled to start Wednesday, they'll congratulate themselves on having cut $1.1 billion from the budget in a responsible way. Residents - particularly public school and college students, the poor, the sick and the elderly - will be left with the consequences."Legislators acted as if boom would last forever".
In a crude imbalance, drafts of House and Senate budget-cutting plans preserve $225 million in state road money but slash more than $735 million - nearly three-fourths of the needed cuts - from health and human services and education. The Legislature has decided to hold roads harmless and run over everybody else. ...
For years, legislators have acted as if this day would never come. Flush with rising revenues from booming property values and construction, they refused to reform a sales-tax system riddled with $25 billion in exemptions. To help the rich, they eliminated the state intangibles tax.
Now that a housing market slowdown has forced a correction three months into the budget year, they're unwilling to reconsider bad decisions. ...
It's never easy to cut $1 billion. The Legislature's refusal to consider fair and reasonable tax increases forces cuts to vital services. Legislators will be happy when the budget balances. Florida residents will be left holding the bill.
"Public schools, state universities, community colleges, courts, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, libraries and dozens of other programs are on the chopping block to varying degrees." "Some easy, some hard budget-cutting choices await lawmakers".
Randy Schultz: "Not only does Tallahassee fail to give the legal system enough money, Tallahassee micromanages what money it does give. That's a holdover from the Jeb Bush days that Gov. Crist should end immediately. If he has any doubts, this next story might persuade him. ... When the legal system works, the state benefits. If Tallahassee wants to be tough on crime, Tallahassee has to pay for it." "Judicial branch executioner: The budget ax".
That's Our Mel
"Martinez, whose brief tenure as head of the Republican party has been marked with controversy, could be leaving his party job as soon as February". "Mel Martinez may quit GOP post"
From yesterday: "Cellophane Man" to Hit the Bricks? According to Robert Novak, Florida's own "reactionary ogre", Mel Martinez "who was named general chairman of the Republican Partyonly nine months ago, has advised associates that he will leave the post as soon as somebody clinches the party's presidential nomination ... Many Republicans now grumble that Martinez has been ineffective in that role, partly because he has been drowned out by the many presidential hopefuls." "Mel Martinez to call it quits as RNC chief?"
Remember ... a toll increase is not a tax increase
"Crist has been inundated with proposals from investment bankers on privatization since he took office in January." "I-75 tolls would increase under proposal".
"No body blow appears out of bounds"
"In the fight between Florida Hometown Democracy and the development industry over how -- and whether -- to control sprawl, no body blow appears out of bounds."
After pushing the Legislature unsuccessfully this year to ban the practice of paying signature-gatherers for citizen initiatives, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is now trying to lure away Hometown's paid signature-gatherers with higher salaries."John Kennedy and Aaron Deslatte: Upping ante for signatures".
"It's a free market," says the chamber's director of ballot initiatives, Adam Babington. "People are going to go where they get paid more to do the work. This is just something that happens in business."
"A recent Gallup poll reported that 59 percent of those surveyed have an unfavorable impression of the Republican Party. By a margin of 47-42 percent, they said Democrats will do a better job of protecting against terrorism and military threats. Asked which party would better maintain prosperity, the majority preferred the Democrats, 54-34." "Indicators point downward for GOP in '08".
The Wall Street Journal asks "WSJ: Is Florida Over?" ("The state's plentiful sunshine and open space has attracted "snowbirds" fleeing winter, retirees living out the last chapter of their lives and down-on-their-luck workers in search of jobs. Florida has become a less-appealing destination. Moving company Atlas Van Lines brought 6,700 families into Florida last year and took 8,000 out, the first time it has moved more out than in. The number of people from other states who switch to a Florida driver's license is down more than 8% from last year. And the state's crowded schools actually lost students last year, prompting many counties to cut back on their construction schedule and, in some cases, look to close schools. While foreigners continue to arrive at a rate of about 100,000 year, migration from inside the country is slowing.")
"The two-word reply of your choice"
Carl Hiassen begins with this:
You can be sure you're on the right side of an issue if John Thrasher is on the other.And it only gets better:
Thrasher's deceptive and slimy letter is proof of the panic that has set in among those who've made a fortune raping the state and are afraid of losing their sweet ride.More:
The lobbyist ominously warns that, if the Hometown Democracy amendment passes, ''special interests'' will triumph and ''Big Developers'' will wreck Florida's "scenic beauty.''
Like it's not happening now?
The Hometown Democracy movement undoubtedly was the prime target when pro-development legislators passed a law allowing voters to revoke their signatures from amendment petitions.Much more here: "Land-use initiative facing sneaky tactics".
That opened the door for John Thrasher's specious letter pretending to denounce the very developers for whom he's shilling. In urging citizens to abandon the Hometown Democracy campaign, he blames ''slick lawyers'' for tricking them into putting their names on the petition.
Thrasher himself is one of the slickest lawyers in Tallahassee, and it is he who has stooped to shameless trickery.
His scare letter comes with a postage-paid envelope. Mail it back with the two-word reply of your choice.
Believe it or not:
In April, Orlando police actually sent a team of undercover officers to shut down a coalition of groups - antiwar activists such as Food Not Bombs, CodePink and Young Communists - who were trying to circumvent the law on a technicality: It prohibited feeding more than 25 people, so each group purported to serve only 24."Orlando: Home of unenforceable laws". C'mon Buddy, you can do better than that. Take a look at this: "Lakeland — a small city with a big heart for the homeless".
According to the Orlando Sentinel, plainclothes police shot photos from the bushes and counted how many ladles of vegetable stew the activists served. When the 30th homeless person walked off with a full plate, the police moved in and arrested a 21-year-old college student and put him in jail.
Then police collected a vial of the stew as evidence. It wasn't exactly the kind of duty they had in mind back when they entered the academy.
While Iraq Burns ...
the dopes on the Sun-Sentinel editorial board aid and abet the GOPer scheme to divert attention from Bushco's Iraq debacle (and take a cheap shot at a real newspaper to boot): "Attack ad shows real character of Times".
The St. Pete Times editors: "In another attempt to reconcile his ambitions with his tax phobia, Gov. Charlie Crist is considering whether to essentially lease the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to pay for new professors at the University of Florida. As a financing plan for Florida's future, auctioning off public assets like roads is a dead end. ... The practice of private roads traces largely to developing nations, where poor governments are unable to borrow the capital on their own. That's not the case in Florida, which is why privatization seems only to add a layer of political insulation and private profit." "Private roads a dead end".
Scott Maxwell points out the folly of rampant privatization:
So Charlie Crist is thinking that maybe the state can make more money by letting private companies run the toll roads."Privatizing, polling and packing big guns".
Sure, those companies would probably charge Florida drivers more. But the politicians and company execs will have more money. So you can see why this strikes them as a good idea.
But why stop there?
Just think about how much money we could make if we let Barnes and Noble run our libraries!
Or if Gold's Gym ran the rec centers.
Maybe McDonald's could even take over the free-lunch programs. Yeah, they'd no longer be free. But that seems like a small price for (poor) people to pay in exchange for jacking up income.
Come to think of it, if getting business execs to run certain divisions of the state is such a good idea, maybe we should call up Bill Gates -- and ask him to run the governor's office.
"Don't fall for the ruse"
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Floridians are currently witness to the time-honored but hardly honorable practice of creating the illusion of a crisis where there isn't one. Don't fall for the ruse."
This time its practitioners want us all to believe that the institution of marriage is under attack. Their straw man is gay marriage, and if it ever becomes recognized as valid and legal, they suggest that the pillars of civilization will crumble. ..."Justice for all".
But guess what? Marriage between two members of the same sex is already illegal in this state, and only legislative action - highly unlikely in Florida in the foreseeable future - could change that.
Is it possible that the effort is merely another Republican GOTV scheme? Nah, the GOPers wouldn't have "devious plans" like that, would they?
"Lawmakers head to Tallahassee this week for a round of painful budget-cutting. The state's long-term budget picture is -- at best -- partly cloudy. Gambling is already making serious inroads in the state. That leaves some lawmakers wondering whether there's much point in saying no any longer. And boy, it would be great to have all that casino revenue." "State's budget struggle no excuse for gambling". See also "Slots talks to resume; suits could freeze any deal".
All Hail the Associated Industries of Florida
"Crist's blueprint, drawn largely from a plan being implemented in California, extends more than 40 years into the future."
It would require dramatic reductions in emissions from automobiles and power plants. It would require appliances to use less electricity. And it calls for a big increase in renewable power, such as solar, agricultural-waste and wind.Here's the rub, and it is no surprise: "they [the 'industry officials'] disagree on how to achieve them and whether anyone will suffer undue economic harm as a result." It's the usual suspects - you know, the mainstays of the RPOF:
Experts, environmentalists and industry officials [???] agree the Republican governor's goals can be met.
the state's main business lobby fears it could put Florida at an economic disadvantage. "We'll make ourselves economically noncompetitive," said Barney Bishop, president of Associated Industries of Florida. "Let's go slow, analyze the costs and make sure Florida is not doing this by itself.""Cleaner, greener Florida". See also "Florida must overcome obstacles on way to a cleaner, greener future". More: "Sun shines on Crist, FPL" ("FPL's decision to build a 300-megawatt solar-thermal operation in Florida comes about three months after the utility pooh-poohed solar energy as impractical for the Sunshine State.")
The greatest disagreements come over how to achieve the governor's goals. Utilities say they can be accomplished only by building more nuclear plants. Environmentalists say this is nonsense from companies that understandably prefer selling electricity to conserving it.
"Florida Democratic Chairwoman Karen Thurman took the phone for an hour long teleconference Saturday with state party leaders, saying the party still intended to select 210 delegates to next year's Democratic National Convention, even though national leaders have banned the state's delegation." "Thurman: State Dems won't budge". See also "Who, if anyone, will party with Democrats?".
"As the deadline for complying with their national party's rules passed, Florida Democratic Party leaders searched Saturday for ways to make the Jan. 29 presidential primary matter for their voters and salvage something out of their state convention next month." "Making votes count".
Your Tax Dollars at Work
Mike Thomas: Orange County "Sheriff Kevin Beary is not only loaded for bear but elephants too."
He bought 14 high-powered rifles that could take out a charging Chevy Suburban. The purpose is to blow away "large or exotic animals," says the department."Coming soon: Horton Hears a . . . BANG!".
Say, for example, a special-ops surveillance team detects a gang of crack-dealing hippopotami moving into the area.
The SWAT team mobilizes, only to have one of the beasts refuse to assume the position.
The natural next step is the Taser, which has been shown capable of bringing down a heckling Gator, an Orlando black bear and even Sheriff Beary.
But a hippo, particularly one under the influence of amphetamines, is another matter. Even a .12-gauge shotgun might not do the trick.
What to do?
That's when you need to call in the department's elite Big Game Unit. Members quickly don their ninja masks and pith helmets, break out the .499-caliber Alexander Arm Beowulf rifles, and pluck off the hippos from 300 yards using the laser sights. ...
Such firepower is well worth $100,000, even at a time when tax cuts are threatening law enforcement budgets.