"Imagine you are part of a group pushing a citizens' initiative, and you want to gauge public support for your proposal. It turns out Florida law bars you from finding out. Issue-oriented polling by political committees is against the law, according to an advisory legal opinion by Florida's Division of Elections."
Yes, this is ridiculous and patently unconstitutional. Yet a spokesman for the agency says it stands by its warning. "We believe very strongly that the Florida statute does not allow issue-based polling by committees," Sterling Ivey said. He also noted that the way the law reads indicates that political parties and candidates are also barred from polling the public on issues. ..."Ban on polling must go".
Obviously, this is a glitch in elections law that has to be fixed as soon as possible, maybe even in the upcoming special session. Asking likely voters about their views on issues is a staple of modern political campaigns. It is also a form of political activity protected by the federal and state Constitutions.
Brains Might Be Helpful
"Charlie Crist has made politics look easy. The most affable politician was following Jeb Bush, one of the most arrogant. On his way to winning last year in a landslide, Gov. Crist said all the right things about lowering taxes and insurance premiums. After taking office, it would be easy: Follow through on those promises; actually listen to good bipartisan advice on issues such as the environment, education and child protection that Gov. Bush had approached with ideological rigidity; and rely on an ample budget. But what looked easy now looks hard. Beginning this month, Gov. Crist faces problems that affability alone won't solve." "Sorry, Charlie: New act needed to solve state's problems". See also "Conundrum" ("The tension's mounting, as the Sept. 18 special legislative session draws nigh and state agencies, as well as an array of Floridians who carry out various public-private programs mandated by state law, are scrambling to live under an across-the-board 10-percent spending cut that may simply not be feasible in many instances.").
"His Sister Is A Thespian In New York, and His Brother Matriculated"
"We're almost a year away from the 2008 elections, and it's not easy to contemplate how ugly things may get, judging from what seems to be a trend toward political mud-slinging. But make no mistake: Politicking in Florida's past was not a polite preoccupation. If it's any comfort, the nagging negativity of some campaigns today is small, rotten potatoes compared with the senatorial slugfest that shook Florida in 1950." "Legendary Senate race kicked off in O-town".
Political Opportunism Coming Home to Roost
"Gov. Charlie Crist and state lawmakers made a promise two months ago that if voters approve a property tax-cut plan on Jan. 29, the politicians would protect schools from billions of lost education money."
Now as Florida's economy cools and legislators prepare to cut up to $400 million from education, the politicians are realizing they're going to have a hard time keeping their word -- so they've come up with a different promise."State lawmakers' tax pledges run into reality".
It goes like this: If the tax-cut amendment passes, it will revive the housing market and re-ignite the state economy, which will mean bigger tax collections for schools.
''Our greatest opportunity to increase revenues . . . is to reduce property taxes,'' Crist said last week. He believes the amendment to super-size homestead exemptions and phase out the Save Our Homes tax-cap system will put more money into consumers' hands and ``kick-start the economy.''
Trouble is, nobody knows if the tax-cut amendment will re-start anything, and that uncertainty is clouding prospects for the amendment, which needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.
''I'd be very skeptical,'' said Tony Villamil, a Miami economist who was the chief of former Gov. Jeb Bush's council of economic advisors. ``It may help on the margins, but there aren't any economists who will be predicting this will re-ignite the real estate market.''
And then there are the cheerleaders, like the Tampa Trib editors: "This year's imperfect reform of Florida's property taxes is a watershed event. The historic trend of automatically higher property taxes has at last been broken. Taxes aren't dropping like a rock as Gov. Charlie Crist predicted, but for the first time in decades, most homeowners' taxes are not going up." "Tax Tide Finally Stops Rising For Florida's Homeowners".
"Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards angered Florida Democrats on Saturday by pledging to skip campaigning here and in other states that break party rules by holding early primaries." "Candidates vow to avoid Florida over early vote". See also "Most Democratic candidates to boycott". See also "Top Democrats skip out on Florida", "3 more pledge to skip Florida", "Democratic Candidates Say They’ll Boycott Florida Primary", "Dem Prez candidates won't campaign in Fla - wonder if they still want our money?", "Democrats boycott Florida race" and "Nearly every Democratic presidential hopeful will boycott Florida".
"Tom Vilsack and Tommy Thompson have come and gone. John McCain went from front-runner to runner-up. And Fred Thompson is finally getting in. The 2008 presidential campaign is barreling ahead at breakneck speed -- but often in unexpected directions, as with Saturday's decision by most Democratic candidates to halt campaigning in Florida." "Florida's early primary runs into a few more hurdles".
On the lawsuit: "Local Democrat Sues DNC In Primary Date Fight". See also "Nelson’s View Not Altered By Lawsuit".
The Palm Beach Post editors say: "Call the parties' bluff".
Florida's Rock Star
"Congresswoman Kathy Castor returned to Tampa for the August congressional recess glad to be home and eager to discuss what she's been up to since leaving for Washington in January."
She's a particularly busy freshman. She appears to be a favorite of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and with the Democrats in control, received two plum committee assignments."Castor On The Fast Track".
The Rules Committee has given her insight into the legislative process and kept her focused on particular bills; the Armed Services Committee, and particularly her position on the terrorism subcommittee, has opened her eyes to how scary the world can be.
"Headed down a nastier road"?
"Could the fight over the growth-slowing Florida Hometown Democracy amendment be headed down a nastier road. Last month, veteran Tallahassee political lawyer John French created a group called Save Our Constitution. The committee, which also lists Associated Industries of Florida president Barney Bishop as its chair, hopes to utilize a new state law that lets groups blanket voters who signed a signature petition with mailers and phone calls to get them to revoke their support.
Their target: Hometown Democracy, which wants to force developers to essentially take their projects before local voters for approval." "Hometown Democracy draws a potent foe".
"This week House leadership released its 2006-2008 seating chart, and there aren't many surprises unless your name is JC Planas. The Miami Republican now sits on the fourth row, stuck between a disgraced Republican and a Democrat. The new seating has fueled speculation that Planas has fallen out of favor with his Miami Dade County delegation colleague, House Speaker Marco Rubio." "Florida House does musical chairs -- again.".
Sink Sees "Bigger Picture"
"After enduring years of Republican domination in Florida politics, Democrats have a foothold in the Capitol with Alex Sink as the state's chief financial officer." "Top Florida Democrat sees the bigger picture".
And It Gets Worse
"With much fanfare, the state created the My Safe Florida Home program more than a year ago. It developed at a snail's pace, left tens of thousands of homeowners on a waiting list for almost a year and began operating under an illegally awarded contract. " "Few see benefits of hyped program".
"Money will flow"
"One of the more active state lawmakers this summer has been Sen. Mike Haridopolos, the young Indialantic Republican who fronted the Senate's property tax negotiations with the House and appears to have the votes to become Senate President in three years." "Haridopolos: money will flow for property tax debate".
Beware of Political "Creativity"
"Welcome to budget-cutting Tallahassee style, where the economy is limping, the state revenue is $1.1 billion short of its current spending plan, and nervous agency chiefs are getting creative." "Lawmakers get creative with plans to trim budget".
"Suspended City Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom, whose role in an $18 million sludge contract led to calls for tougher ethics rules, heads to trial this week." "Hollywood commissioner faces corruption trial".
"Running away from the immigration debate" and the Hispanic Vote
Beth Reinhard: "A history-making presidential debate in Spanish at the University of Miami among GOP contenders had to be called off this week when seven of the eight candidates cited 'scheduling conflicts.'"
At least Rudy Giuliani's sock drawer will be organized, and Mitt Romney's hair will be clean. (Maybe they have more important things to do on Sept. 16, but their lack of specificity leaves them open to jest.)"Univisión reaches 1.5 million viewers each night. It's the fifth-largest television network in the country, behind the major broadcast outlets, but ahead of cable channels like CNN and MSNBC, which have already aired debates."
Besides, all eight of the Democratic candidates managed to squeeze the Univisión debate into their equally chaotic schedules. They will face off on Sept. 9. ...This might have a bit to do with it:
''This shows the lack of priority Hispanics play in the Republican agenda, bottom line,'' said Miami political consultant Fred Balsera, who worked on Hispanic outreach for Democrat Jim Davis' campaign for governor in 2006. ``They're very good at putting out paid messages to Hispanics, but they don't want to answer difficult questions when the cameras are rolling.''
Sure, that's Democratic spin. But at a time when South Florida voter registration statistics show the GOP losing ground among Hispanics, at a time when the heated debate over immigration left some Hispanics with a bad taste in their mouths, why would the GOP let the Democrats have the spin room at the debate all to themselves?
The only Republican candidate who agreed to the debate was John McCain, who also happens to be the only Republican who championed legislation that would have allowed illegal immigrants to earn citizenship."GOP stars dodge debate for Hispanics". See also "GOP Hurting Itself With Latinos".
''I don't think that's a coincidence,'' said Joe Garcia, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, who helped pull the Democratic forum together. ``Why else would the candidates say no to television cameras when they are usually like moths to flames?''
Giuliani and Romney representatives dismissed the idea that they are running away from the immigration debate. It will be up to Hispanic voters to decide if they are running for their votes.
Much more at this post by Progressive Florida: "Editorial Slams Republicans: GOP Hurting Itself With Latinos".
"Cardenas: Thompson To Make Race More “Competitive”".
"Let's Not Forget"
George Diaz: "In budget pinch, let's not forget Alzheimer's fight".
"Florida's 'Forgotten Coast'"
"Here in the heart of Florida's ''Forgotten Coast,'' the same political battles that have polarized the country and the rest of the state can also be found: worries about the war in Iraq, concern over a lack of health insurance for many people, and a belief that property taxes are too high."
''We're taxed to death, we have no voice in government, we're told what to do and how to do it and when to do it, and I think we need to go back to freedom of the people,'' said Dolores Roux, the owner of Dolores Sweet Shop in downtown Apalachicola. ``I don't think you should have to pay taxes on your home, period.''"'We're taxed to death'".
But despite her anti-government fervor and her reluctant belief that the war in Iraq is necessary, Roux is solidly backing Hillary Clinton, saying that she likes her stands and that ``she doesn't get ruffled.''
Roux has no plans to support any Republican candidate, proclaiming proudly: ``Southern ladies don't vote Republican.''
On the surface, this is solid Democratic territory: nearly 5,500 registered Democrats to just 1,500 Republicans.
But come Election Day, it's not easy to predict how these Democrats will vote.
A majority of Franklin County voters have twice gone with President Bush, but other GOP candidates haven't fared as well. GOP winners such as Jeb Bush in 2002, Mel Martinez in 2004, and Bill McCollum in last year's attorney general's race failed to carry the county. Democrat Bill Nelson crushed Katherine Harris in the U.S. Senate race, but Republican Charlie Crist beat Jim Davis by 127 votes.
"The heart of a political conundrum"
"Up from the St. Johns River and the few Victorian homes with carriage steps lining brick streets, a little modern shop called deSigns lies at the edge of a spotless downtown and at the heart of a political conundrum: why so many Deep South Democrats vote like Republicans."
The best answer: That's their tradition."'We vote the person,' not the party".
And in a place like Palatka and Putnam County, insulated from the high-growth coast and major media markets, tradition trumps political party whether you live off Cracker Swamp Road or work on St. Johns Avenue. ...
Judging by the barbershop banter here, Floridians feel fatigued with the war and empty political promises, concerned about the economy, nervous about the effects of the Legislature's proposed property-tax cuts, split on what to do about immigration, and focused more on local affairs than on the Washington races.
The Florida Democratic Party is taking note. It's planning to seriously target the Palatka-based legislative seat drawn and held by the GOP, hoping that a win in Putnam County will help Democrats learn how to overturn years of Republican gains not just in Tallahassee, but all across Florida and the Deep South.
The Democrats' candidate to succeed termed-out state Rep. Joe Pickens is a Dunkin' Donuts shop owner, accountant and former county commissioner, Linda Myers. The key to a win: being a good neighbor, not a partisan.
"Rich Crotty was looking forward to the meeting he had scheduled last week with Fred Thompson -- right up until the moment Thompson canceled it."
Crotty needn't feel insulted, though. It wasn't just him. Thompson canceled his whole trip to Central Florida, including a fundraiser that local supporters, such as lawyer Tico Perez, had planned."GOP still waiting for Sen. Thompson to steal the show".
The scuttled trip to Orlando seems symbolic of the actor-turned-U.S. senator's probably-maybe-he'll-let-us-know-soon presidential campaign.
"Lake County commissioners in the coming weeks are going to get a recommendation from the School Board to double the impact fee on a new house from $7,055 to $14,646." "Those cashing in on growth must pay for it".
A Mixed Bag
"The annual Labor Day report on "The State of Working Florida" looks at the performance of Florida's economy with a focus on how working men and women are faring in employment, wages, benefits and other aspects of work life. This year's report finds that employment and wages have improved, while benefits for Florida workers continue to lag behind most other states." "A Snapshot of Florida Workers".
The "Ultimate Goal"
Even though the proposed amendment allows homesteaded homeowners to keep Save Our Homes' 3 percent cap on their assessment, lawmakers' ultimate goal is to get rid of it."Lowdown on low taxes has doubters".
They want to entice voters to give up the yearly cap in return for exempting a much larger portion of their homes' value from taxes.
All homeowners who live in Florida more than half the year can claim a $25,000 exemption. Under the constitutional amendment, the owner of a $200,000 home could claim a $150,000 exemption. The owner of a home between $201,000 and $500,000 could receive an extra 15 percent off.
Only homeowners who have the Save Our Homes cap could keep it. Anyone buying a home would automatically receive the super-exemption.
Randy Schultz: "When Alberto Gonzales was in the spotlight this year for the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, people had lost their jobs. Yet from what Mr. Gonzales said, all responsibility rested with anyone except the man who had been running the Justice Department." "In Gonzales vs. Reno, the integrity won".
"As lawmakers prepare for a special session in a few weeks to cut more than $1 billion from the state budget, Gov. Charlie Crist and some lawmakers say an agreement allowing the Seminole Tribe to expand its casino games could help ease the state's financial woes." "Can gambling close the gap?".