"The biggest tax-cut vote in state history has been blocked from the Jan. 29 ballot, for now, after a Leon County judge ruled that the Legislature's proposed constitutional amendment language was ''confusing'' and ''misleading'' to voters."
''Try as this court has,'' Circuit Judge Charles Francis wrote Monday, ``this Court cannot find that the language is clear, concise, unambiguous and fair.''"Judge rejects tax-cut wording, halts vote". See also "Judge rejects January vote on property tax reform", "Judge pulls property tax amendment off ballot", "Tax-relief plan tossed off ballot", "Judge rejects proposed tax-reform amendment", "It's a bad deal, Weston mayor says", "Judge: Tax ballot misleads" and "Ruling throws tax vote into tailspin".
The reason: The Legislature's proposed ballot summary didn't tell voters that they would be phasing out the popular Save Our Homes tax cap limiting taxable homestead value increases at 3 percent a year. Instead, the ballot summary said voters would be ''preserving'' and ''revising'' Save Our Homes.
Also, the ballot summary said ''everyone'' would get a minimum $50,000 homestead tax exemption. But the new exemption was meant to apply only to those who would opt into the new system -- which calls for a maximum $195,000 exemption on a home with a $500,000 assessed value.
The Legislature is sure to appeal or fix the ballot language in the Oct. 3 special lawmaking session concerning state budget cuts.
The man who brought the suit, Weston Mayor Eric Hersh, urged the Legislature to quickly correct the error, which stemmed from the rushed vote and secret negotiations that produced the tax-cut package at a June lawmaking session.
The decision is "sending shock waves through a legislature that now faces the tough question of appealing the decision or recasting the ballot question." "Judge knocks property tax off ballot".
The People's Governor
"Among those sitting down with Crist: representatives from Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, Darden Restaurants, State Farm Insurance Cos., St. Joe Co., GrayRobinson, and Broad and Cassel. Officials from the University of Central Florida will also attend the meeting, which will be held at Darden's corporate headquarters in Orlando. The governor's office said the meeting will be closed to the public." "Crist to meet with business heavyweights". See also "Crist huddles with big business elites".
Early Primary Fight Continues
"One day after Florida Democratic officials said they would defy the national party and press ahead with plans for a Jan.29 presidential primary, the consequences became a bit clearer. One early casualty: the state party's Oct.26-28 convention in Orlando, which had been expected to draw the entire Democratic presidential field to Walt Disney World. Instead, the candidates will likely be no-shows." "Fallout looms for state Democrats on early primary".
"State Democrats, who defied the Democratic National Committee Sunday by sticking to the Jan. 29 presidential primary election despite the threatened loss of all their delegates, got a muted response Monday. Or more precisely, no response at all." "State Democrats' decision met with silence".
"Voters trying to understand the brouhaha over Florida's early presidential primary need only refer to, ahem, the Democratic National Committee's Delegate Selection Rule 20c(1b). ... the arcane precept is being dusted off now that Florida faces sanctions from the DNC for moving up its primary to Jan. 29. The DNC's calendar allows only four smaller states to vote that early. The penalties become official at 5 p.m. Saturday. Florida delegates will be excluded from the 2008 Democratic convention. And a pledge signed by all of the major candidates not to campaign in scofflaw states goes into effect." "Rule keeps candidates on a tight leash".
Nevertheless, "Democratic Party leaders confident state won't be penalized": " Florida Democratic Party leaders confidently predicted Monday that the state will have a full delegation voting at the party's national convention next year, despite threatened penalties for having a primary on Jan. 29."
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board writes that "Florida Democrats showed a lot of courage this past weekend in standing up to the Democratic National Committee." "Florida Democrats right to stand up to DNC". The St. Pete Times editors chime in with this: "Florida Democrats show spine". Howard Troxler says "Don't woo us later if you don't love us now".
"She has battled velociraptors, pterodactyls and T-Rexes. Laura Dern's next challenge: Taking on Katherine Harris -- or rather her persona."
So says Variety, which reported Monday that Dern has been cast as Harris in HBO Films' upcoming production of Recount, a re-telling of 2000's election mess."Recounting Florida politics 2000 Election mess gets HBO treatment".
The cast appears to be relatively star-studded. Aside from Dern, who starred in the political satire Citizen Ruth in between Jurassic Parks, Variety says Kevin Spacey is set to play Democratic attorney Ron Klain; Denis Leary will portray Democratic consultant Michael Whouley. And playing the battling ex-secretaries of state are Tom Wilkinson as James Baker and John Hurt as Warren Christopher. ...
There seems to be some merit in having someone well-versed in comedy doing a piece on Florida politics.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Caving into unreasonable demands from developers. Enviromental jewels sold off. Endangered wildlife fighting for their existence. Can this latest onslaught be fixed? It's all in a special five-part series, Florida's Shame." "Florida's Shame editorials and multimedia".
The Rules are Different Here
"A national advocacy group rapped Florida in a report released Tuesday for being the only state this year to cut its overall prekindergarten budget, even though per-student spending increased by $117, or 4.6 percent." "Advocacy groups rap Florida for cutting pre-kindergarten budget".
"Who pays lobbyist's bills? Maybe you"
Scott Maxwell writes that many have expressed irritation about former House Speaker John Thrasher's "attempts to trick voters into thinking that the Hometown Democracy effort to slow growth in Florida was being led by evil special interests -- when, in fact, Thrasher is actually the lobbyist for big business in this fight." He writes that "if you're interested in who pays Thrasher's bills, you might also be interested in knowing that there's a good chance it's you. That's because Thrasher is not only a lobbyist for big business, but also local governments. Unrelated to Thrasher's fight against Hometown Democracy, the city of Orlando has paid his Southern Strategy Group $72,367.90 this fiscal year alone, according to a spokesman for Mayor Buddy Dyer. Thrasher also represents Brevard and Marion counties, according to state records. And the Southern Strategy firm has a $144,000-a-year contract coming before the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority later this month, according to that agency." More here.
"The Republican Party of Florida is using the feud between state and national Democrats over Florida's early presidential primary as an opportunity to convert voters to the GOP, saying in a mailer that Democrats' votes won't count in the election. The mailer, to go out this week, quotes Florida Democrats criticizing the Democratic National Committee's decision to strip the state of its delegates. The party is using voter data to target thousands of Democrats it believes would be receptive to the message, said party spokeswoman Erin VanSickle." "State GOP uses Democrats' primary dispute to seek new members".
"Grave political miscalculation"?
"When PBS broadcaster Tavis Smiley moderates a nationally televised Republican presidential debate Thursday, he'll be staring at five empty lecterns. ... The Rev. Randolph Bracy Jr., president of the Orange County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the Republicans are making a grave political miscalculation." "Leading GOP candidates snub black-issues debate".
"Report: Homicides and robberies in Fla. rise". See also "2006 Florida County-by-County Crime Data" and "Violent crime on the rise".
"Crist's proposed gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe is unleashing a power struggle with the GOP-led Legislature over who has final say in the landmark change in state gaming law." "Crist in gambling showdown".
"U.S. Rep. Ric Keller, R-Orlando, held a fundraiser Monday headlined by Roy Blunt, U.S. House minority whip. As far as headliners go, Blunt ranks several notches below Keller's big-name helper last cycle: Dick Cheney. So it's hard to tell whether national Republicans aren't willing to invest as much star power in his race -- or whether they're simply so confident about his re-election chances that they're saving the real firepower for candidates who need it more. Keller, as you may remember, has more announced challengers than he can count on one hand." "To be Blunt about it . . .".
Better Late Than Never
"Florida's no-fault auto insurance system probably will expire for at least a couple of days before lawmakers get to it." "No-fault auto system faces legislative blip".
Wheels of Commerce
"The problem of overweight trucks is worse in Florida than in other states -- because Florida's fines are so low. "
For more than 50 years, state law has set a fine of 5 cents per pound for excess weight -- a penalty that amounts to a gentle wrist-slap for trucking firms. It's not enough -- especially when balanced against increased pressure to overload trucks because of higher fuel costs and a shortage of drivers. The state also sells overweight permits for $500, a fee that's also ridiculously low."Big wheels tearing up Florida's roads".
There's little doubt that companies are taking advantage of Florida's laxity, treating the fines and fees as an acceptable part of doing business. In random inspections last year at the Port of Miami, more than 40 percent of the trucks coming into the port were overweight, and most had not purchased permits.
Someone has to pay to fix the damage these trucks do -- and, in most cases, that means taxpayers foot the bill.
"The Florida House Democratic caucus didn’t waste any time blasting an idea floated by Gov. Charlie Crist’s office to privatize some toll roads to help balance the budget." "House Democrats blast Crist's toll road plan".
"Last week Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, one of two Democrats elected statewide, proposed legislation to set up a system of regional primaries that would take effect during the 2012 election cycle. His idea merits quick attention. Nelson's bill provides for six presidential primary dates, with at least one state from six regions of the country represented. The order of the states in each region would rotate every four years." "Congressional Action Needed To Smooth Primary Process".
Poor Mel's in a jam yet again:
Florida’s Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson says President Bush will see Congress override his veto if he follows through with his expected veto of a massive water-projects bill. ..."And Speaking of a Nelson Threat….". More: "Despite veto threat, Congress passes $20 billion water plan" and "Senate approves $23B water projects bill".
Nelson then spoke to his colleagues about how the $20 billion bill includes authorization (some $2 billion worth) for Everglades cleanup. The bill also would authorized more than 900 other projects nationwide, including $6.25 million toward a project to boost Hillsborough County’s ability to provide reclaimed water to its customers.
But Bush Administration officials say the president is ready to veto the measure because of its total $20 billion price-tag, which it characterizes as too high.
Florida’s Republican senator, Mel Martinez, said in a statement released after the Senate’s passage that, “I share the President’s concerns on excessive spending. There are some things in this bill that are not pretty in terms of government spending.”
“But at the end of the day, as a Floridian, Everglades restoration is such an integral part of this (water projects) bill we have to take the good with the bad, saids Martinez.
"Twenty-five loggerhead sea turtles are back in the wild thanks to volunteers who gathered Monday on the shores of the Indian River Lagoon to send the threatened turtles home from a three-year research project on fishhooks." "Loggerhead turtles returned to the wild".