Back "to the back rooms"
"With initial agreement on an $11 billion property tax cutting plan in tatters, House leaders threw in the towel Thursday and decided to start all over. With that, negotiations moved from the House and Senate floor to the back rooms, as most lawmakers prepared to go home for the weekend." "Lawmakers go back to the drawing board". See also "No Property Tax Deal On Table", "Property tax overhaul in peril; deal fizzles with time running out", "Time, tax deal fade", "Lawmakers' tax plans don't mesh", "House, Senate, take break on slow path to property tax cut", "Property tax talks, near end, hit snag" and "Florida lawmakers frustrated -- no tax deal".
The Tampa Trib editors argue that "Lawmakers Should Put An End To Their Property Tax Farce": " it's clear that political expediency, not the long-term welfare of the state, much less taxpayers, is their overriding concern. Most lawmakers simply want to be able to brag that they cut property taxes. Little thought is being given to the costs, consequences or inequities of the many proposals being batted about."
And then there's this: "Largely unnoticed so far in the din of back-and-forth, tax-cut politics in the Capitol is one piece of potential dynamite: the destruction, even the actual reversal, of the popular Save Our Homes protection for homeowners." "At issue: The death of Save Our Homes".
"Divisive partisan politics"
The Orlando Sentinel editors bemoans the SCHIP vote: "Central Florida Republicans -- Tom Feeney and Ric Keller chief among them -- ought to be among those leaders who will put aside rhetoric and work to improve the necessary State Children's Health Insurance Program."
So far, these members of Congress have chosen divisive partisan politics over the program ... that now provides health-care coverage for about 253,000 Florida children -- nearly 50,000 of them here in Central Florida. The latest estimates show that 455,000 children in this state need health insurance.And then there's Bushco's waterboy:
18 Republican senators, including conservatives such as Utah's Orrin Hatch and Iowa's Chuck Grassley, voted for this and have fought for it. It's too bad Florida's Sen. Mel Martinez was not among them."Find middle ground". The News-Journal editors:
Thirteen votes short. Thirteen votes away from ensuring health coverage for 10 million low-income children across the United States. Thirteen representatives who willfully bought into the misleading, distortion-filled campaign by the White House, and at least two local representatives who almost certainly know better.Read why here: "Mica, Feeney fail children in SCHIP veto override fight".
U.S. Reps. John Mica and Tom Feeney have no excuse for their vote Thursday.
Consider this dopey rhetoric: "Republicans complained the bill cost too much and was a step toward 'socialized medicine' because it would enroll middle-income children." "Martinez, Feeney offer cheaper SCHIP proposal".
How convenient ...
"The state Republican convention this weekend not only presents an opportunity for delegates to weigh in with their favorite candidates." "Break time comes at just the right time".
March on Tallahassee
"Members of the NAACP from around Florida will march from the Capitol to the U.S. Attorney's office Tuesday in an attempt to bring pressure for federal charges against those cleared in the boot-camp trial in Panama City last week." "NAACP plans Tuesday march in Tallahassee".
That lonely feeling
"A Florida boycott by most Democratic presidential candidates will lower the celebrity wattage of the primary campaign in Broward, the state's Democratic stronghold." "Boycott has Broward Democrats feeling neglected".
"There are plenty of reasons to be apprehensive about the 2008 election in Palm Beach County." "Election storm warning".
The profit motive
"Federal investigators raided three for-profit college campuses in South Florida this week in a U.S. Education Department probe. ... The office generally investigates allegations of waste, fraud and abuse of federal education dollars." "3 Florida college campuses raided in federal investigation".
Not ready for prime time
Seeking the Reagan vote, Freddie does the "misspoke" thing: "Thompson makes it clear: No drilling in the Everglades".
"Osceola County commissioners should stop invoking Jesus in prayers at public meetings after a church-state watchdog group complained about the practice, their attorney has advised them. At least one commissioner has refused. If called to lead the invocation, Commissioner Paul Owen said he would continue his tradition of praying 'in Christ's name.'" "Osceola leaders are told: Keep Jesus out of prayers".
"Florida may have to shell out $600,000 to print new driver-safety handbooks, thanks to a special-interest battle in the Capitol."
Ponta Vedra Beach-based National Safety Commission has been printing the manuals for free in return for exclusive advertising rights in the 1 million handbooks that go out to motorists statewide."Driving schools, politicians keep battle going over safety books".
The company signed the contract with the state two years ago under a privatization push by former Gov. Jeb Bush. But rival driving schools, championed by state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, have managed to scuttle the deal.
Last spring, Fasano inserted what's called "proviso" language in the budget ordering the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to print the handbook without advertising.
Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the language but left in place about $600,000 Fasano had included in the budget to pay for printing new handbooks.
This summer, Florida Providers of Traffic Safety Inc., which employed Fasano's former aide as a lobbyist and had ties to one of his business partners, filed a lawsuit that argued Crist couldn't veto the "proviso" language without also removing the money.
Leon County Judge John Cooper agreed in a hearing Wednesday, and ordered the veto expunged.
"The governor could have vetoed both or neither, but not the proviso without the appropriation," said the lawyer for the group, Kelly Overstreet Johnson.
The ruling is the latest -- but not likely the last -- chapter in the fight between Fasano and National Safety Commission President Ken Underwood, who has filed his own lawsuit challenging the legality of the proviso language.
"To improve performance numbers"?
"The brutal death of a toddler this week, allegedly at the hands of her caregiver, has reignited child-welfare administrators' fears that Miami investigators and supervisors routinely rushed suspected abuse cases to closure to improve performance numbers." "Was DCF too quick to close cases?"
A fine idea at the time
"Samuel Lopez, the only Broward Democrat running for a state House seat in a Republican-dominated district, has dropped out of the race." "Broward Democrat withdraws from House race".
Is this news?
"Jeb Bush Jr. supporting Giuliani in GOP presidential contest".
Election season is upon us
"If Republicans don't think their presidential candidates are on the conservative extreme of issues important to them, Democrats are reminding them there is another choice: Katherine Harris."
The Florida Democratic Party is launching a parody Web site that will feature videos of Republican presidential candidates' statements on issues like immigration, foreign policy, taxes and others. The idea is if they want someone on the far right on any of those topics, Harris is their candidate."Democrats want Katherine Harris drafted for president".
"It's comparing her to the candidates on the Republican platform - who hates immigrants more, who will fight to reduce the number of children with health insurance, et cetera," said Mark Bubriski, a spokesman for the state party. ...
On http://www.draftkatherineharris.com , the party has posted a video that opens with the question "Worried about the Republican field?" It then shows Republican candidates criticizing each other or bumbling their words. The video rolls out the message: "Real Americans need a candidate ... a candidate with courage ... the courage to be ... a real Republican."
The screen then shows an extreme close-up of Harris' lips and the image gradually pulls back to show her whole face.
It's a tease for material that will be posted throughout the weekend to coincide with the Republican Party of Florida's "Presidency IV" weekend, during which candidates will address activists and participate in a debate.
Your tax dollars at work
"Here's how it works: An Internet phone device dials from 20,000 to as many as 40,000 phone numbers in the lawmaker's district, at about 100 numbers per second."
The numbers are culled from voter-registration lists and must not be skewed by political party because congressional funds pay the $2,500 to $3,500 tab."Lawmakers go dialing for voters via Internet".
The voter hears a message from the lawmaker asking whether he or she wants to join a town-hall meeting immediately. Pressing "pound" puts the voter in electronic line to ask a question. The lawmaker sees a list of waiting questioners and runs through as many as he has time for. Anyone who doesn't get to ask a question can leave a message and get a response.
Lawmakers hold the meetings on weeknights when they're in Washington, and they usually last an hour or two. The monthly sessions are in addition to i
"He gives kids reasons to care about politics".
Plus ... you don't have to interact with other humans
"Once controversial, the school is now seen as a fixture on the educational landscape, and good preparation for the increasing number of online options in college." "Soaring enrollment marks Florida Virtual School's first decade".
"Florida's prison chief wants to abolish the St. Petersburg nonprofit company that has provided work and job training for inmates for 26 years and survived more than its share of controversy."
Corrections Secretary James McDonough says the company, known as PRIDE, provides too few jobs for inmates, pays its top executives too much and has outlived its usefulness.And isn't this nice:
"I believe I can run it better," McDonough said. "I'm trying to maximize the number of inmates that we get to work. It's a key part of re-entry, and it reduces idleness in prisons."
Chief executive Jack Edgemon was paid $200,000 last year and a $50,000 bonus."McDonough's determination to abolish PRIDE could become highly political."
PRIDE endured a scandal in recent years by losing $19-million in loans to a series of spinoff companies without fully informing the Legislature.
PRIDE has friends in the Legislature and will mobilize a fierce lobbying effort to stay alive. Among its arguments will be that in tight budget times, it makes no sense to expand the size of government. ..."Battle brews over Florida's idle inmates".
But the final decision will rest with the Republican-controlled Legislature in the 2008 regular session. Many lawmakers may be skeptical that state government can run a program better than a public-private entity.
A bigger problem may be that as inmate work programs expand, they will provide stiffer competition with free enterprise. That's a recipe for controversy in a Legislature dominated by pro-business Republicans, where the collective voices of business lobby groups often speak loudly [('ya think?)].
McDonough insists that the state can run inmate work programs better and at no increase in cost to Florida taxpayers. How? By using [the 'nonprofit'] PRIDE's profit margin, nearly $7-million last year.
The essence of PRIDE's fight for survival is that the state can't possibly do it for less.