"Befuddled" GOPer Tallahassee "Toga party"
The GOPer leadership in Tallahassee can't seem to get its act together: "Plan eludes befuddled lawmakers". "The compromise property-tax plan that was supposed to be fast-tracked through the Legislature is no longer a compromise plan -- or on a fast track -- as legislators Tuesday moved in drastically different directions."
The Senate began by watering down a break for low-income seniors that House leaders wanted."State property-tax compromise falls apart". See also "In tax plan, many prongs, and questions", "Quick deal on property tax relief eludes legislators", "Sales tax swap is back in play" and "Dueling proposals curb hopes of settling on tax plan".
The House did more dismantling when it voted to raise the state sales tax one penny to replace homestead property taxes for schools and to cap increases to the values of non-homestead properties.
'All we're missing is John Belushi screaming, 'Toga party,' '' said House Democratic leader Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, comparing the disarray to an Animal House frat party. He'll offer a rival plan Wednesday.
Each chamber characterized the other's changes as deal-breakers, though leaders said they were confident a deal would be stitched back together. Still, they couldn't say how or by what method as they take up the bills Wednesday and start negotiations.
"As property taxes have soared in Florida, owners of businesses, second homes and rental properties have pleaded for relief. But when state lawmakers move forward today with plans to cut billions of dollars in taxes, those property owners might not get the help they want." "Businesses among likely tax-relief losers".
More: "House panel extends 'Save Our Homes'" and "Tax fight pits schools against homeowners".
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board sums things up: "Things are not going well downtown. The parties are in a standoff that shows for the first time in years that the minority party has a little clout. Hanging together, Democrats can stop a constitutional amendment from winning the 'supermajority vote' needed in both chambers before it can go forward."
Democrats are holding out largely on behalf of the public schools, which they fear will be unjustly harmed, but there are enough ideological brush fires going on to keep Smokey Bear from heading into hibernation."K.I.S.S.: Declare victory and go home".
At this point in the special session, it appears that whatever jumble of hasty bright ideas are manipulated into an amendment proposal, it's entirely possible the voters will refuse the offer.
For the first time, three of five Floridians will have to agree at the polls instead of the simple majority required before on constitutional changes.
One critic grumbled that it looks as if the property tax proposal would provide relief equal to the cost of about two sushi dinners.
Certainly the polls are showing that voters are not impressed on the grounds that tax relief concepts put forward to date are one, confusing; two, still unfair in that homesteaders are given the greatest shelter; and three, confusing.
Florida is in trouble largely because it has gotten in the habit of governing by constitutional amendment rather than statutory law. Statutes can be adjusted according to the economy and political will instead of being cast in marble, as with Save Our Homes, the 3-percent cap on the annual rise in property taxes, which was once somebody's sop to the voters.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "When it comes to Florida's public schools, the Legislature considers 'hold harmless' to mean 'hold him while I hit him again.'" "Tallahassee's sucker punch".
Oh yeah, the Dems: "Dems gotta brand new tax plan (or two)" and "House Democrats: We won't roll on prop taxes".
Howard Troxler on all this: "Weirdness in the Capitol" and "Don't ask what's in it; just say it's good".
"South Carolina was poised to hold the first presidential primary in the south on Jan. 29, until Florida bumped up its primary to the same day. Getting the candidates to boycott Florida apparently isn't enough -- now South Carolina Democrats want a three-day head start." "S.C. to kick more dust in Florida's face". More: "SC Democrats Want to Vote on Jan. 26".
"Despite a backlash from the Democratic party that nullifies state delegates' primary votes, supporters are still opening their wallets to help out their favorite candidate." "Clinton leads in Florida fundraising". More: "Spurned Fla. donors still paying up".
The Tampa Trib editors: "The state prison system has been told to trim $3 million from its drug treatment programs. And cuts to community treatment centers loom large because of state-mandated cuts in local government spending. It's politically easy to cut treatment programs for drug and alcohol abusers, since they have no advocacy group beyond the caregivers who see the difference that treatment can make. But it's a risky strategy, given the carnage that substance abuse creates on our roads, in our emergency rooms, in our schools and in our families." "State Must Be Careful With Drug-Treatment Funding Cuts".
And so it goes
"The second chapter to an international custody dispute comes to a halt -- before it even begins -- as both sides placed their bets with the court of appeals." "Appeal deals blow to Cuban father".
Osceola County single member districts
"Facing a possible lawsuit, the Osceola County School Board agreed Tuesday to let the public decide whether it wants to have single-member districts or keep the current system of electing them countywide. In a 5-0 vote, board members elected to pose the question to voters in the Jan. 29 presidential-preference primary ballot. The Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a New York-based advocacy group, had threatened to sue the board over its at-large seats, which the group contends are unfair to Hispanics." "Single-member districts on Osceola ballot".
Open mouth ...
... insert foot: "Lawmaker offers tax cutters a deal".
The Miami Herald editors: "Only six months have passed since the Florida Supreme Court tightened the rules for sealing court records, but some judges in Broward and Miami-Dade counties still aren't following them. Bad habits -- like drug addiction -- can sometimes be hard to break. All the same, the chief administrative judge in each county should reinforce the importance of following the rules. The integrity of our courts is at stake. Lose that and bad things are sure to follow." "Playing favorites with court records".
"The Commission on Disabilities had its first meeting Tuesday, and though it will serve as a voice for the disabled, helping with access and programs, it will have to apply that same scrutiny to its own meetings." "Disabilities Commission hears public concerns".
"Who could be against children getting health care?"
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Who could be against children getting health care? President Bush, all of Florida's Republican congressmen, and a dozen more of their GOP colleagues."
The Republicans in Florida who need to change their votes are: Jeff Miller of Chumuckla, Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville, Ginny Brown-Waite of Brooksville, Cliff Stearns of Ocala, John Mica of Winter Park, Ric Keller of Orlando, Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores, Adam Putnam of Bartow, Vern Buchanan of Sarasota, Connie Mack of Fort Myers, Dave Weldon of Indialantic, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami, Tom Feeney of Oviedo and Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami. The Democrat is Kathy Castor of Tampa. Those 300,000 children in Florida are waiting."Choice on health care: Help kids, or hide truth?".
"The Miccosukee Tribe and the South Florida Water Management District agreed to plug a canal used to prevent flooding, a measure that allows for the restoring of 7,900 acres of Miccosukee land off Alligator Alley to its natural state. It's an encouraging step. Both sides gave up something to make good on what they described as an opportunity too good to ignore." "Agreement on Everglades a good first step".
The three stooges
"National Democrats are spending some dollars - for the very first time - in three South Florida congressional districts once seen as solidly Republican."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee goes up Wednesday with a series of Spanish-language radio ads in the districts served by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart. The radio spots - which will run during the traffic and weather updates - bash the trio for backing President Bush's veto of an expansion of a popular children's health insurance program."Dems to target the Diaz-Balarts and Ros-Lehtinen for the first time".
Meanwhile, "The Florida Democratic Party has launched a new Spanish language website, www.fladems.com/espanol.".
And then there's Ginny
"Ginny Brown-Waite didn't catch this much flak when she was running for re-election last year."
But this week on Christian radio within her district, the Brooksville Republican is being derided as antichildren and antifamily. On TV, she's criticized for spending a half-trillion dollars on the war in Iraq while hundreds of thousands of Florida kids go without medical care.The brain trust responds:
Then there are the concerned parents knocking at her door on Capitol Hill, and a recent demonstration by liberal groups outside her district office in Brooksville.
Brown-Waite is one of about two dozen Republican lawmakers being targeted to change their minds and vote on Thursday to override President Bush's veto of a bill to expand a popular health care program for children of the working poor.
She downplayed the attention, saying that most of the calls to her office support her decision to sustain the veto. She also dismissed the recent advertisements from Catholics United and Americans United for Change.
"I think my constituents know what all the MoveOn subsidiaries are all about," Brown-Waite said Tuesday."Brown-Waite faces storm over SCHIP".