"Taxes now rank as the state's single biggest concern". "Residents' Lower Opinions Of State Spotlight Big Challenges For 2008".
One has to wonder why Floridians consider taxes as their "biggest concern" when, in reality, Florida's state and local tax burden on individuals is relatively small.
Business taxes are likewise among the lowest in the nation ("Florida’s corporate tax structure ... ranks 8th lowest among states that tax corporate income.")
Indeed,"over the past 14 years, Florida has had one of the nation’s lowest tax burdens. Since 1994, the burden has fallen significantly as individual incomes have risen faster than state/local taxes collections. Estimated now at 8.8% of income, Florida’s state/local tax burden percentage is ranked 45th nationally, well below the national average of 10.0%."
What do "Florida legislators have in common with Britney Spears?"
"Quick, what do term-limited Florida legislators have in common with Britney Spears?"
An inability to learn from mistakes, House Minority Leader Dan Gelber said."State legislators hitting term limits".
"We've become the 'Oops, I did it again' Legislature," said Gelber, D-Miami Beach, making reference to Spears' hit song. "We keep having do-overs with stuff like insurance and taxes."
Gelber is one of 30 House members about to hit the eight-year wall of term limits installed in 1992 by a public petition campaign. Now he's running for the state Senate. His campaign illustrates two quirks of the "Eight is Enough" idea that nearly 77 percent of the voters eagerly embraced 15 years ago.
On the cheap
Florida "ranked last in ratio of public payroll expenditures per resident. The state spent $36 per resident last year. The national average was $56, the study said." Hence, Florida's "Report: State workers' wages lag behind jobs in private sector".
To be sure, Charlie is "a media-savvy, charismatic leader whose sunny [with a] can-do attitude"; but this is plain silly:
"What I hope for is that this property tax cut is passed Jan. 29 and refires the Florida economy," he said in a recent interview. "If the [average savings] is $240... it's that much more money that can be spent by the Florida family on going out for a meal, going out to a movie, buying an extra pair of shoes for your kids... to stimulate this thoroughbred we call Florida's economy and keep her going.""Gov. Crist maintains popularity despite unfulfilled pledges".
$240 is going "to stimulate this thoroughbred [?] we call Florida's economy"? Heaven help us.
"Fla. no longer a paradise".
"Menacing cold prompts the governor to declare a state of emergency." "Icy air prompts governor to declare state of emergency".
"Kirt Rusenko could very well be person of the year, to sea turtles at least." "Turtle expert saving nests".
"Mr. Crist is frustrated"
"As Gov. Charlie Crist prepares to take on the insurance industry over still sky-high home hurricane premiums, it's important that Floridians don't get reckless with their coverage. Insurance prices haven't come down, even after two calm storm seasons and a state law that was supposed to help insurance companies cut costs and share those savings with consumers. The companies, by and large, have not done that, even though their profits have soared. Mr. Crist is frustrated and says he's determined to get to the bottom of it." "While insurance battle plays out, homeowners shouldn't take chances with coverage".
"In the two years since immigration legislation stalled in Congress, many states have passed their own laws targeting illegal immigrants."
Soon Florida could join them."6 bills will delve into immigrant matters".
Legislators have filed six bills that would, among other things, penalize farms and government contractors that hire undocumented immigrants or require local officials to report their arrests to federal authorities. Come spring, legislators could debate whether to make it harder for an estimated 850,000 illegal immigrants to live and work in Florida.
"Creating homeless colonies"
"Because of its perverse laws against sex offenders -- laws that permanently brand offenders and forbid them to live in many parts of the state -- Florida is actively creating homeless colonies." "State fosters homelessness with offender registry law".
"Florida and Michigan, two states that look more like America"
"Ideally, the parties will go to a system of rotating regional primaries held at least a few weeks apart. That will let voters in different parts of the country take turns at the head of the line, instead of reserve that privilege for Iowa and New Hampshire and any other states the party bosses have deigned to favor. This year they are punishing Florida and Michigan, two states that look more like America, for seeking some say in the process by moving up their primaries." "Campaign 2008's mad dash for votes and cash is hurting the political process".
"Despite a holiday lull, businesses continued to line up behind Gov. Charlie Crist’s 'Yes on 1' property tax-cutting campaign." "Fla. businesses throw weight behind property tax measure". On the other side, "Unions Take On Tax Cut Issue".
"When Florida's Legislature voted to move up the state's presidential primaries to Jan. 29, it hoped to attract candidates earlier in the campaign and thrust issues important to the state into the national spotlight. That has not happened. " "An Iowa campaign, even after Florida shuffle".
"Rudy Giuliani's ties to the cigar community is a Miami tale that epitomizes the city's appeal to old Havana and New York personalities." "Herald: Giuliani gets cigar fix in Miami".
How will business survive?
"Florida's minimum wage rises to $6.79 per hour from $6.67 today." "Florida's Minimum Wage Goes Up to $6.79".
One man's "earmark", ...
"U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, R-Fort Myers, is touting hometown pet projects for which he secured federal funding — more than $5.4 million worth for his constituents. But President Bush decried 'Congress' addiction to earmarks' when he signed a $555 billion spending bill into law this week." "Mack secures earful of funding".
Florida's booming economy
"The problems rippling out from the investment fund are the latest in a series of economic setbacks for Florida, which is already coping with a weakening housing market and slowing population growth. The economic malaise forced lawmakers in the fall to trim $1.1 billion from the state’s $71 billion budget, and economists are predicting that the state might have to cut an additional $2.5 billion over the next 18 months. Given those cutbacks, local officials said they do not expect the state to bail out the investment pool, meaning they are likely to bear the losses. " "Fund Frozen, Florida Towns Feel the Pinch".
The times ... they are a changin'
"In another sign of its growing independence, the panel that runs Florida's university system has told a federal judge to throw out part of a state law that bans colleges from spending money to send professors to Cuba and other ''state sponsors'' of terrorism."
The move by Florida's Board of Governors aligns the appointed board closer with the ACLU, which last year filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of university professors and the Florida International University faculty senate challenging the ban."Fla. universities ask seek to drop ban on travel to Cuba".
In its filing in U.S. federal court last month, lawyers for the Board of Governors contend that while state lawmakers can tell universities how to spend state taxpayer money, the Legislature does not have the authority to order universities on how they can spend private donations or federal research grants.
''Where nonstate funds are concerned, the travel act's prohibition runs afoul of the academic freedom accorded to universities under the First Amendment,'' the board states.
The panel maintains that Florida's Constitution gives the Board of Governors, which was created by voters in 2002, autonomy over university research and educational activities. That is the same argument that the board is using in a separate lawsuit challenging the Legislature's authority to control university tuition rates.
"Most parents want a balanced curriculum in sex-education classes. A Kaiser Foundation survey found 65 percent of parents believe sex education should encourage young people to delay sexual activity, but also prepare them to use birth control and practice safe sex once they become sexually active. Florida administers its abstinence programs through the state Department of Health, passing some federal dollars to groups that promote abstinence education or support the state's Web site, www.greattowait.com. Florida school districts are given substantial leeway in deciding what to present in sex education programs. And while some counties continue to teach abstinence only, most districts are moving toward a more complete curriculum." "Chastity Is The Ideal, But School Sex Ed Must Recognize Reality".