"Wading into a church-state fight, a powerful Florida tax commission decided Wednesday to ask voters if the state should become the first in the nation to remove constitutional language that clearly prohibits spending public money on religious institutions."
On a 17-7 vote, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission placed on the November ballot an amendment to replace the state Constitution's wide-ranging ''no-aid'' to religion provision with the following wording: ``Individuals or entities may not be barred from participating in public programs because of religion.''"Church-state battle heads to the ballot". See also "Measures would erase 'no-aid' clause, offer tax breaks for working waterfront businesses" ("Commissioners also began debating a controversial measure known as TABOR or the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.")
"The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission voted Wednesday to remove Florida's constitutional ban on state aid for religious institutions, a move that could revive a controversial voucher program that enrolled children in church-run schools. The proposal, which voters must approve in November, would remove century-old language from Florida's Constitution known as the 'Blaine amendment' that bars state money from flowing to religious groups." "Proposed amendment to Florida Constitution echoes school-voucher battles". See also "Debate over religious funding goes to voters" and "Revision may lift tax-faith barrier".
There's more joy to come: "A second proposal, from Commissioner Greg Turbeville, explicitly would authorize the Legislature to fund alternative, private education with taxpayer money. Combined with Levesque's repeal of the 1885 provision, Turbeville's plan could resurrect a vouchers program like Opportunity Scholarships, which permitted students in failing schools to attend religious schools on the state's dime. Turbeville, however, tabled his proposal Wednesday after chairman Allan Bense raised concerns about unknown ramifications of the late-filed amendment. The plan now is scheduled for a commission vote on April 4." "Pro-Vouchers Bill Clears Panel".
The Tallahassee Democrat's "2008 Legislature roundup" and "Today at the Capitol". Steve Bousquet gives an overview of developments: "High-profile issues move through the Florida Legislature".
Draggin' the knuckles
"Although professors spoke in opposition to the bill and a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union said it would open the door to teaching creationism, the committee voted to move the bill forward." "Evolution Dissent Advances". See also "Science-classroom bill on evolution is toned down".
From the "values" crowd
"Health programs serving Florida's poor, elderly and critically ill face a staggering $803million in cuts under a Senate plan aimed at helping to close a $3billion state budget shortfall." "Florida Senate plan would cut programs for medically needy".
"Down in flames"
"Criminal defense attorneys reached a milestone Wednesday in their decade-long effort to force police to record the interrogations of all felony suspects — even though their bill went down in flames." "After 11 years, House votes on interrogation bill".
But is he "the new darling of the homosexual extremists"?
"U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez endorsed state Sen. Bill Posey for Congress on Wednesday, calling him 'a guy who gets it done" for the Space Coast.' "Martinez endorses Posey for Congress".
"Floridians who have concealed-weapons licenses could lock their guns in their cars while at work, under a 'Tallahassee compromise' that sailed through the House with little debate Wednesday." "House offers compromise to guns-at-work debate". See also "State House says yes to guns at work" and "House OKs Guns-At-Work Bill".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "The National Rifle Association does not take no for an answer, and the Florida House meekly surrendered Wednesday. Without a word of debate, lawmakers voted to give gun owners an absolute right to take their weapons to work and to the store. By caving in to the NRA after two years of holding firm, legislators trampled on the rights of private property owners." "House cravenly caves in to the NRA".
By the way, The St. Petersburg Times happens to be an "employer".
"The Senate on Wednesday debated and set the table to ask voters to weaken the Board of Governors and make clear that the Legislature has the authority to set college tuition." "Senate debates measure to restructure BOG".
"The Florida Legislature would rather look tough on crime than actually be tough. That's the irrefutable message that shows up in both House and Senate budget proposals, which dramatically undermine the Department of Corrections and along with it public defenders, sheriffs and local corrections systems." "Budget blues". See also "Senate: Elect education commissioner; less power for universities board".
"Florida's public universities have come up with a laundry list of steps to make their campuses safer in the post- Virginia Tech world of higher education. Now comes the hard part: finding the $18 million universities say it'll take to hire more police officers, install sirens and loudspeakers and upgrade technology so students and employees can get instant alerts on their cell phones and computers." "State universities seek $18M security upgrade".
"An aroma of cronyism"
Daniel Ruth: "In announcing he would not prosecute Kuhn for the improper contributions,"
[Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark] Ober argued charging the mogul would not serve the "interest of justice," later adding that the car dealer "did not know he violated the law.""Don't They Cover This In Law School?"
Didn't know?!?! Kuhn just so happens to be a former lawyer who attended the respected Cardozo School of Law and also earned a master of laws degree in taxation from the New York University School of Law.
With all due respect to Ober, one might argue Kuhn has more extensive legal training than the state attorney.
Yet, Ober would have us believe a man with two law degrees didn't have an awareness of what constitutes a legal and proper financial contribution?
This wasn't Shemp Howard whom Ober was letting off the hook, but a savvy, extremely well-educated businessman and former lawyer.
And that has an aroma of cronyism about it that transcends the original sin.
"The state continues to be a fundraising trough for the presidential candidates from both parties, despite the Democratic squabbles about the state's primary." "Florida Donors Spend Big".
"The Army has suspended a Miami Beach company from government contract work for reportedly providing Chinese-made ammunition to the Afghanistan army, in violation of its contract and U.S. law." "Army suspends Miami company for selling Chinese ammunition".
A bit much ...
"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida this morning equated a need to fix America's electoral system to this country's long struggles to free slaves, to grant women the right to vote and to implement the voting rights breakthroughs of the 1960s." "Nelson Ties Election Reform To End Of Slavery". See also "Sen. Nelson: Early primaries should be law".
Apology for what?
"Hillsborough County Sheriff's officials were still scratching their heads Wednesday after they were blamed for the cancellation of a church celebration that was to feature Sen. Barack Obama's controversial former minister."
"Honestly, we don't know what the problem is," said sheriffs spokeswoman Debbie Carter. "We're disappointed in the fact that information was put out there that was not accurate.""Blame for minister's cancellation perplexes Sheriff's Office".
Carter said her office has not received an apology, despite the fact that the pastor of the church, the Rev. Earl Mason, told a national television audience that they were unhappy with the security arrangements, and blamed the Sheriff's Office.
Just say no
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "A bill that would require all women seeking an abortion to first have an ultrasound, then view it or be forced to sign a form indicating their refusal, is a revived effort at social policy through intimidation. A similar measure failed last year. The Legislature should reject the proposal again." "Just stop the pregnancies".
"Just a small appropriation"
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "A comprehensive plan to begin sensibly addressing the growing problem of mentally ill people in the criminal justice system needs just a small appropriation of $8-million to get going. But it seems to be facing some legislative resistance in this year of no new money for anything. In truth, the state can't afford not to sign on." "Small sum, vital need".
"'Aberrant forms of marriage'"
"The main sponsor of a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage said Wednesday all 'aberrant forms of marriage' might become legal unless Florida voters adopt his proposal at the polls next November." "Proposed ban on gay marriage sparks debate". See also "Former NOW president slams proposed gay marriage ban".
"Education bills to change the school grading system in high schools, clamp down on teacher misconduct and provide more accountability for charter schools sailed through the Senate Thursday." "Senate approves changes to school grading".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Everglades restoration needs more advocates in, and more money from, Congress".
"Why not go all in?"
Jac Wilder VerSteeg: "Florida depends more and more on gambling to pay for education. Why not go all in?"
Gambling is increasingly important because education spending is taking a big hit. Gov. Crist just signed another $350 million cut in this year's education budget - on top of $138 million last fall. Next year's education shortfall will be worse; one projection is $1.5 billion."'Racinos'? How about 'classinos'?".
And it could get worse yet. In November, voters might approve a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the portion of property taxes that provides about $8 billion of the state's $19 billion education budget. The lost education money would be replaced with revenue from a penny increase in the sales tax and ... something else. The Legislature would have to figure it out. A penny sales-tax increase eventually would make up about half of the $8 billion lost to schools-tax reduction. There's just no way the Legislature can be trusted to really, truly make up the remaining $4 billion.
But income from gambling would have to be one of the leading options. Gov. Crist recently signed a deal with the Seminoles that gives the tribe Las Vegas-style slot machines and some table games in exchange for a guaranteed $100''million a year - which can be used for education. Casinos that voters approved at Broward County racetracks and frontons two years ago bring about $100 million a year for education, and the same deal approved two months ago creating the so-called "racinos" in Miami-Dade County could bring even more.
Hurry up and wait
"The sponsor of a plan to put a strict cap on all governments' tax revenues into the state Constitution struggled to keep the issue alive Wednesday and postponed a vote on whether to put it on the November ballot." "Vote on tax-cap proposal postponed for week".
"Officials are waiting a week to vote on re-instituting taxes on foreign orange juice producers." "Fla. vote on taxes for foreign orange juice producers will wait".
Never mind the paint ball guns
Prosecutors called them soldiers and would-be guerrillas, but defense attorneys for men accused of plotting terrorism attacks said Thursday they were kept in the dark by their leader and never sought to overthrow the U.S. government."Closings continue in retrial of 6 accused in Sears Tower plot".
Attorney Roderick Vereen, who represents 32-year-old Stanley Phanor, said in closing arguments the U.S. case was "totally preposterous" and questioned why there was no physical evidence of plots against Chicago's Sears Tower and five FBI offices.
"Did you see any weapons training? Did you see any weapons? Did you see any explosives?" Vereen asked jurors. "How are you going to levy war against the United States if you don't have a bomb or a missile?"
Florida's booming economy
"Lennar Corp., one of the nation's largest homebuilders, said Thursday it swung to a loss in the first quarter as it absorbed charges to adjust land values, while new home sales and prices sank amid the stumbling real estate market." "Weak sales, write-downs send homebuilder Lennar to 1Q loss".
Sorry 'bout that
"Recounting the 'shameful' ills of Florida's slave past, the state Legislature apologized for slavery, but stopped short of calling for reparations." "Florida offers formal slavery apology". See also "State apologizes for 'shameful' era of sanctioned slavery", "Legislature apologizes for slavery", "Lawmakers' Apology 'A Historic Step'", "Florida Legislature apologizes for state's history of slavery" and "Legislature gives formal apology for slavery in Florida".
What's next, an apology for Florida's complicity in the "Hayes-Tilden Betrayal" of 1877, in which the Republican party sold out Black Americans and sentenced them to nearly a century of violent oppression in the South?
Mike Thomas recognizes the obvious "Smokers are largely the poor and working class. They are the ones about to suffer the most in this economy." ... and then embarrass himself with this garbage: "if anything can override a liberal's desire to rescue the disenfranchised, it is the need for money and hatred of Big Tobacco." "Cigarette tax hurts the poor, but it's justified". See
The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board: "Across Florida, arts educators, museum curators and cultural institutions are bracing for bad news from Tallahassee. They know the lack of money dominates current legislative discussion. Lawmakers seem likely to dismiss cultural programs as luxuries." "Culture in dollars".