U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz had this to say last evening:
First off, I have not endorsed any of the three incumbents in South Florida, nor will I, and I do not support their re-election campaign. I am supportive of the Democratic candidates who are running against them. I have never said otherwise."Economy not Miami-Dade congressional races focus of Wasserman Schultz town hall".
Second, I have a national role as one of three co-chairs of Red to Blue Program. All candidates, from Florida to Alaska, have criteria that have to be met to get on this targeted list. Let me guarantee that if they fulfill those criteria, these three Democratic Candidates will be part of our Red to Blue Program ... period, end of story. We have three co-chairs in order to be able to spread the workload among us. It makes much more sense to have someone from outside of one's own region to be able to make the hits necessary.
But at the same time I am a representative of the 26th Congressional district of Florida, and I think it is absolutely my responsibility to work with my Republican colleagues."
As for the races themselves, "Andy Gomez, a Cuba expert at the University of Miami, said the races signal the growing political maturity of the Cuban-Americans from exiles to Americans."
"It's less about legacy and more about who is the most qualified to represent our interests and to bring back the funds that are needed to support South Florida," Gomez said."Democrats challenge GOP lock on Cuban-American seats in Congress".
This year's election is in part the natural evolution of a community that has become increasingly diverse.
Newer immigrants who arrived on rafts or smugglers' boats and retain family ties to Cuba have less in common with the early wave of elites who fled Cuba by plane in the 1960s and have been stalwarts of the Republican Party. U.S.-born Cuban-Americans still virulently oppose the island's communist government, but many rank bringing it down below other domestic and foreign issues.
The personal histories of this year's challengers illustrate this shift.
Like the Diaz-Balarts, their families arrived in the first wave but from more modest circumstances.
We don' need no stinkin' government regulation of entreprenurship
"Florida won't require toilet paper in restrooms" ("HB437, also would have required that restrooms have soap, be lighted and ventilated and have running hot and cold water.")
"Florida delegate solution still not in sight". The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Democrats gave up too quickly on a mail-in revote for Florida's presidential primary. Party leaders and the two presidential contenders took a can't-do approach to the plan, making mountains out of any possible bumps in the road. That just adds to their obligation to agree in short order on another way to ensure Florida's Democratic voters are represented as the party nominates its presidential candidate." "Find a solution".
"The loudest opponents of the property-tax swap going before voters in November are lobbyists for major corporations and future legislative leaders who would be stuck with the plan's heavy lifting: $9.6 billion in sales tax increases, budget cuts and other revenue hikes."
But while some legislators fret and big business twists arms to kill the plan, one of the most influential voices in Florida politics says the proposal is a good idea.Feel the wisdom of "Jim Scott, a former Broward County commissioner and Republican Senate president, [who] said he was confident that opposition would be scarce. He said many rank-and-file businesses will back the amendment, even though their Tallahassee bosses oppose it."
''I like what I've seen thus far,'' Gov. Charlie Crist told The Miami Herald on Thursday after spending most of the week saying little about the proposed constitutional amendment approved Monday by the state Taxation and Budget Reform Commission.
The plan would not just be the biggest tax reform the state has seen, he said, it would produce deep savings for all property owners by eliminating the state-required schools tax -- 25 percent of their annual bill.
Not only will businesses save 25 percent on their own tax bills, the amendment would put a 5 percent cap on annual tax assessments for non-homestead properties -- something long-sought by business."Tax swap draws critics, but Crist endorses idea".
The current cap is 10 percent, approved Jan. 29 by voters.
He said arguments about a sales-tax increase being ''regressive'' and hurting the poor weren't accurate because of the savings people would see on their property taxes.
''We have people in Broward County living in, shall we say, very modest homes paying $1,000 in property taxes,'' he said.
``And here they would pay an extra $50 in sales taxes a year. That's a good deal.''
The Daytona Beach Journal editorial board: "The plan, pushed by Republican legislative leaders, is a gamble that could leave the state in worse condition than now. Consumers could end up paying more in out-of-pocket sales taxes than they save in property taxes, and those who don't own homes -- often among the poorest -- could end up paying far more than their fair share of taxes." "Gambling on sales".
The News Journal editors also have this today: "Attack dogs are the hirelings of narrow interests, out for themselves rather than the public good."
Florida lawmakers are proposing replacing a portion of school taxes generated by the property tax with an increase in the sales tax, among other schemes. Any such change would have to be approved by voters."Tax regressions".
It's not difficult to imagine a campaign to begin eliminating the property tax built around the notion of "fairness"--when, in fact, increasing the sales tax to make up for lost revenue would significantly shift the tax burden from the wealthier to the poorer, on whom the sales tax takes a bigger bite of income. There's nothing fair about that.
"Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society," Oliver Wendell Holmes said. The tax radicals don't think that far ahead. To them, taxes are, to the extent possible, what other people pay.
Meanwhile, "In a vote sure to show up on campaign mailers this fall, Republican Rep. Frank Attkisson’s House committee just voted down a proposal from House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber to close a corporate tax 'loophole.'" The wingnuts describe it this way:
- House GOP: Democrats’ job-killing tax hike"House GOP stomps 'Democratic tax hike'". I'm looking forward to how these same dopes will describe the Charlie-endorsed sales tax increase.
-Associated Industries of Florida: Gelber is a tax-and-spend liberal
"The issue involves companies such as Home Depot, Toys R Us and Staples that avoid some taxes by shifting income to subsidiaries in low-tax states as payment for leasing a logo or other intellectual property. Gelber wants to do something called "combined reporting," which requires corporations to count all their profits — even those going to another state — when calculating Florida taxes. The state's corporate income tax rate is 5.5 percent. More than 20 states, mostly in the western United States, have taken steps to close the loophole. Most Southern states have not, which, some argue, puts Florida at a disadvantage." "Vote on Florida tax loophole was merely political theater".
"Lawmakers will target specific education programs rather than making an across-the-board cut in next year's budget". "Senate leader: Cuts to Florida education will not be universal".
"New tax breaks to wealthy racetrack owners"
"While its leaders decry expanded gambling in Florida and warn of billions in state budget cuts, a measure pending in the Republican-led state House would give new tax breaks to wealthy racetrack owners and could lead to off-track betting parlors." "Legislation would let dog race gambling expand".
Those crazy librul judges
"Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice R. Fred Lewis told lawmakers this morning that a suggested 10 percent budget cut _ $42. 1million _ to courts throughout the state would effectively paralyze the judicial system."
"When you ask a branch to commit suicide, we cannot. It may be murdered by others and we may not find justice but the judgment must rest on the plates of those public servants who have been elected to maintain Florida as the bright shining star that it is," Lewis told the Senate Civil and Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee"Chief justice: Budget cuts would be 'suicide' for courts". See also "Budget woes vex courts" and "Justice: Budget cuts are 'suicide'".
Charlie steps up to the plate in desperate times
"Chances of making teenagers pull up their pants, at least in school, sagged like oversized jeans Thursday as Gov. Charlie Crist told NAACP leaders he sees no need for outlawing fashion trends." "Crist voices opposition to baggy-pants bill".
"Desperate to generate more money for road projects across the state, Florida transportation authorities are moving ahead with a plan to lease Alligator Alley to a company that would have the power to set the tolls it charges. If ultimately approved, the deal could lead to increases in the tolls drivers pay on the 78-mile portion of Interstate 75 that links Sunrise in Broward County with Naples." "Alligator Alley may be up for lease".
Lock 'em up
Tiny rays of common sense:
Chronically ill or dying inmates could be released from prison early to help the state cut $214'million from criminal and civil justice programs as lawmakers begin to slash about $2.7'billion from this year's budget.Thank goodness for the RPOF brainiacs, including these walking, talking laff riots:
Some prisoners behind bars for driving with suspended driver licenses, most of them suspended for financial reasons such as not paying child support, were included in the cost-cutting proposals given to the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Committee on Wednesday.
Some non-violent offenders also could get out of prison early under the proposal by Monica David, chairwoman of the Florida Parole Commission.
Sen. Alex Villalobos objected, saying early release would violate the Florida Constitution. He said the legislature is prohibited from repealing or amending laws affecting "prosecution or punishment for any crime previously committed."And then there's Charlie, working feverishly behind the scenes (at least when he isn't appointing tanning bed attendants to highly paid state positions):
"The fact is that this is not an option, as far as I'm concerned," said Villalobos, R-Miami.
Committee Chairman Victor Crist said he was unsure ...
Department of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil said Wednesday that he removed an early-release proposal from his list of suggested budget cuts at the request of Gov. Charlie Crist, who had appointed him."Officials wrestle over prison cuts".
Big of him
"Crist met Thursday with Alan Crotzer, who spent 24 years in prison for crimes he didn't commit, and assured him lawmakers would pass his $1.25 million claims bill and that he will sign it with the exonerated man at his side." "Crist assures Crotzer of pending compensation".
"Builders and other interest groups got behind a bill that increases funding for affordable housing to counties that lower impact fees." "Bill would increase funding for affordable housing".
Raw political courage
"Ask the Governor: Income tax ruled out by Florida constitution".
"Local Planned Parenthood clinics had enough problems that the agency's national parent organization this month pushed for the temporary shutdown of the group's medical and counseling services, present and former agency officials said Thursday. Representatives from the national office inspected Planned Parenthood of South Palm Beach and Broward Counties several weeks ago and uncovered deficiencies with the clinics' conditions and medical operations as well as policies and procedures, board chairman Alex Arreaza said." "Planned Parenthood sought closures of S. Fla. clinics".
"With a simple title of 'alimony/supportive relationships,' a bill to add just 31 words to Florida law quickly turned into a complex divorce-court battle of the sexes Wednesday in a Senate committee."
The four male senators favored the bill. Three female senators, who were outvoted, opposed it during a session of the Children, Family and Elder Affairs Committee."Alimony measure vote falls along gender lines".
The bill requires that judges, when they initially calculate and award alimony payments, must consider if a recipient is being supported by another to whom she is not related, such as a boyfriend.
"It's just a coincidence," said T.K.
"At a time when Florida's universities are facing millions of dollars in budget cuts, Florida State University has hired a prominent state senator to coordinate a new reading program in her home county. Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, is being paid $120,000 a year to work on a program she helped create and fund. Lynn also happens to be chairwoman of the Senate's Higher Education Appropriations Committee, with great influence over university budgets." "Senator's job at FSU raises ethical concerns".
Some might call it "corporate welfare"
"The House infrastructure committee's 8-2 vote would make the state pay for damages or injuries on the commuter rail even if Jacksonville-based CSX's trains cause the harm." "House panel approves CSX 'no-fault' bill".
"South Florida legislators are seeking state penalties for a growing Internet phone scam." "Lawmakers: Caller ID should be real".
"In a seasonal outlook Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that dry conditions will continue through June in much of the state, including around Lake Okeechobee." "Drought may endure through June".
"Florida's 11 university foundations have chipped in tens of thousands of dollars over the past two years to help boost the annual salary of the state university system's chancellor from $231,750 to $361,725."
The donations, which are called voluntary but are based on the number of students at each university, also have paid for an additional $69,025 in annual benefits for Chancellor Mark Rosenberg. The benefits include a car allowance, travel and a retirement allotment."Legislators question university donations to system chancellor".
Legislators, some of whom already want to dismantle the board to which Rosenberg reports, are questioning the donations that go to the board's foundation to help pay him.
"Soft extortion," one lawmaker called them.
The Palm Beach Post editors: "Senate committees this month advanced one of them, Senate Bill 1616, which would make it easier for the state to revoke concealed weapons permits of people who are determined to be mentally incapacitated after the license has been issued. A House committee this week approved a companion bill, HB 1407." "Helpful gun idea, at last".
From the "values" crowd
"Florida already requires ultrasounds on any women seeking abortions in the second or third trimester. The bill (HB 257) would require ultrasounds before all abortions, and compel abortion providers to tell the woman she has the option of viewing the sonogram. The woman wouldn't have to view the image under the legislation, which passed the committee with a 10-6 vote. It has one more committee stop before the House floor." "House panel considers ultrasound requirement before abortions".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "As part of the constant effort to deal with Florida's property insurance crisis, the Legislature this year must undo a little of what the Legislature did last year." "Reduce the public risk from hurricane claims".