"A bill that could have deterred abortions by having women view ultrasound photos of the fetus before undergoing the procedure, was killed on a 20-20 tie vote in the Senate Wednesday." "Updated: Senate defeats abortion bill, 20-20".
Yesterday: "After two delays, the Senate on Tuesday finally discussed a measure (SB 2400) that would require ultrasounds before all Florida abortions and require women to view the live image or sign a form saying no. But no vote was taken. That's scheduled for today." "Vote on ultrasounds may be close".
"Only three days remain in the annual 60-day session, which resumes today. Here's a scorecard of what was done at the Capitol Tuesday, and what's on tap today". "Legislators in high gear to meet session deadline".
"The same Gov. Charlie Crist who last year set a single-season record for vetoing budget pork hinted this morning that he will be much more accommodating when the $66.2 billion spending plan lands on his desk." "Updated: Crist smiles on budget plan".
We're Number One!
"For the third year in a row, Florida led the country in 2007 for reports of violence against the homeless, according to a national study released Tuesday." "Florida is No. 1 again in violence against homeless".
Florida's "beleaguered consumers"
"Today, the Federal Reserve is expected to deliver the seventh interest-rate cut since September in an effort to bolster the sagging economy, but that may not be enough to boost the spirits of beleaguered consumers." "Fed rate cut unlikely to boost hard-hit Florida consumer".
It's Strike-all time again
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "It's the last week of the legislative session, which is the time for notorious 'strike-all' bills. They are new versions of big-issue legislation. They have a deservedly bad reputation because they run long, arrive at the last minute and contain all sorts of hiding places for bad stuff."
On Tuesday, a "strike-all" transportation bill of more than 100 pages went to the House from the Senate. To the Senate from the House went a 100-plus page "strike-all" insurance bill, which contains bad changes for Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-run insurer of last resort that is so important to South Florida."Reject industry attempt to tap state-run insurer".
"Negotiations broke down Tuesday night between House and Senate Republicans over a bill to freeze windstorm premiums for Citizens Property Insurance Corp. customers, leaving in doubt the outcome of the session's most sweeping property insurance changes." "Lawmakers at odds on property insurance changes".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Still, there's enough time left in the session for lawmakers to make things right. Right? Don't bet on it. The session ends Friday, and lawmakers seem poised to fail their constituents." "State leaders aren't doing enough on property-insurance reform".
While the Legislature battles over protecting teachers of creationism ...
"Tiffany Shepherd, a biology teacher at Port St. Lucie High School, learned last week that she will not be asked to return when school starts next year, nor will she finish this school year. Shepherd doesn't think it's her teaching skills that the St. Lucie County School District found objectionable but, rather, her after-school job as a bikini mate aboard Smokin' Em Charters fishing tours."
As such, Shepherd, a 30-year-old buxom blonde from Fort Pierce with an undergraduate degree in pre-med, performs the usual duties of a mate, but wears a bikini and fetches drinks and sandwiches for the men on board."Teacher: Bikini charter cost me my job".
It's a job she took three weeks ago to help support her three young sons following a divorce, something she says is difficult to do on a teaching salary.
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Last week, a legislator and a sugar industry lobbyist tried to overturn the South Florida Water Management District board's historic decision banning back-pumping. Fortunately, lobbyists for Audubon of Florida recognized it and thwarted the effort." "Farmers lose; lake wins".
Air head express
Scott Maxwell: "At the White House Correspondents' Association dinner and festivities, Beltway media were fascinated with our unmarried governor, who seems to be on everybody's short list of running mates for John McCain."
So when he showed up escorting Manhattan socialite Carole Rome, cameras clicked."For the record, though, Crist's office strongly refuted the bad-flirting accusation -- or that he was flirting at all."
When he made niceties with actress Morgan Fairchild, The Washington Post eavesdropped, describing the interaction as flirting and suggesting that Crist wasn't good at it.
Isaac did, however, say that [Manhattan socialite] Rome is now officially Crist's "girlfriend."Maxwell notes that, back at the ranch,
though, things may not play so well."Gov. Charlie Crist in D.C.: Spring fever, or springboard seeker?".
I mean, if I wanted to be known as "the people's governor," I'm not sure I'd head up to D.C. for a tux-and-celebrity-filled party -- not when lawmakers in my cash-strapped state were working through the weekend to try to find money for schools and needy residents.
RPOF Voter suppression, Take 7231
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Florida is courting electoral trouble. Heading toward another presidential election, state officials are making it increasingly difficult for citizens to vote. Thanks to state laws, national election experts are warning that Florida is one of the hardest places to vote. Recent court decisions and a lamentable move by Secretary of State Kurt Browning could make matters worse. The potential result: Thousands of eligible Florida voters -- many of them poor, black and Hispanic -- will be prevented from having a voice in the November election." "Florida: a tough place to cast a ballot".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "It's not surprising that recent changes in the state's election law reflected the disaster that was the 2000 election."
The votes of thousands of people, most of them Democrats and minorities, were thrown out because their names were not on voter rolls or because their identities could not be verified."Indeed, Florida's election law allows fines of up to $1,000 to volunteers who register folks to vote but fail to turn in those forms within 10 days."
So now Florida requires voters to produce a photo ID and a valid signature at the polls. ...
The problem, though, is when a voter's ID doesn't match the name on the state's database of qualified voters.
That's why it's important that groups sponsoring registration drives fill out forms correctly and turn them in in time for elections officials to correct errors.
[Secretary of State Kurt] Browning says he's going to start levying fines, and the Florida League of Women Voters has sued to stop him. The league and other groups argue they could be fined for honest mistakes."Elections officials need to get out in front of potential voting problems".
We sympathize with volunteer groups, especially those run on shoestring budgets. But that doesn't mean there isn't a problem that needs to be solved.
Since Florida made it much easier for volunteers to run registration drives, more people have shown up at the polls only to discover the forms they signed were never turned in to election supervisors.
Instead of initially resorting to fines, though, Mr. Browning ought to be leading the charge to avoid the mistakes in the first place.
That's the best way for Florida to strike a balance between making it easy to register to vote while protecting the rights of voters and the integrity of elections.
Facially "benign" voter ID schemes are the perfect vehicle for reducing participation in the electoral process; as reported by the New York Times last year:
States that imposed identification requirements on voters reduced turnout at the polls in the 2004 presidential election by about 3 percent, and by two to three times as much for minorities, new research suggests."Lower Voter Turnout Is Seen in States That Require ID".
The study, prepared by scholars at Rutgers and Ohio State Universities for the federal Election Assistance Commission, supports concerns among voting-rights advocates that blacks and Hispanics could be disproportionately affected by ID requirements.
That's why it is disappointing to read stuff like this from editors who seem to be otherwise well-intentioned on an issue: a voter ID "requirement does not disenfranchise people. Ensuring identity of a voter is at least as important as verifying someone's identity when they cash a check or when they buy a beer."
Luv them summits
"Gov. Charlie Crist announced plans Tuesday for a second summit in Miami to fight global warming." "Gov. Crist plans second global warming summit".
How hard was that?
"Lawmakers are putting an end to paying losing transportation bidders hundreds of thousands of dollars on rejected proposals." "House cuts off losing bidders".
"Hundreds of Floridians who earlier this year told a statewide investigative committee about the horrors of their abusive condo and homeowner boards are about to see a payoff. Legislators approved many of the suggestions drawn from their comments, and Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to sign them into law this week." "Changes in Florida condominium law await governor's signature".
"Throwaways or people who matter"?
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "The question is how mean the final budget will be, particularly as it affects the most vulnerable Floridians — people whose lives depend on continued state support. Regardless of party affiliation, political philosophy or personal style, every lawmaker must ask him or herself whether the infirm, the elderly and the uninsured — and poor pregnant women — are throwaways or people who matter." "Health spending should be top priority".
"The Florida Senate passed legislation that increases penalties for those convicted of mortgage fraud and that also may provide some relief to affected homeowners." "Fraud penalties hiked, tax help offered".
Public financing OK
"Florida bill repealing public campaign finance likely won't see vote".
"In what supporters described as an historic attempt to correct injustice, the Florida Legislature on Tuesday approved automatic compensation for people sentenced to prison for crimes they did not commit. But because of a controversial 'clean hands' provision, an innocent Broward County man who was freed last fall after spending 19 years behind bars for a rape and armed robbery is excluded from the automatic payment. Anyone with a prior felony conviction isn't eligible for an automatic payment." "Florida sets wrongful imprisonment compensation at $50,000 a year". See also "Florida House OKs payment for wrongfully imprisoned".
"A bill to dismantle the system governing state universities and make the education commissioner an elected job fizzled to near death Tuesday when the House failed to take it up." "Education leadership overhaul nearly dead".
"Despite the smallest state budget in four years, the New Port Richey Republican wedged in $10-million to help build roads near schools on his home turf, Pasco County. There's also $5-million to recruit companies to Pasco. And another $10-million to improve affordable housing in three counties. One of them: Pasco." "Senator at top of his game".
Passing the buck
"Private donors could funnel money through state government to help spay and neuter animals at shelters across Florida under a measure passed by the Senate on Tuesday and sent to Gov. Charlie Crist for his signature. ... a Direct Support Organization would be set up with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that would accept private donations. That money would then be paid out in grants to animal shelters, would help provide shelter and care to animals in emergencies and pay for educational materials on the care of pets." "Bill to help animals passes Florida Senate".
"The Florida House on Tuesday passed a scaled-back transportation package that paves the way for Central Florida's commuter-rail project but leaves a host of sticking points to be ironed out during the next three days." "Commuter-rail bill's next stop: Florida Senate". See also "Miami mega-sign deal keeps rail bill on track" and "Rail plan still faces legislative switches".
Small business aid
"Not all small businesses owners use the Internet, keep offices, or have the time and staff to comply with state regulations, especially regulations that are designed for larger business. That's why state lawmakers this week created a small business council and the post of advocate to look out for small businesses' interests when state agencies are devising rules." "Small business gets aid".
Patting ourselves on the back
"Bill awarding brain-damaged girl $18.2 million goes to Florida governor". See also "Senate OKs $3.9 million award to Broward man for '92 accident".
"But the House was unwilling to go too green"
"An expansive energy bill headed for the governor's desk is just the first step in making Florida a national leader in clean energy, a lawmaker said Wednesday." "Senate passes energy bill".
"The House unanimously approved a massive energy bill Tuesday, signaling the largest step by the state to address global climate change. The legislation requires a reduction in emissions, mandates ethanol fuel usage by 2010 and creates incentives for power companies to conserve. But the House was unwilling to go too green." "Far-reaching energy measure clears House, but future iffy".
While Florida burns ...
... "State Senate: Wheelies could cost motorcyclists $1,000 a pop".
Oh Goody, we can be just like Albania
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "This isn't the first time the federal government has asked everyday citizens to keep a watchful eye out for suspicious activity and, in doing so, help keep America's constant vigil against terrorism. And it shouldn't be the last. Engaging average Americans to be alert and report legitimate concerns to authorities as they go about their daily lives is a common sense approach to an enormous, continuing threat, and it's reaped dividends before in thwarting potential terror plots." "Putting recreational boaters on alert for potential terrorism a good idea".
"State budget has a lot of nothing for Hillsborough".