The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "The state's Taxation and Budget Reform Commission is acting as if it were the Jeb Bush Education Agenda Commission."
The commission voted last week to put a measure on the ballot that would sharply weaken the state's guarantees of church-state separation.
What has that to do with the state's tax and budgetary policies — issues the commission is charged with acting on? Not much. The action was a political move designed to shield the former governor's school voucher programs from legal challenge, since the vouchers are often used to fund parochial school education.
It took 17 votes from the 25-member commission to move the measure to the November ballot and 17 votes it received, including one "yea" vote from Darryl Rouson, whose current candidacy for a state legislative seat has the support of a group that promotes school vouchers.
Who elected this idiot?
"In the face of multibillion-dollar spending cuts contemplated for health care and schools, House Speaker Marco Rubio is pushing a plan that could curtail state and local government spending even more." "Florida House speaker pushes more tax cuts".
Joe on a roll
Joe Garcia, a Miami-Dade Democrat running for Congress,
said Tuesday he has raised more than $320,000 -- much of it from online contributions -- in his bid to oust U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
"Joe Garcia raises $320,000 in congressional election bid". Kos has more.
Garcia, who said he began raising money halfway through the three-month fundraising quarter that ended Monday night, said the contributions were from nearly 2,000 donors.
You get what lobbyists pay for
"After meeting for 4½ weeks, lawmakers have agreed on only one thing: Deleting more than $500 million from the current state budget because of a tanking state economy. The Republican-led House and Senate have debated and voted on other high-profile issues like penalizing children who wear saggy pants to school, changing Florida's school grading system and whether employees should be able to take their guns along in their cars when they go to work." "Major budget woes paralyze Florida legislators".
Who needs Florida?
"Some question whether Barack Obama, the Democratic front-runner, will spend the huge amounts of campaign time and money it takes to fight for Florida if he becomes the nominee. The reason is simple:"
Florida is one of the most expensive states in the nation in which to campaign, and Democrats don't have to win it to win the presidency.
"Obama and his strategists, however, insist they plan to start organizing in Florida as soon as he becomes the nominee and 'campaign vigorously' here."
"Since you don't need it and it costs so much to play, it's an argument that will be had," said Derek Newton, a veteran Miami Democratic political consultant. "I think they should, but it's not a sure thing."
Thomas Schaller, a University of Maryland-Baltimore County political scientist specializing in presidential politics. ... said Florida won't disappear from the Democrats' electoral map.
Florida may very well be in play, considering
That map, he said, is becoming more predictable - only four states switched sides between 2000 and 2004.
[It's the fourth-largest state, with the fourth-largest number of electoral votes. Of the top four, however, it's the only one considered a swing state. California, with 55 electoral votes, and New York with 31 are reliably Democratic. Texas, with 34, is reliably Republican.]
"We're going to be fighting over the same eight to 10 states as in 2004," and Florida is among them, he said - possibly more so because of the end of the Bush era, in which Jeb Bush held the governor's mansion during both his brother's campaigns.
the election of Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the re-election of Sen. Bill Nelson and Democratic gains in Congress and the state House, he said 2006 was "the best election year the Democrats have had in the state in several decades," a trend that should convince the nominee to play here.
Much, much more here: "Will Obama Play In Florida?".
Mellman, however, said Ohio "is going to be seen as slightly more fertile ground than Florida," citing the 2006 election of a Democratic governor and senator. Both replaced Republicans after the former administration was dogged by corruption issues and a flagging economy.
Also, Devine said Obama "might be willing to concede Florida if he can make headway in New Mexico, Iowa, Missouri or Colorado" - the state where Democrats are holding their national convention. The Western states are considered to be in play because of increasing numbers of Hispanic voters there.
Why, then, is Obama opening up campaign offices in Florida?
All tomorrow's parties
"After meeting behind closed doors to discuss strategy on Tuesday, Florida Democrats in Congress plan to press national party Chairman Howard Dean today to publicly promise to seat the state's delegates at the national nominating convention."
The House members were mum after the strategy session. But Karen Thurman, chairwoman of the state party, said she and the members will present ideas to Dean at a meeting this morning to try to resolve the dispute over Florida's delegates."A participant in Tuesday's meeting said the members will ask Dean for some signs of progress toward seating the delegation, such as establishing hotel assignments and processing credentials.""Florida's Democrats in Congress to press Howard Dean over delegates".
"Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said Wednesday the party is committed to seating Florida's delegates at this summer's convention as long as any agreement is supported by the party's two presidential contenders. Dean met with Florida lawmakers to discuss ways of allocating delegates among Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton and prepare for the fall campaign in the battleground state." "Dean: Dems committed to seating Florida delegates".
"Florida's dirty little secret" (at least one of 'em)
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "The new commissioner [education] should do away with Florida's dirty little secret. Earning a GED certificate is not the same thing as fulfilling the requirements for a high school diploma. Yet Florida continues to count the state diplomas awarded to those who pass the GED test as regular high school graduates. Florida should own up and tell citizens the truth - our high schools are not as successful as the state has reported. Indeed, Florida's Department of Education routinely reports a graduation rate as much as 10 points higher than what researchers have found. The Manhattan Institute, which doesn't include GEDs, put Florida's graduation rate at 59 percent in its 2005 study. And researchers at Johns Hopkins last year arrived at roughly the same percentage, tagging Florida and South Carolina high schools as the worst 'dropout factories' in the nation. By their accounts, half of Florida's high schools earned that disturbing moniker." "Feds Will Make Florida Face Up To High School Graduation Failures".
A burden of proof thing
"It could become easier for property owners to win challenges against county property appraisers to reduce their valuations and their taxes. A Florida House panel approved two bills by wide margins Tuesday that would reduce and/or shift the burden of proof in contesting valuations. In the measures, county property appraisers would have to prove they were correct in their assessments instead of homeowners or businesses proving they were not." "Proving values would shift to appraisers in House bill".
More good jobs
Many of Florida's best jobs are going away: "NASA officials Tuesday tried to downplay concerns over their forecast that more than 8,000 workers across the country could lose their jobs when the space shuttle retires,"
but members of Congress, a key contractor and union officials said the agency's "worst-case" scenario may be too optimistic.
"Job loss at Kennedy Space Center could be worse than first forecast". See also "NASA faces job flight".
In particular, they said, Kennedy Space Center faces the loss of hundreds more positions in addition to the 6,400 contractor jobs that NASA said could disappear when the shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.
About 15,000 people work at KSC today, including 8,000 spacecraft-contract workers as well as support and federal civil-service employees.
The Tampa Tribune editorial board, authors of drivel like this, will be shocked to learn that these private sector jobs actually pay more than public sector jobs, actually providing workers with high pay, retirements and health insurance. The Trib editors are probably glad to see these jobs go, though, because they put a strain on the private sectors' ability to depress wages and benefits.
In the meantime, "Senate bills proposed to offset future job losses in Florida's space industry pass key hurdle". Good luck with that.
"A Legislature reluctant to tackle immigration policy in an election year made its first foray into the issue Tuesday with a proposal to kick out of the country illegal immigrants in Florida's prisons who volunteer to be deported. Even that measure, approved on a bipartisan vote in its first Senate committee stop, is billed by supporters more as a cost-saving measure than a bid to crackdown on illegal immigrants." "Legislators: Deport illegal immigrants in Florida's prisons".
"The Senate transportation committee on Tuesday passed a bill that's meant to crack down on fearless, reckless driving by motorcyclists." "Brakes sought on reckless motorcycling". See also "Tougher street-racing stance gains clout".
I thought it was that thing with a bottle of Coke
"Some Florida teens believe drinking Mountain Dew or smoking marijuana will prevent pregnancy and that swallowing a capful of bleach will prevent HIV/AIDS. One reason those dangerous myths have spread is the state's reliance on abstinence-only sex education, say advocates of a bill to require a more comprehensive approach in Florida's schools." "Florida Senate bill would require schools to teach more about sex".
The "free enterprise" crowd in a tizzy
"Lake Worth's Edlon Garvey needed money to pay his medical bills to place stents in his heart. So, he took it out of his home."
But when the payments became too much on his refinanced home loan, the delivery driver says his lender would not allow him to negotiate to lower his payments. His home is now in foreclosure.
"Protest pushes crackdown on predatory lending". Good luck on regulating our courageous, All-American, risk-taking entrepreneurs in the high-interest subprime mortgage industry.
"The way you feel when you're trapped in it, you feel like you're going to die," said Garvey, 52, one of about 50 protesters who built a tent city Tuesday on the lawn of the Historic Capitol to illustrate the thousands of Floridians who have lost homes in foreclosures.
The display advocated for legislation (HB 979 and SB 2846) to restrict high-interest subprime mortgages.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which produced the "Subprime City," hopes some of the legislation would be included in recommendations from Gov. Charlie Crist's task force on foreclosures, which meets today.
I see, replace intangibles tax with a sin tax on the poor man's vice
"At 34 cents, Florida's sales tax on a pack of cigarettes is higher than only four other states. Sen. Ted Deutch says it's time for a hike - and a big one." "Deutch targets low cigarette tax".
What about a tax on 10 dollar cigars? How about an intangibles tax?
"Catching up to do"
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board writes that "instead of seizing the moment, the Bush administration is trying follow its own money to who knows where. The Bush administration, like the Castro regime, has its own catching up to do." "End to cell phone, hotel bans shows how far behind Cuba is" ("The administration says one change it will make is that it will award the free-Cuba money to European and Latin American groups seeking change in Cuba. Yes, more outsourcing.")
"Could there be a little pre-emption going on?"
"State Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Lutz, who has already filed to run for re-election this year, also filed Tuesday to run for the state Senate in 2010. He will seek the seat occupied by Victor Crist, R-Tampa, who has to leave then due to term limits."
Interesting thing, his longtime pal and fellow Republican, Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman, was planning to file for the same Senate seat today. Norman has made clear for years that he plans to run for the seat."Republican pals to vie for Crist's Senate seat".
Charlie on the edge of his seat with anticipation
"Interviewed by radio talk show host Don Imus, McCain did not offer any details of his search for a running mate. ... McCain has given no hint of his thinking on a running mate, although he frequently speaks warmly of his former rivals for the nomination, particularly former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Among the other possible choices are several governors: Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty, Florida's Charlie Crist, Mississippi's Haley Barbour, South Carolina's Mark Sanford and Utah's Jon Huntsman Jr." "McCain compiles list of running mates".
As Florida burns ... we debate feet, songs, license plates, and cell phones?
"State law prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools, day-care centers, parks or playgrounds. Cities and governments can expand those limits and at least 10 counties - including Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade - have increased the restriction to 2,500 feet. But the bill (SB 1430) would set 1,500 feet as the only standard across the state." "Statewide standard limit for sex offenders proposed".
"Some of the very legislators who made history last week by apologizing for Florida's slave history are showing persistent fondness for the state song that refers to blacks as 'darkeys.'" "Rural Florida legislators balk at replacing state song".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Blot out specialty license plate proliferation with moratorium" and "Solid legislative measure has good shot at stemming metals theft".
"Drivers under 18 would be banned from gabbing on cellphones under a bill approved unanimously by the Senate transportation committee on Tuesday." "Senate bill answers cellphone-behind-wheel problem".
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "State legislators don't know how much rock Florida needs for road-building or how much rock lies underground. They admit as much in a bill to be heard today. But that ignorance hasn't stopped legislators from adding to the bill a terrible condition that would strip zoning control from communities and empower the mining industry." "Don't strip mine control".
"Something rather appealing"
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "There is something rather appealing about watching Wal-Mart in such a position, especially since the real victim in this case is the environment." "Wal-Mart cries foul despite clout".
Flipping a coin
President of Fla. Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, A. Russell Smith writes that "under current Florida law, the court's determination about whether a confession was illegally forced from a suspect, or whether the suspect ever really confessed at all can be no more accurate than flipping [a] thin dime." "Law would require recorded confession".
"New Voting Machines Debut".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "To prosecute Miami attorney Ben Kuehne as though he launders drug money morphs the war on drugs into a crusade against lawyers." "Attorney's indictment sends bad message".
Heaven Help us
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: Do we really need these geniuses to tell us how to run our schools? "Florida TaxWatch on Tuesday suggested that public schools are going to have to rethink the way they do business beyond the classroom in order to protect the classroom."
That is, said TaxWatch CEO Dominic Calabro, school districts must redirect dollars through "smart business and smart policy" such as changing the way they purchase noninstructional services such as transportation, food services and maintenance."Creative cutting: Schools are getting lots of advice".
"Get convicted of killing or attempting to kill a law enforcement officer and be prepared to spend the rest of your life behind bars." "Bills would toughen laws for hurting law enforcement officers".
Same old song
"Causing the death of a fetus would lead to a murder charge, no matter how far along the pregnancy is, under a bill passed in the House on Wednesday." "Fetus protection bill passes House, little movement in Senate".
"With Gov. Charlie Crist making climate change one of his signature issues, Florida lawmakers are in a high-stakes debate about reducing air pollution and revamping the state's energy laws." "Florida attempts to go green".
Has it really come to this?: "Is it against the law, the jurors asked the judge in a note, to swear an oath of allegiance to al-Qaida?"
In response to their query, prosecutors said yes and defense attorneys said no, airing a dispute that began when the men were charged in June 2006."Jurors pose question while debating Liberty City terrorism case".
Limbaugh may be waitin' on a new man
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Prescription drug abuse could be curbed with state electronic data base".
Battle of the empty suits
"Car dealer Norman Braman -- in a fighting mood with the architects of Miami's $3 billion megaplan -- commissioned a poll that finds state House Speaker Marco Rubio would offer a strong bid for the seat now held by one of the deal's sponsors, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez."
Rubio has yet to file to oppose Alvarez, but the poll is another signal that a battle between two major politicians could be in the offing.
"Braman's poll turns heat up on Alvarez".
The poll of 1,211 likely voters, evenly taken in all 13 commission districts, indicates Rubio would steal from Alvarez's Hispanic Republican base. But it also finds Alvarez with a significant lead in the fight for non-Hispanic whites. The poll, which has a margin of error of 3 percentage points, showed both tied at 38 percent each.
We need more
"Florida Power & Light will need to increase electricity production by 25 percent over the next decade to meet rising demand, the company said Tuesday." "Largest Fla. power companies need to increase electricity output".
"Florida House bill would stiffen grow-house penalties".
"Department of Children and Families Secretary Bob Butterworth said Tuesday it is 'totally unconscionable' for Florida legislators to cut medical and social services for needy children." "Florida House proposed budget would slash nearly $7 billion, hit health care hard".
Never mind that "forever" thing
"The state's conservation land-buying program and Everglades restoration would receive no money under the House proposed 2008-09 budget." "Budget cuts could impact Florida environment".
"Not dropping enough"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Hurricane season is coming soon, and state lawmakers again are trying to bolster Florida's battered property-insurance market. There are no easy answers. Until Florida can spread the windstorm risk more broadly -- preferably nationwide, or at least among coastal states -- insurers will continue to collect high premiums." "Insurance costs not dropping enough".
"Miami City Commissioner Tomás Regalado -- well-known radio and TV commentator, unabashed populist, and frequent thorn in Mayor Manny Diaz's side -- now wants to be mayor himself." "Regalado to run for Miami mayor".