Update:"A sweeping education bill to change the way the FCAT is used is in danger of failing in the waning moments of the session. ... Senate Republicans have a take-it-or-leave-it deal for the lawmakers who want to change the much-maligned FCAT exam: Give us more public money for private schools." "Voucher angst imperils FCAT bill".
"The anxiety-producing FCAT would make up only half of high school A-through-F grades in the future and would be taken later in the school year in a measure the Senate is expected to approve today." "FCAT importance could be halved".
"Women seeking a first-trimester abortion in Florida will not be required to have an ultrasound. The measure was defeated Wednesday in a rare 20-20 tie vote in the Florida Senate. Seven Republicans joined with Democrats to defeat the measure." "Added rule for abortion blocked". See also "Abortion bill fails in split Senate", "Abortion bill nixed by tie vote in Florida Senate", "Abortion ultrasound bill fails to pass Florida Senate" and "Florida Senate rejects bill requiring ultrasounds before abortions".
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Overreaching Abortion Bill Stopped".
"Desperately seeking a spot on the ticket"
The Palm Beach Post editorial Board: "Giving drivers a summer vacation from gasoline taxes is politically appealing and would be profoundly wrong. According to AAA, the average price for regular in this area is $3.73 per gallon. That's up 30 cents in a month and 75 cents in a year, and it's not even summer travel season. The federal gas tax is 18.4 cents; the state levies 15.6 cents. If Washington and Tallahassee suspended the tax from, say, Memorial Day to Labor Day, drivers would be ... about where they were a month ago."
John McCain favors a gas-tax holiday. Gov. Crist, desperately seeking a spot on the ticket, agrees. Maybe Gov. Crist thinks that the lost road money wouldn't be his problem next year. But it still would be Florida's problem."Idea of gas-tax holiday takes break from reality". The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Our position: A temporary cut in gas taxes would cause more problems than it would solve".
Are crosses OK?
"The Florida House voted emphatically Wednesday to junk a requirement that state agencies spend up to a half-percent of building costs on art, but chances of final passage appear doubtful." "Florida House votes to junk 'art in public places' spending".
"Homeowners' bill of rights"
"The full House and Senate are expected to approve it before the annual legislative session ends Friday, and then send it to Gov. Charlie Crist."
The bill extends the rate freeze for Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state's largest home insurer, by one year, to January 2010."Legislators compromise on 'homeowners' bill of rights'".
It doubles maximum fines for insurers that violate state law. The Senate originally wanted to increase the fines by much more.
It prohibits insurers from using arbitration panels when there's a disagreement with state insurance officials over rates.
It extends by one year, to January 2010, a provision from last year's insurance bill that requires insurers to get state approval before raising property insurance rates.
It requires insurers to notify state regulators 90 days before dropping more than 10,000 homeowner policies in one year.
It requires insurers to use state-approved methods to predict the risk of hurricanes, a key factor in setting rates.
"House and Senate Republicans on Wednesday appeared close to a deal that would freeze property insurance premiums for many coastal residents for the third consecutive year." "Citizens' freeze may stay in place".
"Warmed over ideology"
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Thanks to the Florida Budget and Tax Reform Commission, Floridians will have to grapple with seven ballot questions in November that seem more about pushing warmed over ideology than implementing meaningful fiscal reform." "Florida's Budget and Tax Reform Commission isn't living up to its name".
Pay "no attention to donors" behind the curtain
"Like his colleagues, Rep. Stan Mayfield is not allowed to raise campaign money when the Florida Legislature is in session, because of the perception that lawmakers would be trading votes for donations."
But that has not stopped lobbyists and corporations with business before the Vero Beach Republican from giving $96,000 to his political committee since the session began in March."Powerful Florida House member sidesteps fundraising ban".
Mayfield, a powerful committee chairman who wants to be Florida's next agriculture commissioner, legally sidesteps the fundraising ban by steering those unrestricted donations to a political committee known as a 527, a reference to the section of the IRS code that regulates such committees.
They are not affected by the ban on fundraising during sessions and are not subject to the state's $500 contribution limit that applies to legislators' own campaigns.
Progress Energy gave $20,000, for example. Another $20,000 came from Florida Power & Light. Prominent Tallahassee lobbyist Wade Hopping gave $10,000.
Mayfield said he has stepped down from the group during session and insists he has paid no attention to donors.
A sleazy little retirement slid in for Young
"Times aren't so bad. Just ask Gov. Charlie Crist or his friend, U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. Tucked into Florida's proposed $66-billion state budget is $2.5-million for a St. Petersburg College institute [the C.W. Bill Young Institute of Government] expected to be named for and eventually led by Young, R-Indian Shores." "Even in shrinking budget, there's $2.5-million for Rep. Young earmark".
"Deal clings to life"
"For a while Wednesday, Central Florida's commuter rail appeared doomed."
With the 61.5-mile DeLand-to-Celebration project facing as many as two dozen potentially crippling amendments, Senate Transportation Chairman Carey Baker, R-Eustis, announced he would strip it from the Senate's massive transportation bill when the measure comes up for debate today."Central Florida commuter-rail deal clings to life".
The move — coming just two days before the legislative session is scheduled to end — threatened to derail a 2-year-old deal to run commuter trains through the heart of Central Florida by 2010.
But by midevening, supporters were holding out hope that they had found a solution. They said language restoring the project could be added back to the bill once it reaches the House, which would then send it back to the Senate for a straight up-or-down vote Friday.
"Part of the way there"
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "A bill to compensate people wrongfully incarcerated isn't everything that justice would have demanded, but it gets us part of the way there." "Exonerated win measure of justice".
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "'Swanee River' to remain Florida's state song".
"South Florida counties must eventually stop pumping hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage every day into the ocean, under a bill the Legislature passed Wednesday that also sticks the counties with the $3 billion cost." "S. Fla. stuck with $3 billion sewage bill". See also "Florida governor to get bill phasing out discharge of sewage into Atlantic Ocean".
"Florida environmental officials Wednesday blasted a federal proposal to reduce the water flowing from Georgia into the Apalachicola River, calling it deadly for rare species and the seafood industry." "Georgia water restrictions threaten Florida ecosystem, officials say".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Florida's system is so flawed that even gun-rights advocates such as the National Rifle Association have complained. And 15 states, including South Carolina, refuse to recognize Florida's concealed-weapons permit." "Our position: Florida's standards for concealed-weapons permit are dangerous".
"Geller said he's not ready to quit politics. ... So, next on his agenda: a race for the Broward County Commission in 2010." "Florida Sen. Steve Geller, D-Cooper City, leaving office after 20 years".
"State Nixes Local Requests". See also "Tallahassee projects survive state budget cuts".
"Spartan State Budget Includes Millions For Florida Forever".
"After three years of trying, the anti-bullying bill inspired by the suicide of a Cape Coral teenager who was bullied at school passed Florida's Senate unanimously and is on its way to Gov. Charlie Crist." "Anti-bullying bill passes Florida Senate with unanimous vote".
"Third trial set for January in Liberty City terror plot case".
"Calling it 'history-making,' Gov. Charlie Crist said he will sign a landmark energy bill aimed at curtailing the state's impact on global climate change. The Senate unanimously approved the legislation Wednesday, a day after the House also did so unanimously." "State's first 'green' energy bill sails in Senate". See also "Energy bill heads to Crist" and "Clean-energy bill on its way to Crist".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "Florida and Washington should be following science on solar-power breakthroughs".
Tax cut or "empty stunt"
"Sen. Mike Haridopolos on Wednesday got an amendment attached to a bill that would cut the tax on cellphone services in a move criticized by some Democrats as an empty stunt." "Amendment to bill cuts cellphone tax".
Castor scores another one
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Castor deserves kudos for looking out for families in time of need."
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor has made a point of giving special attention to the financial needs of college students from working-class families during her tenure, and she recently took an important step to ensure bad economic times don't prevent the college-bound from pursuing their dreams."Castor Scores One For Families In A Bind".
Recently, Castor spearheaded an amendment to the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008 to keep families from being penalized for having overdue medical bills.
"State employees who retire would have to wait 12 months before going back to work for the state under a bill approved by the Florida House Wednesday." "House bill would curb double-dipping on state's payroll". See also "House bill could make it harder for State of Florida retirees to 'double-dip'".
Florida's non-Hispanic white population growth rate falls
"Between July 1, 2006, and June 30, 2007, Florida's non-Hispanic white population growth rate fell to 29th among the 50 states. It added only 4,833 people. Florida ranked fourth a year earlier". "Florida falls to 29th in rate of non-Hispanic white growth".
"Daniel Webster bids farewell to Legislature".
"A plan to encourage aerospace research passed unanimously in the House Wednesday, but there are only two days left to get Senate approval." "Florida House passes plan to encourage aerospace research".
"The slums of tomorrow"
Mike Thomas: "There is growing sentiment among urban planners that cities are surrounding themselves with the slums of tomorrow. These are the outlying developments, many thrown up with reckless abandon during the housing bubble to feed speculator demand. In 2005, Florida cities and counties gave out a record 208,000 permits for detached homes, mostly out in the burbs of Central Florida and coastal cities." "Sprawl is just one more nail in economic coffin".
"Florida Democrats protest in Washington, call for primary to be counted".
"Florida Highway Patrol troopers are relieved, but a last-minute legislative deal to give them a 5 percent pay raise won't stem the tide of defections to higher-paying departments, a union official warned this Wednesday." "Last-minute deal gives FHP troopers 5 percent raise".
Your papers ... please
"The state House voted unanimously Wednesday to tighten what kind of photo IDs can be used at the polls, coming just two days after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a much stricter photo ID law in Indiana." "Stricter voter ID rules get OK in house".