"Combined with the decline of the state's main cash source — the sales tax — school districts statewide are facing massive, 16 percent reductions if lawmakers choose to cut their way out of the $6.1 billion shortfall for the fiscal year that starts July 1."
Lawmakers are assuming they'll have about $3 billion in federal stimulus money to fill that hole. But the U.S. Department of Education isn't expected to tell states such as Florida how to apply for a federal waiver to tap more than $2 billion in education money until next month."Funding education in Florida: Can we afford to bail out schools?".
With the 60-day lawmaking session nearing halftime, lawmakers have yet to decide between three equally grim options: requiring school districts to raise their millage rates to make up the lost property-tax revenues; raising other taxes instead; or cutting classroom spending for the third year in a row.
Was restoration a PR stunt?
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Crist is touting the fact that more than 138,000 ex-offenders have had their civil rights restored since he urged the Florida Board of Executive Clemency to change state rules in April 2007 to make restoration virtually automatic for nonviolent offenders."
However, Gov. Crist and the Legislature must further reform the clemency process for the hundreds of thousands of felons in Florida who remain disenfranchised. ..."Too many ex-offenders still waiting for full rights".
[A]ccording to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, about 950,000 Floridians who have completed all the terms of their incarceration or supervision are barred from doing that because of felony convictions. That number includes thousands with nonviolent offenses who are eligible for rights restoration under the new, expedited procedures. ...
If Gov. Crist is truly committed to giving ex-offenders who have served their time a real second chance, he must take a second look at clemency reform
Kottkamp in another jam
"Eighteen months ago, Gov. Charlie Crist created a Children and Youth Cabinet with a simple promise: `Children are our highest priority.'"
But not everyone on the panel is convinced. Three Crist appointees say their effort to grab the Legislature's attention on the plight of Florida's kids this spring was watered down by Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, resulting in a muffled message being sent to Crist and legislators."Lt. Governor accused of soft-pedaling plight of Florida's children". See also "Charlie Crist appointees say Kottkamp weakened child advocacy message" and "Crist appointees complain about Kottkamp".
Kottkamp, chairman of the 15-member advisory panel, called their letter to legislators ''overly aggressive'' and signed a much milder version, which one advocate says was ''significantly toned down'' and another called ``embarrassing.''
"The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an ethics reform enacted in 2005 to curb the influence of lobbyists by requiring them to publicly disclose their pay and banning gifts to lawmakers." "State's top court upholds rules for lobbyists" ("more than 2,000 lobbyists in Tallahassee were paid in excess of $116 million to ply their trade with the Legislature last year.")
One of twelve Orange teachers to be laid off?
"Suddenly the prospect of laying off maybe 700 teachers out of the 12,000-teacher work force has turned into layoffs of 1,000 or more." "Legislators sleep as the education funding crisis deepens".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Bottled water companies have quite the deal. They pump about 5.4 million gallons of water a day from state springs and aquifers, bottle it and sell it — and Florida does not collect a dime on those sales. Gov. Charlie Crist would not end the giveaway outright. But his proposal for a 6-cents-per-gallon tax is a reasonable starting point the Legislature should embrace. " "End the water giveaway".
"State lawmakers don't have a clue"
The Tampa Trib editors: "It's reassuring to see the Tampa City Council understands the urgent need to conserve water. It's dismaying to see state lawmakers don't have a clue about the need to protect Florida's water resources." "An Irritating Snub Of Conservation".
"If the Seminole Tribe of Florida follows through with plans to expand its casinos and resorts, it will siphon off $95 million in annual tourist and convention business from around the state and gain an even greater competitive advantage."
Those were the conclusions of Amy Baker, the Florida Legislature's chief economist, in a report presented to the House Committee on Seminole Indian Compact Review on Friday. The panel is writing legislation to guide the governor on how to renegotiate a new gambling agreement with the tribe."Seminole casino plans could cut into state's tourism business". See also "Seminole casino's plans may cut into state's tourism dollars" and "Seminoles Left Out Negatives, Analyst Says".
In addition to ''cannibalizing'' the tourism and convention business in Florida, Baker said the existing tax rate imposed on horse and dog tracks and jai-alai frontons gives the Seminoles a $272 million tax advantage if they were to install all the slot machines they're planning. As a sovereign nation, the tribe not only doesn't pay a slot machine gaming tax, it also doesn't pay sales tax on merchandise and lodging or property tax on its buildings.
Meantime, "House to offer plan to give Seminoles slots statewide, but no card games".
Dereg ... Yeah, that's the ticket!
"The so-dubbed 'Consumer Choice and Protection Act' removes the Public Service Commission's authority to regulate rates and quality of service for all but the basic landline phone service -- defined as just a single line and no extra features." "Phone companies lobby for deregulation".
Dreaming of the good ole' Batista days
"Cuban-American voters here remain dominated by an older generation with more extreme views on U.S.-Cuba foreign policy, including support for the U.S. embargo against their communist homeland, according to an exit poll taken during the 2008 election."
Cuban-American voters here remain dominated by an older generation with more extreme views on U.S.-Cuba foreign policy, including support for the U.S. embargo against their communist homeland, according to an exit poll taken during the 2008 election. ...Meantime,
Of the Cuban-American voters polled, 21 percent said they were Democrats, while 58 percent said they were Republicans.
President Barack Obama earlier this month signed a $410 billion spending bill that rolled back Bush administration limits on Cuban-Americans visiting their relatives on the island. The bill effectively allows visits once a year, removes restrictions on how long people can stay in Cuba and permits spending up to $179 a day. However, the changes only remain in effect until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30."Poll: Miami Cuban voters still support US embargo".
"State consumer advocate urges 30% hike in Citizens rates".
"Recession-ravaged state budget"
"Staring at a $6 billion shortfall, Florida lawmakers are about to put a human face on the recession-ravaged state budget." "Florida budget cuts could hit children, elderly, LEOs".
"2009 Legislature roundup".
Heaven help us
"House Bill 847, sponsored by Rep. Ronald Renuart, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, would designate part of State Road 9A in Duval County the 'Ronald W. Reagan Memorial Highway' after the Republican icon." "Naming roads gets political spin".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "A new initiative by the Florida Agriculture Department to use the property tax code to shore up the citrus industry’s defense against disease is a smart idea." "A sweet tax plan to protect our citrus".
"Frugality is in"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "The fat cats at American International Group might not get it, nor, for a time there, the CEOs of the Big Three U.S. automakers. But a lot of municipal officials have figured out that excess is out, frugality is in. This is a message that needs to trickle up, way up." "Belt-tightening".
Hurry up and wait
"In tough budget year, families awaiting claims from state may have to wait even longer".
"Fishing industry should take long view in Atlantic ban"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Few food fish please the palate like the red snapper. But until snapper stocks, particularly the larger breeding fish, are again plentiful off Florida and other Southern Atlantic coastal states, it is sensible to ban their catch by both commercial and recreational fishermen.". "Seeing red over red snapper".
Peas in a pod
"Alaska and Florida consider bans on bestiality".