Developers running amuck in Tally
"The watchdog agency that has overseen growth in Florida for decades could be dismantled as state lawmakers look for ways to cut the budget and revive an ailing construction industry."
House members gave early approval last week to a wide-ranging bill that includes a call to split up the agency ... the House bill on the issue contains other provisions that would strip away the agency's powers."Florida growth watchdog might lose fangs in legislative assault".
The Orlando Sentinel editorial board: "There's nothing like a financial crisis to turn allies into enemies."
Florida's judges and court clerks are at each other's throats over a move to strip the clerks of their duties and turn them over to the state's court system."We think: Courts need more money, but gutting clerks' offices isn't the answer".
Make no mistake, this is all about money. Courts are starved for it. They face crushing caseloads and a Legislature that, when it wasn't cutting the budget for courts, wasn't providing sufficient increases.
The proposed solution isn't much better.
The debate that never was
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "If the opponents of the South Florida Water Management District's $1.34 billion purchase of U.S. Sugar's land get their way, the three-day trial that begins today in Palm Beach County will be the debate that taxpayers never got."
In challenging the district's right to borrow up to $2.2 billion, to pay for the land, opponents will portray the deal as a U.S. Sugar bailout that will not save the Everglades. If they succeed, Circuit Judge Donald Hafele could stop the deal by declaring that the district can't issue "certificate of participation" bonds, which don't require a public vote."Back bonds for sugar deal".
- "Lawmakers will get the first chance to mull over Friday's announcement that the current budget deficit has grown to $700 million and next year's hole could be as big as $3 billion." "As Week 3 begins, legislators will come to grips with grim budget numbers".
- "Storm clouds are on the horizon for state's Sunshine law".
Meantime, "Special interests funnel $6 million to Florida lawmakers".
Class size games
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "In 2002, 52 percent of voters approved a state constitutional amendment limiting class sizes. Rather than implement the new requirement straightforwardly, lawmakers have since attempted -- and in some ways succeeded -- in evading voters' intent."
After the amendment passed in 2002, then-Gov. Jeb Bush launched an attempt to repeal it. That failed. But lawmakers short-changed school districts by about $600 million of the estimated $2.5 billion needed to comply with it. They continued to cut taxes. And they created a self-fulfilling prophesy: That the amendment would be unaffordable, and would therefore require altering. That's what lawmakers are proposing now as a full-blown economic crisis rattles the state's finances."By the 2010-11 school-year, classes up to third grade may have no more than 18 students, no more than 22 in classes from fourth to eighth grade, and no more than 25 in high school classes. Several proposals are floating around the Legislature, none intended to comply with the requirement as voters intended it."
If the Legislature had the kind of record education advocates could support, a mix of those proposals might be a fair way to navigate through the economic downturn. Class-size reductions were never the perfect way to improve education. Some flexibility in applying them, along with other reforms (better pay, more focus on low-achieving schools) would likely result in improved student achievement. But the Legislature doesn't have that kind of record. Its motives toward public education, from high-stakes testing to vouchers to poor funding, have been more undermining than constructive."The suspicion over legislators' motives is justified."
It's a simple message. Do what's necessary to commit to class-size reductions as voters intended them. Then talk flexibility.Read the whole thing here: "Leaders haven't earned flexibility on class size".
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "Florida lawmakers are finally taking a hard look at sales tax exemptions, which have long symbolized the undue influence of special interests in Tallahassee. But the true show of lawmakers' mettle depends on more than lip service." "Tax exemptions ripe for whacking".
That's our bill: Squeaky, but not clean
The Miami Herald editorial board: "State Attorney General Bill McCollum says those TV ads he's been running since January warning against Internet predators is an effort to raise awareness about a serious crime issue affecting children. We will give him the benefit of the doubt insofar as intentions, but critics who say that Mr. McCollum is promoting his own political prospects with state money have good reason for their concerns."
In the first place, Mr. McCollum, a Republican, is a fixture on the Florida political scene. He's a former member of Congress, failed Senate aspirant and current officeholder who has made it clear he will either seek reelection or run for higher office in 2010. This certainly is his right, but he shouldn't try to do it with public money. ..."McCollum TV ads confuse the message".
The attorney general added fuel to the concerns of critics by hiring the same Philadelphia-based firm that worked on his 2006 campaign to produce the current TV blitz. Chris Mottola got two no-bid contracts worth $1.4 million to do the job, with Mr. McCollum resorting to a loophole for ''artistic services'' to win an exemption from rules that mandate competitive bidding for state contracts.
Not merely tone deaf ... but brain dead
The St. Petersburg Times editorial board: "University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft must know that appearances can be as important as reality. Surely, she knew this when she handed out hefty bonuses to four top staff members — after the university had slashed millions from the budget, frozen salaries and ordered big layoffs." "Cringing at USF bonuses".
In a word ...
"Lawmakers may well twist themselves into a knot this year trying to decide the definition of a property tax increase. Is it simply whether a tax bill goes up from one year to the next? Or could it be a tax increase even if Florida lawmakers spend the same amount of property taxes on schools next year as they spent this year? The outcome of that debate could determine how lawmakers plug a $1 billion hole in the state's K-12 education budget." "Definition of property tax increase could affect schools, U.S. Sugar deal".
"A widely-known megachurch founded by an architect of the religious right and seen as a national political force selected a grandson of Billy Graham on Sunday as its new leader."
The overwhelming vote by congregants at Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Fort Lauderdale to appoint the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian could represent a softening of the message spread by the Rev. D. James Kennedy, who was pastor at the church until his death in September 2007."Billy Graham grandson to lead famed megachurch". See also "Billy Graham grandson to lead Fort lauderdale megachurch".
Kennedy's preaching against homosexuality and abortion made him one of evangelical Christianity's most divisive figures, and he worked to inject his faith in all aspects of public life and the political process, like allies the Rev. Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
Tchividjian insists he holds the same theological positions of Kennedy
Here's an idea ...
... Rev. Tullian Tchividjian probably won't like: "Tax Bibles? Lawmakers spur frenzy when they try to change sales-tax exemptions".
tax "fee" increase
"New fees raise cost of driving in Florida".
Will Charlie bend over for Fasano, Legg and Weatherford?
The Tampa Trib editors: "By thrusting their noses into it, [Republicans Sen. Mike Fasano and Reps. John Legg and Will Weatherford] politicized the issue."
Martin was the board's lone Democrat, and the Pasco GOP has tried, unsuccessfully, to put a Republican in the post - even though voters amended the state constitution in 1998 to make school board races nonpartisan contests. Party activists also have tried to have Martin removed before."Pushy Lawmakers Intrude In School Board Business".
Although the lawmakers deny any political motive, the fact remains Republican legislators were interested in unseating a Democrat who was elected by voters three times. This is not their job.
If Fasano, Legg and Weatherford want to do something about school board members who have failed voters and constituents, as Martin did, they're free to push legislation in Tallahassee allowing voters to recall school board members, something state law now doesn't allow. That's their arena. Absent that, they should stick to their legislative efforts and quit acting like school principals taking roll.
Crist needs to pick the best person for the job and not bow to any political pressure.
"Local police agencies count on stimulus aid".
Up and out?
Randy Schultz: "The power people love John Kastrenakes the way Florida State fans loved Steve Spurrier. John Kastrenakes is the federal prosecutor who in nearly three years has purged Palm Beach County of three corrupt commissioners and put the other commissioners and their enablers on notice that business as usual may get them lodging at Uncle Sam's expense."
So here's the problem:Much more here: "Great/awful choice for judge".
Mr. Kastrenakes is, in fact, one of 11 finalists for two circuit court judgeships in Palm Beach County. Based on his background and recent record, he's a great candidate. Aside from bringing corrupt politicians to justice, he just got a conviction in the 2006 murders of a drug-running couple and their two young children. He's a wonderful straight-talker. During the trial for a 1998 double-murder on Singer Island, he mocked the defense attorney's closing argument, "Talk is cheap, and lawyer talk is the cheapest of all."
But based on his recent record, who would want John Kastrenakes to get that new job except the people who worry most about what he might do in his current job? You want Mr. Kastrenakes to keep going. As we've seen, he puts people away, and those people start telling him things. And yet, if the governor wants to look like someone who's for clean government in Palm Beach County, Mr. Kastrenakes is the perfect choice - even if he won't have many real letters of recommendation. Who from the establishment could he ask to write? He might have to indict that person.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial board:
National leaders should be careful to avoid the pitfalls that beset Florida's Special Teachers are Rewarded, or STAR, program, which lacked flexibility in the size of bonuses and how teachers were chosen. Based mainly on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores, that effort resulted in a boondoggle that turned off many Floridians to the whole merit pay idea. "President Obama supports performance-based salaries for teachers".