"Setting up probably the biggest and most expensive political battle of 2010, Secretary of State Kurt Browning's office certified the 'Hometown Democracy' constitutional amendment Monday for a statewide referendum." "'Hometown Democracy' to get vote". See also "'Hometown Democracy' to get vote".
Florida, where everyone's above average
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Last Thursday's news release from the Florida Department of Education was ecstatic in tone: 'Florida schools experienced their most successful year to date, according to the 2009 school grades results released today. Driven by a significant increase in the number of 'A' grades, more than three quarters of all public schools are considered to be high-performing ... the largest number yet since the inception of school grades.' ... while 61.7 percent of all public schools in Florida got an A from the state and 78.4 percent of all schools received an A or B from the state, just 23.4 percent of Florida public schools made 'Adequate Yearly Progress" under the federal No Child Left Behind standards.'"Behind all those 'A' grades".
"The state Department of Transportation's now-famous 'Tallahassee turtle tunnel' has become a rallying point for the next round of Independence Day taxpayer 'tea party' protests." "Tax protesters plan 'tea party' over eco-passage". Background "We don't care how you do it in Oklahoma" (scroll down)
"Congressmen Hastings, Grayson, others urge repeal of "don't ask, don't tell"".
"More caps to assure Florida's tax inequities continue"
Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board:
Statewide, the median price [for existing homes] fell 31 percent from just one year ago, to $138,500. Sales are increasing -- real estate agents sold 610 houses in April, up 10 percent from last year. But Florida has a backlog of about 300,000 houses on the market. The nation has a backlog of 4 million. It's going to be a while, possibly many years, before the real estate market and prices recover. Much more here: "Amendment 3's failings".
So why are legislators still trying to rig the property tax system against now-ghostly high taxes?
In 2007, the Legislature passed a $15 billion property tax cut that forced local governments to scale back services from elderly transportation to school resource officers. Florida voters followed up in January 2008 by approving Amendment 1, which, they were told, would save them $10 billion over five years by doubling the homestead exemption to $50,000, allow property owners "portability" of their exemption when they move from one house to the next in Florida, and cap the year-over-year valuation increases at 10 percent for all non-homesteaded properties (including businesses and rentals).
The amendment had a fair starting point as it sought to address inequities in the tax system. But instead of doing away with the inequities, it depended them. The 10 percent cap on non-homesteaded properties was mostly symbolic, as valuations were unlikely to increase past double-digits for very long: bubbles burst. The last one did soon after voters passed the amendment, sending prices, and valuations, crashing.
Lesson not learned. The Legislature approved yet another property-tax amendment for the 2010 ballot. This one -- Amendment 3 -- would take the 10 percent cap on non-homesteaded properties and lower it to 5 percent. And it would grant first-time homebuyers, or home-buyers who haven't benefited from a homestead exemption in the previous eight years, a $100,000 homestead exemption (decreasing in 20 percent increments from the second to the sixth year of ownership). The amendment is neither needed nor wise. Legislators are selling it as a boon to the state's real estate industry. That industry, as the ongoing crisis reminds Floridians every day, doesn't need new subsidies. It needs a reality check.
"In a closely watched case, the [Supreme Court] ruled that a small Texas utility district could get out from under Justice Department oversight when making election-related changes. The ruling will allow political entities in 16 mostly Southern states to similarly escape federal control established by the 1965 Voting Rights Act."
Only the embarrassing "Justice Clarence Thomas urged that the law's requirements be struck down outright. Conservative groups such as the Pacific Legal Foundation likewise had urged the court to strike down the pre-clearance requirements as unconstitutional, but the court's majority rallied around a narrow decision." "Supreme Court loosens bonds of voting rights oversight".
Voucher maven pleads guilty
"A St. Petersburg [private school] educator and activist has pleaded guilty to charges that she stole more than $250,000 from state scholarship programs intended to help low-income and disabled students."
"Dennard, who operated Bishop Academy II, was accused of inflating student numbers, submitting scholarship applications that falsely indicated tuition at $3,500 or $7,500 when the actual tuition was $2,600, and of simultaneously collecting funds for students receiving both McKay and CTC scholarships. She was also accused of failing to provide the professional services prescribed by and paid for by the Department of Education." "Marva Dennard, a St. Petersburg educator who offered free scholarships to private schools, pleads guilty to charges she stole from state programs". Related: "Voucher complaints chase pair" ("Two entrepreneurs say questions about their use of voucher funds could drive them out of the private school business.").
A priority thing
"Florida's athletic budget proved to be recession proof, increasing $5.9 million for 2009-10. The budget, passed Monday, will total more than $89 million despite a 10 percent cut in nearly every sport. Football and men's basketball saw budget increases." "Florida's athletic budget tops $89 million".
We suspect Charlie will be busy that day
"Rubio challenges Crist to series of debates in Senate race".
"First came allegations of illegal negotiations between Florida's prison system and a mental health care vendor. Then came a bid protest and a lawsuit charging violations of purchasing and public records laws. Now, this: the same vendor that brought the lawsuit, MHM Correctional Services, is raising the possibility that a top corrections official maneuvered to get a friend hired at the vendor being hired to replace MHM." "Explosive new charge in prison vendor lawsuit".
RPOFer pit-poodle goes after sink
"Fasano blasts Sink's Amendment 1 amnesia". The RPOF really needs to do better than the pathetic Fasano.
Florida's "solar disarray"
The Sarasota-Herald Tribune: "Solar disarray: Lawmakers bungle green push".
Editors argue that the accused must prove she is innocent
The Palm Beach Post editorial board is at it again:
Florida's police chiefs and sheriffs want the governor to veto Senate Bill 624, the misnamed Officers Bill of Rights. ..."Veto bad-cop protection".
[U]nder SB 624 an officer or deputy under investigation would get to see all "existing evidence" - including "GPS information" before even the first interrogation. As the police chiefs association points out, this part should read "known evidence." Otherwise, evidence that develops during an investigation would be inadmissible.
Another change would allow the officer to see the report, conclusion and recommendation before the department imposes any discipline. ...
But there are even more proposals, all designed to hamper investigations and shift the burden from accused to accuser. The union enjoys great influence in Tallahassee, and Gov. Crist no doubt wants the PBA endorsement for his Senate run. This bill, however, is not about good law enforcement. It's about protecting bad cops.
Pardon us, but what is the problem with "shift[ing] the burden from accused to accuser"?
Another anti-worker hack
"A piece of legislation introduced last week by U.S. Rep Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, would eliminate minimum compensation provisions for construction workers on public works projects."
Mack is proposing the legislation would stimulate the economy by creating more jobs by repealing the Depression-era Davis-Bacon Act, which requires workers on large, federally-funded projects to be paid a “prevailing wage.”Here's the reality:
Though the wages set by the government under the act are intended to represent the normal wages of an area, a statement from Mack’s office said they often fail to do so. The wage-minimums actually reflect the “inflated pay scale of union workers,” the statement said.
“Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements are wrong for our country,” Mack said. “Instead of pandering to big labor, Congress should be fostering a competitive environment for businesses to be able to hire more people for more jobs.”
Dan Telep Jr. disagreed with the conclusion that such a measure would stimulate the economy. A 16-year veteran federal contracting officer, Telep now works to assist local businesses in obtaining government contracts through Florida Gulf Coast University’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center office."Rep. Mack proposes legislation to repeal construction wage act".
“I perceive that the Davis-Bacon Act started shortly after the Depression and the reason it started was to stimulate the economy,” Telep said, adding that today it is a way to curtail the use of undocumented workers.
“That’s going to be a venue for corruption in the construction business and industry,” Telep said of a possible result of the act’s repeal. “I think the reason the government has kept the wage determination has been because of that corruption possibility, and it allows people to keep a living wage in the industry.” ...
“The Department of Labor sets the wage determination based on the economic conditions in that area,” Telep said. “Wage determinations are not set by unions.”
"A Florida law banning the substitution of certain drugs must be followed even if a generic version gets federal approval, a state appellate court ruled Monday." "Fla. court rules against generic drug maker". See also "Fla. court rules against generic drug maker".
Coming to a Florida road near you?
The Miami Herald editorial board: "When a hate group wants to adopt a highway to keep it litter free, what's a state government to do? Say yes, after a Missouri court ruling, based on freedom of speech grounds, said the Ku Klux Klan could adopt a highway and have its name on the road sign announcing its clean up. Now a neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Movement, wants to adopt a section of another Missouri road." "Countering hate".
"A boom in breeding by the rare wood stork has added fuel to developers' argument that the bird no longer belongs on the endangered list." "Wood stork population flying higher in Everglades".
"When Rep. Kendrick Meek talks about his Senate campaign, you’d never know he trails by 30 points and is being all but counted out by just about everyone who knows anything about Florida politics."
Facing the probability of a general-election match-up with a Republican governor whom 60 percent of Democrats like, Meek is working like few candidates before or after him. He got started early — to the surprise of many — and has quietly plodded his way to solid fundraising numbers and the endorsement of just about every major Democratic group that matters in politics. ..."'Meek’ just doesn’t really describe this Senate candidacy".
Meek has both the Obamas and the Clintons on his side. And it could be a powerful alliance.
A close friend of the former president and early endorser of his wife’s presidential campaign, Meek has reaped the benefits of three fundraising assists from Bill Clinton. And he got a significant nod to his rising star from Obama when the president invited him, alongside much higher-ranking members of Congress, on a trip to the Summit of the Americas in April.
Obama is, for now, an asset in a state he won in November’s election. Clinton appears more of a mixed bag after his close political confidant, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, crashed and burned in Virginia’s Democratic primary for governor.
“I don’t consider myself the Clinton candidate in the race,” Meek said. “My campaign will not totally depend on Bill Clinton and his presence in the state of Florida.”
Despite the high-profile help, Meek is hardly Democrats’ best hope for winning a seat nationwide, and they aren’t overly excited about his prospects. Much of their focus seems to be on hoping former state House Speaker Marco Rubio can knock Crist off in a primary.
A Meek-Rubio match-up would pit two young and little-known minority candidates against each other in what would be a fair fight from day one.
Open them checkbooks
"If Crist relaxes rules, State Farm hints it may stay".
"Dropping like a rock"?
"Thousands of homeowners across Florida may wind up getting vastly different rate increases from the state's largest property insurance provider, and not the 10 percent increase that many may have been expecting. Such discrepancies threaten to spark a battle between Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and state regulators over what kind of rates homeowners should wind up paying." "State's insurer faces rate fight".
"Pruitt predicts Negron, Atwater victories, Haridopolos to the White House".
"Michael Arth is an enigma -- at once driven and intellectual, hands-on, somewhat eccentric, a nomadic jack of all trades."
You might know him as the cocky yet earnest man who moved from California's Santa Barbara hills in 2001 to transform a decrepit DeLand neighborhood into the Garden District -- picturesque blocks of restored turn-of-the-century homes, quaint shops and pastel facades."Developer sets sights on governor run".
Or you might remember Arth two years ago as the vocal proponent of a pedestrian village for the mentally ill and homeless out near the Volusia County Branch Jail.
He's also an artist, self-taught green urban planner, author and futurist.
Now meet Arth the gubernatorial candidate.
His campaign strategy?
"To tell the truth, to speak up openly and honestly about what I believe about everything and not hide anything. ...
Eight years ago, he sold his California home and moved into a dilapidated house in a notoriously dangerous area of southeast DeLand known as "Cracktown." Arth -- who has lived from Texas to Paris, run a bed and breakfast in Colorado, worked as an animator in Los Angeles and built Hollywood houses from the ground up -- cobbled together financing, eventually buying 32 homes and businesses, and went about rebuilding until the drug gangs, dealers and neighborhood's unsavory rep were gone. He even created an award-winning documentary about the endeavor, "New Urban Cowboy: Toward A New Pedestrianism."
How soon before he's a candidate?
"Scarborough returns to roots for signing".
"U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, has castigated [potential challengers, Orange] County Mayor Rich Crotty and former state Sen. Dan Webster for failing to solve problems plaguing the region's toll agency and demanded that the agency rescind a 25-cent toll hike." "Grayson assails Crotty, Webster; demands repeal of expressway toll increase". See also "Letter U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, sent to the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority.".
Easily accessible guns
"Police say a dispute over neighborhood parking turned violent, leaving two men in the hospital." "2 critically injured in Tampa shooting".
What would Marco say? See "Marco Rubio pulls the pin on the crazy grenade".
I feel safer
"In visit to Manatee, Lt. Gov. stresses storm preparation".
Double dipping head fake
Bill Cotterell: "The new law ending 'double dipping' in the Florida Retirement System and government payroll will save hundreds of millions of dollars if two things happen."
First, all employees who retire need to die on their last day at work — preferably after 5 p.m. — or, if they insist on living, they can voluntarily reject their pensions. And second, their employing agencies must agree to never hire replacements for retirees.Much more: "Do we feel better now that double-dipping is banned?".
All right, that's a gross exaggeration. But so was the manufactured outrage over "double dipping" in the past two legislative sessions, culminating in the feel-good solution that Gov. Charlie Crist signed last week.
You could start with that misnomer, "double dipping." It's in Webster's, defined as having a pension and a paycheck "in a way regarded as unethical" — a prejudice that made House Bill 479 almost bulletproof in the past session.
Nobody is "dipping." You earn your pension like your salary or your parking place, and it belongs to you, whether you take it today, tomorrow or in the year 2525. The state couldn't not give it to you, just as it can't withhold any deferred-compensation payments or DROP money that you own.
The Tampa Tribune editorial board channels FDR this morning: "The economy continues to lose jobs even as federal dollars begin to flow into stimulus projects in every state. One of the biggest local projects is an expressway connecting the Port of Tampa to Interstate 4. It is a model of what an effective stimulus project should be. Construction will begin soon, putting thousands of people to work or preventing them from being laid off. Benefits from the completed bridge will be felt throughout the urban area." "Link from port to I-4 is an ideal stimulus".
The good 'ole days
"A plan now under consideration would make Palm Beach's famed Worth Avenue look the way it did in the 1920s and 1930s." "Plan would restore Worth Ave.".
"Influential Republican businessman"
"Influential Republican businessman Ralph Hughes, whose name is on Hillsborough's Moral Courage Award, died owing more than $69.3 million in unpaid taxes, the Internal Revenue Service says. ... The IRS claim is one more postscript on the life of a man who spent much of his life advocating smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation. ... a leading backer of fiscally conservative politicians and their causes across the state, but particularly in Hillsborough County." "IRS pursues $69M in unpaid taxes".
"Local residents running for two available City Council seats later this year will have to weigh in within the next two months, officials say." "Dates, rules set for Palm Coast elections".