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214 posts from September 2007

September 26, 2007

Crist's new promise: solar energy plant in Florida

Gov. Charlie Crist joined Florida Power & Light officials in New York City Wednesday to announce, out of the glare of the sunshine state, a $2.4 billion venture to build a solar-thermal power plant someday in Florida. More here.

The plant would begin as a 10-megawatt project in Florida and increase to 300 megawatts but it is dependent on several unknowns: How soon with the new technology be ready for prime time? Will the technical partner, Ausra Inc., agree to FPL's cost and technical requirements? Where will be plant be sited? How long will it be for FPL to obtain the needed permits?

Nobody is promising this will have an impact on anybody's energy bills any time soon, but FPL is sure to win points when the state lowers the boom on carbon emissions and starts rewarding companies for being green.

State to appeal property tax ruling today

Secretary of State Kurt Browning has just announced that his office will officially appeal the decision by Judge Charles Francis that struck the property tax amendment from the Jan. 29th ballot. This of course is just one way to resolve the dispute, the other is having the Legislature rewrite the amendment during next week's scheduled (but still not officially called) special session.

"I have every confidence that this is the appropriate decision for this important ballot initiative,'' said Browning, who is taking the course of action favored by Senate President Ken Pruitt. "I look forward to resolution of this initiative either through the judicial process or other avenues determined by the Florida Legislature."

Browning said his office will file their appeal with the 1st District Court of Appeal by the end of today. In his own statement, Gov. Charlie Crist said: "While we have great respect for the judiciary, we're going to seek a second opinion. Today, an appeal has been filed on behalf of the Secretary of State to allow the people to vote to cut their taxes."

McCollum warns about "nightmare'' of expanded gambling

Attorney General Bill McCollum won't answer the legal question of whether the legislature has a role in approving the gambling compact expected to be signed soon by Gov. Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. But, judging by this op-ed piece he's offered to the Miami Herald, he will say what he thinks of gambling -- and he doesn't like it. Download gaming_oped.doc

The Republican AG has studiously stayed out of the fight between Crist and the legislature but he stays true to his conservative stripes and, in this piece, bestows the evils of gambling like the best of them. "Casino gambling could conceivably be a nightmare for Florida,'' McCollum writes. "As our state works through issues surrounding a gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe, it is important we reflect on the potential negative consequences of expanded gambling and formulate policy accordingly.''

McCollum also complains about what he calls "convenience gambling" but it's not clear whether that includes the Lottery Department's move to seek approval to install instant ticket vending machines at retailers across the state. He is clearly choosing his words carefully, to make sure he really doesn't say too much about the brewing fight, and potential court battle, between the gov and legislature on the issue. After all, his office might have to defend one of them.

Giuliani's wife is on the phone. Again.

Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani has twice taken calls from his wife during campaign events. See him here during a June rally in Hialeah. And again here last week during a speech to the National Rifle Association.

Discussion of the calls -- were they staged acts meant to soften his image or spontaneous communications between lovebirds? - reflects a larger debate about the role of spouses on the presidential campaign trail. Florida Democrats may be seeing less of the candidates and more of their better halves due to a dispute over the state's early primary. Read the story in today's Herald here.

In the case of Republican candidate Mitt Romney, it's not just his lovely wife but his five handsome sons who serve as campaign surrogates. His youngest, Craig, who speaks fluent Spanish, made his second trip to Miami's Hispanic community yesterday. Today he is driving the "Mitt Mobile" around southwest Florida.

Poll: tax-plan unpopular, even in Bushville

A poll by Florida Democrats taken this summer in Florida House District 16, a Republican stronghold in Jacksonville, shows a whopping 56 percent have a favorable view of the president – far higher than the state and national average – but they weren’t wild about the Legislature’s now-troubled tax plan.

After the plan was explained to respondents, 44 percent say they’d vote against it and 43 percent said they’d vote for it. The threshold to pass the proposed constitutional amendment: 60 percent.

Also, 54 percent said the Legislature went too far in calling for cuts that could take $7 billion from schools in the amendment plan. About 38 percent disagreed. But the poll didn’t explain this was a five-year figure, that the bottom-line number will probably be much lower and the Legislature has made the unverifiable claim it will somehow make up the money from somewhere else.

Still, the number shows the Democrats attack on the plan have footing, even in Bush country. A caveat: 48 percent agreed that Democrats “showed their true colors” by standing against “meaningful property-tax reform” -- a phrase and attack dear to Republican House Speaker Marco Rubio of West Miami, who's now calling for more cuts and, perhaps, a different plan (a sign that the GOP's polling isn't much different on the issue).

Other intriguing results of the poll by Schroth, Eldon & Associates: Illegal immigration was the number one issue. Property taxes ranked sixth, tying with growth management. About 68 percent said companies who stop writing hurricane insurance policies shouldn’t be able to write other insurance lines in Florida (what a free market!).

Democrats took a look at the numbers and decided not to waste their time on a long-shot election to replace the seat Mark Mahan left to become a judge. Voters chose Charles McBurney to replace him. His election was certified yesterday by Gov. Charlie Crist. His favorable numbers in the district: 75 percent.

September 25, 2007

There you go again, Marco

With the approach of the evening-newscast hour, House Speaker Marco Rubio has finally broken his silence over what to do about a judge's decision to reject the "misleading" property-tax amendment: Fight the decision in court AND, possibly, change the disputed language during the upcoming special session.

Unclear if Rubio, who tied the Legislature up with his demand for steep tax cuts last spring, is working in concert with or against Senate President Ken Pruitt and his more cautious approach, or if it even matters.

Letter from Rubio here:     "Yesterday's court decision does not change the fact that Floridians need and demand immediate property tax relief.  The  proposed amendment is good public policy. We agree that the state should appeal the circuit court's decision.

However, while we are disappointed with the court's ruling, we must also recognize the opportunity it presents. The Legislature now has the opportunity to give voters the option of pursuing additional
property tax measures. 

Burdened by taxes that they cannot afford to pay, Floridians have waited long enough for relief. We must do everything in our power to preserve the January 29 special election, even if that means addressing the property tax issue in the upcoming special session."

GOP leaders go deep sea fishing for dollars

House Speaker Marco Rubio must not like fishing. He's the only top GOP legislative leader whose name is not on an invitation to a two-day "Deep Sea Fishing Trip" scheduled for Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 in Dania Beach. Senate President Ken Pruitt, Sen. Jeff Atwater, Rep. Ray Sansom and Rep. Dean Cannon are all listed as hosting the Republican Party fundraiser, which has "limited space" available.

Those who can't make the fishing trip, however, could go over to Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort on Oct. 23 for the "First Annual Sand Dollar Classic Golf Tournament" fundraiser for the GOP that will be hosted by Sansom, Cannon, Rep. Will Weatherford and Rep. Marti Coley.

Crist to attend summit organized by Bill Clinton

Gov. Charlie Crist is headed to New York City where he will be a speaker on Wednesday at the 3rd Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative organized by former President Bill Clinton. Crist is scheduled to appear at a three-hour working session on energy and climate change that will also feature remarks by actor Brad Pitt. One of the panelists is media mogul Ted Turner, who owns a large spread in Jefferson County about 20 miles east of Tallahassee.

Crist's schedule right now says that he is planning to make a "major energy announcement" on Wednesday, but otherwise his schedule does not say that he is attending the Clinton Global Initiative. When asked about it, a spokesman for Crist today said the press will know what Crist is doing when they put out his schedule. If you go to the webpage for the Clinton summit, you will see that Crist is listed on the agenda under the heading "Redefining Business as Usual."

The annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative is billed as " as diverse group of approximately 1,000 world leaders to examine today's most pressing global challenges and transform that awareness into tangible commitments to action."

Nelson says he's going to court

Now that Democratic Committee Chairman Howard Dean has rejected a last-ditch appeal to save Florida from sanctions at the 2008 convention, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he's going to court. The state's primary on Jan. 29 violates DNC rules.

"We’re disappointed in Gov. Dean’s response,'' Nelson said in a written statement. "He’s rejected at least three compromise solutions. Now there is no choice.  I’m preparing a lawsuit.”

Pruitt: Let's defend, not amend, tax plan

It looks like Senate President Ken Pruitt would prefer to fight in court to preserve the Legislature's property-tax amendment that was struck from the ballot yesterday by a judge. Gov. Charlie Crist ultimately would decide whether to appeal because his secretary of state, Kurt Browning, is named a defendant and not the Legislature.

In the letter below, Pruitt suggests next week's special session should not be expanded to include fixing the amendment:

"Yesterday, we received a trial court ruling in the case Hersh v. Browning, a challenge to the statutory language and constitutional amendment crafted by the Legislature to lower property taxes for Floridians.

First, I am encouraged that the court upheld the statutory plan. Senator Webster, Senator Haridopolos, and Representative Dean Cannon spearheaded what I believe is one of the most complex and challenging issues that has faced this Legislature in recent memory. They are to be commended for negotiating a statutory tax reduction and mandatory cap on local government revenue collections.

However, the court decision yesterday found our ballot summary language unconstitutional. After weighing our options, I believe the best course of action for the Senate and for Florida taxpayers is to vigorously defend our work product. The ruling yesterday represents the first step in the judicial process; we will appeal this decision.

The Speaker and I will be issuing a call for Special Session; the main purpose will be to reduce the budget in order to keep spending in line with the state’s lower revenues. Our primary focus has been, and will continue to be, on our one constitutional duty: the budget. I appreciate the work of Senator Carlton and our Appropriations Committees as they are thoroughly evaluating programs and projects for reductions. This is a challenging task, but one that I know can be accomplished with everyone’s full focus and effort.

I look forward to seeing you in Tallahassee later this week."