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285 posts from October 2007

October 29, 2007

House grudgingly accepts Senate property tax plan

After hours where House members complained about bad they thought the Senate property tax plan, the House just voted to "concur" with the Senate property tax plan by a 74-41 vote. Next up is a final vote to place the revamped constitutional amendment on the Jan. 29th ballot.

Most of those who voted against the amendment were Democrats. But Reps. Rene Garcia, Will Kendrick, Pat Patterson, Don Brown, David Simmons and Dick Kravitz also voted no. Some South Florida Democrats also voted yes: Reps. Ed Bullard, Marty Kiar, Wilbert "Tee" Holloway, Yolly Roberson, Jack Seiler and Ari Porth.

UPDATE: The vote on the amendment was 97-18, with 16 Democrats and two Republicans, Garcia and Kendrick, voting no.

Nelson says the prez contenders have been "muzzled"

Once again, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is taking to the Senate floor - and the C-Span2 cameras - to bash the Democratic party poo-bahs who decided to strip Florida of its convention delegates and bar candidates from campaigning in the state.

He notes GOP'ers had all their candidates at their recent convention, as well as a debate.

"This should concern not only Floridians, it should concern all voters because it's the principle of one person, one vote," Nelson said.

Crist phoning members as House beats its chest

As the House of Representatives positions itself to reject the Senate's tax plan, and therefore scuttle a tax-cut plan for voters Jan. 29, Gov. Charlie Crist is dialing furiously.

"Vote this out. Just get it done, buddy," he's purportedly telling legislators. He's reminding them they c an come back and cut more in spring and that they should remember: This is for the people. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp is working legislators as well.

Crist has repeatedly phoned House Speaker Marco Rubio and his likely successor, Rep. Ray Sansom, who has vacillated on whether or not to vote for the plan.

If there were any question about the Senate coming back, a staffer just made it clear that it won't happen. He just removed Senate President Ken Pruitt's gavel from his podium.

Is the House planning to vote down prop tax plan?

The great mystery this afternoon remains: Will the House vote down the Senate property tax plan and scuttle all chance for a property tax amendment being on the Jan. 29th ballot?

If you were judging by the rhetoric, the answer would be yes. Member after member, Democratic and Republican, have gotten up and questioned the plan fashioned by the Senate: It's unconstitutional, it doesn't provide enough savings, it provides the wrong kind of savings etc.

But then again House Republican leaders have appeared fairly relaxed this afternoon. Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp spent nearly an hour on the House floor, going around and shaking hands and back-slapping many GOP legislators. It's only been in the last few minutes that Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, the House Majority Whip, has been walking around with what appears to be a member sheet and possibly counting votes.

Now of course there's two votes pending--a vote to concur, or not concur with the Senate amendment that contains the Senate plan. If House members choose to concur with the Senate amendment then they have to take a final vote to place the property tax amendment on the ballot.

Keller a target this week, Diaz-Balarts, Ros-Lehtinen, perhaps not so much

National Democrats announced Monday they'll continue to run radio ads targeting GOP'ers for voting against expanding a popular children's health insurance program.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the fourth round of the "Putting Children First" campaign will begin Tuesday with radio spots, text messaging and e-mail.

"Across the country Republicans are feeling the heat for supporting President Bush instead of the health care for America's kids," said Van Hollen, D-Maryland.

Miami's three Republican members, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart were targeted by radio ads two weeks ago - the first time the national party had spent money in the districts - but they didn't make the cut this time around.

All but 2 of Florida's 16 Republicans voted against the expansion, but only Rep. Ric Keller, R-Orlando, is on this week's target list.

Nelson to Howard Dean: "See you in court! (Soon, I hope)"

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is filing a new motion in his lawsuit against national Democrats, seeking, he says, a "quick decision by a federal judge that (Democratic National Committee chair Howard) Dean and other political party bosses in Washington have violated the constitutional rights of millions of Florida voters."

Today's the deadline for Dean to respond to the lawsuit Nelson and Rep. Alcee Hastings filed earlier this month. They charge the DNC violated voters' rights when it stripped the state of its delegates to the 2008 nominating convention and barred presidential candidates from campaigning in the state. That move followed Florida's decision to move up its primary to Jan. 29.

The DNC has said it has the right to set its own party rules and was seeking to restore order to a chaotic calendar.

A draft copy of the new motion says that "For the right to vote to have any meaning, Florida's electoral system requires not only that the votes be counted on election day, but that election ballots result in votes that are going to be counted at the major parties' convention through the presence of delegates.

"Thus, neither the constitution nor Florida's election law will tolerate an expensive, publicly funded and operated presidential primary that would be an exercise in futility."

House asks Senate: Where are you?

After the Senate passed its property tax package and sent it to the House, it recessed indefinitely. That caused an uproar in the House when they reconvened two hours later.

"I think it's their duty in the Senate to be here,'' said Rep. Dick Kravitz. "If this is really the people's forum, then we're here to do the work of the people and they're not. I'm not just trying to create a problem, but there are legitimate concerns, especially with the school impact. We held the schools harmless, they did not.'' 

Kravitzs said the Senate "should be willing, 'til the end of the day, to discuss it. But where are they? We're here."

Responded House Speaker Marco Rubio: "The Senate is technically still here but your colleagues respect your candor.''

Business group urges House to reject Senate plan

The Florida branch of the National Federation of Independent Business has just sent a letter to House Speaker Marco Rubio urging the House to reject the Senate's proposed property tax plan that includes a 10-percent cap on assessments for non-homestead and commercial property. NFIB prefers the five percent cap that the House adopted last week.

"We urge you to remain vigilant and amend the Senate version,'' wrote Allen Douglas, legislative affairs director for NFIB. "We believe the 10 percent cap provides little or no relief for small businesses struggling to keep up with taxes and insurance. What savings they will see in a boom year will quickly be erased in normal years where assessments do not rise more than 10 percent, and by increases in other taxes and fees."

The Florida Chamber of Commerce isn't too happy with the Senate plan either. "The cap is too high for us," said David Daniel, lobbyist for the chamber. ""Let's not make the problems worse than they already our. Our goal has always been to let homeowners and businesses see real relief. It's a balancing act.

Rubio meanwhile has told House members that if they amend the Senate plan it is likely that the property tax plan will be dead for this special session.

Senate passes tax plan, is almost outta here

The Senate by a 35-4 margin passed its tax plan and now the ball's in House's court.

The nay votes: Miami Republican senators Alex Villalobos and Rudy Garcia, Jacksonville's Tony Hill, Orlando's Gary Siplin.

Senate President Ken Pruitt almost publicly acknowledged what most senators are saying: This is all they're doing. "Safe journeys home," he said.

Rubio tells members he's disappointed in the Senate

During breakfast in the House members' lounge, House Speaker Marco Rubio repeatedly expressed his disappointment and dissatisfaction with the bill and the way the property tax amendment process has been handled by the Senate, said Rep. Janet Long, a Clearwater Democrat who was about six members there. "He said this is disturbing trying to make public policy this way," she said. 

Later, after opening the Monday session of the House, Rubio said: "It's a difficult decision. Every option
before us has consequences that are less than ideal. That's where we are."

He told members that every piece of information they have received from the
Senate, they have sent to members. "If that's not enough when it comes time to vote for
the bill, we understand," he said.