Wednesday, July 19, 2006

FLORIDA DIGEST July 19, 2006



Report: Too many kids being taken into foster care

Florida children remain no safer despite their rising number in foster-care
rolls, said a frequent critic of the state's much-maligned child welfare


Report: 'Panic' destroying children's lives

Eight years after Kayla McKean was killed by her father, setting in motion
one of Florida's worst child-welfare crises, the state continues to be
gripped by a ''foster care panic'' that causes investigators to destroy
thousands of struggling families unnecessarily, a new report says.

In a 24-page report released Tuesday, the Virginia-based National Coalition
for Child Protection Reform blasted Florida's child welfare system for
wrongly removing thousands of children from their parents, flooding an
already weary social service system and causing life-long trauma to

''Contrary to the common stereotype, most parents who lose their children to
foster care are neither brutally abusive nor hopelessly addicted,'' says the
report, written by the agency's executive director, Richard Wexler. 'Far
more common are cases in which a family's poverty has been confused with
child `neglect.' ''


Article published Jul 19, 2006

State Farm rate increase OK'd
Increase averages 53 percent for Florida policyholders

By Paul Flemming

State regulators approved an average statewide rate increase of 53 percent
for State Farm, Florida's largest home insurer.

The rates are effective Aug. 15 for new customers and Nov. 15 on renewals of
State Farm's more than 1 million existing policies.

State Farm Florida first sought an average 79-percent increase when it asked
for the higher rates in May. The company withdrew the request earlier this



Sugar dollars pour into pro-Smith group

A total of $295,000 donated to a committee backing the state senator for
governor has ties to U.S. Sugar.

Published July 19, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - Big Sugar has helped Rod Smith's bid for governor in a big
way. But the industry's largess may prove to be a headache.

A political group formed to promote Smith's candidacy received $295,000 from
U.S. Sugar Corp. of Clewiston and its subsidiaries, according to federal tax

The contributions to Floridians for Responsible Government paid for a
statewide direct mail effort touting Smith as a candidate with "experience,
vision, guts."



July 19, 2006
Smith campaigns in conservative Panhandle
Associated Press

PENSACOLA -- Democrat Rod Smith walked into the Coffee Cup Restaurant and
ran into a string of Republicans having breakfast Tuesday morning.

"I'm a senator from Gainesville and I'm running for governor as a Democrat,"
he said at one table. "Are you a Gator, too?" John O'Donnell immediately
asked, referring to the name University of Florida alumni call themselves.
Smith smiled and said, "I'm a big-time Gator!"

In those few moments, Smith connected with a Republican voter who until
Tuesday morning had no idea who the senator was. It wasn't enough to
persuade O'Donnell to vote for Smith should he win his party's nomination,
but it was enough to get him to think about it and O'Donnell said he isn't
against crossing party lines for the right candidate.

The first day of Smith's three-day, 1,100-mile bus tour focused on an area
that was once heavily Democratic, but where Republicans now dominate. It's
also an area where Smith, a former prosecutor who was raised on a farm,
believes he can win the conservative vote back.



Gov. Bush, FCAT hang over race

Candidates for governor find it's unwise to get too close to, or too far
away from, Bush's education record.
By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
Published July 19, 2006

Gov. Jeb Bush is popular. The FCAT isn't.

The race to replace him may turn in part on which icon is more potent.

The Democrats - U.S. Rep. Jim Davis and state Sen. Rod Smith - slam
virtually every change Bush has made to Florida's school system, but reserve
special scorn for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Smith says the
governor's "maniacal commitment" to the FCAT is burning out teachers and
thinning out curriculum. Davis calls it a "political weapon."

Meanwhile, the Republicans - Attorney General Charlie Crist and Chief
Financial Officer Tom Gallagher - praise Bush's policies and promise to keep
using the FCAT to grade schools, retain students and reward teachers.

Both approaches carry big risks.



Jackhammer owners buy Steel club
Plans call for eventual merger, moving tea dance
Saturday, July 15, 2006

The owners of Jackhammer, a gay bar on Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale,
have bought Steel, another gay nightclub located a couple of miles west of
Jackhammer on Powerline Road.

Eventually, Steel's new owners plan to merge the two clubs and move
Jackhammer's popular Sunday tea dance to Steel, according to Chris Burdekin,
co-owner of Steel and Jackhammer.

"Steel will remain Steel," Burdekin said. "We will just add some of the
stuff from Jackhammer, such as the tea dance."



Express Gay News

Mary's closes for change in name, menu
Restaurant decides not to renew franchise contract, owner says

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hamburger Mary's, a popular gay restaurant in Wilton Manors, will shut down
for a couple of weeks at the end of July and then reopen with a new name and
revised menu, an owner of the restaurant confirmed this week.

"Our franchise contract came up for renewal, and we decided not to renew
it," said John Zieba, co-owner of Hamburger Mary's, which is located at
2449 Wilton Dr. "It's just a business decision."

Zieba said "cosmetic changes" will be made to the restaurant, and new
equipment will be added.

=, FL, July 18, 2006


Tax office adds same-sex benefits

Domestic partners will pay same premiums as married couples.

"Palm Beach County Tax Collector Pete Carney announced he is
extending health insurance to domestic partners, becoming the last
county agency to offer the benefits. Also, sexual orientation has been
added to the 269-employee tax office's non-discrimination policy.

Carney, a Republican, made the changes as he campaigns to keep his
job in the fall election. Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Carney to the
position in April, after longtime Tax Collector John K. Clark


Tuesday, July 18, 2006 10:43 PM

Subject: YOUR Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus Candidates -

At our conference in Tallahassee last weekend, we were proud to introduce
three of our own members who are candidates for public office in Florida.

Elizabeth Campbell is a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives,
District 3. Liz is a member of our newly formed Pensacola chapter.

Bryan Worthington is a candidate for Sarasota County Charter Review Board,
District 3. Bryan is a Director in Region 6 and President of the Suncoast
Stonewall Democrats, our Sarasota chapter.

Ken Keechl is a candidate for Broward County Commisioner, District 4. Ken is
a Director in Region 8 and on the Board of Directors of the Dolphin
Democrats, our Broward chapter.

Please take a moment to visit each candidate's web site. We'd encourage you
to consider making a financial contribution to each. Even a small
contribution, when combined with the power of all of us, can help make a big
difference in each of these races.

And if you live in the candidate's district, call them and volunteer to help
them get the word out.

Come November 8, we'll have 3 new GLBT elected officials!


Gay Democrats seek to become an influential force in politics

Associated Press
July 15, 2006


Gay Democrats seek to become an influential force in politics


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gay and lesbian Democrats sometimes face a difficult
position when trying to promote political issues of personal
interest: They know some in their party aren't on their side, and they
believe Republicans use the issues to divide voters.

So the Florida Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) Democratic Caucus
met Saturday to address their dual goals - seeking equal rights for their
members and electing Democrats regardless of how they stand on gay issues.

"I can sum up the Republican agenda in nine words: Burning the flag,
spurning the fag and earnings that lag," said U.S. Rep. Barney Frank of
Massachusetts, who is gay.