Saturday, December 16, 2006

FLORIDA DIGEST December 16, 2006

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The Washington Post

Lethal Injection Is On Hold in 2 States
Florida Governor Suspends Executions; Judge Orders California to AlterMethods

By Peter Whoriskey and Sonya Geis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, December 16, 2006; A01

MIAMI, Dec. 15 -- Executions by lethal injection were suspended in Floridaand ordered revamped in California on Friday, as the chemical method oncebilled as a more humane way of killing the condemned came under mountingscrutiny over the pain it may cause.

Gov. Jeb Bush (R) ordered the suspension in Florida after a botchedexecution in which it took 34 minutes and a second injection to killconvicted murderer Angel Nieves Diaz. A state medical examiner said thatneedles used to carry the poison had passed through the prisoner's veins anddelivered the three-chemical mix into the tissues of his arm.

In California, a federal judge ruled that the state must overhaul itslethal-injection procedures, calling its current protocol unconstitutionalbecause it may inflict unacceptable levels of pain.

Judge Jeremy D. Fogel of the U.S. District Court for Northern Californiaordered the state to revise its procedures and consider eliminating the useof two drugs: pancuronium bromide, which causes paralysis, and potassiumchloride, which causes cardiac arrest.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,6372361.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines

Broward dropout rate at highest level since 1999
2,500 students, or 2.7 percent, left high school in '05

By Douane D. James
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

December 16, 2006

The dropout rate in Broward County high schools swelled for the thirdstraight time last year, moving the figure to its highest point since 1999,according to state education figures released Friday.

Almost 2,500 students dropped out of Broward high schools last year,compared with 867 students three years ago.

The percentage of Broward dropouts increased from 1.1 percent of all highschool students in 2003-04 to 2.7 percent last year, although the schooldistrict still fares well when compared with similar-sized districts inFlorida.

"Any increase in dropouts is a signal for us to take a look at what ourprograms are doing on a school-by-school basis," said interim SchoolsSuperintendent Jim Notter. "We have to find out why that occurred."

State Education Commissioner John Winn on Friday called the rise inFlorida's overall dropout rate, from 3 percent to 3.5 percent, "ratherremarkable," given that the figure had been trending down.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,7063341.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines

Dropout rate in Palm Beach County inches up slightly
But graduation percentage also increases a little
By Rhonda J. Miller
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Education Writer

December 16, 2006

Palm Beach County's graduation rate rose slightly last year, although nearlyone-third of students who entered the class as ninth-graders didn't gettheir diplomas.

The 69.3 percent graduation rate for 2005-2006 increased marginally, from 69percent the previous year, according to figures released Friday by the stateDepartment of Education.

"Our graduation rate is improving, though not as fast as we'd like it to,"said Superintendent Art Johnson. "But our poverty and disadvantaged studentshave also continued to grow. In urban school districts, it's verychallenging."


The Sun-Sentinel,0,7969161.story?coll=sfla-news-florida

Group wants to end property tax cap
Panel also urged to back spending cuts
The Associated Press

December 16, 2006

TALLAHASSEE · Cutting back on government spending and repealing a 3 percentcap on the annual increase in taxable value of Floridians' homesteads couldbe among the ways to resolve a property tax crisis, a research group told areview panel Friday.

Floridians already had one of the highest local tax burdens in the nationbefore taxable values skyrocketed another 25 percent this fiscal year.Property taxes now account for $25.7 billion of the state's revenues -- itslargest single source of dollars.

However, Friday's recommendations by the business-backed group TaxWatch tothe Property Tax Reform Committee to end the 3 percent cap and not doublethe existing $25,000 homestead exemption is likely to run into plenty ofopposition.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sat, Dec. 16, 2006

Overcrowding, delays fuel tensions at Krome again
Overcrowding and deportation delays upset detainees at Krome where anger andboredom sometimes combine to raise tensions.

Tensions appear to be rising again at the Krome detention center in WestMiami-Dade, prompting a senior federal immigration official -- escorted byriot-equipped officers -- to meet with angry detainees recently at theovercrowded facility.

Michael Rozos, field office director for U.S. Immigration and CustomsEnforcement's Florida office of detention and removal, went to a Kromedormitory Dec. 8 accompanied by a ''disturbance control team'' and spoke tothe detainees, said agency spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez. She said teammembers were ``dressed appropriately.''


Get state in stem cell race
Palm Beach Post Editorial

Saturday, December 16, 2006

This week, New Jersey became the latest state to invest in embryonic stemcell research. The legislature approved $270 million in bonds for labs andprograms. California voters approved $300 million.

Meanwhile, Florida - which supposedly wants to become the next greatbiotechnology research state - is two years away from what could be twocontradictory constitutional amendments. One would provide money forembryonic stem cell research, while the other would ban such research.

One way to avoid such an embarrassing development would be for the FloridaLegislature to approve money for research this year. Senate President KenPruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, and Gov.-elect Charlie Crist are on record asfavoring such research.

Anything else would look odd, given the public investment in The ScrippsResearch Institute, the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies and theBurnham Institute for Medical Research. And now Yale Medical School may opena facility in Palm Beach County.


Touch-screen critics are concerned with Crist appointment


Opponents of touch-screen voting machines are not very happy with Gov.-electCharlie Crist's decision to turn over the Florida Division of Elections to alongtime advocate of the voting system they have been fighting against.

Crist named Kurt Browning, Pasco County elections supervisor, as secretaryof state, a post that includes overseeing state elections.

But citizen groups question the wisdom of selecting Browning, a longtimeadvocate of touch-screen voting. While the state conducted a recount in the13th Congressional District, Browning defended the county's electronicvoting machines against charges that they did not properly record up to18,000 votes in Sarasota.

Republican Vern Buchanan has been declared the winner over DemocratChristine Jennings by 369 votes. But because 13 percent of voters inSarasota County did not register a vote in the race, Jennings has sued,saying the voting machines failed to record votes that would have made herthe winner.


Paper vote trail IS coming
By STEVE BOUSQUET, Times Staff Writer
Published December 16, 2006

A paper trail on touch screen voting machines is coming to Florida one wayor another.

It's a matter of time.

Even before the meltdown in Sarasota with 18,000 under-votes in an extremelyclose race for Congress, Charlie Crist, our next governor, said he liked theidea of giving voters a piece of paper to verify their choices.

His new secretary of state, Pasco County Elections Supervisor Kurt Browning,who is widely regarded as an expert on voting issues, has never seen theneed for a paper trail.

But he says he will keep an open mind. "I want to do the best thing forFlorida," Browning said.



Dawson can prove her detractors wrong
Douglas C. Lyons
Editorial Writer
December 16, 2006

Opportunity knocks, again, for state Sen. Muriel "Mandy" Dawson, D-FortLauderdale.Dawson now chairs her chamber's Health Policy Committee, perhaps the biggestsurprise in this week's laundry list of committee assignments by Florida'slegislative leaders.

So, now the question is: Will she take full advantage of the appointment, orfind a way to mess up what may be her last shot at reviving a checkeredcareer in the Florida Senate?

Her detractors will be quick to wonder why I even bothered to raise thequestion. In their minds, she's a poster child for term limits -- at best.Their memories of Dawson's, er, "lapses," for lack of a better term --whether it's the public tongue lashing she received from then Senate President Toni Jennings for missing votes or her more recent Senate reprimand after she ran afoul of chamber rules and state law by using herofficial stationery to ask lobbyists to pay for a trip to South Africa forherself and a companion -- run deep.


December 16, 2006

GUEST COLUMN: Let's drop No Child Left Behind

The television news recently captured my attention with iconoclasticfilmmaker Michael Moore blasting the Democrats. Yes, the Democrats.

He was demanding those now in control of the government's budget immediatelyorder a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

While no fan of Moore, it is tantalizing to think of a similar tirade hemight direct toward federal interference in control of education through theNo Child Left Behind Act.

Now that the election has been decided, politicians are talking ofbipartisanship. What we really need is nonpartisanship, not bipartisanship.

We need to find out whether the majority of Democrats really care about theissues facing schools.

Politically informed citizens of either party are displeased with No Child.Conservatives have expressed their displeasure with No Child's federalcontrol.


The Miami Herald


Section from grand jury report:

Posted on Sat, Dec. 16, 2006


Ex-priest leaves his school post

A counselor at St. Thomas Aquinas High School resigned this week afterThe Miami Herald inquired about his life as a priest in Philadelphia duringthe 1960s.


Ernest Durante kept a low profile as a guidance counselor at St.Thomas Aquinas High School -- until allegations about his priestly pastresurfaced this fall.

A Philadelphia woman who once knew Durante contacted the FortLauderdale school to report that he was an ex-priest who had been identifiedin a 2005 grand jury report on Catholic clergymen accused of sexuallyabusing children.

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