Sunday, January 21, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST January 21, 2007

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Florida's new governor has opportunity to adopt strong civil rights agenda

Charlie Crist has an opportunity to be Florida's "Civil Rights Governor." Itwon't come easy - it will require difficult and prolonged work with theLegislature, county school boards and other institutions to create new legalprotections and strengthen programs that address racial and ethnicdisparities, such as in graduation rates.

There are three elements of a civil rights program that our new governor canbegin to implement immediately.

On his Web site, Gov. Crist proclaims, as his singular civil rightspriority, "that once a prisoner serves his or her debt to society, the stateshould automatically restore his or her civil rights so that the ex-offendermay vote and become gainfully employed." We couldn't agree more, and it isan issue that Gov. Crist can swiftly address through an Executive Order.

Florida is one of only three states that permanently takes away the civilrights (including the right to vote and the right to hold certainoccupational licenses) of people who have been convicted of crimes, but havecompleted their sentence and all terms of probation. Intended to deny rightsto African-Americans during the post-civil war Reconstruction era, the lawwas never redacted from Florida's Constitution and continues to deny basicrights to Floridians - to the tune of approximately 1 million citizens.


Jeb's next move: Once again, a Republican governor upsets the plan for thesmarter Bush
Palm Beach Post Commentary

Sunday, January 21, 2007

By S.V. D¡TE

Poor Jeb Bush - love him or hate him, you have to feel sorry for his timing.

No matter how hard he works, Republicans beyond his control seeminglyconspire to keep his decades-old Oval Office dream just beyond his grasp.

In 1994, the Republican was his older brother. A year earlier, Jeb had beenopenly annoyed that George W. even had entered the Texas governor's race,turning Jeb's own bid to unseat Democrat Lawton Chiles into one half of acutesy People magazine feature. The fact that George W. somehow won, whileJeb lost, added injury to insult. The ne'er-do-well who had failed to takehis own life seriously until age 40 was now on the road to follow in thefootsteps of their father, the former president, while hard-working,always-serious Jeb was relegated to starting a minor-league think tank. Nomatter. Jeb was still young, and could wait.


Bush's fourth quarter
As the president prepares for the State of the Union, the biggest issuefacing the U.S. is his own credibility.

January 21, 2007

ON THE EVE of his seventh State of the Union address, President Bush's Texasswagger is muted. Not long ago, Bush famously called himself "the decider,"but the drubbing he took in November's elections has reduced him to being"educator in chief," as he referred to himself on "60 Minutes" a week ago.

He wasn't referring to education, of course; he's realized that he's lostthe support of most of the country (and Congress) on the war in Iraq andthat he needs to "educate" them back into the fold. The problem for theadministration, as it enters the fourth quarter, is that persuasion hasnever been its strength.

Quite the contrary - it's been anathema to its political approach. In theaftermath of the Clinton years, the Bush administration proudly stoodagainst nuance and muddled compromise. The 9/11 attacks reinforced the WhiteHouse's penchant for viewing the world in binary terms, and Bush's "with usor against us" mantra fit the moment.


Guilty In Drugging 1 Of 2 Gay Murder Victims
by Newscenter Staff

Posted: January 20, 2007 - 11:00 am ET

(Tampa, Florida) A man on trial for assisting in the drug rape and murdersof two gay men has been found guilty of drugging one of the men.

Scott Schweickert, 41, was on trial in federal court charged with conspiracyand assisting in a drug-facilitated crime of violence in relation to thedeaths of Michael Wachholtz and Jason Galehouse.

His alleged coconspirator and the man police was responsible for the actualmurders, Steven Lorenzo, was convicted in 2005 of plying nine gay men withthe drug GHB and then brutally sexually assaulting them. He currently isserving a 200 year sentence but has yet to stand trial for the murders ofWachholtz and Galehouse in 2003.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Jan. 21, 2007


Many fail to take advantage of free pre-kindergarten
Many parents didn't take advantage of free pre-kindergarten because they
didn't know about it, a Broward school district survey showsBY HANNAH SAMPSON

Leslie Soto heard about the state's free pre-kindergarten program throughthe news, waited anxiously for it to start and enrolled her son the firstyear it was available.

It paid off, Soto said. Now 5 and a kindergartner at Challenger Elementaryin Tamarac, her son David Cirilo is a top reader.


High school majors could morph into major headache

January 21, 2007

If you want a good laugh, go to Florida's education Web site,, andcheck out the list of 442 approved majors that the state's incoming highschool students will choose from later this year.

Then go to a high school and ask kids to pick one.

"Wow," gasped Jasmine Taylor, 16, a Plantation High junior, when I showedher the list. "I'd have trouble picking from 20 subjects. But 400? Don'tthey realize they're dealing with high school students? We're confused allthe time, about everything."

Said Wingel Buendia, 17, also a junior: "Right now I don't even know whatcollege I'm going to. I don't know what I want to be. How do they expectsomeone who's coming from middle school to know what they want?"

Said Leticia Lampkins, 16, a sophomore: "When you first get to high school,you're adjusting to so many new things. ... This sounds like more stress. Westress about grades, we stress about the FCATs, now we're going to have tostress about a major?"


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Jan. 21, 2007


Strong-mayor vote draws big cash
Some of South Florida's most powerful forces -- the healthcare, real estateand construction industries -- are among the top donors in the politicalfight over Miami-Dade's strong-mayor proposal.

In the days after Hurricane Wilma made gasoline the most precious commodityin South Florida, a Miami-Dade County commissioner showed up at one of thefew open Citgo stations and asked for the manager.

He ''wanted to bypass everyone in line,'' said Sandra Reus, vice presidentof Sunshine Gasoline Distributors, which owns the station. ``When wewouldn't do that, he had a vendetta against us.''

She refused to name the official, but said her frustration only grew whenthe commission subsequently proposed requiring all gas stations to purchasecostly generators -- even though she said the lack of gas, not electricity,kept most stations shut.


Insurance deal nears

Two key issues remain after accord reached on Citizens' coverage
By Linda Kleindienst, Kathy Bushouse and Mark Hollis
Tallahassee Bureau

January 21, 2007

TALLAHASSEE · House and Senate negotiators went down to the wire Saturdaynight, agreeing on one of three key issues standing in the way of anagreement on compromise legislation to fix Florida's property insurancecrisis.

And with an hour before midnight, they were extremely close to agreement onthe two unresolved issues.

Legislators agreed on a plan to expand homeowner coverage offerings forstate-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp.'s customers. This opens thedoor for Citizens to provide fire and casualty and hurricane coverage ratherthan hurricane-only policies, along the state's high-risk coastline.

Citizens, the state's largest property insurer, has estimated the ability tosell full homeowner coverage could cut premiums by up to 10 percent for allcustomers.

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