Wednesday, January 31, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST January 31, 2007

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The Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Jan. 31, 2007

Crist wants voting paper trail
Florida should move to a voting system that provides a paper trail, Gov.Charlie Crist will announce Thursday. The estimated cost for the new system:$32.5 million.

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Charlie Crist wants to spend nearly $33 million toreplace Florida's maligned ATM-style voting machines with systems thatprovide a clear paper trail.

The decision, if approved by state lawmakers, would end one of the mostbitter election debates in Florida: whether the electronic touch-screenmachines have bugs in their secret software that could make votes disappear.

Crist plans to make his announcement Thursday in Palm Beach County, home ofthe 2000 butterfly-ballot meltdown that led to the rise of the touch-screenmachines in South Florida and other urban areas.


Editorial: Florida CFO

'Voter-approved' list has Sink off to a strong start

Daily News staff

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Florida's new chief financial officer, Democrat Alex Sink, told aTallahassee interviewer the other day she has started to work on decidingher priorities.

She need not look far. Her successful campaign platform - including workingon homeowners insurance and watch-dogging Republican-controlled statespending - clicked with voters.

She has already scored a victory for the people by beating back a Republicaneffort to put the appointed position of insurance commissioner - formerly anelected post - under the control of the governor. She somehow successfullyargued that the position should be accountable to the CFO. Going further,she avows that the insurance commissioner will be an advocate for thepublic - so much so that the man or woman hired would become a householdname.


Insurers' loopholes shut
The state Cabinet approves a noncancellation rule and a rate freeze.
By TOM ZUCCO, Times Staff Writer
Published January 31, 2007

The tweaking has begun.

After sometimes-heated debate Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Crist and the FloridaCabinet closed two loopholes in the recently passed property insurancereform bill by barring insurance companies from canceling policies for muchof this year and temporarily freezing rates for about 20 companies that havenot made a new rate filing.

After filing an emergency order late Monday, Crist said he was acting onfears that insurance companies would respond to last week's legislation bysimply canceling policies.

The new cancellation rule is in effect only until May. But coupled with alaw that makes it difficult for insurers to cancel policies through most ofthe hurricane season, Tuesday's action effectively covers nearly all of2007. The hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30


Broward decides not to divide some classes between boys, girls

By Andrew Tran
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

January 31, 2007

A split Broward County School Board declined to divide some classes bygender, expressing unease with the district's proposed voluntary experiment.

District staff members proposed the idea for girls- and boys-only classesafter deregulations from the U.S. Department of Education in November thatallow such divisions.

The gender-specific learning experiment would have been conducted withparent permission and trained teachers.

Such a controversial learning model would need support from the entireschool board, said interim Superintendent Jim Notter.

The district will keep track of other schools' gender research forreconsideration, he said.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Jan. 31, 2007

Teachers lament the lack of support

Re United Teachers of Dade President Karen Aronowitz's Jan. 27 Other Viewsarticle, Good salaries retain good teachers: I agree with Aronowitz aboutthe ridiculous and divisive STAR (Special Teachers Are Rewarded) program,which allegedly provides incentives for good teaching. To say thatpublic-school education is undervalued in this community is anunderstatement. Most of the people providing incentives would run a mile iffaced with one full class of middle-school students -- I have five a day.Theydon't know what it takes to be even a reasonable teacher these days.

Since the year began I have kept a tardy-to-class log, which now runs manypages. Among the so-called reasons for arriving late to school: overslept,lost the way, traffic and didn't get ''woken'' up.


Broward educators reluctantly prepare a list of high school majors

By Jean-Paul Renaud
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

January 31, 2007

Middle school students entering the ninth grade next year will have tochoose from an average of 130 majors, depending on the high school they areentering.

Broward County school district officials had hoped it would be easier thanthat. Their initial plan was to offer broad subjects -- such as arts andcommunications or health services -- to keep students from having to pick aspecific major.

But officials with the Florida Department of Education said that wouldn'twork.

"I've not said a single time that this is logical, or it makes sense to us... but let's just comply," Deputy Superintendent Earlean Smiley, who is incharge of curriculum for the district, told the School Board on Tuesday.


Governor proposes billions in tax cuts for property owners in Florida

By Jason Garcia and John Kennedy
Tallahassee Bureau

January 31, 2007

TALLAHASSEE · Gov. Charlie Crist unveiled a massive tax-cut plan Tuesday,calling on the Legislature to set a special election to give voters thefinal say on several of his proposals.

If legislators agree, Florida residents will decide whether to double thestate's $25,000 homestead exemption and expand the Save Our Homesproperty-tax cap to include businesses, second homes and houses owned byout-of-state residents. The Republican governor would also allow homeownersto carry those tax-cap savings with them when they move to new homes.

Overall, Crist's proposed property tax relief would save about $2 billion inthe first year for homeowners, landlords and businesses, but those savingswould come from the budgets of local governments and school districts.

The savings would increase to about $4.7 billion annually in five years,according to estimates released by the governor's office.


Who carries a gun? It's a state secret

By Megan O'Matz and John Maines
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

January 31, 2007

For nearly 19 years the names of people licensed to carry guns in Floridawere public record.

Then, in a matter of minutes last spring, the state Legislature declared thelist a secret.

To do it, lawmakers passed an exemption to the state constitution,undermining citizens' right to examine government documents.

Now, you need a court order to get the names.

Critics say the law, which took effect July 1, is overly broad andunconstitutional.

"How do we know that the government is doing what it should be doing inproperly screening applicants?" said Barbara Petersen, president of theFirst Amendment Foundation, a Tallahassee nonprofit organization devoted toprotecting the public's constitutional right to open government. "We have noidea."

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