Thursday, March 22, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST March 22, 2007

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The Sun-Sentinel,0,1829763,print.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines

Florida moves to wipe out clout of smaller states with Jan. 29 presidentialprimary

By Anthony Man
Political Writer

March 22, 2007

Tallahassee - Hoping to muscle Florida into a pre-eminent role in pickingnext year's Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, the stateHouse voted Wednesday to leapfrog almost all the other states and set a Jan.29 primary, with an option to go even earlier.

The change, championed by House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, andapproved 115-1, is part of a national rush by states coveting the clout ofIowa and New Hampshire. Those states have enormous sway in choosingpresidential candidates, even though they are small and, some say,unrepresentative of the nation's people and politics. The proposal muststill pass the Senate.

"Florida is obviously going to be the big enchilada on the 29th. It willimmediately become very, very important," said Nichol Rae, political scienceprofessor at Florida International University.

Florida's bid for increased influence is being tempered by the othervote-rich giants, California, New York and Texas. California already hasmoved its primary to Feb. 5, and the others are expected to do the same.

It has been more than three decades since Florida mattered much when itcomes to picking presidential candidates.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,16656,print.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines

Broward losing residents to other regions due to high cost of living,hurricanes
By Ruth Morris and Alva James-Johnson
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

March 22, 2007

Bella Zaritsky came for the warm weather and the soft sand beaches. Butafter watching a rising tide of property taxes and insurance rates, she'sready to bail out.

"It's been a big disappointment," said Zaritsky, 27, an office manager whomoved to Plantation four years ago from the Northeast. "The housing marketis becoming ridiculous. Property taxes are out of control. Insurance is outof control. It's not a fair system."

Now Zaritsky and her husband are selling their townhouse and moving toGeorgia, where a dollar goes further and the job market is friendlier, shesaid.

A new battery of Census Bureau figures shows Zaritsky is not alone. For thefirst time in decades, there are more people leaving Broward County forother parts of Florida or the country than people moving into Broward fromthe rest of the country. A similar trend emerged in Palm Beach Country.

From 2005 to 2006, Broward lost 18,459 people to other counties and states,the data showed. But because 15,227 people came to Broward from outside theUnited States, and because of gains from births, the county still grew by5,620 people.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Thu, Mar. 22, 2007
More youths in adult jails

Florida's policies to crack down in the 1990s on spiraling juvenile crimehave disproportionately snared black and Hispanic youths, sending more ofthem to adult jails even though most of their alleged crimes involvenonviolent offenses, a new report by a youth advocacy group says.

According to a report released today by the Washington, D.C.-based Campaignfor Youth Justice, as many as 200,000 young people nationally are prosecutedas adults each year. The number of juveniles held in adult jails andprisons, the report says, has increased by 208 percent since the 1990s.

But supporters of trying juveniles who commit certain crimes as adultsquestioned the validity of the report's findings because the youth justicegroup's mission is to do away with such laws, even when violent youths asold as 17 commit heinous crimes. Supporters of current laws said that evenwhen youths are incarcerated, they are kept away from adult inmates, andhoused with others of similar age.

The increase in youth incarceration comes despite federal laws that prohibitimprisoning minors in adult correctional facilities. Those restrictions donot apply to youths who are prosecuted as adults. Currently, 40 statespermit or require that youths charged as adults be held in jail -- insteadof juvenile detention -- while awaiting trial.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Thu, Mar. 22, 2007

Start reducing sprinkler usage today

Starting today, cars may start to look less shiny and gardens less green.Water restrictions kicked in across South Florida at 12:01 a.m., limitingsuburban sprinklers and outside water use to three days a week inMiami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and eastern Palm Beach counties.

Regional water managers ordered the cutbacks in response to a drought thathas dropped water levels in the Everglades and canals and, most critically,Lake Okeechobee. The big lake, main source of water for nearby towns andfarms and backup for the Everglades and coastal cities, is about four feetbelow average.

Randy Smith, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District,which manages the water supply for 16 counties, said it's going to takemonths of rain to replenish the system and April and May tend to be thedriest.

The shortage is severe enough that water managers are considering makingmany restrictions year-round.

Residents with home addresses ending in odd numbers can water only between 4and 8 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Those with even-numberaddresses can water between the same hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays andSundays. On allowed watering days, homeowners also may wash cars, boats andother equipment within those hours and from 5 to 7 p.m.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Mar. 21, 2007
South Florida running out of sand

For decades, South Florida's beaches have received periodic infusions offresh sand pumped from offshore to maintain their bountiful curves.

Now, the supply of sunken sand off Miami-Dade and Broward is tapped out.

''For practical purposes,'' said Miami-Dade environmental director CarlosEspinosa, ``we are out of sand.''

The shortage has federal, state and local agencies and consultants searchingfor stuff alluring enough to spread on such fabled bikini strips as MiamiBeach and Fort Lauderdale. The hunt ranges from ancient beaches now buriedinland to unexplored depths to islands of the Bahamas and Caribbean.

It also has major implications for Florida's beach program, which regularly''renourishes'' a constantly eroding coast with dredge pumps and pipelines.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Mar. 21, 2007
Broward leaders descend on Capitol

About 300 Broward business and government leaders flooded the state capitalTuesday, hoping to bend the ears of lawmakers on issues that affect thecounty.

''It's been a revolving door in my office,'' said Rep. Jim Waldman,D-Coconut Creek, on the first of two ''Broward Days,'' the annual excursionof local officials to Tallahassee.

Each community had its own issues. Davie leaders wanted to talk about mobilehome park redevelopment; Hallandale Beach came to discuss slot machines;Weston wanted to chat about a new high school and a proposed commercialdevelopment in nearby Davie.But, above all, the two words on everyone's lips? Property tax.

The current tax system is ''upside-down'' and ''backward,'' Broward CountyCommissioner Kristin Jacobs said, but: ``There seems to be an attitude bythe current House members to fix their problem, the problems of this crookedtaxation system by laying the blame soley at the feet of the cities and thecounties.''


The Sun-Sentinel,0,6373620,print.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines

What changing the date of Florida's primary would mean

March 22, 2007

PROPOSAL: Moves the Florida presidential primary from the first Tuesday inMarch to the first Tuesday in February - Feb. 5, 2008 - or seven days afterthe New Hampshire primary, whichever comes first. Based on the current NewHampshire date, Florida's primary would be Jan. 29, 2008.

If New Hampshire goes even earlier, the legislation would allow Florida togo earlier, except it couldn't go before the second Tuesday in January.

CURRENT: Without a change, Florida could be as late as the 34th state tohold its primary. The Democratic and Republican nominees would almostcertainly be decided before Florida voters have any say, just as they havebeen in recent years.

COST: Some cities, towns and villages hold their spring elections at thesame time as the presidential primary, which saves election costs.

An amendment, sponsored in the Senate by state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston,would give those local governments the option of moving their elections tothe date of the new presidential primary so they could avoid the cost ofhaving a separate municipal election in March.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,6432149,print.story?coll=sfla-news-legislature

Lawmakers seek to discourage gambling ships from dumping sewage offshore

By David Fleshler
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
March 22, 2007

As roulette wheels spin and blackjack dealers lay out cards, gambling shipsoperating out of Port Everglades, the Port of Palm Beach and other Floridalocations discharge treated sewage into international waters.

The Legislature is considering bills to stop the practice, which supporterssay pollutes the ocean and allows oily water and bacteria-rich waste to washup on beaches. But while water pollution may know no boundaries, Florida lawstops three miles off shore, and legislators were groping for ways to usetheir limited authority to force the vessels to stop the discharges.

The House Environmental Protection Committee on Wednesday unanimouslyapproved a bill that would require the ships to report all discharges atsea. It also would provide incentives for the vessels to dispose of sewageat treatment facilities in port. The bill doesn't make on-shore disposalmandatory, but it attempts to goad the ships into doing so by requiringpayment of discharge fees based on each vessel's capacity, whether theydischarge in port or not.

"Either pump off and pay the fee, or be spiteful and pay the fee and dump itanyway," said Rep. Bob Allen, R-Merritt Island, the bill's House sponsor. Acompanion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton.

Thirteen gambling boats operate in Florida, ranging from the 440-footSterling Ambassador II in Cape Canaveral to the 78-foot SunCruz I in KeyLargo. Two sail from the Port of Palm Beach and two from Port Everglades.


Article published Mar 22, 2007

Clean Oceans Act facing tough opposition

By Paige St. John

A Brevard County lawmaker's bill to stop Florida's gambling ships fromdumping their sewage offshore is again on rough seas.

Marina owners, boat manufacturers and the day cruise industry turned out inforce Wednesday to shoot holes in Rep. Bob Allen's "Clean Oceans Act."

It cleared its first committee after hours of debate, signaling a tough haulahead.

''This should be a no-brainer,'' Cocoa Beach city commissioner Tony Sassotold House members. ''We're talking about clean oceans.''

In past years, Allen's legislation sank because it attempted to require daycruise ships to haul waste back to port and pay to have it pumped out. Shipoperators contend only the federal government - which allows sewagedumping - has authority over what takes place in federal waters.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,345469,print.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines

Larger insurance relief ahead, Gov. Crist says: 'I guarantee it'

By Anthony Man Political Writer
March 21, 2007, 12:01 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Charlie Crist sought Wednesday to reassure Floridiansthat they would get larger reductions in their insurance premiums than thesingle-digit price cuts the industry proposed last week.

"You need relief and we know it and we feel it," Crist said. "Don'tbelieve . your rates aren't going to go down as much as we would like. Theyare. I guarantee it. They're going to keep going down."

The insurance industry rate filings, prompted by a law crafted in January byCrist and the Florida Legislature, were far less than the reductionspredicted by the state's political leaders. Insurance Commissioner KevinMcCarty had estimated average rate reductions of 24 percent on their overallpremiums.

State Farm Florida Insurance Co., the state's largest private home insurer,last week requested a statewide average decrease of 7 percent. Among otherbig insurers, Allstate Floridian Insurance Co. suggested a 14 percentreduction, Nationwide Insurance Co. of Florida came in at 4.6 percent, andUSAA with 3.1 percent.

After the plans from the state's biggest private property insurers came out,Crist said he met with state Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty and asked,"What's up with the filings. Some of them are miniscule, some of them are 34percent - which we like - in reductions. And he said, 'Well that doesn'tmean we have to accept their nominal reduction, governor.' I said, God Ilove you."


The Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Mar. 21, 2007

Bill would force college students to pay new fee

State universities could charge students a special tuition fee that wouldnot be covered by Bright Futures scholarships, under a bill that passed itsfirst test Wednesday despite dire predictions that it could bankrupt theFlorida Prepaid College program.

The legislation, which passed a Senate committee by a narrow vote, wouldgive state universities the power to charge students a fee -- as much as$500 a semester -- to fund academics, but would not technically beclassified as tuition. That means the money would come not from stateprograms but from students' pockets.

''We all realize that tuition in the state of Florida is very much lowerthan anywhere in the country,'' said Sen. Steve Oelrich, a GainesvilleRepublican. ``We just need to give our universities the tools they need.''

The bill is the latest strategy of the University of Florida to fattenschool coffers and propel the college into the ranks of top national publicuniversities. The UF plan is to charge students an additional $500 asemester -- a 40 percent tuition increase -- that would pay for moreprofessors and academic advisors.

UF's ambitions could have repercussions for every student in the statesystem. The legislation would allow any state school to follow the same pathas UF in getting approval to charge such a fee. Oelrich told the SenateHigher Education Committee that every one of the 11 state universitiessupports the bill.


National Gay News

Sunshine Stampede Heads to Lauderdale

Gay Rodeo Returns to South Florida Venue
By Norm Kent,

The Bergeron Rodeo Grounds in Davie, Florida will host the wrangling returnof the Sunshine Stampede on the weekend of April 13-15 in South Florida.

The three-day weekend event, which was formed in 2006, brings togethermembers of the gay and lesbian community who celebrate a love for the saddleand the lasso. This year the group is boosted by Coors Light, who has signedon as the platinum sponsor of the Florida Gay Rodeo Association's (FGRA)largest event.

For Coors corporate, it is yet another outreach to the GLBT community. Coorshas now won inclusion in the "Best Places to Work for GLBT Equality" listpublished by the Human Rights Campaign.

"FGRA is extremely proud to be partnered with Coors Light for the 2007Sunshine Stampede and beyond," said Jim Mitchell, FGRA's Rodeo Director."Their generosity and allegiance with our organization demonstrates howcorporations and not-for-profit organizations can work together. This rodeois a sporting event where everyone is welcome as a competitor, spectator orvolunteer."

The roping, saddling, and riding is all part of the contested events andshowcases held during the exciting weekend.


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