Friday, March 09, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST March 9, 2007

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The Miami Herald

A turnabout on teacher merit pay

In a surprising reversal, the Republican-controlled Legislature is moving
quickly to scrap a controversial merit pay system for teachers that
lawmakers put in place less than a year ago.

Republican legislators are not abandoning the idea of awarding bonuses to
teachers. But the turnabout represents a rejection of ideas first pushed by
the administration of former Gov. Jeb Bush -- and even includes some minor
tweaks to Bush's ''A+ Plan'' that was adopted eight years ago.

Teachers across the state have responded angrily to the merit pay program
that was approved by lawmakers last spring, saying it doesn't reward enough
teachers and is based largely on student test results. Some school boards,
such as Broward County's, have refused to carry it out, which could cost
them millions of dollars from the state.

''You can't find five teachers in Florida who can tell you how it works,''
said Sen. Don Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and former school
Lawmakers set aside more than $147.5 million in last year's state budget for
the merit pay program, known as Special Teachers Are Rewarded, or STAR, and
ordered districts to give rewards of at least 5 percent to 25 percent of
teachers. The bonuses were to be based primarily on student results on exams
such as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. The plans must be
reviewed and approved by the state Board of Education.



Contact: Allan Hendricks

(Boynton Beach, FL, March 8, 2007) On Tuesday, March 27 from 7 to 9 p.m.,
New Hope First Community Church at 2929A Sea Crest Blvd. in Boynton Beach
will host a town hall meeting on the issue of Florida adoptions by gays and
lesbians. The town hall is sponsored by the Coalition for Fair Adoption, a
group of over 90 progressive organizations from across the state of Florida.

The town hall will feature a panel of speakers including experts on adoption
and foster care, child welfare; family law as well as a Florida resident whohas made it through the labyrinth of our state's current discriminatoryadoption laws.

"This town hall is for the entire community." said Allan Hendricks, founderof the Palm Beach County Equality Florida Meetup group, organizer of theprogram. "We hope to have a cross section of Palm Beach County residentswho will share their thoughts on the issue of gay adoption without fear ofbeing 'shouted down' by one side or another. Many people in Palm BeachCounty have questions. We need every day voters to understand the factsregarding the issue. What is best for Florida's children and families is theonly question we should be asking."

The organizers hope to attract 200 people from all parts of Palm BeachCounty and from all walks of life. Admission is free and everyone iswelcome. The proceedings will be webcast by Rainbow Radio, a local PalmBeach County program from

For more information or to confirm that you will attend contact Allan
Hendricks at 561-541-3700 or email


Priests described as unrepentant after being caught stealing $8.7 millionfrom churches
By Peter Franceschina and Missy Diaz
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

March 9, 2007

The Rev. Francis Guinan was outraged in the fall of 2003, facing two parishaudits by the Diocese of Palm Beach -- one at St. Patrick in Palm BeachGardens, the other at St. Vincent Ferrer in Delray Beach.

He professed disbelief to his bishop that his integrity would be questioned.
He wrote to his bishop that priests pledge to live, if not a life ofpoverty, one of modesty rewarded by serving the faithful.

But diocese policy calls for a parish audit whenever there is a change inpastors, and Guinan had just left St. Patrick after 16 years to take overSt. Vincent from his close friend, the Rev. John Skehan, who was retiringafter 40 years. Diocese auditors were eager to crack open the books.

Guinan called on Bishop Gerald Barbarito, new to his post, to abolish thediocese's audit policy.

"My reasons for this request are as follows: It is demeaning, embarrassingand humiliating. It accomplishes nothing that could not be accomplished in amore dignified fashion," Guinan wrote to Barbarito in October 2003. "Themoney spent on an audit is a waste and should be spent more wisely."


Democratic legislator: Cut property taxes 30%, raise sales tax 2 cents

By Mark Hollis
Tallahassee Bureau
March 9, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - A ranking Democratic lawmaker said Thursday he will unveil hisown strategy for reforming Florida's taxes today: a proposed cut in propertytaxes of up to 30 percent, twinned with a 2-cent increase in the state salestax to help fund public schools.

State Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors, said his proposal would grantproperty tax relief to homeowners and businesses without starving cities andcounties of revenue.

In essence, Seiler's idea would saddle consumers, including visitors toFlorida, with more of the burden of paying for the state's educationalsystem . The plan mirrors a growing trend across the United States to makepublic school funding less reliant on taxes imposed on property holders, infavor of taxes paid by a wider spectrum of the population.

"We [Democrats] are in support of responsible property tax reform and we'relooking for ways to do it," said Seiler, the highest-ranking Democrat on akey House budget-writing panel.It's too soon to determine precisely whatsavings homeowners might enjoy under his proposal, which will have to doideological battle in the Legislature in coming weeks with a HouseRepublican plan and ideas floated by Gov. Charlie Crist. But according toestimates by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the owner of a $325,000 BrowardCounty home with a $25,000 homestead exemption could save $1,566 in propertytaxes if Seiler's idea became law. The owner of a similar home in Palm BeachCounty could save $1,597.

Currently, Florida collects more than $7 billion in state-mandated propertytaxes levied by local school districts. It's this levy, which raised $794million for Broward schools and $782 million for Palm Beach County schoolsthis year, that Seiler wants to abolish.


So far, everybody loves Charlie
Published March 9, 2007

Gov. Charlie Crist invokes Robert F. Kennedy and channels Al Gore on globalwarming. He embraces paper trails for voting machines.

Florida's most powerful Republican pays homage to the teachers union andspeaks so passionately about civil rights that one legislator dubbed him"Florida's first black governor."

What's a Democrat to do?

"Gov. Crist is a political nightmare for the Democrats," said state SenateDemocratic Leader Steve Geller. "How do we run against somebody who wheneverwe come up with a good idea, he goes, 'Hey that's a good idea, let's dothat.' "

State Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, called Crist "one of the bestDemocratic governors Florida has ever had."


The Miami Herald

Posted on Fri, Mar. 09, 2007
Push on to slow Florida constitutional changes


At a time when it's harder than ever for citizens to change the FloridaConstitution, stricter rules for getting proposed amendments on the ballotcleared House and Senate committees Thursday.

The bills would place time limits on turning in signatures and allow peoplewho have signed petitions to remove their names.

Opponents of the measure told the Senate Committee on Ethics and Electionsthat the proposal would hamper efforts by grassroots organizations onshoestring budgets. An amendment backed by big business last year requiresfuture proposed amendments to garner 60 percent of the vote, not just amajority.

''We see this contributing to a larger trend, a door that is creaking shuton the initiative process,'' said Brad Ashwell, of the Florida PublicInterest Research Group.

Corporate interests spent at least $58 million and as much $100 million tolobby the Florida Legislature in the past year.


Stonewall Library Book Club meets to discuss "Mordred, Bastard Son" (April19)

The Book Club of the Stonewall Library and Archives will meet at the Libraryat 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 19, to discuss Douglas Clegg's Arthurianfantasy "Mordred, Bastard Son" (Alyson Books). Jesse Monteagudo ("The BookNook") will lead a discussion of the Lambda Award-nominated first volume inthe Mordred Trilogy. In "Mordred, Bastard Son" Mordred, the traditionalvillain of Arthurian legend, tells his side of the story; his conflictedfeelings toward the father (King Arthur) who betrayed him; and hispassionate love affair with a knight in his father's court. The StonewallLibrary and Archives is located at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center,1717 North Andrews Avenue, in Fort Lauderdale. Admission to the Book Clubis free and meetings are open to the public.

For more information call Stonewall at (954) 763-8565.


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