Tuesday, October 16, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST October 16, 2007

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U.S. prosecutor wants to become Broward County sheriff

No. 2 official in South Florida helped investigate Jenne
By Paula McMahon and Vanessa Blum
October 16, 2007

A high-ranking federal prosecutor who was involved in the investigation thatousted former Sheriff Ken Jenne now wants to be Broward County sheriff.

Jeff Sloman, a Democrat and the No. 2 official in the U.S. Attorney's Officefor the Southern District of Florida, was interviewed by Gov. Charlie Cristat 1 p.m. Monday in Tallahassee.

Sloman's application to be interim sheriff was received on Saturday, saidAnthony De Luise, a Crist spokesman.

Experts on legal and government ethics were divided about whether it wasappropriate for Sloman to apply for the job from which he helped removeJenne.

The three law professors said there was no ethical violation in Slomanseeking the job. However, two of them said they thought it lookedinappropriate.Sloman defended his decision, saying the opportunity came outof the blue and he applied after speaking with several people in his office.

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Palm Beach County wants suspended students at community centers

By Rhonda J. Miller
October 16, 2007

Every day, about 350 middle and high school students are suspended fromPalm Beach County schools.

Superintendent Art Johnson thinks it's time to make sure they're off thestreets and in a safe place where they can get help with academics and getback into the classroom, rather than pushed farther from school.

He unveiled a plan on Monday at School District headquarters that he hopeswill be an alternative to suspension. He brought together 35 juvenilejustice, religious, community and educational leaders who have beenbrainstorming about the plan in recent weeks. Under the proposal, suspendedstudents would receive an excused absence and go to community centers thatwould have School District instructors and security officers.

The goal is to keep students engaged in education. In county middle and highschools, around 11,000 students were suspended as many as 65,000 times lastyear, Johnson said. Some of those were students suspended more than once.

"If a student is absent for illness or some other reason, then gets a 10-daysuspension for fighting and it's unexcused, they get the attitude, 'I can'tpass anyway,'" Johnson said. "A lot of these students are not engaged in theschool or the community."

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Palm Beach County schools losing students at a slower pace than last year

By Marc Freeman
October 16, 2007

Palm Beach County's public school enrollment remains below its 2005 recordhigh, but is greatly exceeding expectations this year, according tostatistics released Monday.

As of a Friday count, there were 169,440 students in kindergarten through12th grade - just 575 fewer students than this time a year ago.

That decrease, about 0.3 percent, is a big improvement from a record declineof 3,221 students from 2005 to 2006.

"What's good is, we're not dropping the way we were," Chief FinancialOfficer Michael Burke said. "The trend is looking better."

The school district is ranked 11th largest in the United States byenrollment.

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A Jewish scroll opens the door to debate

Posted on Tue, Oct. 16, 2007

Saying it is ''fundamental'' to freedom to be able to display ''religioussymbols,'' Gov. Charlie Crist has quietly placed a boxed Jewish scroll onthe door leading into his formal Capitol office.

Crist put up the mezuzah -- a portion of sacred Jewish parchment containedinside a case -- with the help of Rabbi Schneur Oirechman, director ofChabad-Lubavitch of the Panhandle. The mezuzah was a gift from HouseMajority Leader Adam Hasner, a Delray Beach Republican, who gave it toCrist, who is not Jewish, while he was on a trade mission to Israel lastMay.

Crist's action has drawn the ire of the American Civil Liberties Union,which said Monday it is wrong for the governor to put up any religioussymbol in such a public place.

''A religious symbol is a religious symbol, whether it's Christian, Jewishor Muslim,'' said Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida chapter ofthe ACLU. ``People have the right to put religious symbols on their ownproperty; government's job is to stay neutral. I think what the governor hasdone is mistakenly given the imprimatur of state government endorsement to aJewish religious symbol.''

Crist said in response that he is ``celebrating the diversity that isFlorida: many religions, many people, many opportunities.''

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St. Petersburg Times


Campaign in Fla.? They don't dare

By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political Editor
Published October 16, 2007

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Listen up, readers. I have a dire warning. Somethingsinister and mysterious is terrorizing the Democratic presidentialcandidates. I'm afraid I can't yet explain its dark power, but I'm workingon it.

The candidates are so terrified of drawing the wrath of Democrats in Iowa,New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, they won't dare kiss a baby, givea speech or talk to a voter anywhere in Florida, except in closed-door,fundraising receptions. So I went to the heart of darkness - New Hampshire -hunting for answers in a place where, legend has it, candidates and citizenstalk easily to one another. But Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign madeit clear the terror is worse than I imagined. I wanted to ask Clinton acouple of questions: about the national catastrophe insurance fund, offshoredrilling, maybe Florida's primary. I might as well have asked to show theformer first lady my anthrax spores. "She's only doing local press," MoElleithee, a Clinton adviser, explained by phone. "And I'm local press fromFlorida," I said. "But now I'm in New Hampshire, so I'm legal to talk to.""But you're still from Florida," Elleithee sighed. "A tiger can't change itsstripes."

I'm not naive. I understand why candidates might welcome a pledge not tocampaign in any state that violated the national party rules by holding aprimary earlier than Feb. 5.

For the cash-strapped underdogs - Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards andBill Richardson - signing the pledge was a nice excuse to avoid a state theycan't afford to campaign in anyway. They need to concentrate on stayingalive in those earliest contests.

Barack Obama and Clinton, however, have the money to compete in America'sbiggest battleground state. Yet they're scared even to talk to Floridareporters.

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St. Petersburg Times


Officials: Tax plan favors the rich

A state property appraisers group says the plan targets something thatdoesn't need fixing. It says that there's nothing to fix and that it affectsonly the rich.

By DAVID DeCAMP, Times Staff Writer
Published October 16, 2007

If lawmakers have their way, the rich will have an easier path to loweringtheir tax bills, Florida property appraisers say.

"Who gets the benefit? The wealthiest," said Will Shepherd, general counselfor the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's Office.

What's more, appraisers say, there is no problem that needs fixing.

In a letter Monday to Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature, the PropertyAppraisers' Association of Florida noted that the state's assessment processhas been the subject of three studies in the last decade. None, theappraisers said, supported the change the Legislature says will "level theplaying field" between appraisers and property owners.

"Contrary to the proponents' assertions that the change ... is necessary tolevel the playing field, the proposal clearly indicates the intent toprovide a substantial advantage to large taxpayers challenging theirassessments," the letter said.

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Jupiter Courier


Legal fees cut into Foley funds
By Amie Parnes

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

WASHINGTON - Mark Foley's war chest is a little skimpier this month, afterthe former congressman spent more than $151,000 in legal fees and returnedalmost $16,000 in campaign contributions since June 30, according to FederalElection Commission filings released Monday.

But Foley, who resigned last year after news reports surfaced that he sentsexually explicit online messages to teenage boys, still has more than $1.3million left in his campaign account and can use the money to pay for anyexpense tied to his six terms in Congress.

The former congressman spent most of his campaign money fighting hiscriminal investigation, writing checks to Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, aWashington law firm that is representing him in his ongoing legal battle.Foley paid the law firm more than $27,900 in May, more than $76,000 in Juneand more than $46,000 in July. To date, Foley has spent more than $840,000on legal bills.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI have been conductingan investigation to determine whether Foley broke the law in any of hisinteractions with the teenage boys who were congressional pages.

Kristen Perezluha, a spokeswoman for the FDLE, said the investigation intoFoley's misconduct is "almost done."

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Palm Beach Post


Wexler challenger's campaign account dips to $1,345

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Democratic congressional challenger Ben Graber's campaign is nearly brokewhile disgraced former Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Foley still has $1.3million in leftover campaign money, reports filed Monday show.

Graber, a former Broward County commissioner who's challenging six-term U.S.Rep. Robert Wexler of Delray Beach in a 2008 Democratic primary, reported tothe Federal Election Commission that his campaign had only $1,345 in thebank as of Sept. 30.

Graber loaned his campaign $200,100 this year, but the campaign repaid$147,772 of the loans to Graber in July and September. He has raised $23,610from contributors.

"We're not raising as much money as we thought. ... We're going torestructure our campaign so it's more grass-roots," Graber said Monday.

"We're in the campaign to stay," said Graber, who said his campaign has paidfor two mailings and cable TV advertising through the end of the year.

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Cities, counties worry as property tax relief advances

By Scott Wyman, Josh Hafenbrack and Linda Kleindienst
October 16, 2007


A property tax relief plan crafted by state legislative leaders and Gov.Charlie Crist picked up steam Monday even as city and county governmentofficials warned it would harm local services.

The package, which could hit the House and Senate floors for a vote as earlyas Wednesday, is designed to boost Florida's sagging housing market andoffset high property tax bills.

It would double the homestead exemption to $50,000, give first-timehomeowners a 25 percent discount on their tax bills and allow homeowners tokeep their Save Our Homes tax breaks when they move, a popular provisioncalled "portability."

The package would also wipe out property taxes for low-income seniors.

Broward County and its 31 cities would lose about $94 million in revenueunder two of the main components, the doubling of the $25,000 homesteadexemption and the abolishment of taxes on low-income seniors. About $10billion in property value would be wiped off the county's $167.8 billion taxroll, according to an analysis by Broward Property Appraiser Lori Parrish'soffice.

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St. Petersburg Times


State's minimum wage to increase 12 cents starting Jan.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's minimum wage will increase 12 cents anhour next year.

The Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation says the $6.79 rate will startJanuary 1. It is based on an annual consumer price adjustment.

For workers whose tips are counted as part of their wage, the minimum willgo to $3.77 an hour, plus the worker's tips. That is up from $3.65 an hourset for this year.

The state's minimum wage went up to $6.15 an hour in 2005 when votersapproved a constitutional amendment the previous year. It went up again to$6.40 in 2006. In 2007, it was at $6.67 an hour, a 27-cent increase from theprevious year.


St. Petersburg Times


Deep school cuts in offing

In the Legislature's property tax plan, schools would take a $2-billion cutover four years.

By ALEX LEARY, Times Staff Writer
Published October 16, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - School officials were relieved last week as the Legislature'sproperty tax proposal took shape: Cuts to education were largely avoided.

But the first specific details were released Monday, and the numbers are farless comforting than many expected.

Schools would take a $442-million hit next year and more than $2-billionover four years.

"It's created a tremendous amount of heartburn among Democrats," said Rep.Jack Seiler of Wilton Manors.

"When we left Friday we thought we had an understanding what the impactwould be," Seiler added. "Now we see it will be much bigger, and it's hardto support anything that cuts into eduction."

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Chair of House Financial Services Committee Backs Only Accountant, Veteran
In Race for Florida House District 92

Oakland Park - US Rep. Barney Frank, chair of the House Financial ServicesCommittee, has endorsed Mark LaFontaine for the seat representing FloridaHouse District 92. Frank, who is openly gay, noted LaFontaine's communityactivism in his endorsement.

"Mark LaFontaine has been an effective defender and fighter for LGBTequality on a number of fronts," Rep. Frank said in a statement. "He willbe an effective state representative, not just for the LGBT community, butfor the broader community as well."

A resident of Broward County since he was six years old, Mark LaFontaine hasbeen active in the local community for years. He currently serves as thenational treasurer of American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) and aspresident of the local Gold Coast chapter, the largest in the organization.LaFontaine is also a member of the Broward County Veterans Council, and isthe only veteran in the race, having served in the US Coast Guard.

Owner of a successful accounting practice based in Oakland Park , LaFontaineis a board member of Oakland Park Main Street , which is guiding that city'sdevelopment, and also has been a member of the Fort Lauderdale AuditCommittee, which oversees the city's finances.

"Rep. Frank knows how important my financial background will be inTallahassee , especially considering the daunting fiscal issues Floridafaces," LaFontaine said. "And as a veteran who is well aware of thechallenges our men and women returning from battle face here at home, I cansay with certainty that Rep. Frank's endorsement means we'll have a strongFlorida connection to one of the most vocal advocates in Washington."

Florida House District 92 includes parts of Deerfield Beach , NorthLauderdale , Oakland Park , Oakland Park , Poinsettia Heights , PompanoBeach , Tamarac , Victoria Park and Wilton Manors.



Please join GLAAD for a message training session on the proposed same-sexmarriage ban that will be on Florida's ballot next year. The mediaprofessionals from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation willteach you how your voice will be a critical component in defeating thisinitiative.

This invitation-only event is sponsored by HRC, the Florida GLBT DemocraticCaucus, and the Broward Log Cabin Republicans on behalf of Florida Red andBlue, the bipartisan coalition fighting the so-called "marriage protection"amendment.

We're holding three message training sessions this weekend for GLBT
activists to learn:

(1) what our research shows, (2) what messages work best, and (3) how totalk about the amendment with your gay and straight friends.

Space is limited! You must RSVP to attend! Please RSVP at www.FloridaRedandBlue.com

Saturday, October 20
Fort Lauderdale
Sunshine Cathedral
1480 SW 9th Ave

Saturday, October 20
SAVE Dade offices
6445 NE 7th Avenue

Sunday, October 21
The Metro Center
6421 N Florida Ave.


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