Friday, December 14, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST December 14, 2007

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Group says gay marriage ban will be on Nov. ballot

The Associated Press
December 14, 2007


Sponsors of a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage inFlorida said Thursday that they have enough signatures to get on theNovember 2008 ballot.

The proposal that defines marriage as "the legal union of only one man andone woman" was offered by a coalition called It needed611,009 signatures from registered voters to go on the ballot.

The amendment's language was drafted by Matthew Staver, founder and chairmanof Liberty Counsel, which advocates for religious civil liberties, and hiswife, Anita. Liberty Counsel announced in a news release that the proposalhad met the signature requirement.

That's the last step to get on the ballot as the Florida Supreme Courtalready has ruled the proposal meets basic requirements of focusing only onone subject and offering voters a clear and accurate summary of what itwould do.

The proposal will need a 60 percent majority at the polls to become part ofthe Florida Constitution.


Dignity Palm Beach, religious and social club for lesbian, gay, bisexual andtransgender Roman Catholics, 5:30 p.m. Sunday, St. Andrew's EpiscopalChurch, 100 N. Palmway, Lake Worth. Free. Call 561-309-0088.


Air and Sea Show canceled for 2008
After 13 years, the show won't go on

10:24 AM EST, December 14, 2007


Organizers of the annual Air & Sea Show have canceled the event for 2008,citing a lack of a title sponsor.

Show spokesman Michael Goodman cited rising fuel costs and the lack of atitle sponsor as the main reason the show won't go on.

The show typically packs Fort Lauderdale beaches on the first weekend in Maywith a display of military and civilian aircraft, including the stealthbomber and aerobatic acts.


Gay-marriage ban will be on ballot

Posted on Fri, Dec. 14, 2007

Florida voters, who have been asked in the past eight years to approvesmaller class sizes, ban smoking in restaurants and allow slot machines inSouth Florida, will decide in the fall of 2008 whether to put Florida's banon same-sex marriage in the state Constitution.

The hot-button issue appears likely to spark an emotional debate from bothsides and could likely prompt increased voter turnout during a year whenFlorida will once again become a battleground state in the presidentialelection.

But unlike past years, the 2008 ballot will not be crowded withconstitutional amendments promoted by special interest groups. New ballotdeadlines, as well as the new requirement that all amendments be approved by60 percent of voters, have contracted the number of ballot initiatives thatwill be sent to voters.

These tough new burdens could prove fatal to House Speaker Marco Rubio'slatest effort to get a property tax amendment on the 2008 ballot. Rubio isbacking a citizen-sponsored amendment to cap property taxes, but to make theballot organizers must turn in more than 611,000 valid voter signatures fromacross the state by Feb. 1.

Two other major ballot initiatives are racing to meet the February deadline.One is Florida Hometown Democracy, an effort to give voters more say inapproving development, while the other is Floridians for Smarter Growth, abusiness-backed group that is sponsoring a rival amendment to the HometownDemocracy effort.

more . . . . .


From Kristin Jacobs

I just received this Press Release from the South Florida Water ManagementDistrict. While the change to one-day-a-week irrigation is not unexpected,it will be difficult for all of us.

As you will read, the District reports more then half of the water used eachday is for landscape purposes. Enforcement of the one-day-a-weekrestriction will begin January 15th.

Please begin to understand how you can best comply with this very importantwater conservation measure.


South Florida Adopts One-Day-a-Week Watering
Regional Water Levels Begin Seasonal Decline; Water Shortage Order Provides"Watering Windows" for Landscape Irrigation

West Palm Beach, FL - For the first time in the agency's history, the SouthFlorida Water Management District (SFWMD) today declared an extremeDistrict-wide water shortage, directly affecting more than five millionSouth Florida residents and thousands of farms and businesses. At itsmonthly meeting, the District's nine-member Governing Board adopted agroundbreaking water shortage order, instituting a one-day-a-week wateringschedule for residential landscape irrigation to conserve regional watersupplies. Landscape irrigation accounts for up to half of all householdwater consumption in Florida and totals more than seven billion gallons perday nationwide.

"Today's order represents the most stringent landscape irrigation measuresthat this agency has ever had to impose, but we believe it willsignificantly help to protect and stretch our regional water supplies," saidSFWMD Governing Board Chairman Eric Buermann. "We appreciate the public'sunderstanding and compliance with these necessary restrictions that willresult in measurable water savings."

Highlights of the Modified Phase III water shortage order, which will beenforced beginning January 15, 2008, include:

Residents and businesses of Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach,Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Hendry and Glades counties are limited to aone-day-per-week landscape irrigation schedule with two "watering windows."

Odd street addresses may irrigate lawns and landscapes on Mondays between4:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. or 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Even street addresses may irrigate lawns and landscapes on Thursdays between4:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. or 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Residents and businesses with more than five acres have expanded irrigationhours, between 12:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. or 4:00 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. on theirdesignated irrigation day.

Residents and businesses in Lee and Collier counties are limited toone-day-a-week watering during specific four-hour "watering windows"directly associated with their unique street addresses.

Hand-watering with one hose fitted with an automatic shut-off nozzle isallowed for 10 minutes per day for landscape stress relief and to preventplant die-off.

Low-volume irrigation, including the use of drip and microjet systems thatapply water directly to plant root zones, is not restricted but should bevoluntarily reduced.

Additional watering days and times will be allocated for the establishmentof new lawns and landscapes.No restrictions apply to other outside water uses, such as for car and boatwashing, pressure cleaning of paved surfaces, decorative fountains andwater-based recreation (e.g. swimming pools, water slides).Golf courses must reduce their allocated water use by 45 percent.

"Our lawns do not need to be watered more than once a week during the dryseason, and with seasonal rainfall to help, it should be more than enough tomaintain a healthy lawn," added Buermann.

The new, mandatory restrictions apply to all water from traditional sources,including water from public utilities, private wells, canals, ponds andlakes. Users of 100-percent reclaimed water are exempt from therestrictions but are encouraged to conserve water voluntarily.

Because jurisdiction in certain counties is shared with other watermanagement districts, the SFWMD has coordinated with these agencies tosimplify implementation and enforcement. Residents of Orange and Osceolacounties should adhere to any water restrictions set by the St. Johns RiverWater Management District. Residents of Polk, Highlands, and CharlotteCounties should adhere to the water restrictions set by the SouthwestFlorida Water Management District. However, golf courses, nurseries, andagricultural users District-wide should follow SFWMD water use restrictions.

Restrictions Make a Difference
Implementing water use restrictions has already proved effective during thecontinued regional water shortage. Based on data reported by 46 publicwater utilities in Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Collier, Lee andMiami-Dade counties, an estimated 11.7 billion gallons of potable water wassaved since March 22, when restrictions first went into effect, through June30. Savings were most pronounced on non-watering days. For example, oneday per week landscape irrigation restrictions instituted in Broward andPalm Beach counties saved an estimated 130 million gallons a day of potablewater.

Current Conditions
Surface water and groundwater levels across much of the District remainunseasonably low and already are showing signs of decline with the start ofthe dry season in November. The water level in Lake Okeechobee, the sourceof water for the Florida Everglades and the primary back-up water supply forfive million South Floridians, is at its lowest elevation ever recorded forthe month of December. At 10.16 feet above sea level this morning, the lakelevel already is so low that water from the lake cannot be used to replenishthe regional supply. Even with average dry season rainfall, water managersexpect the lake level to drop over the coming months below its all-time lowof 8.82 feet above sea level, recorded on July 2, 2007. ( Click here toview chart of Lake O low levels and Hydro Graph of Lake O )

"Our water resources are all interconnected and our goal is to ensure wehave sufficient water to meet regional demands during the dry season," saidCarol Ann Wehle, executive director of the SFWMD. "With a full six monthsof dry season weather ahead of us and the subsequent water level declinesthat are typical of South Florida's winter and spring, we are heading intouncharted territory."

For additional information on the water shortage, irrigation restrictions orwater conservation, call the SFWMD's toll-free Water Conservation Hotline at1-800-662-8876, visit or contact a regional SFWMD servicecenter. Helpful water conservation tips also are available .


Forwarded from Michael Emanuel Rajner
Transgender Equality Rights Initiatives (TERI)
Telephone: (954) 272-8131

Express Gay News


Some activists say Broward rights ordinance lacks teeth
Sexual orientation claims usually dismissed or settled, records show

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Passing an amendment to the Broward County Human Rights Ordinance that wouldadd transgender men and women and pregnant women as protected classes may begetting more complicated.

Support for the amendment appears to have gained momentum in the wake ofsuccesses passing transgender ordinances in municipalities and counties suchas Oakland Park, Wilton Manors and Palm Beach County. Changes to theproposed transgender amendment will be addressed at the Human Rights Boardmeeting on Monday, Dec. 17, at 1 p.m.

But as Broward's county-wide amendment inches forward, some supporters areonce again calling for a slow down.

This time, they are asking the amendment's chief sponsor, Commissioner KenKeechl, and the county's Human Rights Board to take time to refine thelanguage of the overall ordinance and simplify the legalese in order tocreate a more effective and user-friendly law.

George Castrataro, senior attorney for Legal Aid Service of Broward County,has been meeting with Keechl to improve the legislation. Castrataro headsthe Broward Human Rights Initiative, an arm of Legal Aid that focuses onGLBT rights. In a chain of e-mails and conversations with Keechl,Castrataro says that while the commission considers expanding theprotections, it should take the opportunity to improve the ordinance.

"Adding protected classes to an ordinance that is weak does very little toprotect the classes," he wrote. "We must examine why this ordinance has beenignored by the legal community and why very few aggrieved parties(especially LGBT people) have enjoyed substantial relief by virtue of itsexistence."

Keechl, who has championed the transgender amendment since the start, hadsaid earlier that he wanted the amendment passed in January. Reached at hisoffice last week, Keechl said he is now pushing for the ordinance to bepassed by Valentine's Day.

"While I agreed with most everything [Castrataro] said, I don't think itmakes sense to slow down the process to make these changes right now,"Keechl said.

Instead, Keechl is urging Castrataro and others to keep their "eye on theball" and to work toward expanding the ordinance to protect trangenderedpeople sooner rather than later.

Castrataro, however, says the ordinance is burdened by an overly complicatedadministrative process and diluted with vague language. He recommendsstreamlining the administrative process, drafting the entire ordinance in"plain English" and tweaking vague legal terms to better define whatconstitutes evidence.



Forwarded from George Castrataro
To: Michael Rajner

Dear TERI Members,

Attached please find the comments that the Broward Human RightsInitiative provided regarding the ordinance. I am sharing thesecomments as I want to ensure that TERI members understand clearly thatwe are advocating with you. I have spoken to Michael and I will bejoining you at your next meeting and hope to learn more about TERI.

Please note that we provided a total of 8 comments on the ordinance ofwhich 2 were specific to transgender protections. Our goal in providingthe comments was to attempt to address serious deficiencies in theordinance which severely impair GLBT protections and not to delay thepassing of the ordinance. Originally we expected that the commentscould be easily incorporated into the draft, without causing any delay,however after meeting with Commissioner Keechl last week, we learnedthat this was not possible. Commissioner Keechl has shared that he willaddress these issues in the New Year and seeks to rectify thesedeficiencies.

While the article sought to explain our technical comments in lay terms,it missed several key elements and appeared to suggest we sought adelay. The primary legal issue with ordinance is that in its currentform GLBT individuals who experience workplace or accommodationdiscrimination have no right to access the courts (except by a verylimited form of appeal which has never been utilized). Moreover theordinance only allows very limited damages which do not allow attorneysfees to be paid. As such GLBT folks cannot gain legal representationwhile the opposing party is almost always represented. The currentamendments to the ordinance do improve these issues however there stillremains great need for improvement.

Most Sincerely,
George Castrataro


The Miami Herald


Page 5B - Beth Reinhard
Thursday, Dec. 13th, 2007

Opposition groups are fighting the move by focusing on the damage it maycause heterosexual domestic partnerships.

Supporters of a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage in Floridaare slated to announce Thursday that they have enough signatures to put theissue on the 2008 ballot.

The Florida division of elections web site reported 610,817 validsignatures late Wednesday, 192 names shy of the requirement for a citizensbacked referendum. Florida4Marriage leader John Stemberger said thethreshold would be cleared Thursday.

"The people of Florida have spoken," Said Stemberger, an Orlandoattorney who also leads the Florida Family Policy Council. " The Message isclear: Marriage is between one man and one woman."

The effort came up short in 2006. Florida law already bans gaymarriage, but supporters of a constitutional amendment say it would providea backstop in case the law is changed.

Two opposition groups have already mobilized and raised hundreds ofthousands of dollars, while donations to Florida4Marriage have dropped off.Constitutional amendments need 60 percent of the vote to pass.

"No question it's going to be a challenge, but we're going to run anaggressive campaign," Stemberger said.

One of the groups opposed to the referendum, Florida Red and Blue,plans to focus on its potential repercussions for live-in partners, insteadof on the polarizing question of gay marriage. The strategy aims toduplicate the 2006 success of gay rights advocates in Arizona, the firststate to reject a same-sex marriage ban.

Florida Red and blue contends that the amendment could strike downdomestic partnership laws in Broward County, Miami Beach, Kew West and WestPalm Beach that allow homosexual and heterosexual couples to receivehospital visitation rights and health insurance benefits.

"When Florida knows exactly what this amendment is and will do, theywill vote against it," said the group's spokesman, Stephen Gaskill. "It's amassive government intrusion into people's lives.


Express Gay News

Think you're funny? Prove it
South Beach Comedy Festival features contest, gay comedians

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Were you the class clown? Do you keep the family in stitches at holidaygatherings? If you've got that gift, the South Beach Comedy Festival isagain sponsoring the "So You Think You Are Funny Comedy Contest," inconjunction with the South Florida Improv Comedy Club and Paul Castronovoand Young Ron from BIG 105.9 FM's "The Paul and Young Ron Show."

The open call performance will take place on Jan. 6 at the Improv ComedyClub in Coconut Grove, with a semi-final round on Wednesday, Jan. 9. The topfive aspiring comedians will face off at the live finals in front of anaudience at the Colony Theater on Friday, Jan. 18.

Video clips of all the semi-finalist performances will be streamed on theCBS4 website,, where viewers can vote for their favorite comedian -helping to determine who makes it to the finals. As if the stakes weren'tbig enough, the last two winners each were booked for specials on ComedyCentral.

Tickets are also still available for the South Beach Comedy Festival, Jan.16 through 19. Featured comedians include Kathy Griffin, gay comedian BillyEichner and the gender bender Kristina Wong. For a complete schedule andticket information, go to

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Express Gay News

Decreased use of deadly club drugs reported
Four GHB-related deaths reported in '06; internet fuels sales of GBL

Dec. 13, 2007

Designer drugs GHB, ketamine and ecstasy reached widespread use in the late1990s and early 2000s. The drugs' popularity was apparent at circuit partiesand gay nightclubs as wild-eyed boys clutched each other in a chemicallyfueled frenzies, or were carried out twitching uncontrollably on stretchers.

Although these substances may have fallen out of fashion in recent years,they have not completely gone away. In the world of club drugs, use isdirectly linked to availability.

Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for the Study and Prevention ofSubstance Abuse at Nova Southeastern University, has been tracking the useof club drugs in South Florida since 1995. Hall has been largely responsiblefor publishing the annual report on drug abuse, "Indicators of SubstanceAbuse in Broward County," for the United Way of Broward County Commission onSubstance Abuse.

Hall said he's seen use of GHB and Ketamine plummet in recent years. SinceGHB was made illegal in March 2000, it's been more difficult to find, Hallsaid. The compounds GBL (gamma butrolactone) and 1,4BD (1,4 Butandiol) havesince stepped in to fill some of the demand.

GBL converts to GHB when it is ingested. It is also classified as a ScheduleI substance by the Food and Drug Administration.

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Express Gay News

Gay families come out in force at adoption hearing
Speakers blast state's adoption ban at forum in Miami

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The South Florida LGBT community turned out in force on Monday evening, Dec.3, to participate in a public hearing on foster care and adoption inFlorida.

Based on the number of obvious supporters in the audience, the LGBTcommunity and its allies comprised as much as 50 percent of the estimated300 South Floridians who came from all four counties to the downtown MiamiWolfson Campus of Miami-Dade College to speak and listen to stories aboutfoster care and adoption. No one spoke against gay and lesbian adoptions.

"This is a great opportunity to get messages to the Senate," said StrattonPollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida, watching speaker-hopefulssign up to talk. "We can only hope that they will listen."

Hosted by the Florida State Senate Committee on Children, Families, andElder Affairs, the hearing was an opportunity for South Floridians to maketheir voices heard without traveling to Tallahassee.

About half of the approximately 50 people who spoke addressed the issue ofthe state's ban on LGBT adoptions.

Committee Chair Ronda Storms (R-Hillsborough), a well-known gay rightsopponent, presided at the meeting along with Sen. Nan Rich(D-Miami-Dade/Broward) and Sen. Alex Villalobos (R- Miami-Dade). Severalexecutives from the Department for Children and Family Services alsoattended to hear what residents had to say.

LGBT and LGBT-supportive organizations in attendance included the ACLU,Equality Florida, PFLAG, Safe Schools South Florida, South Florida FamilyPride, SunServe Social Services and Temple Etz Chaim.

"Florida is the only state in the union to specifically deny LGBT residentsthe right to adopt any of the approximately 6,400 children in need of homesin the state," said one dad of a two-father family addressing the committee."We are allowed to provide foster care, but we're not allowed to legallygive these children a permanent home and family."

"It's really horrible," said Florida PFLAG organizer Carole Benowitz, whenher time came to speak. "I found a lesbian couple who would take in atroubled, abused male-to-female transgendered child and give her a good homeand stability, but they are not allowed to make this family legally whole."

The hearing ran from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and each speaker was allotted twominutes. Storms closed the meeting after reading the names of about 30 moreSouth Floridians who did not have an opportunity to address the committee,including Pollitzer, who said, "They figured out that we were the earlyarrivers and shuffled the deck. Nevertheless, I think the people who didspeak got the points across. Overall, it was a good meeting."

LGBT Floridians were not the only people to talk about foster care andadoption issues. A range of topic were covered - everything from theapproval process for day care to attachment disorder - an affliction ofchildren who did not receive sufficient attention during their first year oflife and who, upon reaching puberty, become violent, distrustful anddangerous.

Storms kept her promise of "no rebuttal" from the commission members.

"We're here to hear your issues, not to debate them," she announced at thestart of the evening. She appeared to listen equitably, though her frozenexpression indicated no change of opinion after listening to some veryheart-rending stories.

During her eight-year stint as a Hillsborough County commissioner, Stormmade national headlines and set the blogosphere abuzz by introducing aresolution that forbids the county from recognizing or participating in GayPride events. The commission approved her resolution 6-1, which led to theremoval of Gay Pride exhibits from the county's library.

During her campaign for the state Senate in 2006, Storm ran as an opponentof LGBT adoptions, saying, "I don't support putting at risk children inhomes that I think are at-risk themselves."


Express Gay News

Fla. Dept. of Transportation must address safety issue

Thursday, December 13, 2007

To the Editors:

Re: "S. Fla.'s deadly car culture puts gay club patrons at risk" (editorial,Nov. 22)

The state of Florida and the Florida Department of Transportation areshooting themselves in the foot in light of FDOT's reluctance to take actionin the largely gay community of Wilton Manors, where at least onehit-and-run and several other pedestrian fatalities and injuries haverecently occurred.

Repeated community requests to lower the speed limit, install traffic conesduring heavy weekend pedestrian traffic and upgrade the dismalstreet lighting on Wilton Drive have been ignored.

Last week, the New York Times estimated gay travel amounts to a $5.5billion industry, and, interestingly, one of the locations gays preferredwas Fort Lauderdale. In the gay community, news travels globally atnearly the speed of light, and if word gets out that visits here are risky,the state stands to lose a good chunk of that money. In light of oureconomic prospects, that's a risk Florida can hardly afford.

I urge the state to act will all deliberate speed on this matter.

Wilton Manors, Fla.


Palm Beach Post

Fla. unions oppose tax amendment

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau

Friday, December 14, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - A who's-who of unions announced plans Thursday to oppose theproperty tax constitutional amendment, saying it would cut too much moneyfrom schools, fire departments and parks.

"It would jeopardize the quality of life for all Floridians," said KarenWoodall, a social services advocate and chairwoman of the anti-amendmentcoalition, which calls itself Florida Is Our Home.

In addition to the state's teachers and firefighters unions, the coalitionincludes the Florida AFL-CIO, Florida PTA and League of Woman Voters.Florida TaxWatch, a business-backed watchdog group, also opposes thetax-cutting amendment.

Gov. Charlie Crist, meanwhile, is leading the charge for supporters with hisgroup, Save Our Homes Now, which has received $1 million from the FloridaAssociation of Realtors.

Crist, a Republican, will kick off his campaign today in Orlando, and hispicture appears on a direct mail advertisement that the campaign will sendout next week. That ad also includes a note from him saying the amendmentwould "secure property tax cuts that are simple, fair and guaranteed by lawfor you and every Florida homeowner."

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Palm Beach Post

Gay-marriage foes say they've met rules to get on '08 ballot

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau

Friday, December 14, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Gay-marriage opponents announced Thursday that they hadcollected enough signatures to place on next year's election ballot aconstitutional amendment that would define marriage, or any similar "legalunion," as being between a man and a woman.

"Today, the people of Florida have spoken, and they will speak again inNovember of 2008. Their message will be timeless and clear: Marriage is theunion of one man and one woman," said John Stemberger, an Orlando lawyer andchairman of the Florida Coalition to Protect Marriage.

According to the state Division of Elections' Web site Thursday afternoon,the group was 253 signatures shy of the 611,009 needed to make the ballot.But Stemberger said the group had verified more than 612,000 signatures andwas urging supporters to keep collecting them and turning them in before theJan. 29 deadline.

Florida already has a law banning homosexual marriages, but Stemberger saidputting it into the constitution would prevent judges from overturning thestatute.

Supporters and opponents agree that gay-marriage ballot initiatives canincrease voter turnout among religious conservatives. President Bush'snarrow win in Ohio in 2004, for example, has been attributed to ananti-gay-marriage ballot question.

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Sarasota Herald Tribune

Article published Dec 14, 2007

Michelle Obama will speak at a private luncheon to raise money for herhusband's presidential campaign from 11:30 to 1 p.m. today at the home ofCaren and Dick Lobo on Bay Shore Road in Sarasota. Thursday she was inTampa. Tonight she heads to Coral Gables.

The power behind Obama's local oomph
For her, he's 'exactly what the world needs'


SARASOTA -- At first glance, there is no obvious explanation why Sarasotadonors have given more money to Barack Obama than to any other presidentialcandidate.

As a Democrat, he agreed to boycott Florida until after the primary, meaninghe lacks local campaign staff and has not appeared in public.

Around the state and nation, he trails the Democratic front-runner HillaryClinton in contributions.

He is even from the wrong party: since 2000, donations to presidentialcandidates from Sarasota have favored Republicans 2 to 1.

But Obama has a special supporter in Sarasota. And her name is not OprahWinfrey.

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Tallahassee Democrat

Same-sex marriage vote upcoming

By Jim Ash
Article published Dec 14, 2007

Supporters of a Florida petition drive to ban same-sex marriage announcedThursday that they have enough signatures to make the November ballot.

"Today, the people of Florida have spoken and they will speak again inNovember of 2008," said Orlando attorney John Stemberger, chairman of campaign.

At a morning press conference, the group announced that they have garneredabout 1,000 more signatures than the 611,009 required.

"I can't tell you that they've crossed that threshold yet," said SterlingIvey, a spokesman for Secretary of State Kurt Browning. "They're close."

The group was about 300 verified signatures short of the requirementThursday morning, but they are likely to hit the mark in the next few days,Ivey said.

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Tampa Tribune

Florida Must Cut Hurricane Liability, Sink Tells CEOs

By MICHAEL SASSO The Tampa Tribune
Published: Dec 14, 2007

TAMPA - The cost of property insurance for businesses has fallen by 30percent in some cases, but the state still has much work to do to solve itsinsurance problems, state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said Thursday.

Its goals should include reducing its huge financial exposure to acatastrophic hurricane, she said.

Sink, a Democrat from Tampa, returned to the area Thursday to speak beforethe CEO Council of Tampa Bay, a local organization of business leaders.Among the topics were Florida's insurance crisis, the housing slump and thestate's overall economy.

Despite homeowners' frustration with their insurance bills, Sink said thestate is seeing improvement on some fronts. For example, businesses recentlyhave told her that sky-high commercial insurance rates have fallen 30percent to 50 percent in some cases.

And, in a recent trip to England she met with officials from Lloyd's ofLondon and found that business insurers sounded receptive about doingbusiness in Florida.

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Miami Herald

Miami-Dade governments get ready for slots

Posted on Fri, Dec. 14, 2007

City and county officials have begun dividing up the spoils of the slots --long before a single slot machine has been approved in Miami-Dade County.

Two cities, Miami Gardens and Miami, plus the county, all stand to get asmall percentage of the revenues from casinos at Miami-Dade's dog and horsetracks and the jai-alai fronton.

The money, likely to be millions of dollars, will be used by the cities andcounty to offset the new ''racinos'' potential effects -- to pay for morepolice, to repair wear and tear on roads, to increase services for thesocial ills that can accompany gambling.

But voters have to pass the referendum first, which is set for the Jan. 29ballot, along with the presidential primaries and the property-taxamendment.

Miami-Dade's citizenry rejected the measure in 2005 but state law allowsproponents to place it back on the ballot after two years. Broward Countyvoters approved slots, and three tracks currently operate slot machines.

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Tampa Tribune

State's Testing Of Student Athletes 'Going Very Well'

By NICK WILLIAMS, The Tampa Tribune
Published: December 14, 2007

TAMPA - With the release of the Mitchell Report on Thursday, state Rep.Marcelo Llorente, R-Miami, said he hopes others will finally take notice ofwhat he considers a trend of young players using steroids.

That is why he began urging the Legislature to support a bill that wouldallow a testing program to deter student-athletes from abusing anabolicsteroids in Florida.

Although it took four years to convince the Legislature, House Bill 461 waspassed and signed by Gov. Charlie Crist in June, making Florida one of threestates, along with New Jersey and Texas, in which high school drug testingis mandated by law.

Under the law, 1 percent of high school athletes participating in football,baseball, flag football, softball and weightlifting will be tested. Thetests are administered by the Florida High School Athletic Association, with$100,000 appropriated by state legislation to fund the pilot program.

In his report, Mitchell, former U.S. Senate majority leader wrote, "It'simportant to devote attention to the Major League Baseball players whoillegally used performance enhancing substances. It's at least as important,perhaps even more so, to be concerned about the reality that hundreds ofthousands of our children are using them."

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Miami Herald

NAACP wants juvenile-justice inquiry

Posted on Fri, Dec. 14, 2007

The federal government should investigate Florida's juvenile justice systemin the aftermath of the death of several teens in custody over the past fewyears, the head of the Florida chapter of the NAACP told a congressionalcommittee.

Adora Obi Nweze said the U.S. Department of Justice should launch a''thorough investigation'' of Florida's juvenile justice system.

''It is incumbent upon the federal government to ensure that the rights ofFlorida's children are being protected, and from our viewpoint it does notappear that they are,'' she said in testimony that invoked the names ofMartin Lee Anderson, Willie Durden, Omar Paisley and four other young boysshe said died between 2000 and 2006 while in the custody of the state.

She said that in ''all my years'' of community activism in Florida andMiami, ``the mistreatment of African-American youth by the state of Floridais perhaps the one issue that has raised the most concern, the most anxiety,and the most outrage.

''Black Floridians are outraged that the state continues to neglect, harmand even kill our youth and appear to get away with it,'' she said.

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