Saturday, December 15, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST December 15, 2007

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


Boynton Beach: Churches jointly offer Christmas celebration

December 15, 2007

New Hope First Community Church in Boynton Beach will combine services withthe Church of Our Savior MCC, and MCC of the Palm Beaches to have a "Ye theWay" Christmas celebration at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

The service will be held at New Hope, 2929 S. Seacrest Blvd. A receptionwith light refreshments will follow, said Pastor Greg Denton. He said hischurch and services extend to everyone, including members of the gay andlesbian community.

"We expect 150 people to show," he said. "As an open church, we want tooffer all to come out for the holidays. It is the best time to bringeveryone together."

For information, call 561-424-0699.


Palm Beach Post

TaxWatch rightly doubts Crist's tax-cut promises

Palm Beach Post Editorial
Saturday, December 15, 2007

Last week, Gov. Crist was hitting up Donald Trump for money to pass theproperty-tax amendment. This week, Florida TaxWatch reminded everyone whyvoters should reject the property-tax amendment.

On Wednesday, at the group's meeting in Palm Beach, TaxWatch PresidentDominic Calabro called the amendment inadequate. If it passes, Mr. Calabrosaid, the Legislature won't feel compelled to make the necessary reforms tothe state's tax system. In an interview Thursday, Mr. Calabro said TaxWatchhasn't taken a final position. But the organization will issue a report,perhaps next week, that he believes will be "pretty unassailable."

The amendment would double the homestead exemption to $50,000, cap annualassessments on commercial property at 10 percent, allow "portability" -homeowners could take up to $500,000 in Save Our Homes benefits when theymove - and create a tangible property tax exemption of $25,000 for business.Kurt Wenner, TaxWatch's director of tax policy, offers a point-by-pointrebuttal.

"Increasing the homestead exemption," Mr. Wenner says, "helps those who havebeen hurt the least" because they have enjoyed Save Our Homes protection.Yet the anti-tax drumbeat from Tallahassee has made those who have gainedmost from Save Our Homes believe that they deserve more. A new Mason-Dixonpoll shows Taxes/Government Spending to be Floridians' highest priority, upfrom sixth a year ago.

The cap on commercial property, as Mr. Wenner notes, "would be too high tomake a difference." Some individual businesses might benefit in certainyears, but assessments across the board might never rise 10 percent. As forthe tangible property tax, Mr. Wenner says: "That's really more efficiencythan savings. Some years, this tax costs more to collect than it brings in."

As for portability, which has enticed the state's Realtors to support theamendment in hopes that it would boost sales, Mr. Wenner points out thepotential constitutional problems. Courts have allowed states to giveresidents more of a break on taxes, which Save Our Homes does. The problem,Mr. Wenner says, is that portability could pit "U.S. resident against U.S.resident." Those who have just moved to Florida would be at a much greaterdisadvantage to their neighbor, who would be paying much less in taxes andwould have all that Save Our Homes equity.

TaxWatch and the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission have portabilityproposals that would have a better chance of being upheld if challenged.Both groups have other promising ideas. By defeating the January amendment,Floridians can give the state a chance at long-term tax reform, notshort-term, unneeded tax relief.


Sarasota Herald Tribune

Survey says Florida losing luster


The downturn in the economy, spiking property taxes, the rising cost ofliving and aggravations associated with population growth have Floridiansfeeling worse about their state than they did a year ago, a Mason-Dixonsurvey released Friday by Leadership Florida shows.

Forty-three percent of Floridians now feel their quality of life isdeclining, up from 36 percent last year, the second annual Sunshine StateSurvey said.

Thirty-three percent said they would not encourage a friend or relative tomove here, while 20 percent of the 1,200 people surveyed said they areseriously thinking of leaving.

"These numbers have to do with the state of the economy and the pace ofgrowth," said Susan MacManus, a professor of public administration andpolitical science at the University of South Florida. "Taxes are very muchon people's minds. So is affordability, college tuitions, personal debt andgas prices. People are feeling strapped financially, and that is reflectedin their opinion of the state and its institutions."

The Leadership Florida survey is just the latest shadow to creep across theSunshine State since late September when the Wall Street Journal and theHerald-Tribune asked: "Is Florida Over?" and "Will Florida ContinueBooming."

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Chicago Tribune,1,7779738.story

Report: Ohio Needs New Voting Machines

Associated Press Writer
8:26 PM CST, December 14, 2007


The state's top elections official recommended Friday that Ohio countiesreplace their touch-screen voting machines because the devices -- in use forroughly two years -- are vulnerable to manipulation.

A report released by Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner found a host ofways in which the machines could be manipulated: When empty, a portal in theelectronic machines can be manipulated with a magnet or personal digitalassistant; ballot-creation programs are either not password-protected or usea universal password; and invasive computer messages could be introduced bya voter and spread easily.

Touch-screen machines have been purchased across the nation to comply withthe federal Help America Vote Act. Nationally, $3 billion was spent toreplace the punch-card voting system that faltered in the 2000 election.

In the 2004 race between President Bush and Democrat John Kerry, Ohio borethe brunt of claims of voting problems. Complaints included limited accessto voting machines, difficulties finding proper voting precincts and theaccuracy of vote totals in precincts using electronic machines.

Kerry conceded the election after narrowly losing Ohio and its 20 electoralvotes.

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Palm Beach Post

Crist stumps for property tax reform at Orlando-area home

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 15, 2007

ORLANDO - Keith Markowitz can't remember whether he voted for Charlie Crist,but Friday the small-business owner was among the governor's biggest fans.

Crist attended a rally pushing the property tax reform amendment on the Jan.29 ballot at Markowitz's pool home, urging supporters to vote for themeasure with the promise that it will free homeowners to downsize orupgrade, as the Markowitzes wish, without having to pay hefty new propertytaxes, as is currently the case.

The event was backed by Yes on One - Save our Homes NOW Inc., a politicalcommittee supported by the Florida Association of Realtors. The group haspumped $1 million into the campaign to promote the proposed amendment, puton the ballot by lawmakers this year.

Crist impressed Markowitz with a simple line, Markowitz said.

"He wants to give us our money back. And I want it," said Markowitz,accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth, and 2-year-old daughter, Jordis.

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Washington Post

Registry May Soon Add Sex Offenders' Web IDs

By Catherine Rampell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 15, 2007; D02

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill that would requiresex offenders to submit e-mail addresses and other online identifiers forinclusion in the Justice Department's National Sex Offender Public Registry.

The registry is made up of data on sex offenders collected by each state.Only 11 states require sex offenders to submit online aliases to state sexoffender registries, according to the office of Sen. Charles E. Schumer(D-N.Y.), who wrote the bill with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The legislation, dubbed the Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual PredatorsAct, or KIDS, passed committee Thursday and is supported by severalchildren's advocacy groups as well as the Facebook and MySpace socialnetworking sites.

"We commend the Senate Judiciary Committee for passing the KIDS Act thatrequires convicted sex offenders to register any e-mail address or onlineidentifier they use, so social networking sites can block them fromaccessing their communities," said Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace's chief securityofficer. "This legislation is another important tool that will make MySpacean even safer place for all." Last December, MySpace began purging sexoffenders from its site based on registry information.

Facebook declined to say whether the company would use such e-mail addressesto deny and restrict sex offenders' access to its site.

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