Sunday, December 16, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST December 16, 2007

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80 glittering vessels light up New River for boat parade

By Robert Nolin and Jennifer Gollan s
December 16, 2007

High on the bow of the majestic, 130-foot Grand Floridian, Lorraine Braccolet loose with a fitting greeting from an actress who portrayed a TV mobpsychiatrist:

"Hello jailhouse! Hello inmates!"

For the first time in its 36-year history, Fort Lauderdale's signatureholiday event, the Winterfest Boat Parade, made stately passage Saturdaynight down the New River. Vessels adorned in all manner of holiday whimsy,both traditional and playful, cast glittering reflections in the dark water.

Some 80 boats glided past the county lockup, past the AutoNation Buildingwhose roof spewed fireworks, and past thousands of hooting, cheering, waving

"The nice thing about this is we're close," said Marc Sternberg, 56, of Fort Lauderdale. "You can see the boats really close, all the music, the lights, everything."

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Number of women and girls killed in Broward rises sharply

By Brian Haas
9:18 PM EST, December 15, 2007

Wives, mothers, sisters and daughters are dying violently in alarmingnumbers in Broward County.

Twenty-eight women and girls have been killed so far this year, an 87percent increase over 2006 and a total surpassed only twice in the pastdecade.

In at least 15 cases, police said they were killed by relatives orboyfriends. A few were slain after asking the courts for protection. Theirages range from newborn girls to an 87-year-old retiree, and they came fromdiverse backgrounds.

Homicides overall are up: 113 this year compared with 96 in 2006.

The deaths of females made up a bigger part of the increase than males,though no one in law enforcement has been able to explain why.

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

Dec. 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.

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New lawsuit alleges Florida's property tax laws hurt recent buyers

By Mark Hollis
10:07 PM EST, December 15, 2007

A new lawsuit challenges existing and proposed state property tax laws,alleging they discriminate against recent homeowners.

The case concerns top policymakers because it seeks to unravel a popular taxcap enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Floridians.

Attorneys from Alabama and Florida have been trying for months to eliminatethe Save Our Homes tax cap that only permanent Florida residents enjoy. Theyhave been blocked in lower courts, but are back at it again.

The new lawsuit seeking class-action status claims all recent homesteadersin Florida -- specifically, those who have bought homes in the last fouryears -- are discriminated against to the advantage of longtime homeowners.

The lawsuit filed this month in Tallahassee focuses on Save Our Homes, thevoter-approved constitutional amendment that limits annual assessmentincreases to 3 percent a year.

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Palm Beach Post

Keeping teenagers in school called pivotal in keeping them out of gangs

Sunday, December 16, 2007

WEST PALM BEACH - How do you keep teenagers from joining violent streetgangs?

How do you convince poor kids that the American system offers them a betterfuture than local gang leaders armed with AK-47s and wads of drug money?

And how do you stop the spilling of more young blood?

A state grand jury studying gang violence in Florida, meeting behind closeddoors in Palm Beach County since late summer, delivered its first 10indictments Thursday.

All of those arrested, alleged members of the Sur 13 gang in Palm BeachCounty, were charged with racketeering and conspiracy and face maximumsentences of 60 years. They are all between 17 and 25.

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Tampa Tribune

Florida Joins Clean-Energy Uprising

Published: Dec 17, 2007

Cheerfully envisioning a brighter energy future for Florida, Gov. CharlieCrist last week led a group of three other governors in challenging thewhole nation to follow their lead toward using less foreign oil andproducing lower amounts of heat-trapping emissions.

Crist hosted a roundtable discussion on alternate fuels at a Tampa hotel,where he reminded a group of energy experts that the nation's founderssigned the Declaration of Independence, not a declaration of dependence.Instead of citing scientific reports and issuing dire warnings, Crist urgedthe group to use common sense and do the right thing.

He threw the weight of the fourth-largest state behind an initiative called"securing a clean energy future." The useful idea comes from fellowRepublican Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota and chairman of the NationalGovernors Association.

Crist and Pawlenty, along with the Democratic governors of Kansas andMontana, said their plan is to get 40 to 45 governors to sign energyagreements that set state goals for renewable energy, research, conservationand lower emissions, along the lines of executive orders Crist signedearlier this year.

When enough states sign on, Congress will have no choice but to follow withoverdue federal energy standards.

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Tallahassee Democrat

Water talks could have Florida focus: Three states prepare for meeting

By Bruce Ritchie

When Gov. Charlie Crist meets with the governors of Alabama and Georgia onMonday, Crist may find that Georgia officials also want to talk about waterissues in Florida.

The three are scheduled to meet at the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee todiscuss the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. The states havebeen battling in federal court since 1990 over water use in the rivers andhow to allocate the resource equitably.

Crist said last month Florida is committed to a long-term solution thatfocuses on water conservation in Georgia. But Carol Couch, director ofGeorgia's Environmental Protection Division, says such a solution also mustinvolve water use in Florida to help Apalachicola Bay.

"There are many things that have to be on the table for solutions forimproving the ecological resilience of that bay," she said during aninterview in Atlanta last month.

Among the issues that should be considered are Bob Sikes Cut at St. GeorgeIsland and wetlands such as Tate's Hell Swamp, Couch said.

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Miami Herald

Cleaning up the climate

Posted on Sun, Dec. 16, 2007

Now that virtually everyone agrees global warming is a problem ofpotentially catastrophic dimensions, powerful forces are beginning to battleabout what to do and how much money to spend.

No one questions who will pay. Not surprisingly, it's you.

Still, the clear message from experts is that the price tag will not be ashigh as many people have feared. Florida Power & Light, the biggest emitterof greenhouse gases in the state and now a supporter of decisive action,believes the cost could be as low as an extra $5 or $7.50 a month on yourelectric bill to start, eventually climbing to maybe $15 to $50 a month overthe next several decades.

If you include car emissions and other steps, the most respected estimate,from a British study group, says that reversing climate change might costAmericans $140 billion a year -- about how much this country spent on theIraq War this year. That's a big bite, but manageable.

The vast majority of scientists, the American public and even the captainsof industry believe the nation needs to act quickly, but that's all theyagree on. Action in Congress has stalled as the politicians consider sevenproposals.

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St. Petersburg Times

Sales taxes stir a fight: This time, the battle is in the budget reformcommission

By STEVE BOUSQUET, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
Published December 16, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - The battle lines have been drawn once again on the future ofFlorida's sales tax system, and they look very familiar.

On one side is John McKay, a Bradenton real estate broker and former Senatepresident who has argued for years that Florida's sales tax base is much toonarrow for such a big state.

McKay wants to expand the sales tax base by closing exemptions and taxingsome services, using the new money to eliminate local property taxes thatpay for schools, reducing property owners' tax bills by 40 percent or more.

On the other side are many of the same business interests who have foughtMcKay in the past, mobilizing once more to stop him and his allies in theirtracks. They say taxing services or closing exemptions would shift a biggerchunk of the sales tax burden to businesses, put Florida at a competitivedisadvantage with neighboring states and create a bureaucratic nightmare.

The battleground for these clashing forces is the Taxation and Budget ReformCommission, a panel of 25 prominent citizens formed every two decades tocomprehensively study the state's tax system. McKay, a Republican who servedas Senate president from 2000 to 2002, is one of its members.

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