Monday, December 17, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST December 17, 2007

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Palm Beach Post

Traditional bigotry

Palm Beach Post Editorial
Monday, December 17, 2007

Your house might be losing value. Or you can't sell it for what you owe. Oryou can't afford the insurance. Not content with those problems, now there'sa group that thinks state government needs more power to dictate who canlive in that house as someone's spouse.

A group anointing itself the Florida Coalition to Protect Marriage has goneto the considerable trouble and expense (about $443,000) to collect enoughsignatures to put on next year's ballot a measure that would amend Florida'sConstitution to ban same-sex marriages. Last week, the group claimedsuccess. Apparently, though, that group and others like it have failed tonotice that, judging by rates of adultery and divorce, opposite-sex couplesalso pose a threat to traditional marriage. By the way, same-sex marriagealready is illegal under Florida law.

The real purpose of the campaign, which needs 60 percent to prevail,probably is to motivate like-minded voters to get to the polls, wherepresumably they will support Republican candidates. That's why the stateRepublican Party gave the group $300,000 of its total.

That was under Jeb Bush. When Gov. Crist came into office, he stopped thecontributions. "It's not an issue that moves me," he said last week. "I'mmore of a live-and-let live kind of guy."

Come to think of it, that attitude, practiced judiciously by couples, woulddo more to protect marriage than this hateful amendment.


St. Petersburg Tiimes

Illegal workers on state agenda
Six bills target illegal immigration in Florida as national efforts stumble.

By JOSE CARDENAS, Times Staff Writer
Published December 17, 2007

In the two years since immigration reform legislation stalled in Congress,many states have passed their own laws targeting illegal immigrants.

And soon Florida could join them.

Legislators have filed six bills that would, among other things, penalizefarms and government contractors that hire undocumented immigrants orrequire local officials to report their arrests to federal authorities.

Come spring, legislators could debate whether to make it harder for anestimated 850,000 undocumented immigrants to live and work in Florida.

"Our federal government, in my opinion, has failed our citizens in dealingwith the crisis of illegal immigration," said state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-NewPort Richey, who filed two bills. "I went to an event today, and when Iasked for questions, it was about taxes, but it was also about illegalimmigration."

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Orlando Sentinel,0,2013422.story

LOCAL IN-DEPTH: Keep tax break when moving to a new home?

Mary Shanklin
Sentinel Staff Writer
December 17, 2007

College Park homeowner Renee Maloney would like to move to a larger house.

"I am in an older home; the bedrooms are small," Maloney said.

But she's waiting.

If voters approve a property-tax amendment Jan.29, Maloney and other Floridahomeowners could transport the tax savings they now get on their homes totheir next address.

If the measure fails, moving will be a lot more expensive for Maloney.

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The Washington Post

Giuliani Campaign Warms Up to Florida
Lagging in Early-Voting States, He Hopes State Will Propel Him Into GOP Lead

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 17, 2007; A04

TAMPA -- The current center of the political universe is Iowa, aspresidential candidates from both parties are spending millions and bravingthe winter weather in the struggle to win its first-in-the-nation caucuses.

But former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has been largely absent fromthe scrum of candidates there. On Saturday, he delivered a major speech tosupporters in balmy central Florida -- more than 1,300 miles from ice-packedDes Moines.

"I don't pray for miracles," he told the crowd in the speech, dubbed byaides as the "closing argument" for his presidential campaign. "I don't justhope for miracles. I expect miracles."

He was not referring to his White House bid, which appears to be movingbackward in the critical early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire andSouth Carolina. Nationally, his lead has dwindled from 30 points to two orthree in some recent polls.

Earlier this year, Giuliani vowed to compete vigorously in Iowa. An internalPowerPoint presentation prepared for his staff in the summer declared that"Iowans are just getting to know Rudy, and they like what they see."

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Cool days ahead in South Florida

9:29 AM EST, December 17, 2007

South Florida residents, get your sweaters out and turn your thermostats up.Meteorologists say it's going to be cool until Tuesday.

The winter storm that blanketed the Midwest and Northeast with snow causedtemperatures in South Florida to drop Sunday night, the National WeatherService said.

Palm Beach County saw temperatures in the upper 40s, and it was around 50degrees in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

The weather should warm up slightly to the 60s today but expect another coldnight, said meteorologist Barry Baxter. By Tuesday, temperatures should beback to normal, in the lower- to mid-70s, he said.

Elsewhere in the state, temperatures were recorded Monday morning at 46degrees in Fort Myers, 36 in Gainesville, 38 in Jacksonville, 62 in KeyWest, 55 in Miami, 37 degrees in Tallahassee and 43 in Tampa.

In Pasco County, north of Tampa, a tornado demolished a jail building earlySunday, according to the Associated Press. The tornado was from a cold frontand the remnants of Tropical Storm Olga.

At 7 a.m. Monday, the mercury hovered at 38 degrees in Lake County north ofOrlando, forecasters said, where the wind chill made it feel like 28.Orlando fared only slightly better: 39, with a wind chill of 31. In MarionCounty, temperatures dipped below freezing, and the wind chill dropped to 27degrees in Ocala.

That's a huge swing from the region's unseasonably warm Decembertemperatures, which hit 84 in Orlando on Saturday. Meteorologist Scott Kellyat the National Weather Service in Melbourne said that temperatures wouldnot climb out of the mid-fifties on Monday.


Florida Today

Crist still popular, not flashy: 'The people's governor'

December 17, 2007

It's been a busy first year for Gov. Charlie Crist.

He doesn't have the big trophies some of his predecessors bagged in theirrookie seasons, nothing like former Gov. Reubin Askew's corporate income taxor former Gov. Jeb Bush's "A-Plus" education plan.

But Crist is optimistic about setting a new, bipartisan tone in stategovernment and seeing the state snap out of the economic doldrums thatcaused him to cut more than $1 billion out of the state budget -- with morecuts on the way.

He's created a commission on open government and told state agencies tocommunicate in clear, nonbureaucratic terms. He made two trade missions, toIsrael and Brazil, and convened a climate-change summit in Miami that drewsuch nationally known "green" advocates as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ofCalifornia and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

He's threatened to sue the insurance industry "back into the stone age." Heintroduces himself to strangers as "Charlie" and sprinkles the first namesof spectators through his off-the-cuff speeches. He never misses a chance tolavish praise on Bush but, in a seemingly calculated contrast to hispatrician predecessor, Crist models himself as "the people's governor."

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St. Petersburg Times

3 governors to tackle plan to share water

By Times Staff Writer
Published December 17, 2007


Gov. Charlie Crist will be hashing out water issues (or the lack of it)during a tri-state meeting today with the governors of Alabama and Georgia.U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne also will attend the meetingat the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee. The men will discuss short- andlong-term strategies for using the water in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa andthe Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basins.


Orlando Sentinel,0,7956452.story

Same-sex marriage and property taxes share the Jan. 29 primary ballot

December 16, 2007

With a same-sex marriage ban all but certain to share ballot space withpresidential candidates in Florida next year, Democrats and Republicans aretrying to sort out which side the measure helps.

Conventional wisdom says Republicans. But some election analysts say theissue may not be the magnet it once was for social conservatives.

"Times have changed," said independent pollster David E. Johnson, notingthat Arizona last year became the first state to reject a proposedconstitutional amendment defining marriage as a one-man, one-womaninstitution. Twenty-seven states now have a similar constitutional ban.

"But a lot in Florida is also going to depend on who the nominee of eachparty is," the Atlanta-based pollster said.

If Hillary Clinton grabs the Democratic nomination, Johnson predicted theFlorida measure could prove one more rallying point to get socialconservatives out against her.

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Orlando Sentinel,0,6844716.story

Critics will try to weaken Florida's rules on limiting school-class sizes
A move to give schools more flexibility on the state's rule about the numberof students allowed gains momentum.

Leslie Postal
Sentinel Staff Writer
December 17, 2007

Class sizes in Florida's public schools have shrunk considerably in thepast five years, thanks to a controversial measure voters approved in 2002.

But the toughest work comes in the next three years, and many schoolofficials say that will require money the cash-strapped state does not have,leave them no flexibility to handle enrollment changes and lead to moreportable classrooms.

Key Republican state lawmakers -- among a group that was never a fan of theclass-size amendment -- say they want to give schools more wiggle room. Inshort, they are looking to delete the strictest parts of the law.

Previous efforts to alter the law have failed, but the idea is gainingtraction this time. Even the state's teachers union, a strong supporter ofthe measure, said current requirements might be sufficient and more
flexibility might be welcome.

Rep. David Simmons, R-Maitland, said he will push for changes during the Legislature's spring session, hoping to "smooth out the rough edges and theinflexibility" of the current law.

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Palm Beach Post

Jeb Bush aide strives to get vouchers in constitution

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau
Monday, December 17, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - A year and a half after the state Senate shot down former Gov.Jeb Bush's plan to enshrine school vouchers in the state constitution, histop education aide is trying again through the state Taxation and BudgetReform Commission.

Patricia Levesque, a commission member who runs Bush's Foundation forFlorida's Future, is pushing two voucher-related proposals to undo courtrulings that found vouchers unconstitutional.

"I'm still trying to figure out the right language," said Levesque, who,according to e-mails obtained under open records law, is soliciting helpfrom the same pro-voucher groups that helped create, run and defend Bush'svouchers during his two terms as governor.

Levesque would need two-thirds of the commission's 25 members - 17 votes -to put either question on the November ballot. The measure would then need60 percent approval by voters for passage - a new threshold adopted byvoters last year.

"I don't think it's our job to be getting into fights with the courts," saidcommission member Les Miller, a former Democratic state senator from Tampaappointed to the group by Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie."The Supreme Court has spoken, and they have said it is unconstitutional."

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Florida Times-Union

Swing voters still up for grabs

By J. Taylor Rushing,
Capital Bureau Chief
December 17, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Former Christian Coalition Executive Director Ralph Reedremembers when he first realized that only one Republican in the worldcompletely agrees with his politics.

"There was a very famous politician who once told me, 'The only candidatewho will agree with you on everything is the one that's looking at you inthe mirror,' " says Reed, now an Atlanta-based consultant. "That's why thisyear is a very important and valuable learning experience for us. Because an80 percent friend is not a 20 percent enemy."

Six weeks from Florida's presidential primary, Republican voters are seeingthat pattern played out. A Quinnipiac University poll released last weekfound a wide open contest with former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani leadingat only 30 percent. Twenty percent of the respondents did not identify afavorite or don't plan to vote and 59 percent were "very" or "somewhat"likely to change their minds.

The poll of 1,124 registered voters had a margin of error of 2.9 percentagepoints. Nearly a third of those surveyed were Republican, with a margin oferror of 4.7 percentage points.

Giuliani led among evangelical Republican voters, at 22 percent, followed byundecideds at 18 percent.

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Prescription drug abuse a growing problem in S. Florida

By Sofia Santana
December 17, 2007

The latest report on drug overdose deaths statewide and recent analysis byauthorities signal some changes in Florida's drug trade and drug abusepatterns, particularly in South Florida.

Among the growing trends authorities say they have noticed in recent years:

Drug dealers who sell powder cocaine and crack cocaine increasingly alsopeddle more-profitable prescription pain killers, such as oxycodone.

Groups involved in prescription drug trafficking are growing more organized.All the while, Florida remains one of the few states that does not trackprescriptions.

Marijuana grown in suburban homes fitted with hydroponics labs are producingplants that are three to 15 times as potent as the drug was two decades ago.Historically, the majority of these homes uncovered statewide have been inMiami-Dade and Broward counties.

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