Wednesday, December 19, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST December 19, 2007

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Fort Lauderdale commissioners impose strict ethics law

By Brittany Wallman
December 19, 2007


City commissioners passed a law Tuesday intended to reduce the influence ofmoney on politics and votes, and eliminate any appearance of corruption.

By unanimous vote, commissioners imposed on themselves - and on any futurecity elected officials - strict new ethics rules that go much further thanthose in state law.

It is now illegal for a city elected official to seek money or help forcharities and causes from people who need their votes.

That means city politicians can't go to lobbyists, developers, people withcity contracts, residents seeking a rezoning, companies bidding on cityprojects and anyone else "having any issue that may foreseeably come beforethe City Commission for a vote," and ask them to contribute to a thirdparty, like a charity or a national political campaign.

If a developer has a hotel project headed toward a City Commission vote, hewon't be getting a letter in the mail from a city commissioner asking him togive money to the politician's pet charity, or to come to a nonprofitorganization's fund-raising gala "honoring" a city politician.

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Two Broward students report being abused on buses

By Kathy Bushouse
December 19, 2007

The legal guardian of an autistic girl allegedly mistreated by her schoolbus driver said she was never informed of the incident by Broward schoolofficials, and instead learned about it last week from a Sheriff's Officechild abuse investigator.

Linda Page, the girl's aunt and legal guardian, said she was told Thursdayafternoon that her niece was involved in the Sept. 26 incident aboard thebus from The Quest Center. The investigator told her that she had avideotape reportedly showing bus driver Michael Clough waving what lookslike a broom handle and ordering the girl to stay in her seat.

The video also reportedly shows Clough slamming the broom handle on a busseat and poking the girl in the ribs, said School District spokesman KeithBromery.

Page was stunned. "[The investigator] said, 'You were not aware of this?' Isaid, "Absolutely not,'" Page said. "People knew about this and no one saidanything? Do you understand the gravity of that?"

The district also did not notify the group home where the girl lives.

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(West Palm Beach, Florida) At this morning's public hearing, the PalmBeach County Commissioners unanimously approved amendments to two countyordinances which will prohibit discrimination in employment, housing andpublic accommodations based on gender identity or expression.

Jeff Koons, Vice Chair of the Board of County Commissioners, had introducedthe amendments to the County's Equal Employment Ordinance and Fair HousingOrdinance at the request of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

"No one should be fired, harassed, or denied promotion simply because theydon't fit the stereotypes for masculinity or femininity," Council PresidentRand Hoch told Koons.

The new law, which covers public and private employers with fifteen or moreemployees, and most real estate transactions, goes into effect on January1.

"In a matter of days, all Palm Beach County residents will be judged on thequality of their work and will given an equal chance to succeed," said Hoch."No longer will an employer be able to fire an employee solely because sheis a woman with a masculine walk or he is a man with an effeminate voice."

With almost 1.3 million people, Palm Beach County will become one of thenation's largest jurisdictions to prohibit discrimination againsttransgender persons.

When the Palm Beach County ordinances take effect, close to 40% of the USpopulation will live in jurisdictions where it is illegal to discriminatebased on gender identity or expression.

Thirteen states (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine,Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont andWashington) and the District of Columbia have enacted laws prohibitingdiscrimination based on gender identity or expression.

In addition similar laws exist in more than 90 cities and counties acrossAmerica.

In Florida, the cities of Gulfport, Key West, Lake Worth, Miami Beach andWest Palm Beach, as well as Monroe County prohibit both public and privateemployers from discriminating based on gender identity or expression.

The cities of Largo, Oakland Park and Wilton Manors, as well as the Villageof Tequesta protect their municipal employees from discrimination based ongender identity or expression.

The Gainesville City Commission is expected to adopt an ordinance early nextyear which will prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and publicaccommodations based on gender identity or expression.

Civil rights activists are also working in both Broward and PinellasCounties to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.


School event axed over connection to racy MTV reality show

Posted on Tue, Dec. 18, 2007

A fundraiser for the band at a Coral Springs high school went down in flamesbefore it ever began.

Taravella High School hoped to raise money for the band Monday afternoon bycharging $5 for autographs of Deerfield Beach firefighter Dani Campbell, oneof two remaining contenders on an MTV reality show about a bisexual womansearching for love.

An organizer said fans were expected from as far away as Key West andOrlando to see Campbell, a lesbian who has repeatedly won over the namesakeof MTV's A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila.

On the show, Tequila has whittled a group of 32 men and women to two,Campbell and Bobby Banhart of New York. In the series finale, which airsTuesday, Tequila chooses the person she wishes to pursue a relationshipwith.

But when Broward School District spokesman Keith Bromery learned of theevent, he prodded other school district officials to take a look at the showon the Internet. A few scenes of a scantily clad Tequila and other castmembers cavorting and drinking were enough for the district to cancel theevent. An organizer said it had been approved a few weeks ago.

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Please join us for the next meeting of the Transgender Equality RightsInitiatives.

When: Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Time: 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Where: Gay & Lesbian Community Center of
South Florida (GLCC)
1717 North Andrews Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311


For Florida, party politics is all in the family

December 15, 2007
By Mitch Ceasar
Chairman of the Broward Democratic Party

Once upon a time, there were two dysfunctional families. The D family, andthe Rs. Through the years, these two American families grew large, yet veryunalike.

The D family thrived on dissent, varied opinions and very loud publicexchanges. The Ds were the typical American family.

The present-day Ds are a competitive family. Because of their nature,relatives from different regions think they are never paid enough attention.There is cousin California, the biggest of the relations. Cousin York, not"new" to the family, has been in the family business from the beginning andis the loudest and most brash.

There are other diverse cousins with seemingly little in common: Hampshire,Iowa, Nevada and "southern" Carolina. Later it may become clear thatgeography has everything to do with their alliance. Like the Rs, the Dschoose a family leader every four years. Both families call that a"nominee." If the family chooses wisely, that nominee will lead the entirecountry, taking power from their rival.

The head of the D family is Father Dean, who has the task of encouraging thefamily to play by the same rules. Dean knows this is a big job. Therefore,he has created a "rules" committee.

Then there is cousin Florida. Florida was not a prominent family memberuntil 1992 and, although underestimated, almost delivered victory forrelative Clinton. Since then, Florida has commanded great respect, at leastfinancially. First cousin from the South, Carolina has had no status fordecades, but voiced displeasure. Now she has been pushed almost to the frontof the line.

Well, cousin Florida does not like this, and members of the R family passeda rule that impacts her by changing the decision date. Although Florida cando little, "it's good to be courted," even without approval. This does notsit well with Dean or his committee, since Carolina asked permission first.

One of the elders from the Florida side of the family is Uncle Nelson. He isa traveler who goes places almost no one has ever visited and spends a gooddeal of his time in Washington representing family interests. He believeshis geographic family has certain inalienable rights.

Unfortunately, the family rules committee decided that cousin Florida wasnot a team player. They wrote a letter saying that no one from that part ofthe family can attend the big gathering in August 2008. It is at thismeeting all branches decide who will be their leader. In fact, Uncle Nelsonsued the other family members, but lost.

Cousin Carolina does not want to lose her place in line. She has convincedcousins Iowa, Nevada and Hampshire to join her in enforcing the familyrules. Participation at the four-year hoopla has already been decided byRoosevelt's committee, but cousin Florida is still receiving attention. Sothe four "early" cousins have convinced the family members running for"nominee," and their spouses, not to campaign for support with cousinFlorida's homesteads.

This chain reaction created in part by Florida, and cousins of bothfamilies, has made the schedule, "primarily" speaking, a mess! The Rs have asimilar problem, but they don't care. The reason for such disinterest may berelated to the head of their family. Their Uncle Martinez is from downSouth, where the sun always shines. In fact, when the R family has disputes,they are quickly settled; usually, with deference paid to a few rich uncles.

The good thing is there is a family rule that will help unite the nationalclan. The rule states that when a family nominee is chosen, they have thepower to invite the entire family to the national gathering. This willprovide for healing and allows the family dysfunction to become ancienthistory.

The wise old sages of the two families will probably never allow theirfunctions to suffer disruption in this manner again. Everyone has childrenwho act out and feel unappreciated. Possibly the two groups may allowdifferent branches of the clan to rotate, allowing the right to say whichrelative shall lead the family in the election battle. That way, no one islate to their own "party."

Mitch Ceasar is chairman of the Broward Democratic Party.


St. Petersburg Times

Florida's early voting: a wrinkle in the election cycle
The new wrinkle gives presidential hopefuls risk and reward.

By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political Editor
Published December 19, 2007

As the political world consumes itself with how Iowans might winnow thepresidential field Jan. 3, many Floridians aren't waiting to see whathappens in church basement caucuses 1,300 miles away.

It's a little-noticed wrinkle in this topsy-turvy election: Floridiansalready are voting, earlier than anyone else in America, which creates acomplication, and opportunity, for the presidential contenders.

By some estimates, more Florida Republicans could vote by year's end thanthe roughly 85,000 Republicans who show up for Iowa's all-important caucusesin 2 1/2 weeks. Not only can presidential candidates bank votes, but so cansupporters and foes of the tax-cutting initiative on the ballot.

"Everyone's focused on Iowa and New Hampshire, but I can attest that as ofMonday there are 604 people in Pasco that have already voted," said PascoSupervisor of Elections Brian Corley, who mailed 3,808 absentee ballots morethan a week ago.

The votes won't be tallied until the Jan. 29 primary, but it means Florida'selection day is effectively six weeks long. So, some voters casting ballotsnow could end up voting for candidates who drop out before Jan. 29.Andcampaigns that play it right can head into primary day with a significantlead.

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Palm Beach Post

State's pension system healthy, report finds

Palm Beach Post Washington Bureau
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

WASHINGTON - Florida is one of only five states that have fully fundedfuture pensions for state workers, but ranks at the bottom in terms offinancing health care and other benefits for its retiring employees,according to a national report released Tuesday.

Over the next 30 years, Florida's pension liability is estimated at $111billion, but the state has been setting aside enough money to pay $117billion in pensions, according to the report by the nonprofit Pew CharitableTrusts.

Florida "has been fiscally responsible, generally paying the full or closeto the full amount of the annual required contribution to its pension systemevery year," the report said.

Florida's pension strategy assumes a 7.75 percent rate of return oninvestments. That is slightly more conservative than the median estimate of8 percent - meaning half the states in the nation expect their investmentsto return more than 8 percent and half expect them to return less.

But Florida has not put aside any money for non-pension benefits, primarilyhealth-care coverage. That bill is estimated at $3.6 billion over the next30 years, the report said.

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Sarasota Herald Tribune

U.S. foreclosures slow, but Florida up to No. 2
The state follows Nevada with the largest amount of per-capita filings

Article published Dec 19, 2007

The nation experienced its first double-digit decrease in foreclosures sinceApril 2006 during November, but Florida moved up into the No. 2 spot lastmonth for filings while Cape Coral-Fort Myers and Miami registered among thetop 10 metropolitan areas.

On a per-capita basis, Florida was behind only Nevada, with the SunshineState showing a foreclosure rate of one filing for every 282 households,reported RealtyTrac, the Irvine, Calif.-based company that tracksforeclosures nationwide.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers had the eighth-highest per-capita rate of foreclosures nationally, while Miami was at No. 10.

Data specific to Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties or their citieswas unavailable from RealtyTrac on Tuesday.

Florida had 29,238 foreclosure filings in November, a 212 percent increasefrom a year ago, but a 3.15 percent decline from October when Florida wasthird in the nation for foreclosure filings, which include default notices,auction sale notices and bank repossessions.

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Miami Herald

Judge blocks Florida's voter registration law

Posted on Wed, Dec. 19, 2007

A federal judge ordered Florida election authorities to stop enforcing a2-year-old voter registration law, ruling Tuesday there is proof that thechange put in place by the GOP-controlled Legislature has resulted in``actual harm to real individuals.''

Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who has maintained that the law is meantto battle voter fraud, said the state will immediately appeal and hequestioned the timing of the decision. Florida residents who want to vote inthe Jan. 29 presidential primary must register by the end of December.

About 14,000 people have not been able to register since January 2006because of Florida's ''no match'' law, which requires Social Security ordriver's license numbers on voter-registration forms match those in federalor state databases.

The law has been challenged by the NAACP and other groups that say itunfairly blocks blacks and Hispanics from being able to register.

Among their complaints: that the process may be prone to error becauseHispanics sometimes use two surnames, which could throw the process off, andthat many blacks use nontraditional spellings for their names.

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Florida Times-Unio [Jacksonville]

Crist holds his ground on property taxes, Medicaid

By J. Taylor Rushing,
Capital Bureau Chief
December 19, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Charlie Crist's rookie year as governor is ending in a sort ofstalemate for the First Coast: The public likes him, but the enthusiasmisn't shared among local leaders.

While Crist has been cresting on polls that put his approval ratings in the70s - a stratospheric level for such a politically purple state - NortheastFlorida officials are finding their feet in standing up to oppose the ideashe is pushing.

Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton and Sheriff John Rutherford blame Crist'scrusade for property tax reform for potentially devastating city finances,and some City Council members are considering whether to sue the state tokeep taxing and spending decisions at the local level.

Among area legislators, Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, disagrees withCrist's health secretary, who opposes the expansion of Medicaid reform andtherefore leaves the experiment ongoing only in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassauand Broward counties.

Crist, 51, sat down with the Times-Union on Tuesday.

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Tallahassee Democrat

Biotech company moving to Florida

By Jim Ash

Gov. Charlie Crist announced Tuesday that the state will spend $94 millionto lure a prestigious European institute to a growing high-tech corridor inPalm Beach County.

The Max Planck Institute of Bio-Imaging is coming to Jupiter in a part ofthe state that already is home to the Scripps Research Center and whateconomic development officials call a "health cluster."

Crist gushed at a morning press conference that the new venture will createmore than 1,800 jobs over the next 20 years, with $2.4 billion in "laborcompensation," and $5.3 billion in gross state product.

Local development officials will kick in another $93 million for theproject. Economic development officials said the state is still negotiatinghow long to stretch out its investment, with the window being between fiveand 20 years.

Researchers will specialize in the next generation of medical imaging,peering at the molecular level to map the origins of diseases like cancerand Alzheimer's.

"What this does is it helps people stay alive. Let's cut to the chase,"Crist said. "It's a big deal. It's a really big deal."

Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, and Dr. Peter Gruss,president and chief executive of the Max Planck Society, joined Crist forthe announcement. The society is based in Munich, Germany. It employs 12,000high-tech workers, including more than 4,000 scientists, at 78 institutes.

"I thank both of you for this early Christmas gift," Gruss said.


Palm Beach Post

FSU may bench 25 for bowl

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Florida State will suspend up to 25 football players for the Music CityBowl, including 12 who were listed on the first or second team at the end ofthe regular season, sources said Tuesday.

Although names have not been released, the team's top two players from PalmBeach County - running back Antone Smith of Pahokee and receiver PrestonParker of Delray Beach - and quarterback Drew Weatherford are not on thelist.

Most of the players who will be suspended are part of the academic scandalthat was first reported by the university in September.

The players involved in the scandal also will miss at least the first twogames and part of the third to start the 2008 season as part of theirpunishment, according to sources. Although Florida State still has notcompleted its 2008 schedule, the Seminoles' first two games are likely to beagainst Division 1-AA opponents Western Carolina and the University ofTennessee at Chattanooga.

"We have some players not traveling for one reason and some for another,including those who are ineligible for the bowl because of academic issues,"coach Bobby Bowden said Tuesday through a statement. "We cannot be morespecific than that at this time.

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