Sunday, December 23, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST December 22, 2007

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South Florida builders may face tougher water restrictions

By Andy Reid
December 22, 2007

New building rules could follow tougher water restrictions as part of SouthFlorida's conservation push.

The South Florida Water Management District is working on developmentguidelines and building restrictions that cities and counties couldimplement to help stretch strained water supplies.

Options under consideration include requiring drought-friendly grass orshrinking new lawns in favor of native bushes, trees and other plants thatdon't need frequent dousing.

The proposed changes to development practices are among a package ofpreservation measures in the works. That package includes new year-roundwatering restrictions and would go before the district's governing board fora vote in April.

"We have to look to the future," Governing Board Member Shannon Estenozsaid. "There's a lot of room for changing our water use practices."

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Audit criticizes Florida's concealed weapons program

By Megan O'Matz
December 22, 2007

State workers have moved too slowly in rescinding the gun licenses of peoplearrested or convicted of crimes in many cases sampled by outside auditors,according to a critical review of Florida's concealed weapons program.

As a result, the newly released report by Florida's Auditor General statesthat there is "an increased risk that unqualified persons may remainlicensed to carry a concealed weapon or firearm."

The report raises questions about how effective the Department ofAgriculture and Consumer Services has been in administering Florida's systemof licensing people to carry handguns and other weapons, concealed forself-defense purposes. More than 468,000 people hold such licenses.

"It should give us grave concern to look further, to do a thorough inquiryinto whether or not this problem exists and whether it is widespread. Andthen fix it," said Jeff Gorley, a leading force behind the RegionalCommunity Collaboration on Violence, a South Florida advocacy groupdedicated to reducing gun violence.

In its official response to the audit, the department blamed the "accuracyand timeliness issues" on staffing shortages and said it has taken steps toretrain its workers, improve its computer system and reform its reports. TheDepartment has six months to show the state Legislative Auditing Committeehow it has corrected the problems.

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State bill would create database to monitor patients' prescriptions

By Juan Ortega
December 22, 2007

Should Broward County be the state's first county to have aprescription-drug monitoring program?

It's a question state legislators are expected to take up in March, thanksto a bill the Broward Legislative Delegation has approved.

Under the proposal, a pilot program in Broward County overseen by countyofficials would begin by 2009, letting local doctors and police tap into adatabase to make sure people aren't improperly getting medication fromseveral doctors, a practice called "doctor shopping."

"This is a crisis, and it needs to be addressed," said state Rep. JackSeiler, D-Wilton Manors.

He sponsored the bill on behalf of local database advocates concerned aboutoverdoses, including police, judges, prosecutors, drug-abuse officials,physicians and family groups.

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Chuck Panozzo Bass Guitarist For The Group Styx And Tim McCarron
Open their fabulous home to introduce



December 31 - 9pm - 1am

Contact Ray's List for the invitation.



EPA ruling threatens governor's plan to cut pollution
California proposal was shot down

By David Fleshler
December 21, 2007

A key element of Gov. Charlie Crist's climate-change plan is in jeopardy,now that the Environmental Protection Agency has rejected California'sproposal to dramatically reduce pollution from automobiles.

This summer Crist announced a plan to put Florida on the front line of thefight against global warming. It called for sharply reducing emissions frompower plants, increasing the use of renewable energies such as solar powerand requiring auto companies to meet stringent mileage standards for carssold in the state.

The auto element of the plan was based on one proposed by California, whichwould have required a 30 percent reduction in vehicular emissions by 2016.But on Wednesday EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson rejected California'sproposal, saying it was pre-empted by new federal emissions standards in theenergy bill signed this week by President Bush. While weaker thanCalifornia's standards, they are tougher than existing law.

"It's very disappointing," Crist said Thursday.

Asked whether the EPA's decision could thwart Florida's plans forautomobiles, Crist told reporters, "It certainly may."

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Palm Beach Post

State program offers discounts on prescriptions to 4 million

Palm Beach Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 21, 2007

Almost 4 million Floridians will be eligible for a discount on prescriptiondrugs under a new program unveiled Thursday by Gov. Charlie Crist.

Residents who qualify will be able to save between 5 percent and 42 percenton almost every brand-name and generic drug at more than 3,000 participatingpharmacies, state officials said.


Florida's new prescription drug plan

Q. What is the Florida Discount Drug Card Program?

A. It is designed to lower the cost of prescriptions for Florida residentswho have no drug insurance coverage. Residents may qualify if they are 60 orolder, or under 60 with a total family income below 300 percent of thefederal poverty level. That limit is $30,636 for an individual, $41,076 fortwo people or $61,956 for a family of four.

Q. How do I apply?

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Miami Herald

Elections boss warns about confusion

Posted on Fri, Dec. 21, 2007

Florida officials late Thursday warned there could be ''confusion'' amongvoters unless a federal court reconsiders a decision to block enforcement ofa 2-year-old voter registration law.

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the state to stop enforcing the law thatrequires information filled out on voter-registration forms to match numbersmaintained in state and federal databases. The decision came just daysbefore the deadline to register for the Jan. 29 presidential primary.

Florida is appealing that decision -- and now wants permission to keep thestate's election procedures in place while the appeal is heard by a federalappeals court.


''By altering the status quo, and by doing so while election officials arefocused on conducting a federal election, the order invites confusion anddistraction to both voters and election officials,'' argues the filing madeby lawyers representing Secretary of State Kurt Browning.

U.S. Judge Stephan Mickle sided with the NAACP and a Miami-based Haitianrights group on Tuesday, saying that there was proof that the state's ''nomatch'' law was preventing people from being able to vote. State electionofficials have not yet complied with the order.

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St. Petersburg Times

Crist pitches drug plan
The governor hints that this may be just a first step.

Published December 21, 2007

CLEARWATER - Gov. Charlie Crist jetted across the state Thursday to tout thelaunch of a discount prescription drug program meant to benefit the3.8-million Floridians who live without health insurance.

"Many working families and seniors have to struggle to afford prescriptiondrugs," Crist said Thursday at a Publix pharmacy in Clearwater. "I'mfrustrated by the cost of prescription drugs and I know our people are."

The program, modeled on one Ohio began in 2005, marshals bulk buying cloutto negotiate discounts with drug manufacturers and pharmacies, much asinsurance companies do for employers. Savings, which officials say couldrange between 5 and 42 percent in Florida, are passed along to programparticipants.

More and more states already have or are planning similar initiatives.

Ohio says its program saves participants 34 percent on their prescriptioncosts. Oregon, which unlike Florida allows all residents to participateregardless of income, claims a 42 percent savings.

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St. Petersburg Times

Crist blasts EPA's ruling: The agency says no to 17 states that want toimpose tougher auto emission standards.

By CRAIG PITTMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published December 21, 2007

Gov. Charlie Crist joined colleagues across the nation Thursday incondemning a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to blockstates from imposing tougher auto emission rules than the EPA requires.

Crist said he will "consider taking them to court, too, and suing on behalfof Florida's citizens."

Crist's remarks came after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vowed legalaction against the Bush administration to overturn the decision.

At his global warming summit in July, Crist signed three executive ordersaimed at cutting Florida's greenhouse gas emissions. One of those mandatedtough new standards for vehicles sold in Florida. State environmentalofficials have held two public workshops on the new rules and hoped tofinalize them next year.

The new standards, copied from California, would have forced automakers tocut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent in new cars and light trucks by2016, with the cutbacks to begin in 2009 models.

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Miami Herald

HIV/AIDS nonprofit's dealings questioned

Posted on Sat, Dec. 22, 2007

The apartments at Sugar Hill were built for people like Charles Hollis --people with HIV and AIDS, people with no other place to go.

For more than two years, Hollis lived at the Liberty City complex owned byMOVERS Inc., a nonprofit HIV/AIDS service agency. Then came the evictionnotice, the demand for $6,300 in back rent, and the startling news thatMOVERS had sold the apartments -- leaving Hollis and other clients behind.

His clothes and other belongings were tossed outside his apartment in therain, he said. Vandals tore at his furniture ''like the buzzards in thedesert.'' Hollis -- who thought MOVERS had secured government vouchers forhis rent -- ended up sleeping on a bus bench on Biscayne Boulevard.

''I lost everything I owned,'' said Hollis, 51, a former professionalmusician who now lives on Social Security.

The orange two-story complex where he once lived was built with millions inpublic dollars for one purpose: to house poor people with the virus anddisease. Yet MOVERS sold the buildings to a private company at a $1.3million profit -- despite a federal law that says the apartments must bedevoted to AIDS housing for at least another four years.

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Miami Herald

Rising health costs take toll on Floridians

Posted on Sat, Dec. 22, 2007

Below are excerpts from ''Too Great a Burden: Florida's Families at Risk.''The full report by Families USA is at

Over the past eight years, relentless growth in health-insurance premiumsand out-of-pocket costs has made spending on healthcare an increasingburden. For many Floridians, this means that healthcare is consuming anever-growing share of their budgets, forcing them to make difficultsacrifices in other areas so they can make ends meet. And for manyhard-working families, the burden of these healthcare costs has become toogreat to bear.

In Florida alone, 3.87 million people under age 65 -- more than one in fournon-elderly Floridians -- are in families that will spend more than 10percent of their pretax family income on healthcare costs in 2008. The vastmajority (80 percent) of these people have insurance.

In Florida, 1.21 million non-elderly people -- nearly three quarters of whomhave insurance -- are in families that will spend more than 25 percent oftheir pretax income on healthcare costs in 2008. In addition, the number ofFloridians facing high healthcare costs has grown substantially over thelast eight years.

Between 2000 and 2008, the number of people in families that spend more than10 percent of their pretax income on healthcare will have increased by 1.47million. The number of people in families spending more than 25 percent oftheir family income on healthcare will have increased by 501,000.

With a growing share of Florida families spending a substantial share oftheir income on healthcare, rising costs are putting thousands of familiesat risk. . . .

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FCAT's popularity waning in state: Poll majority says test is unnecessary

December 22, 2007

Florida's all-important test for public-school students is losingpopularity, results of a new survey released Friday indicate.

A majority of state residents don't think the Florida ComprehensiveAssessment Test is an accurate measure of what kids learn in school,according to the poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.

Overall, 52 percent said the "FCAT is not necessary," while 39 percent stoodbehind the decade-old test that has become the standard for evaluatingFlorida schools as well as students.

"I don't think it is going to be much longer before you see the FCAT changedor outright dropped," said Brad Coker, a partner in the Washington firm thatconducted the survey for Leadership Florida, a nonpartisan group that trainsleaders for public service.

But Orange County schools Superintendent Ron Blocker said he doesn't seeFCAT disappearing any time soon.

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St. Petersburg Times

Voters' rights will be restored by primary

By Times Wires
Published December 22, 2007


Anyone who properly filled out a voter registration form will be able tovote even if the Social Security or driver's license number on theapplication can't be matched with government databases, Secretary of StateKurt Browning's office said Friday. A federal judge earlier this weekordered Florida to take that step. Division of Elections spokesman SterlingIvey said the state will reprocess applications of 14,000 people. If theapplication is otherwise valid, those people will be able to vote in theJan. 29 presidential primary.


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