Friday, January 11, 2008

FLORIDA DIGEST January 10, 2008

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As property tax vote nears, distortions abound

Michael Mayo
News Columnist
January 10, 2008

The flier showed up in my mailbox last week. It pictured a police officerand firefighter with the warning: "There is something dangerous aboutAmendment 1." In blood red letters, it declared: "The results will becatastrophic."

Sent by the union-backed Florida Is Our Home group, the flier predicted direcuts to emergency services if the property tax amendment on the Jan. 29ballot passed. It also called the amendment "a reckless tax scheme thatbenefits out-of-state property owners."


After all, the proposal benefits longtime Florida homeowners the most anddoes almost nothing for snowbirds and owners of commercial and rentalproperty.

While homesteaded residents would get increased exemptions and the abilityto transfer Save Our Homes benefits when they move, snowbirds and landlordswould get a 10 percent cap on annual increases in assessed value.

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Florida schools ranked 14th in nation, despite being 38th in spending

By Bill Kaczor
The Associated Press
January 10, 2008


Florida's schools ranked 14th nationally with a grade of C-plus on a reportcard issued Wednesday by Education Week magazine, although the state placedonly 38th in public education spending.

Much of the credit for Florida's overall finish - up from 31st last year -among the 50 states and District of Columbia goes to high marks for itsteaching profession and system of standards, assessment and accountability.Those are two of six categories measured in the annual Quality Countsreport.

"Given the financial resources of the state and the complexities of thestate of Florida we are certainly on the right track," said FloridaEducation Commissioner Eric Smith.

Smith, though, said Florida has much more to do.

"A grade of C-plus is not what I would want my kids to bring home fromschool," he said. "While the highest grade is only a B, we'd like to be thefirst A."

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Palm Beach Post

In divided GOP race, state is a 'linchpin'

Palm Beach Post Staff Writers
Thursday, January 10, 2008

MELBOURNE - With Iowa and New Hampshire finally in the rearview mirror,Florida emerged Wednesday as an even bigger milestone in the road to theRepublican presidential nomination.

"The stakes could not be higher for every single Republican. It becomes thelinchpin state now for the strategies for all of them in the top tier," saidRick Wilson, a Republican strategist who previously headed Rudy Giuliani'sU.S. Senate campaign but is now unaffiliated with any of the presidentialcandidates.

Caucuses, primaries through Mega Tuesday

Jan. 15: Michigan

Jan. 19: Nevada, South Carolina (R)

Jan. 26: South Carolina (D)

Jan. 29: Florida

Feb. 1: Maine (R)

Feb. 5: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware,Georgia, Idaho (D), Illinois, Kansas (D), Massachusetts, Minnesota,Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico (D), New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma,Tennessee, Utah

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Miami Herald

Absentee ballot calls hint at high turnout

Posted on Thu, Jan. 10, 2008

The presidential campaign fervor that drove unprecedented voter turnout inIowa and New Hampshire is beginning to show up in Florida, with a deluge ofabsentee ballot requests foreshadowing strong interest in the earliestprimary in state history.

On the Jan. 29 ballot: the highly competitive Republican and Democraticcontests, a statewide referendum on property taxes, a Miami-Dade referendumon slot machines and scattered municipal races.

Another indicator of voter interest will come Monday, when voters begin tocast ballots at early-voting precincts throughout the state. Meanwhile,election officials in Broward and Leon counties are already anticipating aJan. 29 turnout as high as 50 percent.

''That's huge,'' said Broward Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman MaryCooney. ``The fact that we potentially have more impact then we have had inthe past, you'd think that that would motivate people.''

Broward turnout was only 18 percent in 2004, when Democrat John Kerry hadestablished himself as the nominee long before Florida voted in March.President Bush was running for re-election, so there wasn't a Republicanprimary at all -- just local races. Statewide, average turnout was only 26percent.

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Don't look for Clinton, Obama as Jan. 29 primary nears

By Anthony Man
Political Writer
January 10, 2008

On the Republican side, expect John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giulianito pop up everywhere. Plan on a barrage of television spots clogging theairwaves. And look for rallies, town hall forums and bus tours.

Florida's primaries will be held Jan. 29. Already, said state Rep. DavidRivera, a Republican who represents part of south Broward, "it's hard toturn on the news on any particular day in different cities in Florida andnot see Republican presidential candidates campaigning throughout thestate."

On the Democratic side, here's what to expect: nothing.

"As much as I would love to see our Democratic front-runners appearing inFlorida, I'd be surprised if any of them crossed the border and into ourstate," said Mitch Ceasar, chairman of the Broward Democratic Party and aDemocratic National Committee member.

It all adds up to a bizarre dichotomy between the Democratic and Republicanparties as they prepare for the Florida primaries in which voters will pickwhom they want to get the nominations for president.

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Palm Beach Post

Democrats spar over whether contest matters

Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau
Thursday, January 10, 2008

With New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's win in New Hampshire, the battle overFlorida's Jan. 29 Democratic primary began in earnest Wednesday - not aboutwho will win, but over whether it should matter.

Clinton's Florida supporters, who believe that years of adulation for bothher and her husband, the former president, will translate into a strongshowing, argue that, yes, the delegate-less primary matters immensely.

of adulation for both Clinton and her husband will translate into a strongshowing, argue that, no, it doesn't matter because Obama is not even tryingto win.

Kirk Wager, Obama's Florida finance chairman, said that the nationalheadlines on Jan. 30 will proclaim the winner of the Republican primary -and then far down in the articles mention "the results of the beauty contestthat no one campaigned in and competed in."

The state party, while not taking sides, nonetheless is encouraging allDemocrats to vote with the idea that their participation is important, saidspokesman Mark Bubriski.

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Friday is deadline for ailing smokers to sue Big Tobacco

By Jon Burstein
January 10, 2008

Pasquale "Pat" Caprio started smoking when he was 10 years old. He and hisbuddies would pop into the candy store near his grammar school and buycigarettes for a penny apiece. One to smoke at lunch. One to smoke afterschool.

Sixty-eight years later, the Newark, N.J., boy is a sick man in awheelchair, hooked up to an oxygen tank and suffering from chronicobstructive pulmonary disease. The Fort Lauderdale retiree wants to hold thetobacco industry accountable.

Caprio, 78, is one of hundreds of Floridians who have filed lawsuits againstthe country's five largest tobacco companies within the past 18 months,blaming the cigarette makers for their health problems. Courtrooms acrossthe state are poised to become battlegrounds for the latest incarnation oftobacco cases that must be filed by Friday for ill smokers to capitalize ona Florida Supreme Court ruling.

The wave of lawsuits arises from the state high court's July 2006 decisionin a class-action case that sent shock waves through the tobacco industry.In July 2000, a Miami-Dade County jury leveled a $145 billion damagesverdict - thought to be the largest punitive award in American legalhistory - gainst Philip Morris Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Brown &Williamson, Lorillard Tobacco and Liggett Group Inc.

The state Supreme Court tossed out the monetary award, but affirmed thejury's conclusions that the companies misrepresented the addictive nature ofcigarettes and concealed the health dangers.

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