Saturday, February 02, 2008

FLORIDA DIGEST February 2, 2008

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Florida to vote on gay-marriage ban in November
Petition drive beats Friday deadline

By Aaron Deslatte
Tallahassee Bureau
February 2, 2008


Florida voters will be asked to decide in November whether to write a ban onsame-sex marriage into Florida's Constitution.

The state Division of Elections made the surprise announcement late Friday,after the signature-petition drive launched more than two years ago bysocial conservative groups managed to beat the signature deadline to makethe presidential election ballot.

The group pushing the ban collected more than 649,000 signatures - well overthe 611,000 required to place a citizens' initiative before votersstatewide.

However, another hot-button proposal called the Florida Hometown Democracythat sought to limit growth by requiring public votes on developmentdecisions fell 60,000 signatures short by Friday's deadline.

The Florida4Marriage group backing the gay-marriage ban had announced inDecember that it had enough signatures to put it on next fall's ballot, onlyto discover weeks later it was more than 20,000 signatures short of thenumber needed.

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DCF spokesman faces child pornography charges

By Sofia Santana
February 2, 2008

The lead spokesman for the Florida Department of Children & Families wasarrested Friday night in Lakeland on charges that he produced childpornography featuring two teens, authorities said.

Al Zimmerman, 40, was hired by the state in March 2005 and worked inTallahassee.

He was charged with eight counts of using a child in a sexual performance,each charge a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Zimmerman was immediately fired by the DCF, according to the AttorneyGeneral's Office, which investigated the case with the DCF, FBI, FloridaDepartment of Law Enforcement and Tampa police.

Authorities say Zimmerman solicited the two teens to perform lewd acts,which he used to create pornography.

Zimmerman was being held late Friday at the Hillsborough County Jail.


From The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council

Palm Beach County School District to to Recognize Domestic Partners andTheir Children as Family Members

(West Palm Beach, Florida) The Palm Beach County School Board will soonredefine "family" in the School District's Leave of Absence Policy toinclude employees' domestic partners and their children.

"This pro-family policy recognizing employees' domestic partners and theirchildren is a significant step forward," said Rand Hoch, President of thePalm Beach County Human Rights Council.

The Council has been the leading advocate for domestic partner benefits inPalm Beach County for almost twenty years.

The School District of Palm Beach County has recognized domestic partners asfamily members since 2005, when the district first offered employees theoption of purchasing health insurance for their domestic partners.Currently, 46 employees purchased domestic partner health insurance from theschool district.

Although the district offers insurance for domestic partners, it does notallow employees to purchase health insurance coverage for domestic partners'children.

Public employers in Palm Beach County that allow employees to insuredomestic partners and domestic partners' children include Palm Beach County,the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, the Office of the Clerk andComptroller, the Office of the Tax Collector, the Office of the PropertyAppraiser, the Office of the Supervisor of Elections, the Office of thePublic Defender, the Port of Palm Beach, the Palm Beach County SchoolDistrict, the Solid Waste Authority, Palm Tran, as well as the cities ofDelray Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach Gardens and West Palm Beach, and theTown of Jupiter.,

"The School Board's expanded definition of families gives us hope that itwill soon allow district employees to purchase insurance for the childrenthey are raising in their homes," said Hoch.

The School Board will consider the proposed Leave of Absence Policy at itsmeeting on February 27.

The complete text of the proposed policy may be found at:


Miami Herald

Gay marriage ban makes ballot, Hometown Democracy fails

Posted on Fri, Feb. 01, 2008

A citizen initiative to ban gay marriage will be on the November ballot, theonly one of more than 50 active petition drives that qualified Friday at thedeadline for signature verification.

Hometown Democracy, which would have required voter approval of local growthplan changes, was the only other proposal that appeared to have a chancebefore the 5 p.m. deadline, but it missed the mark.

Officials, though, ran out of time before they could process all signaturesdue to a deluge of petitions submitted in the past month and the diversionof county election workers to preparing for and carrying out Tuesday'spresidential primary election.

It couldn't immediately be determined if there were enough unprocessedsignatures to have placed Hometown Democracy on the ballot.

Sponsors of the single-gender marriage ban announced in December said theyhad obtained enough verified signatures. State officials then lowered thecount by more than 20,000 signatures due to a glitch in the Division ofElections' electronic reporting system. Some signatures had been countedtwice.

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Express Gay News

On the front lines of the marriage battle
Gay murder victim's step-father is among activists lobbying voters

Jan. 31, 2008

Being careful to keep 100 feet away from the doorway of the CollinsCommunity Center in Oakland Park, Dan Gottlieb, a retired professor fromLight House Point, methodically approached passing motorists on electionday.

When drivers rolled down their windows, Gottlieb, dressed in blue jeans, acap and a bright yellow T-shirt that was emblazoned with logos from theHuman Rights Campaign and Florida Red and Blue, gave the voters his pitched,urging them to vote against an anti-gay marriage amendment.

"I wait for them to roll down their windows," Gottlieb explained at theentrance curb. "And then I tell them about the benefits that will be takenfrom all unmarried couples if the amendment passes."

The amendment Gottlieb refers to is the so-called Florida MarriageProtection Amendment that could appear on the Florida ballot in generalelection in November. Late last year, supporters of the measure announcedthat they had gathered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. But onJan. 14, Florida elections officials said that due to reporting errors inthe certification process, the petition drive was actually nearly 27,000signatures short.

Marriage foes say they have enough signatures

Since then, supporters of the measure have been scrambling to make the Feb.1 deadline to qualify. On Wednesday, Jan. 30,, thegroup that is spearheading the amendment, posted a statement on its websiteclaiming that three times more than the 27,000 signatures that were neededhave now been submitted to the elections office. The statement says that thegroup is now just waiting for county officials to certify the signatures.

Meanwhile gay and lesbian leaders and community organizations have beenjoining with a wide variety of civil rights groups and unions to alertvoters to the dangers of the measure. Gottlieb was just one of nearly 1,000volunteers who joined a coalition of civic-minded organizations to form averitable civil rights phalanx at election sites to educate voters about theimpending amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Florida.

Florida Red and Blue, the organization formed specifically to fight theamendment, was joined by a coalition of groups such as the Human RightsCampaign, Equality Florida, SAVE and Fairness for All Families to mobilizespecially trained volunteers to educate voters about the measure.

Steven Gaskill, spokesman for Florida Red and Blue, said participants weretold to be respectful of differing points of view.

"Volunteers are giving the basic message that the amendment is intrusive andunnecessary," Gaskill said. "And that it takes away the rights of all kindsof people, regardless of whether they are gay or straight."

Since mid-January, Florida Red and Blue has been leading volunteer seminarsthat teach people how to approach others and talk about the damaging aspectsof the proposed ballot measure.

The initial sessions featured Joe Solomonese, executive director of HRC,explaining why it is imperative that the amendment be struck down.

Throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties, teams of volunteers canvassedvoting precincts. They appeared in pairs in Hagen Park and at the Gay &Lesbian Community Center in Fort Lauderdale, as well as at Collins CommunityCenter in Oakland Park.

Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, spent election daysupporting volunteers at several precincts in St. Petersburg. She describedthe response and the turnout as "phenomenal."

Smith said Equality Florida worked with Freedom for All Families, acoalition of organizations and unions that is working to oppose theamendment.

"I think people are aware of the fact that whether or not the outcome isclear, we have to continue organizing so that we'll meet it [in November],and beat it," Smith said.


Activists target I-4 Corridor

Groups were stationed in precincts throughout the state with severalstrategically placed in the I-4 Corridor, the chain of communities alongInterstate 4, that stretches from Tampa to Daytona. The corridor, whichleans toward conservatism, has played a pivotal role in determining theoutcome of Florida elections.

"There is no part of the state that we can afford to ignore - whether it'svote-rich South Florida or the I-4 corridor," Smith said. "It's beenheartening to see how many people in the rural parts of the state showedsupport."

Lynn Mulder, stepfather of gay murder victim Ryan Skipper, was one of thepeople making a pitch in rural Florida. In fact, he was the only person inhis town, Auburndale, Fla., to demonstrate for any cause. Ryan Skipper wasbrutally killed last March in what police described as an anti-gay hatecrime. Since then Mulder and his wife Patricia have been outspoken in theircommunity and throughout the state in their call for tolerance andacceptance for all people, especially in small towns.

Mulder spent a few hours outside an Auburndale precinct to hand outmaterials he downloaded from the Fairness for All Families website.

"Frankly, it was a little bit on the lonely side," he said. "But I got totell a few people about it."

Auburndale and surrounding communities in Polk County are about as rural asFlorida gets. Towns like Auburndale have a high incidence of homophobia andracism. And, while Mulder said his son's death has raised awareness in thecommunity, intolerance persists.

He said he canvassed in his community to make a difference.

"I did it because I deeply believe in equal rights for all people and allcouples," Mulder said. "It's a civil rights issue."


Express Gay News

A burlesque, old-style circus
Spiegelworld's intoxicating antics include gay acrobat, juggler in drag

Jan. 31, 2008

The circus has come to town - well, sort of. This winter, a magical tentappeared on Miami Beach's Collins Park, but it wasn't your normal circustent. This tent, the Spiegeltent, is a throwback to the opulent tentsconstructed of canvas, cut glass, teak, mirrors, billowing velvet andbrocade that served as the venues for traveling gypsies and burlesque showsthat traveled from village to village across Europe in the last century.

Dubbed Salon Perdu, this single-ring tent was built in the Netherlands morethan a hundred years ago and is one of just a handful still in use.

According to producer Ross Mollison, stepping into Salon Perdu is "likegetting on a 100-year-old carnival carousel and traveling back to the MoulinRouge." And Mollison and co-producer Vallejo Gantner have programmedperformances that contribute to that sense of time travel, featuringburlesque and contemporary side show acts, as well as modern comedy thatseems just as natural in the intimate 350-seat venue.

"Absinthe" is the primary show in residence at Salon Perdue. Described as a"European circus on acid," the acro-burlesque company proves to be much morethan another Cirque du Soleil knock-off.

According to Mollison, "Absinthe" is "a nighttime saunter through thestrangest, most sultry circus in town, a collision of fairground sideshowand sexy torch song." The show takes its name from absinthe, the legendarygreen liquor with hallucinogenic properties that served as an inspiration toParisian artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec and was subsequently banned fornearly a century.

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Express Gay News

Gay clubs plan Super Bowl blowouts
Highlights include high-definition TV at Bill's, buffet at Alibi

Jan. 31, 2008

Between Mardi Gras (yes, it's early this year) and Super Bowl Sunday, thereare plenty of reasons to hit the gay clubs in South Florida this weekend. Asusual, the local bars and clubs have planned a blowout weekend that iscertain not to disappoint. Mardi Gras-themed parties will dominate Fridayand Saturday. Then, on Sunday, the Super Bowl will take center stage.

Sidelines Sports Bar is offering free T-shirts to the first 100 Super Bowlrevelers, along with food, drink specials and giveaways. Get there early toensure a good view of one of the bar's 16 flat-screen television.

While lots of bars will have plenty of screens to enjoy the game'splay-by-play action, Bill's on Wilton Drive will be showing the game inhigh-definition TV. Across the street at Georgie's Alibi, the bar's talentedkitchen crew will be dishing up a complimentary half-time buffet. You couldalso win a 27-inch flatscreen TV.

Here are a few highlights to help you plan your comings and goings for theupcoming week:

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Express Gay News

LGBT groups are united in backing inclusive state anti-bias bill
'Two-bill strategy' is morally and strategically flawed

Jan. 31, 2008

I WAS VERY DISAPPOINTED to read in last week Express an article by JuanCarlos Rodriguez , with the misleading title "GLBT groups clash over stateanti-bias bills." While I agree it is important to report the news, I alsobelieve it is equally or more important to report the news fairly andaccurately.

Over the past several months, I have discussed this civil rights bill withthe leadership of numerous LGBT organizations around the state and amunaware of any LGBT organization, other than Rand Hoch and the organizationthat he represents, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, that supportsthe so-called "two-bill strategy" of introducing a fully inclusive bill inthe Florida House that would protect all LGBT people from discrimination inemployment, housing and public accommodations, and a noninclusive bill inthe Florida Senate that would protect only some LGBT people.

While I have tremendous respect for Judge Hoch and PBCHRC, who have madesignificant contributions to our collective efforts to protect Florida'sLGBT community, the "two-bill strategy" is one issue in which wefundamentally disagree (ironically, the "two-bill strategy" came about notby design but as a result of our collective inability to find a Floridasenator with the courage and conviction to sponsor a fully inclusive versionof the bill).

As the Express is now fully aware, Mr. Rodriguez misrepresented the ACLU ofFlorida's position in his article and failed to report the position, wellknown to the Express, of many other LGBT organizations in the state. As Iclearly and unambiguously explained in an e-mail that Rand Hoch forwarded tothe Express several weeks ago, like Equality Florida, the ACLU of Florida,PFLAG and numerous local LGBT organizations throughout Florida, the NationalCenter for Lesbian Rights does not support the non-inclusive Senate versionof the bill being advocated by Judge Hoch and PBCHRC.

As we have publicly stated on numerous occasions, NCLR strongly supportsRep. Skidmore's fully inclusive House bill (HB 191), but does not supportthe Senate bill for all the same reasons we and our United- ENDA colleagues(which includes over 300 local, state and national LGBT and civil rightsorganizations, including many Florida organizations) stated for notsupporting the non-inclusive version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act last year.

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Okeechobee asks federal courts to rule on Gay-Straight Alliance

By Colleen Wixon
Thursday, January 31, 2008

OKEECHOBEE - The Okeechobee School District has asked federal courts for asummary judgment on whether a Gay-Straight Alliance should be allowed tomeet on the Okeechobee High School campus.

In papers filed Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the SouthernDistrict, lawyers for the school district also are asking for a hearing onthe motion.

"Summary judgment is proper in this case because there is no genuine issueof material fact," the motion says.

The motion contends the district legitimately had the authority under theFederal Equal Access Act and current case law to determine the formation ofthe student group would not protect the wellbeing of students at OkeechobeeHigh.

But American Civil Liberties Union attorney Robert Rosenwald Jr. saidWednesday the board violated the Equal Access Act by banning the alliancebut allowing other clubs to meet on the school campus.

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The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of South Florida (GLCC) is proud toannounce their Stars of the Rainbow Crystal Ball Gala & Celebration.

This annual and much anticipated event, formally recognizes remarkableindividuals and organizations who contribute to the Greater Fort LauderdaleLGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community. Care Resource is proudto be a promotional partner of this wonderful event.

This years honorees incude:
Individual: Michael Greenspan, Judy Shepherd, Tony Timiraos, Larry Wald
Fundraising GLCC Board Member: Ilene Berliner
Organization: Stonewall Library & Archives
Community Group: Sunshine Athletic Association
Volunteer: Marc Hansen
Business: MACK Power Group
Media: Howard Finkelstein, Dale Madison
Activist: Jacqui Charvet; Marsha Ellison; Michael Rajner
Government: Suzanne Boisvenue; Nicki Grossman
Alan Schubert Humanitarian Award: Paul Alpert

Stars of the Rainbow will be held at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort, 3030Holiday Drive in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, February 17, 2008. The event issignificant, as 2008 marks the GLCC's 15th anniversary of providing criticalprograms and services to the LGBT community. The "Crystal Ball Gala &Celebration" theme recognizes the GLCC's 15-year anniversary.

Tickets are available for $195 at the VIP level, or $125 at the Gala level.Underwriting and Sponsorship opportunities are available for businesses andindividuals who are interested in supporting this cornerstone event and itshonorees. For information about ticket sales or underwriting andsponsorship opportunities please contact Robert Boo, Development Director at54.463.9005 or by email at Additional information can beobtained by visiting or


Media Statement
Saturday, February 2, 2008


So-Called "Marriage Amendment" Barely Meets Signature Deadline
Voters Turning Away From Measure That Would Take Away Essential Benefits

Tallahassee, FL - After four years of signature gathering, backers of ameasure to deny family benefits for unmarried Floridians barely met therequirements to place the so-called "Florida Marriage Protection"constitutional amendment on the November ballot, according to state electionofficials.

Backed by far right political group Florida4Marriage, the measure has metstrong opposition from seniors, employee and consumer organizations andcivil rights groups alarmed at the far reaching consequences for thousandsof Florida families who risk losing essential benefits if the sweepingrestrictions of the amendment become law.

Statement of Barbara A. DeVane, Board Member of the Fairness For AllFamilies Coalition and Florida Alliance for Retired Americans:

"After 4 years of signature gathering the only surprise is how narrowly itseems they reached the minimum requirements. As Floridians come tounderstand that this measure strips away essential family protections, themore they are saying NO to the deceptively named amendment.

As a broad-based coalition of state, local and national organizations,Fairness for All Families will continue to educate voters and mobilizevolunteers across the state. Many of our seniors rely on domesticpartnership benefits that could be taken away by the so-called "marriage"amendment. Also at stake are other basic employment and health care benefitsfrom local governments and businesses received by thousands of familiesincluding police, firefighters and other municipal employees. Why would wetake away benefits that Florida families rely on? The law should not makeit harder for families to take care of their loved ones. We shouldstrengthen, not take away family protections. It is wrong to single peopleout and vote on the fundamental rights of others.

They have struggled to place this on the ballot because Floridians arelearning just how intrusive and harmful this amendment is for our families.We are confident that fair-minded Florida voters will vote NO at the polls
in November."

About the Fairness For All Families Coalition

Fairness for All Families is a coalition of over 200 groups that includesseniors, business leaders, consumer groups and social justice organizationsthat are joining together to oppose a constitutional amendment slated forthe 2008 ballot that would strip away existing employee benefits andenshrine discrimination in Florida's constitution. For more information,please visit




School Suggests Students Who Support Gay Rights Are an "Illegal Organization"

January 31, 2008

Alex Bassil, Assistant Communications Director, (Miami) 786-363-2723 or at:
Chris Hampton, ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project, (New York)212-549-2673 or at:

The ACLU will hold a press conference via telephone this afternoon at 3:30pmCST/4:30 EST. The plaintiff and her attorneys will be available at thattime to answer questions.
(877) 807-5706
Conference code: 526457

PONCE DE LEON, FL - A Florida high school has been trampling the FirstAmendment rights of students who support equal rights for gay people,according to a federal lawsuit filed today by the American Civil LibertiesUnion. In its lawsuit, the ACLU describes an atmosphere of fear andcensorship at Ponce de Leon High School, where the school board's attorneysays even expressions like a rainbow sticker may mean students are membersof an "illegal organization." Ponce de Leon High School is located inHolmes County in the Florida Panhandle.

"All any of us wants to do is be able to talk about gay rights issueswithout having to be scared," said Heather Gillman, a 16-year-old junior andstraight student at the school. "Nobody should have to worry about beingkicked out of school just for having a rainbow sticker on your notebook."

The ACLU sent a letter in November to the school board's attorney on behalfof Gillman, asking for clarification as to whether a variety of symbols andslogans, such as the rainbow flag or "I support my gay friends," would beallowed at the school. The school district replied that it would not allowany expressions of support for gay rights at all because such speech would"likely be disruptive." The district then went even further, claiming thatsuch symbols and slogans were signs that students were part of a"secret/illegal organization." The letter was sent after Gillman and otherstudents approached the ACLU about an atmosphere in which students say theywere routinely intimidated by school officials and prohibited from engagingin such behavior as writing "gay pride" on their arms and notebooks orwearing rainbow-themed clothing. According to students, problems began inSeptember when a lesbian student tried to report to school officials thatshe was being harassed by other students. Instead of addressing theharassment, students say school officials responded with intimidation andcensorship.

"Because the Supreme Court has held that students have a right to freespeech at school unless that speech disrupts the educational process, manyadministrators think they can just slap the label 'disruptive' on anythingthey don't like and get away with stomping on students' First Amendmentrights. The law doesn't work that way," said Benjamin James Stevenson, ACLUof Florida staff attorney who is representing Gillman. . "School should bea marketplace of ideas, where students share new ideas and learn aboutthemselves and others. Just talking about gay rights or any other topicoutside of class isn't inherently disruptive."

In the complaint filed today, the ACLU asked the court for an injunction tostop Ponce de Leon High School officials from suppressing students' FirstAmendment rights in the future.

"Writing something like 'I support gay rights' on your notebook doesn't meanyou're part of some secret conspiracy or shadowy organization," saidChristine Sun, a staff attorney with the ACLU's national Lesbian GayBisexual Transgender Project. "Schools shouldn't be in the business oftrying to frighten students into silence."


St. Petersburg Times

Gambling becomes a state addiction

By STEVE BOUSQUET, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
Published February 2, 2008

Gov. Charlie Crist prides himself on being a good listener, and he wiselyseeks the advice of his predecessors, Republican and Democrat alike.

So maybe it's time Crist considered some advice from Bob Graham thatappeared on the pages of this newspaper a few months ago. The formergovernor warned against shortsighted fixes to cope with the state's currentfinancial mess.

"If our leaders do nothing but swing a meat ax at key priorities, they willsoon fall prey to snake oil salesmen who promise 'easy and painless'solutions, like casino gambling," wrote Graham, who was governor from1979-1987.

"The second we succumb to these intoxicating promises, Florida's characterwill be forever altered - our future determined by the chance turn of theroulette wheel rather than the character and capabilities of our people," hewrote.

With Florida mired in a deep economic slump that shows no signs of ending,Crist could be leading a much-needed dialogue about Florida's tax structure.

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Miami Herald

Fundraising lags for Democrats

Posted on Sat, Feb. 02, 2008

The backlash over the national Democratic Party's shutout of Florida appearsto have deflated donors' willingness to pony up campaign cash, resulting ina year-end drop in contributions to the Democratic presidential contenders.

Democrats had been outpacing their Republican rivals in Florida for most of2007, but closed the year more than $1.36 million behind the GOP contenders,who raised $13.73 million from Florida donors in 2007. The Florida numbersare not a reflection of how the candidates are doing nationally, where theDemocrats are outpacing GOP candidates.

Democrats say the likely reason for the weak Florida numbers: the DemocraticNational Committee's decision to punish the state for moving the date of itsprimary by stripping Florida of its convention delegates, followed by a pactsigned by the top Democratic candidates to not campaign here.


''It's hard to imagine anything the Democratic Party could have done whichwould have hurt us more, other than coming down here, dropping their pantsand mooning us,'' said Steve Geller, the Democratic leader in the stateSenate.

The reports show Republicans -- who were stripped of half their delegatesbut could campaign -- had their best quarter yet, raising $4.76 million. Butit was the worst quarter of the year for Democrats, who raised $2.36 millionfor the quarter, which began in October just as the candidate boycott ofFlorida began.

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Miami Herald

Candidates aren't the only winners, losers

Posted on Sat, Feb. 02, 2008

Come now, all ye faithful readers, and gather round for the post-Floridaprimary Winner and Losers column.

Loser: Barack Obama's press secretary. Maybe Bill Burton was sticking it toHillary Clinton with his e-mails mocking her victory, but from where I sit,he was sticking it to Florida.

Sent 15 minutes before the polls closed: Based on exit polling data, ourcampaign is prepared to call the delegate count at 7 p.m. Followed shortlylater by: Obama and Clinton tie for delegates in Florida. 0 for Obama, 0 forClinton. Hilarious, isn't it, that 1.7 million votes won't count towarddelegates at the nominating convention?

Winner: Charlie Crist. It's been said, but it bears repeating. Florida'sgovernor, who threw his weight behind Republican John McCain and theproperty-tax referendum, went 2 for 2. His political machine made twomillion phone calls in just four days. When McCain gave his victory speech,Crist stood right behind him -- a nationally broadcast image captured on thefront page of The New York Times.

Crist is an unlikely choice for vice president, since his moderate stanceswouldn't reassure conservatives with qualms about McCain. But he'll bementioned as a prospect, and that's what matters. McCain has even invitedCrist to fly from state to state with him on Super Tuesday and wait for thereturns in Phoenix.

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Orlando Sentinel,0,1925869.story

Florida to vote on gay marriage ban amendment

Aaron Deslatte
Tallahassee Bureau
February 2, 2008


Florida residents will vote in November on a constitutional amendment to bangay marriage, state officials announced late Friday.

The signature-petition drive launched three years ago by social-conservativegroups managed to beat Friday's deadline to make the presidential-electionballot, the state Division of Elections said.

The group pushing the ban collected more than 649,000 signatures -- wellover the 611,000 required to place a citizens' initiative before votersstatewide.

"I'm just grateful to God first and our supporters second," said JohnStemberger, who led the Orlando-based Florida4Marriage group thatfrantically collected 92,000 signatures during the past 13 days. "It's anamazing victory. What our people did was simply remarkable."

Jon Kislak, chairman of the Florida Red and Blue group planning to fight theamendment, said he was "confident that voters will reject this amendmentonce they learn it can take away existing rights and benefits from millionsof Floridians."

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Florida Today

Crist lays out pay-raise plan for state workers

By Bill Cotterell
February 1, 2008

Gov. Charlie Crist's budget was good news for state employees Thursday,despite Florida's critically tough economic times.

The governor proposed performance-based pay raises averaging 2 percent forstate workers, giving each agency discretion to reward high achievers nextJan. 1. And his budget director said there would be no layoffs or increasesin employee-borne insurance benefits for the fiscal year starting July 1.

"I think it's great that he's proposing a raise but I really wish we couldget it to 3 or 4 percent," said Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee. "The hardestthing the (Leon County) delegation will have to do is to make the pay raisestick, because state workers have had a drought."

In a marked departure from the era of Gov. Jeb Bush, who cut job rolls byabout 17,000 in the three major employment categories over eight years,Crist's budget adds about 1,300 positions. It also provides for conversionof some temporary, no-benefits jobs to regular Career Service work.

"I think it's great," said Rep. Loranne Ausley, D-Tallahassee. "But I don'tknow how he can do all that in such a tight budget year. It's almostpathetic to think we'd get ecstatic about a 2 percent raise, but you have toconsider how it's been recently."

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Florida Times-Union

A tax break won't cure our ills

The Times-Union
February 2, 2008

I guess people don't scare so easy anymore. Amendment 1 breezed past the 60percent threshold during last week's Florida presidential primary.

That surprised me. It passed in spite of warnings from police, fire andmunicipal officials; public servants who ought to know what it costs toprotect people and property.

But staggering property tax bills proved to be scarier to more voters thanthe thought of not having enough police and firefighters to protect thehomes that they would live in.

Maybe the majority of people who supported the amendment, which, among otherthings, doubles the homestead exemption to $50,000 and allows propertyowners to take up to $500,000 in Save Our Homes tax cap benefits with themif they move, probably think they don't have a real reason to worry.

Just look at where it won.

Here in Jacksonville - where a body seems to turn up in the streets and onthe news every other day - and in many of the state's rural counties, theamendment lost. Even in Baker, Clay and St. Johns counties, the amendmentdidn't reach the 60 percent threshold.

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Florida Today

Crist, Graham team up to prevent 'civics illiterates'

By Bill Cotterelland Stephen D. Price
February 1, 2008

Gov. Charlie Crist joined two legendary figures in Florida politics Thursdayto announce a new initiative to encourage civics education.

The program will teach teachers about American government, so they caneducate children about the roles of city, county, state and national publicofficials.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham said the schools are producing "a generation ofcivic illiterates." Ex-U.S. Rep. Lou Frey of Orlando said thousands ofstudents come out of high school unable to identify the three branches ofgovernment -- executive, judicial and legislative -- and that most fourthgraders couldn't identify the Constitution as the foundation of ourgovernment, in a multiple-choice quiz.

"There has been a serious decline in civic education in the last 50 years,"Graham said. "We're linking up with other states that have a stake in theissue."

Crist has proposed $3.4 million in his education budget to strengthen civiceducation for the new initiative. The group also accepted a check for$556,466 from the Helios Education Foundation, an Arizona-basedorganization, for a two-year program to improve civic education forteachers.

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