Monday, October 15, 2007

Legislative Update

"There is nothing that will upset a state economic condition like a legislature. It's better to have termites in your house than the legislature (in session)." Will Rogers - Radio broadcast, March 31, 1935

The Florida Legislature has extended itself into yet another special session lasting through October 29th to deal with property taxes.

Government in the Sunshine

State Represenatative Dan Gelber: Florida Legislature must be in the Sunshine

These days, lots of important decisions about your life are being made in Tallahassee: How much property tax you will pay, what kind of insurance you can buy, whether public education and health care will be funded adequately.

Increasingly, however, these decisions are being made in private, without the scrutiny of the public and the media.


I believe it is time for Florida to reconsider whether giving the Legislature a pass on compliance with Florida's Sunshine Laws is a good idea.

It's important that the citizens of Florida citizens realize that the legislature is making very important decisions that affect their lives without anyone being able to serve as a watchdog over the process.

Property Tax

St. Petersburg Times - Latest tax plan makes a bad situation worse

If the governor and the Legislature don't have the vision or the courage to create a fairer property tax system, they should leave the job to the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission that is meeting now and has the power to put amendments on the ballot in November 2008. Instead, they are determined to make a bad situation worse. Their constitutional amendment to double the $25,000 homestead exemption and allow homeowners to take a Save Our Homes tax break of up to $1-million with them when they move would extend and exacerbate the unfairness of the current system. It would require further cuts in services by cities and counties already grappling with newly required tax rate rollbacks and revenue caps, and it would not provide significant relief to businesses and other nonhomesteaded property.

Sun-Sentinel - Democrats 'less likely' to support retooled property tax cut

Republicans, who control both the House and Senate, are planning for a final vote Wednesday or Thursday, but must win over Democrats because a three-fourths majority is needed to place the issue on the Jan. 29 ballot.

Legislators didn't get a draft of the bill until late Friday afternoon, and still don't have a financial analysis on its ramifications.

"I have a bill that is 40 pages long and as I'm starting to wade my way through it, I see it does a lot more than the five or six things we've discussed," Geller said, after taking his complaints to Crist. "Our members are getting less and less likely to support it. [Republicans] are slapping together this bill in a haphazard fashion and will expect us to vote for it on the fly."

The Ledger - What's the Need for Speed?

It was the instant gratification impulse that drove Florida lawmakers this year to hastily slap together, mostly in secret, a confusing, deceptively worded and dangerously wrongheaded property-tax-cut amendment and rush it onto the upcoming January presidential election ballot. Recently, a judge threw the measure off the ballot as a clumsy attempt to fool the voters.

What might be a rational response to that series of events? One might think that Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Legislature would learn from their mistakes, resolve to adopt a more serious, studious approach to property-tax reform, and then take more time for deliberation, debate and public input - perhaps with the intention of putting a more carefully crafted amendment on the November 2008 general election ballot.

But, no. The immediate-gratification impulse will not be so easily stifled.

What ever happened to conducting economic impact studies and doing a thourough analysis of proposals before enacting them into law? We're in the situation we are in now because our leaders haven't been taking the long term view. It's time we focus on whats best for the future of Florida.