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The TP Police

March 22nd, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

The halls of the state capitol are flush with chuckles over legislation to require restaurant inspectors to determine if there is an adequate supply of toilet paper in rest rooms. But despite the bathroom humor, Mike Vasilinda tells us the bill is rolling on.

Weve all been there the restaurant bathroom that is so disgusting youd rather suffer than do your duty. Under legislation rolling thru the capitol, the same people who inspect restaurant kitchens would also have to examine the bathrooms. Kim Hicks hopes the idea doesnt stall. If I go into the rest room and I dont feel comfortable in the restroom, itll make you think twice about the food.

The cheeky idea was floated this past summer after State Senator Victor Crist and his family had an unpleasant experience. The legislation hopes to wipe away a potential serious problem. For Crist, it is priority number 2. I was in a rest room over the summerat a restaurant. Not only did the water not work, but there wasnt any toilet paper and the toilets didnt function. In walks the chef, uses the goes into the stall, comes out of the stall and goes back into the kitchen. says Crist.

There is soft opposition from the Restaurant Association over government going too far. But caf manager Dave Rainey says most will have nothing to fear. I think its just a reflection on the restaurant overall and says something about the cleanliness and the performance of the restaurant and their staff.

And for the few establishments that dont keep up the new standards well, their ranking from health inspectors will go down the drain.

In the last year, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation has logged 262 bathroom complaints. If the bill passes, the agency will be responsible to make sure toilet paper is stocked, the water works and there is soap and something with which to dry your hands.

Posted in Business, Health, Legislature | 1 Comment »

Cable Wars

March 21st, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Either your cable bill is going to do down, or cable customers will get the shaft say the two sides of most hotly lobbied bill in Tallahassee this year. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, Legislation allowing telephone companies to deliver tv services without local control is about to clear the state house.

On every floor, in every corner, across the capitol, a phone company or cable tv lobbyist is bending someones ear about House Bill 529. Its open warfare.

The bill would cut local governments out of approving cable tv franchises and it would let phone companies deliver tv services across the state.

The phone companies say competition will drive down rates. The cable guys say the giant phone conglomerates will only serve the rich customers, leaving minority neighborhoods in the dark. Sponsor Trey Traviesa disagrees. Today, with video services rates cable rates being 15 41% higher than they would be with competition, who gets that shaft? The people who can least afford those higher rates the poor people. says the Tampa lawmaker.

The phone companies have 98 lobbyists on their payroll, cable just 35. Having so many lobbyists can only mean on thing. There is a pile of money at stake. And Charles Dudley, who represents the cable industry. says money is the point. The bill is about people trying to get unfair advantages in the marketplace here and that could be worth billions of dollars to some of these companies.

A consumers group has joined the cable side and is running ads asking viewers to call the governor with the message and tell them they are the consumers last hope. Charlie Crist says hell wait to see if it passes, but says You know, when they hire than many people to advocate a cause, it has to make you wonder. But in fairness, Crist says he hasnt made up his mind yet.

The only sure thing is that the cable TV bill can rightly be called the Lobbyists Relief Act…because thats whos making the money now.

Posted in Business, Charlie Crist, Legislature, Politics | No Comments »

Anti-Murder Legislation Nearing Passage

March 8th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Charlie Crists three year quest to pass anti-murder legislation is nearing fruition. The measure will require judges to assess a parole violators potential for violence and allow the violators to be sent to prison. The bill has been blocked for the last two years over concerns of cost, but as Mike Vasilinda reports, lawmakers have no decided the cost of not acting is too great.

The quest for the so-called anti-murder legislation began with this videotaped kidnaping and subsequent murder of Carlie Brucia in Sarasota. Killer Joseph Smith had recently violated parole by testing positive for drugs.

Governor Charlie Crist began pursing the legislation shortly after the Brucia murder and while he was still attorney general. He was in the Senate Chamber when it became the first bill debated this year.

Sponsor Paula Dockery says the legislation will save lives. Can we save everybody? Probably not. But you can go home tonight feeling very secure in the fact that you are going to save lives in the state of Florida make it a better place to live.

Several senators questioned potential costs to local governments, but none dared vote against the idea. 40 yeas, 0 nays Mister President says the reading clerk So the bill passes

The legislation is expected to clear the house this week and be on the governors desk by Friday. Afterward, the governor left no doubt he would sign the bill once he gets it.

I mean, there was Sarah Lundy, there was Carlie Brucia, there was Jessica Lunsford the Deltona Six. I mean, it became obvious to me that this is exactly what we had to do. says Crist.

Once signed into law, at least 5 percent of the 150 thousand people on parole at any one time are expected to be sent back to prison.

Posted in State News | 2 Comments »

Crist’s First State of the State

March 6th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida is strong and optimistic declared Governor Charlie Crist in his first state of the state address today. The governor hopes to build on the successful insurance special session to achieve property tax relief for most Floridians. As Mike Vasilinda reports, even democrats are giving the governor high marks.

Hear it here: State of State Speech

on his 64th day as Governor, Charlie Crist has concluded: That the state of our state is strong and promising. The State of the State address is the governors chance to give lawmakers his laundry list of things he wants. On the top: property tax relief. The Governor says he doesnt care how it gets done…just that It must be comprehensive. It must bring real relief to people.

The governor also wants a Childrens Cabinet to address kids issues, because he says Our children need a voice. They need to be at the table. Because soon, it will be their table.

And after invoking the names of slain children Jessica Lundsford, Sarah Lunde, and Carlie Brucia, Crist called on lawmakers to send parole violators back to prison. I have witnessed firsthand the unimaginable limits of human grief when a parent loses a child to violent crime.

The Governor is also calling for a return back to paper ballots before the next election.
Bipartisan reaction to the speech afterwards was one of optimism. Even most Democrats, including Arthenia Joyner of Tampa are applauding I feel that the door is open. I know that you can talk to this man. And that is miles away from where weve been over the last several years. says Joyner.

59 days remain in the legislative session. After today, the honeymoon will start to tarnish in the details of lawmaking. Lawmakers wasted no time heeding the governors call for passage of the anti-murder bill. It was debated in the state senate this afternoon and could be approved by lawmakers before the end of the week.

Posted in State News | 4 Comments »

More SOS Reaction

March 6th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Charlie Crist is winning high marks from Democrats and Republicans alike. Senate Democratic Leader Steve Geller of Hallandale Beach was praised by Crist for his handling of the insurance crisis a month ago. Today Geller returned the praise saying Crist is championing many things Democrats have pushed for years, including an end to touch screen voting machines, a childrens cabinet, and support for smaller class sizes.

You know, I think that Governor Crist is moving more towards where the people of the state of Florida are which is a difference from what weve seen in prior administrations. What were gonna have to see is whether or not the Republican Party is gonna be following Governor Crist to the center.

Crist was interrupted by applause numerous times during his state of the state. When he announced his support of funding for smaller classes, it appeared only Democrats did the applauding.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Smoker’s Blues

March 6th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Smokers may feel the pinch after this legislative session. Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate to add a dollar to the cigarette tax. The money would raise more than 800 million dollars and much of it would be used to cover the costs picked up by the state for sick smokers. Senate Sponsor Al Lawson also says the higher fee will go a long way toward keeping kids from starting to smoke.

I dont consider cigarette tax that much of a tax increase as I consider it a prevention increase, you know, for the people and especially our teenagers whove been involved in smoking a great deal.

The money would also help fund a 57 million dollar program ordered by voters this fall for the state to resume funding of smoking prevention and cessation efforts.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Senate to Offer Property Tax Fix

March 6th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

While the Governor says he just wants property tax relief and doesnt care how its done, as long as it is meaningful, state lawmakers are wrestling with the details of how to lower taxes and not bankrupt local governments. Sen. Mike Haridopolos of Brevard County has been traveling the state listening to residents in more than a dozen public hearings and he says the devil will be in the details.

How would smaller cities and smaller counties be affected by this? Would they see a dramatic hit like we have concerns about doubling the homestead exemption to 50 thousand dollars? Those numbers just arent in yet.says the Brevard County Senator.

The house has proposed raising the sales tax and eliminating a good portion of property taxes. The senate says it will have its plan out in a couple of weeks.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

First Parents

March 6th, 2007 by Mike Vasilinda

Dr. Charlie Crist, father of Floridas 44th Governor and his wife watched as their son delivered his first state of the state address today. The St. Petersburg physician says his son hit all of the right notes and never ceases to come up with surprises. He says his son has always been someone to seek consensus.

Hes always been a very inclusive type of person. I think during one of the debates, in fact, he said Im a live and let live kind of guy. And I think that says a lot about Charlie. Its him.

The Doctor says his son is also winning rave reviews from all of his neighbors.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

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