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Budget Turkeys

May 30th, 2008 by flanews

While the state budget saw severe cuts, a taxpayer watchdog group has identified more than a hundred million dollars in government spending it says is wasteful. They call the items turkeys. As Whitney Ray tells us, some say these turkeys are gobbling up a starving budget.

Parks, recycling and some health care funds have all been identified as budget turkeys. Florida TaxWatch released its annual list of budget items it claims slipped through the system. They call the items turkeys. TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro said given the tough budget year he expected to come home empty handed from his turkey hunting trip.

“I’m surprised. We were really hoping that when it was all said and done, they were just, slam it down,” said Calabro.

TaxWatch identified 133 birds totaling more than 110 million dollars. Among the turkeys, two million dollars to finish a pharmacy school on FAMU’s campus. Senator Al Lawson said the school needs the money for its accreditation.

“To put this on the turkey list is really incomprehensible because this is a great thing for the state of Florida that helps bring in Federal dollars from the National Science Foundation,” said Lawson.

Funding for Family Café, a nonprofit helping families with disabled children, is on the turkey list. Eldalee Cook’s son has cerebral palsy. Family Café helped her find help for her boy. Cook begs Governor Crist to give the Family Café turkey a pardon.

“Numbers on papers don’t show you our pain and I pray that you look at our pain and see how we’re going through this cause it hurts and cutting it back isn’t helping anyone, finding a solution will,” Cook said.

In the end it will be up the governor to decide which turkeys get the ax. Last year Governor Charlie Crist vetoed about 70 percent of the budget turkeys TaxWatch Identified.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Education, Environment, Health, State Budget, State News, Taxes, Wildlife | 3 Comments »

Crane Accident Highlights Failed Legislation

May 30th, 2008 by flanews

A deadly accident in New York is drawing attention to crane operator legislation that failed in Tallahassee. This morning in New York City a crane collapsed killing two people. Investigators are still trying to figure out what happened. Florida Lawmakers said no to a bill aimed at setting statewide standards for crane operators. The legislations came after a crane accident killed two people in Miami. North Florida Associated Builders and Contractors fought hard to pass the legislation. The Association’s Chairman Gary Stout says the New York accident highlights the need for statewide regulation.

“Recently accidents have happened during the erection and dismantling of these tower frames. So if we train the operators to be safer in this process, its going to make thing better for everyone,” said Stout.

Stout says his group will fight hard to get the statewide training and regulations approved by lawmakers next year.

Posted in Legislature, State News | 3 Comments »

Delegate Showdown

May 30th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

A showdown over Florida’s 210 democratic delegates is on the agenda Saturday in Washington as a Democratic Rules and Bylaws meeting. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, at the meeting, state democrats are expected to win back at least half of the delegates it lost when the state moved the presidential preference primary to January 29th.
When more than one point seven million democrats voted January 29th, they cast ballots not knowing if there vote would count. They may find out Saturday. The national party took away their voice because the state GOP leadership moved up the primary date against party rules. Clinton delegate Cindy Hall says she feels like she is all dressed up with no where to go.

“I think if you only sit half of, what 200 and some odd delegates, you’re really going to have some people mad,” Hall said. “I’d rather do a half vote and seat the whole delegation.”

The Democrats own rules say the party can’t take away more than half the delegates. If the rules stands, Florida Democrats could get back anywhere from 92 to 111 votes. Obama delegate Rick Minor says no matter what happens, Democrats must start thinking about November.

“Right now we have a weak economy, home foreclosures, four dollar gas,” Minor said. “I think the important part here is to not lose sight of a greater goal, which is to elect a Democratic president.”

Not only did Republicans move up the presidential vote, they also scheduled the next primary for August 26th, right in the middle of the Democrat’s Convention.

While compromise is in the air, it’s good to remember the old adage that it isn’t over till it’s over, and challenges are possible after Saturday’s vote.

Posted in Elections, Legislature, Politics, State News, Voting | 5 Comments »

Elderly Abuse on the Rise

May 29th, 2008 by flanews

Attacks and abuse on the state’s elderly are on the rise. Last year the Department of Children and Families received 49,000 reports of physical abuse and neglect. As Whitney Ray tells us, an attack cost one Florida senior her life.

Hear it Here: Elderly Abuse on the Rise

Just hours after Janice Fore celebrated her 74th birthday she was killed in a robbery at her Manatee County home. Attacks on the elderly are becoming more common in Florida.

“I think we’re easy targets,” said senior Carol Arroyo.

A weak economy has Arroyo worried about her safety

“We get to be more vulnerable. We fell that way. We look at people and think is that a safe person to be around or not,” said Arroyo.

Rising gas prices and an increase in foreclosures are the main reasons the Department of Children and Families gives for a 15 percent increase in elderly abuse cases. The Department of Children and Families is calling for more training for investigators and asking people to keep an eye on their elderly neighbors. Police officers agree.

“Know your neighbor. At least introduce yourself to them. Know who the family members are so it there’s an emergency or if you haven’t seen that elderly neighbor in a day or two you can contact the family member and at least have them come over check on them,” said Tallahassee Policeman David McCranie.

The AARP says one reason we’re seeing more attacks on the elderly is because the 85 plus population has increased by almost half.

“We’re America’s grayest state and we’re getting grayer at a rapid pace,” said Dave Bruns with Florida AARP.

The best advice officials are giving to seniors is: watch your back, and make sure someone else is watching as well

Posted in Criminal Justice, State News | 1 Comment »

DNC Poised to Solve Delegate Dilemma

May 29th, 2008 by flanews

Members of the Democratic National Committee will meet this weekend to try and agree on a plan to send a Florida Delegation to the party’s national convention. Florida was penalized for moving up its primary. The DNC initially took away all of the parties delegates. Now there’s support for plans to either seat half of the 211 member delegation, or seat the entire delegation and give every member half a vote. Florida Democratic Party Spokesman Alejandro Miyar said he hopes the problem gets solved this weekend.

“We’re looking for a resolution for this saga with the Democrats that has gone on for way too long. We’re looking for some sort of resolution that’s going to allow us to move ahead and make sure we do the work necessary to win come November,” said Miyar.

Hillary Clinton won the party’s primary in Florida; she wants all the delegates counted.

Posted in Elections, State News | 5 Comments »

Sea Grass Bill Battle

May 29th, 2008 by flanews

The environmental community appears to be split over legislation waiting for the Governor’s signature. A bill sets up a never before tried plan to plant grasses on state lands to offset losses from development. Once sea grass is killed or uprooted it doesn’t normally grow back. Jeff Beggins President of Seagrass Recovery said the legislation is needed in order to save the state’s underwater habitats.

“We’ve lost over sixty percent of the sea grass habitat since 1950 in the state, about 82 acres a day. What we offer as a solution to restore all these propeller scares and the boat grinding holes to bring this resource back to where it needs to be it is after all the nursery of the whole sea,” said Beggins.

Jay Lyles, a policy consultant for the Florida Wildlife Federation, said the technology to restore sea grass beds hasn’t been proven.

“There’s not enough technology there to indicate that you can mitigate for sea grass beds being destroyed is so much in the infant stage. We have not experienced or seen any incident in which that’s been successful. This bill needs to be vetoed by Governor Crist,” said Lyles.

Governor Charlie Crist said he needs to take a closer look at the bill before making a decision to either sign or veto the legislation.

Posted in Environment, State News, Wildlife | No Comments »

Sea grass Bill

May 29th, 2008 by flanews

The sea grass bill is in the hands of the Governor. One group, Seagrass Recovery, would like to see it pass. Hear what President and CEO Jeff Beggins has to say:

Hear it Here: Sea grass Bill

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

AG Ups the Ante in Animal Fighting Gambling Rings

May 28th, 2008 by flanews

More than 160 dogs and more than 700 roosters were seized last year in animal fighting stings in Florida. Some of those animals were already dead by the time investigators reached them. As Whitney Ray tells us, the state’s Attorney General wants Floridians to take an active part in stopping animal fighting.

Hear it Here: AG Ups the Ante in Animal Fighting Gambling Rings

Florida’s Attorney General joined the Human Society of the United States to support a program offering 5,000 dollars to anyone who uncovers a ring that fights animals.

“In this supposedly civilized age the idea that people get entertainment and make their money off of two animals ripping each other apart in a pit is just wrong,” said Laura Bevan with the Humane Society of the United States.

In Florida hundreds of roosters and dogs die in competition every year. Attorney General Bill McCollum said animal fighting breeds a culture of violence that doesn’t stop with feathers and fur.

“There’s a correlations between the think pattern and criminal patterns of violence with animals and violence against people,” said McCollum.

Winston is about four years old. The pit bull was used as a punching bag for animal trainers in a thirty dog fighting ring. Amy Raddar saved his life.

“I suspect some pretty bad stuff was done to Winston at the hands of humans because he’s pretty skeptical of people,” said Raddar.

One sign that a dog has been used in fights is fresh wounds on the head, chest and legs. Winston’s wounds have healed, but if you take a closer look you can see his scars.

Winston was one of the lucky ones. Still the pit bull carries scars as signs of the end he avoided and the brutality hundreds of animals face everyday. People caught fighting animals in Florida face up to 5 years in prison and a 5,000 dollar fine.

Posted in McCollum, State News | No Comments »

Crist Denies VP Courting

May 28th, 2008 by flanews

Governor Charlie Crist spent the weekend with several other Republican Governors at Senator John McCain’s Arizona ranch. McCain hosted a Memorial Day cookout to thank the people helping him campaign. Crist is on the short list to become McCain’s running mate. Crist said the food was good and the Vice President nomination didn’t come up.

“It wasn’t discussed at all. It was a great weekend. Senator McCain is a great cook, he enjoys grilling out and he does a superlative job of it. I ate too much, but I enjoyed it,” said Crist.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal were also at the cookout.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Politics, State News | 1 Comment »

Crist Urges People to Prepare

May 28th, 2008 by flanews

With hurricane season on the horizon, the state is asking people to prepare, but not offering them any tax breaks to harden their homes. The state legislature voted down a hurricane tax break holiday, citing a budget 4 billion dollars lighter than a year ago. This is the first time in three years the state didn’t implement a sales tax holiday for hurricane season. Governor Charlie Crist urges families to prepare and said there’s still an incentive to stock up.

“The good news this year is that the private sector is really stepping up to the plate. There’s a lot of different outlets in Florida that are having specials for people to be able to purchase the kind of things that they need, coolers, water, batteries, flashlights, the essentials that you need during hurricane season to be ready to have your plan and be in place so I’m very pleased about that,” said Crist.

Besides the hurricane preparedness tax break, the legislature said no to a back to school tax break and a gas tax holiday.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Hurricane Season, State News, Taxes | 1 Comment »

Crist to Reshape State’s Highest Court

May 28th, 2008 by flanews

Governor’s Charlie Crist will have a unique opportunity to reshape the state’s highest court. At least four of the Seven Florida Supreme Court Justices will step down before the end of the Governor’s first term. Crist will be able to pick their replacements from a small pool of nominees. Crist said he is looking to appoint justices with strong character.

“What I will look for are people number one of great integrity, that have caring hearts, that are truly compassionate and willing to serve,” said Crist.

Two justices are leaving for personal reasons. Two more are being forced out because they’ll turn 70, the mandatory retirement age. This is the most turnover the state Supreme Court has seen since three judges stepped down in 1975.

Posted in Charlie Crist, State News | No Comments »

Taxpayers Targeted

May 28th, 2008 by flanews

As people receive their rebate checks from the Federal Government, scam artists are looking for their piece of the pie. Emails are circulating claiming the federal government needs your banking information in order to deposit your rebate check directly into your bank. Scam artists then use the information to withdraw money from your account. Attorney General Bill McCollum said don’t be fooled into believing you’re getting an email from the IRS.

“They don’t send emails out from the IRS. They just don’t do it. You have a question about a rebate or an issue with the IRS, go to their website or go to the IRS office, but do not be a sucker for somebody who’s committing a scam and wants to steal your identity or get money from you because they’re claiming they’re from the government,” said McCollum.

In 2007, similar email scams cost victims more than 240,000 dollars.

Posted in McCollum, State News, Taxes | No Comments »

Report Paints Dire Picture

May 28th, 2008 by flanews

A coalition of environmental groups issued a report today detailing evidence of global warming that is already observable here in Florida. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the report, titled Preparing for A Sea Change, says Florida must begin taking action now to avert disaster.

Hear it Here: Report Paints Dire Picture

Homes like this one, damaged but still standing on what is no loner dry land, a road, repaired again and again are all evidence of global warming says the report. Paul Johnson of Reef Relief says this red mangrove tree growing on the coast south of Tallahassee is proof something is amiss.

“It’s a rarity to find this plant here,” Johnson said. “It’s usually found hundreds of miles to the south and west of here.”

Crape Myrtles like this one aren’t typically in full bloom until mid-July. But here’s the rub, May has been an exceptionally cool month here in North Florida.

The Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition released a broad ranging report, calling on government to limit the use fossil fuels and more. Joe Murphy of the Gulf Restoration Network says average people have a part to play.

“The first thing is as simple as voting,” Murphy said. “When you go to vote think about a candidates environmental record, think about where they stand on climate change.”

While the coalition says time is running out to begin taking action, it also says the tide is turning.

“We fuel our whole industrial, economic complex with petroleum that we don’t have enough of,” Johnson said. “It’s becoming incredibly expensive. So the economics of this are in the right direction.”

The bottom line of the report: society needs to stop fighting nature and embrace it.

Posted in Environment, State News, Weather, Wildlife | No Comments »

Prepare Now or Pay Later

May 27th, 2008 by flanews

Hundreds of people still haven’t been paid for their hurricane losses in 2004 or 2005. A national survey being released later this week claims a high percentage of people living in coastal states aren’t prepared for the worst. As Whitney Ray tells us, how you survive a storm might depend on how you prepare.

Hear it Here: Prepare Now or Pay Later

Some people who lost it all in the 2004-2005 hurricanes will never be fully compensated for their loss. Insurance agents say many people aren’t as covered as they think.

“Everybody, particularly residents in the state of Florida, need to make sure they have separate coverage from the federal government for flood insurance. The lessons are all over the place,” said Scott Johnson, Executive Vice President for the Florida Association of Insurance Agents.

Agents say people should take out extra policies if they have free standing buildings or expensive property.

“You might have some items that need to be scheduled specifically. You might have jewelry, furs, or a gun collection,” said Johnson.

In order to make claims on your property you may want to spend a few hours taking pictures. Insurance regulators say make sure your pictures and receipts don’t blow away in the storm.

“Keep it in a safe place, a safety deposit box at a bank or even some safe box that is part of your hurricane kit that you pick up and take it with you when you leave the house,” said Ed Domansky, Spokesman for the Office of Insurance Regulation.

A spokeswoman for the state’s Chief Financial Officer said Floridians need to have their homes inspected.

“About 60 percent of the people that we give free wind inspections to are already eligible to save about 200 off insurance without doing a thing,” said Tara Klimek, a spokeswoman for the state’s Chief Financial Officer.

Hardening your home can help save you money on your premium and save your home from blowing away. For more information about state and federal hurricane preparedness resources you can call 1-800-22STORM.

Posted in Hurricane Season, Insurance, State News | No Comments »

Florida Students, Better Than Most

May 27th, 2008 by flanews

Florida students tested better than a majority of students from other states in a nationwide test. Today the Department of Education released math and reading results from the FCAT Norm Reference Test. The norm reference test is given alongside the FCAT. The test is just for comparison and has no bearing on a school’s grade. Florida students from 3rd through 10th grade scored in the 60th percentile or better. Some grades scored in the 70’s. Department of Education Spokesman Tom Butler said the test will help parents judge the education their child is receiving.

“It’s a great tool for parents to use just as an extra measure to say, well how’s Florida doing as far as instructing our students and making sure they’re there to succeed and by looking at how far they are above the national average we can definitely say our teachers and schools are doing a great job preparing our students,” said Butler.

Fifth graders did the best in the state, scoring in the 77th percentile in Math.

Posted in Children, Education, State News | No Comments »

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