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Crist’s Year in Review

December 31st, 2008 by flanews

2008 was a year of ups and downs for Governor Charlie Crist. He was thrust into the national spotlight as talks of a Crist VP nomination began to surface. While he lost the nomination, he gained a wife. As Whitney Ray tells us, his biggest test next year could be trying to keep government afloat as state revenues dwindle.

Hear it Here: Crist’s Year in Review

2008 started off strong for Governor Charlie Crist. The plan he backed to lower property taxes was approved by voters and a gaming compact he signed with the Seminole Tribe brought blackjack and Vegas-style slots to Florida. But both plans soured.

The state Supreme Court ruled the Governor’s compact needed legislative approval and despite his campaign promise property taxes didn’t drop like a rock.

But he soon rebounded as talks of a Crist VP Nomination began to surface. Crist spent the summer campaigning for John McCain, and while McCain said “I don’t” a special lady said “I do” and moved into the Governor’s Mansion.

Crist became Florida’s first sitting governor in 41 years to get married while in office. Florida’s new First Lady Carole Crist wants to spend 2009 helping kids.

“Particularly children in Florida are very near and dear to my heart,” said Carole in a December 21st interview.

While his wife will focus on the kids, Crist has an even bigger task: working with lawmakers to find a way to bridge the state’s two billion dollar budget gap. Despite the economic downturn and the shrinking state budget Crist’s approval rating remains in the high 60’s.

Posted in Amendments, Business, Charlie Crist, Children, Economy, Elections, Gambling, Housing, Legislature, Politics, Property Taxes, State Budget, State News, Taxes, Voting | No Comments »

Powerball is Coming to Florida

December 31st, 2008 by flanews

Next year Floridians will have a chance to compete for big cash with people from 29 other states.

Powerball tickets go on sale in Florida on January 4th. The minimum jackpot in the multi-state game is 20 million dollars. The Florida Lottery’s low jackpot is 3 million. This year, lotto sales are down 125 million dollars statewide. Florida Lotto Spokeswoman Jackie Barreiros said Powerball could help fill the void left by declining sales.

“Players tend to gravitate to the new games. So we do expect more players to gravitate to the game initially. I think players will then start to choose what they like best, which is our goal, to offer choices, but I think overall it will be driven by the jackpot. If Powerball has a high jackpot and Lotto has a lower one, more people will play Powerball, and the opposite maybe true as well,” Barreiros said.

The Powerball drawings will be held in Orlando and televised at 10:59 Eastern Time nightly starting January 7th. The Florida Lotto drawings will be moved to 11:15.

Posted in Children, Economy, State News | 2 Comments »

Florida’s Lowest Paid Workers Get a Raise

December 31st, 2008 by flanews

Florida’s lowest paid workers are getting a raise. Starting tomorrow the state’s minimum wage will increase more than 40 cents to $7.21.

About 400,000 Floridians work for minimum wage. For those full time employees the increase will amount to about 17 extra dollars a week. The rate will increase again in July to a federally mandated $7.25 an hour.

Posted in Business, Economy, State News | No Comments »

It’s Official, Special Session Called for January 5th

December 31st, 2008 by flanews

Lawmakers seem to be in agreement with the Governor.

Higher fees and fines along with trust fund dollars will likely be the elements used to balance the budget. Lawmakers will meet next Monday in Tallahassee to begin working on the two billion dollar budget shortfall. The 40,000 dollar a day special session is expected to last through January 16th. Read the official proclamation below.

Read it Here: Joint Proclamation

In a statement released Tuesday night, Governor Charlie Crist said state government needs to tighten it’s belt.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the Florida Legislature to put our current fiscal year in balance,” said Crist. “Just as families across Florida are tightening their belts in response to the challenging economic times, we as elected officials must do all we can to run government and serve our citizens in a way that is efficient and responsible.”

Posted in Charlie Crist, Education, Elections, Legislature, Politics, State Budget, State News, Voting | No Comments »

Lose Weight, Not Money

December 30th, 2008 by flanews

Three out of every four Floridians will make a resolution to get fit in 2009. Joining a health club can be a big commitment and cost hundreds of dollars. As Whitney Ray tells us, people looking to lose weight could lose money instead if the gym they join isn’t licensed and bonded.

Hear it Here: Lose Weight, Not Money

Gold’s Gym Trainer J.C. Collier is entering his busiest season.

“January 1st everyone wants to get it rolling,” said Collier.

Selecting a health club is a big choice for people looking to get fit in 2009. Shannon Williams signed up at Gold’s.

“You can pretty much get in and get out without any hesitation,” said Williams.

But not everyone who signs a contract and pays a deposit is as happy with their decision. Last year 370 health clubs in Florida went out of business. The Florida Division of Consumer Services said when gyms close new members can lose their deposits.

“If it’s not a licensed facility, if it hasn’t been paying that bonding requirement, then the consumer could be out a lot of money in the event the place goes bust,” said Terry McElroy, a spokesman for the Division.

People should also ask about fees for specialty classes and equipment, and before you sign a contract it’s a good idea to check the equipment you want to use at the time you want to use it, to make sure it’s available.

April Smith changed gyms because her old gym was crowded.

“There was always like a 15, 20 minute wait for these kinds of machines,” said April.

And knowing her gym is in good shape with the state will help April focus on keeping herself in shape. To find out if your gym is licensed and bonded you can call the Division of Consumer Services at 1-800-HELPFLA that’s 1-800-352-9832.

Posted in Business, Health, State News | 3 Comments »

Development Groups Square Off

December 30th, 2008 by flanews

War is raging between two groups pushing controversial amendments for the 2010 ballot.

Hometown Democracy and Smart Growth want to limit the power city and county governments have over new developments. The Hometown Democracy plan requires voter approval on every proposed land use change. The Smart Growth Amendment would require 10 percent of registered voters in a city or county to visit their local elections office and sign a petition, before a development issue could be voted on by the public. Hometown Democracy spokesman John Hedrick said the plan disenfranchises Floridians in the military and disabled voters.

“This is a totally indefensible position. There is going to be mounting outrage over this over time. They need to withdraw their position, admit they were wrong and apologize to the troops and everyone they discriminated against,” said Hedrick.

If both amendments get the support they need to make it to the 2010 ballot and both amendments pass, the Smart Growth Amendment would supersede the Hometown Democracy plan.

Posted in Amendments, Business, Environment, State News | 1 Comment »

Pressure Mounts on Embattled Speaker

December 29th, 2008 by flanews

The heat is being turned up on House Speaker Ray Sansom over his new job at Northwest Florida State College. Sansom steered 25 million state dollars to the school last year, before being hired as an administrator in November. As Whitney Ray tells us, a Pinellas County man filed an ethics complaint against the embattled speaker.

Hear it Here: Pressure Mounts on Embattled Speaker

As Representative Ray Sansom was preparing to take over as Florida’s Speaker of the House, news of his 110,000 dollar part-time job at Northwest Florida State College was beginning to surface. Sansom used his political clout to funnel 25 million state dollars to the school. The Florida Democrats are crying foul.

“Speaker Sansom, over the past month, it’s been exposed that he’s been involved in what’s allegedly a massive conspiracy,” said party spokesman Eric Jotkoff.

Some of the money Sansom steered to the college is being used for campus construction. Six million will go to build an airplane hanger at the Destin Airport. The Florida Democrats asked the Governor, the Attorney General and the US Attorney’s Office to investigate.

So far the party’s requests for investigations have been fruitless, but now a citizen is getting involved sending a letter to the ethics commission asking for a full investigation.

The commission isn’t allowed to discuss complaints that haven’t been released to the public. If they choose to investigate they could suggest fines, impeachment or both.

When the Florida Commission on Ethics suggests a penalty for a lawmaker, it sends its findings to legislative leaders. The leaders can then form a committee to decide whether or not to carry out the suggested punishment.

Posted in Education, Legislature, State Budget, State News | 2 Comments »

New Hotline Aims to Quell Dog Fighting in Florida

December 29th, 2008 by flanews

Florida’s Attorney General is asking the public for help to bust dog fighting rings. A hotline has been set up for people who see or suspect dog fighting in their neighborhoods.

Callers whose tips lead to the arrest and conviction of dog fighters will be eligible for a 5,000 dollar reward. The AG’s Director of Law Enforcement Relations Emery Gainey said callers don’t have to give their names.

“This is set up very similar to crime stoppers that it would maintain your anonymity by calling it in, and again if leads to the arrest and conviction you can be eligible for up to 5,000 dollars. We think this is going to be a great incentive,” said Gainey.

The hotline is operated by the Humane Society of the United States and is located in Washington D.C. To report dog fighting call 1-877-TIP-HSUS that’s 1-877-847-4784.

Posted in Criminal Justice, McCollum, State News | 27 Comments »

Governor Crist Visits Senior Center

December 24th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Charlie Crist and his new bride brought  gifts of cookies and pointsettas to a Tallahassee Senior Center today. The first couple spent about 30 minutes personally greeting the seniors.

“I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and a happy New Year,” Crist said. “It’s great to be here at the center with you and have the opportunity to celebrate God and all he’s given us.”

After the visit, the Governor and Mrs. Crist headed for their home in St. Petersburg.

Posted in Charlie Crist | No Comments »

Governor Counting on Gambling Cash

December 24th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Hear it Here:
Governor Charlie Crist is recommending the state use 135 million dollars from the Seminole Tribe’s gambling payments to the state to plug a hole in the state budget, But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, by making the recommendation, the Governor is throwing  state lawmakers a curve.

The legality of gambling on Seminole reservations has been in limbo since July when the state supreme court said the deal cut by the Governor needed legislative approval.

Legislative leaders have ruled out taking up the deal until at least March, and as recently as Sunday, Governor Charlie Crist was okay with that strategy.

“Which is fine, we can do that during the regular session,” Crist said.

Yet when it came time to recommend ways to fill a 2 billion dollar deficit in the state budget, the Governor recommended using 135 million the Tribe has continued to pay to the state.

What the Governor is basically saying to legislative leaders is: accept the deal I’ve with the Indians now, or risk losing it forever.

Lawmakers meet January 5th. If they don’t bite on the Gambling deal then, they face a 50-50 chance of having to give the Seminole Tribe its money back.

“The concern I have is that if the state doesn’t do it, the federal government may do it anyway, and then the Florida taxpayers would be left out in the cold,” Crist said.

And if lawmakers don’t go along with the Governor sooner than later, they’ll also have to find the 135 million someplace else, which may not be easy.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Economy, Gambling, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

Out of Necessity, Came Pants on Easy

December 24th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Hear it Here:
Pants on easy may be the gift for someone who has everything but the full use of their legs. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, necessity became the mother of invention for one Tallahassee man.

By day, Jim Longhurst is a code enforcement supervisor. But when he was off his feet for two months he decided there had to be an easier way to get dressed. So he invented Pants on Easy.

“I was just so fed up with attempting to try to get myself dressed,” Longhurst said.

A patent is pending.

The product’s simplicity is its strength. Suspender clips attached to a tube with a rope inside.

“My invention gives a person, I like to say, a leg up,” he said. “A little joke,  twist on the words, is that they can put their pants on both legs at the same time which makes them better than the average man. And I think that is a little something that might make people feel a little better about themselves.”

Longhurst is searching for a US manufacturer. And while he may have disproved the old adage that everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time, he has also reinforced another: Necessity is the mother of invention.

Posted in Business | No Comments »

Crist Counting on Gambling Cash

December 23rd, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Charlie Crist today recommended dipping into the state’s trust funds, including the Lawton Chiles Endowment, funded by the Tobacco settlement, to balance the state budget. Current year projections show Florida will take in 2.3 Billion dollars less than it was planning on spending. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, Crist is ruling our tax and fee increases for now.

Governor Charlie Crist is counting on 135 million dollars from Indian Gaming to balance the current budget. The move puts him at odds with state legislative leaders.

Crist’s plan moves hundreds of millions of dollars from trust funds with specific purposes  to cover general operating costs.

“Well, I think it’s a good idea because it’s the taxpayer’s money. It’s, in essence, what you could call a rainy-day fund,” Crist said. “And economically, it’s raining.”

At a small café in Havana, a bedroom community north of the capital, the governor also indicated he is counting on anywhere from 850 million to a billion dollars from Washington.

“Florida deserves her fair share,” he said. “I think it’s important to utilize that money to help our fellow Floridians in a time of need.”

Local officials already have plans for some of that cash. They say they need it to help with roads and bridges.

“These bridges were built in the late 40s and in the early 50s, and they’re literally crumbling,” Gadsden County Commissioner Doug Crowley said.

The Governor isn’t supporting any fee or tax increases during this budget cutting session, but that could change when lawmakers come back in the spring.

After the brief meeting, the governor went looking for a Christmas gift for his new bride. Someone recommended antique depression glass. His response: how about optimism glass?

State lawmakers return to the Capitol on January 5th to begin making cuts in the spending plan that runs through June. They will also be back in Tallahassee beginning March to craft next years budget.

Read the Govenrors Letter Here:2008-12-23-letter-2008-09-budget

Posted in Charlie Crist, Economy, Education, Politics, State Budget, State News, Voting | 3 Comments »

Crist Asks For More Choices

December 23rd, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Charlie Crist is being criticized by some of the state’s top lawyers. They are accusing him of meddling in who an independent commission suggests for appointment to the State Supreme Court. Twice, the nominating commission sent a list of names that included a woman and a Hispanic, and the governor rejected the lists until the name of a former Jeb Bush attorney, Frank Geminis was included. Today the governor said there was nothing sinister in the ordeal.

“I think the people of Florida expect greater diversity on the Florida Supreme Court. I’ve asked for more names to have more choices,” Crist said. “It’s no more complicated than that and that’s really what it’s about, to try to have a court that reflects Florida.”

Crist is expected to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court early next year.

Posted in Charlie Crist, State News | No Comments »

Problems with Foreclosure Moratorium

December 23rd, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

There have been reports from some counties that a voluntary moratorium on mortgage foreclosures has not worked. Manatee County, on the state’s west coast is showing the same number of foreclosures as last month. Asked about the trend, the Governor says he thinks the moratorium, on whole, is working.

“We have no indication that it’s not working,” Crist said. “So I certainly hope that it is.”

In early December, The Governor and the state’s bankers said they would hold off on foreclosures for 45 days.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Economy, Housing, State News | No Comments »

Governor Visits Workforce Center

December 22nd, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Charlie Crist visited a workforce center in Tallahassee today to listen to job seekers and offer them hope. At 7.3 percent, Florida’s jobless numbers hit a 15-year high on Friday. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the Governor is hoping a Federal stimulus package will help put some people back to work.

Construction continues to be the biggest job loser…followed by business services, transportation and jobs in the financial industry.

A steady stream of people are visiting workforce centers, looking for work as Christmas approaches. CEO Kim Moore says unemployment isn’t taking a holiday.

“25 to 30 percent increase,” Moore said. “Last year alone we served 75,000 people so we are certainly expecting to increase that number. I would suspect around 100,000 plus would be our number.”

Jobless numbers hit a 15-year high on Friday. 680 thousand Floridians are now out of work. 59 thousand were added to the unemployment rolls in November alone. Governor Charlie Crist says he visited the Tallahassee center to understand what people need.

“It gives me a better handle of what opportunities exist, how we might be able to make changes to help people who are unemployed and want to work,” Crist said.

Cameras weren’t allowed inside with the Governor, but job seeks coming out found his presence calming.

“He was telling me what type of job I was looking for,” Jerry Moore Jr. “He gave a pep talk, said good luck.”

“Well, he did offer me a hundred thousand dollar job…I’m teasing about that of course,”
Michael John Herz said.

The official website EmployFlorida.com lists some 200,000 jobs that are available. That’s about one for every three people who are looking.

Still, the Governor says it’s a great place to start.

“It’s about providing hope for people,” Crist said. “Giving them an opportunity to have a better life.”

Florida has 88 such job centers.

Construction continues to be the biggest job loser…followed by business services, transportation and jobs in the financial industry.

Posted in Business, Charlie Crist, Economy, State News | No Comments »

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