By TIMES STAFF AND TIMES WIRES
Published March 23, 2007
Counties lose bid to delay tax proposal
Worried about the effects of the House property tax plan, Florida's counties tried Thursday to delay a critical vote scheduled this morning. But Republican leaders said they intend to move forward with the proposal, which would ask voters in each of the state's 67 counties to decide if they want to eliminate property taxes on primary homes in exchange for higher sales taxes. "We're not stalling just for the sake of stalling," said Orange County Commissioner Teresa Jacobs. She and other leaders are concerned about a mandatory rollback to 2003 tax levels that would take $2.3-billion from county budgets and say a mandatory referendum to do away with homestead property taxes erodes local control. The House Policy and Budget Council is expected to begin debate on the measure at 10:30 this morning.
Sarasota election to get a closer look
The chairman of the U.S. House Administration Committee announced Thursday that she formed a task force to look into the Sarasota-area congressional race in light of last week's news that officials knew about a problem with Sarasota's touch screen machines before the election. "I cannot sit idly by and allow this statement of malfunctioning equipment made prior to the election to be ignored," said Chairwoman Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif. "Therefore, this task force will have the opportunity to review and raise questions such as: 'What went wrong?' 'How long before the election did state and county officials know of this malfunction?' 'And why were safeguards not taken by state and county officials?' These serious questions require the task force to be established immediately." Christine Jennings, who lost the election and has challenged the outcome, said, "I'm pleased that the task force has been appointed and am hopeful that this is a first step toward the complete investigation that the voters of District 13, and the entire nation, deserve."
Senate approves Okeechobee plan
A plan for the restoration of Lake Okeechobee that's central to Everglades cleanup won unanimous passage from the Senate. The proposal was rare in winning accolades from the farm community and environmentalists. It sets out a plan for acquiring land and creating water treatment mechanisms north of the lake. The measure (SB 392) also calls for the expansion of programs to protect the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie River watersheds. The Legislature still hasn't signed off on the money for the project though Senate President Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, has committed to putting $100-million toward it.
House wants lower cell phone taxes
The House unanimously passed a bill that will lower taxes on the use of cell phones, cable, satellite systems and other communications devices. The House voted 112-0 to pass the bill (HB 567), which would cut taxes for those who use the devices by about $60-million by July 2009. A companion measure in the Senate has not been heard in committee.
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