Home State Page 241


Gov. Charlie Crist suspended Okaloosa County Sheriff Charles Morris on Friday, hours before the sheriff was to make an initial appearance in federal court in Las Vegas on corruption charges. Authorities said Morris, 59, will be returned to Florida where he faces similar charges along with his office manager, Teresa Adams, 50. Adams was expected to make her first appearance Friday before a U.S. magistrate in Pensacola, according to officials.
An angry voter who thinks top elected officials develop ethical blind spots about their own powers filed an Ethics Commission complaint Tuesday over Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp's travel expenses. The lieutenant governor reimbursed the Department of Management Services $6,600 for travel by his wife and son on state planes.
The higher rate went into effect Sunday under an agreement that Gov. Charlie Crist signed with the U.S. Department of Labor. Some of Crist's fellow Republican governors say they may turn down the unemployment cash because they they'd have to raise state taxes to pay for the new benefit when the federal money runs out.
Leaning heavily on federal stimulus money, Gov. Charlie Crist today proposed a $66.5 billion state budget that includes no tax increases and calls for no layoffs of state employees. Unlike California and some other states, which have made massive budget cuts, laid off employees and put some state workers on furloughs, Florida will avoid major personnel pain.
A statewide poll released Wednesday indicates that Gov. Charlie Crist can pretty much have his choice of jobs — four more years in the Governor's Mansion or six in the U.S. Senate — in next year's elections. The Quinnipiac University Poll said Florida voters would prefer that he run for governor. The Quinnipiac University Poll said Florida voters would prefer that he run for governor.
In addition to the 2009-10 budget he will announce late this week, Crist is working on possibly four proposals to hold down property taxes. They would limit city and county tax collections to the rate of inflation plus population growth, limit assessments on business and other non-homestead properties to 5 percent a year, give first-time homebuyers a 50-percent exemption up to $500,000 and forbid increases in home assessments when a home's value declines.
The University of Florida, Florida State and Florida A&M universities and Tallahassee Community College are out about $64 million dollars because the state's lawmakers have put a hold on matching grants for the 2008-09 school year. It's a move that puts administrators in a bind.

Conflicted Lt. Gov. Pays Up

A check signed by Kottkamp and made out for $6,600.59 arrived at the department's Tallahassee headquarters on Wednesday. Dated Feb. 7, the check has the words "Cyndie/Jackson Air Travel," in the memo line, a reference to Kottkamp's wife and young son.
Florida lawmakers are angry that an agency in charge of tourism hired a call center in Missouri to promote Florida as a vacation destination.