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Nick Evans

Nick Evans is a masters student in communications at Florida State University.  Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years.  He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan.  When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.

Over the weekend The Naples Daily News got more than 500 pages of documents relating to Florida’s redistricting scandal.  State officials had originally planned to release the documents on the first of December.  The Florida Supreme Court voted unanimously to unseal the papers earlier this month.

Florida State University students gathered for a prayer vigil Thursday morning after a gunman opened fire at the school’s main library.

A long quad called Landis Green stretches out in front of Strozier Library, the site of last night’s shooting.  On most sunny days there are groups of people walking to class or chatting on benches, but today it was a meeting place for hundreds of rattled and mourning students.  Shortly before noon, school officials turned off the fountain for a moment of silence.  Sophomore Gillian Newman says it was a moving tribute.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is appealing a ruling earlier this year that invalidated the state’s same-sex marriage bans.   

In August, a federal judge ruled Florida’s same-sex marriage prohibitions are unconstitutional, and the case now heads to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  

According to ACLU spokesman Baylor Johnson, even though the federal ban known as The Defense of Marriage Act—or DOMA—was struck down last year, state laws can get in the way of same-sex couples applying for federal benefits.

Tuesday is Veterans Day, and to celebrate, Florida state parks are waiving admission fees for everyone. 

Across Florida, state offices will be closing their doors in honor of Veterans Day, but the state’s parks will be opening their gates.  Florida Park Service Director Donald Forgione says the parks will be waiving admission fees, and he encourages residents to observe the holiday at the favorite local park.

There’s been more than a little grumbling from some quarters about Amendment Two failing to pass despite garnering support from the majority of voters.  But there are some pretty good reasons for requiring a supermajority.

Back in 2006, Florida voters passed a measure called Amendment 3.  It raised the threshold for passing ballot initiatives in all future elections from the simple majority of 50 percent-plus-one to supermajority of 60 percent.  Supporters at the time argued the ballot initiative process was being taken over by special interests. 

Last Friday, Spanish language TV station Telemundo aired the first of Florida’s gubernatorial debates.  But Telemundo chose not to include Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie. 

A Leon County circuit judge ruled Thursday the plaintiffs in Florida’s redistricting lawsuit can recover some of their legal costs, but not attorney’s fees.  The voting-rights activists are looking to a legal concept known as the “private attorney general” to make their request.

The Florida Cabinet’s clemency hearing Tuesday brought out a group called Faith in Florida.  The group’s Live Free campaign aims to restore the voting rights of former prisoners.

In the Capitol courtyard Tuesday, men and women wearing shirts or holding signs with the slogan ‘Let My People Vote’ signed their names to large cardboard letters made out to the state’s cabinet members.  The Live Free campaign’s state director Desmond Meade says helping former convicts reintegrate in society isn’t just the right thing to do – it lowers recidivism, and helps people get back to work.

The nonprofit government watchdog group Florida TaxWatch released its voter’s guide Wednesday detailing proposed state constitutional amendments. 

Unlike some other issuers of voting guides, fiscally conservative TaxWatch doesn’t take a yes-or-no stance on the initiatives.  Instead, it offers a take on the pros and cons of enacting the amendments.    

Dominic Calabro, head of the organization, says it’s important to exercise caution when changing the state constitution.

Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature has passed new congressional maps largely along party lines.    If Gov. Rick Scott approves them, the new districts will then return to the court where the originals were found unconstitutional.

In just three days, Florida’s special legislative session has come to an end. The Legislature voted Monday to revise the state’s congressional map; the new borders will change seven of the state’s districts.  Leon County circuit judge Terry Lewis ruled two of the previous districts unconstitutional. 

This week voting rights groups presented their case for redrawing Florida’s unconstitutional electoral map immediately rather than waiting until after this year’s election.  But officials charged with conducting elections are doubtful the plan could work.  

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed four sex offender bills into law Tuesday during a public ceremony at the Capitol.  The event brought together a number of Republican lawmakers to show off the first bills passed by the Legislature.

Flanked by lawmakers, sheriffs and victims’ advocates, Scott said the package of bills will make the state safer.

Federal law bans discrimination based on pregnancy, but Florida law is less clear.  But the state Senate appears set to grant civil rights protection to pregnant Floridians.

Three Florida district court cases have wrangled with pregnancy discrimination.  In two, the courts found Florida law provides protection.  But in the most recent case, the court said pregnancy is not protected because it is not explicitly referenced in state statute.  Senator Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando) says her bill puts the matter to rest by adding pregnancy to the list of protections.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a plan this week to reduce the military’s size and budget. Closing or restructuring domestic bases is part of that plan.  The next round of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, is slated for 2017 if Congress approves it. 

The Florida Defense Alliance - part of Enterprise Florida - works to ensure the state is an attractive site for bases, and they don't think closures are an immediate threat.  Vice President Rocky McPherson says Hagel's budget is only an initial proposal, and it will face an uphill climb in Washington.

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