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Blaise Gainey

Blaise Gainey is a Multimedia Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.

Follow Blaise Gainey on Twitter: @BlaiseGainey 

Email Blaise Gainey at blgainey@fsu.edu

woman speaks at podium
Julio Ochoa / WUSF Public Media

The federal government has agreed to give Americans money during the global pandemic caused by COVID-19.

But U.S.  Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, says the financial boost coming to citizens from the federal government may not be the only one.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has temporarily removed some requirements to file for unemployment, but the AFL-CIO believes major changes need to be made to the entire system. The group held an online press conference with recently unemployed workers to stress the need for an update.

In response to COVID-19 Governor Ron DeSantis has made all restaurants take-out or delivery only and closed all bars. He’s also limited gatherings on beaches to no more than 10 people and is asking people 65 and older to stay home.  But state elected officials believe more needs to be done to help stop the spread of the virus. Lawmakers spoke about what they think should be the next steps.

Unmarked African-American burial grounds are scattered throughout Florida. Sen. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) wants to fund and reinstate a 10-member task force to locate and preserve the abandoned cemeteries.

Florida lawmakers are working on a plan to allow college athletes to earn money for their name, image and likeness. The move comes after California created a path for college athletes to be compensated, forcing the NCAA to consider making changes. Now with a week left in session, lawmakers in the Senate are questioning whether any potential loopholes in the bill would give universities an advantage in recruiting.

More than 5 million teenagers reported using e-cigarettes in November, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The legal age to purchase and use nicotine products is 18. That changes to 21 in June after a federal law was signed in December. Now Florida is adjusting its laws to reflect the national change, but the House and Senate aren’t aligned on what needs to be done.

With time winding down bills that haven’t gotten a first hearing are starting to near their death. One measure running out of time would allow non-violent prisoners to be released sooner. It would increase the amount of time off for good behavior. Gain time bill sponsors are trying to rally support.

It’s been two years since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting that left 17 dead. Since then, the legislature has passed several laws in an attempt to prevent more gun violence. Some of the changes include arming teachers, raising the legal age to purchase guns, and removing weapons from people who police are worried might harm themselves or others--the so-called red flag law. This session, Senate President Bill Galvano (Bradenton-R) asked lawmakers to study the causes behind gun violence, but so far not a lot is happening.

The House Education committee is considering a plan to merge Florida Polytechnic University with the University of Florida, and New College of Florida with Florida State University. The proposal was filed Monday and is being met with  mixed reactions.

The Florida Senate is moving its version of a plan allowing college athletes to receive pay for their name, image and likeness. Florida is trying to follow California, which passed a law allowing student athletes to earn money from endorsements.

Current Florida law requires kids being charged as adults to be held in regular jail while they wait for their trial. New federal standards that go into effect at the end of next year require minors to be held in juvenile detention centers, with few exceptions. Lawmakers are moving forward with a bill to make sure Florida is in compliance.

A Republican lawmaker wants to change Florida’s medical marijuana system as well as legalize the drug for adults. 

Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) hasn’t been shy in the past when it comes to criticizing the current system and now wants to dismantle it.

A bill filed Friday would give some help to expectant mothers who are behind bars.

A group of Florida teens say the state has violated their constitutional rights by not doing enough to combat climate change. They’ve sued the state because of it. A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday but was canceled after the defendants agreed new documents could be added in the case. Still, the teens met in Tallahassee to present their case to the public.

Florida currently allows medical marijuana use and St. Petersburg Republican Senator Jeff Brandes thinks it’s time to take the next step to recreational. The drug is currently legal in 11 states for recreational use, and the majority of states allow medical marijuana.

"I would be shocked if we don’t have adult use in Florida by 2024 just via the constitutional amendment," says Brandes. "I think it’s time for the legislature to take this issue on so we’re going to be proposing legislation this year that would allow for adult use cannabis in Florida."

A lack of affordable housing will soon be a problem in more parts of Florida. According to a Florida Housing Coalition report, 921,928 very low-income households are spending more than half of  what they earn on housing.

A bill to limit litigation tied to auto glass repairs died in committee Tuesday. The unexpected failure caught insurance watchers by surprise but one key lawmaker says the issue isn’t dead yet.

Florida held a clemency board meeting Wednesday for 70 of the 13,000 felons seeking to have their rights restored. Commissioner Nikki Fried is a member of the board and says the process has gotten worse since being ruled unconstitutional in 2018.

Florida is the first state to receive block grants for the timber industry from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Florida is near the bottom of the nation when it comes to teacher pay. Governor Ron DeSantis wants to change that by raising the base salary. But the state’s largest teacher union says the governor’s plans don’t go far enough. 

North Florida could be getting its first major toll road thanks to a bill signed by the Governor this summer. It’s one of three new major roadways to be built in the state. One would connect Collier County to Polk County, another extends the Florida Turnpike west to Suncoast Parkway and the third expands the Suncoast Parkway from Tampa Bay to Georgia. A task force was put in place for each section but a member of the Northern Turnpike Connector thinks plans are moving too fast.

A proposed assault weapons ban would prohibit all semi-automatic shotguns and rifles that are capable of holding more than 10 rounds. State economists say that would affect around 71 percent of rifles and half of shotguns. Charlie Strickland, CEO of Talon Training Group, says it’d be a big hit to his business.

Floridians are no strangers to hurricanes. But for nearly a decade the state saw no direct landfall from a tropical cyclone. Now after consecutive years of major hurricanes, some citizens seem to have a kneejerk reaction when a storm system nears. That, added to the intensity of recent storms, has some questioning the accuracy of storm path projections. Meanwhile, meteorologists say their technology is working better than ever.

The State Hemp Advisory Committee is trying to kick start Florida’s Hemp industry. One of its first steps is to create rules. Florida’s Director of Cannabis Holly Bell spoke on how that process will move forward.

Tara Tedrow has been chosen to chair the group tasked with creating rules for Florida’s newest industry. During which Tedrow gave a quick rundown of what she does during the first Hemp Advisory Committee meeting.

Next time you’re in South Florida beware of Iguanas. The states animal protection agency has now given its approval to kill the  lizards without permits. 

Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis essentially reversed his predecessors’ actions by giving back $2.3 million  to elections supervisors to spend on cyber security. The money was left over from a $19 million grant the federal government gave the state prior to the 2018 primary election.

A petition aimed at banning assault weapons has earned a constitutional review by the Florida Supreme Court. Ban Assault Weapons Now, an organizations led by survivors of mass shootings and their families, announced Monday they had 103,000 signatures.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill thats main goal is to stop bad actors in the homeowners insurance market. It would do so by changing what a contractor must do when a policy holder signs over their insurance benefits.

The itinerary is set for Governor Ron DeSantis’s trip to Israel. He will be meeting with Israeli business leaders, and he’ll take a cultural visit to the Old City of Jerusalem.

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