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Jim Saunders - News Service of Florida

Jim Saunders is the Executive Editor of The News Service Of Florida.

In a major victory for abortion opponents, the Florida Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would require parental consent before minors could have abortions.

Duke Energy Florida customers next month will start seeing extra charges on their bills to cover the utility’s costs of preparing for Hurricane Dorian, a mega-storm that threatened to smash into the state in September before turning away.

In a case that has drawn national attention, a federal appeals court Thursday rejected arguments that a Death Row inmate should be given another chance to show he is innocent in the 1985 murder of a 14-year-old girl in Pinellas County.

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With supporters pointing to attacks on churches and synagogues, a House panel Tuesday approved a measure that would allow people to carry concealed weapons at religious institutions that share properties with schools.

The Florida Supreme Court said Thursday that unanimous jury recommendations are not necessary before death sentences can be imposed, as justices backed away from a 2016 decision that revamped the state’s capital-punishment system.

The 4-1 ruling offered a clear picture of how much the Supreme Court has changed since last January, when a conservative majority took control after the retirements of longtime justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince.

Gov. Ron DeSantis formally started the 2020 legislative session Tuesday by urging lawmakers to boost pay for many public-school teachers, continue addressing Everglades restoration and water quality and curb business regulations.

Pointing to a “narrow timeframe” for meeting petition-signature requirements, backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to allow recreational marijuana use in Florida said Monday the measure will not go on the November ballot.

A sharply divided federal appeals court Thursday upheld the conviction of former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown in a charity scam, rejecting her arguments that a juror had been improperly dismissed because he said the "Holy Spirit" told him Brown was not guilty.

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have overhauled and deregulated the state’s electric-utility industry, saying part of the proposal’s wording would mislead voters.

The ruling was a victory for state leaders, business groups and utilities that fought the amendment, which was proposed for the November ballot by a political committee known as Citizens for Energy Choices.

Electrical tower
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The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have overhauled and deregulated the state’s electric-utility industry, saying part of the proposal’s wording would mislead voters.

The ruling was a victory for state leaders, business groups and utilities that fought the amendment, which was proposed for the November ballot by a political committee known as Citizens for Energy Choices.

11th Circuit Court of appeals building
U.S. Federal Court of Appeal

A federal appeals court Friday cleared the way for a lawsuit that alleges the Florida House and Senate have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing closed captioning on online videos of legislative meetings.

The legal battle over a 2011 Florida gun law continues to ratchet up.

State and national groups -- including two prominent gun-control organizations -- filed briefs Thursday urging the 1st District Court of Appeal to reject the law, which threatens tough penalties if city and county officials approve gun regulations.

With Gov. Ron DeSantis expected to appoint two Florida Supreme Court justices early this year, a state panel is ready to interview 32 applicants for the powerful posts – including several from the Tampa Bay area.

Arguing that a new law violates constitutional rights, supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize recreational marijuana filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking more time to submit petition signatures to get on the November ballot.

State and federal courts are expected in 2020 to grapple with high-profile Florida issues, ranging from felons’ voting rights to medical marijuana.

Here are snapshots of five key legal issues to watch in the new year:

It wasn’t the most important issue or event of 2019.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer sparred Friday after Fried’s lawyers filed a court brief arguing that an NRA-backed gun law is unconstitutional.

Richard Corcoran speaking
News Service of Florida

The Florida High School Athletic Association continues to move forward in a legal battle about whether Christian schools should have been allowed to offer a pregame prayer before a 2015 championship football game, as Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran pressures the association to reconsider its policies.

Voters will decide in November whether to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, after the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously approved a ballot proposal.

As a three-year legal battle continues over the issue, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran wants the Florida High School Athletic Association to reconsider policies that prevented Christian schools from offering a prayer over the stadium loudspeaker before a 2015 state championship football game.

It’s dubbed a “jungle” primary system. And the Florida Republican and Democratic parties want no part of it.

Now, the Florida Supreme Court will decide whether a proposed constitutional amendment that would overhaul the state’s primary-election system will go before voters in November 2020.

Pointing to a “hierarchical relationship” with local governments, the state has asked an appeals court to uphold a 2011 law that has threatened tough penalties if city and county officials approve gun regulations. 

Five years after Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment aimed at land and water conservation, environmentalists on Monday urged the state Supreme Court to wade into a battle about how money can be spent.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday proposed a $91.4 billion state budget for next year, touting plans to funnel more money to public-school teachers and continue “momentum” on environmental issues.

A federal appeals court Wednesday overturned the dismissal of a lawsuit about whether the Florida High School Athletic Association improperly prevented Christian schools from offering a prayer over the stadium loudspeaker before a 2015 state championship football game.

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Rejecting arguments of environmental groups, a divided federal appeals court has backed a decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a permit sought by the phosphate company Mosaic for expanded mining operations in Florida.

Despite objections from attorneys for utility customers, the Florida Public Service Commission on Tuesday continued moving ahead with plans for carrying out a new law that supporters say will help make the state’s electric system better able to withstand hurricanes.

State regulators Tuesday approved moving forward with a new 448 area code in Northwest Florida, while Tampa also could see an additional area code in the coming years.

Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee has sent a memo to county elections supervisors with direction about complying with a federal judge’s ruling on felons’ voting rights --- but questions remain about how the state will move forward. 

Senate President Bill Galvano
News Service of Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday continued his full-throated support of a plan to increase minimum teacher salaries in Florida to $47,500, but Senate President Bill Galvano cautioned it might be difficult to carry out.

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