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Jim Saunders - News Service of Florida

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

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.

COURTESY: WLRN

Six years after a middle-school student’s suicide drew national headlines, a federal appeals court has rejected a civil-rights lawsuit filed on behalf of a Polk County girl who was arrested and accused of bullying and harassment that allegedly led to the death.

In a 95-page ruling, an administrative law judge Friday backed a decision by the Manatee County School Board to terminate a contract with a charter school that he said showed “gross financial mismanagement,” including failing to pay salaries and payroll taxes, getting cut off by food suppliers and facing a shutoff of water service.

More than 34 years after the nude body of a 14-year-old girl was found in Pinellas County, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed a death warrant for convicted murderer James Dailey.

State regulators next week will take up proposed rules that could help set the stage for an expansion of underground power lines in hurricane-weary Florida.

In a blow to environmental groups, an appeals court Monday overturned a circuit judge’s ruling that said state lawmakers improperly diverted money that flowed from a 2014 constitutional amendment designed to boost land and water conservation.

The latest data available showed nearly 20.8 million wireless subscriptions in Florida -- roughly a cell phone for every resident
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Floridians continue hanging up on traditional phone service.

With cell phones in hand --- or in their back pockets --- and access to broadband technology, hundreds of thousands of Florida residents and businesses stopped using landline phones in 2018, a new state report on the telecommunications industry shows.

Christopher D’Arcy, owner of D’Arcy Kennel LLC in St. Petersburg, wants a judge to order the state to pay damages for the loss of value of his property, including racing dogs that the lawsuit said could previously be sold for up to $50,000.
Rainer Hungershausen

Alleging an unconstitutional “taking” of property, a Pinellas County greyhound-kennel owner has filed a lawsuit against the state because of a dog racing ban approved by voters in November.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed 38 bills, including a controversial measure that will make it harder for groups and citizens to put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. 

Nearly a year after a federal judge’s ruling allowed early-voting sites on college and university campuses, state elections officials and plaintiffs in the case remain locked in a legal battle.

Florida lawmakers finished the 2019 legislative session Saturday by passing a budget for the upcoming year.

In what would be the largest budget in state history, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday released a proposed $91.3 billion spending plan that would increase school funding, pump money into water-quality projects and trim taxes.

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