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Margie Menzel - News Service of Florida

Margie Menzel is a reporter for The News Service Of Florida.

Following a spate of high-profile shooting deaths nationwide, a gun-rights group Tuesday endorsed a Republican congressional candidate in a conservative Northwest Florida district on the grounds that she would not compromise on any gun-control measure.

Florida abortion providers are breathing sighs of relief following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Monday striking down a Texas law that would have greatly limited access to legal abortion in that state.

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Preparing to make public universities a priority during the next two years, incoming Senate President Joe Negron says more and better scholarships will help take Florida's higher-education system to the next level.

The Stuart Republican has made clear his goal of finding an additional $1 billion for the 12 public universities during his two-year term as president, which is slated to begin after the November elections.

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Celeste Philip has been Florida's interim surgeon general and secretary of the Department of Health since March, after the Legislature adjourned without confirming her predecessor, John Armstrong.

Suicide rates are rising for children and young adults, both nationally and statewide --- and Florida policymakers are trying to reverse the trend.

While suicide is increasing for nearly every age group, it's now the second-leading cause of death for Floridians aged 25 to 34, according to the state Department of Health Vital Statistics, and the third-leading cause of death among youths aged 10 to 24.

A House panel on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill aimed at keeping Floridians with mental illnesses out of the criminal-justice system.

The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee supported the measure (HB 439), filed by Rep. Charles McBurney, R-Jacksonville, that would create a statewide framework for counties to offer treatment-based mental health courts.

Many counties have mental-health courts, but they have varying eligibility and program requirements.

The Florida House and Senate will reform the state's troubled mental-health system during the 2016 legislative session, predicts one of the lawmakers spearheading the effort.

A Senate panel is looking to help Early Steps, which serves infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities and delays -- and which has been struggling to keep up with the growing demand for its services in Florida.

Florida A&M University President Elmira Mangum said Monday she's undaunted by the failed efforts of members of the university's Board of Trustees to fire her less than two weeks ago, and that she's still focused on "transformational change" at the school.

"I was shocked, surprised, disappointed -- all of that -- but not deterred," she said. "If anything, it made me more committed."

Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll told a Senate panel late last week that the state's child-protection system appears to have failed two Southwest Florida children whose bodies were found in recent days.

"In both these cases, there's no question we had system failure," Carroll told the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee.

State officials will step up enforcement Nov. 1 to prevent the harvest and sale of undersize oysters from Northwest Florida's Apalachicola Bay, as efforts continue to try to help the bay recover from a collapse three years ago.

"Things have gotten worse," Jim Estes, deputy director for marine fisheries management at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said Wednesday. "People are desperate, so there's quite a harvest of undersize oysters."

State Sen. Nancy Detert will end her legislative career in 2016 --- two years before term limits would have forced her to step down --- and run for the Sarasota County Commission.

The widely anticipated move, announced Thursday, came on the eve of a special legislative session next month to draw a new map for Florida's Senate districts, and Detert, R-Venice, said the timing of her announcement was deliberate.

Apalachicola Bay is taking a long time to recover from a 2012 collapse that also severely damaged the local economy.

Roughly 100 seafood workers have left the Franklin County area to find work. And financial stress is tempting the remaining workers to harvest oysters smaller than the legal size --- a practice that seafood industry leaders call a roadblock to restoring the bay's signature oysters.

"It's taking longer because we haven't taken the right steps yet," said Franklin County Commissioner Smokey Parrish, whose day job is managing Ward's Shrimp House in Apalachicola.

In the wake of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, a proposal by Republican lawmakers dubbed the "Pastor Protection Act" could fuel a debate during next year's legislative session.

Backers of the measure, which is expected to be filed by state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, are already organizing on its behalf. The proposal is aimed at safeguarding clergy members from being forced to perform marriage ceremonies contrary to their principles, supporters say.

Weeks after the Florida House passed a bill promoting adoption, the chamber Thursday