2014 Legislative Session

AP Photo

Republicans who control the Florida Legislature kicked off a special session Thursday by proposing to tweak seven of the state's 27 congressional districts in order to comply with a judge's ruling.

The session is scheduled to last up to nine days, but legislative leaders are moving ahead quickly with a new map that would make changes to a handful of districts located in north and central Florida.

Scott Signs Human Trafficking Bills

Jun 17, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott signed a pair of bills Tuesday as the state continues efforts to curb human trafficking.

The new laws (HB 989 and HB 7141) include numerous changes, such as increasing criminal penalties when children are victims of trafficking, requiring specially trained child-protective investigators and case managers, and creating a new felony offense when victims are permanently branded. Lawmakers also set aside at least $3 million to help address the issue.

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Ocoee High School just west of Orlando opened less than a decade ago. But technology-wise, the 2,300-student school is already obsolete.

Ocoee is part of $14 million project to outfit seven Orange County schools with fast, wireless Internet and new classroom technology.

The first step was ripping out and replacing miles of fiber optic cable and adding devices teachers could use with their lessons.

Orange County schools’ infrastructure director Thomas McNabb walked through a science classroom, pointing out the changes.

The future of Florida's film and television industry is uncertain after lawmakers failed to approve funding for a tax credit program that is broke.

That has studios looking at moving production to other states with aggressive incentive programs.

Graham Winick, the city of Miami Beach's film coordinator and a past president of Film Florida, said it was disappointing when the Legislature didn't approve additional funding last year, but industry advocates were confident they could win over lawmakers during the recently concluded session.

Explaining The Research On Single-Gender Classes

May 15, 2014
John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging single-gender schools and classes in Hillsborough County. The ACLU claims the programs reinforce gender stereotypes and that the evidence supporting single-gender schooling is based on “junk science.”

So what does the science say? The results are mixed, as is often the case in education research.

The gubernatorial race continues to heat up in Florida, with the Republican party taking lots of swipes at presumed Democratic candidate Charlie Crist -- who was once the state's Republican governor.

The economy, which started to fall apart on Crist's watch, is a big target of Republican criticism.

But Crist is hitting back -- claiming the economy is not as great as Gov. Rick Scott is claiming.

State lawmakers ended this year's 60-day legislative session by passing a record $77.1 billion budget, along with laws that deal with everything from immigrant tuition to medical marijuana.

We take a look at what lawmakers did and did not do on Florida Matters tonight at 6:30 p.m. on WUSF 89.7 FM. 

Our panel includes state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, state Rep. Mark Danish, D-Tampa, and senior political reporter William March of The Tampa Tribune.

The Army News Service

A bill that gives expanded voting access to military personnel serving overseas appears to be blocked in the Florida House of Representatives.

As Supervisor of Elections for Okaloosa County,  home to Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field, Paul Lux advocated for the bill that expands military voting access.

“As we know, some deployed troops have trouble getting access to ballots,” Lux said.

He added an option that more and more deployed military personnel are using is the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB).

  All session long, Florida's legislative leaders have frustrated advocates for the poor, as well as much of the business community, by declining to talk about the billions of federal dollars for Medicaid expansion that the state is forgoing.

Trauma 'Train' Could Set Up Health Debate

Apr 11, 2014

The House and Senate could be headed toward a collision at the end of the legislative session about major health-care issues, including the continued operation of three disputed trauma centers.

A House committee Thursday approved an omnibus bill that cobbled together a series of controversial issues, including a plan to prevent a potential shutdown of the trauma centers, a proposal to expand the powers of nurse practitioners and an effort to increase the use of telemedicine.

StevenM_61 / Flickr

The 2014 Florida legislative session reached the halfway point last week, so we thought we'd check in on some of the big education bills.

The Budget

The House, Senate and Gov. Rick Scott mostly agree on education spending based on their proposed budgets.

Child Welfare Bill Draws Calls for ‘Moral Outrage’ --- and More Funding

Apr 3, 2014

A Florida Senate panel on Wednesday approved a sweeping child-welfare reform bill amid calls from foster parents to help more children and pleas from providers to fund the changes properly.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee voted 12-1 to approve a measure (SB 1666) that collapses three bills (SB 1666, 1668 and 1670) into one. It would make a series of changes to the Florida Department of Children and Families and the community-based care agencies that provide adoption and foster care services to children in the state system.

Reececliff's Pies A Lakeland Tradition

Apr 2, 2014

Reececliff Family Diner in Lakeland has been turning out its award winning pies since the 1930s, and lots of families rely on them every year for their Thanksgiving dessert. The restaurant has been operating in the Dixieland neighborhood since 1934.

Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

It’s report card day at Miami Carol City Senior High, and sophomore Mack Godbee is reviewing his grades with his mentor, Natasha Santana-Viera.

The first quarter on Godbee’s report card is littered with Ds and Fs. This quarter, there are more Cs and Bs. He’s got an A in English.

“Congratulations on that,” says Santana-Viera. “When you need help, do you know where to go?”

“Straight to y’all,” says Godbee.

While the "warning shot" bill got teed up for a vote in the Senate, a couple of gun-related measures have already passed the full House as of Thursday. But after a dust-up between lawmakers, a revived attempt to repeal Florida’s Stand Your Ground law failed again.

NRA's Busy Week

Disputed Trauma Centers Gain Support

Mar 12, 2014

In what one supporter called a "reset for the trauma system," a House panel Tuesday approved a controversial bill that would ensure the continued operation of three disputed trauma centers in Manatee, Pasco and Marion counties.

The 8-4 vote by the House Health Innovation Subcommittee was the first public decision in what promises to be a hospital-industry lobbying battle during this spring's legislative session.

Major industry players and the state Department of Health have been embroiled in nearly three years of legal fights about the approval of new trauma facilities.

Parasailing Rules Soar Through Senate

Mar 11, 2014
Associated Press

A long-sought effort to impose regulations on the parasailing industry glided Monday through its second Senate committee.

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee unanimously supported a measure (SB 320) that would prohibit parasailing operations when sustained winds are 20 mph or higher or when lightning storms are within seven miles.

The bill, which comes after similar proposals repeatedly failed in past legislative sessions, also would require parasailing operators to have at least $1 million in liability coverage.

Senate, House Differ on Telemedicine

Mar 6, 2014

A Senate committee Wednesday approved a proposal aimed at boosting the use of the telemedicine in Florid, a plan that differs significantly from the House’s plan.

The Senate Health Policy Committee voted 7-2 for a measure (SPB 7028) that would establish guidelines and requirements for health providers who want to treat patients remotely through the use of Internet and telecommunications technology.

Food deserts, areas where fresh and healthy foods can be hard to come by, are all over Florida. There are efforts under way in the Florida Legislature to provide tax incentives for grocers to open up in these areas.

Steve Newborn / WUSF

Florida Gov. Rick Scott delivered his annual State of the State address to kick off the 60-day legislative session Tuesday morning.

Our special coverage included analysis by StateImpact Florida reporter John O'Connor and senior political writer William March of the Tampa Tribune.

We will re-air portions of Scott's speech and the Democratic responses on Florida Matters this week on Tuesday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 9 at 7:30 a.m. on WUSF 89.7 FM.

House Democratic Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, prepared these remarks in response to Gov. Rick Scott’s State of the State address:

Hello. I’m Perry Thurston, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives.

Today, the 116th Regular Session of the Florida Legislature gets underway with Governor Rick Scott and Republicans still in charge of your state government.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott gave his annual State of the State address today at the Florida House Chamber at the Capitol.

We will rebroadcast portions of our State of the State coverage Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. on Florida Matters.

Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, Chief Justice Polston and distinguished members of the Supreme Court. 

Welcome Attorney General Pam Bondi,

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater,

Capitol Update: Health, Water Wars

Mar 4, 2014

A rundown on Monday’s top news from Tallahassee:

Health Plan Wants Medicaid Contract Blocked

Amid a bidding dispute, a South Florida health plan is asking an appeals court to block the Agency for Health Care Administration from moving forward with a contract for Medicaid managed-care services.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will give his annual State of the State address Tuesday morning at the Florida House Chamber at the Capitol.

We will have live coverage on WUSF 89.7 FM starting at 11 a.m. hosted by Carson Cooper, with analysis from WUSF reporter John O'Connor and the Tampa Tribune's senior political writer William March. 

The Governor's Press Office released excerpts of his speech Monday:

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Sondra Hulette and her granddaughter joined dozens of anti-Common Core protestors as they circled a fountain outside the Orange County school district offices last month.

Inside the building, the State Board of Education was about to rename Common Core as "The Florida Standards." But outside, Hulette and others chanted "Stop Common Core!" "Keep education local!" and "Follow the money!"

Common Core are math and language arts standards adopted by Florida and 44 other states. They outline what students should know at the end of each grade.

Legislature Readying Major Changes to Florida's Juvenile-Justice System

Feb 28, 2014

The Legislature is expected to take up major changes to Florida’s juvenile-justice system during the 2014 session, looking to put more emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation for youthful offenders.

Lawmakers also face the challenge of bringing the state into compliance with U.S. Supreme Court rulings on sentencing guidelines for underage offenders — after three straight years in which they couldn’t agree.

Florida Capitol
Michael Rivera

Before the Florida legislative session starts March 4, Florida Matters is previewing some of the issues facing lawmakers this year:

Legislative Preview: Expanded Gambling

Feb 24, 2014

It’s mid-afternoon on a Monday, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. People are gathered around the slot machines and card tables. At an hour’s drive from Disney World -- this is the closest casino to Orlando. And Orlando is where gambling opponents are mustering their forces against any expansion of gambling in the state.

“This is an industry that makes its money persuading people to make bets. And that’s what they’re doing with us,” John Sowinski said.


A bill aimed at allowing someone to show a gun or fire a warning shot in self-defense without fear of prosecution is now heading to the House floor. It’s a bill inspired by Marisa Alexander, the Jacksonville woman who fired a warning shot in an alleged domestic violence dispute and received a lengthy prison term.

A bipartisan package of sex predator bills is now heading for a floor vote in both the House and Senate.

The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Thursday banning sex offenders from owning pornography. They also approved a measure that cracks down on repeat offenders who expose themselves in a vulgar way in public. Stuart Republican Representative Gayle Harrell is a sponsor of that bill.