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Florida Legislature 2015

New Florida Teacher Bonus Program Draws Complaints

Oct 12, 2015
John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

In Brigette Kinney’s design class at Ada Merritt K-8 center in Miami, one of the key concepts is editing and revising ideas after getting feedback.

Her 8th graders create role-playing games based on books they read. And then adjust the games, after watching their classmates play.

Kinney hopes Florida lawmakers will be as open to change as her students.

“I feel that legislators are out of touch with what it means to be a good teacher,” she said.

New Laws Tackle 'Cyberharassment,' Sex Trafficking

Sep 28, 2015

It will be illegal to post sexually explicit material without the knowledge of people identified in the images, and criminal penalties will increase to try to help curb sex trafficking, as 27 new Florida laws hit the books Thursday.

Evidence of widespread Republican angst cast a shadow from the nation's capital to the Sunshine State this week.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner on Friday rocked the political world with his announcement that he is resigning from his seat late next month.

Succumbing to pressure from conservatives, Boehner's decision to call it a day came at the height of an intraparty GOP Game of Thrones over a possible government shutdown.

As football season finally has arrived, politicians, special interests and others are setting up plays in Florida's sports-crazed capital city and the hilltop establishment that calls it home.

The Legislature and critics who challenged congressional districts drawn by lawmakers during the 2012 redistricting process prepared this week for what many hope will be the final drive of the lengthy lawsuit over the state's U.S. House delegation. Taxi companies, meanwhile, tried to go on offense to fight the mileage being picked up by ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.

A revamped health care agenda is starting to take shape ahead of next year’s lawmaking session. Last regular session The Florida House and Senate clashed over whether to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

An off-election summer in the capital city usually provides a tempting opportunity for idle hands to pursue thrills in far-flung climes more palatable to the senses than Tallahassee's oppressive heat.

For the fortunate, this sweltering season was one like any other, full of indulgences in travel and esprit. But for others, the Florida Supreme Court put the kibosh on even Thurberish escapes, replacing fantasy with drudgery and casting a lugubrious pall over an already pudding-like ambiance.

A messy budget fight that forced Florida’s legislators to hold an unusual June special session cost taxpayers more than $651,000, according to figures released Monday by the Florida Senate.

In the ongoing case of the Florida Legislature v. the Florida Supreme Court, the final verdict might have to wait.

Since returning to Tallahassee on Monday to start redrawing congressional districts thrown out by the Supreme Court, lawmakers have hammered away at a 5-2 court majority that found the current map violated the anti-gerrymandering "Fair Districts" requirements adopted by voters in 2010.

For the most part, lawmakers don't reject the court's authority to rule the maps unconstitutional, regardless of whether they agree with the decision.

With Friday’s deadline, about 30 claims bills were filed in the Florida Senate. A few of them seeking to further compensate different victims are controversial.

Millionaires Make Up Nearly One-Third of Legislature

Jul 11, 2015

Nearly a third of state lawmakers are millionaires, with two members of the Senate having net worths that top $20 million, according to newly filed disclosure reports.

Almost half of the Senate is in the millionaires club, and more than two dozen senators saw their net worths grow in the past year. Some reports remain to be filed, but so far no senator sits in the red financially, according to the reports posted on the Florida Commission on Ethics website.

caribjournal.com

A new law that goes into effect Wednesday, July 1st, will loosen state regulations on alcohol.

Under the new law, breweries can sell 64-ounce "growlers," while distillers can sell two bottles of each branded product, per person, per year. Prior to this, craft distillers could only sell two bottles to each customer per year.

Troy Roberts is head distiller at Siesta Key Rum. He said this is good news, not just for his business, but for the state as a whole.

While the University of South Florida received funding in the state budget for its downtown Tampa medical school and a St. Petersburg business school, money that would have gone to a new research vessel was removed by Governor Rick Scott's veto pen earlier this week. The Florida Institute of Oceanography, the collaborative effort of dozens of research institutes and agencies, is based out of the USF College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg. The $6 million FIO was seeking would be used to buy a research boat to replace the aging Bellows. The Tampa Bay Times reports that FIO officials and state lawmakers are trying to figure out what to do next.

Children's Program Boost Makes Budget

Jun 26, 2015

After worries about cuts earlier in the year, $13 million is being added to the state’s Early Steps program, which serves babies and toddlers with developmental disabilities or delays.

House and Senate budget negotiators initially agreed on $3 million for Early Steps -- and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, added $10 million to the program as legislative leaders finished hammering out a $78.7 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Gov. Rick Scott included the program in his final budget, signed Tuesday.

The Obama administration and the state have reached an agreement to continue funding the hospital Low-Income Pool for two more years but at a much lower cost.

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed nearly $57 million from the state’s Health and Human Services budget Tuesday, including $9.25 million for biomedical research.

Office of the Governor

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday ended the state's biggest budget crisis in more than two decades by signing a more than $78 billion budget into law, but he may have created another divide with some of his fellow Republicans.

Scott signed the budget just days after the Florida Legislature approved it during an unusual June special session. State government would have been partially shut down if a new budget had not been in place by July 1.

Gov. Scott Leads 'Cut My Taxes' Chant

Jun 22, 2015
State of Florida

Florida Governor Rick Scott rallied sign-waving supporters at a celebration in St. Petersburg Monday for $400 million dollars in tax cuts.  He said Floridians won't have to look beyond their purse or pocket for proof.

"So if you have a cell phone, take it out and hold it up--this is a tax cut," Scott said.  "We have a tax cut of over $200 million. That's right--over 200 million back in your pockets."

Scott said that this tax cut will allow people to use their own discretion when spending.

A bruising budget battle that divided Republicans in the Florida Legislature is over for now, but the truce is likely only to last a few months.

Legislators passed a nearly $79 billion budget Friday with just days to spare. Legislators had until July 1 to pass a budget or state government would have been partially shut down. They didn't pass a budget during their regular session because they were divided over health care spending. That sparked a stalemate — and finger-pointing will remain when legislators return for their 2016 session.

After a sprawling and messy budget fight that spawned lawsuits and finger-pointing, the fractured Republican-controlled Florida Legislature approved a nearly $79 billion budget and ended its special session Friday.

Legislators were racing against the clock to pass the budget after they failed to pass one during their regular two-month session that ended in late April.

Nearly $80B State Budget Ready for Vote

Jun 19, 2015

Following a drawn out, contentious battle that saw the state flirt with a partial government shutdown, the Florida Legislature is poised today to approve a nearly $80 billion budget.

The final budget is full of winners and losers.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

While University of South Florida officials wait to see if the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott sign off on the state budget and more than $29 million for two important projects, they're also waiting for approval of millions more in performance-based rewards.

Scott Scraps 'LIP' Injunction Bid

Jun 17, 2015

Pointing to a budget agreement reached by lawmakers, Gov. Rick Scott's attorneys late Tuesday withdrew a request for a preliminary injunction in a legal battle with the Obama administration about health-care funding, according to a notice filed in federal court in Pensacola.

Budget Deal Made, $301M to Hometown Projects

Jun 16, 2015

House and Senate budget negotiators struck a deal on a state spending plan Monday night moments before the stroke of midnight, pouring $301 million into projects at the last minute and closing out one of the more-raucous legislative debates in recent years.

Bills that involve state workers' health insurance, nurse-practitioners and hospital regulations died during this week's Legislative special session because the Senate has declined to consider them.

Senate Health Policy Chairman Aaron Bean said in a statement Monday evening that his colleagues felt there wasn't time to consider major policy changes by Friday, the last day of the special session called to finish work on a state budget.

The issues contained in the House bills require "a thorough and proper vetting," said Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.

A bill aimed at toughening Florida’s human trafficking laws will become law in a few months, following Governor Rick Scott’s signing. It increases the penalties for soliciting another for prostitution.

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed 13 relief bills into law yesterday. The bills allows governments to pay victims above a $200,000 cap.

In total, the 13 bills allow local governments to pay settlements totaling more than $12.5 million to families who have suffered losses from the government. In most cases, juries have already awarded settlements, but governments must have the permission of the Legislature to make the payments.

The Republican-controlled Florida House voted along party lines on Friday to retain — for now — the rates that Gov. Rick Scott and thousands of state workers are currently paying for health insurance.

Nearly 30,000 people in state government, including the governor, staff at the Florida Legislature and Attorney General Pam Bondi, pay either $8.34 a month for individual coverage or $30 a month for family coverage. Rank-and-file state workers pay $50 a month for individual coverage or $180 a month for family coverage. House and Senate members also pay this rate.

Scott Signs Gay Adoption Ban Repeal

Jun 15, 2015

A nearly four-decade-old law banning gays from adopting children, which hasn't been enforced in five years, will come off Florida's books July 1, but Gov. Rick Scott still wants private, religious-based adoption agencies to be able to turn gay couples away.

Negotiators from the House and Senate slashed almost $60 million in economic development spending Saturday as the Legislature drew closer to an elusive final deal on a state budget for the year that begins July 1.

Meeting over the weekend to hammer out the final details of a budget expected to weigh in at well more than $76 billion but south of $80 billion, House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran and Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee reached agreement on state spending for transportation and economic development.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Lawmakers agreed on hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental spending during a meeting Sunday night, but disappointed supporters of a land and water conservation amendment overwhelmingly approved by voters last fall.

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