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Budget Leads Major Issues In Florida Legislature's Last Week

Apr 28, 2019
Florida Capitol
Michael Rivera

The Florida Legislature careens into its final scheduled week with a host of major issues still to be settled, including a roughly $90 billion state budget that is the only bill lawmakers are required to pass.

A JEA crew works on power restoration in the Egrets Bluee area after Hurricane Irma in Sept. 2017.
JEA

Utilities would have to come up with a 10-year plan to strengthen and bury power lines and be allowed to pass along the cost to customers under a bill passed by the Florida Senate.

Gabrielle Monroe gives testimony as to why she is against Senate Bill 540.
The Florida Channel

Survivors of human trafficking are divided on two bills in the legislature.

“I am a survivor of childhood sex trafficking,” said Gabrielle Monroe of Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars. She spoke out this week against Senate Bill 540, which is designed to stop human trafficking. “I also was arrested in 2004 on the charges of prostitution.”

A controversial bill that bans local governments from adopting or practicing sanctuary city policies is moving forward, but it comes with some new amendments.

California Seeks Lessons From Florida For Fire Evacuations

Apr 27, 2019
South Floridians evacuate in Sept. 2017 when Hurricane Irma seemed to be heading for Miami.
Al Diaz / Miami Herald

With Hurricane Michael strengthening as it took aim at Florida's Panhandle, Mark Bowen and his employees watched the live footage through tears.

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission met in Tampa in May 2017.
Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media

Florida voters could have a chance to abolish a commission that meets every 20 years to suggest changes to the state constitution.

State Leaders Study Late Proposal For A Gambling Compact

Apr 26, 2019

Gov. Ron DeSantis and his staff continued Wednesday to scrutinize a proposed gambling agreement, but the odds of closing out what some lawmakers have called a “three-dimensional game of chess” grow dimmer as the clock winds down on the legislative session.

After weeks of negotiations, Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and representatives of the Seminole Tribe reached a tentative deal on Tuesday. DeSantis and House Speaker José Oliva received an outline of the agreement, known as a “compact,” on Tuesday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis favors a House plan to crack down on texting while driving, as the Senate on Wednesday delayed for at least a day a separate measure that would only allow motorists to use hands-free wireless devices while on the road.

Firefighter Cancer Benefits Get Final Approval

Apr 25, 2019

The House on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would expand benefits for firefighters who are diagnosed with 21 types of cancer, sending the high-profile measure to Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

A divided Florida House has approved a bill that bans sanctuary cities for immigrants. It was met with heated debate from Democrats.

The bill would ban so-called “sanctuary cities” for immigrants in Florida counties and punish local officials who don’t cooperate with federal authorities. Municipalities that enforce such policies may be fined up to $5,000 per day.

The bill was proposed by Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Nassau) with the intention of reducing crime in Florida.

The Senate punted on voting on its big school choice bill Wednesday, as amendments to the measure continue to pour in. But, the chamber did make a significant change to its PreK-12 education budget, moving closer to the House.

Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum agreed Wednesday to pay a $5,000 fine in a settlement reached with a state ethics-commission attorney, who agreed to drop four of five charges of ethics violations related to trips to Costa Rica and New York, a boat ride around the Statue of Liberty and a ticket to the Broadway hit, “Hamilton.”

Spook Hill in Lake Wales has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Google Maps

Put your car in neutral and watch as you mysteriously cruise uphill at Lake Wales’ gravity-defying roadway, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places earlier this month.

Mugshot of Robert Joseph Long
Florida Department of Corrections

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed his first death warrant, with an execution scheduled May 23 for Tampa-area serial killer Robert Joseph Long, according to documents posted on the Florida Supreme Court website. 

Toll lanes on Interstate-295 between Interstate-95 and the Buckman Bridge are in the final calibrating stage before going into operation within the few months.

‘Marsy’s Law’ Requests Records From Prosecutors

Apr 23, 2019

Backers of a November constitutional amendment designed to expand crime-victims’ rights said Monday they have requested records from prosecutors across the state about how the amendment is being carried out. 

Sea World Publishes Decades Of Orca Data To Help Wild Whales

Apr 23, 2019

The endangered killer whales of the Pacific Northwest live very different lives from orcas in captivity. 

In a move that’s ignited fierce debate, Florida lawmakers appear set to approve controversial legislation that aims to ban so-called "sanctuary cities" in the state. Bills in the House and Senate both passed their final committees last week and are making their way to discussion. 

The legislation would require local police to honor requests from federal immigration authorities to detain people who are thought to be in the United States illegally. The House version would fine local governments that don’t cooperate with federal requests.

Under an order from Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida counties will be required to provide Spanish and English ballots.
Roberto Roldan / WUSF Public Media

Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered Spanish-language ballots to be provided across Florida. The move comes amidst legal pressure from a number of groups and a judge's order.

Hurricane Michael was reclassified as a Category 5 hurricane.
NOAA

Hurricane Michael, which devastated a swath of the Florida Panhandle last fall, has been upgraded to a Category 5 storm, only the fourth to make recorded landfall in the United States and the first since 1992.

The announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday came as no surprise to those still struggling to recover from the storm's destruction.

"My thought is simply that most of us thought we were dealing with a (Category) 5 anyway," said Al Cathey, mayor of Mexico Beach, which bore the brunt of the storm when it hit.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says immigrants and non-citizens in South Florida should not fear a citizenship question on the 2020 census.

During a visit to Miami Thursday to meet with local business leaders, Ross—who oversees the census—emphasized that Census Bureau workers cannot share people’s responses with other government authorities. The comment came in response to continuing concerns that immigrants will sit out the census for fear their answers could be released to federal immigration authorities.

Severe Storm Risk Blowing Through Tampa Bay, All Of Florida

Apr 19, 2019
There's a risk of severe storms across Florida today, including a tornado watch through 4 p.m.
Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

A tornado watch is in effect until 4 p.m. for northeast, north-central, and west-central Florida, including the Tampa Bay area.

Update 1:20 p.m. The National Weather Service in Ruskin has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for a large portion of the Tampa Bay area until 2:30 p.m.

Those areas include Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, northwestern Manatee County, Hernando County, southeastern Citrus County and Sumter County. 

To mark Ron DeSantis's 100th day in the Governor's office, environmentalist groups gathered across several cities in Florida on Wednesday for a day of action to ban all forms of fracking, the controversial oil-drilling technique, in the state. 

A small group of about 20 people gathered in front of the state Department of Economic Opportunity in Oakland Park in the early evening to call on the governor to ban all forms of fracking, and not just some. 

Downtown Bradenton in Manatee County.
Manatee County Government

Housing prices and rents continue to rise across Florida. Thursday, a group of community leaders and advocates gathered in Bradenton to discuss Manatee County's ongoing affordable housing crunch at an event sponsored by the Manatee Tiger Bay Club.

Nationwide, an average wage earner would need to spend 32.7 percent of his or her income to buy a median-priced home. But for Manatee residents, that figure is 46.3 percent.

Updated FEMA flood maps indicate risk zones in Pinellas County.
Pinellas County Government

Flooding is one of the most common and costly disasters during storms. Pinellas County is the latest area to have adjustments made to its flood map to better reflect the risk that some homeowners may face.

A dangerous squall line of thunderstorms is expected to approach the Florida Panhandle Thursday night, then sweep across the entire Florida Peninsula Friday.

Florida Bill To Ban Sanctuary Policies Draws Raucous Debate

Apr 18, 2019
State Capitol
Wikimedia Commons

A proposed ban on sanctuary policies evoked talk of fear and bigotry, shouts of "Shame on you!" and the scolding of a Democratic senator who admonished a woman Wednesday for disparaging Miami, the Florida city with the largest Hispanic population. 

Central Florida Cities Among Fastest Growing In US

Apr 18, 2019
Orlando skyline at night.
Bill Dickinson / Wikimedia Commons

When it came to population growth last year, cities in central Florida grew by stadiums. 

Fla. Senate Poised To Back Move Of Law Enforcement Officers From FWC To DEP

Apr 18, 2019

A shift of 19 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law-enforcement officers to the Department of Environmental Protection, a change sought by Gov. Ron DeSantis, was teed up Wednesday by the Senate for a final vote.

Two big criminal justice reform bills are moving through the Florida Legislature. Backers of the similar bills in both chambers are going through negotiations down the stretch to position a final measure for passage.

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