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More visitors are coming to the sunshine state, according to new figures released by the state. But the state is losing ground on tourists from out of the country.

Florida announced today that 35.7 million visitors came to Florida in the first quarter – a new record.

“As we work to diversify Florida’s economy, it is critical that we keep visitation to Florida, and the revenue it generates, healthy and robust,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis in a press release.

Alligator on a runway at MacDill Airforce Base
Facebook / MacDill Airforce Base

Staff at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa had to bring in a front-end loader to remove an alligator that was lounging on a runway.

‘Bump Stock’ Ban Lawsuit Tossed Out

May 16, 2019
 Slide Fire Solutions SSAK-47-XRS-RH Bump Fire Stock mounted on a GP WASR-10/36 AK-47.
WASR / Wikimedia Commons

More than a year after the Florida Legislature passed gun restrictions, a Leon County circuit judge has dismissed a lawsuit that alleged a ban on “bump stocks” was an unconstitutional taking of property. 

DeSantis Calls For Pre-K Improvements

May 16, 2019

Pointing to a new report showing 42 percent of children who participated in the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program were not ready for kindergarten, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday directed Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to come up with a plan for improvements.  

Business from cannabis is growing fast in Florida; some of it regulated tightly, and some of it without rules. But all of it comes with cash that the banking industry is reluctant to touch. 

 

The first legal industrial hemp seeds in decades are growing now in South Florida soil.

CBD is showing up in ice cream, gummy bears and cocktails, but the state says the products are illegal.

Visit Florida Signs Off On Budget Cuts

May 16, 2019

Faced with a “prove-it” year to state lawmakers, the board of Florida’s tourism-marketing arm on Wednesday approved a 30 percent payroll cut.

A reluctant Visit Florida Board of Directors agreed to slash payroll by $3.65 million, and strategic marketing by $17.8 million, with an acknowledgement the agency must do a better job of selling itself to lawmakers, particularly in the House, which sought to eliminate the public-private agency during this year’s legislative session.

Visit Florida survived in the session -- but took a 34 percent funding cut.

When Amendment 4 passed last November, many people thought it would give over a million people with felony convictions the right to vote in Florida. 

Prison Guards Eyed For Immigration Enforcement

May 15, 2019
The state may have to pay millions of dollars more in treatment costs for inmates infected with hepatitis C.
Florida Department of Corrections

The head of Florida’s prison system last month told a top federal immigration official he would like to launch a pilot program that would deputize state correctional officers as immigration agents in an effort to “identify and process criminal aliens.” 

FPL Backed On Tax Cuts, Irma Costs

May 15, 2019
elineart / Flickr

State regulators Tuesday approved a plan by Florida Power & Light to use federal tax savings to cover costs of restoring power after Hurricane Irma, despite criticism that the tax money should be used to lower customers’ base electric rates. 

Updated at 6:23 p.m. ET Wednesday

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a controversial bill that bans nearly all abortions into law Wednesday evening.

It's considered the most restrictive abortion law in the United States. The law makes it a crime for doctors to perform abortions at any stage of a pregnancy, unless a woman's life is threatened or there is a lethal fetal anomaly.

Under the new law, doctors in the state face felony jail time up to 99 years if convicted. But a woman would not be held criminally liable for having an abortion.

"Veto! Veto! Veto!"

A group of about two dozen protesters chanted in front of the Tri-Rail station in Hollywood Tuesday. Together, they represented a handful of environmental groups that have been writing letters and calling Gov. Ron DeSantis's office, asking him to veto two bills on his desk.

Trump Says He'll Push For $200 Million For Everglades Work

May 14, 2019
A horizon shot of the Everglades.
Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump says his administration will seek $200 million for federal work on watershed restoration in the Everglades this year. 

Trump Targets Pell Grant Money For NASA's Budget Boost

May 14, 2019
NASA Twitter

The Trump administration wants to shift money for Pell Grants for college education to fund new spending, including a $1.6 billion bump for NASA to return American astronauts to the moon by 2024. 

Many residents in the southeast U.S. and along the Gulf Coast are already thinking about the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins on June 1. Last year brought two of the most destructive storms to ever hit the U.S.: Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael.

Monday morning's commute along Interstate 295 between the Buckman Bridge and Interstate 95 could be significantly faster, but it will cost you.

DeVaughn Putna Farrington / Facebook St. Croix Hurricane Maria Check In page

A Federal Communications Commission report says wireless carriers' poor preparation and coordination lengthened communication outages in the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael. 

The Ledger

With the proposal awaiting a review by the Florida Supreme Court, prominent Orlando attorney John Morgan last month continued funneling money to a ballot measure that would increase the minimum wage. 

Judge Orders Spanish-Language Ballots In 32 Counties

May 13, 2019
Sign reading "Vote precinct precinto"
Bobbie O'Brien / WUSF

A federal judge Friday required 32 counties to provide Spanish-language ballots and other assistance to Spanish-speaking voters in Florida’s March 2020 presidential primary election. 

Legislation filed this week by Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana is getting pushback from top city officials.

The FBI will brief Florida’s congressional members this week on Russian attempts to hack the 2016 election, after the Mueller report revealed last month that the election system of at least one Florida county was compromised.

But even before details emerge, a former supervisor of elections in Florida is saying he is not surprised that the state’s system was compromised. Ion Sancho, the longtime former supervisor of elections of Leon County, said Friday on The Florida Roundup that Florida’s election infrastructure is, frankly, “not secure.”

Petitions Top 42,000 For ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban

May 10, 2019

A political committee seeking to ban possession of assault-style weapons in Florida has submitted nearly 43,000 valid petition signatures to the state as it tries to get the issue on the November 2020 ballot. 

The First Amendment Foundation (FAF) in Tallahassee keeps watch over policy discussions that could impede the public’s right to know about government business.

“We track all bills that affect the public’s ability to oversee government and hold it accountable," says FAF president Barbara Petersen.

The foundation tracked 111 bills this year that would create new open government exemptions or extend current exemptions. 25 of them passed.

DeSantis, State Contingent Ready For Israel Trip

May 9, 2019
Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen in a file photo.
Daylina Miller / WUSF Public Media

In his quest to become the most “pro-Israel” governor in the nation, Gov. Ron DeSantis this month will lead a first-ever Florida Cabinet meeting in Israel as part of a week-long trip in which he is also scheduled to talk with executives who might want to do business in the Sunshine State. 

Trump Promises More Hurricane Relief For Florida Panhandle

May 9, 2019

President Donald Trump promised a swift infusion of federal aid to the Florida Panhandle seven months after devastating Hurricane Michael as he rallied supporters Wednesday for his re-election. 

DeSantis Signs Bill Allowing Armed Teachers

May 9, 2019

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed legislation that expands the controversial school “guardian” program to allow armed classroom teachers. 

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried ran on a platform of what she called 'the three W’s': weapons, water and weed. Within months of her swearing in, it’s that last W that’s already generating a buzz around the state. 

Florida Prisons Sued Over Solitary Confinement Practices

May 9, 2019

Florida is an “outlier” in prison systems across the nation when it comes to the use of solitary confinement, according to a 90-page federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that alleges the state Department of Corrections is violating the constitutional rights of inmates.

Rainy season in South Florida means it's also mosquito season. And now there's a new weapon being added to the arsenal against the insects in the Florida Keys.

DeSantis To Sign Felons’ Voting Measure

May 8, 2019
Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he will sign a controversial measure that would require repayment of financial obligations before felons’ voting rights are restored. 

Gun Control Groups Seek ‘Guardian’ Bill Veto

May 8, 2019
Man standing with weapon
Manatee School For the Arts

About a dozen activists with two gun-control advocacy groups dropped off a stack of papers with 13,000 signatures at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office Tuesday as they urged him to veto a bill that would allow armed classroom teachers. 

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