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While the state has made new strides in efforts to combat human trafficking, a statewide panel convened by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says there are still areas that need some work.

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.

Citizens Proposes Rate Hikes for Coastal Customers

Jun 23, 2015
National Weather Service

More than half of Citizens Property Insurance customers will face rate increases next year, under a proposal going before the insurer's Board of Governors on Wednesday.

The biggest increases are expected to hit coastal policyholders.

"The overall increase is being fueled by a continued spike in water loss claims in Southeast Florida and the fact that most coastal policies with nearly adequate rates have found coverage with private market insurance companies," a release from the state-backed insurer said Monday.

Humane Society Asks Scott To Stop Bear Hunt Vote

Jun 23, 2015
TBO.com

The Humane Society of the United States on Monday delivered more than 90,000 names of people who, the group says, want Gov. Rick Scott to halt anticipated approval of the state's first bear hunt in more than two decades.

Scott, however, is deferring to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on the proposed hunt, which has the backing of the powerful National Rifle Association and Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

Calling it a “slap in the face to Florida voters,” environmental groups filed a lawsuit Monday that contends state legislators “defied” a constitutional amendment approved last fall.

Legislators just last Friday approved a nearly $79 billion state budget, but they included only $55 million for major land acquisition efforts.

Over the past 15 years in Polk County, more than half of the rape kits collected in criminal cases remain untested in evidence rooms, the

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.

Taxpayer Tab for Drug Test Lawsuits: $1.5M

Jun 21, 2015

Florida taxpayers are on the hook for more than $1.5 million in legal fees -- including nearly $1 million to civil-rights lawyers -- because of Gov. Rick Scott's failed push to force welfare applicants and tens of thousands of state workers to submit to suspicionless drug tests.

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.

Wikipedia

Largo Police said an 81-year-old man was out for a walk, got caught in a storm and he was struck by lightning Friday. The man, Jay Freres, did not survive.

Summertime in Florida is typically wet with gully washers virtually every day. Bay News 9 Chief Meteorologist Mike Clay said daily storms are why the state is known as the "lightning capital of the world" and not because the lightning here is more intense. 

Health care fraud sweeps across the country have led to charges against 243 people, including doctors, nurses and pharmacy owners accused of bilking Medicare and Medicaid, the government announced Thursday.

The dragnet spread from Miami to Los Angeles, Tampa and Dallas to Brooklyn, N.Y. Arrests were made earlier this week. Combining all the cases, allegedly fraudulent billings totaled some $712 million.

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.

M.S. Butler

Refugees flee their homes out of fear, violence or persecution.

Like Manael Ibrahim.  She fled the war in Iraq in 2002 for safety in Jordan. But after being denied permanent asylum in Jordan she and her family came to the United States, and to Tampa.

"I never imagined that it can happen and I'd be a American, you know. It's really great," said Ibrahim.

If a boy named Owen suspects his stuffed tiger named Hobbes has a secret life, the staff of Tampa International Airport won't disagree. Owen recently lost Hobbes at the airport — and when he reclaimed the tiger, he also received photos of Hobbes touring the facility.

Owen, 6, had flown from Florida to Texas. His mother, Amanda Lake, says that for much of the trip, Owen was preoccupied with whether his tiger was OK.

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.

Daylina Miller/WUSF News

Across from the Central Hillsborough Water Treatment Facility in Brandon is a few acres of upturned dirt littered with the beginnings of a construction project that county officials hope will help them better handle natural disasters.

The state last month removed about 2,000 children from a specialized program that provides services to medically fragile kids, finding that they were no longer "clinically eligible" under a new screening process.

 

But the move by the Department of Health to re-evaluate children in the Children's Medical Services Network is drawing criticism from pediatricians and some children's advocates.

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET

In a prison-break likely to draw comparisons to the film The Shawshank Redemption, two convicted murderers have escaped from a maximum-security facility in upstate New York by cutting through steel walls, shimmying through a steam pipe and emerging from a manhole on the outside.

Inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat broke out of the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, near the Canadian border, early Saturday morning.

The Florida House has soundly rejected a Medicaid expansion compromise that even supporters admitted had its flaws and was seemingly doomed to fail almost from the start.

The bill, which tore apart the regular session as the House and Senate bitterly disagreed, was voted down 72-41 Friday after a rousing, nearly seven-hour debate during which nearly 60 lawmakers spoke.

 

Primate Products, a primate breeding facility in Hendry County, was recently inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The inspection comes in the wake of undercover photos and videos taken at the company’s facility.

A People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA “witness” worked at Primate Products for eight months until late May.

Key Republicans on Tuesday asserted that the administration of Florida Gov. Rick Scott was playing politics in a continuing fight over health care that has already derailed one legislative session this year.

Scott, who has changed his stance on whether to expand Medicaid coverage twice now, is opposed to a plan pushed by Senate Republicans that would use federal money to provide private insurance to low-income Floridians.

After a passionate debate, the Florida Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would let a half million people use billions in federal dollars to buy health insurance, and added new measures to address criticism from the House, chiefly that the program would end in three years.

The revised version of the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange, or FHIX, today heads to the floor of the Florida House, which is unlikely to back the proposal.

ESPN

 

Sometimes all it takes is a single moment to make someone famous.

Daylina Miller/WUSF 89.7 News

At a coffee house in Tampa called "Sacred Grounds," more than 100 Doctor Who fans don costume pieces like fezzes, trenchcoats and sonic screwdrivers - an alien multipurpose tool that does just about anything BUT home repair.

They gather by the main stage. Some exchange nervous looks and laughter. The speed dating activity is about to start.

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Health insurance premiums for nearly 600,000 Floridians could increase more than 10 percent next year, according to proposed rates released Monday on the federal healthCare.gov website.

Updated at 1:20 p.m. ET

The U.S. State Department announced Friday that Cuba has been dropped from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

"The rescission of Cuba's designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism reflects our assessment that Cuba meets the statutory criteria for rescission," the department said in a statement. "While the United States has significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba's policies and actions, these fall outside the criteria relevant to the rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation."

Polk County Sheriff's Offic

Police have arrested an 82-year-old Lake Wales man for slashing a woman’s tires because he claimed she was sitting in his favorite bingo seat.

Fred Smith faces a charge of criminal mischief after police say he took an ice pick to 88-year-old Ethel Britt’s van during a weekly bingo game at the Lake Ashton Retirement Community Club House.

Police say Smith stormed out of the bingo hall and punctured two of Britt’s tires because she was sitting in a chair he usually sits in. Smith was caught on surveillance video in the act.

Hot-Button Health Issues Added To Session

May 28, 2015

The House and Senate have long been divided about a proposal to expand health coverage for hundreds of thousands of low-income Floridians.

 

But when lawmakers return to the Capitol next week for a special session, they also will wade into a series of other controversial health care issues, including a proposal to revamp insurance coverage for state workers and a push to overhaul some longstanding health-industry regulations.

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