Jim Ash

Reporter/Producer

Jim Ash is a reporter at WFSU-FM.  A Miami native, he is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print.  He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.

Ash has worked variously as a reporter, columnist and bureau chief.  His specialties include state politics, the judicial system and the environment.  His career has included coverage of everything from the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and Hurricane Andrew to the Florida presidential recount.

Ash is a graduate of the University of Iowa where he earned a degree in English.  He spent his summers interning for newspapers, including the Austin-American Statesman in Texas.

A hiking enthusiast, Ash has explored most of the public trails in California's Big Sur.  He is an avid reader who enjoys traveling, exploring the Big Bend, and water sports.

Florida Senate

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor the nuisance of a seatbelt should delay Florida letter carriers. That’s the message a Senate committee sent this week to rural letter carriers.

Republican Senator Greg Evers of Pensacola is remaining true to his philosophy of less government regulations. His bill exempting Florida letter carriers from a requirement to wear seatbelts has already cleared its first hurdle.

“Florida is one of four states that does not already have an exemption from the safety belt usage requirement for the rural letter carrier.”

Florida Senate

Ever wonder who was wearing those panties or bikini bottoms before you pulled them off the rack? Senator Geraldine Thompson, a Democrat from Orlando, thinks you should. She’s sponsoring a bill that encourages wearing a layer of protection before you try them on.

“With Ebola being transmitted through perspiration and bodily fluids and coming into contact with those kinds of fluid, I think it is something that needs to happen.”

www.cnsnews.com

Nobody waves an American flag better than conservative Republican Senator Alan Hays from rural Umatilla.

To prove it, he’s proposing a bill that would require school boards to screen a patriotic documentary to eighth and eleventh-grade students.

Hays wants to require attendance for screenings of “America: Imagine the World Without Her.”  

Under his bill, school boards would have to offer it to eighth grade and eleventh grade students. Hays says the documentary balances the curriculum.

Florida Senate

At Hillsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt’s office, some attorneys juggle 160 cases at any given time. Higher pay and shorter hours lure them to private firms. It’s tempting to leave, Holt says, because most attorneys begin their public service heavily in debt.

 “The majority of the attorneys that work in the public defender’s office and the state attorney’s office have an excess of 100 thousand dollars in student loans.”

Florida Senate

The state could grow an even faster under a bill filed by a Southwest Florida lawmaker. Legislation by a Senate Republican would allow developers to cut through government red tape.

A bill by Senator Wilton Simpson of Brooksville would allow more builders to expedite their projects by avoiding a government approval process called developments of regional impact, or DRIs. It would boost economic development, but environmentalists like 1,000 Friends of Florida’s Charles Pattison have big concerns.

www.sealedsweet.com

A disease known as citrus greening continues to devastate Florida’s iconic crop. An expert warns time is running out for the state’s growers.

Harold Browning, chief operations officer of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, says scientists are making progress to slow the disease, but it may not be fast enough.

“Without some interventions to slow the decline of these trees to allow for the replanting of citrus, we’re not going to retain the citrus industry as we know it.”

Associated Press

Forget his campaign promises to shrink government and grow the job market.

Governor Rick Scott had to put his money where his mouth is when he rolled out his $77 billion spending proposal this week.

Scott’s idea of jolting the economy is $673 million in tax cuts, and his notion of a smaller government is eliminating 1,017 state positions.

Scott started with a billion-dollar surplus and a soft spot for cable TV subscribers and cell phone users. He says a $470 million reduction in telecommunications taxes will make a difference in people’s lives.

When Toy Guns Turn Deadly

Jan 30, 2015
411 Toys

An Orlando Democrat hopes to prevent police from accidentally shooting toy gun owners. Sen. Geraldine Thompson is sponsoring a bill that would require manufacturers to use fluorescent colors so toy guns don’t look like the real thing.

Unlike federal law, Thompson’s bill includes pellet and BB guns. Hopefully, that will prevent police officers from fearing for their lives when they come across someone brandishing a look-a-like gun.

“We’ve had instances where individuals have been shot by police officers.”

www.lowcostcigs.com

Smoking, driving and kids don’t mix. That's the message of a South Florida lawmaker who wants to ban smoking while driving when children are in the car.

Senator Jeff Clemens, a Democrat from Lake Worth, only wants to protect children from second-hand smoke.

But his bill is already drawing fire from personal liberty advocates. Florida Tea Party founder Everett Wilkinson warns good intentions don’t trump the dangers of a nanny state.

Florida Senate

A Democratic leader Wednesday called Governor Rick Scott’s decision to fire the state’s top law enforcement officer a quote “miserable example of bad government.”

The blistering public attack was unusually personal, even for a member of the loyal opposition.

Sen. Arthenia Joyner’s verbal assault raised eyebrows during the Associated Press’s annual pre-session briefing at the Florida Capitol. The Tampa Democrat also referred to the millions of dollars Scott poured into his election from his personal fortune.

Florida Lottery

For years, investing in cancer research has been a frustrating game of chance. Now a legislator wants to create a new lottery game to increase the odds.

Sen. Geraldine Thompson, a Democrat from Orlando, is sponsoring legislation that would add a new scratch off game called “Ticket for Cure.” Sales would support breast cancer research at Florida universities.

That’s welcome news to the executive director of the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation, Russell Silverman.

Florida Senate

Lawmakers are rounding out the second week of committee meetings, their way of jump starting the session. The agenda will be dominated by Governor Rick Scott’s call for a sweeping telecommunications tax cut. It will also include business priorities, the environment and growlers – a fight between beer distributors and the craft brewing industry.

www.colorbox.com

Imagine an extra hour of soccer practice. A longer day at the beach.  More sunshine to hustle tourists through Disney World.

That’s the goal of Sen. Darren Soto, a Democrat from Kissimmee. Soto filed his perennial bill Thursday to make Florida the only state to observe daylight saving time permanently.

“Can you imagine the marketing campaign of, ‘come down to Florida, now with an hour of more sunshine?’”

Soto’s failed to sell the idea before and he would be surprised if it passes this year. His goal is next year, after it gains steam.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

After four bear attacks in 18 months, some legislators are eager to turn the table.  It’s been 21 years since the last bear hunt in Florida and a top game official told a Senate panel Wednesday that could change.

Some members of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee say they’re eager to pass a law to give hunters the Okay to go after bears.

Another Rachel's Law Debate

Jan 20, 2015
NBCnews.com

Another legislative battle is brewing over Rachel’s Law.

A pair of lawmakers want to strengthen the legislation named after a Florida State University student who was slain in a 2008 drug sting that went horribly wrong.

Twenty three-year-old Rachel Hoffman was working undercover for the Tallahassee Police Department when she was killed. Her grieving parents demanded reforms in the way police use confidential informants.

But the law was watered down after police complained they would lose their best tool for catching drug and other suspects.

EPA Dumps Dispersant Rules After 14 Years

Jan 16, 2015
Earth Justice

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is releasing its newest plan for regulating dispersants, the chemicals used to combat oil spills.  Despite years of delay, the move is being heralded by environmentalists.

Five years ago, when the Deepwater Horizon rig blew out in the Gulf of Mexico, company officials poured nearly 2 million gallons of dispersant onto the slick. Critics called the move a crap shoot at best. Existing regulations weren’t strong enough to determine whether the chemicals were dangerous or if they would work, says Earth Justice Attorney David Guest.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Floridians for Solar Choice draws its power from the farthest ends of the political spectrum. Environmentalists, Christian conservatives, Tea Party activists and business groups. The coalition stands united in a common, free-market goal – deregulating solar power.

Coalition Chairman Tory Perfetti.

“This is something that many individuals, right, left and business, have argued for, for many, many years.”

It’s illegal in Florida to sell solar power, unless you’re a utility.

Forida House of Representatives

Shoppers and small businesses in Florida could reap even greater rewards from a "Black Saturday" tax break under a bill being pushed by a North Florida lawmaker.

Rep. Jay Fant, a Republican from Jacksonville, is pushing a bill that would create yet another sales tax holiday, this time for new or existing businesses that pay less than $200,000 a year in taxes.

The tax-free window only covers November 28.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Environmentalists and conservatives want consumers in Florida to have a more direct line to solar power. Floridians for Solar Choice is plugging a constitutional amendment that is expected to generate heavy opposition from utilities.

Amendment supporters are unlikely political bedfellows. They include green groups like the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy as well as the Tea Party, the Christian Coalition and the Libertarian party.

Florida House

Florida’s constitution could finally shed an anti-Asian reference to one of the darkest chapters of U.S. history.  A South Florida lawmaker is urging voters to erase it.

Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Hollywood, says he wants to end Florida’s dubious distinction as the only state to still have the anti-immigrant language in its charter document.

“Unfortunately, the bill won’t do a whole lot in terms of reality, but what it will do at the end of the day it create a level of humanity that isn’t currently seen in the constitution.”

The Alien Land law dates back to 1926.

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-ronny-our-fellow-nole/267409 / youcaring.com

Florida State University President John Thrasher said Monday that campus shooting victim Farhan “Ronny” Ahmed should be ready to return to classes in February or early March.

Administrators are doing everything they can to ease his transition, Thrasher told the FSU board of trustees on Monday.

“We’re working on ways in which we can accommodate him in terms of his transportation, in terms of his place to stay on campus, doing something for his mother who plans to be here with him for a while and certainly some other things involving fundraising,” Thrasher said.

FSU Counters Bad Ink

Jan 12, 2015
FSU

Florida State University officials say they’re pushing back against recent bashing in the national media. Top administrators are developing a strategic marketing campaign to polish the school’s image.

Board of Trustees Chairman Allan Bense said he’s ready to send fellow trustees, armed with positive talking points, on speaking tours to spread the good news.

“I think it’s time for us to tell the world about how great FSU is. We’ve taken a few shots. I get it. I understand that," Bense said.

Florida Senate

Lawmakers turned up the heat Thursday on the Public Service Commission. Senator Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, unveiled the latest proposal to put more distance between commissioners and the powerful utilities they are supposed to regulate.

On the same day two PSC members were sworn in, Latvala told reporters he was filing a bill that would require commissioners to undergo ethics training. Gov. Rick Scott recently appointed one of the commissioners, former Panama City lawmaker Jimmy Patronis, despite the fact that Patronis has no regulatory experience.

A legislative scramble to carve up some $700 million dollars tied to Amendment 1 has begun. Months before the start of the annual session, a Senate committee on Wednesday began debating how to spend money generated by a wildly popular voter mandate to protect the environment, Jim Ash reports.

It was standing room only for the first discussion of Amendment 1 by the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. Chairman Charlie Dean, a Republican from Inverness, says there’s no shortage of suggestions about where the money should go.                           

Governor Rick Scott’s tightly scripted inaugural ceremony began with a heavy dose of scripture on Tuesday.

Scott was serenaded by church choirs and prayed for by clergy from across the state at an early morning prayer breakfast at Florida A&M University.

Pam Olsen, pastor of the International House of Prayer of Tallahassee, urged the public to ask that Scott receive divine guidance.

Olsen has never been shy about her beliefs. She and her supporters erected a nativity scene this year at the Florida Capitol.

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