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

While the suits in the Capitol shift through the eye-glazing minutia of documentary stamp taxes and Amendment 1, a retired school bus driver sits a few miles away in his new manufactured home.

Brett Levin via Flickr

Never mind a medical exception. A North Florida Democrat wants to go a step further and legalize marijuana outright. Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda expects more than local resistance.

It’s the kind of doomed legislation you would expect from the minority caucus. But Rehwinkel Vasilinda says she wants to stir debate -- and she’s using an unusual strategy to do it. Her bill removes marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug from the list of controlled substances.

“It’s pushing ideas forward and there’s nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

educationews.org

Teachers are overwhelmed, parents are up in arms and Governor Rick Scott’s executive order suspending a high school exam doesn’t do much.

ccreel@wkso.org

Wakulla County Sheriff Charlie Creel is firing back at five employees who accused him of, “fraud, waste and abuse.”

The allegations include allowing a registered sex offender to work at a Wakulla County High School graduation party.

In a letter to Governor Rick Scott, Creel says he didn’t know a jail trustee was a registered sex offender when he was assigned maintenance duty at the annual sober graduation party for students and parents.

Creel says the inmate was 21 in 2006 when he was convicted of having sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend.

Florida Senate

A Senate panel on Monday blessed a Republican plan to take the traditional sales tax holiday to a whole new level. Two Republican lawmakers want to create a “Small Business Saturday” holiday targeting 80 percent of all business in Florida that pay sales taxes.

Representative Jay Fant of Jacksonville and Senator Rene Garcia of Hialeah want to put “Small Business Saturday” into Florida law. It would fall two days after Thanksgiving. Fant sees a Black Friday shopping rush but for millions of shop owners and cost-conscious customers .

Florida Senate

Florida’s oyster industry has hit rock bottom, and the effects are rippling from the waters of Apalachicola Bay and Suwannee Sound to dinner plates in Tallahassee. The problem is so bad, a conservative Republican lawmaker wants to change all the rules.

Calico Jack’s is a Tallahassee fixture and magnet for oyster lovers like Mark Straubinger.

“I eat here when it’s oyster season as much as possible…”

Since the industry nosedived in 2012, Straubinger’s been watching the oysters shrink and his dinner check climb.

Florida Senate

A Democrat from Fort Lauderdale wants to do something about a scarcity of black and minority police officers and he thinks he’s found a solution at Florida A&M University.

Sen. Chris Smith wants the historically black college to turn out graduates who are also certified law enforcement officers.

Smith says he was astonished to learn how few African Americans were on the force in Ferguson, Missouri when protests erupted over a white officer’s shooting of an unarmed black man. The solution is creating minority recruits who also have a college degree, he says.

rightwebinconline.org

Former Governor Jeb Bush returned to Tallahassee Tuesday, rekindling his rock-star status with Florida’s conservative Republican faithful. The likely presidential candidate highlighted his legacy as an education reformer.

Addressing a conservative education summit at Florida State University’s alumni center, Bush didn’t wait long to serve up the red meat his party base craves. He says education needs a top to bottom shakeup to protect the needs of parents and students.

 “And not so much to protect government run, unionized, politicized monopolies.”

Florida House of Representatives

A Republican from Naples wants to raise awareness of bladder cancer in Florida.

Representative Kathleen Passidomo is filing a bill that would designate May 2015 bladder cancer awareness month.

Unlike more prominent diseases, bladder cancer rarely gets much attention. However, it is one of the more virulent forms of cancer, and out of all cancers, it is listed as the fourth most common in men and the 11th most common in women.

This year in America, 16,000 people are expected to die from the disease and 74,000 new cases will be diagnosed.

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.

Pages