Lynn Hatter

News Director

Lynn Hatter is a  Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has been a member of the WFSU news team since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative.  When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.

The state’s education budget is slated to be increased this year after years of funding cuts, and public schools say any increase is better than nothing. But within the traditional school structure, an internal battle is brewing. And Lynn Hatter reports it revolves around funding for one specific type of public school- charters.

Charters are public schools with more flexibility in who they hire and how they operate.  But there’s a trade-off to that flexibility, as a report out of a state tax watchdog points out:

The Florida Senate has signed off on new voting district maps, and they are now headed to a judicial review. Democrats have long claimed the state’s new elections law and current process of redistricting are an attempt to block them from having any substantial influence in Florida politics. Republicans hold super-majorities in both chambers of the legislature, and have full control of the Cabinet. Now, as Lynn Hatter reports, the minority party is making a case that the majority party is engaging in voter suppression and gerrymandering.

Florida Democrats are voicing their displeasure with several budget cutting proposals under consideration before the full chamber. Republicans have a veto-proof majority in the legislature, but as Lynn Hatter reports, that didn’t stop the minority party from launching a series of criticisms --thinly disguised as questions— to try and poke holes in the Houses healthcare budget plans.

The House Economic Affairs committee has passed out several bills to help ease the price tag on Florida homeowners. Lynn Hatter reports included in the list of bills heard includes a plan to reform the state’s largest property tax insurer, provide some additional tax breaks, and change the way foreclosures are handled in the courts.

It’s the Senate’s turn to begin work on its budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year. Lawmakers in that chamber Tuesday began crafting the education section of the bill, which includes funding for K-12 and higher education. Lynn Hatter reports a preliminary view of the Senate’s plan includes a little more money for K-12 and a little less for colleges and universities.

WFSU

A class-action lawsuit has been announced against the state’s largest property insurer. Citizen’s is being accused of artificially raising home values in order to charge higher premiums. Lynn Hatter reports a group called the Florida Association for  Insurance Reform, or FAIR, is backing the lawsuit.

FSU

Vice President Joe Biden is carrying the message of making college more affordable throughout Florida this week. Monday he stopped in Tallahassee at Florida State University to talk about the rising cost of tuition—an issue that’s been front and center in state politics recently. But Lynn Hatter reports when it comes to the issue of holding down costs in higher education—some say it shouldn’t come at the cost of financial aid to students who need it the most.

The shortfall within the trust fund that supports public school construction projects is so great, that Governor Rick Scott has called on school districts, colleges and universities to give back unspent money from previous years. But as Lynn Hatter reports, there’s a plan afoot in the Florida legislature that could help shore up the fund, and create a dedicated funding source for future building plans.

The House and Senate are getting closer to an agreement on fixing the state’s no-fault auto insurance law. Lynn Hatter reports, Members of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved changes to a bill that would try to bring an end to a system that’s riddled with fraud.

The panel approved Senate Bill 1860 with a unanimous vote. The proposal, drafted by Republican Senator Joe Negron eliminates treatments like massage therapy and acupuncture from the list of services that personal injury protection insurance currently pays for after accidents.

The House and Senate are poised to clash over funding for the state’s health and human services. The House finance committee has approved a plan to slash more than 800-million from healthcare, while the Senate cuts fewer dollars. And as Lynn Hatter reports, neither budget comes close to the $2 billion mark Governor Rick Scott proposed in his state spending plan.

“Today I’m here to deliver one message. Healthcare Cuts don’t heal, they’re permanent.”

The Governor and House are on diverging paths when it comes to the issue of higher education tuition increases. Lynn Hatter reports the House is poised to approve a rate hike for Florida’s college and university students, and the governor is vowing to veto it.

The House budget proposal calls for an 8-percent increase in tuition, something that students like Florida State University’s Michael Sampson say they don’t want.

 “I don’t believe raising tuition is a good idea in any economic circumstance.”

The Senate has approved a bill that would allow prayer at public school events. Lynn Hatter reports the bill cleared the chamber on a 31-to-8 vote.

Under Senate Bill 98 school boards are directed to lay out guidelines for when and how students in public schools could give “inspirational messages” at school events. Groups like the ACLU of Florida are against the bill, saying it’s unconstitutional. But the bill sponsor Senator Gary Siplin of Orlando says his proposal doesn’t force any group—the student or the school—to do anything they don’t want to do.

WFSU

The United Way of the Big Bend has a new leader for the first time in 16 years. The news comes after current president Ken Armstrong announced he is stepping down to take a position at a construction company. Lynn Hatter reports the United Way chose to recruit one of its own as the new agency head.

The United Way’s Heather Mitchell will assume the role as President and CEO. Mitchell joined the agency five years ago, and currently serves as head of resource development. She says she’s got big ideas she hopes to bring to the job.

A Federal appeals court Tuesday rejected a challenge to Florida’s Amendment 6. It’s one of the Fair Districts Amendments added to the constitution by voters to curb gerrymandering. A three-judge panel rebuffed efforts by U.S. Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Corrine Brown to throw out the guidelines for drawing legislative and congressional districts. James Call reports the ruling was handed down two days before the Florida House is scheduled to debate new political maps for the fall election.

A proposal limiting when, for what and where the state’s food and cash assistance benefits, also known as welfare, can be used, has passed a House committee. Lynn Hatter reports the move comes after a report on the misuse of the electronic benefits card, or EBT.

A measure that would allow the children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition has been rejected by a Senate Committee. Lynn Hatter reports the vote came after hours of emotional testimony and ended in a tie.

A series of bills changing the way Florida’s early learning programs are run is moving through the legislature. The measures attempt to address problems raised in an audit that detailed fraud and waste in the system.  But as Lynn Hatter reports, some advocates of Early Learning say the bills could reduce those programs to little more than glorified babysitting services.

A proposal limiting when, for what and where the state’s food assistance benefit can be used has passed a House committee. Lynn Hatter reports the move comes after a report on the misuse of the electronic benefits card, or EBT.

Bill sponsor Republican Representative Scott Plakon of Longwood, says he first heard about the abuse of the state’s food assistance program from a news report down in Fort Meyers.

The Florida Department of Education is following up on its controversial ranking of school districts, by ranking individual schools. Lynn Hatter reports the results have charter schools and specialty schools taking up a large chunk of the top 10 list of public schools.

The state budget is one of two bills Florida lawmakers HAVE to pass. And an early start to the legislative session means the revenue picture is still unclear.  One chamber wants to wait for it to come into focus. But as Lynn Hatter reports  the other is on the verge of voting on a spending plan to carry the state through the next fiscal year, and staking an early claim to how funding for the state’s many services will be distributed.  

The Florida Department of Education is following up on its controversial ranking of school districts. This time, the state agency will take it a step further, by releasing a comprehensive list of individual schools, rated best-to-worst according to how well students perform on the state’s standardized test. Lynn Hatter reports.

When the Department of Education released its ranking of school districts, Commissioner Gerard Robinson called it the first step in a two-step process.

WTSP

Santorum has branded himself as the  “Christian conservative” candidate over the course of his presidential bid, and during a prayer breakfast at Florida State University, he once again played up his conservative credentials, talking about the role of faith in government, education and politics.

“We will never have limited government, we will continue to be less free, unless we revitalize the institutions of faith and family in America. That’s the real message.”

On the second floor of the state Capitol building a sea of white coats swarm the halls. At different places in the lobby are tables offering bone density screenings, dermatological checks, cholesterol tabs—a mini medical center. The displays showcase some of the services that local pharmacies provide. But the agenda isn’t just to offer some free medical checkups—it’s also meant to promote an issue— getting vaccinated against potentially deadly diseases.

House education budget writers are proposing an extra 100-million dollars over the governor’s proposed billion-dollar education budget increase. Lynn Hatter reports the Senate took up both recommendation’s Thursday and are considering adding even more money to fund the state’s public schools.

 

House education budget writers are proposing an extra 100-million dollars over the governor’s proposed billion-dollar education budget increase. Lynn Hatter reports the Senate took up both recommendation’s Thursday and are considering adding even more money to fund the state’s public schools.

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