Nick Evans

Reporter/Producer

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University.  He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU.  While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter.  Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years.  He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan.  When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.

Lee Jackson

Floridians may be paying a bit less for admission to certain sporting events if Representative Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford) has his way.  His sales tax exemption for special events tickets met with no opposition in its first committee hearing Thursday.

Kim Seng

Representative Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City) says his bill will cut red tape for Florida’s farmers by removing excess regulations.  Currently, county governments in Florida can set standards for wetlands and springs protection and drilling wells. Patronis’s bill would take some of that ability away from local governments and leave it to the state. But Lee County lobbyist Sarah Bleakly says her county’s diverse environment requires local regulation.

U.S. Department of Defense

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a plan this week to reduce the military’s size and budget. Closing or restructuring domestic bases is part of that plan.  The next round of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, is slated for 2017 if Congress approves it. 

The Florida Defense Alliance - part of Enterprise Florida - works to ensure the state is an attractive site for bases, and they don't think closures are an immediate threat.  Vice President Rocky McPherson says Hagel's budget is only an initial proposal, and it will face an uphill climb in Washington.

LHatter / WFSU News

The Florida Board of Governors Thursday confirmed the appointment of Dr. Elmira Mangum to the presidency of Florida A&M University.  At the hearing, board member Matthew Carter asked Mangum how she plans to improve graduation rates among ‘profile admits’ – an alternative admission program for students who wouldn’t normally qualify.

“If we’re going to take a profile admit,” Carter said, “I think we have a moral imperative to graduate these students.”

Mangum says supporting these students requires the university to be more proactive in its advising.

Susan Sermoneta

A bill that passed its first Senate hearing today aims to limit which parties can be brought to court in nursing home disputes.  Nursing home residents would only able to file initial complaints against the nursing home itself, the subcontractors they employ, and direct caregivers.  Under the bill, introduced by State Senator John Thrasher (R-St.Augustine), passive investors are less likely to face litigation, and Thrasher says this will encourage investment.

Blaise Gainey

The Florida Golf Coalition and the PGA gave golf lessons to members of the House and Senate Thursday as part of Florida Golf Day at the Capitol. But before the lessons began, the FGC spoke with State Senator Nancy Detert (R-Venice) about 5 key points they had.

The Blueprint 2000 tax adds one extra cent to every dollar of taxable sales in Leon County to fund infrastructure projects.  The current tax will expire in 2019, but the County Commission hopes to extend it, and is developing a slate of projects to pursue if that happens.   County Commissioner Bill Proctor says many of the projects benefit FSU and FAMU, so the schools should participate in community outreach.

“In terms of promoting the campaign, the universities have radio stations, television stations – they have media that can be helpful in promoting this,” Proctor said.

USACE

A long-simmering dispute over water continued this week as Georgia filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing Florida’s request for a hearing.  But the feud is more complex than it may at first seem.

A pair of South Florida lawmakers – State Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami) and Representative Bryan Nelson (R-Miami) – are co-sponsoring a bill to further discourage hit-and-run drivers.  Diaz de la Portilla said current law levies lighter penalties if drunk drivers flee the scene of an accident. 

Bad Weather Hampers Tallahassee Homeless Census

Jan 31, 2014
Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

Across the country this week, volunteers conducted what’s known as the point-in-time homelessness count. WFSU joined one Tallahassee group as they tried to find people living without shelter in Florida’s capital city.

At 5:15 p.m. on Tuesday, about 30 volunteers huddled in a side office at the Big Bend Homeless Coalition cafeteria.

Outside it had just started pouring rain. One of the team leaders, Vicki Butler, had just come in from an all-day shift and she was about to go back out for the night shift.

Volunteers from the Big Bend Homeless Coalition are spending part of this week conducting their yearly Health and Housing survey. This “point in time” count of homelessness is facing additional complications this year because of the weather.

Tallahassee will celebrate Florida’s Arbor Day this Saturday with three local agencies teaming up to host a tree planting at the J. R. Alford greenway.  Leon County Parks and Recreation Director Leigh Davis says the event is a way for residents to feel they’re a lasting part of the community.

Florida House

Tallahassee state Representative Alan Williams has declared his intention to seek a fourth and final term in the Florida House.  The decision ends months of speculation Williams might run for a seat on the Tallahassee City Commission.

Wilfredo Lee / AP

Gov. Rick Scott announced his decision Tuesday, more than 10 months after former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigned.

Lopez-Cantera is a former state House Majority Leader and is also expected to be Scott's running mate during his 2014 re-election campaign.

Nick Evans

The US Forest Service is holding prescribed burns in the Apalachicola National Forest. 

Just south of Tallahassee, a team of Wakulla District rangers are using driptorches – those handheld metal canisters with a long, lit wick – to light sections of underbrush that haven’t burned since June of 2010.  Wakulla assistant fire management officer Bob Airhart said this kind of regular burning has two vital roles in forest management. 

Marriage equality got a major boost when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down major provisions in the Federal Defense of Marriage Act last month.  But it’s still unclear how married same-sex couples will access benefits if they live in states that don’t recognize their union.

Florida happens to be just such a state, and Governor Rick Scott said the DOMA decision applies to federal law and will not impact state laws. 

Since NASA retired its fleet of space shuttles in 2011, Florida’s space coast has been searching for a way to prop up its slumping economy.  Private space companies may offer a solution, but some proposals to attract them are raising questions.

The most recent reading from the Tallahassee Economic Index shows a downward trend for the month of May.  Although the index fell slightly, officials say there are bright spots.

The Tallahassee Economic Index combines data from businesses throughout the city to create a picture of the local economy.  According to Index founder Brett Ewing, the city’s economy is still growing, but isn’t accelerating quite as fast as it did in April.  

Ewing is hanging his hopes on the housing market, which he thinks may bring faster growth in the coming months. 

The Florida oyster industry has suffered in recent years from fights over fresh water, the BP oil spill, and the impact of predatory species.  But a cultivation method new in Florida could help turn the industry around.

There’s a gentle breeze coming in from Oyster Bay.  There are some plastic chairs out at the end of the wharf looking out on the swaying reeds.  The marshlands stretch a mile out from this sleepy marina.

A group pushing for medical marijuana legalization filed a petition with the state of Florida this week. 

On Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott addressed the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. 

Scott said the rulings won’t affect who can get married in Florida.

“In 2008, Florida voters amended our constitution, so that we are a traditional marriage state – marriage is between a man and a woman.  As Governor of the state I’ll uphold the existing law of the land, and that’s the law of our state,” Scott said.

Jessica Palombo

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down two landmark decisions Wednesday – both by 5-4 votes. 

The Court first struck down the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.  Next, it vacated a lower court’s decision on California’s Proposition 8.  While this latter decision didn’t set up marriage as a civil right, it does clear the way for gay marriages to resume in California. 

Florida Representative Linda Stewart said the decisions are good news for the movement as a whole, but supporters of gay marriage in Florida have plenty of work ahead.

Florida Governor Rick Scott expressed support for adding restrictions to the food assistance program known as SNAP.  SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; it’s the modern version of the federal food stamps program.

The proposal crafted by Congressman Steve Southerland of Florida’s 2nd District requires individuals to show they’re looking for work – kind of like the requirements for unemployment support. 

Florida State University

Florida State University football player Gregory Dent is facing up to 15 years in prison after being charged with rape over the weekend.  Dent was released Monday on $15 thousand dollars bail.

According to court documents, the victim and Dent have been friends since high school. Saturday, she, Dent, and others went to a nightclub.  When they returned to Dent’s apartment, the victim says she fell asleep on Dent’s bed.

She then alleges she awoke to Dent kissing her, and tried to push him away.  But the victim alleges he continued trying to force himself upon her.

Residents throughout Florida are receiving notices that a private insurer is taking over their state run home insurance policies.  Homeowners are not required to make the switch, though.

While state-backed Citizens Insurance shifts policies into the private sector, critics are expressing concern about the quality of new coverage.  Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott said consumers still have options.

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