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.

Darius Norvilas

With the cost of groceries steadily climbing, some Leon County seniors are finding themselves unable to keep up.  Elder Care Services in Tallahassee maintains a food pantry to help out in emergencies, but even that is stretching thin.

Elder Care Services is a private non-profit in Tallahassee offering assistance like the Meals on Wheels program for local seniors.  Senior Solutions Specialist Ed Gines  says the group also operates an emergency food pantry providing groceries for seniors in need.

Sally Falko

David Beckham’s bid to extend a Florida sales tax rebate to his proposed Major League Soccer facility may be in jeopardy.  The Senate chose Thursday to delay a vote on the bill at the last minute.

Florida lawmakers feel sports facilities like stadiums have an important role to play in metropolitan environments.  Not only are they a significant source of tax revenue, but they can serve as a kind of hub supporting complimentary businesses like restaurants. 

Nick Evans

A bill meant to clarify the operation of small brewers in Florida passed the Senate Tuesday.  But, many see the the measure as an attempt to limit the growth of the craft brewing industry.

Throughout the country, craft or micro breweries have been growing in popularity.  The Brewers Association, a group promoting craft brewers, says nation-wide the industry provided over 100,000 jobs, and was worth about $14 million in 2013. 

Nick Evans

With Florida lawmakers returning from recess, House Democrats are highlighting what they see as missed opportunities.  They’re pushing a slate of what they call “Unfinished Business” - ignored legislation they hope can gain traction before the session ends.

“There are great things that need to be done that are not being done,” House Minority Leader Perry Thurston (D-Fort Lauderdale) says.  “There are a lot things that we need to get accomplished, and we’re spending the time squabbling back and forth and wasting good time that we could be helping Florida families.”

EcoEagles

Students from Florida’s Embry-Riddle University have designed a hybrid car that consumes energy as efficiently as a gas-powered car getting 100 miles per gallon.  This is based on an EPA formula comparing the energy used to charge the batteries with a gallon of gas – 33.7 kilowatt hours equals one gallon.

Danielle Spraggs

A bill making it easier for local homeless coalitions to receive state funding passed another hurdle Thursday.   

Services for the homeless at the local level are managed by what are known as “continuums of care.”  An important source of funding for these agencies comes in the form of so-called Challenge Grants, which require a continuum of care to match the funds they receive from the state. 

Nick Evans

In a controversial ruling last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down core provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  But some Florida lawmakers are working to put those protections back in place at the state level.

Under the Voting Rights Act, jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination were subject to federal review before making changes to their voting laws.  But the Supreme Court said the law did not reflect current conditions and American society is far different today than it was when Congress passed the act. 

Sarah Sosiak

Florida sales tax holidays have become popular tools encouraging consumer spending on items like school supplies.  But the omnibus tax holiday bill that passed the House Thursday is leaving some lawmakers wanting more.

Besides back-to-school shopping, Rep. Ritch Workman’s (R-Melbourne) bill includes temporary exemptions for energy-efficient appliances, hurricane preparedness supplies, and gym memberships. It also offers a permanent exemption for child car seats and bicycle helmets.

Nick Evans

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed four sex offender bills into law Tuesday during a public ceremony at the Capitol.  The event brought together a number of Republican lawmakers to show off the first bills passed by the Legislature.

Flanked by lawmakers, sheriffs and victims’ advocates, Scott said the package of bills will make the state safer.

e-Magine Art

Florida pharmacies are pushing a bill to increase the amount of support staff a registered pharmacist can legally oversee, but deciding where to draw that line is presenting challenges in the statehouse.

Rep. Mike La Rosa (R-St.Cloud) has proposed the bill allowing registered pharmacists to oversee up to six technicians.  The current limit is three. 

The change has drawn support from large pharmacy companies, but resistance from industry groups. So La Rosa has authored an amendment suggesting the Florida Board of Pharmacy hold discretion over any staff increases.

Nick Evans

Lobbying is often done with food, but seldom on this scale:

Six thousand key limes.

Two hundred pounds of graham crackers.

And 55 gallons of sweetened condensed milk.

It’s a modern take on an old adage – the organizers behind Florida Keys Day are hoping the fastest way to a lawmaker’s heart is through their stomach. The event has been a hit at the capitol for years now, but Chef David Sloan says this year’s pie makes it unique.

Susan Collins

Federal law bans discrimination based on pregnancy, but Florida law is less clear.  But the state Senate appears set to grant civil rights protection to pregnant Floridians.

Three Florida district court cases have wrangled with pregnancy discrimination.  In two, the courts found Florida law provides protection.  But in the most recent case, the court said pregnancy is not protected because it is not explicitly referenced in state statute.  Senator Geraldine Thompson (D-Orlando) says her bill puts the matter to rest by adding pregnancy to the list of protections.

Nick Evans

The NFL brings new players into the league each year through a seven round draft.  But before the draft, scouts, coaches, and other staff members get a couple of chances to meet and evaluate prospective players. Pro Day is one of the last of these events on the way to the draft, and Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher says it offers a unique opportunity for the players.

State of Florida

    

Sally Falko

Two U.S. Supreme Court cases in the past four years have undercut states’ ability to sentence juveniles to life without parole.  Representative James Grant (R-Tampa) introduced a sentencing bill Tuesday to bring Florida statutes in line with these rulings.

The bill mandates parole hearings for juvenile offenders sentenced to life. The hearings would come after 25 years for people convicted of murder and after 20 years for non-homicide offenders. 

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.

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