Capital Report: 12-30-2016

Dec 30, 2016

It seems just about everyone knew this year’s election was going to be one for the history books.  But what remains poorly understood, even by many political experts, is just how important the placement of election district lines is when it comes to who wins and who loses elections.  In the run-up to the 2016 balloting, Florida Public Radio’s Kate Payne and Nick Evans teamed up to literally walk the line of one newly redrawn voting district in Florida’s Capital City.  Here’s their story, which originally aired before the November election, followed by Kate and Nick’s postscript.

The Pulse Nightclub tragedy in Orlando this year dominated national attention for a time as the worst mass shooting in modern American history.  It left Floridians reeling and raised questions about the state’s readiness to handle major disasters, as we hear from Health News Florida’s Abe Aboraya.

Now lawmakers and state leaders are working to ensure Florida is better prepared.  Florida Sheriff’s Association President Jerry Demings is calling for legislation that will help officers better track and prevent terrorist activity.  And Governor Rick Scott is recommending pay raises for law enforcement officers.  Meanwhile, Carlos Guillermo Smith, an openly gay lawmaker, is looking toward legislation aimed at helping Pulse victims. Many were members of the LGBT, or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.  Guillermo Smith wants to pass legislation barring employers from discriminating against a worker based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  He says he’ll also be championing new gun safety measures.                             

Scores of grass-roots groups opposed to hydraulic fracturing scored a major victory earlier this year when a highly controversial bill died a slow death in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  With the strong backing of the oil and gas industry, the bill would have set up a regulatory framework that opened the door to drilling permits.  Miami Senator Anitere Flores, who was facing reelection in a newly drawn district, spoke for most moderate Republicans when she said it wasn’t worth the risk and Jim Ash was on top of that story.

News from Cuba was a big part of 2016’s domestic headlines as new ties between the United States and the island were forged in the course of the year.  Then came the death of Fidel Castro in November.  That news sent Cuban exiles young and old into the streets of Miami’s Little Havana.  Tim Padgett from member station WLRN says both generations recalled Castro with a sense of betrayal and his demise with a sense of hope.

Meanwhile, Governor Rick Scott has sent a letter to Raul Castro – Fidel’s brother – urging him to bring “absolute freedom and democracy” to Cuba.  And Scott is offering to help that transition along by providing trade and capital investment assistance.

During the past year, a lot happened in connection with the former Dozier School for Boys near Marianna in the Florida Panhandle.  That reform school had a troubled past that included allegations of abuse leading to the deaths of some of the school’s young wards.  In 2016, state lawmakers and the Florida Cabinet looked for ways to help the families who wanted to rebury the remains of loved ones discovered on the Dozier grounds.  Sascha Cordner takes a look back at what happened and what’s likely to happen next with this tragic chapter in the state’s history.