Florida Legislature 2013

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson isn’t happy about the Florida Legislature concluding its 2013 session without reaching a deal on expanding healthcare coverage under the Federal Affordable Healthcare Act. Nelson put his frustration in a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday.

For the first time in about seven years, Florida could have a little extra money for its budget.

Florida House Speaker, Will Weatherford’s budget allocations include a minimum of a billion dollars in new money for Kindergarten through 12th grade funding. It would also restore a $300 million cut to universities from last years and fund maintenance projects at colleges and universities.

Florida’s House and Senate gaming committees weren’t expected to bring any significant gambling legislation forward this session. But following charges filed against an Internet sweepstakes café operator, the tone in the legislature has changed.

Florida’s efforts to reform the state’s elections system are moving forward. A House panel looked at one aspect of that during a committee meeting Thursday. The group considered a measure that would change the state’s campaign finance rules. Supporters say the bill will increase transparency, but others worry it will just end up putting more money in the system.

Regan McCarthy

After riding more than 300 miles from Tampa to Tallahassee a group of cyclists has made it to their destination. They’re hoping their 10-speed trek will encourage lawmakers to shift cancer funding into first gear.

The riders are working with the Moffitt Cancer Center to raise awareness about cancer research.  And rider and cancer survivor Richard Spayde said he knew they’d done just that when the group stopped for lunch in Gainesville. There, a 10 year-old-girl who has cancer, and her father approached the group to thank them.

Leon County Schools

A measure encouraging school districts to open up recreational facilities to the public sailed through its first House committee on Tuesday. Bill sponsors say it’s aimed at fighting childhood obesity.

The idea is to make it easier for organizations like the YMCA and for average people to use playgrounds, practice fields and tracks at public schools. House sponsor Jake Raburn (R-Valrico) said, it would give taxpayers access to the facilities they already pay for. And help children become more active.

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

Several advocates and Florida lawmakers are hoping this will be the year that they can get rid of the so called “R-word.”  They’re hoping to get a bill passed in the Florida Legislature that would remove all references of “mental retardation” in state law and replace them with “intellectual disability.”

“We’re here to officially kick off a campaign in our state. What’s that campaign," asked Michelle Poole.

"End the R-Word," exclaimed a group of advocates and lawmakers at a press conference Thursday at the Florida Capitol.

Florida is one of the top states in the nation with the most number of people facing the death penalty—Close to half of which have been on death row for at least 20 years. And, a group of lawmakers is now trying to streamline the death penalty process through a couple of measures, but it’s facing much opposition.

Space Lobby Docks At Fla. Capitol, Hoping For More STEM Education

Mar 6, 2013
Thomas Andrew Gustafson

Wednesday is the sixteenth Florida Space Day. In the Capitol, NASA and the Florida Space Day group are presenting the current and hopeful future of the Space Industry in Florida. And both the agency and the group’s wish for more space-based education was also seen in a NASA presentation at Tallahassee’s Cobb Middle School.

A bill has cleared its first stop in the Florida Legislature that would block law enforcement officers from seizing personal electronic devices, like cell phones, without a search warrant. But, opponents say moving the bill forward is a bit premature, while the very same matter is being looked at in the courts.

Under Florida law, law enforcement officers are allowed to search the property of a person who has been arrested without a search warrant.

Legislative Session Begins and Local Businesses Take Note

Mar 5, 2013
The Florida Channel

The Legislators are coming! The Legislators are coming! It’s simple math: more people mean more business. And for the city of Tallahassee, the Florida Legislature starting this week means a quick injection to the local economy. Owner of Nic’s Toggery, Victor Gavalas, says it’s a welcome sight.

“Spring Time Tallahassee needs the legislature to… honestly do a lot of business.” Says Gavalas.

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

Want to be at the center of the legislative action in the Florida House? Well, there’s now an app for that.

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford has rolled out what he calls an innovative way to make government more accessible to the people of Florida. The Republican leader unveiled the new 'FL House' mobile app Thursday that he hopes will serve as a model for the nation.

Weatherford says the new mobile app comes with many different features from tracking House bills to keeping up with live committee meetings.

A proposal to reform Florida’s electoral process is moving through the Legislature with bipartisan support. Florida’s problems were highlighted during this past election between long ballots and long lines, and even gained a mention in the President’s State of the Union address. But, while the proposal is gaining ground among state lawmakers, some say there’s still more work to do.

Florida lawmakers say they don’t want a repeat of what happened during this past election which included reduced early voting days to long wait times at the polls.

A group of state lawmakers cleared a bi-partisan proposal to stop the use of red light cameras across the state. But, it was a close call. Opponents say it’s a matter of public safety, while proponents say the bill is a way to end what they call “a purely revenue-driven law.”

About two and a half years ago, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed a bill into law that allows local governments to install red light cameras. The aim was to encourage safe driving.

The Florida Department of Corrections is aiming to further reduce its budget deficit of $95 million with the help of Governor Rick Scott. But, Scott’s recommendation won’t be enough to cover the department’s entire budget hole. So, the department has started looking at cost saving measures in hopes of reaching one of its main goals.

“What we want to do is when we get to June 30th, our goal is to be at zero,” said Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews.

Florida Channel

A state lawmaker is hoping to reduce the number of children recruited to gangs.  A bill aimed at doing just that unanimously passed in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee Tuesday.

At the recommendation of state education and Department of Juvenile Justice officials, Republican Representative Clay Ingram has sponsored a bill making it a second degree felony for anyone to recruit a child under the age of 13 for a gang.

A couple of state lawmakers are trying to up the penalties for people who cause death from texting while driving. The newly filed bill follows a similar measure moving through the Florida Legislature calling for a ban on texting while driving in the state.

A bill that would eliminate the state’s pension plan has cleared its first hurdle in the Florida Legislature. But, the proposal (HB 7011) doing away with the state’s most popular retirement option is already facing mounting criticism from current and former state employees, Democrats, and even some Republicans.

The Florida Retirement System is touted as one of the best-funded pensions not just around the nation, but around the world.

Proposed changes to the state’s retirement system are becoming more of a reality. Florida lawmakers have now drafted a bill (HB 7011) that would force new hires into a 401K-type plan, doing away with the state’s pension plan. But, the measure is under heavy criticism and facing much resistance from state employee unions and Democrats.

A Florida lawmaker is hoping to expand newborn screenings to include testing for congenital heart disease. A bill that would do so passed in the Senate Health Policy Committee Wednesday.

All babies born in the U.S. are checked for certain medical conditions after birth. In Florida, newborns are screened for more than 30 conditions. But Democratic Senator Jeremy Ring says there’s an important one that’s not on the list, which is why he filed a bill to include it.

Florida Channel

A bill banning newly identified synthetic substances used to make drugs, like bath salts, is gaining traction in the Florida Senate. Lawmakers took the matter up in the measure’s first Committee stop Tuesday.

Florida lawmakers continue to weigh whether to implement optional parts of the federal healthcare overhaul law. That includes the questions of if, when and how to set up an online website where people can shop and compare insurance plans. Many have suggested converting some of the state’s existing programs.

"It really makes no sense to compete with a subsidized insurance offering,” says Florida Health Choices CEO Rose Naff. 

Florida lawmakers are looking into a proposed initiative to rehabilitate non-violent inmates before they have a chance to reoffend. But, while many agree about the idea behind what’s called “Smart Justice reforms,” they’re not too happy with what the name implies.

“Why should the state spend billions of dollars to keep prisoners locked up, knowing that many of them have serious issues that need to be resolved and yet, were doing little to address these problems," asked Barney Bishop, the President and CEO of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance.

Bill Aiming To Draw Manufacturing Ires Environmentalists

Feb 1, 2013

Florida counties would be able to approve manufacturing site permits faster and with less state oversight if a bill in the legislature becomes law. But that sped up approval process is raising environmental concerns.

A legal battle between the state and employee unions has come to an end, after a Florida Supreme Court decision validated changes to Florida’s Retirement System.