legisalture 2012

Lawmakers are back at the capital just days after the close of the regular session. Regan McCarthy reports legislators are starting an extraordinary session to re-draw the state’s senate voting district maps.

The Florida Supreme court ruled the senate voting district maps are unconstitutional, but the house maps are okay. That’s why House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford says the House will largely follow the Senate’s lead in the re-work.

It’s the final day of the 2012 Florida Legislative session and lawmakers are expecting to work late into the night.  James Call reports lobbyists; reporters and lawmakers themselves are on guard for last-minute amendments that make significant changes to state policy.

A measure that would let the state’s governor remove a majority of the members of Florida’s judicial nominating commission has passed in the Senate—that’s the commission that helps pick  judges  like the state’s supreme court justices. But Regan McCarthy reports some lawmakers are raising concerns that the proposal could give the governor too much power – letting him ensure the state’s bench is made up of people who “think like him.”

With the end of the regular legislative session in sight, the Florida Senate was in high gear Tuesday.  Tom Flanigan reports the chamber dealt with a total of sixty bills in the morning session alone.

The blistering pace was set right out of the box.  On Monday, debate on the surplus lines insurance bill took up nearly two hours of senate time.  On Tuesday, Representative Garret Richter introduced that bill for the third and last time…

Richter: “As we debated yesterday, this bill allows surplus lines companies to remove policies from Citizens Property Insurance.”

Senate Democrats are looking to get a few more votes to defeat a controversial education bill. The proposal gives parents with children in failing public schools the option of converting that school into a charter. Lynn Hatter reports the measure has already cleared the House, but the Senate vote is a toss-up.

The fight over the proposed “parent trigger” bill started last week, when a bi-partisan coalition of Senators headed by Republican Jack Latvala, blocked an attempt to fast-track the bill by pulling it out of its last committee hearing:

The National Football League and former Miami Dolphins star Nat Moore are calling on the Florida Senate to pass legislation that would protect high school athletes. James Call reports, the proposal would require high school athletes to have medical clearance before they could return to competition after suffering a concussion. 

The legislation also requires  coaches to remove any player from competition if there is suspicion the athlete has suffered a concussion.  House Sponsor Duval Rep. Ronald Renuart says blows to the head can lead to long-term problems for young athletes.

A Senate panel narrowly cleared a bill Tuesday that would allow all state agencies to randomly drug test their employees. Sascha Cordner has more:

By one vote, a Senate Budget committee approved the bill that allows for the random drug testing of 10-percent of a state agency’s workforce. Democratic Representative Oscar Braynon, who voted against it, says it doesn’t make sense to move forward while a legal challenge on the issue is pending:

Cheating spouses could soon get a break in divorce hearings. A bill that would change the way adultery can be used to award alimony payments has cleared the House. Lynn Hatter reports it’s a part of a larger bill that seeks to scale back how the courts award alimony payments in marriage dissolution cases.

Divorces can get messy, especially when it’s because of cheating.  In many of those cases, the cheater ends up having to pay his spouse alimony. And under Florida law—that alimony can be permanent. But a bill by Representative Ritch Workman, is trying to change that.

Florida lawmakers are driving ahead with a plan to make auto racing the official state sport. Two lawmakers from the Daytona area say it an historic activity in Florida, but Regan McCarthy reports not all lawmakers are ready to wave the green flag for the plan.

Representative Dorothy Hukill says auto racing got its start in Florida.

If you want to be a Gator or Seminole it could soon cost you a lot of money. Students at two of the state’s largest universities could see tuition bills more in line with those at other top-tiered schools in the nation. Lynn Hatter reports a proposal to allow the schools to break free of the state’s tuition cap is now making its way through the legislature.

Two of Florida’s biggest universities could soon be allowed to raise their tuition rates to the national average. Lynn Hatter reports a proposal to allow the schools to break free of the state’s tuition caps is now moving through the legislature.

Monday’s meeting of the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee began peacefully enough.  But Tom Flanigan reports things quickly turned tense when members began debating a bill that would change the state’s laws governing foreclosure.

A measure that would allow police officers, firefighters, and other special-risk employees to retire earlier is advancing in the House. But, as Sascha Cordner reports, there are a couple of provisions in the bill that opponents say would destroy the state’s pension plan system.

Republican Representative Ritch Workman says he wants a do-over on a massive pension reform plan he sponsored last year to correct a past mistake:

Going into this year’s Florida Legislative Session, it appeared property insurance might finally drop off of lawmakers’ radar screens.  But Tom Flanigan reports, with three weeks to go in the session, the issue is once again a matter of some debate.

Recently, a Senate panel rejected a proposal that would have granted in-state tuition to Florida residents, who are children of undocumented immigrants. Now, as Sascha Cordner reports, a similar bill met the same fate in its first committee stop Thursday.

Senator Gary Siplin of Orlando is a Democratic lawmaker, known for often voting against his own party and siding with Republican lawmakers. During Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, Siplin reminded the panel of his reputation:

Chris O'Meara / The Associated Press

Senate President Mike Haridopolos has been one of the biggest proponents in the prison privatization debate. Sascha Cordner takes a look as to why the Merritt Island Republican felt so strongly about privatizing the state correctional facilities in South Florida as well as his tactics to accomplish that.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos says he’s always gone about using his position in the right way.

There are a couple of new twists in the ongoing batter over prison privatization. As Sascha Cordner reports, opposing sides are using religion and slavery as the basis for their argument.

Supporters of an effort to privatize about 30 South Florida prisons usually argue that private companies will do the same job as a state-run prison and will save the state millions of dollars. Meanwhile, opponents say there is no set cost-savings, private companies select inmates that don’t cost as much, and it will cost thousands of correctional officers their jobs.

A group of Florida lawmakers say students who have gone to high school in the state should be allowed to go to college without paying out-of-state tuition – regardless of their immigration status. But Regan McCarthy reports a bill that would make that happen, faces an uphill battle.

Evelyn Rivera says she’s lived in Florida for almost as long as she can remember...

“I’m from Orlando Florida, but I’m originally from Columbia. I came to the United States with my family when I was about 3 years old, and I’ve been living in the central Florida area for about 20 years now.”

The Florida Legislature is now halfway towards its goal of a state budget for the coming fiscal year.  Tom Flanigan reports the House plan passed on a strict party line vote Thursday.  The Senate is expected to have its version of the budget ready for a vote sometime next week.

Florida lawmakers are looking into what the state’s energy future should hold. Experts agree the state should have a diverse energy portfolio, but Regan McCarthy reports some disagree on how quickly the state should start shifting more of its energy dependence on to renewable sources.

Focusing the state’s energy efforts on renewable energy is a matter of national security—that’s according to Reamonn Soto, a marine serving in the reserves.

Opponents of a bill to change Florida’s standard for evaluating expert witness testimony are doing everything they can to stop the legislation from moving forward in the Florida House. As Sascha Cordner reports, just after the bill was about to pass out of a House panel Wednesday, one lawmaker managed to halt the measure.

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.

Lawmakers say requiring hospitals to perform a simple test could save the lives of hundreds of newborns in the state. Regan McCarthy reports legislators are considering a bill to require hospitals to test all new babies for congenital heart disease.

Senator Jeremy Ring says the U.S. Department of Health and Human services reports congenital heart disease is the number one killer of babies born with birth defects, but he says about half the cases go undiagnosed.

“It’s amazing to me that we have 34 protocols and one of them to test is not congenital heart condition.”

A Senate Budget committee that oversees the spending for the courts and prisons rolled out an initial budget  making $140 million  in cuts. But as Sascha Cordner reports, it was not the cuts that were a matter of concern to the panel... it was actually the added funding to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

About two months ago, Governor Rick Scott’s budget recommendations for the prisons and the courts called for $160 million  in cuts.

Republican Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff revealed Tuesday that the Senate’s budget proposal is a bit less at $140 million  in spending cuts.

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.

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