Senator Arthenia Joyner

Florida Channel

Two of three proposed constitutional amendments failed on Florida’s November ballot. Now, the incoming Senate leaders are weighing in on all three and their effect on the Legislature.

All three amendments needed 60 percent of the vote to pass, and Amendment 1—which earmarks about $9 billion for conservation efforts—took about 75 percent of the vote.

MGN Online

In the last several days, a number of bills aimed at helping Florida’s criminal justice and juvenile justice systems have passed in either chamber of the state Legislature. They range from a measure to prevent inmate escapes to another that aims to revamp the juvenile justice system.

Bill Addressing Inmate Escapes

Making sure prison release orders are properly verified is the goal of bill authored by Sen. Greg Evers (R-Baker) in his capacity as chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

MGN Online

A group of Florida lawmakers passed a slew of measures Tuesday, including a controversial abortion bill. They also moved a series of gun-related measures to the Senate floor, including the so-called ‘Pop Tart’ bill.

Late-Term Abortion Bill

The measure essentially banning late-term abortion is already heading for a floor vote in the House, and now has one more committee stop in the Senate, after it passed the Senate Judiciary Tuesday.

AP Photo

The so-called “Warning Shot” bill is heading to the Governor’s desk, after the Senate passed the measure Thursday. But, debate grew heated as some Democrats tried—and failed—to amend the bill.

MGN Online

A bill revising the penalties for trafficking certain illegal drugs narrowly cleared its first Senate hurdle Monday. It’s the second time lawmakers have attempted to give it a hearing.

Last month, Tampa Democratic Senator Arthenia Joyner tabled her bill so concerns from Republican members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, the Florida Sheriff’s Association, and State Attorneys could be addressed.

MGN Online

Florida lawmakers are holding off on a bill revising the minimum mandatory penalties for the trafficking of certain illegal drugs, after questions were raised in its first Senate hearing Monday.

Tampa Democratic Senator Arthenia Joyner says her bill allows a judge not to impose the three-year minimum mandatory penalty for a first offense of trafficking small amounts of illegal drugs, including cocaine or LSD. She says judges currently only have that discretion with juvenile offenders.

Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

Florida Senate Democrats are pushing for the passage of a package of civil rights bills during the 2014 session. Wednesday’s agenda announcement was set against the backdrop of the 50th anniversary celebration of Democratic Leader-Designate Arthenia Joyner’s arrest during a Tallahassee civil rights protest.

Sen. Joyner (D-Tampa) grew up during the segregation era in Lakeland. In 1963, as a Florida A&M University student, she says Tallahassee had clear boundaries it was unacceptable for black people to cross.

Putting juveniles in prison for life whether they committed a homicide or not is a question Florida lawmakers are looking into this session. And, there’s a bill that would limit their maximum sentence to no more than 50 years. But, opponents of that change say it’s unfair to cap it at 50 years when kids will most likely get out when they’re much older than that.

Signature HealthCARE at Brookwood Gardens-Hall of Fame Cafe

Former Florida Senator Larcenia Bullard, who served in both chambers of the state Legislature for about 20 years, passed away over the weekend. She’s known as a lawmaker who was well-liked not only by her Democratic colleagues, but across the aisle as well. The following is a look back at one of her last days in the Florida Legislature when she bid farewell to the Florida Senate last year.

Steven Rodriguez / WFSU-FM

Protesters descended on the Capitol Thursday, some of them dressed as characters from the film “The Wizard of Oz”, to demand the expansion of Medicaid.  The group visited legislative leaders’ offices to ask for the expansion.

Florida Channel

A bill that would make it easier for people with certain disabilities to keep their disabled parking permit passed its first committee Thursday. But, a group of lawmakers say the measure still has more changes in store.

Under current law, someone who’s classified as having “long-term mobility impairment” must get their disabled parking permit issued and renewed by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles every four years. But, Democratic Senator Arthenia Joyner says she wants to eliminate that requirement.

A pair of Florida lawmakers have filed separate bills they say could be the answer to Florida’s elections problems, like long lines at the polls. One bill sponsor says it’s common sense legislation that she believes both sides of the aisle can agree on.

Democratic Senator Gwen Margolis of Miami says she wants to be sure Floridians will not be deterred from voting in future elections. So, she filed a bill that essentially extends early voting days as well as the number of early voting locations.

The deadline to register voters in Florida is just days away, but there’s a group of people who won’t be able to participate in this year’s election regardless of their Florida residency. They’re ex-felons who, upon their release from prison, do not have their voting rights automatically restored. Florida is one of a few states in the nation to have such a policy, and the NAACP is working with others in a national campaign to stop what they call “felony disenfranchisement.”

“Cell doors can open. We can be given release, but yet access is still denied,” said Reverend Greg James.

A Florida man who was exonerated of rape after spending 25 years in prison is behind bars once again….this time on charges of attempted murder. But, as Sascha Cordner reports, those who have gotten to know Alan Crotzer, who has become a champion for wrongly convicted prisoners and an advocate for ex-felons rights, say the allegations against the former inmate seem out of character.

The first bills of the 2013 Florida Legislative Session have been filed in the Senate. They are 19 claims bills, and  they total more than 36-million dollars.

“That’s a lot of money,” remarked Senate President Don Gaetz.

Gaetz made that comment when he heard the amount of compensation Senators are asking for on behalf of victims due to wrongful convictions, deaths, and injuries.

A bill that would prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant prison inmates during and after childbirth is making its way to Governor Rick Scott. As Sascha Cordner reports, one labor group is urging the Governor to “end cruelty against pregnant prisoners” by signing the bill into law.

American Civil Liberties Union of Florida Spokesman Baylor Johnson says the practice of “shackling” women during and after childbirth in Florida jails and prisons is unacceptable: