Senator Jack Latvala

Rep. Steube (R-Sarasota) explaining his bill to the House Business and Professions subcommittee.
The Florida Channel

Liquor sales could move under the same roof as the neighborhood grocery store under a measure making its way through the Florida House.  State lawmakers wrangled over the issue Wednesday.

Florida law requires stores selling liquor to put spirits like whiskey, rum, and vodka behind another storefront.  Rep. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) says the state’s requirement for liquor stores to have their own exterior entrance is outdated.

The Florida Channel

Senators are issuing a stern warning to the state’s beer distributors: check your opposition at the door.  Lawmakers seem determined to settle ongoing disputes between the craft brewing and distribution industries.

What craft brewers need is the ability to serve their beer where they brew it, in what’s known as a tap or tasting rooms.  What they really want is the growler.  The 64 ounce refillable bottle is illegal in Florida, but the state’s craft brewers think it’s the perfect size for their growing industry. 

Florida is one of only two states in the country with a 64 ounce restriction.  The other is Utah.
Kim Salmons via Flickr

Craft-brewing in Florida is big business getting bigger, but many within the community are unhappy about a certain size restriction.  In Florida it's legal to fill large bottles known as growlers—just not in the industry-standard size of 64 ounces.  But the craft brewing community is mobilizing again this year to get rid of the size regulation.

Mike and Bobby Carbonell are brothers and they run a little shop called Growler Country. 

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A couple of NRA-backed priorities died in the Florida Senate Thursday. The issues centered around one bill that that would allow people to legally carry a concealed weapon without a permit during a mandatory evacuation and another issue relating to tweaking Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

Emergency Concealed Carry Bill

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

The sponsor of a measure aimed at overhauling the state’s pension system says that effort’s dead, but bill supporters and opponents alike say they won’t declare the win or loss until the 2014 Legislative Session comes to an end.

It’s Day 59 of the 60-day legislative Session. But, with session coming close to close, a procedural move by Clearwater Republican Senator Jack Latvala Wednesday may have blocked this year’s effort to overhaul the state’s pension system.

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Overhauling the Florida Retirement System could be up in the air, after a procedural move in the Senate may have blocked that chamber from taking up a similar effort that merges both the state pension overhaul and a non-controversial effort to fix a troubled local pension system.

Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee)—who has the biggest number of public employees in his North Florida district—says he questions the need for an effort to overhaul the state’s pension system, which he says Legislature tries to do almost every year.

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The Senate’s pension reform proposal is now heading to the floor, after it passed its last committee Tuesday. But, tension surrounding the pension issue is mounting as those opposed say they’re tired of the legislature’s continual attacks on state workers.

Beverly Ledbetter is a longtime resident of Pasco County. She’s a former teacher who taught for 36 years, and she’s now receiving benefits under the Florida Retirement System’s defined benefit plan known as the traditional pension plan. But, she says it wasn’t always that way.

Gabe Grass
Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

Florida’s craft beer brewers have been pushing for years to remove a law keeping them from selling containers of a certain size. But a Senate bill that does away with that restriction also adds a different rule brewers say would hurt their booming business.

Following a national trend, the number of craft breweries in Tallahassee is expected to double in the near future. In a warehouse six blocks from the Florida Capitol, Gabe Grass is about to open the third microbrewery within a mile radius.

MGN Online

A Senate proposal to overhaul the Florida Retirement System could have its first official committee hearing later this week. But, The recently scaled-back proposal—already starting to move in the House—could still be in trouble in the Senate.

Last week, the House State Affairs Committee agreed to advance a measure aimed at overhauling the state’s retirement system.

Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections

A Senate Committee bill introduced Monday would prohibit absentee ballots from being dropped off anywhere other than election supervisors’ offices or polling locations. The bill would also allow voters to register online—but the measure remains controversial and could still change before it gets to the floor.

Pelican Post

As Florida lawmakers look to overhaul the state’s retirement system, there are multiple hurdles ahead for the pension reform proposals now before the Senate. The two chambers haven’t agreed on a plan yet, a special exemption is splitting employee unions, and a study with the necessary numbers is not yet complete—pitting some Republicans against one another.

Trilby Republican Senator Wilton Simpson, who’s leading his chamber’s effort, says he’s particularly proud of the “Deferred Compensation” program.

Pair Of Florida Republicans File Bill To Help Homeless

Feb 20, 2014
Blaise Gainey

Homelessness eradication efforts would get more money under terms of a bill spearheaded by a pair of legislative Republicans. Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Clearwater) and Rep. Kathleen Peters’ (R-South Pasadena) bills would offer annual challenge grants to agencies. Latvala says the measure reestablishes funding the agencies once had access to.

“We start set about developing a bill to try to put more resources in the homeless arena, and were doing that by attempting to increase the challenge grants which used to be funded in the budget.” Latvala says.

Florida Channel

A group of Senators narrowly agreed Tuesday to introduce several bills aiming to reform the Florida Retirement System.

As chair of the Senate Community Affairs Committee, Trilby Republican Senator Wilton Simpson introduced a series of pension reform proposals. The most debated was a proposal seeking to shift recent hires into a 401K-style plan or the new “cash balance” option, thus eliminating the traditional pension plan for new state employees.

Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

A bill giving military veterans in-state college tuition passed its second committee stop on Tuesday. The measure passed the Florida House last year and seems poised for success in the full Legislature this time around.

Last year’s bill would have granted all veterans in-state residency, so their bill from Florida colleges would be smaller. This year’s grants out-of-state vets a tuition waiver without taking residency spots from other students.

Florida State University student-veteran Andrew Sloan says he had to pay out of state tuition, but he hopes his successors won’t.

Florida lawmakers are now sending their election reform package to Governor Rick Scott. And, the bill passed the full legislature with bipartisan support.

The House has passed an election reforms package again that will expand early voting days and sites.

“Mr. Speaker, we started the first day of Session with this bill. And, in between a lot of hard work, we end today with this bill,” said Democratic Representative Janet Cruz.

The Florida Senate’s Election reform bill is one step closer for a floor vote, after it passed another committee Tuesday. But, things grew tense as the measure’s Republican sponsor faced off against Democrats, who say the measure does not go far enough.

The vetting process of the election reform bill in the Senate Community Affairs Committee started off like any other committee meeting with the bill’s sponsor, Senator Jack Latvala of Clearwater, explaining parts of the bill.

StAugustine.com

The Florida Senate has passed its first bill of the legislative session. It’s a measure to ensure lawmakers follow ethical rules. But to get it passed so quickly they did have to bend the rules just a little bit and fast-track the proposal, skipping the first and second readings on the chamber floor.

The Florida House and Senate are split on what to do about a type of campaign slush fund that’s been getting some flack in the news lately. House members say its time to do away with the funds known as CCEs, but Senate leaders say the problem can be solved with more rules for how those accounts can be used.

A plan to let parents have a say in the fate of failing schools has stalled yet again in the Florida Senate. The measure has been met with opposition from a bi-partisan coalition of Senators who say it goes too far. Lynn Hatter reports the delay now pushes a vote on the bill to Friday—the last day of the 2012 regular session.

Senate Bill 1718 has 23 amendments pending on it. Most of them were added between Wednesday night and Thursday morning. That’s only one sign of the negotiating going on behind the scenes.

An influential South Florida Senator is warning legislative leaders not to try to, as he put it, “sneak” things into the budget. James Call reports, St. Petersburg Senator Jack Latvala is objecting to language proposed for a transportation conforming bill that would spend money on seaports.

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.

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