Senator Thad Altman

Kate Payne / WFSU News

Two Florida Republican Lawmakers are working to strengthen Florida’s texting while driving laws.

Florida State University

The first bills of the 2016 Florida Legislative Session have been filed in the Senate, and it includes three claims bills.

via CPRinFloridaSchools.org

Jim Cobb and Kristen Cobb Simpson are part of a group pushing for a bill  in Florida requiring high school students to learn CPR before graduating. They’re from Louisiana where they say the measure is already part of state law.

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

A controversial gun measure that’s currently stalled in the Senate is now heading to the House floor. The bill aims to allow someone to legally carry a firearm during a mandatory evacuation without a permit.

Senate Bill Stalled

St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes is the Senate sponsor of this particular measure.

Florida Channel

Florida officials are considering dredging the floor of the Indian River Lagoon to remove the muck of the estuary that’s already been plagued by massive animal die-offs and the loss of thousands of acres of sea grass.

Dr. John Trefry is a Marine and Environmental Systems Professor at Florida Institute of Technology, who’s been studying muck in the Indian River Lagoon—which he describes as “black mayonnaise.”

“And, much like the algae bloom, it blocks sunlight and inhibits sea growth,” said Trefry.

Florida Channel

Florida could be close to joining 43 other states in removing the so-called “R-word” from state law. The measure replacing the words “mental retardation” with the term “intellectual disability” is now heading to the Governor’s desk.

“The R-Words that apply to me are ‘responsible’ and ‘remarkable’ and I deserve respect. So, please end the R-Word in Florida,” said Tyler Creamer.

The Senate version of an inmate re-entry bill looks a little different now. In some Florida lawmakers own words, it was essentially gutted at its second committee stop Thursday—A move that even took the bill’s sponsor by surprise. While the measure still cleared a Criminal Justice budget panel, it wound up pitting Republicans against Republicans.

It was Republican versus Republican in the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee Thursday, when it came to vetting an inmate re-entry bill sponsored by Republican Senator Thad Altman.

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.

A Republican-backed proposal to reduce the number of former inmates going back into Florida’s prisons is now taking shape in the form of a bill. But, some unions and even some Republicans may not be on board with the “Smart Justice” idea.

Republican Senator Thad Altman of Melbourne says the state can do more to help non-violent offenders who leave the prison system.

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

Lowering the chances of former inmates going back to prison is the goal of a new proposal filed in the Florida Legislature. State lawmakers are partnering with business backed group, Florida Smart Justice Alliance, to rehabilitate nonviolent inmates to reduce the number of crimes.

When an inmate gets released from prison, the general assumption is they normally get $50 and a bus ticket and are thrown out into society.  But, under a new proposal, lawmakers are aiming to change that for eligible non-violent offenders serving the last few years of their sentence.

A Florida lawmaker wants all tobacco companies to pay the same regardless of whether they were part of a 1997 legal settlement or not. Senator Thad Altman from Melbourne says the bill would right a mistake in not including all tobacco companies in the suit requiring the companies involved to pay a fee per cigarette sold.

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.