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Capital Report: 04-09-2013

This is Children’s Week at the Florida Capitol.  Paper cut-outs of little hands festoon the building’s rotunda.  Despite all the ceremony and speeches about the need to help the littlest Floridians, many bills, which support a number of children’s programs, are stuck in committee.  But one bill, which overhauls Florida’s early learning system, has now cleared its first committee with unanimous support from Republicans, Democrats and learning providers.  A similar effort last year passed, but was vetoed by Governor Rick Scott.  Lynn Hatter reports the difference this year is that all sides agree the proposal coming out of the House Education Committee is a big improvement over last year.

Thirty-one years ago, the Florida Legislature narrowly rejected the Equal Rights Amendment.  The push by advocates for the Sunshine State to ratify the amendment has dimmed over the years, but has never completely gone away.  This year, it made something of a comeback.  Democratic women from all over Florida came to the State Capitol today (Tuesday) to put lawmakers on notice they’re being watched this session.  Jessica Palombo reports the women spoke in support of Florida finally giving the go-ahead to the federal constitutional amendment outlawing gender discrimination.

What usually happens in the Florida Legislature after a session hits the halfway mark is an increase in the pace of activity.  Lawmakers hear the clock ticking louder with each passing day and committees start moving bills with increasing speed.  Some bills, which didn’t get a hearing, start appearing as amendments to bills considered to have a good chance of passage.  Reagan McCarthy was keeping up with the ever-escalating action today as thirty pieces of legislation went winging through a key senate committee today.

Efforts to legalize medical marijuana have gotten a lot of attention in Tallahassee this year.  But that hasn’t slowed down a bill to ban bongs and other devices used to consume pot and other mind-bending substances.  As Sascha Cordner reports, that bill is garnering overwhelming approval in the Florida Senate.

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation is pushing back against critics who say it’s not doing a good job of running the state’s billion-dollar support program for homeowners facing foreclosure. Lynn Hatter reports the organization says it has enough people and money to do its job, and it shouldn’t be compared to similar programs in other states.