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Capital Report: 04-16-2013

This was a busy day in the Florida Senate.  Regan McCarthy reports one of the first bills senators took up during their session this morning would outlaw texting while driving.

For many, if not most state government agencies and programs, the past six years have been lean and mean times.  But as the state’s economic fortunes have slowly, but steadily rebounded, Florida mental-health and substance-abuse treatment programs are now celebrating the highest proposed state funding they’ve seen in five years. Jessica Palombo reports, advocates from several groups were at the Capitol today [on Tuesday] to thank lawmakers and Governor Scott for recognizing the importance of community-based behavioral health programs.

Allowing counties to create their own wage theft protection programs would no longer be legal under a bill that’s now headed to the House floor. While the bill allows for two counties that have their own ordinances in place to keep theirs, some start up programs enacted this year would be illegal and would place under a uniform set standard. And, as Sascha Cordner reports, opponents say that’s unfair.

Remember the big fight the State of Florida had with the federal government over the matter of how strict the state’s water quality standards should be?  Well that issue was in the Florida House today.  Representatives considered a bill giving the state’s Department of Environmental Protection the official say-so on those standards.  But Thomas Andrew Gustafson reports the bill also came with an amendment much liked by environmental groups.

The Florida Board of Education oversees the state’s public schools, as well as community and state colleges.  It met today to give members an update on how key issues are faring in the legislature.  Lynn Hatter reports a big chunk of the agenda was consumed by discussion about confusion…that confusion caused by one of the biggest education policy shifts to hit Florida and about forty other states in decades.