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Capital Report: 08-30-2019

With the number of prisoners requiring mental health treatment on the rise, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is asking stakeholders to weigh in on possible solutions. Regan McCarthy has more….

A proposed amendment to Florida’s constitution would deregulate and open up competition for investor-owned utility companies. This week, attorneys for the amendment’s backers faced tough questions from the Florida Supreme Court about its ballot language. Brian Armstrong is an attorney who has decades of experience representing utilities, not only in Florida, but in New York and New Jersey.  He spoke with Ryan Dailey about what’s dubbed the Florida Energy Choice initiative.

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the constitutionality of a law that allows certain felons to vote, but requires them to pay any fees associated with their sentence first. Critics call the new rule a poll tax. But the bill’s author argues he simply followed the language voters approved in a 2018 amendment. Now the Judge presiding over the case is questioning whether the amendment itself violates the constitution.  Blaise Gainey spoke with ACLU lawyer Julie Ebenstein [EH-ben-steen] to get the groups’ view.

In 2017, Jefferson County became the state's first charter school district. The move came amid pressure from the Florida Department of Education, and followed a decade of poor student performance and financial struggles for the small, rural district of fewer than 800 students. The district consolidated its elementary school into its middle-high school campus and closed its alternative school. It hired charter school operator Somerset Academy to take over, and most of the teachers and administrators lost their jobs. Some were later rehired at the charter school. In the first year, Jefferson saw its school grade jump from an F to a B, before later being revised down to a C. Last year, it’s elementary school earned a D. A new documentary from Florida Public Media station WLRN and reporter Jessica Bakeman takes a closer look at what happened behind the scenes in the run-up to that conversation, and how it's working for students and their families. Lynn Hatter speaks with Bakemen about her reporting on Jefferson County Schools.