florida legislature

This is an image of Bill Shepherd, a lawyer in Holland & Knight's Washington, D.C. and West Palm Beach offices. He is the former statewide prosecutor of Florida.
hklaw.com

The Florida Supreme Court issued a surprise ruling in late May regarding expert witness testimony. 

Six years ago, the Florida Legislature adopted the Daubert standard for expert witnesses in court cases. But the state’s high court exercised its right to keep the Frye standard in place, which sets a lower threshold for what can be considered expert testimony.

The makeup of the Florida Supreme Court changed last January when three retiring justices were replaced with appointments made by Governor Ron DeSantis. The newly revamped court quickly decided to implement the tougher standards.

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The legislature is working to implement a constitutional amendment that bans vaping in indoor workplaces. But another vaping proposal appears dead for this session.

A House committee this week shot down a bill that would have changed the definition of “tobacco products” to include nicotine products and devices that dispense them.

“In the last few years according to the FDA, electronic nicotine delivery systems has become an epidemic with youth," bill sponsor Rep. Mike Hill (R-Pensacola) told the committee. "One in 4 seniors in high school have been using it, and one in 10 youth in middle school have been using it.”

CDC.gov

Mental health has been a frequent topic at the Capitol following more tragic news from Parkland. Two students who survived last year's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre took their own lives last month. 

The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald bureau reports that while the Legislature allocated $69 million for student mental health after the tragedy, almost none of it went to suicide prevention. But some lawmakers have begun to study prevention programs.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee. He's troubled by a recent report of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. In mid-February as his panel heard a presentation on suicide, he pointed to data showing Americans' life expectancy had dropped for the third year in a row.

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Final invoices are going out this week to SunPass customers who got caught in a billing backlog.

The problem began with a trouble-plagued update to the state’s toll road system, and issues that have bedeviled a SunPass contractor since last June still haven’t been completely worked out.

As the last invoices were being readied, the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee got an update on the Sunpass debacle.

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Governor Ron DeSantis says he wants to get rid of all remnants of Common Core standards in Florida’s public schools.

At a high school in Cape Coral Thursday, DeSantis gave his newly appointed education commissioner some marching orders.

“We are doing an executive order that is going to instruct Commissioner Corcoran to get to work and come up with good standards for the state of Florida which will include eliminating Common Core and the vestiges of Common Core,” DeSantis said.

Common Core standards provide benchmarks for what students should learn in math and English by the end of each grade. Five years ago, Republican leaders made some changes to the benchmarks and dumped the name Common Core, opting instead for Florida Standards.

Now that Florida voters have approved Amendment 13 – which effectively ends greyhound racing statewide by December 31, 2020  – thousands of dogs will need new homes.

But that doesn’t mean Florida dog lovers should be running to the nearest track any time soon in hopes of adopting a greyhound overnight.

For one thing, greyhound groups across the state admit that they don’t have an accurate count of exactly how many dogs will become available during the two-year phase-out of racing mandated by the amendment.

Florida Legislature

The Florida Legislature convened in Tallahassee before the Thanksgiving holiday for an organizational session. New lawmakers were sworn in, and new leaders were installed.

Chief Justice Charles Canady administered the oath of office to senators in groups of five. Then,  Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) was nominated unopposed to be the 88th Florida Senate President. Galvano was elected to the chamber in 2012 and previously served in the Florida House. 

Federal Highway Administration / http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/photos/75957

Every session, Florida lawmakers fight over funding for a river, storm water system or sewage plant in their district. But an environmentalist wants to change that process.

Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

Florida lawmakers are heading back to the state capitol Monday. They’ll discuss some of the issues expected to dominate the 2018 legislative session.

Historic Capitol
Tom Flanigan / WFSU News

A Florida lawmaker is once again trying to reform the state’s community redevelopment agencies. The taxpayer-funded programs would have to meet stricter reporting and ethics requirements.

Historic Capitol
Tom Flanigan / WFSU News

The Florida Legislature is cancelling upcoming committee meetings ahead of Hurricane Irma. Lawmakers’ preparations for the 2018 session will have to wait.

jvoves/ flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/jvoves/

If one Florida lawmaker gets his way, legislators will once again be debating sanctuary cities. Republican Representative Larry Metz of Groveland is filing legislation he hopes will ensure local law enforcement are cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

The Florida House Chamber
Steven Martin via Flikr / WFSU News

Florida gets a lot of federal funding for refugees, including people entering the state from Cuba and Haiti. But that money could go away if legislation passes pulling the state out of the federal refugee resettlement program.

Baxley Challenges Gun-Free Zones in Proposal

Feb 14, 2017
Associated Press

Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, has filed a bill which would allow more guns in public places. The measure is part of a broader push by Republican legislators to expand gun rights.

Remembering the "Boy Wonder" of Florida Politics

Jan 31, 2017
Florida Memory Blog

Doyle Conner came to be known as “the boy wonder of Florida politics.” In 1950, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives at the age of 20 while a sophomore at the University of Florida and remains the youngest person ever elected to the Florida Legislature.

Constitution Revision Committee Experts Offer Suggestions

Jan 31, 2017
Jessica Palombo / WFSU-FM

A panel of Constitution Revision Commission experts are offering suggestions for the incoming group charged with amending the constitution later this year. The proposals range from opening the state’s primaries to criminal justice reform.

Hurdles Remain for Millennials Entering State Politics

Jan 20, 2017
Rep. Amber Mariano, R-Pasco, is the youngest member of the Florida legislature. She's 21.
Mariano campaign

  From March 7 to May 5, proposals on a host of issues like college affordability and healthcare access will be debated among Florida lawmakers in the annual legislative session. But who are the lawmakers making the decisions to shape Florida’s future? More specifically, are millennials, or people the U.S. Census defines as born between 1982 and 2000, proportionately represented in the Florida legislature?

The data suggests: Not really.

Florida State University Office of the President / http://president.fsu.edu/

A two year lobbying ban on Florida State University President John Thrasher is up, freeing him to capitalize on his political ties, meaning university priorities could get special attention this legislative session.

Thomas Hawk via flickr / https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/

The 2016 election is still fresh in the minds of voters, but candidates are already gearing up for 2018.

Before and After: The image on the left depicts congressional district 5 before the proposed changes.  The small yellow circles indicate the changes in Marion county.
Select Committee on Redistricting

The Florida Supreme Court has thrown out the state’s congressional districts, saying they’re unconstitutional. The Court’s ruling marks the second time the state’s congressional maps have been invalidated.

The Florida Channel

By long-standing tradition, the start of the yearly Florida Legislative Session includes the Governor’s state of the state address.  This was Governor Rick Scott’s fifth state of the state speech.  He kicked it off somewhat uncharacteristically by poking a bit of fun at himself.

Plasencia/DuBose
VoteRene.com/City of Fort Lauderdale

The midterm election gave Republicans 17 new members in the Florida House, while Democrats are welcoming six to their minority caucus. The GOP now has a veto-proof super-majority in that chamber.

Republicans needed to defeat at least five incumbent Democrats to achieve the super-majority. They ousted six. One of their successful candidates comes from Orlando.

“My name is Rene Plasencia. I also go by Coach P. I’m a high school teacher and track coach at Colonial High School, where I’ve been for the last 15 years,” he says.

Florida TaxWatch

About a fifth of Florida’s inmate population is elderly. A new report warns as the state’s aging prison population continues to rise, officials will soon be dealing with a severe strain on Florida’s budget.

The Florida Department of Corrections characterizes elderly prisoners as those over the age of 50. According to a Florida TaxWatch report, the average health care costs for elderly prisoners is about 11,000 dollars a year—nearly four times what it costs for younger inmates.

councilforeconed.org

Florida is the first state to adopt standards for teaching kids about personal finance based on the National Standards for Financial Literacy. But the move leaves some educators grappling with how to implement the new standards.

Ann Whitney, Director of Standards at the Bureau of Standards and Instructional Support, says educators and state leaders nationwide are pushing for better personal finance education in public schools.

Zoute Drop via Flickr

Although Florida lawmakers filed more than 1,800 bills this year, most measures were not destined to become laws. Some were too controversial in an election year. Some died alone with no companion measure in the other chamber. And some bill sponsors simply lost the race against time.

When lawmakers return from the Passover-Easter break next week, they’ll jump into a fast-paced final two weeks of floor action. But the majority of legislative movement has already happened in committees meetings—meetings that were scheduled to last for an exact time period and not a second longer.

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