Jeremy Ring

Patronis ring
Jeremy Ring / Jimmy Patronis

As Election Day gets closer, key races for positions like Florida’s Senate, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner are closely watched. Yet the race for the state’s Chief Financial Officer appears to be flying under the radar.

Florida Senate

At Hillsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt’s office, some attorneys juggle 160 cases at any given time. Higher pay and shorter hours lure them to private firms. It’s tempting to leave, Holt says, because most attorneys begin their public service heavily in debt.

 “The majority of the attorneys that work in the public defender’s office and the state attorney’s office have an excess of 100 thousand dollars in student loans.”

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Pension reform is slated to come up during the 2015 legislative session. So, could this be the year local pension reform actually comes to pass? What about overhauling Florida’s Retirement System that opponents say is already sound? We'll take a look at what stakeholders are hoping for in the New Year.

Robert Weissert is the Chief Research Officer for Florida TaxWatch, a government watchdog group, which recently released its annual cost savings report. One area Weissert says state government could save some money is by overhauling the Florida Retirement System.

Florida Senate

A bipartisan local pension reform bill has been filed for the third year in a row. The measure died earlier this year after it was tied to a controversial effort to overhaul Florida’s Retirement system.

The Florida House passed a bill Friday that merges two pension reform proposals: one dealing with local pensions and another dealing with the state’s pension system. But, it’s unclear what will happen in the other chamber now that the combined bill is still two separate proposals in the Senate.

Rep. Jim Boyd (R-Bradenton) is one of the sponsors of the merged House proposal. He contributed the part of the proposal that deals with overhauling the Florida Retirement System.

Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

Now that Florida has its 19th Lieutenant Governor, many people want to know what his goals will be moving forward. But the position, which usually becomes whatever the Governor wants it to be, is now the subject of bipartisan legislation. And, it’s also a topic of discussion among members of the Hispanic Legislative Caucus, who wonder how the state’s first Hispanic Lieutenant Governor will work to help their agenda.

A Florida lawmaker is hoping to expand newborn screenings to include testing for congenital heart disease. A bill that would do so passed in the Senate Health Policy Committee Wednesday.

All babies born in the U.S. are checked for certain medical conditions after birth. In Florida, newborns are screened for more than 30 conditions. But Democratic Senator Jeremy Ring says there’s an important one that’s not on the list, which is why he filed a bill to include it.

Like all states, Florida offers economic incentives to try and get companies to relocate or expand in the state. The incentives add up to billions of dollars in lost tax revenue, and some state lawmakers are making it a priority to make sure taxpayers are getting a return on the investment.

Florida’s state and local governments see the value in paying to attract companies that will create jobs. Incentives they offer include tax exemptions, grants, investments and refunds.

Lawmakers say requiring hospitals to perform a simple test could save the lives of hundreds of newborns in the state. Regan McCarthy reports legislators are considering a bill to require hospitals to test all new babies for congenital heart disease.

Senator Jeremy Ring says the U.S. Department of Health and Human services reports congenital heart disease is the number one killer of babies born with birth defects, but he says about half the cases go undiagnosed.

“It’s amazing to me that we have 34 protocols and one of them to test is not congenital heart condition.”