legislature 2013

A new law aimed at paperwork reduction will allow Florida election supervisors to register voters electronically. Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the law but vetoed an exemption that would have taken those voters’ email addresses out of public record.

President of the open-government group Florida First Amendment Foundation, Barbara Peterson, applauds the veto.

“The exemption just didn’t make sense to me," she said.

Governor Rick Scott has signed an elections reform bill into law. But, some say the bipartisan effort to add more early voting days and sites in Florida doesn’t go far enough.

Last year, Governor Scott said he wanted to make sure the counting delays and long lines at the polls during the 2012 election were corrected.

“My goal is to have honest and fair elections,” said Scott.

Jessica Palombo / WFSU-FM

Florida’s public university administrators are celebrating after the legislative session. Lawmakers restored funding they’d lost in the recent past. And, higher ed officials say, things like “preeminent” status for Florida State University and the University of Florida should help keep more Florida high-schoolers in state for college.

People who run Florida’s public universities are breathing a collective sigh of relief after the recent legislative session.

Floridians have four new ways to lodge ethics complaints against public officials. The change came as Gov. Rick Scott signed the final piece of a sweeping ethics reform package on Wednesday.

Scott’s signature opens up new avenues for people to report suspected government corruption. The new law allows the public to complain to law enforcement, U.S. and state attorneys or the governor’s office without their identity becoming public right away.

With just days left to take action on a texting ban bill, Governor Rick Scott is not giving any indication as to whether he will sign the measure into law.

"We're still reviewing that bill, and we'll see. I'm like every other parent and grandparent who worry about texting while driving and so, I'm reviewing that bill," said Scott following a press conference Tuesday.

In addition to vetoing or signing the bill, Scott can also just let the bill become law without his signature.

Jessica Palombo / WFSU-FM

Leon County officials say the 2013 legislative session turned out well for the region. Schools, universities and state employees are all celebrating.

Local leaders met with state legislative delegates today on Tuesday to discuss how the laws and budgets passed this session will affect the local community.

Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) said, this year’s budget includes pay raises for the thousands of state workers in the area, the first they’ve seen in seven years. And that should help boost the local economy.  

Florida Senate

Florida’s 2013 Legislative Session is now over, and that means lawmakers have left Tallahassee and won’t be back until next year. But, one person who won’t be back for another session is the Florida House’s Sergeant of Arms, Ernie Sumner, who’s been a permanent fixture at the Capitol for decades.

"Ernie, Ernie, Ernie....," chanted the crowd who surrounded House Sergeant at Arms Ernie Sumner and Senate Sergeant at Arms Donald Severance on the last day of the 2013 Florida Legislative Session.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is considering whether to sign a bill meant to speed up the home foreclosure process. But foreclosure lawyers are saying the measure is unfair to consumers, and they’re threatening a legal fight if it becomes law.

Who won during the 2013 legislative session?  Teachers and state workers won. They’re getting pay raises. Democrats helped kill a controversial bill giving parents a greater say in the fate of failing schools.  Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford can claim victory. They got bills through revising the state’s ethics, elections and campaign finance laws.  A budget surplus this year means there were plenty of goodies to go around. So who, or what, came out on the losing side?

Florida lawmakers are now sending their election reform package to Governor Rick Scott. And, the bill passed the full legislature with bipartisan support.

The House has passed an election reforms package again that will expand early voting days and sites.

“Mr. Speaker, we started the first day of Session with this bill. And, in between a lot of hard work, we end today with this bill,” said Democratic Representative Janet Cruz.

Measures aimed at speeding up the home foreclosure process, keeping college students from dropping out and increasing the amount the state must pay into employee retirement accounts were among those the Legislature passed on the last day of the lawmaking session. They were among the flurry of bills pinging back and forth between the two chambers leading up to when the handkerchief drops.

Several more bills are headed to Gov. Scott. They include a “watered-down” overhaul of state-run Citizens Property Insurance and a controversial measure allowing Florida students to take online classes from out-of-state providers.

A bill extending the age for those aging out of Florida’s foster care system is now heading to the Governor. The measure aiming to help foster care kids have more of an advantage when they enter into adulthood has now passed the full state Legislature.

“You know, I hear a lot of my peers saying oh, I can’t wait until I turn 18. I tell them yes you can because if you think you’re turning 18 to be grown? No,” said Kierra Perkins.

Growing up in the foster care system wasn’t easy for Kierra, and it was even harder when she had to set out on her own when she turned 18.

The Florida Channel

Tempers were short. Emotions were high. Lawmakers were tired. A bad combination for a 96-page bill that included a strike-all amendment in it delivering Governor Rick Scott’s top priority: a sales tax exemption for manufacturers. The result: a testy exchange between Democrat Representative Jim Waldman and Republican Representative Carlos TrujiIlo:

“We invoked a constitutional privilege that’s there for both sides. It’s there to protect against what you are trying to do. It’s outrageous, improper, and in my opinion, boarders on unethical," Waldman said

The Florida Channel

House Speaker Will Weatherford is defending the House vote on a manufacturing tax exemption. The measure passed the chamber on a 68-48 vote, but Democrats say that House vote may have violated Florida’s Constitution.

At issue is whether the manufacturing tax exemption needed two-thirds support of the House to pass. Democrats seem to think it did, and had the numbers to block it. They and four Republicans sided against the tax exemption. But House Speaker Will Weatherford says he’s confident the vote will stand.

Chris O'Meara / The Associated Press

The Florida House ended a second day of political wrangling between Democrats and Republicans with neither side smiling at the end.

Democrats continued their protest of the House Majority’s refusal to take up a bill accepting $51 billion in federal Medicaid money to expand insurance coverage to an additional one million low-income Floridians.

The chamber continued reading bills aloud word-for-word with the computer software “Mary” the House’s Auto Reader who, in two days, has become a breakout star with more than 614 followers on twitter since arriving to the site…Tuesday.


The Florida Virtual School is bracing for an impending budget cut as a result of changes in the state funding formula. The move also has school districts on edge as they also eye a drop in funding as a result of changes proposed in the state’s 2013 budget plan.

Floridians will be guaranteed the right to speak at public meetings, if Gov. Rick Scott signs a bill that’s headed his way. The public comment bill passed the House on Wednesday after unanimously passing the senate.

One open government watchdog group is celebrating the Legislature’s passing what it calls the “Anti-Shushing Bill.”

Barbara Peterson, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, said, “It’s not a huge bill. It’s a huge right.”

Florida Channel

Florida could be close to joining 43 other states in removing the so-called “R-word” from state law. The measure replacing the words “mental retardation” with the term “intellectual disability” is now heading to the Governor’s desk.

“The R-Words that apply to me are ‘responsible’ and ‘remarkable’ and I deserve respect. So, please end the R-Word in Florida,” said Tyler Creamer.

The Florida Senate has essentially killed a House pension proposal favored by Speaker Will Weatherford. A bipartisan group of Senators voted down an amendment that does away with the state’s pension plan for future state employees.

It’s been a matter of contention between the House and Senate with two dueling plans. The House plan favored by House Speaker Will Weatherford leaves new employees with one retirement option.

Bill Limiting Massage Parlor Hours Heads To Gov. Scott

Apr 30, 2013

Starting this fall, it will be a crime for massage parlors to stay open all night in Florida, if Gov. Rick Scott signs a bill headed for his desk. The bill regulating massage parlors is aimed at fighting human trafficking. And it passed both legislative chambers unanimously.

When Scott suspended 81 massage therapists for having fraudulent licenses in September, it was because a Clearwater Police investigation had found telltale signs of a human trafficking operation.

A bill giving parents more of a say in the fate of failing public schools has failed in the Senate on a dramatic, tied vote. It’s the second year in a row the Senate has killed the bill.

An amendment by Republican Senator David Simmons stayed intact, giving local school boards, not the state board of education, the final say on the fate of failing public schools. It was meant to ease concerns over a potential loss of local authority. But that wasn’t enough to sway bill opponents to vote for the bill.

A measure allowing certain hospitals and nursing homes to bypass state rules to fill what they’re saying is an immediate need passed the Florida House Tuesday. But, as some say the bill is giving special treatment to financial backers of the Republican-led Florida Legislature.

Republican Representative Marlene O’Toole’s bill does two things.

“Expedited process for skilled nursing facilities and Ten beds for the Miami Children’s hospital,” said O'Toole.

The Florida Channel

It all started when Gov. Rick Scott traveled around the state late last year on what he called his education listening tour. He said, he heard at school after school, teachers and principals felt burdened by paperwork

“Last year, I organized a group of superintendents to find all their ideas of how we can eliminate regulations, eliminate rules, that are impacting teachers’ time in the classroom,” he said on Monday.

With session coming close to an end, public employee pension reform in Florida is likely dead. But, if both chambers of the state Legislature do come to an agreement on a pension overhaul bill, which way could the Governor be leaning?

Both the Florida House and Senate have two different proposals that makes changes to Florida’s Retirement System.