State News

water and trees.
Robbie Gaffney / WFSU

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is getting new funds to study endangered crayfish. Two rare species live in Florida.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Photo

Over the past two years, Florida’s fourth and eighth-graders have seen a drop in reading proficiency.

Restoration of Voting Rights Work Group holding a meeting in Tallahassee, FL on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019.
Blaise Gainey / WFSU-FM

The Restoration of Voting Rights Work Group has approved a list of recommendations to send to the legislature. One proposal would enhance the Clerk of Court’s financial accounting system to include a breakdown of restitution, fines, and fees owed by felons. 

Sam Craft / AP Photo

Florida’s governor and senate president on Tuesday struck two different tones on bills seeking to allow collegiate athletes in the state to get paid. Later the same day, the NCAA announced its own plan for its athletes nationwide.

Patronis is wearing a suit and tie. He's standing at a podium in front of a row of plush seats. The american flag is behind him. A reporter's head is in the foreground.
Robbie Gaffney / WFSU

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis is advocating for a "one-size-fits-all" insurance policy that would apply no matter how a house is damaged.

Florida secretary of state Laurel Lee speaks at pre-legislative news conference on Tuesday Oct. 29, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Steve Cannon / AP Photo

Florida’s Secretary of State Laurel Lee says her department needs more money to help with elections security.

Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM

Governor Ron DeSantis says the state is poised to roll out K-12 education standards that will replace common core before the year is out.

Florida Gov. Ron Desantis gives his state of the state address on the first day of legislative session, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Steve Cannon / AP Photo

Governor Ron Desantis is commending the legislature for making changes to how constitutional amendments can be put in front of voters. He says the old process made it too easy to get policy decisions into the constitution.

Florida Gov. Ron Desantis gives his state of the state address on the first day of legislative session, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Steve Cannon / AP Photo

We now know why the Republican Party of Florida suddenly postponed its biggest fundraiser of the year yesterday.

The Statesman's Dinner was supposed to happen in less than two weeks in Orlando, but the party said in a tweet that the event will take place later this year.

Canady wears a suit and tie. He smiles at the viewer. The Florida flag is ruffled behind him along with a bookshelf. The shelf has thickly-bound books.
The Florida Supreme Court

Charles Canady will continue leading the Florida Supreme Court next summer. This will be his third-term as Chief Justice.

Felons registering to vote.
Blaise Gainey / WFSU-FM

Most Florida felons had their voting rights restored after the passage of 2018’s Amendment 4. Earlier this year the legislature put in place a law that tied rights restoration to the repayment of all fines and fees. But, a ruling from U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle says the state can’t deny the right to vote based on a failure to pay, as long as a person genuinely can’t.

Eskamani stands at a podium with young adults from Planned Parenthood crowded around her. These adults hold signs that read, "Stop the Anti-Abortion Agenda," and "Protect Our Privacy, Stop HB 265/SB 404."
Robbie Gaffney / WFSU

Under a potential law, teens in Florida would need consent from their parents to get an abortion. Abortion-rights advocates gave lawmakers an earful Tuesday.

Football stadium is filled with people who are watching the game.
Robbie Gaffney / WFSU

The NCAA bans college athletes from profiting off their name, image, or likeness. California introduced a bill that would allow athletes to earn money and Florida is following its lead.

Florida senators have voted: Former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel will not be reinstated. 

Chemist taking prescription from customer at pharmacy
Jacob Lund / Adobe Stock

A bill creating a prescription drug donation program within the Department of Health returned today in the Health Quality subcommittee. It passed on a unanimous vote.

FAF President Barbara Petersen stands behind a podium with a microphone as she addresses the Florida Associated Press Broadcasters awards gala in Orlando on April 13, 2019. / Florida Associated Press Broadcasters

For 25 years, Barbara Petersen has served as president of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation (FAF). She’s been on a continuous quest to keep government dealings in the sunshine and hold lawmakers accountable when they withhold records from the public.

She’s retiring from the job at the end of the year. Her replacement is Pamela Marsh, a former US Attorney in North Florida.

We recently spoke with Petersen about what’s at stake as a new leader is ready to take up the cause.

Gov. Rick Scott, Broward Superintendent Rob Runcie and Broward Sheriff Scott Israel discuss Parkland school shooting.
PBS NewsHour screenshot

The Florida Senate is weighing whether to reinstate Broward’s suspended sheriff. Governor Ron DeSantis removed Israel from office earlier this year over what he calls the department’s bungled response to last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 

Woman stands with her hands to the air like she's on a roller coaster. Others are behind her holding signs with words that spell, "Fund Corrections Pay Plan."

The Florida Department of Corrections is asking state legislators to increase its budget so it can address long-standing issues with the treatment of correctional officers and prisoners.

Richard Vogel / AP Photo

There’s a chance Florida voters will be presented with a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana on the 2020 ballot. This week, Florida House committees heard from a Harvard Psychobiologist who warns of legalizing the plant, and from the nation’s first state “pot czar.”

Asphalt road and sky cloud landscape at sunset
Zhao jiankang / Adobe Stock

North Florida could be getting its first major toll road thanks to a bill signed by the Governor this summer. It’s one of three new major roadways to be built in the state. One would connect Collier County to Polk County, another extends the Florida Turnpike west to Suncoast Parkway and the third expands the Suncoast Parkway from Tampa Bay to Georgia. A task force was put in place for each section but a member of the Northern Turnpike Connector thinks plans are moving too fast.

This is a stretch of Fort Lauderdale beach with water, sand, chairs with umbrellas, palm trees, and a road nearby with motorists. This beach may look very different in the coming year due to sea level rise.
Lance Asper/Unsplash

More evidence of a shift in thinking arose this week among Florida’s Republican leaders when it comes to climate change.

A Senate committee held a panel discussion focused on climate change forecasts and how state agencies should prepare.

Three words that were largely kept under wraps by legislative leadership before the last election quickly emerged during the meeting: sea level rise.

Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM

Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez  visited Leon County’s Health Department Tuesday to bring awareness to HIV testing and treatment efforts. Nuñez  spoke about HIV in Hispanic and latino communities on National Latino AIDS Awareness Day.

lines of downed trees as seen from above
Gerald Herbert / AP Photo

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says hemp farming in the Panhandle could bring relief from the billion and a half dollar hit to the region’s timber industry. She joined WFSU’s special Perspectives program this week, broadcast from Mexico Beach, on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Michael that left millions of acres damaged.

Disused kiosk with garbage on top of it.
Robbie Gaffney / WFSU

Greenwood's only grocery store caught fire after Hurricane Michael. A year after the storm, it still hasn’t been replaced. The residents of the Jackson County city are banding together to assist elderly and low-income neighbors who can’t travel to find fresh food.

drone photo showing many lots with missing houses and a few homes still standing near the beach
Erich Martin

Officials estimate there are still years of recovery left after Hurricane Michael slammed into the panhandle this time last year.  But for many who are living in tents or doubled up in homes still in disrepair, that’s too long, and insurance companies are bearing part of the blame for what some see as a slow recovery.