State News

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Republican Senator Manny Diaz wants people who need emotional support animals to be able to rent condos or apartments without facing discrimination. His bill addressing the issue is advancing, but is facing skepticism from his colleagues.

Florida Supreme Court building in front of blue sky
Nick Evans / WFSU

The Florida Supreme Court agrees with Governor Ron DeSantis that fines, fees and restitution are part of all terms of a criminal’s sentence. The question stems from 2018’s constitutional Amendment 4. It restored the voting rights to certain convicted felons. But a state law accompanying the amendment has been embroiled in lawsuits and there's difference of opinions on how to move forward. 

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

A decade ago a fight broke out in Florida over whether to require businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to ensure employees are eligible to work in the United States. The solution at the time was an executive order by then-Governor Rick Scott requiring state employers use E-Verify. Now the idea is back: pitched by governor Ron DeSantis and it’s no less controversial than it was a decade ago.

Out of the 67 counties in Florida, there are almost 30 that have fewer than 75,000 people. The smallest is Liberty County, in the Panhandle. Florida’s rural counties aren’t home to any big cities, and they can get overlooked at the state Capitol. Now, they’re working to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Here comes that word again.  Pre-emption.

Republican legislators in recent years have sought to expand their power at the expense of cities, counties and other local governments, on everything from guns to fireworks to vegetable gardens. Now a controversial proposal gaining steam in Tallahassee would eliminate local oversight and regulation of businesses without state approval.

Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM

Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley’s marquee criminal justice reform bill is headed to a vote by the full chamber. The measure would put a cap on sentences for low-level drug possession, and allow judges to use discretion in sentencing traffickers.

Grandmother points to something in the grass. Grandchildren look where she's pointing.
Nikoline Arns / Unsplash

If an extended family member has gained temporary custody of a child, a legislative proposal could allow courts to create a transition plan for that child to go back to their parents. On January 16, lawmakers approved an amendment to allow fictive kin to take part in the process.

The program supporting thousands of Floridians with developmental and intellectual disabilities is likely in for an overhaul this year. Advocates had been relying on the Senate to save the ibudget program from being taken over by private companies. But some say Republican Senator Aaron Bean’s proposal might be worse.

close-up of a woman's hands holding a bottle with sunscreen pouring out
kosmos111 / Adobe Stock

A measure preventing local bans on sunscreen in Florida is back after it failed last year. It would stop a Key West ban on certain sunscreens from going into effect.

Key West commissioners worry something in sunscreen is causing damage to the environment. That’s why they banned sunscreen that contains two chemicals from being sold without a prescription.

Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, listens to the debate on his sponsored felon voting rights bill during session Wednesday April 24, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Steve Cannon / AP Photo

A bill that could make it harder for citizens to amend the state constitution is moving forward. Republicans say it ensures voters know who’s behind the proposals and what the amendments would do.

The front windshield of a bright yellow school bus fills the frame of this photo.
Photo by Austin Pacheco on Unsplash

Fines could soon be doubled for people who drive around, or fail to stop for school buses with their stop arms out. A bill moving through the House has just one committee left to go.

Women stand in a line holding signs that read, "Keep you theology off my biology!" and "Protect, safe, legal abortion."
Lynne Sladky / AP Photo

A bill to require parental consent for a minor’s abortion has one more stop to go before heading to the Senate floor. Meanwhile, a similar bill in the House is already teed up for consideration by the full chamber. 

If passed, the Senate bill would penalize physicians for aborting a minor’s pregnancy without consent from their parents or guardians.

Photo of a water passage cutting through green brush in the Everglades
Erich Martin / WFSU News

  Governor Ron DeSantis appears well on his way to securing more money for Everglades restoration and water quality improvements. Both House and Senate leaders appear to agree that these should be priorities.

An elderly woman sits with her hands folded on her lap. (undated photo)
Cristian Newman / Unsplash

The Florida Healthcare Association and AARP are talking to anyone who will listen. Their message: pay attention to long-term care. Florida’s population is getting older and according to federal data, in 10 years, a third of Floridians will be over 60. That milestone comes as the state’s funding for programs like home care, nursing home funding and caregiver support lags behind.

Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM

A bill that would remove time limits for prosecuting sexual battery on minors cleared its first hurdle in the House Wednesday. Lawmakers heard powerful testimony from a survivor of sexual assault, who now advocates for victims.

Close up look at marijuana plant growing in Gardena, CA
Richard Vogel, File / AP Photo

A Republican lawmaker wants to change Florida’s medical marijuana system as well as legalize the drug for adults. 

Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) hasn’t been shy in the past when it comes to criticizing the current system and now wants to dismantle it.

Sen. Randolph Bracy wants to end racial discrimination based on the hairstyles. His Senate bill 566, dubbed the "C.R.O.W.N. (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act,"  prohibits housing, workforce and education discrimination against people wearing protective hairstyle like braids, dreadlocks and twists.

Senator Tom Lee's plan to close the so-called "gun show loophole" and require background checks for private sales is already running into headwinds. Lee  was tasked by the Senate President Bill Galvano to come up with ways to combat gun violence in Florida. His answer comes in the form of  Senate Bill 7028. It was taken up Monday by the Senate's Infrastructure and Security Committee.

Florida Capitol with dolphin statues jumping in front of tall new capitol tower.
Nick Evans / WFSU News

Teacher pay, firearm safety and healthcare spending are among the top issues Florida leaders listed as they made their opening statements on the first day of the legislative session.

Close up on handcuffed hands
Jan H. Andersen / Adobe Stock

Kids who get arrested can get their records cleared if they complete a diversion program. But it’s currently limited, so Senator Keith Perry wants to expand it.

Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) leading a hearing Wednesday on mental health and substance abuse issues.
Florida Channel

Marital privilege means spouses don’t have to testify against each other. But Sen. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) thinks there should be exceptions -especially when it comes to kids. She has a bill to do that.

Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM

Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s confident in public support for his proposal to boost starting teacher salaries to $47,500 dollars.

A group of people in red shirts carry white signs

Florida’s average teacher salary is among the lowest in the nation. The Florida Education Association says the state suffers from high turn-over rates and teacher shortages. The teachers union wants to change that and Monday, it brought educators from across the state to the Florida Capitol to demand more funding for education.

Brandes speaks on the Senate floor
Steve Cannon / AP

Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St.Petersburg) wants to legalize marijuana for adult use and also clear simple possession cannabis charges for those convicted across the state. It’s the first time a Republican has sponsored such legislation in Florida.

Aaron M. Sprecher / AP Photo

Florida is among the states looking to force the issue of athlete pay on the NCAA. California passed a law to do so last year. Three House committees held a joint meeting on the subject Monday.