State News

Gov. Ron DeSantis, second from left, presides over the Florida cabinet meeting consisting of Attorney General Ashley Moody, left, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, far right, Tuesday June 4, 2019.
Steve Cannon / AP Photo

Florida’s clemency process has faced criticism for being harsh, laborious, and too slow. In 2018, a judge ruled it unconstitutional. But the state appealed the ruling and the court granted a stay – meaning the process hasn’t changed. Now, the only Democrat on the clemency board says things are getting worse.


A map of North Florida criss-crossed by black, red and blue lines showing highways
Florida Department of Transportation / https://floridamcores.com/

Are they an innovative approach to the state’s future transportation needs or an environmental and economic road to nowhere? Florida lawmakers approved the creation of three new toll roads during the last legislative session, but opposition from environmentalists, small business owners and local officials is growing.

Updated at 9:32 p.m. ET

The gunman who killed three people at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday morning was a Saudi aviation student, officials say. The gunman was killed by a sheriff's deputy after the shooting, which left eight people injured.

Nikki Fried poses for a picture at her desk flanked by state and national flags
fdacs.gov / FL Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) has been without a commissioner since last spring.  This week, the Florida Cabinet voted to change that with the appointment of Russell Weigel, a securities lawyer from Coral Gables.  One Cabinet member withheld her vote, however, questioning whether the decision was made according to Florida’s open government Sunshine Law.

Nikki Fried is dressed in a business suit clutching a podium with microphones resting close to her.
Ryan Dailey / WFSUNews

Florida held a clemency board meeting Wednesday for 70 of the 13,000 felons seeking to have their rights restored. Commissioner Nikki Fried is a member of the board and says the process has gotten worse since being ruled unconstitutional in 2018.

Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel via AP, Pool, File

George Zimmerman, who shot and killed black teen Trayvon Martin and was acquitted at trial in 2013, has filed suit against members of the Martin family and Tallahassee-based civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represented Martin's family during the trial.

computer screen with the word "security" on it, a cursor is poised below the word as if to click on it.
Pixabay

Florida’s Cybersecurity Task Force is warning the state against indirect attacks that could interfere with the 2020 elections. 

Voters cast their ballots (undated)
Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

Florida Democrats and Republicans are united in opposing a constitutional amendment proposal opening the state’s primary elections to all voters regardless of party. The Florida Supreme Court got an earful Tuesday as it weighs whether the amendment can go before voters.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp plans to appoint Kelly Loeffler on Wednesday as the state's next U.S. senator, effective Jan. 1, according to two sources with knowledge of Kemp's decision. The businesswoman and Republican donor will fill the seat held by Sen. Johnny Isakson, who plans to retire Dec. 31 for health reasons.

The Florida Cabinet has appointed a new commissioner for the state’s Office of Financial Regulation. One cabinet member, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, withheld her vote.

Governor Ron DeSantis unveiling his fiscal year 2019-2020 budget to the media.
Blaise Gainey / WFSU-FM

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is calling the 2020 legislative session the ‘Year of the Teacher,’ and recently rolled out his budget asks for K-12 education.

A paper with the word Vote and two boxes that say Yes or No. The Yes box has a marking in it.
kpg_ivary / Adobe Stock

Backers of a state constitutional amendment proposal are trying to make it harder for the document to be changed. The plan has more than half the required signatures to go before voters next year and is in the middle of a state budget review.

In the gym at Bayshore High School in Bradenton, 16-year-old Yazmin Ramirez is handed a sheet of paper describing her life's work.

"I'm a maid-slash-housekeeper. My yearly income is $19,510. I'm a dropout. I'm single. I have no children. And my balance right now is $1,202,” said Ramirez. “This is depressing, but we'll see what I can do with it.”

tiny baby hand clutches the index finger of an adult.
Pixabay

In Florida, thousands of children live with an extended family member rather than a biological parent. However, that’s causing some issues and a new proposal would give courts more power to reunify children with parents.

Trey Price sits at a table with a notebook and microphone in front of him. He heads the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. It was created by the state Legislature more than 30 years ago to help provide affordable housing opportunities.
Florida Housing

Governor Ron DeSantis’ proposed state budget would fully fund Florida’s two affordable housing programs. He is recommending that all $387 million be used for housing needs.

The Florida Legislature created the affordable housing programs in 1992 by raising the documentary stamp tax on real estate transactions.

The money is supposed to be split between two programs, but it often gets sent elsewhere.

Governor Ron DeSantis unveiling his fiscal year 2019-2020 budget to the media.
Blaise Gainey / WFSU-FM

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is calling on state lawmakers to further crack down on undocumented immigration by mandating the use of E-Verify. The effort comes nearly a year after the legislature approved a ban on so-called sanctuary cities which requires local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. 

E-Verify is a federal database used by employers to check an applicant's work eligibility. Currently all Florida state agencies are required to use it. DeSantis wants to expand that requirement to private business owners and employers.

Florida Supreme Court
Nick Evans / WFSU News

Governor Ron DeSantis will have to make two new appointments to the Florida Supreme Court. The U.S. Senate recently okayed moving two Florida justices to federal court positions. The Judicial Nominating Commission is the Florida group in charge of vetting applications before sending a list of names to the Governor. Leon County Attorney Jason Unger spoke about the process of hiring new judges.


Wilfredo Lee / AP Photo

Ahead of the 2020 election, a federal judge in Florida ruled against a 70-year-old law placing the party controlling the governor’s mansion first on ballots. WFSU spoke with a professor of constitutional law who breaks down the ruling.

Two people lean against a building at night. One of them is holding a cardboard sign that reads, "No hate in my state."
Robbie Gaffney / WFSU-FM

Activists want Florida to be the 16th state to ban conversion therapy. The practice is known for trying to change someone from gay to straight. Awareness of LGBTQ issues is on the rise, but that doesn't mean acceptance is widespread.

Visit Florida / http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us.html

Visit Florida has posted its third quarter tourism numbers, and some in the industry are calling a slowdown in visitor growth “jarring.” The state tourism agency says 31.6 million people visited the state between July and September – 28.6 million were coming from other states, 2.6 million from overseas and just under a half million from Canada.

A group of smiling people stand beside a sign reading, "suntrax." Clouds are above the group. The American and Florida Flags wave behind the sign. In the background is a white building.
SunTrax

Construction is underway for a new autonomous-vehicle test site in Florida. The Florida Department of Transportation is teaming up with Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise to build the facility. 

The Florida Elections Commission is fining a former Escambia County school board candidate for campaigning as a Republican in a non-partisan seat.

Wilfredo Lee / AP Photo

The chairman of Leon County’s Republican Party is ripping a federal judge’s ruling on ballot placement, which is already being appealed by the governor. At the same time, the head of Florida's Democratic Party is lauding the ruling as a "monumental" victory. 

Governor Ron DeSantis speaking at a podium in his Press Office
Blaise Gainey / WFSU-FM

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis released his wish list for the 2020-2021 budget. It totals 91.4 billion, with much of that $400 million increase going to education. 

In the upcoming months state lawmakers will grapple with a decision: how to stabilize the budget of one of its healthcare agencies. The agency for persons with disabilities has run deficits in most years since it was created in the early 2000’s. Lawmakers have become increasingly frustrated about constantly having to backfill those deficits. Yet advocates are concerned over which chamber will get final say over how the agency moves forward.

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