Florida Legislature

Elections Bill
3:41 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

How The Elections Bill Will Impact South Florida Voters

Miami voters wait - and wait - on Election Day 2012.
Credit gdcphoto/flickr

Many South Florida voters were still in line to cast ballots during the 2012 election hours after President Barack Obama had been declared the winner.

Twelve years after hanging chads and the infamous election recount, Florida was again a national punchline last November.

Elections supervisors blamed the length of the ballot and fewer days for early voting as reasons for the long lines in some areas.

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Florida Legislature
4:16 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

Florida Senate Passes Bill To Overhaul Citizens Insurance

Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland
Credit flsenate.gov

UPDATE 4:36 p.m. - The Florida Senate passed SB 1770 today, 24-15.

Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, believes he has the votes to put his sweeping overhaul of Citizens Property Insurance Corp. up for a final vote in the Senate on Thursday.

Simmons was busy lobbying his colleagues over the proposal (SB 1770) during the floor session on Wednesday after the measure was postponed for the second time in nine days from being put up for a final Senate vote.

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Politics
8:05 am
Mon April 8, 2013

Governor Says He'll Sign Internet Cafe Ban

Cleopatra's Arcade in Boynton Beach may have to shut down. Gov. Rick Scott says he'll sign a ban on internet cafes that includes senior arcades.
Credit Christine DiMattei/WLRN

 Editor's note: This story was written by intern Jordan Michael. 

Internet cafes operate under loopholes in Florida gaming law -- loopholes that will be closed after Gov. Rick Scott signs a bill into law.

The bill will ban Internet cafes, but opponents say it will have unintended consequences like closing arcades tailored to seniors.

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Needle Exchange
4:00 pm
Wed April 3, 2013

University of Miami Medical Students Push For Needle-Exchange Program

These needles were found under an I-95 overpass in Overtown.
Hansel Tookes

A group of students at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is behind an effort to get Florida to implement a syringe-exchange program in the state. A bill under consideration in the Florida Legislature would establish a pilot program in Miami-Dade  allowing intravenous drug users to turn in dirty needles and syringes in exchange for clean ones.

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Politics
9:00 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Chewing Gum, Sweat-Free Suits, And More: 5 Observations From The Capitol

The Florida Senate meets in an organizational session. This same group was recently caught doing the Harlem Shake in Senate Chambers.
Credit flsenate.gov

We're nearly halfway through the legislative session, and your roving Capitol bureau reporters are ready for a nap.

We'll need one, since the busiest days are still weeks away.

It was quiet at the Capitol in the days before Easter. So this seemed like a good time to share some observations made while covering the Florida Legislature.

Everybody chews gum. Lawmakers and lobbyists in particular can, in fact, walk and chew gum at the same time.

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Feral Cats in Florida
8:01 am
Mon April 1, 2013

Feral Cats Bill Pits Animal Welfare Advocates Against Conservationalists

Feral cats are a contentious topic in Florida.
Credit Austin Evan / Flickr Creative Commons

Animal welfare advocates are at odds with wildlife conservationalists as the Florida Senate prepares this week to look at a controversial feral cat bill. 

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Transportation
5:11 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

Why Hasn't Florida Banned Texting And Driving?

39 states ban texting while driving. An additional 5 states make it illegal for novice drivers to text and drive.
Credit Jason Weaver/Flickr

Steve Augello lives in Spring Hill Florida, just outside of Tampa. Like a lot of dads, he always made his 17-year-old daughter, Alessandra, check-in with him when she was out. Augello also had a rule.

“You weren’t allowed to have that cell phone out while you’re driving,” Augello remembers telling Alessandra. “I even tested her a few times I called her when she was driving and it always went right through to the recorder.”

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Politics
11:00 am
Wed March 27, 2013

How To Create A Specialty License Plate In Florida

Florida has more than 100 active specialty license plates, including the "Trees Are Cool" plate.
Credit www.flhsmv.gov/dmv

Have an idea for a specialty license plate in Florida?

You can create one by jumping through a few hoops, forking out some cash, and convincing the Legislature to approve it.

Just as lawmakers pass bills that Gov. Rick Scott signs into law, both the House and Senate have to vote for proposed specialty plates.

Take the proposed Sun, Sea, and Smiles specialty plate. For an additional $25 above the cost of a standard plate, drivers may soon be able to get a specialty plate that raises money for a half-dozen Caribbean-related charities.

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Community Contributor
2:00 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

With Majority Of Floridians In Favor, Lawmakers Debate Medicinal Marijuana

Goldstein's daughter would benefit if medicinal marijuana is approved in Florida.
Credit Photo provided

My dedication to legalizing medical marijuana results from personal experience. My daughter has epilepsy, and although she was always compliant with her medication, she continued to have occasional seizures. When she moved to California for her job, and had yet another seizure, she met with a neurologist, who recommended that she join a medical marijuana dispensary. That was in 2000. She has not had another seizure since.

But she cannot come home to visit us in Florida. Because of our marijuana laws, she cannot legally maintain her doctor-recommended medical regimen.

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Education
7:01 am
Thu March 21, 2013

Referendum Would Give Miami Dade College A Half-Cent Tax

Miami Dade College would benefit from a proposed half-cent tax.
Credit Photo from Miami Dade College's Facebook page

Lonnie Robinson fell on hard times in the early 80s with drugs and alcohol. Addiction kept him out of college for decades, and he found himself living under a bridge. During the day, Robinson found solace at a Miami Dade College library in Liberty City, where a reading program changed the future course of his life. He graduated from the college in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

"No other college would accept me," said Robinson, who’s 59. Today, Robinson visits the same library daily, where he hopes to mentor and inspire younger students.

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Community Contributor
2:02 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

Floridians Would Get Right To Speak Before Public Boards Under Proposed Legislation

Floridians would have the right to speak at public meetings under proposed laws.
Credit Wikipedia Commons

Citizens do not have the right to speak before a public board or commission takes official action, according to Florida’s Constitution. Though Florida citizens have a right to access public records and meetings, they do not have a right to be heard before governmental bodies take official action any given proposal.  This means that city council members, county commissioners and other officials could vote on issues without letting citizens have their say.  

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Politics
2:37 pm
Thu March 14, 2013

Rep. Fasano: Medicaid Expansion 'Would Save Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars'

Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, says the Florida Legislature had two years to craft an alternative plan for Medicaid expansion and chose not to.
Credit myfloridahouse.gov

Now that legislative committees have voted not to expand Medicaid, House and Senate leaders want to look at alternatives that might still utilize federal funds.

New Port Richey Republican Rep. Mike Fasano is not towing the party line.

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Politics
12:00 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Listen: Youth Activists Go To Tally To Talk Immigration Reform, Voting Rights, Juvenile Justice

Phillip Agnew leads a news conference with the Dream Defenders inside the Capitol. Group members came to Tallahassee from Miami and cities in between.
Credit Barbara Corbellini Duarte/WLRN

College students from Miami and elsewhere around the state are trying to keep the dream alive.

They came by bus to Tallahassee during the opening week of the legislative session. The group is known as the Dream Defenders.

Phillip Agnew, Executive Director of Dream Defenders, led a news conference inside the Capitol then spoke with us about the group’s legislative agenda.

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Politics
5:00 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

On Last Day For Fundraising, Lawmakers Wine And Dine In Tallahassee

Andrew's Grill is the place to be for Capitol movers and shakers at lunch time.
Credit LaCrai Mitchell/WLRN

Let the last ditch fundraisers commence.

They’ve been going on for weeks now, but they're in high gear today.

This is the last day lawmakers can raise money before the Florida Legislature convenes for the regular session.

Session typically begins on the first Tuesday in March, and it means a 60-day moratorium on legislative fundraising. 

So the Monday before opening day is rife with wining and dining in downtown Tallahassee. Most of the "receptions" take place within a few blocks of the Capitol.

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Florida Property Insurance Rates
7:00 am
Wed February 27, 2013

How Will The Florida Legislature Tackle Property Insurance Rates? Good Question, Says Senator

Property insurance costs are high and on the rise in Florida.
Credit AMagill / Flickr Creative Commons

Getting a handle on property insurance rates is a top priority in the upcoming Florida Legislature 2013 regular session, but it's no easy task, according to popular consensus at Monday night's Town Hall session hosted by WLRN and the Miami Herald

"The legislature is in a terrible box," said Mary Ellen Klas, the capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald and a panelist at Monday's event. "This is one of the tough issues they have to grapple with."

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