So many issues made the headlines during the state's 60-day legislative session. But if you haven't been following the ins-and-outs of Tallahassee, we have you covered. Here are the 7 main events from Florida’s recently concluded legislative session.
A patient, we’ll call him John, called my office several years ago, frantic over the behavior of his son Aaron. “My son thinks there are helicopters circling our home, following his movements,” he said.
At my office the next day, dad was frantic. Aaron, who appeared disheveled and preoccupied, presented his experiences in a matter-of-fact style. He was certain some authority had singled him out to be placed under surveillance. He had no insight into the psychotic nature of his thinking.
Florida lawmakers are doing something they haven't done in years: adding money to state programs.
The recession sent the state into multi-billion-dollar budget shortfalls that led to big cuts in education and state government payrolls.
But this year, lawmakers have money to play with. Gov. Rick Scott has proposed a budget of more than $74 billion for the fiscal year that starts in July. That's about a $4-billion increase in spending over the current year.
Once upon a time, nurses were not allowed to take blood pressure – only the doctor could do that. Times change.
But they haven’t changed enough. For 19 years, nurse practitioners in Florida have tried to get the right to practice to the full extent of our education and capability, which includes prescribing scheduled substances. So far, our efforts have been fruitless.
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.”
PortMiami is undergoing a massive expansion project, which includes deepening the channel for larger cargo ships, building a tunnel for tractor trucks and connecting the port to the Florida East Coast railway tracks.
President Barack Obama will be visiting PortMiami Friday to talk about the economy. Gov. Rick Scott, meanwhile, is asking the federal government to repay Florida for the money it has spent on port improvements.
Although Scott often criticizes the federal government for spending too much, he says this is different.
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.
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.
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.
When they voted on Medicaid expansion in Florida this month, Florida legislative leaders mostly organized along party lines. Now, the Republicans are getting heat from their Democratic counterparts in the House.
It would be nice to know more about state politics. But who can keep track of all those committees and subcommittees, you say. And all the House and Senate bills with long names and random numbers – and who is my legislator anyway?
Jennifer Carroll's days as lieutenant governor and presumed running mate for Gov. Rick Scott's reelection campaign may already have been numbered when she resigned this week because of her connection to an Internet gambling scandal.
Meanwhile, the investigation of a purported charity called Allied Veterans of the World promises to overshadow the political shakeup in Tallahassee and lead to a big change in Florida's gambling landscape.