News from Tallahassee for 7/31/14

Gun-Related Measures, Voucher Expansion Bill Among Latest Signed Into Law posted on 6/23/14

by Sascha Cordner | WFSU

FL Gov Rick Scott bill signingGovernor Rick Scott has signed close to 70 bills into law this week—most of them Friday. They include a slew of gun-related measures, a controversial voucher expansion bill, and a bill dealing with medical marijuana.

Charlotte's Web

Among the high profile bills the Governor has already signed includes a bill that would legalize a low strain of marijuana known as “Charlotte’s Web” to help treat seizures.

“I met with some of the individuals that believe this is going to help them. I want to make sure it’s safe for our children, and that’s why I signed the bill,” said Scott.

Still he affirmed his position on the amendment—legalizing medical marijuana as a whole—expected to appear on the November ballot...

Gun Bills

Scott also approved several gun-related measures, including a bill banning insurers from discriminating against gun owners and another allowing tax collectors to help the state process gun applications to meet a growing demand for concealed weapon permits.

Scott also gave his stamp of approval to the so-called “Warning Shot” bill, a measure that would allow someone to threaten the use of force or fire a warning shot without fear of prosecution. It was inspired by Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman who fired a warning shot during an alleged domestic dispute and received a lengthy prison term. Though, Sen. Greg Evers (R-Baker) says he’s unsure whether the new law will help her.

“Well, it depends upon the situation or the case itself, but it would have given another line of defense to protect folks that actually discharge a weapon that could be used in a court of law to see that these folks would not be charged with criminal activity,” said Evers.

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Rick Scott: Let Voters Decide on Conservation Amendment posted on 6/18/14

by JIM Turner | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

Gov. Rick Scott said it was "the right thing to do" for the Cabinet on Tuesday to approve the sale of four closed jails and three other sites to raise money for future land preservation.

However, when asked after the Cabinet meeting whether he would support or oppose an amendment in November that would cement funding for land conservation into Florida's Constitution, Scott avoided directly answering the question.

"All the amendments, the public has the opportunity to vote, just like I do," Scott replied. "So we'll see how it comes out."

For some conservationists, the stance by Scott isn't necessarily bad.

Eric Draper, Audubon Florida executive director, said he'd prefer Scott to remain "ambivalent" on the issue. An alternative is to join the chorus of legislators who have already criticized the amendment as an improper constraint on the budget.

"That's a winning message for us, let the voters decide," Draper said.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has argued that "legislating via constitutional amendments" doesn't work. And Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, contends the amendment will shift too much land into state control.

The proposed amendment, backed by a group called "Florida's Water and Land Legacy Inc.," seeks to set aside 33 percent of the state's documentary stamp tax revenues -- fees paid when real estate is sold -- for 20 years to acquire conservation and recreation lands, manage existing lands, protect lands that are critical for water supply and restore degraded natural systems.

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Scott Names New Interim DJJ Head, Signs Juvenile Justice Law Rewrite posted on 6/18/14

by Sascha Cordner | WFSU

FL Dept. of Juvenile JusticeGovernor Rick Scott has approved a measure reforming Florida’s juvenile justice system. He signed the bill into law on the same day he bid farewell to the outgoing Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary and named her temporary replacement.

Before presenting her with a resolution during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, Scott said a few words about Wansley Walters, his state Department head of Juvenile Justice, who’s slated to end her role in a few weeks.

“So, Wansley has served the state of Florida for 35 years when she was like two,” Scott said to laughter. “Most recently as Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice, throughout her service, she’s helped many of Florida’s at-risk and delinquent children and their families. While at DJJ, she led the agency in innovative juvenile justice reform efforts, which resulted in significant declines in all major categories of juvenile delinquency.”

And, Walters appeared surprised.

“I am in shock…I thought this was a little strange…But, my gosh, this is such an honor, and it’s been a great three and half years here, and I’m very grateful for everything, Governor, that you have done to allow us to change this system because I absolutely believe that this system is a better system today than it used to be and it’s getting better every single day, and it’s not going to stop,” said Walters.

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2 State Agencies on Hotseat posted on 6/17/14

by staff | Health News Florida

The state departments that are supposed to protect children and mentally-retarded inmates are being challenged in the wake of incidents that led to preventable deaths.

First, State Sen. Eleanor Sobel accused the Department of Children and Families (DCF) of a "cover-up and a whitewash" after the agency said no records were generated during an internal investigation into a previous alleged cover-up, the Miami Herald reports.

Second, there are questions about suspicious deaths of inmates at prisons in the state that were never investigated by the Department of Corrections, the Miami Herald reports in a separate article.

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Weekly Roundup: Time to Hit Reset posted on 6/16/14

by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida

It was a week of resets in Florida, whether in Gov. Rick Scott's relationship with Hispanic voters or in Florida State University's beleaguered and increasingly contentious presidential search.

Just a day before U.S. House Republican Leader Eric Cantor lost a Virginia congressional seat after seeming too open to a deal on immigration reform, Scott touched the third rail of GOP politics by signing a bill that would allow some undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at Florida colleges and universities. Scott focused on other parts of the "affordability" law in an apparent effort to shield himself from conservative criticism.

Meanwhile, FSU completed a slow-motion reboot of its hunt for a new leader, after an effort to start the process with an exclusive interview of influential Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, turned into a public relations debacle. But segments of the university community still regarded the process warily.

And a bill meant to reset the timeline for death row inmates to be executed was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court.

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