Today's Top Story

Judge rules Florida Legislature broke laws on maps posted on 7/11/14

by GARY FINEOUT | AP

redistricting mapTALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Legislature illegally drew the state's congressional districts to primarily benefit the Republican Party, a judge has ruled, and has ordered them redrawn.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said in a 41-page ruling Thursday that legislators relied on GOP political operatives who worked in secret to craft the final political maps adopted in 2012. In doing so Lewis rejected arguments from top legislative leaders that they had done...

Breaking News

  • DOC Sec. Crews Suspends Warden Over Inmate Death Two Years Ago posted on 7/11/14

    by Sascha Cordner | WFSU

    Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews has suspended the warden of a South Florida prison where an inmate died in a scalding shower a couple years ago. It’s the latest in a series of inmate abuse-related death allegations surrounding the department lately.

    In 2012, Dade Correctional officers allegedly punished Darren Rainey, a mentally ill prisoner, with a shower so hot that it separated his skin from his body, resulting in his death. That’s why during a visit to the facility Thursday, DOC head Crews said he’s fully prepared to move forward on any disciplinary actions.

    “Earlier today, as part of our overall leadership evaluation over at Dade Correctional institution, I actually placed Warden Jerry Cummings on [paid] administrative leave,” said Crews, speaking to a group of reporters.

    While he says he won’t take action until an investigation into the abuse claims is complete, he’s fully prepared to fire those responsible.

    “This type of conduct, this type of behavior, and this type of actions we’re not going to tolerate in this department. We are going to find those bad seeds and we’re going to eliminate them from being able to work in our department,” he added.

    » Read more

  • Early look at school grades shows up and downs as Florida pivots to a new system posted on 7/11/14

    by jeffrey solochek | tampa Bay times

    Tampa Bay area schools saw a variety of results in their state grades delivered to districts late Thursday, with many showing improvement and several dropping a level.

    The results, which the Tampa Bay Times obtained a day before their public release, show Hillsborough County elementary and middle schools logged in 98 A grades, compared with 61 a year ago. At the same time, the district had seven F-rated schools, up from five.

    Hernando County's sole F-graded school from 2013 improved to a C, while its three A-rated schools held firm.

    Pasco County saw five schools drop to F grades, from none the previous year. Two schools rose from B to A, but 10 dropped from A to B.

    Five Pinellas schools that overhauled their staffs and were targeted for special help got no traction in their first year as "turnaround" schools: Melrose, Fairmount Park and Maximo elementaries kept their F grades, as did Azalea Middle School; Pinellas Park Middle remained a D school.

    Some district officials worried that their school grades would not look good because they had begun making the transition from Florida's old academic standards to the new Common Core-based standards this year, while their students were evaluated with the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

    The FCAT measures the standards that are being jettisoned.

    The current grading system also is being revised, after facing heavy criticism for being unfair with constantly changing measures.

    Some administrators said they expected to see marks that would not reflect the true nature of their students' performance.

    Superintendents across Florida have called for a three-year transition period to the new accountability system, with no penalties assessed during that period. The Legislature approved a one-year pause, starting in the fall.

    » Read more

  • Complaint filed over Gov. Scott’s use of police in Tampa posted on 7/11/14

    by Ap

    TALLAHASSEE – A former Broward County police officer is contending that Florida Gov. Rick Scott violated the state’s election laws.

    The complaint alleges that Scott broke the law when he had on-duty law enforcement officers stand with him during a campaign event held this week in Tampa.

    Florida law does not allow public employees to do campaign work while on duty.

    Media reports after the event quoted law-enforcement agencies who said they thought the officers were there to provide security or were there for an official state event.

    The Scott campaign contends that all officers were told ahead of time it was a campaign event. A spokesman called the complaint a “sad distraction.”

    » Read more

  • Medical marijuana: Who supplies the suppliers? posted on 7/11/14

    by Dan Sweeney | Sun Sentinel

    Under the new medical marijuana law, five Florida nurseries will be allowed to grow cannabis. But one very big question remains: How will they get the ganja in the first place?

    In the federal government's eyes, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it's illegal to transport across state lines.

    "Easiest way to do it is a nondescript white van moving along I-10," said state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, co-sponsor of the bill that allows the use of certain strains of marijuana for specific medical purposes.

    "How these entities get started is clearly not something set forth in the law I passed," he said. "I think anybody looking for some sort of comforting immunity is going to be sadly disappointed.''

    State Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, the bill's other co-sponsor, would have the state procure the plant through the back door of academia.

    "If you look at the language of the bill and you determine what research and university entity is going to work with these organizations, it's the University of Florida, which is a federal land-grant university," Edwards said. "Now, there is a federal marijuana farm at another land-grant university, the University of Mississippi ... Why wouldn't it be able to get it to the University of Florida and then get it to growers? That sounds more plausible than getting someone to break the law by bringing it in from out of state."

    Nursery owners say they have no desire to play Miami Vice. Because the state hasn't figured out how they legally can get seeds, plants or tissue cultures to get started, many growers are unsure whether to apply for one of the five grower/dispensary licenses the state will allow under the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act?

    » Read more

  • House leaders tell Florida Congressman immigration reform is dead posted on 7/11/14

    by jeremy wallace | Herald-Tribune

    A key Florida Republican Congressman said today that he is convinced there are enough votes in the U.S. House to pass immigration reform, but his party has told him they will not let the bill come up for a vote.

    “Despite our best efforts, today I was informed by the Republican leadership that they have no intention to bring this bill to the floor this year,” U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, said in a statement to the media.

    Diaz-Balart, who has been a leading voice for immigration reform, said he’s disappointed and considers it “highly irresponsible not to deal with the issue.”

    Later in an interview with the Washington Post, Diaz-Balart said the current crisis along the U.S. border is yet another example as to why immigration reform needs to be taken up. However, some Republicans in Congress have argued the opposite, saying the crisis is an example as to why immigration reform cannot be taken up.

    » Read more

  • Some in GOP worried over Fla. governor's missteps posted on 7/11/14

    by BRENDAN FARRINGTON AND GARY FINEOUT | AP

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott's campaign for re-election is hitting Democratic rival Charlie Crist with a barrage of attacks but his campaign team has also committed a series of blunders this year.

    Examples include mega-millionaire Scott criticizing Crist as being an elitist for wearing a Rolex watch. His staff set up a roundtable to discuss the president's health care overhaul only to have seniors they brought together praise the law. Scott's finance chairman quit shortly after one of Scott's political advisers criticized him to a national media outlet.

    Scott refuses to answer questions about his campaign even though he's asserting more control over it than he did four years ago. A spokesman acknowledged that mistakes were made but pointed out polls show that Scott is no longer trailing Crist.

    » Read more

  • Rick Scott Enacted Single-Term High of 12 Pro-Gun Laws posted on 7/10/14

    by JIM Turner | NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

    Gov. Rick Scott appears nearly bulletproof right now in the eyes of the National Rifle Association.

    That assessment of Scott comes as the NRA notes that more pro-gun bills have been signed into law in the past four years than during any other recent single gubernatorial term. The organization sent a message to members applauding Scott for setting the record.

    Since taking office in 2011, Scott has signed into law 12 gun-related measures backed by the NRA. That total is nine more than former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist approved while enjoying an equally Republican-dominated Legislature between 2007 and 2010. Crist is now running for the Democratic nomination to face Scott in the November elections.

    The total number of Scott's signings remains two fewer than those inked by former Gov. Jeb Bush, who also affixed his name to a one-year record six pro-gun and pro-hunting bills in 2006. A year earlier, Bush had signed the Stand Your Ground law. However, Bush's overall total of 14 new pro-gun laws came during eight years as the occupant of the governor's mansion.

    » Read more

  • Libertarian governor candidate: ‘Include me or arrest me’ at press candidate forum posted on 7/10/14

    by George Bennett | Palm Beach Post

    Republican Gov. Rick Scott and leading Democratic gubernatorial contenders Charlie Crist and Nan Rich were invited to speak at the Florida Press Association/Florida Society of News Editors convention on Thursday and Friday at The Biltmore in Coral Gables.

    Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie wasn’t invited — but plans to be there anyway. He says organizers should either let him speak or have him arrested.

    Crist has refused to debate Rich. He’s scheduled to appear Thursday afternoon while Rich is slated for Friday morning.

    Scott declined an invitation to appear. Said Scott campaign spokesman Greg Blair: “Our campaign will consider debate and forum invitations in the fall after the Democrats choose their nominee.”

    » Read more

  • Former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett Reaches Ethics Deal posted on 7/10/14

    by JOHN O'CONNOR | State Impact

    Former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett will pay a $5,000 fine as part of a proposed deal with Indiana ethics investigators, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by the Associated Press.

    Bennett admits using state resources for his 2012 reelection campaign. But Bennett was also clears of any ethics violations related to changes he sought to Indiana’s school grading formula in 2011.

    Emails showed Bennett, A Republican, asked staff to adjust the state formula after learning an Indiana charter school would receive a lower than expected grade. The school was founded by a prominent political donor who favored Republicans in statewide races.

    » Read more

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