Today's Top Story

Effort to Revive Immigrant In-state Tuition Bill Thwarted By Senate Panel posted on 4/23/14

by Lynn Hatter | WFSU

Univ of Miami FL

A Florida Senate panel has rejected several attempts to revive a plan giving the children of undocumented immigrants in-state tuition.

Efforts to revive the proposal failed in the appropriations committee Tuesday as the bill sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala’s (R-Clearwater) attempts to get the language amended onto other education bills were thwarted by Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher. Thrasher ruled the language didn’t...

Breaking News

  • Scott 'comfortable' in-state tuition bill will pass as it suffers Senate setback posted on 4/23/14

    by Gray Rohrer | Florida Current

    Gov. Rick Scott said earlier Tuesday he was “comfortable” legislation offering in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants would pass the Senate, but later chided the Senate for again blocking the bill.

    “We have students here that deserve to get in-state tuition. All of our tuition needs to become more affordable. I’m going to work hard to make sure that happens. I’m comfortable [Senate President Don Gaetz] and [House Speaker Will Weatherford] -- I’ve spoken to both of them -- are going to make sure that happens,” Scott told reporters Tuesday morning.

    Scott’s comments came moments after his reelection campaign chairman, Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, declared an amendment to put the in-state tuition bill into another bill dealing with online education as not germane to the bill. Thrasher has previously supported the measure in earlier committee stops, but Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, decided last week not to hear the bill in his committee.

    » Full story

  • Schools Suspend FCAT Because Of Computer Problems posted on 4/23/14

    by JOHN O'CONNOR | State Impact

    UPDATE: Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has sent a letter to Pearson saying she expects “a resolution and explanation for this immediately.”

    “This failure is inexcusable,” Stewart wrote. “Florida’s students and teachers work too hard on learning to be distracted by these needless and avoidable technological issues.”

    Read Stewart’s letter below.

    Original post:

    Schools are suspending today’s FCAT testing because some school districts are having computer issues.

    The Florida Department of Education says the problem is with testing firm Pearson. The problem is not statewide, they said, but they’ve advised districts having issues to suspend testing.

    The Tampa Bay Times reports Pasco County schools have stopped testing. Pasco County schools’ testing director said Leon, Seminole and Brevard schools are reporting similar issues.

    » Full story

  • Latvala uses parliamentary move to kill dog-racing ‘decoupling’ effort posted on 4/23/14

    by JAMES L. ROSICA | Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureau

    With a one-two parliamentary punch on Tuesday, two leading state senators knocked out an amendment to a bill that would have clamped down on Florida greyhound racing.

    The amendment by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, would have stopped making dog tracks have races to continue to run more profitable card rooms and have slot machines.

    The move is known as “decoupling.” She tried to tack it on to her bill (SB 742) requiring race dog injury and death reporting. Florida and Alabama are the only states that don’t require such reporting.

    Decoupling also is supported by Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, his wife Vickey and his son, state Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar.

    Suddenly, Latvala — a Clearwater Republican — called for a point of order.

    He told chair Joe Negron, R-Stuart, that the amendment wasn’t germane to the bill and that it violated a “single-subject” requirement.

    Negron turned to Rules chair John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, who agreed with the call. Based on Thrasher’s ruling, Negron then struck the amendment from consideration.

    The bill later cleared the committee — without the decoupling language. It should head next to the Senate floor.

    » Full story

  • AP Exclusive: Ex-Fla. LG didn't report income posted on 4/23/14


    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll failed to report thousands of dollars she earned from a veterans charity that was accused of running an illegal gambling operation, newly released documents show.

    Carroll abruptly resigned in March 2013 after state investigators questioned the work she did for Allied Veterans of the World before she ran with Gov. Rick Scott. She denied any wrongdoing, but for more than a year there has been no public explanation of why she was initially interviewed by investigators.

    Documents obtained by The Associated Press from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show Carroll's company was paid nearly $100,000 by Allied Veterans in 2009 and 2010 for her work as a public relations consultant. Most of the money was then transferred to her personal banking account.

    But Carroll, who was a state legislator at the time, did not report earning that much on either mandatory financial disclosure forms she filed with the state or on her federal income tax filings. She changed them only after she was questioned by state investigators about it.

    It was during the investigation that Carroll's attorney turned over her 2010 income tax filing. Investigators noted she reported to the IRS earning $48,000, but Allied Veterans records showed they had paid Carroll's company $72,000 that year.

    » Full story

  • Election results: Clawson wins, 'time to unite' posted on 4/23/14

    by JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER | Scripps/Tribune Capital Bureau

    Curt Clawson declared victory Tuesday night in the Southwest Florida congressional race and called for Southwest Florida to unite.

    The Tea Party Express, a tea party political action committee, said at 7:51 p.m. that Florida’s 19th Congressional District race will go to Clawson.

    Minutes later, opponent Lizbeth Benacqusito conceded the special primary race, and said she had called Clawson to congratulate him...

    Final unofficial totals came in for Collier and Lee counties around 9:20 p.m. Clawson had 26,857 votes (38.2 percent), Benacquisto had 18,032 votes (25.7 percent), Paige Kreegel had 17,762 votes (25.3 percent) and Michael Dreikorn had 7,560 (10.8 percent.)

    Kreegel finished second in Collier. Benacquisto finished second in Lee.

    Less than an hour after the polls closed, Benacquisto stepped into a banquet room to applause and chants of “Lizbeth! Lizbeth!” and conceded defeat.

    » Full story

  • Springs bill clears final committee stop with new opposition posted on 4/23/14

    by Bruce Ritchie | Florida Current

    A Senate springs bill cleared its final committee stop on Tuesday with new opposition from cities and counties because of a lack of funding for water quality improvement projects.

    SB 1576 had provided an estimated $365 million a year for springs projects but a proposed rewrite would have provided $55 million a year. The rewrite was revised Tuesday to an unspecified appropriation in fiscal year 2014-15 for springs, which received $10 million this year.

    "Today with this series of amendments we are looking at what -- $10 million?" Stephen James, legislative staff attorney for the Florida Association of Counties, told the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

    He said 60 percent of the counties with springs regulated under the bill are designated rural areas of critical economic concern.

    "These are counties that are struggling -- they are struggling badly," James said.

    Other groups opposing the bill included the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, the Coalition for Property Rights and the Florida Water Environment Association-Utility Council.

    » Full story

  • Crist Stands Up for 'Obamacare' posted on 4/23/14

    by AP

    Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist set himself up today for another round of attacks over the President’s health overhaul from Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s campaign team – repeatedly calling the nation’s new insurance system “great” during a lunch speech.

    Crist appeared at the Capital Tiger Bay Club and almost immediately brought up the attack ads being run by the political committee backing Scott’s re-election, which show video of Crist talking about the health care overhaul and saying, “I think it’s been great.”

    “I’m going to tell you what’s great. ‘Obamacare’s’ great,” Crist said one minute into his 29-minute speech. “My opponent has spent about $6 million showing me say what’s great ... Affordable health care – I think it’s incredibly important and I don’t back away from it, I do support it because it is great.”

    Republicans nationally are trying to use the health care overhaul as a campaign strategy against Democrats, and it’s clear it will be a major issue in the governor’s race. In addition to the television ads, the Republican Party of Florida and Scott’s campaign have also criticized Crist’s position on the Affordable Care Act in at least 50 separate emails to reporters since the beginning of the year.

    Crist told the group that since the television ads began running, a woman in Orlando approached him while he was campaigning and said she agreed the health care overhaul is great.

    » Full story

  • Everglades restoration project may be in peril posted on 4/23/14

    by laura green | palm beach post

    An internal review board within the Army Corps of engineers failed to green light an Everglades restoration project designed to create more drinking water, save wildlife and bring water to parts of the Everglades that are being starved.

    The review board is asking for more time to consider the project, which has been in the works for 18 months. That delay could imperil Congressional approval, advocates say.

    “Of all things, how ironic on Earth Day, the feckless bureaucrats of the Army Corp of Engineers who have had the central everglades project since August have failed to approve it today,” said Eric Eikenberg, Chief Executive Officer of the Everglades Foundation.

    During a more than four-hour meeting Tuesday, the Civil Works Review Board discussed the project meant to resuscitate the “slowly dying” Everglades which has already lost half its mass and is home to 68 federally-listed threatened or endangered species. The failing Everglades is also threatening supplies of drinking water and risking major wildfires.

    » Full story

  • Physician Assistant Bill Passes posted on 4/23/14

    by AP

    Florida physicians would be allowed to double the number of certified medical assistants under their supervision under legislation (HB 1275that passed the House.

    The bill would allow most doctors to supervise eight assistants instead of four. The measure passed 100 to 19.

    The measure excludes assistants working for doctors at a dermatological service other than their primary practice location, where the maximum number remains four.

  • Senate bucks 'Vinny' and sheds 'shakedown' language from its beer growler bill posted on 4/22/14

    by Aaron Deslatte | Orlando Sentinel

    TALLAHASSEE -- State lawmakers are backing off some controversial provisions of a beer bill likened to a mob-like shakedown of Florida's exploding craft brew industry.

    The bill, SB 1714 sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, has been pushed by beer distributors and retailers to further regulate Florida's exploding craft breweries trying to expand and sell their own brews on premises and also in bottles or jugs known as growlers.

    It cleared its final Senate committee Monday after more than an hour of complaints from small brewers from around the state.

    The bill would legalize 64-ounce "growler" jugs of beer to be filled by in brew pups, but would also subject larger craft brewers that make 2,000 kegs or more a year to the "three-tiered" regulatory system requiring beer-makers to sell their bottled or canned products through distributors.

    Brewers that produce their own brew and want to sell it in bottles on site would have originally been required to pay distributors for that right -- even without the beer leaving the premises. Under changes made Monday, distributors would have to pick up the packaged beer and bring it back to the brew pub.

    Breweries that sell fewer than 2,000 kegs -- or 1,000 barrels -- would still be exempt from going through distributors to sell their packaged beer, a limit beer brewers called "laughable" because it wouldn't cover the cost of producing and packaging the beer.

  • Florida Blue: ACA enrollments “exceeded expectations” but premiums may rise in 2015 posted on 4/22/14


    Most of the consumers who bought a private health plan from Florida Blue through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges between October and April were previously uninsured — one of many factors potentially leading to higher premium rates in 2015, according to a senior executive.

    Jason Altmire, a former Pennsylvania congressman and now senior vice president of public policy for Florida Blue, cited familiar reasons for a likely rise in rates next year, including the requirement that insurers no longer exclude those with pre-existing conditions, charge equal rates regardless of gender and charge older members no more than three times the amount paid by younger ones.

    Other reasons consumers may see higher premiums in 2015, he said, include the Obama administration’s decision to allow Americans to keep their health insurance plans for an additional year even if the plans did not meet the coverage requirements of the health law.

    Altmire said that most consumers signed up through the exchange were previously uninsured Americans who may have delayed seeking medical care, making them potentially more costly to insure.

  • Scott Administration wants more restrictions on marijuana proposal posted on 4/22/14


    THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE— Gov. Rick Scott and his surgeon general are balking at a proposal headed to the House floor that would open the door for a strain of marijuana that doesn't get users high but is believed to dramatically reduce seizures in children with a rare form of epilepsy.

    Instead, Scott wants a more limited approach that would put children with "intractable" epilepsy, as well as children and adults with other diseases, into clinical trials for the drug. The trials would require cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or drug companies.

    A plan approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday includes language proposed by Scott that would create an "Office of Compassionate Use" within the Department of Health that would "enhance access to investigational new drugs for Florida patients through approved clinical treatment plans or studies." 

    "Investigational new drug" studies are the first step in laboratory testing of drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration...

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