Today's Top Story
by kelli kennedy | ap
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered state health officials to inspect Planned Parenthood offices that perform abortions, saying he is troubled by videos describing the organization's procedures for providing tissue from aborted fetuses for research.
The Republican governor said Wednesday the state will take quick legal and regulatory action if any of the 16 facilities in Florida are found in violation of the law.
"The videos coming out...
by BRANDON LARRABEE | News Service of Florida
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, July 29, 2015.......... After reaching an agreement this week with voting-rights groups, Florida lawmakers face the chore of going into special session in October to redraw Senate districts.
But the agreement with the League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause Florida and others that legally challenged the Senate's current map doesn't list the districts that have to be changed. And the opponents' objections have encompassed 28 districts --- fully 70 percent of the districts represented in the 40-member Senate.
"The Senate has indicated that it's going to redraw the map," said David King, a lawyer for the groups that were fighting the plan. "I would assume that they will address the challenged districts. If they don't, they're going to have to justify those decisions in the remedial (legal) process."
Lawmakers also will hold a special session Aug. 10 to redraw the state's congressional map. But during that session, lawmakers have to comply with a relatively specific Florida Supreme Court decision spelling out the eight districts that need to be changed, as well as swapping populations to make sure the reconfigured seats serve the same number of residents.
The roadmap for redrawing the Senate districts later in the year, however, is not so clear. A joint memo issued Tuesday by Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, didn't give many specifics. It simply said the Legislature's staff will draw a map "that complies with the Florida Supreme Court's ruling (on the congressional districts) and all other relevant legal standards."
But here are some of the major areas that King's clients have focused on:
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by dara kam | news service of florida
Florida gambling regulators have backed down on a number of proposed changes to the state’s pari-mutuel rules after a legislative oversight panel and industry representatives challenged the Department of Business and Professional Regulations’ authority to issue the mandates.
The agency’s Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering on Tuesday published the latest modifications, which deal with issues such as jockey requirements, track sizes and jai alai frontons. The division folded on a number of issues raised by industry operators at a hearing last week.
But the proposal may not go far enough to prevent legal challenges.
The proposed rule changes were originally published last month, but the revised version includes a number of concessions to the controversial barrel-racing industry. Gambling regulators in 2011 granted a pari-mutuel license to Gretna Racing in Gadsden County for the rodeo-style matches, which, in turn, allowed the facility open a more lucrative card room. An appeals court later ruled that the state erred in granting the barrel-racing license —- the first of its kind in the nation. The state and Gretna Racing entered a settlement agreement authorizing “flag drop” races in which two riders compete against each other but without any obstacles in the arena.
Tuesday’s changes do away with a requirement in the original proposed rule that would have forced all tracks to have starting gates, an expensive addition that Donna Blanton, a lawyer for the association representing the barrel racers, at last week’s meeting said was too .
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by zac anderson | herald-tribune
Last week a state House candidate from Sarasota raised more in one month than the average House candidate collected for an entire campaign four years ago, and a leading presidential contender from Florida posted an initial fundraising figure described as unprecedented.
Welcome to American politics, where the price tag keeps rising to be competitive in political races at all levels.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush drew a lot of attention when his presidential campaign and an affiliated political committee announced a combined haul of $114 million over the last six months.
Bush’s fundraising is remarkable for this stage in the presidential race, and speaks to the growing influence of the mega-rich in the age of unlimited Super PAC contributions.
The story was the same at the local level, where Sarasota Republican Joe Gruters reported a one-month fundraising total of $87,394 in his first campaign finance report since declaring his intention to run for the House. That may not seem like much compared to the Bush war chest, but it’s an enormous amount to collect in one month for a legislative campaign. The average state House candidate raised $81,813 total in 2012, according to an analysis by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Gruters wasn’t alone among local House candidates posting strong initial fundraising reports. Sarasota Democrat Edward James III raised $12,375 for a separate House race, and a political committee supporting his campaign collected another $12,800 thanks to a big donor who kicked in $10,000.
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by john kennedy | Palm Beach Post
Gov. Rick Scott visited Miami Gardens to promote his recent signing of legislation allowing parents to create a tax-free savings plan for their disabled children, even as thousands worry about the loss of state funding for another critical program.
Scott held a ceremonial bill-signing Monday for the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. The bill lets people with disabilities save up to $100,000 for future needs in a tax free account, without jeopardizing state and federal benefits.
The governor also praised lawmakers for steering $40 million to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, funding that will allow 2,000 people with critical needs to be removed from a 20,000-person waiting list for state services.
Scott, however, didn’t mention that the budget also slashed the state’s Adults with Disabilities’ program. AWD was cut from $10 million to $750,000 in the $78.2 billion state budget that took effect July 1.
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by abe aboraya | health news florida
The Florida Department of Health has 90 days to decide which five nurseries will be allowed to grow low-THC medical marijuana in Florida.
As of last week, 24 nurseries had submitted 28 applications. Also, 36 Florida doctors have signed up to dispense the low-THC medical marijuana.
It's been more than a year since lawmakers approved a non-euphoric strain of medical marijuana. But its implementation has been slowed by lawsuits.
“We’re happy this part of the process is over,” said Bruce Knox, president of Central Florida's Knox Nursery, one of the eight nurseries that applied. “It’s like closing a chapter in a book, I think.”
A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health says the agency is committed to getting medical marijuana to children with epilepsy and cancer patients as soon as possible.
So what happens next? By October, the department has to pick the five nurseries who can grow all of Florida’s crop. Those nurseries then have 10 days to post a $5 million bond, and they must start growing medical marijuana by December 23.
The growers must have crops processed into medicine for patients by July 20, 2016.
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by JOHN O'CONNOR | State Impact
Some states are telling students and parents they are better at reading, writing, math and other subjects than they really are, according to a new website from the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
The website, WhyProficiencyMatters.com, tracks the percentage of students scoring at grade level on state tests — “proficient” in education jargon. The site then compares those rates to how well students perform on the National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP. Students take the NAEP every two years and the exam results are considered the gold-standard of education data.
The group has found that many states report a much higher percentage of students are proficient on state tests than are proficient on NAEP. Foundation for Excellence in Education director Patricia Levesque says some states are telling students they’re ready for college or the workforce when they might not be.
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by leslie postal | orlando sentinel
If Florida's largest school-voucher program were to shut down, some 70,000 students could enter public schools, creating financial and logistical problems, the program's backers argue.
Advocates of Florida's Tax Credit Scholarship Program are fighting a lawsuit — successfully, so far — that challenges the constitutionality of the program that provides private-school scholarships to students from low-income families.
They are also fighting in the court of public opinion.
In a new campaign launched this month, the Save Our Scholarships Coalition argues that if a court ordered the program closed, the state and urban school districts such as Orange County's would be left scrambling to educate thousands of students now attending private school.
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by Gray Rohrer | Orlando Sentinel
TALLAHASSEE — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has had plenty of time to prepare to announce a likely campaign for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.
Lopez-Cantera, who makes $124,851 a year as lieutenant governor, has no official duties and has set a date for Wednesday to make a formal decision about his candidacy. The lieutenant-governor role is undefined in the state constitution, which states only that the official must replace the governor if he or she is incapacitated through death or illness.
But even by the slight standards of previous lieutenant governors, Lopez-Cantera has had little to do. In the last few months, even the largely ceremonial events lieutenant governors typically attend have all but vanished from his official schedule.
Gov. Rick Scott in recent weeks has defended Lopez-Cantera as doing "a great job" even while giving him scant work.
"The Lt. Governor helps provide valuable insight on many important issues facing the state," Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz wrote in an email.
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