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NSF MONTHLY DIGEST FOR JANUARY 2013

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2013

FISCAL CLIFF DEAL EXTENDS FARM LAW NINE MONTHS
MARGIE MENZEL |
The deal between the White House and Congress narrowly approved Tuesday evening by the House to avoid going over the fiscal cliff would extend a 2008 farm law through September 2013. That will keep milk prices from doubling but leaves other major issues unresolved... Story

REVENUE BEAT FORECAST IN NOVEMBER

Florida general revenue tax collections in November were $10.3 million higher than expected, putting the year-to-date revenue collection estimate at $260.2 million above the earlier forecast, state officials said Wednesday...

EFUNDS GETS DCF CASH ASSISTANCE CONTRACT

The Department of Children and Families said Wednesday it has signed a contract with eFunds, a subsidiary of industry giant FIS Government Services, to process electronic benefit transfer services, the system by which cash assistance is given out...

MEMORIAL SCHEDULE SET FOR JUSTICE OVERTON

A memorial service in Tallahassee for former Florida Supreme Court Justice Ben Overton will take place Monday with a public visitation followed by memorial service...

OIR: WORKERS' COMP COMPETITIVE, BUT COSTS RISE

Florida workers' compensation marketplace in 2012 remained dominated by competing private providers that continue to flourish following statutory changes made a decade ago, the Office of Insurance Regulation concluded in a report released Wednesday...

YOUNG TO CONTINUE AS DEFENSE BUDGET CHAIR

Rep. Bill Young will serve another term as chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, leaders in the House announced earlier this week...

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 3, 2013

REVENUE, PENSION ISSUES TOPS FOR LOCALS
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Pensions and taxes lead a list of priorities for local governments as the 2013 legislative session approaches, with other less critical issues waiting just off stage... Story

TRANSOCEAN TO PAY $1.4B TO SETTLE DEEPWATER HORIZON CLAIMS
DAVID ROYSE |
Transocean Deepwater, Inc., will plead guilty and pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal penalties for its role in causing the nation's largest oil spill in 2010, the U.S. government said Thursday... Story

PRISON HEALTH CONTRACT SIGNED

The state's efforts to privatize prison health-care services across roughly the southern third of Florida is moving ahead, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman confirmed Thursday...

URBAN DEVELOPMENT BILL FILED

The Urban Infill and Redevelopment Assistance Grant program would be re-created by a bill (HB 89) filed Thursday by a House Democrat...

MICA TO CHAIR GOV OPS SUBCOMMITTEE

U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Winter Park, was tapped to head a subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as part of committee reshuffling announced Thursday...

EFFORT TO REDUCE MEDICAID FRAUD NETS MONEY FOR STATE

Florida recovered $6.80 for every $1 spent last fiscal year on battling Medicaid fraud and abuse, state officials said in a report released Thursday...

PLAKON FILES TO RUN FOR HOUSE

Former Rep. Scott Plakon, who lost in his November bid for re-election to Rep. Karen Castor Dentel, filed this week to run for the House in 2014 in District 29...

FRIDAY, JANUARY 4, 2013

RED LIGHT CAMERA REPEAL FILED; STATE SAYS CRASHES DOWN
DAVID ROYSE |
A South Florida lawmaker filed legislation Friday to repeal the law allowing the use of red light cameras, following a report earlier this week that says intersections where they're used have seen drops in crashes in most places.... Story

ROUND UP: NEW YEAR MARKS RETURN OF PERENNIAL ISSUES
MICHAEL PELTIER |
With the holidays over and the fiscal cliff problem put off for a few months, drivers of public policy are turning their attention toward the 2013 legislative session... Read the Roundup

SCOTT: INCREASE K-12 BUDGET

Gov. Rick Scott said Friday he wants lawmakers to increase spending in the K-12 education budget as he prepares to lay out a spending plan later this month...

REHWINKEL VASILINDA: END DEATH PENALTY

A bill filed Friday by a House Democrat would end the death penalty in Florida. The measure (HB 4005) was filed by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, who said in a statement that it's not cost-effective and doesn't deter crime....

SCOTT REITERATES CORPORATE TAX PROPOSAL

Gov. Rick Scott said Friday that he will include an increase in the exemption for corporate income taxes in his budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1...

MONDAY, JANUARY 7, 2013

SCHOOL DELINQUENCY DOWN, BUT MINORITIES, DISABLED MOST ARRESTED
MARGIE MENZEL |
A new study by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice shows delinquency on school grounds has dropped by roughly half in the last eight years. But minority students and those with disabilities continue to get arrested at more than double the rate of other kids... Story

COMPUTER REQUIREMENTS CAUSE CONCERN
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Changes to Florida's unemployment system may be leaving some potential recipients without benefits as the state transitions to an online system for delivering unemployment compensation.... Story

SCOTT, SEBELIUS TALK MEDICAID, OBAMACARE
JIM SAUNDERS |
After emerging from a meeting with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Gov. Rick Scott said Monday he asked for the federal government to "expedite" approval of Florida's controversial proposals to shift most Medicaid beneficiaries into managed-care plans... Story

NUKE PROJECT DELAY COULD COST PROGRESS $100M
JIM SAUNDERS |
Still undecided about whether to repair or permanently shut down an idled nuclear-power plant, Progress Energy Florida faces the likelihood of eventually refunding up to $100 million to customers... Story

SCOTT: GIVE WORKERS PERFORMANCE BONUSES
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Gov. Rick Scott is looking to take another run at getting performance bonuses for some state employees, he told a newspaper in an interview published Monday. But the move could do little to quiet calls for broad-based pay increases after workers have seen their wages stagnate in recent years... Story

NATIONAL HEALTH SPENDING INCREASES BY 3.9 PERCENT FOR THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR

Total health care spending in the United States increased 3.9 percent in 2011, hitting $2.7 trillion or $8,680 per person, according to data released Monday by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services...

BILL WOULD ALLOW LOCAL GUN CONTROL AT EVENTS

A bill filed in the House on Friday would allow local governments to ban conceapled weapons at public events such as sporting events and concerts despite a law generally pre-empting gun control to the state...

HOSPITAL PAYMENT PLAN FINALIZED

The state Agency for Health Care Administration has finished drawing up recommendations for a plan that would substantially change the way hospitals are paid to care for Medicaid beneficiaries...

NEUROLOGIC INSTITUTE FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY

Under fire from state health officials about quality of care, a Hardee County rehabilitation facility that serves people with head injuries has filed for bankruptcy, according to a report by Bloomberg News...

REPUBLICAN FILES EARLY VOTING BILL

Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla has filed the first GOP bill that would expand early voting, though the measure wouldn't allow for as many days as previously allowed...

HBORO HAS ARMED COP IN EVERY SCHOOL

Students return to class in a number of school systems around the state today following the holiday break and in many cases they'll see additional security. In Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, there will be armed deputies or police officers at every elementary school...

SCOTT MEETS TODAY WITH SEBELIUS

Gov. Rick Scott meets today with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to talk about new Medicaid and health care exchange requirements under the federal health care law, and the status of the state's effort to reform Medicaid...

CURRY RE-ELECTED GOP CHAIR

As expected, state Republicans over the weekend re-elected Lenny Curry chairman of the party in Florida, despite the party's inability to deliver Florida for presidential candidate Mitt Romney...

TUESDAY, JANUARY 8, 2013

FLORIDA LAND CASE DRAWS ATTENTION AT HIGH COURT
JIM SAUNDERS |
The dispute started in 1994 when Coy Koontz, Sr., sought approval from the St. Johns River Water Management District to develop 3.7 acres of his land in eastern Orange County. But more than 18 years later, a case that started out as a seemingly routine clash about environmental permits is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where state and national business groups, government organizations and the Obama administration have weighed in... Story

ELECTION SNAFU: WAS BALLOT TOO LONG?
DAVID ROYSE |
When Gov. Rick Scott recently listed ways he thinks Florida could reduce voting difficulties and long polling lines, he drew the most attention for a change of course in suggesting that more early voting might help. But another idea Scott raised may have more far-reaching implications for public policy in Florida, and might even be more difficult to accomplish than the politically volatile suggestion about early voting... Story

BATTLE LOOMS ON LOCAL PENSION FUNDING
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Lawmakers are again working to overhaul how local police and firefighter pensions are bankrolled, allowing cities to use more money from a tax on insurance premiums to back up retirement systems that are in some cases badly underfunded.... Story

MACHEN WILL REMAIN AT UF

University of Florida President Bernie Machen will not retire from his post this year as planned, the school announced Tuesday...

SCOTT ADMINISTRATION DEFENDS OBAMACARE ESTIMATES

Gov. Rick Scott's administration Tuesday defended its estimates of the costs of carrying out the federal Affordable Care Act, after Health News Florida obtained copies of emails that raised questions about the validity of the numbers...

SENATE PANEL TO HEAR FROM ELECTIONS SUPERVISORS

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee will hear from ten elections supervisors Monday as it looks into what went wrong in Florida's 2012 elections...

ANALYSTS QUESTION SCOTT'S OBAMACARE ESTIMATES

Key state budget analysts found fault last month with Medicaid cost estimates that Gov. Rick Scott has repeatedly used to raise objections to the federal Affordable Care Act --- but the Scott administration has refused to scrap the numbers, according to a report by Health News Florida...

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9, 2013

DOMESTIC PARTNERSHIP BILL FILED IN SENATE
BRANDON LARRABEE |
A bill that would allow Floridians to enter "domestic partnerships" resembling marriages was filed Wednesday by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, in an apparent effort to extend at least some marital benefits to same-sex couples....Story

FMA, OTHERS PREPARE FOR DRUG DISPENSING FIGHT
JIM SAUNDERS |
With another legislative fight brewing, the Florida Medical Association is signaling that it could play a large role this year in a debate about limiting the amount of money doctors can charge for dispensing drugs to workers-compensation insurance patients... Story

NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA HAS: 5 QUESTIONS FOR DAVID WILKINS
MARGIE MENZEL |
The News Service of Florida has five questions for David Wilkins... Story

SCOTT: MAKE TAX BREAK FOR BUSINESS EQUIPMENT BUYS EASIER
DAVID ROYSE |
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday proposed eliminating the sales tax paid by manufacturers when they purchase equipment, part of his ongoing effort to cajole companies to move to Florida and get those already here to add workers.... Story

McKEEL: CAUTION ON MEDICAID ESTIMATES

Lawmakers should proceed cautiously when weighing how to factor in controversial estimates of how much a projected expansion of the federal-state Medicaid program would cost, House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel suggested in a statement late Wednesday...

COSTELLO, HUIZENGA JR. AMONG BOG APPLICANTS

The son of a former owner of Miami-area sports teams and a former state lawmaker are among the 11 people who have applied for new seats on the Board of Governors...

JOSEPH BONDI, FATHER OF FLORIDA ATTY GEN, DIES

Joseph Bondi, an educational pioneer in the middle school movement and father of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, died Wednesday following a battle with Leukemia. He was 76.

BILL: DMV WOULD MAKE VOTER REGISTRATION AUTOMATIC

U.S. Citizens of voting age would be automatically registered to vote when they apply for or renew their Florida driver license under a measure filed Wednesday by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth....

ABRUZZO PITCHES MINIMUM PAY FOR TEACHERS

The state would be required to make sure teachers are paid the national average for their jobs by 2015 under a constitutional amendment filed Wednesday by Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-Royal Palm Beach...

COURT SAYS UNION OFFICIAL CAN CARRY GUN

A South Florida appeals court Wednesday said a labor official could carry a gun at his union hall without a concealed-weapons permit, as state law allows permit exceptions at people's "place of business."...

THURSDAY, JANUARY 10, 2013

AGENCIES TOUT ENHANCED CARE FOR MEDICALLY FRAGILE CHILDREN
MARGIE MENZEL |
Responding to charges of warehousing medically fragile children in geriatric nursing homes, the heads of three Florida state agencies Thursday announced new measures to help keep the youngsters in the least restrictive settings... Story

ACLU SAYS STATE MUST DO MORE THAN REPAIR ELEX PROBLEMS
BRANDON LARRABEE |
The state has to look at elections reform beyond simply responding to the glitches that plagued this November's voting, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said Thursday... Story

SCOTT APPOINTS FIVE TO BOARD OF GOVERNORS
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Gov. Rick Scott appointed five new members of the Board of Governors on Thursday, bringing him close to having named a majority of the 17-member panel responsible for overseeing Florida's 12 state universities... Story

COURT UPHOLDS CONTROVERSIAL DIALYSIS LAW
JIM SAUNDERS |
A federal appeals court Thursday upheld the constitutionality of a heavily lobbied 2002 law that prevents Florida doctors from referring kidney-dialysis patients to labs in which the doctors have financial stakes...

BALLOT BOG-DOWN: AMENDMENT WOULD LIMIT AMENDMENTS
DAVID ROYSE |
In the wake of an election in which voters had to wade through 11 constitutional amendment proposals put forth by legislators and complained of long voting lines, a Democratic state senator wants to limit how many ballot questions lawmakers can pose... Story

AHCA SCALES BACK OBAMACARE NUMBERS
JIM SAUNDERS |
With Gov. Rick Scott facing accusations of using inflated numbers, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration late Wednesday released a report that slashes the state's estimated costs for carrying out key parts of the federal Affordable Care Act... Story

STAND YOUR GROUND REPEAL BILL FILED
MARGIE MENZEL |
The controversial "stand your ground" self-defense law would be repealed under a bill filed this week by a House Democrat. The law, which allows those who feel threatened to shoot back at assailants out in public, seized the national spotlight last year with the February shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford... Story

LET'S GET TO WORK COLLECTS $360K

A political committee that will play a key role in Gov. Rick Scott's 2014 re-election bid raised $360,000 in November and December, including $100,000 from AT&T Services, Inc., according to the state Division of Elections website...

GOP TOPS $2M IN FINAL TWO MONTHS OF 2012

The Republican Party of Florida collected nearly $2.2 million in cash from Nov. 2 to Dec. 31, dwarfing the $424,302 raised by the Florida Democratic Party, according to reports posted Thursday on the state Division of Elections website...

HOUSE MEMBERS LINE UP FOR RE-ELECTION BIDS

With the 2012 elections behind them, 18 incumbent House members --- and one former representative --- have filed paperwork since Christmas indicating they will run again in 2014, according to the state Division of Elections...

ELECTIONS CHIEFS ASK FOR MORE EARLY VOTING

The state's local elections supervisors are set to ask lawmakers to allow them to increase early voting after the snafus that produced long lines at polling places in November, according to a summary of their legislative package...

TOBACCO SETTLEMENT BILL RE-FILED

A bill that would require more cigarette makers to pay the state as part of its settlement with tobacco companies was filed on Thursday...

FOUR SENATORS READY FOR 2014

Four incumbent senators have filed paperwork during the past week as a first step toward seeking re-election in 2014, according to the state Division of Elections website...

FORMER OPB OFFICIAL MARTIN YOUNG DIES

Martin Young, who was deputy director of the governor's Office of Budget and Planning under three governors, died unexpectedly Dec. 31...

FRIDAY. JANUARY 11, 2013

BETTER CHANCE FOR KIDCARE FOR IMMIGRANTS
MARGIE MENZEL |
A bill to extend health coverage to the children of legal immigrants will return in the 2013 legislative session - with the difference that this year, it will have a sponsor in the House. Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, plans to bring back a version of last year's proposal (SB 1294 of 2012), said Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, who plans to carry the House companion... Story

WEEKLY ROUNDUP: HEALTH CARE: BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE...
(Recap and analysis of the week in state government)
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and state health officials spent much of the week on their heels while the estimated price of the Affordable Care Act dropped faster than tree ornaments the day after Christmas.. Read the Roundup

ACA TO DOMINATE, BUT OTHER INSURANCE ISSUES ALSO ON TAP
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Affordable Care Act issues are expected to dominate discussions of insurance in the Legislature in the weeks ahead but lawmakers will also take swipes at workers compensation, hurricane preparations and Citizens Property Insurance Corp when they return... Story

COURT: STATE WENT TOO FAR IN RETIREMENT COMMUNITY CASE

An appeals court Friday overturned a move by the Florida Department of Financial Services to intervene and act as a receiver for a Palm Beach County continuing-care retirement community that defaulted on a mortgage loan and faced foreclosure...

NO DRONE BILL TO GET HEARING NEXT WEEK

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday will hear a measure (SB 92) that would prohibit police agencies from using remote control unmanned aircraft - or drones - to take pictures...

FL HEALTH OFFICIALS SAY JAX TB OUTBREAK "CONTAINED"

State health officials on Friday declared victory of sorts in an outbreak of tuberculosis among homeless residents in Duval County, saying they the outbreak has been contained...

SURGEONS GROUP TO STUDY TRAUMA SYSTEM

Working on changes to the way it approves new trauma centers, the Florida Department of Health will bring in a team from the American College of Surgeons to review the state's trauma system...

MONDAY, JANUARY 14, 2013

SUPERVISORS: ELECTIONS WERE A 'PERFECT STORM'
BRANDON LARRABEE |
A "perfect storm" of elections problems created the long lines and other issues that irritated Floridians in November, elections supervisors told lawmakers Monday, even as divisions over how to fix those problems began to crop up... Story | Penelope Townsley Video | Lee Harrington Video | Brian Corley Video

MEDICAID, BUSINESSES AT ISSUE IN OBAMACARE DEBATE
JIM SAUNDERS |
As lawmakers decide how --- or whether --- to move forward with parts of the federal Affordable Care Act, House and Senate select committees plunged Monday into issues such as a potential expansion of the Medicaid program and the law's effects on Florida businesses... Story

RICHTER: GAMING COMMITTEE LOOKING FOR STUDY SOON
BRANDON LARRABEE |
The head of the Senate Gaming Committee said Monday he hopes to work toward asking for bids on a study of the state's gambling industry in the next three weeks... Story

DOLPHINS TO ASK FOR MONEY TO FIX STADIUM
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Miami Dolphins management on Monday trumpeted the team's $400 million quest to renovate Sun Life Stadium, and while they say they'll pay for most of it, they will ask for some state help... Story

INSURANCE CO. CRITIC SHAW TO RUN FOR LEGISLATURE

Sean Shaw, the former head of the state insurance consumer advocate's office, said Monday he's planning to run for the Legislature in House District 61, currently held by Rep. Betty Reed, who is term-limited in 2014...

INTERNET "SWEEPSTAKES" PROHIBITION FILED IN HOUSE

With legislation on destination casinos not expected this session, lawmakers may turn their attention to closing the pincers on Internet cafés...

CLEMENS FILES ETHICS BILL, MORE EXPECTED

With ethics reform on the front burner for Republican leaders in both chambers, Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lakeort Worth, on Monday became the first lawmaker to file ethics legislation for the upcoming session...

SCOTT TO ASK FOR MONEY FOR JAX PORT UPGRADE

Gov. Rick Scott plans to announce this afternoon he'll be seeking $38 million for upgrades to part of the St. Johns River and Intracoastal Waterway in Jacksonville to boost port traffic...

TUESDAY, JANUARY 15, 2013

JACKSON HOSPITALS JOIN TRAUMA CARE FRAY
JIM SAUNDERS |
After seeing their trauma-center proposals get shelved, two hospitals in Miami's Jackson Health System have filed legal challenges contending that the Florida Department of Health has made "selective" decisions about allowing new trauma facilities... Story

SENATE ED CHAIR SKEPTICAL ABOUT ARMING TEACHERS
BRANDON LARRABEE |
The chairman of the Senate Education Committee said Tuesday he was cool to the idea of arming teachers after his panel held the first legislative hearing into how to prevent massacres like the school shooting in Connecticut from happening in Florida... Story

BRAYNON FILES DOCS V. GLOCKS REPEALER
MICHAEL PELTIER |
A 2011 law restricting how doctors can talk to patients about guns would be repealed under a bill filed Tuesday in the state Senate. Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, filed the measure (SB 314) to repeal the 2011 "Firearm Owners' Privacy Act," which isn't currently being enforced because a federal judge threw it out in July... Story

MEETING WITH SCOTT LEAVES BLACK LAWMAKERS FRUSTRATED
MARGIE MENZEL |
Gov. Rick Scott had a contentious meeting Tuesday with black lawmakers in which he parried their requests to move forward with the Affordable Care Act, restore civil rights to ex-felons and recommend more African-American judges... Story

HEALTH PLANS CHOSEN FOR MEDICAID MAKEOVER
JIM SAUNDERS |
In another step toward transforming Medicaid into a statewide managed-care system, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration said Tuesday it has chosen five health plans to provide coverage to seniors who need long-term care... Story

SENATE IN A HURRY ON ETHICS REFORM
JIM SAUNDERS |
With President Don Gaetz making the issue a top priority, a Senate committee Tuesday began moving quickly to pass a broad clean-up of the state's ethics laws for public officials... Story

EYES IN THE SKY BAN GETS EXCEPTIONS, POLICE STILL NOT BACKERS
DAVID ROYSE |
Trying to blunt police opposition, the sponsor of a bill to ban unmanned drone aircraft use by law enforcement in Florida has agreed to exceptions for use with a search warrant or in certain "exigent" circumstances, such as when it might be needed to find a child in danger... Story

CREDIT CHECK USE IN HIRING LIMITED BY BILL

Potential employers wouldn't be able to use a job applicant's credit history to make hiring decisions in many cases under a bill that cleared a Senate Committee Tuesday...

CALL CENTER BILL CLEARS SENATE PANEL

Large state contractors who have call-centers would have to staff them in the United States under a bill (SB 90) unanimously approved Tuesday by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee...

TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER TO PUSH STAND YOUR GROUND REPEAL

The mother of Trayvon Martin will be at the Capitol this week to advocate for legislation that would repeal the "stand your ground" self defense law in Florida...

MIAMI BUILDER POSTS STRONG 4TH QTR/2012

Miami builder Lennar Corp on Tuesday reported 4th quarter earning was up 43 percent from a year ago, citing across the board sales increases fueled by low interest rates and an improving economy...

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2013

OBAMACARE TO BOOST COSTS FOR STATE INSURANCE PLAN
JIM SAUNDERS |
The federal Affordable Care Act is expected to add tens of millions of dollars in costs to Florida's state-employee health insurance program, leading some lawmakers to float the possibility of shifting more expenses to workers or tinkering with benefits... Story

SENATE PANEL HEARS PLANS TO REDUCE STATE EXPOSURE
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Asked to come up with options to reduce the number of policies in the state-backed insurance pool, Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty on Wednesday outlined a list of options, many of them politically unpalatable, to return a large portion of the risk to the private market.... Story

TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER CALLS FOR "STAND YOUR GROUND" REPEAL
MARGIE MENZEL |
With lawmakers taking a new look at Florida's "stand your ground" law, the mother of the young man whose death brought the law back into focus urged lawmakers Wednesday to repeal it... Story

TEACHERS' ATTORNEYS ASK COURT TO THROW OUT SB 736
BRANDON LARRABEE |
.Lawyers for a group of teachers asked a Leon County judge on Wednesday to throw out a nearly two-year-old state law aimed at tying teacher's pay and evaluations more closely to student performance.... Story

SCHOOL POLICE OFFICER FUNDING DRAWS ATTENTION
BRANDON LARRABEE |
In the wake of the December school shootings in Newtown, Conn., lawmakers in Florida appear to be moving toward increasing school-safety spending and changing the way local law enforcement officers posted at schools are funded... Story

CLERKS PROPOSE CONTINUING ALLOCATION
MARGIE MENZEL |
Clerks of Court told lawmakers Wednesday they'd like a stable and predictable source of money from year to year, rather than being at the whim of the legislative process... Story

HOUSE 2014 LINEUP CONTINUES TO GROW

Another 10 House incumbents have filed paperwork during the past week to seek re-election in 2014, joining dozens of others who are already gearing up for the next campaign cycle, according to the state Division of Elections website...

SCOTT: NO PROPOSALS ON SCHOOL SAFETY, GUN LAWS

Gov. Rick Scott, who has steadfastly declined to say specifically what he thinks should be done to protect schools from mass shooters, said Wednesday that lawmakers should "look at our laws" about the issue, but again refused to take a position on whether that should include changing gun laws...

AMPING UP POWER STEALING PENALTIES

Two Bay-area lawmakers want to amp up the penalties on those who steal electricity. Bills (SB 338, HB 191) filed by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby and Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Planty City, would boost the penalties when large amounts of power are stolen...

FRIEND REQUEST DENIED, SUPREME COURT ASKED TO UPDATE STATUS

Press "Like" if you think judges who are Facebook friends with prosecutors might not be fair. The Florida Supreme Court may decide that question...

FRIDAY DEADLINE LOOMS FOR FORECLOSURE CLAIMS

Mortgage holders who lost their homes between 2008 and 2012 have until Friday to ensure they will get paid under a $25 billion national settlement with a handful of mortgage lenders...

SENATE BILL EYES OPTOMETRIST PRESCRIBING

A Senate bill filed this week could reopen a long-running fight about expanding the powers of optometrists to prescribe medication...


THURSDAY, JANUARY 17, 2013

LAWMAKERS APPROVE MORTGAGE, TAJ MAHAL FUNDS
BRANDON LARRABEE |
The Legislative Budget Commission approved nearly two dozen amendments to the state budget Thursday, officially untangling some long-standing disputes with unanimous votes and minimal discussion... Story

JUDGE REJECTS REQUEST TO TOSS MAP CHALLENGE
BRANDON LARRABEE |
A Leon County judge has rejected a request from the Legislature to dismiss a challenge to a Senate redistricting plan approved last year, the first ruling in what could be a precedent-setting case under the new Fair Districts standards... Story

LOCAL PENSION PROPOSAL UNVEILED; BOTH SIDES WARY
BRANDON LARRABEE |
An anticipated Senate proposal aimed at strengthening local pensions for firefighters and police officers began its legislative journey Thursday, even as both sides of the contentious issue declined to fully back the measure... Story

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS CONTROVERSIAL PENSION LAW
JIM SAUNDERS |
In a victory for Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders, a deeply divided Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a 2011 law that requires government workers to chip in 3 percent of their salaries to the state pension system... Story

DJJ STRENGTHENS OVERSIGHT OF RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS
MARGIE MENZEL |
In the wake of allegations of abuse by staffers at a girls' lockup in Milton, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice is tightening its oversight of private residential facilities – adding interviews with youths and a partnership with the non-profit Annie E. Casey Foundation to its monitoring procedures... Story

SENATORS SKEPTICAL OF TRANSPARENCY 2.0
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Senators looking into the state's efforts to make budget information available online are expressing skepticism about Transparency 2.0, a site developed under a $5.5 million no-bid contract that is nonetheless endorsed by some ethics advocates... Story

SCOTT: EXPAND EARLY VOTING, POLLING SITES, REDUCE BALLOT LENGTH
DAVID ROYSE |
Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday that up to 14 days of early voting should be offered during the next election in Florida, an effort to reduce long lines experienced this past November - that would be a reversal of course for Republicans... Story

OBAMA POLICY COULD HELP IMMIGRANT'S BID TO BECOME LAWYER
JIM SAUNDERS |
An undocumented immigrant seeking Florida Supreme Court approval to practice law has received a boost from an Obama administration policy aimed at helping young illegal immigrants stay and work in the country... Story

SCOTT WON'T PROPOSE ANY GUN LAW CHANGES
DAVID ROYSE |
Gov. Rick Scott plans no proposals to change any Florida gun laws, a spokeswoman said Thursday, though he still wants to hear ideas for improving the safety of schools.... Story

ACLU ON SCOTT VOTING PROPOSAL: 'HEARTENING, BUT...'

The Florida director of the ACLU said Gov. Rick Scott's call for allowing more early voting is "heartening," but said the state must go farther to fix election problems the group says Scott helped create in the first place...

CITIZENS VOWS EXPENSE PRUDENCE AFTER AUDIT

Executives of the state-backed insurance company need to be more frugal travelers and follow state travel guidelines, an audit ordered by Gov. Rick Scott says...

SENATE CANDIDATES READY FOR 2014 --- AND BEYOND

Three incumbent senators filed paperwork this week to launch their 2014 re-election campaigns --- while five other candidates started getting ready for 2016, according to the state Division of Elections website...

FRIDAY, JANUARY 18, 2013

ROUND UP: LET MY PEOPLE VOTE (EARLY AND IN MORE PLACES)
(Recap and analysis of the week in state government)
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Gov. Rick Scott this week broke with many in his own party by saying some recent Republican-backed election changes should be reversed to give voters more time to cast ballots... Read the Roundup

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE FALLS TO 8.0 PERCENT
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Florida's unemployment rate dipped to 8 percent in December -- the lowest rate in more than four years. The drop in the unemployment rate also lowered the gap between the state's jobless figure and the national number, which edged up to 7.8 percent in December... Story

SENATE ROLLS OUT ETHICS PACKAGE

As promised, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Friday released a copy of its proposed ethics bill for the upcoming session...

ACLU ON SCOTT VOTING PROPOSAL: 'HEARTENING, BUT...'

The Florida director of the ACLU said Gov. Rick Scott's call for allowing more early voting is "heartening," but said the state must go farther to fix election problems the group says Scott helped create in the first place...

GAETZ: CONSIDER INTERNET SALES TAX, BUT NOT GUN CONTROL

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said the Legislature should consider finding ways to collect the sales tax on online purchases, but all but ruled out taking up any gun control proposals in 2013...

CITIZENS VOWS EXPENSE PRUDENCE AFTER AUDIT

Executives of the state-backed insurance company need to be more frugal travelers and follow state travel guidelines, an audit ordered by Gov. Rick Scott says...

SATURDAY, JANUARY 19, 2013

ADVANCES: WEEK OF JANUARY 20, 2013
STAFF |
Another week of committee meetings in the House Senate starts on Tuesday after the holiday weekend, with the Senate's ethics bill making its debut. The ethics changes are a major priority for both chambers' leaders, and there's talk that the ethics bill could be among the first to pass in the Legislature this year... Read the Advances

TUESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2013

SCHOOL SAFETY BILL FILED IN HOUSE
DAVID ROYSE |
Tax collected on the sale of ammunition and guns would go into a "Safe Schools Trust Fund," to pay for additional guidance services and school safety measures under legislation filed in the House... Story

SENATE PANEL PASSES ETHICS MEASURE UNANIMOUSLY
BRANDON LARRABEE |
A Senate committee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that supporters called the most expansive overhaul in decades of the rules elected officials must follow, even as the measure obscured what could be a battle with the House over campaign finance laws... Story

BP CLAIMS CHIEF: GET THE WORD OUT ON CLAIMS
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Many Florida businesses entitled to relief following the BP oil spill have yet to file claims, the head of the BP-backed claims paying agency told a Senate panel on Tuesday... Story

SHOULD STATE WAIT AND SEE ON HEALTH EXCHANGE?
JIM SAUNDERS |
Sen. Aaron Bean might have summed it up best Tuesday as he and other lawmakers listened to a discussion of the Affordable Care Act between an official of the libertarian Cato Institute and an architect of Massachusetts' health-care overhaul. "It's just as good as the Hannity show, with the back and forth,'' said Bean, drawing laughs as he referred to the sometimes-combative Fox News show featuring conservative commentator Sean Hannity... Story

GAMING COMMITTEE HEARS FROM FLORIDA INDUSTRIES

Existing gambling outlets and groups opposed to the proliferation of gaming began drawing battle lines Tuesday over the industry's future in Florida...

GOP DONOR FACES FEDERAL INDICTMENT

A Panhandle developer and big Republican donor was indicted Tuesday in federal court on allegations of campaign finance violations dating back to 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice reported...

BILL GIVES ETHICS COMMISSION COLLECTIONS POWER

The Commission on Ethics would be able to put liens on property as part of the effort to collect fines under legislation filed late last week in the House...

UNEMPLOYMENT TWEAK CLEARS SENATE PANEL

A measure seeking to tighten some rules for unemployment compensation eligibility and creating 24 regional appeals offices for people denied compensation was unanimously approved Tuesday by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee...

FLORIDA HOUSING CONTINUES REBOUND IN DEC.

Florida home sale closures in December jumped 15.8 percent from last year, while pending sales jumped 39.7 percent year-to-year, according to statistics released Tuesday by Florida Realtors...

BILL WOULD KEEP CURRENT BRIGHT FUTURES TEST THRESHOLD

Applicants for Florida Bright Future Scholarships would not have to meet higher testing standards scheduled to kick in next school year under a measure filed Tuesday that would maintain the testing threshold at existing levels...

DUDLEY BILL WOULD LEAD TO ELECTED PSC

Freshman Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, filed a bill Tuesday that calls for electing members of the Florida Public Service Commission...

VAN ZANT FILES ABORTION BAN AGAIN

Abortions would be banned in Florida, except for cases in which the life of the mother was endangered, under a bill filed Tuesday by Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights...

REHWINKEL VASILINDA FILES STATE PAY INCREASE BILL

State employees would see a 7 percent raise on July 1 under legislation filed by Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, though the measure is likely seen as a long shot...

CANNON, CRETUL LINE UP CLIENTS

Former House speakers Dean Cannon and Larry Cretul have started collecting a roster of clients in their new lobbying practice, including big names such as Walt Disney World Resort and the HCA health-care chain, according to lobbyist-registration records...

WELLCARE EXPANDS IN MISSOURI

Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans, a major player in Florida's Medicaid system, announced Tuesday that it has reached agreement to buy a Missouri health plan that serves about 100,000 Medicaid beneficiaries...

HAGER FILES OUTDOOR SMOKING BILL

Cities and counties could further restrict smoking in outdoor areas under a bill filed Tuesday to allow local governments to go beyond state restrictions...

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23, 2013

TRAFFICKERS TARGETING YOUTH IN STATE FOSTER CARE
MARGIE MENZEL |
Two state agency heads Wednesday warned a Senate panel that pimps and third-party labor contractors are targeting young people in the state foster care system... Story

HOSPITAL PAYMENT CHANGE SPARKS DEBATE
JIM SAUNDERS |
State lawmakers raised questions Wednesday about a plan that will overhaul the way hospitals get paid to care for Medicaid patients, pointing to potentially steep cuts for teaching and children's hospitals... Story

SCOTT CALLS FOR $2,500 TEACHER PAY RAISE
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday called on state lawmakers to give every full time public school teacher a $2,500 raise, a request that was met with encouragement, caution and a more than a little skepticism by lawmakers and teacher advocates... Story

CABINET APPROVES EVERGLADES SUGAR LEASES
MICHAEL PELTIER |
The governor and Cabinet on Wednesday granted 30-year leases to a pair of sugar growers over the objections of environmental groups that urged the panel to approve much shorter terms for the tracts that drain into the Everglades.... Story

BENNETT FLOATS CHANGES TO TEACHER PERFORMANCE LAW
BRANDON LARRABEE |
New Education Commissioner Tony Bennett suggested Wednesday that changes to the state's controversial law tying teacher pay and evaluations to student performance could be coming, saying Gov. Rick Scott had asked him to look into how the law will be implemented... Story

COMING SESSION LIKELY TO BE HUGE FOR EARLY LEARNING AGAIN
MARGIE MENZEL |
After roiling the 2012 legislative session, unresolved questions of funding and governance for Florida's early learning programs are shaping up as major issues again this year, with a key change – better collaboration by the once-sparring stakeholders of the billion-dollar industry... Story

SCOTT TO CALL FOR TEACHER PAY HIKES
(Cost To State Would be $480 Million)
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday will unveil a proposal for an across-the-board teacher pay increase, a spokeswoman for the governor confirmed Tuesday. Scott is to formally announce his proposal at an event at an Orlando-area school, Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz told the News Service of Florida, though she said his office won't disclose details until then... Story

THRASHER, SIMMONS READY FOR 2014 BIDS

Sens. John Thrasher and David Simmons have joined a growing list of incumbent lawmakers who are making plans to run for re-election in 2014...

THREE HEALTH PLANS TO PROTEST MANAGED CARE AWARDS

Three health plans have notified the state Agency for Health Care Administration they will challenge decisions to award contracts to other firms as part of Florida's shift to a statewide Medicaid managed-care system...

SCOTT TAX EXEMPTION BILL FILED

Gov. Rick Scott's proposal to increase the corporate income tax exemption is now a bill. Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, filed the measure (HB 401) to increase the exemption to $75,000 from $50,000...

GAETZ BACKS PAY HIKE FOR STATE WORKERS

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said Wednesday he supports giving raises to state employees, though the issue likely will come down to whether the state has enough money for pay hikes...

CAT FUND MGRS GET OK FOR $2B PRE-STORM EFFORT

Managers of the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund got the go-ahead Wednesday to secure $2 billion in financing in the event of a major storm...

CITIZENS WOULD GET IG UNDER HOUSE BILL

Citizens Property Insurance, which was plagued by a scandal involving imprudent spending last year, would get a new inspector general under legislation filed this week in the House...

MURZIN NOW AIDE TO FORMER OPPONENT EVERS

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker has a familiar face in his office. Former Rep. Dave Murzin, who once wanted the seat Evers is in, is one of Evers', legislative assistants, working in his Pensacola office...

RATING AGENCIES APPLAUD FLA. PENSION RULING

A Florida Supreme Court decision upholding the state's decision to require employees to pay into their own pensions received kudos from key rating agencies this week, with Standard & Poors and Moody's saying the ruling will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars...

THURSDAY, JANUARY 24, 2013

DJJ HOLDS FIRM ON COUNTY DETENTION COSTS
JIM SAUNDERS |
Disagreeing with a judge's key findings, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice on Thursday stood behind its controversial handling of a law that requires counties to help pay juvenile-detention costs...Story

SENATORS LAYING GROUNDWORK FOR TRANSPARENCY 2.0 ALTERNATIVES
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Senators looking into how to provide a user-friendly budget website for the public all but declared the controversial Transparency 2.0 project dead on Thursday, saying they fully supported Senate President Don Gaetz's decision to pull the plug on the site... Story

LAWMAKERS STUDY CHALLENGES TO STATE MENTAL HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
MARGIE MENZEL |
With Florida ranked next to last among states for mental health funding, lawmakers are examining how to improve a struggling service delivery system in the wake of recent mass shootings... Story

BONDI URGES BORROWERS TO ACT ON MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT
MICHAEL PELTIER |
An $8 billion effort to compensate Floridians who were caught up in the mortgage fraud that enveloped the country has only reached about half of those affected by crisis, state officials said Thursday...Story

HOUSE UNVEILS DEFINED-CONTRIBUTION PLAN
BRANDON LARRABEE |
A House committee unveiled a proposal Thursday that would shift all future state employees to a 401(k)-style retirement plan even as the chairman indicated the measure's future could depend on studies of the proposal's financial impact... Story

BILL WOULD REQUIRE BUY-IN FOR STATE-BACKED INCENTIVES

Companies receiving economic development funds from the state would have to purchase surety bonds before getting the money, under a measure filed Thursday to ensure that firms receiving money from state taxpayers stick around...

WEATHERFORD: MERIT PAY STILL PART OF CONVERSATION

While Gov. Rick Scott will push lawmakers this year to approve an across-the-board $2,500 a year pay raise for teachers, House Speaker Will Weatherford said Thursday he and other House members believe that increases based on merit should continue to be a focus...

FUNERAL PICKET BILL ADVANCES

The funerals of military personnel, emergency responders and others would be off limits to protestors under a measure (SB 118) that passed its first committee stop Thursday...

DETERT: MAY BE YEAR FOR DRIVING WHILE TEXTING BAN

Sen. Nancy Detert predicts 2013 will be the year her no-texting-while-driving bill (SB 52) passes on its fourth try.....

APPEALS COURT TOSSES OUT GAMBLING LAW

The 1st District Court of Appeal on Thursday rejected a 2009 gambling measure that could have helped lead to additional card rooms in Palm Beach and Volusia counties, saying its narrowness made it an unconstitutional "special" law...

MIAMI-DADE ASKS FOR STADIUM UPGRADE TAX POWER
January 24, 2013
The Miami-Dade County commission is asking lawmakers to pass legislation that would let the county increase a hotel bed tax by a penny and let the state provide a sales tax rebate for Sun Life Stadium, home of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, with the money going to upgrade the facility...

BENNETT: MORE GUNS MAY NOT BE ANSWER IN SCHOOLS

More guns aren't necessarily the answer to school safety issues, the new state education commissioner says in an interview set to air on public radio this evening...

CAR DISPUTE BILL GETS IN GEAR

A House panel Thursday approved a bill that backers say would help head off legal fights between car dealers and customers about problems with vehicles. The Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 11-1 to approve HB 55, which would require consumers to give written notice to dealers at least 30 days before filing lawsuits...

FRIDAY, JANUARY 25, 2013

ADVANCES: WEEK OF JANUARY 27, 2013
STAFF |
Gov. Rick Scott is expected to release his proposed budget for the coming year this week, although officials in the governor's office haven't said when. The budget announcement is due by Feb. 3, which is next Sunday, and the governor told reporters this week that he will make his recommendations known sometime next week... Read the Advances

NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA HAS: FIVE QUESTIONS FOR NANCY DETERT
MARGIE MENZEL |
Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, chairs the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee and sits on the Enterprise Florida board of directors. First elected to the House of Representatives in 1998, she was elected to the Senate in 2008 and re-elected last year... Story

OBAMACARE RAISES VEXING ISSUES FOR REGULATORS
JIM SAUNDERS |
Florida insurance regulators are grappling with how to carry out the federal Affordable Care Act, as they face conflicting legal requirements and what one described as a "torrential rain" of filings by health insurers... Story

WEEKLY ROUNDUP - SCOTT GOES BACK TO SCHOOL, BUT DEMS SEE 2014
(Recap and analysis of the week in state government)
BRANDON LARRABEE |
A key piece of Gov. Rick Scott's agenda fell into place this week, as lawmakers returned to the Capitol for a shortened week of committee work. With Monday marking the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Legislature didn't start its final working week of January until Tuesday... Read the Roundup

GRAHAM GUILTY OF KIDNAPPING AND CHILD ABUSE, NOT RILYA'S MURDER

A jury on Friday convicted Geralyn Graham, 67, of kidnapping and aggravated child abuse in the 2000 disappearance of Rilya Wilson...

JUDGE RULES AGAINST DOH IN REHAB CENTER CASE

An administrative law judge Friday found that that the Florida Department of Health used an invalid rule in a high-profile crackdown against a Hardee County rehabilitation facility...

'SATANISTS' PRAISE RICK SCOTT

A rally Friday on the Old Capitol steps by "Satanists" drew about 6 of the self-professed devil worshippers to what they said was an event to praise Gov. Rick Scott - but that was reported earlier to be part of an effort to make a fake documentary...

SATURDAY, JANUARY 26, 2013

TANT CHOSEN TO LEAD DEMS INTO 2014 ELECTIONS
JIM SAUNDERS |
Taking aim at the 2014 gubernatorial race, party leaders Saturday chose Allison Tant, a major fund-raiser for President Obama, as chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party... Story

MONDAY, JANUARY 28, 2013

SCOTT: 23 COLLEGES NOW ACCEPTING $10K DEGREE CHALLENGE
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Eleven more state colleges have joined Gov. Rick Scott's "$10k degree challenge," Scott announced Monday, meaning that all 23 colleges that currently offer four-year degrees have backed the initiative...Story

FOURTH FLOOR: BIG NAMES LOBBYING UP

As lobbyist registrations roll in more than a month before the 2013 legislative session, some big corporate names are amassing large lobbying teams. Walt Disney World companies had 16 legislative lobbyists registered as of Monday afternoon, according to a state website...

EARLY VOTING ON COMMITTEE AGENDA

The first proposed legislation to increase the number of early voting days has been sent to a committee and could get a hearing next week...

BILL WOULD RESTRICT MASSAGE PARLOR HOURS

Calling it an attempt to combat human trafficking and prostitution, Sen. Jeff Clemens on Monday filed a measure prohibiting most massage establishments from operating after 10 p.m...

AHCA CHALLENGES ER IMMIGRANT RULING

In a case that involves hospitals across South Florida and the Tampa Bay area, the state Agency for Health Care Administration is appealing a judge's ruling in a dispute about paying for emergency services for undocumented immigrants...

SCHENCK TAPPED TO HEAD GAMING COMMITTEE

Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, will chair a new House Select Committee on Gaming, Speaker Will Weatherford announced Monday...

SEVEN HOUSE INCUMBENTS PREP FOR 2014

Seven incumbent House members have joined a list of candidates preparing to run again in 2014...

TUESDAY, JANUARY 29, 2013

COULD WE HAVE FULL-TIME LEGISLATURE?
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Florida would abandon its part-time "citizens" Legislature and instead hire lawmakers on a full-time basis, under a proposed constitutional change filed Tuesday that would need voter approval to succeed...Story

SENATE PANEL READIES REVAMP OF FOSTER YOUTH PROGRAM
MARGIE MENZEL |
The Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs will take up a committee bill that would give foster parents more decision-making power and give youths the option of staying in state care until age 21...Story

NURSING HOME EXECS CHARGED IN MEDICAID FRAUD
JIM SAUNDERS |
Two top executives at a nursing-home management company were arrested on charges that they used $2.75 million in Medicaid money for excessive salaries and personal expenses, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Tuesday... Story

ECONOMIC INCENTIVES COMING UNDER LEGISLATIVE EYE
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Stung by taxpayer dollars going to companies that didn't deliver, a freshman House Democrat on Tuesday filed legislation to provide more transparency surrounding economic development incentives offered by the state... Story

WEATHERFORD: ONLINE U. WON'T BE 13TH UNIVERSITY
BRANDON LARRABEE |
House Speaker Will Weatherford clarified his stance on overhauling the state's approach to online higher education Tuesday, emphasizing that he would not push for an actual, 13th university focused on web-based education... Story

TALLAHASSEE PREACHERS CALL FOR STATE WORKER PAY HIKE

A group of Tallahassee preachers led by the Rev. R. B. Holmes, vice chair of Gov. Rick Scott's task force on the "stand your ground" self-defense law, on Tuesday called for a raise for state workers on moral grounds...

BURGESS GOING FROM RPOF TO PRIVATE PR FIRM

Republican Party of Florida Communications Director Brian Burgess is leaving the party to work with Brian Hughes at Meteoric Media Strategies...

ALEXANDER-LINKED FIRM PLANS MAJOR LAND SALE

A company with close ties to former Sen. JD Alexander and his family wants to sell tens of thousands of acres of land in Highlands and DeSoto counties, according to a news release Tuesday...

READIN', WRITIN' AND RESUSCITATION

Public school students would be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation as part of their physical education under a measure filed Tuesday...

FPL BOOSTS EARNINGS IN 2012

Pointing to upgrade projects at power plants, Florida Power & Light saw its net income grow from $1.07 billion in 2011 to $1.24 billion last year, according to an earnings report issued Tuesday...

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2013

SCOTT: INCREASE SCHOOL SPENDING BY $1.2 BILLION
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Gov. Rick Scott will propose a $1.2 billion boost in education funding Thursday when he unveils his spending plan for the coming fiscal year, he told reporters during a Wednesday speech to newspaper editors... Story

SMITH WANTS "STAND YOUR GROUND" TWEAKS, GOP LEADERS UNENTHUSED
MARGIE MENZEL |
Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith said Wednesday that the state's culture of violence calls for changes to the "stand your ground" self-defense law, but the Senate President sent a clear signal that major changes aren't likely... Story

ADD PRO SOCCER, MAYBE JAGS AND A SPEEDWAY, IN ASKS FOR CASH
DAVID ROYSE |
Up to two Major League Soccer franchises would be eligible for subsidies given to other pro sports teams in Florida under a bill filed in the Legislature, a nod to Orlando's bid to bring an MLS team to the area... Story

CONCERNS MOUNTING OVER TEACHER EVALUATIONS
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Questions are continuing to mount about the future of Florida's new teacher evaluation system, with Senate President Don Gaetz becoming the latest state official to wonder if the system needs to be overhauled... Story

LOCAL PENSION BILL FILED: LEADERS SUPPORT CHANGE
MICHAEL PELTIER |
Local governments with underfunded pension plans would not be able to look to the state for a bail out, under a bill filed Wednesday that is expected to become a template for legislation in the months ahead...Story

PARTISANS BATTLE OVER VOTING CHANGE INTENT
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Leaders of the state Republican and Democratic parties crossed swords Wednesday over whether a controversial elections law caused the Election Day meltdown in some Florida counties -- and whether the measure was a partisan attempt to deny President Barack Obama the state's 29 electoral votes in his re-election campaign... Story

GOP, DEM LEADERS DIVIDED ON OBAMACARE DECISIONS
JIM SAUNDERS |
Despite criticism from top Democrats that the state has been "dragging its feet," House and Senate Republican leaders said Wednesday they would be deliberate in deciding how to handle key parts of the federal Affordable Care Act... Story

FOURTH FLOOR: LOBBYISTS LINE UP FOR NURSING HOMES, OTHERS

Business groups are building lobbying teams for the upcoming legislative session, with groups such as the Florida Health Care Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce already registering 10 or more lobbyists...

SCOTT BUDGET TO INCLUDE $115M MANUFACTURING EQUIPMENT TAX BREAK

The budget Gov. Rick Scott will proposed on Thursday will call for eliminating sales tax paid on new manufacturing equipment, the governor said Wednesday...

LET'S GET TO WORK TOPS $1.1M IN JANUARY

The "Let's Get to Work" political committee that will play an important role in Gov. Rick Scott's re-election effort has raised about $1.17 million in January, according to the group's website...

SMITH: SCHOOL SAFETY SHOULD BE HANDLED LOCALLY

Fort Lauderdale Sen. Chris Smith said Wednesday that because of widely different cultures around guns from place to place in Florida, efforts to make schools safer should largely be a local issue...

THURSDAY, JANUARY 31, 2013

SCOTT UNVEILS $74.2 BILLION BUDGET
BRANDON LARRABEE |
Gov. Rick Scott unveiled a record-breaking $74.2 billion budget Thursday, pouring hundreds of millions of additional dollars into public schools, colleges and universities in a proposal that Democrats knocked as a public-relations gimmick... Story

SCOTT BUDGET DELVES INTO OBAMACARE
JIM SAUNDERS |
Gov. Rick Scott proposed a health-care budget Thursday that would trim payments to hospitals and carry out some parts of the federal Affordable Care Act --- but he did not take a position on whether the state should go along with a major expansion of the Medicaid program.
... Story

FPL CHIEF DEFENDS NUCLEAR COST LAW
JIM SAUNDERS |
The president of Florida Power & Light made clear Thursday that his company will fight legislative attempts to repeal a controversial law that has allowed utilities to collect hundreds of millions of dollars from customers for nuclear-power projects... Story

SUPREME COURT: TUITION POWER BELONGS TO LEGISLATURE
BRANDON LARRABEE |
The Florida Supreme Court unanimously rejected an argument that would have allowed the Board of Governors to set tuition rates without limits, saying the Legislature could restrain the board or even set the rates itself.... Story

SCOTT'S BUDGET BRINGS CHEERS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ITEMS
MICHAEL PELTIER |
With $75 million earmarked for the Florida Forever land buying program and another $60 million for the Everglades, Gov. Rick Scott's spending blueprint met with applause Thursday from environmentalists encouraged by a seeming recommitment to their causes... Story

CRIST, WEATHERFORD, THRASHER ON GREER WITNESS LIST

Former Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer wants to call several high profile witnesses in his criminal trial, including former Gov. Charlie Crist and several former legislative leaders...

HOUSE FILES CAMPAIGN FINANCE PACKAGE

Following through on promises made by House Speaker Will Weatherford, House leaders on Thursday released a campaign finance proposal that boosts contribution limits for individual candidates but shutters nearly 700 Committees of Continuous Existence that funnel millions to candidates and causes with minimal transparency...

SCOTT BUDGET: REDUCE GOVT WORKFORCE, BUT GIVE BONUSES

The state workforce would drop by more than 3,600 positions, a 3.1 percent decrease, under the budget proposed Thursday by Gov. Rick Scott. But for the remaining workers there was potential good news: a bonus...

SCOTT FOLLOWS THRU ON ECON DEV PROMISES

As promised, Gov. Rick Scott's $74.2 billion budget request includes millions in tax breaks for manufacturers and more to help state economic developers to entice companies to relocate or expand in the state...

COLLINS CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY CLOSING

The Collins Center for Public Policy, a non-profit that has worked on a number of public policy issues from mortgage foreclosure mediation to voting rights and community health, is shutting down, a release from the center's board said Thursday...

LOTTERY TRANSFERS INCREASED LAST YEAR

The amount of money from Lottery ticket sales going into Florida's Educational Enhancement Trust Fund increased by $130 million last fiscal year, and exceeded an internal goal of providing $1 billion for education, a new state review says...

GOV KICKS OFF NEW BRANDING EFFORT

Hoping to do for Florida's business climate what Anita Bryant did for orange juice, state economic development officials on Thursday rolled out the Florida's new branding and marketing campaign they hope will become indelibly link the sunshine state to business opportunity...

DAYTONA SPEEDWAY MAY SEEK STATE HELP ON RENOVATIONS

Daytona International Speedway plans to "share some details" of needed renovations with lawmakers, with a possible eye to getting the green light for some help...

STATES TO SETTLE WITH LENDER PROCESSING SERVICES

Attorney General Pam Bondi and officials in nearly all the other states reached a settlement with Lender Processing Services and two subsidiaries over allegations of "robosigning" documents related to mortgage loan defaulting servicing...

SCOTT BUDGET TO INCLUDE STATE WORKER BONUS

The budget proposal Gov. Rick Scott will roll out Thursday will include one-time bonuses for non-supervisory state workers...


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