In The News: March 2, 2014 to March 8, 2014


Florida Public Employees


March 8, 2014

Ana_Alliego_florida_public_employeesMiami Herald: Busted in Nicaragua: ex-Rep. David Rivera’s pal, Ana Alliegro, in FBI custody over campaign scheme

Ana Alliegro, the gal pal of former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, was arrested and informally extradited Friday from Nicaragua to Miami, where a federal grand jury charged her in a four-count indictment for her alleged role in a campaign-finance scheme tied to the one-time congressman.

Miami_Herald_florida_public_employeesMiami Herald: Proposed constitutional amendment would give Florida’s next elected governor power to pack state Supreme Court

Florida’s governor would have new powers to pack the state’s Supreme Court under a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow him to make prospective appointments to the bench even if a vacancy occurs the day the governor is leaving office.

FOX_4_florida_public_employeesFOX 4 News: Bill would require all elected officials in Florida to undergo drug tests

State Representative Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral) introduced legislation this week that would require all elected officials in Florida to undergo drug tests within 60 days of taking office.

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Voucher_Bill_florida_public_EmployeesSunshine State News: Voucher Bill Gets Backing in Party-Line Vote

A sweeping overhaul of the state’s de facto school-voucher system was approved Thursday by a House subcommittee on a party-line vote, a sign of the friction the proposal could cause as it moves through the Legislature.

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Orlando_SentinelOrlando Sentinel: Disney tries again to toughen ticket-fraud law

State Sen. Tom Lee, a Republican from Brandon who initially objected to the bill, said his change of heart had nothing to do with a $10,000 donation from Disney to his political-action committee. Instead, he said he’s now confident that Disney lobbyists will work with him to address his concerns about the legislation.

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Tampa_Bay_TimesTampa Bay Times: New Senate bill would limit Pinellas absentee ballot drop sites

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee has drafted a bill dealing with online voter registration, absentee ballots and other election issues. Tucked into the 38-page bill is language that would limit the use of absentee ballot dropoff sites by several county election supervisors, most notably Pinellas County’s Deborah Clark.

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Water_Safety_Florida_public_employeesFt. Pierce Hometown News: Water safety top priority at special event

On Saturday, March 8, Swim Safe Forever, in partnership with the Brevard County Health Department, the U.S. Coast Guard, Infant Swimming Resource certified instructors, as well as other local agencies, will host the fourth annual Water Safety Day at the Wickham Park Amphitheater in Melbourne.

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10_News_floirda_Public_Employees10 NEWS: 10 Investigates legislature residency law and finds loopholes

Florida legislators are congratulating themselves for tightening requirements that they have to live in the district they represent. However, 10 Investigates discovered the new law appears to have some loopholes.

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March 7, 2014

Naked_politics_florida_Public_employeesNaked Politics:  Outside groups dwarf candidate spending in Florida special election

Roughly $12.5 million has flooded the heated special election on central Florida’s gulf coast, but less than one-third of that sum was controlled by the candidates’ own campaigns, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal records.

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Tampa_Bay_TimesTampa Bay Times: Florida’s medical marijuana amendment: No slam dunk (w/video)

Medical marijuana enjoys broad backing in Florida, with polls in the past year indicating that 65 to 70 percent of voters support the idea.

But passing a constitutional amendment to legalize medical pot may not be the cakewalk that such numbers suggest.

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Pop_Tart_Bill_florida_public_EmployeesMiami Herald: House education panel approves ‘Pop-Tart’ gun bill

The House Education Committee on Thursday gave its support to the bill, (HB 7029, SB 1060), which would prevent children from being disciplined for playing with simulated weapons in school.

Miami_Herald_florida_public_employeesMiami Herald: At CPAC, Sen. Marco Rubio presses for assertive U.S. foreign policy

Sen. Marco Rubio called for an assertive U.S. foreign policy during a speech to conservative activists Thursday, sticking to a topic that has recently brought him new prominence and helped rebuild his image with the GOP base.

Current_florida_public_employeesThe Florida Current: Lawmakers set on Scott’s $500 million tax cut goal, but not as he envisions 

Scott wants lawmakers to fully roll back the increases in vehicle registration and driver’s license fees. That would mean a $25 reduction for most registrations and a $400 million hit to state coffers. He also wants to reduce the sales tax on commercial leases by 1 percent, about a $100 million reduction in state revenues.

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Palm_Beach_Post_florida_public_EmployeesPalm Beach Post: Ukraine doesn’t keep Obama from Florida vacation

The crisis in Crimea won’t keep President Barack Obama from forging ahead with a weekend getaway with his wife and daughters in the Florida Keys.

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March 6, 2014

Miami_Herald_florida_public_employeesMiami Herald: Big money, powerful lobbying groups push school voucher proposal

More powerful political forces are at work in Tallahassee.

Those forces include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and influential think tanks like the conservative James Madison Institute and former Gov. Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future. All have thrown their considerable weight behind the expansion.

Palm Beach Post: Weatherford opens House saying tax cuts are a ‘real stimulus plan’

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, ridiculed Washington for passing “far more blame than bills.” But he said Florida lawmakers could be different — starting with a $500 million tax and fee cut that’s become the signature goal of Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

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TBO_florida_public_employeesTBO:  Bill would trim young convicts’ jail time

A divided Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee approved a proposal (SB 384) that would change the state’s juvenile-sentencing laws. The 7-5 vote came after Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, proposed an amendment based on talks with Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican who has argued that juvenile offenders should have a chance at redemption.

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TBO_florida_public_employeesTBO: Lawmakers face new scrutiny over living in right district

State lawmakers will look more closely than ever at a group of citizens who may have been less than precise in reporting personal information so they could obtain certain government benefits.

CLICK HERE to read Fla. bill addresses low nursing school test scores

Plummeting test scores among Florida nursing school graduates has prompted some legislators to propose a bill that would tighten the qualifications for nursing programs.

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wusf_florida_public_employeeswusf NEWS: Senate, House Differ on Telemedicine

A Senate committee Wednesday approved a proposal aimed at boosting the use of the telemedicine in Florid, a plan that differs significantly from the House’s plan.

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Sun_SentinelSun Sentinel:  Harsher sentences for Florida hit-and-run drivers get House committee OK

The bill (HB 183) would create a four-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for drivers convicted of fleeing fatal crash scenes.

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TBO_florida_public_employeesTBO: Bill to extend carry and conceal privileges moves

A Florida House committee has approved a bill that would extend carry-and-conceal privileges to all Florida gun owners when a state of emergency is declared, regardless of whether or not they have been issued a permit.

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March 5, 2014 Update: Gaetz, Weatherford talk FRS overhaul in session remarks

2:55 p.m. update

Legislative presiding officers started the 2014 session Tuesday with a strong plea to overhaul the Florida Retirement System, saying the state could free $500 million for education, environmental protection and other pressing needs if they can “disarm this ticking time bomb” in the pension plan’s unfunded liability.

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Palm_Beach_Post_florida_public_EmployeesPalm Beach Post: Florida GI bill marches unopposed through House

The Florida GI Bill (HB 7015), a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, was approved unanimously Tuesday in the House. The issue now will move to the Senate, where it also is expected pass easily.

Orlando_SentinelOrlando Sentinel: Lawmakers get down to business

The opening day also focused on issues likely to prove more difficult, including pension reform for public employees and an expansion of gambling.

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Kelli_Stargel_florida_public_EmployeesPolitics in Polk: Sen. Kelli Stargel Drops Efforts To Revive Alimony Bill

Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday she and her House counterpart, Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, have given up on their plan to reform the state’s alimony laws.

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Naked_politics_florida_Public_employeesNaked Politics: Weatherford lays out agenda of social progress/small government

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford laid out his agenda for the next 60 days of the 2014 legislative session, and it sounds much like his vision for the previous year — making great social progress with as little government as possible.

Palm_Beach_Post_florida_public_EmployeesPalm Beach Post: U.S. House votes to stem tide of big flood insurance hikes

Owners of primary homes not already paying full flood rates would see average increases of 15 percent a year, capped at 18 percent. That’s a sharp contrast with increases of 200 percent, 300 percent or even 1,000 percent for some properties under 2012 changes approved by Congress. Those who already paid higher amounts would get refunds.

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March 4, 2014

Palm_Beach_Post_florida_public_EmployeesPalm Beach Post: In brief: It was Delray Beach day at the Florida Legislature

School grades: The Senate Education Committee voted 5-1 to pass a bill (SB 7060) that would overhaul the system used to grade Florida public schools on a A to F scale. The bill would eliminate some of the criteria that either give schools bonus points or drop them a letter grade, such as the test scores of a school’s lowest-performing 25 percent of students….

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2014_legislative_session_florida_public_EmployeesTampa Bay Times: As Florida legislators convene for 2014 session, Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election weighs heavily

As Florida lawmakers open their annual legislative session today and the governor gives his fourth State of the State address, overshadowing everything for the Republican-controlled Legislature is one overriding goal: the re-election of Gov. Rick Scott.

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Weatherford_florida_public_employeesTampa Bay Times: Before pension battle, Weatherford gets boost from Koch brothers’ group

A chief reason why Weatherford won’t let it drop, and potentially puts him on a collision course with Scott, was the throng of activists who were bussed in Monday afternoon by Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group founded by billionaire libertarian brothers David and Charles Koch.

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Rick_Scott_florida_publicEmployeesMiami Herald Blog:  Gov. Rick Scott kicks journalists out of House chamber; practices for State of the State in private

The governor had reserved the House Chambers for a block of time Monday afternoon to practice his State of the State speech. The governor refused to start practicing his address while members of the media were watching and said he would rather leave instead. Florida university presidents start wooing leaders

Presidents and trustees from the state’s 12 public institutions have been making the rounds in Tallahassee for the past two months, lobbying lawmakers for additional funding while proposing options to keep tuition affordable.

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Scott_florida_public_employeesPalm Beach Post:  Gov. Scott to call for repeal of Florida’s differential tuition law

In another thinly veiled shot at his chief rival in the November elections, Gov. Rick Scott will use his State of the State address on Tuesday to call for a repeal of a 2009 law allowing universities to increase tuition up to 15 percent a year.

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March 3, 2014 Report: Privatizing government work reaps lavish profits for some

“The Palm Beach Post recently did a superb series about prison privatization, summing things up brutally in its opening gambit: ‘Profit, Politics, Pain — Huge profits and sweet setups for Wall Street darlings; rape, squalor, murder in lockups — and the price for Florida taxpayers.”

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TBOTBO: Fla. Gov. will use speech to stress tax cuts

“Scott will use his speech to press for more than $500 million in tax and fee cuts he’s seeking this year. The Republican governor wants to roll back auto registration fees that were increased back in 2009 when Democratic challenger Charlie Crist. He is also seeking a break in taxes charged on commercial rents and he wants to expand the state’s existing back-to-school sales tax holiday..”

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Marco RubioPOLITICO: Marco Rubio aims for comeback with conservatives

“The Florida Republican, who championed the Senate immigration bill last year, swung by a state that has taken a tough stand against illegal immigrants and has repeatedly elected the chief opponent of the Senate plan. But last Thursday evening, deep-pocketed Birmingham donors paid up to $32,000 apiece to schmooze with Rubio, raising more than $300,000 for the Senate GOP campaign committee.”

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Legislators_florida_public_employeesFlorida Times-Union: Legislature has 60 days to cut taxes, pass new laws on explosive issues

As lawmakers head into the start of the 2014 legislative session Tuesday, they will have $1 billion more to work with than in the current year budget, and a host of contentious issues to deal with, against the backdrop of a 2014 campaign cycle already underway.

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McKeel_florida_public_employeesPolitics in Polk: Lakeland’s Seth McKeel Looks to His Last Legislative Session

“The Lakeland Republican is in his last year as a legislator and as chief of the budget for the House. Although Scott has largely released his budget proposals to the Legislature, McKeel, noted for his expertise in policy and finance, will be paying attention to any nuances of policy, especially anyone getting carried away with the extra money.”

C:ICK HERE to read

Supreme_COurt_florida_public_EmployeesWall-Street Journal:  Supreme Court to Revisit IQ Rule in Death-Penalty Cases

“The Supreme Court will consider on Monday whether Florida’s bright-line rule for determining which defendants are “mentally retarded” and thus ineligible for the death penalty violates the Constitution.”

CLICK HERE to read Gun laws back in the forefront for Florida legislative session

Florida’s gun friendly nature will be scrutinized during the 2014 legislative session as bills to modify the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law and another allowing warning shots will be considered, a marked contrast from the 2013 session in which no major gun legislation was passed.

FCN_florida_public_EmployeesFCN: Lawmakers considering changes to state worker health plans
“Gov. Rick Scott and Florida lawmakers are eyeing changes to the state-employee health-insurance program — including the possibility of new high-deductible plans — that could affect more than 170,000 policy holders.”

March 2, 2014

Officer_shootong_florida_public_employeesWKQC: Dashcam Video Released in I-88 Officer-Involved Shooting

“It happened back in November. One man was killed. We learned last month , no charges would be filed against the Illinois Conservation Officer who fired his weapon. And this video shows some of the evidence used to make that decision.”

CLICK HERE to read and view video Lawmakers considering changes to state worker health plans

“Gov. Rick Scott and Florida lawmakers are eyeing changes to the state-employee health-insurance program — including the possibility of new high-deductible plans — that could affect more than 170,000 policy holders.”

CLICK HERE to read  State retirement plans may change, pensions may no longer be an option

“A bill moving through the Senate (SB 1114) would create a cash-balance plan in Florida and close the pension to all public workers except for special-risk employees including law enforcement and firefighters. As the bill is written, it would apply only to new hires entering the Florida Retirement System after July 1, 2015. Current employees would not be affected.”

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JMH_Florida_Public_EmployeesMiami-Herald: Jackson Memorial Hospital expected to lose $140 million under new Medicaid law

“Jackson Memorial Hospital is bracing again for big cuts — this time, the result of a new law that will send millions of federal dollars that used to go to Miami-Dade hospitals elsewhere in the state.”

Budget_Debate_florida_public_employeesMiami Herald: Budget debate, long list of bills await lawmakers in Tallahassee

“Last year, state lawmakers in Tallahassee ended the 2013 session with a burst of bipartisanship, taking advantage of a resurgent economy to overwhelmingly pass the biggest budget in history and giving pay raises to state workers for the first time in seven years.”  Southwest Florida schools compete for good teachers

“It’s become difficult to fill classrooms. Enrollment is growing at a rapid pace for Southwest Florida schools and many teachers are leaving the profession after just a few years.”

CLICK HERE to read Special interests pay their way onto Florida’s legislative agenda

“When Florida legislators open their annual 60-day session Tuesday, many of the decisions about what issues make it onto the agenda have already been made — thanks in large part to the powerful special interest groups and a torrent of cash flowing into the coffers of legislative political committees.” Raises for state workers are not a lock this year
“Last year, I thought (raises) were a moral imperative,” said Senate President Don Gaetz. “We’d gone six years without a pay raise for people who I think were falling behind the cost of living. We had state workers who in my view were being shamefully treated. I don’t think it’s a moral imperative this year. But it would be a good thing to do if we had the money.”

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