Gina Jordan

Tallahassee reporter

Gina Jordan reports from Tallahassee for WUSF and WLRN about how state policy affects your life.

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Education
6:28 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

House Passes Bill To Reduce Class Size Penalties

Voters approved the class size amendment in 2002. Florida lawmakers are charged with implementing - and funding - the amendment. It limits the number of students per class to 18 through 3rd grade, 22 in 4th - 8th grade, and 25 in high school.
Credit Pasco County Schools/flickr

School districts are likely to face fewer penalties for violating class-size requirements under a bill that passed the Florida House Friday on a vote of 107 - 3.

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News
12:47 am
Fri March 27, 2015

Local Pension Overhaul Ready For Full Senate Vote

Lawmakers are working on legislation to bolster underfunded local pension plans for police and firefighters. Senate staffers say about 350 local government plans around Florida would be impacted.
Credit americanmag/flickr

An effort to overhaul police and firefighter pensions is ready for consideration by the full Senate.

The bill, SB 172, changes the way state insurance premium tax revenues are used to fund local pension plans. It essentially enables local governments to use the money as they wish.

The bill is sponsored by lawmakers from both parties, including Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island).

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Politics
8:03 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Seminoles Release More Ads Pushing Gambling Negotiations

A proposed gambling bill in Tallahassee would conflict with the Seminole Gaming Compact. Part of the compact will expire in July unless state leaders negotiate a new deal.
Credit Thomas Davison/flickr

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has released another TV ad -- the third so far -- trying to convince state leaders to renew a portion of the Seminole Gaming Compact.

The portion that expires in July allows the Seminole tribe to exclusively offer games like blackjack at its casinos. In return, the tribe guarantees a billion dollars’ worth of payments to the state over five years.

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News
2:45 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Hemp Farming Gets Thumbs Up From Florida Senate Committee

Florida lawmakers are considering a bill to let farmers grow hemp crops like these.
Credit Paul/Flickr

A product made from cannabis could become one of Florida’s top crops: A bill in Tallahassee would allow Florida farmers to grow hemp.

Robert Clayton finished construction last year on a house made of hemp in Tarpon Springs. It’s thought to be the first of its kind in Florida. He testified at a Senate hearing about his research for the Hemp Industries Association.

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Politics
2:23 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Former Senator: Not Much Government In The Florida Sunshine

Paula Dockery is a Republican who served 16 years in the Florida Legislature. She is now a syndicated columnist.
Credit Tom Hagerty/flickr

This is Government in the Sunshine Week, a week celebrating the importance of open government and freedom of information.

The recent firing of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey is an example of government leaders making decisions out of the public purview – violating the spirit of Sunshine Week and Florida’s Sunshine Law.

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News
4:17 pm
Mon March 9, 2015

Senate President Uses His Power To Help Those With 'Unique Abilities'

Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner adjusts his son Andrew’s tie on the first day of the legislative session.
Credit Scott Keeler/Tampa Bay Times

New Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, is using his power in the Florida Legislature to help individuals with disabilities - or "unique abilities" as he often says. He's pushing bills relating to education and overall economic independence for the disabled.

The bills would expand education options beyond high school, promote the adoption of kids with disabilities in foster care and provide incentives for businesses to hire disabled workers.

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News
8:09 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

New Film Shines Light On Florida’s Prison Houdini

Documentary director Gabriel London has spent 13 years working on Mark DeFriest’s story.
Credit DOC NYC/flickr

In the early 1980s, a series of escapes earned Mark DeFriest the nickname Prison Houdini.

In 1979, DeFriest was a 19-year-old mechanic living in a rural area outside of Tallahassee. Then he was arrested for stealing his own tools -- the tools were inherited from his father, but DeFriest took them before his father’s will had gone through probate. His stepmother called the police, and DeFriest fled. That began his decades-long odyssey behind bars.

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Politics
5:17 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

Florida Lawmakers Try Again To End Permanent Alimony

Gov. Rick Scott vetoed an alimony reform bill passed by the Florida Legislature in 2013. Lawmakers chose not to pursue the issue in 2014 - an election year where fiscal concerns like tax cuts took center stage.
Credit WMNF Community Radio/flickr

The rules surrounding alimony are back before the Florida Legislature. It’s been almost two years since Governor Rick Scott vetoed a bill that would have stopped permanent spousal support and reopened divorce cases.

"What I was concerned about on that was the retroactive part of it, that we could go back and review prior agreements,” Scott told reporters after vetoing the bill passed by the Legislature in 2013.

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News
4:45 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

AAA Survey: We Don't Like Distracted Driving, But We Do It Anyway

AAA says about 5,000 people in the U.S. are killed in distracted driving crashes each year.
Credit Phil's 1stPix/flickr

Drivers spend more than half their time focused on something other than driving, according to a new survey that shows we know it’s bad to drive while distracted but do it anyway.

Drivers admit they regularly speed and use their smartphones. They also play with the radio, program the GPS and drive while sleepy.

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Politics
5:08 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Jeb Bush Email Release Includes Addresses And Social Security Numbers

Jeb Bush released thousands of email records from his days as Florida governor as he plans a run for president.
Credit NADA/flickr

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is considering a run for the White House. So he released 250,000 emails this week from his time as governor.

But Bush’s desire to be transparent may cause trouble for some of his former constituents.

Social security numbers have turned up in some of the newly released documents. Bush told reporters in Tallahassee the state was supposed to cover up such personal information.

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Environment
7:02 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Study: Carbon From Melting Glaciers May Affect Food Chain

This East Greenland ice sheet is melting, releasing copious amounts of organic carbon as it thaws.
Credit Christine Zenino/flickr

Warmer temperatures are causing glaciers to melt in places like Antarctica and Greenland. What’s in those glaciers may have a significant effect on ecosystems downstream. Those massive chunks of ice harbor a lot of organic carbon – like soot and byproducts from fossil fuel combustion.

All water, from tap water to the oceans, is full of organic carbon in varying forms and concentrations.

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Education
1:09 am
Mon February 9, 2015

Study: Performance Funding Doesn't Improve Outcomes In Higher Ed

President Obama wants to make two years of public community college free for many students. But institutions like Miami Dade College, pictured here, could only participate if they also have a performance funding program.
Credit mcd.edu

Performance funding in public higher education is a way for states to hold institutions accountable for certain outcomes. But new research shows it doesn’t do much to keep students enrolled or boost graduation rates.

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Politics
7:15 pm
Tue February 3, 2015

Next In The Gay-Marriage Debate: Religious Liberty

A federal judge's ruling opened the door for same sex weddings in Florida, like this one at St. Petersburg City Hall on January 6th, 2015.
Credit City of St Pete/flickr

Same-sex marriage is now legal in three dozen states, including Florida. The U.S. Supreme Court may issue a landmark ruling soon that will impact the rest of the country.

Florida’s voter-approved 2008 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was struck down by federal Judge Robert Hinkle as unconstitutional.

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Politics
7:42 am
Tue February 3, 2015

Q&A: What's Next In Same Sex Marriage Cases

FSU law professor Courtney Cahill writes extensively about legal issues surrounding sexuality.
Credit law.fsu.edu

Florida’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was passed by 62 percent of voters in 2008. But various lower court rulings last year found the ban to be unconstitutional, and federal judge Robert Hinkle agreed.

Now, same sex couples can marry in Florida, but four states have gay marriage cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Politics
9:55 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

Calls Escalate For Outside Investigation Into FDLE Chief's Departure

Happier times: Gov. Rick Scott seems relaxed on a visit to FDLE as Commissioner Gerald Bailey laughs in the background.
Credit Rick Scott/flickr

Watchdog groups want an outside investigation into the apparent ousting of well respected Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey, and now a private citizen is asking the FBI to investigate claims that Gov. Rick Scott tried to meddle in the affairs of the state’s top law enforcement agency.

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