Gina Jordan

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

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Politics
12:10 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Plastic Bags Survive Another Year In Florida

This plastic bag washed ashore tangled in seaweed.
Credit Susan Ford Collins/flickr

"Paper or plastic?" is a question you’ll hear at grocery stores for at least another year because a South Florida lawmaker was unsuccessful in his attempt to help cities cut down on plastic bags.

A bill would prevent places like Publix and Walmart from using plastic carryout bags if local governments wanted to ban them. It would also require stores to provide customers with reusable bags.

Some members of the Senate Environmental Preservation committee didn’t like a provision that would force customers to pay 10 cents to put their groceries in a paper bag.

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Politics
11:10 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Florida Legislature Wants To Avoid Controversy In This Election Year

Florida House of Representatives
Credit Steve/flickr

The legislative session is slightly more than halfway over.

So what have lawmakers been doing in the first five weeks and what’s next?

We checked with Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas.

Q: Would you explain the process that happens in the first half of the session? For people who don’t understand what goes on at the Capitol this time of year, what should they know?

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Politics
10:01 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Lawmakers Want To Change The Way MDX Does Business

MDX is under scrutiny by state lawmakers after a toll change on the Dolphin Expressway.
Credit Jorge Elias/flickr

An effort to increase the state’s oversight of MDX - the Miami Dade Expressway Authority - barely passed the Senate Transportation Committee Thursday. 

The bill was weakened significantly.  

A plan to cut the number of board members from 13 to 9 was thrown out. So was a provision that would have required the county commission to approve toll increases.

Even after those changes, a string of speakers stood up against the bill. Cutler Bay Vice Mayor Ernie Sochin came to Tallahassee to support MDX.

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Politics
7:25 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Online Medical Checkups And Other Telemedicine Services Moving Through Legislature

Senate staffers say the University of Miami instituted the first telemedicine services in 1973.
Credit Intel Free Press/flickr

Your next check up may be done in the comfort of your living room.

A bill to enable more doctors to offer their services via the Internet or other technology passed a Senate committee Tuesday.

In addition to doctors, the bill now includes as those who can practice telemedicine physician assistants, advanced registered nurse practitioners, and pharmacists.

Even doctors who aren’t licensed to practice in Florida can provide remote services. They just have to be affiliated with a Florida hospital or health care plan.

Listen to the story:

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Politics
7:11 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Report Examines Political Power Of Florida Utility Companies

Florida Power and Light's Turkey Point nuclear power plant on Biscayne Bay
Credit Honey Badger/flickr

A report by government watchdog Integrity Florida examines how the state's four largest utility companies are able to yield considerable political power. 

The findings conclude that the Florida Legislature sets its agenda and policy outcomes based on the needs of large political donors rather than the public interest. In the last five elections, the report says Florida utility companies were among the largest donors to state-level campaigns.

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Politics
4:08 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Red-Light Camera Ban Creeps To A Halt In The Florida Legislature

Dozens of municipalities around Florida have red light camera programs. An effort to repeal them doesn't appear likely to pass the Florida Legislature this year.
Credit Traffic Safety Ink/flickr

Red-light cameras appear to be safe for another year in Florida. A bid to get rid of them crept to a halt this week in the Florida Legislature.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, knew his bill was in trouble, so he suggested changes. He proposed an amendment that would prevent cameras from ticketing drivers who make right turns on red “if the vehicle is traveling less than 15 miles per hour, is not involved in a crash, and no pedestrians are in the crosswalk.”

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Politics
5:18 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Florida Senate Approves Private Flood-Insurance Market

The National Guard evacuates a Melbourne neighborhood flooded after Hurricane Fay. Home buyers in high risk areas can't get mortgages without flood insurance.
Credit DVIDSHUB/flickr

More than a third of the policies in the National Flood Insurance Program are held by Floridians. But Florida accounts for just a small percentage of the claims that are paid.

Now the national program is billions of dollars in debt because it hasn’t been charging premiums that match the risk.

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DCF
6:32 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Miami Herald Series Prompts Changes To Florida Child-Welfare Legislation

Changes to the Florida Department of Children and Families are on the way. Lawmakers are considering legislation after a Miami Herald investigation chronicled the deaths of hundreds of children under the state's watch.
Credit Seandel Edwards/flickr

The Miami Herald series “Innocents Lost” may lead to more changes at DCF – Florida’s Department of Children and Families.

The Herald investigation chronicles the deaths of hundreds of children under DCF’s watch.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, is one of the state leaders charged with overseeing DCF as chair of the Senate Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee.

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Politics
2:13 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Florida Legislature Considers Beer Growlers, In-Store Tastings

Tired of the same old wine tastings at your local store? Beer samples may be on tap soon if Florida lawmakers give the okay.
Credit burgerduo/flickr

Half a dozen bills about beer have been filed in the Florida Legislature.

The proposals would essentially do two things: allow certain stores to offer beer tastings - like many already do with wine – and legalize 64-ounce containers of beer.

Florida’s weird packaging laws allow 32-ounce and gallon-sized containers, known as growlers. But 64-ounce growlers are illegal. The law dates back to the prohibition era.

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Politics
5:40 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Lawmakers Consider Bills To Allow Guns On School Campuses

Guns would be allowed at school under a bill being considered by Florida lawmakers. The bill would allow at least one volunteer or school employee to carry a concealed weapon.
Credit freedigitalphotos.net

An effort to bring guns to school campuses is moving through the Florida Legislature.

The bill sponsors say this isn’t such a far-fetched idea - eight states allow people with concealed-carry permits to bring guns to school.

Supporters say this may be the best chance to save lives. Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, says research on school shootings has found the attacks are often over before police or deputies can respond.

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Politics
5:34 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Session Update: Election Law Changes, Guns In Schools, Gov. Askew Dies

Gov. Reubin Askew takes the oath of office on January 5, 1971. He died last week at age 85.
Credit State Library and Archives of Florida

Lawmakers altered their session schedules this week to say goodbye to former Gov. Reubin Askew. He died Thursday at age 85. Flags are flying at half-staff at local and state buildings.

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Politics
5:25 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

Bill To Grant Cheaper Tuition For Undocumented Students Struggles In Senate

No matter how long they've lived in Florida, undocumented students must pay the out-of-state rate to attend college here. It's about three times more expensive than the in-state rate.
Credit freedigitalphotos.net

High school senior Diego Ramirez from Florida City told lawmakers he’s in the top 10 percent of his class. He’s lived in Florida four years and is undocumented.

“I’ve always wanted to go to college [and] become a businessman because that’s my dream,” Ramirez said.

Undocumented students in Florida have to pay out-of-state rate for college, which is three times more expensive.

Now, a bill to grant cheaper, in-state college tuition to undocumented students may be in trouble.

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Politics
12:55 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Why Freedom Of The Press Should Matter To You, And Other Tenets Of The First Amendment Foundation

Credit freedigitalphotos.net

When Florida media groups are concerned about freedom of the press and open government, they turn to the First Amendment Foundation for help.

Pete Weitzel, former senior editor of the Miami Herald, founded the non-profit 30 years ago.

The foundation is funded through contributions. It provides training, legal aid, and the annual Government in the Sunshine Manual as a guide to Florida’s open meetings and public-records laws. 

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Politics
6:01 pm
Fri March 7, 2014

Lawmakers Join Forces For Protection Of Florida Springs

Wakulla Springs, about half an hour from Tallahassee, is one of the state's first magnitude springs. It offers public swimming and glass-bottom boat rides. When the water is clear, riders can see 120 feet to the bottom.
Credit dep.state.fl.us

Attorney David Guest is not on the fence about the protection of springs.

“They’re acting as if this renewable resource is something you can simply mine and when it’s gone, it’s gone,” said Guest, head of the Florida office of Earthjustice. “It’s been there for thousands of years, and only recently have we had this attitude that you just take it and the future generations just don’t get anything anymore.”

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Session 2014
7:00 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Session Preview: Tax Cuts And Rosy Budget Outlook In An Election Year

Activists rally outside the Capitol on the eve of Session 2014.
Credit Gina Jordan/WLRN

March 4 marks the start of the 2014 Florida Legislative session at the Capitol. It runs through May 2.

For two months, lawmakers will consider proposed legislation on everything from marijuana to red-light cameras.

All they really have to do is come up with a spending plan for the fiscal year that begins in July.  Gov. Rick Scott is recommending half a billion dollars in tax and fee cuts.

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