Gina Jordan

Tallahassee reporter

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

World Bank Photo Collection/flickr

We’re midway through the Legislative session in Tallahassee. The only thing lawmakers are required to do is craft a budget for the fiscal year, which begins July 1. But the House and Senate have some big differences in their proposed budgets. The biggest difference is a $5-billion gap regarding healthcare costs.

The Senate has a plan to continue receiving federal money to pay for healthcare for low-income people.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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