Gina Jordan

Tallahassee reporter

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

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News
3:37 am
Mon May 12, 2014

How Miami Students Got College Degrees Before High School Diplomas

Reinaldo Camacho finished his two-year degree from Miami Dade College while he was still in high school. He's the first member of his family to pursue post-secondary education.
Credit Mater Academy

Sixty students from the Hialeah area will graduate from high school this month like thousands of others in Florida, but these students have done something remarkable.

They’ll receive their high school diplomas almost a month after graduating from Miami Dade College.

The students took advantage of the dual-enrollment programs offered at Mater Academy and Mater Lakes Academy. These are publicly funded charter schools that operate independently of the district.

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News
3:24 pm
Wed May 7, 2014

Judge Says Florida Teacher Evaluations Are Unfair, But Constitutional

Florida teachers are being evaluated on the performance of students in other classrooms.
Credit cooldesign/freedigitaldownloads.net

Florida teachers and education groups sued over a change in state law that enables districts to tie evaluations to student performance. A federal judge says the state’s way of evaluating teachers is constitutional.

The law was passed in 2011. It allows some teachers to be evaluated based on test scores of students who aren’t in their class.  They can also be judged based on test results in subject areas they don't even teach.

Starting next year, their pay will be impacted.

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The Sunshine Edition
1:56 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

Why Florida Lawmakers Can Negotiate The State Budget In Private

Florida House of Representatives
Credit Steve/flickr

The Florida Legislature will pass a flurry of bills this week. But the only thing they’re constitutionally required to do is pass a state budget.

Lawmakers settled on a budget worth slightly more than $77 billion – the largest in state history. They’ll vote on the spending plan Friday night to close out the legislative session.

In spite of Florida’s laws regarding open government, much of the budget negotiations have taken place in private.

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The Sunshine Edition
1:48 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

LISTEN: Rep. Gaetz On Marijuana, His Mugshot, And Political Culture In Tallahassee

Rep. Matt Gaetz goes over notes before his next meeting at the Capitol.
Credit Gina Jordan/WLRN

Ft. Walton Beach Republican Representative Matt Gaetz is helping carry on the family name in politics.

One week shy of 32 years old, he’s one of the state’s youngest lawmakers. He’s now running for the state Senate. His dad is Senate President Don Gaetz, also a Panhandle Republican.

But Matt Gaetz is an attorney who is not just sitting in his dad’s shadow.

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Session 2014
4:19 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

A Day In The Life Of A Tallahassee Lobbyist

Jack Cory waits outside the House chambers on the 4th floor of the Capitol. Lawmakers often come out for brief chats with lobbyists during the final days of the session.
Credit Jack Cory / WLRN

Tallahassee is full of lobbyists, and they’re in high gear at the Capitol for the final week of the legislative session.

A lobbyist is someone who is hired by a company or organization to convince lawmakers to pass legislation benefiting their clients.

Long-time lobbyist Jack Cory doesn’t stop moving much during the session. His firm’s two-dozen clients include the Florida Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs, Florida Citrus Sports, and the Florida and National Greyhound Associations.

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Politics
12:01 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Florida Lawmakers Ready To Strike Popular Energy Rebate Program From The Books

Homes and businesses using solar panels like these were eligible for rebates under a state program that ended in 2010.
Credit lkarrowhead26/flickr

An energy bill that is nearing passage in the Florida Legislature would strike an old solar rebate program from the books.

The program was more popular than expected, and when it ended in 2010, thousands of rebate holders hadn’t received all of the money they were due.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has recommended that lawmakers clean up state statutes by eliminating the rebate program. Since the program has ended, he says it's no longer needed on the books.

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Politics
7:13 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Lawmakers Ban Biometric Data Collection In Florida Schools

Kids won't get their eyes scanned or any other other biometric information collected at school under a bill approved by the Florida Legislature.
Credit dash.null/flickr

Schools won’t be able to collect the fingerprints or other biometric information of students under a bill approved by the Florida Legislature.

The new requirement is part of a broad package designed to protect kids’ privacy.

When lawmakers in Tallahassee talk about biometrics, they’re talking about hands and eyes being scanned or fingerprints being collected.

For Senator Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, it’s a slippery slope.

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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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