Gina Jordan

Tallahassee reporter

Ways to Connect

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jarek Radimersky/flickr

A new push is underway to get some anti-immigrant language out of the Florida Constitution. The law relates to foreign property owners.

People who aren’t eligible for American citizenship can't own property in Florida. It’s written in Article 1 of the state Constitution.

Mike Ray/flickr

A petition drive now underway in Florida would get a solar power amendment on the ballot in 2016. If voters approve the proposal, individuals who use the sun to generate electricity would be able to sell that electricity.

For now, only Florida’s utility companies can do that.

Supporters must collect 683,149 signatures to get the proposal before voters. At least 60 percent of voters must approve the amendment for it to be placed in the Constitution.

George/flickr

Florida voters passed the Water and Land Conservation Amendment in November. It requires one third of documentary stamp revenue – a tax on real estate transactions - to go toward environmental initiatives.

The Florida Legislature must spend a portion of the documentary stamp money on environmental programs, like buying land and preserving springs.

Dondu.Small/flickr

Beginning teachers would earn a minimum $50,000 salary starting next school year under a bill proposed this week in Tallahassee.

Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) filed the bill, which cites a need for the state to attract and retain teachers. It seeks to increase their pay without affecting other personnel and programs.

floridacountyjudges.com

A Broward County judge with a history of alcohol problems is being recommended for removal from the bench. Judge Gisele Pollack has been a judge since 2004, overseeing low-level cases in the county's misdemeanor drug court.

Pollack admitted being drunk in the courtroom in December 2013. She agreed to stop drinking alcohol altogether, but the same thing happened a few months later.

Gina Jordan/StateImpact Florida

The School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) in Tallahassee has just over 300 students, and the waiting list to get in is much longer.

Maureen Yoder is one of the founders of the 15-year-old K-8 charter school.

“We started this school with the intent of keeping it small because we want to create a school family,” Yoder says. “We believe that the relationship between the teacher and the students is the primary reason students succeed – besides a good home base.”

This is sixth grader Mary Stafford’s first year.

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