Tallahassee

MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Join the Miami Herald and WLRN-Miami Herald News for a town hall on how to fix the child welfare system at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 17 at the Doral headquarters of the Herald. Learn more at MiamiHerald.com.

Winners And Losers Halfway Through Session

Apr 11, 2014
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Florida lawmakers are more than half finished with the legislative session. Will they deliver on Governor Scott’s goal of $500 million in tax cuts?  

Support has been building for allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition. And how are lawmakers responding to the deaths of hundreds of kids involved in the state child welfare system?

No one will mistake law writing for poetry, but April is National Poetry Month.  WLRN listeners celebrate our slice of the Sunshine State in verse for our This Is Where poetry contest.

 

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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?

markemark4 / Flickr/Creative Commons

A sweeping charities reform package is breezing through the Florida Legislature despite earlier concerns that legitimate philanthropies might be harmed by new rules.

The House bill received unanimous support in three committees and is now ready for a vote on the floor. The Senate bill has one more committee, and members who had been worried about reputable charities now say their issues have been addressed.

Fammy on flickr

On the day his successor takes power, a defeated or departing Florida governor would be allowed to appoint replacements for state Supreme Court justices whose terms expire on the same day.  That's in a controversial bill the state Senate passed on Thursday. And that governor could be Rick Scott four years from now, when the court's liberal majority face mandatory retirement all at once.

Click to hear Rick Stone's radio story.

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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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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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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.

Emily Michot / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

 

In its Innocents Lost series, the Miami Herald painstakingly details how 477 children were killed over a period of six years--despite documented warnings to the state Department of Children and Families. Now, leaders in Tallahassee are calling for child welfare reforms.

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.”

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.

Courtesy of Severiana Novas-Francois

In Florida, children who were born outside the United States -- and live here lawfully -- have to wait five years to qualify for the subsidized health care program known as Florida KidCare.

Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, are sponsoring legislation to drop the five-year waiting period.

The law made its third trip to the legislature this year, and will get its first hearing in the Senate committee Tuesday.

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.

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.

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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