Sunshine State News Blogs
Sen. Joe Negron's bill to guarantee Floridians the right to speak before a public board before the board takes any action moved forward on the Senate floor Tuesday morning. It will be placed on the calendar for a third reading.
"We only have three rights we guarantee in our Constitution," the Republican senator from Stuart said. "The right to a trial by jury, the right to vote and the right to speak.
"But we have no statutory right to speak at a public meeting. This bill simply codifies that right. It says in other words, if you're going to invite a citizen to a meeting, you have to give him a chance to speak before you vote."
Negron said SB 50 creates no new crimes, nor does it pass a mandate on to local governments about how long members of the public can occupy the podium. But it does say "if this statute is violated, a person can bring an action in court."
The motion for the bill passed unanimously.
School officials in Broward and Miami-Dade counties heaved a sigh of relief Tuesday morning when HB 189, the bill that revises the method for calculating the penalty for failure to comply with the state constitutional class size requirements, moved forward.
The bill calls for calculating at the school average instead of the classroom level.
Broward and Miami-Dade are the two Florida districts most out of compliance, and the two that would gain most by the bill's success. Representatives for each said they respect the law, but they probably will never be in compliance.
Broward schools' lobbyist Georgia Slack said all her 236,000-student district wants is a "level playing field" with charter schools.
"Broward added $39 million of local funds this year, and it was all for more teachers," Slack said.
Nevertheless, members of the House Education Appropriations Committee expressed their concern that the district received $5 million to reach compliance but publicly stated it is cheaper to pay the $1 million penalty and keep the $5 million.
Charter schools do get money for class-size compliance, but only 65 percent of the amount other public schools receive. Nor did charters get the start-up money the state provided in 2002, when the class-size amendment first was passed.
"I'm voting for this now," said Rep. Janet Atkins, R-Fernandina Beach, a charter school advocate, "but going forward, I don't know if I'm going to be able to.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling ruled Monday that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s new soda regulation was "arbitrary and capricious" and declared it invalid.
The ban, which would have taken effect at midnight, would have prohibited restaurants from selling soda and other sweet drinks larger than 16 ounces. City officials have said they would even impose $200 fines on offending businesses. Opponents have called Bloomberg’s ban foolish and said it is another effort to create a nanny-state.
"The court ruling provides a sigh of relief to New Yorkers and thousands of small businesses in New York City that would have been harmed by this arbitrary and unpopular ban," the American Beverage Association said in a statement.
Bloomberg’s office said they will appeal the ruling.
An effort to ban sugary foods and drinks from being purchased with food stamps failed in the Florida Legislature in 2012.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen provided insight Monday on Americans' distaste for Congress, with Senate Democrats being judged even worse than House Republicans.
According to Rasmussen, more than half of voters think both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives are doing a poor job, but nearly as many also prefer having them run by different political parties the way Congress is now.
Only 12 percent of likely voters think the U.S. Senate is doing a good or excellent job. And, 53 percent rate the Senate’s performance as poor.
On the House side, 19 percent believe their reps are doing a good or excellent job, while 51 percent view its performance as poor.
The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted March 8-9, with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
The Florida lottery is having a streak of its own good luck. For the fifth straight week, it has exceeded sales records for its scratch-off tickets.
Scratch-off games topped $74 million last week, besting the previous week’s record by $5.7 million. Florida is one of the few states to have exceeded $70 million in scratch-off sales, behind New York and Massachusetts.
Among its newly-launched games is the $3 million-jackpot Flamingo Fortune, which began selling for $20 per ticket on March 5, and led last week’s sales.
“Breaking this weekly scratch-off sales record shows our players are responding to our excellent product mix, especially considering that 22 different games had sales of more than $1 million last week,” said Florida lottery Secretary Cynthia O’Connell.
Scratch-off games account for roughly 58 percent of ticket sales and generated more than $495 million for the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund (EETF) last year.
Alas, Mr. Smith can't go to Washington anymore -- unless he's got a buck or two of his own and knows how to harvest and bundle massive donations.
From MapLight.org comes this financial wag-the-dog tale -- the staggering cost of a seat in Congress.
An analysis of money raised by members of the 113th Congress who won election in 2012 concluded with these eye-opening stats:
- House members, on average, each raised $1,689,580, an average of $2,315 per day during the 2012 cycle.
- Senators, on average, each raised $10,476,451, an average of $14,351 per day during the 2012 cycle.
MapLight is a nonpartisan research organization that reveals money’s influence on politics in the U.S. Congress and in the California and Wisconsin Legislatures.
Read the details about MapLight's data sources and methodology. Data refers to direct contributions to the campaign committees of elected legislators. For example, contribution totals exclude contributions to party committees such as the RNC or the DNC and exclude contributions made to individuals that did not win their election.
Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which calls itself the nation's premier limited government grassroots organization, has issued a statement condemning last week's decision by Florida's two largest business advocates, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), to endorse the state's implementation of Obamacare's optional Medicaid expansion.
“It is unfortunate that both the Chamber and AIF would take positions on Medicaid expansion that are clearly not in the best interest of Florida’s business community,” said AFP-Florida’s state director Slade O’Brien. “Medicaid increases health care costs for the privately insured, which will increase costs for employers as well as billions of dollars in liabilities for all of Florida’s taxpayers. These two organizations seem driven by the limited interest of their health-care industry board members and not the policies that will help all of Florida’s business community.”
The release refers to two polls -- conducted by Florida's two free-market think tanks -- that have found that a majority of Florida voters oppose Medicaid expansion. The first poll, released by the James Madison Institute, showed that 63 percent of Floridians don’t trust the federal government to keep their funding level promises. The second poll, released by the Foundation for Government Accountability, reported the same findings, adding that voters are less likely to vote for their current elected official in the next election if they support expanding Medicaid.
“Floridians demand that the Legislature reject Medicaid expansion and Florida’s businesses should be doing the same," O'Brien continued. "Expanding this costly program would increase costs for everyone and force a million people into a failing system that provides subpar health care services. Last week the Florida House decided rightly to reject expansion. Hopefully, the Senate will follow their lead. This is not a decision that can be made in a vacuum -- the future costs of expanding Medicaid today will have a devastating impact on the welfare of our state, our children and our grandchildren.”
Four Republican and four Democratic senators, including Florida’s Marco Rubio, who have been working on immigration reform legislation, are said to have come to an agreement on what has become one of the most sensitive components of the immigration overhaul – how to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
Aides with knowledge of the agreement transpiring behind closed doors told the L.A. Times the deal being written requires the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants to register with the Department of Homeland Security, file federal income taxes for their time in the country and pay a fine.
Only those with a clean record would be granted probationary legal status, which would allow them to work in the U.S. but not receive food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment insurance or other federal benefits.
Joining Rubio in the negotiations are fellow Republican colleagues -- Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona. Democratic senators included in the bipartisan negotiations include Charles Schumer of New York, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado. Draft legislation is expected to be ready in April.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott today acknowledged Broward County’s public schools that sustained high student performance or demonstrated substantial improvement in student performance by presenting a check totaling more than $15 million in School Recognition Program funding to Superintendent Robert W. Runcie. The check presentation was made before an audience of educators and community leaders at Piper High School in the city of Sunrise.
According to a release issued by Scott's office, schools can use their award dollars for faculty or staff bonuses, to purchase educational equipment or materials, or hire temporary staff to help maintain or improve student performance. Statewide, school recognition funding totals more than $134 million.
“Florida students and teachers were ranked sixth for educational quality, our fourth-grade students scored among the best in the world in an international reading survey, and we recently learned Florida students are No. 1 for percentage of students taking an AP exam," Scott said in a statement. "In conjunction with our proposed $1.2 billion in educational funding as part of the Florida Families First budget, the school recognition funding will allow our teachers and students to continue on their path of success.”
Florida’s School Recognition Program disburses financial rewards based on sustained or significantly improved student achievement in reading, mathematics, science, and writing. Schools eligible for recognition awards include those receiving an "A" school grade, improving at least one letter grade from the previous year, or improving more than one letter grade and sustaining the improvement the following school year. Alternative schools that increase their school improvement rating or are rated “improving” also qualify for awards. The school staff and school advisory council at each recognized school jointly decide how to use the financial award.
The Florida Senate Select Committee on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPCA) will take up Medicaid expansion and items related to implementation of Obamacare Monday at 1 p.m.
The committee is set to make its recommendations in a meeting that was postponed from March 4 – the same day its House counterpart voted against Medicaid expansion. The 10-5 House committee vote was cast in support of Rep. Matt Hudson's, R-Naples, motion to direct staff not to write any legislation that would make Medicaid expansion law in Florida. The committee and House Speaker Will Weatherford voiced their concern that implementation would increase costs for Floridians while decreasing services.
“The facts show that health care costs will go up for many Floridians, while access to and quality of health care will go down,” said Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, after the committee’s vote. “The 'all or nothing' approach that the Obama administration is offering will not work for our state. I know there will be continued discussion about this matter, and I look forward to exploring better policies for our state.”
The Senate committee meeting is scheduled to run to 3 p.m.
Gov. Rick Scott on Friday announced the reappointments of Carlos Beruff and George Mann to the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. He also announced the appointments of two new members to that same governing board -- Thomas E. “Tommy” Bronson and Bryan K. Beswick.
At the same time, Scott announced the appointment of Virginia Sanchez and the reappointment of Virginia H. Johns and to the Governing Board of the Suwannee River Water Management District.
Beruff, 54, of Bradenton, is a Developer with Medallion Home Gulf Coast. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 8, 2013, and ending March 1, 2017.
Mann, of Polk City, is a retired business development manager for Treatt USA. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 8, 2013, and ending March 1, 2017.
Bronson, 76, of Brooksville, is the retired CEO of Meridian Aggregates. He is a former member of the Pithlachascotee River Basin Board and the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council, and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee. He is appointed for a term beginning March 8, 2013, and ending March 1, 2016.
Beswick, 45, of Arcadia, is the grove manager for Blue Goose Growers LLC and a sales associate with Blue Goose Realty. He previously served on the Southwest Florida Water Management District and Peace River Basin Board, and received his bachelor’s degree from Florida Southern College. He is appointed for a term beginning March 8, 2013, and ending March 1, 2016.
Sanchez, of Old Town, is the president of Sanchez Farms LLC. She is appointed for a term beginning March 8, 2013, and ending March 1, 2017.
Johns, 57, of Alachua, is the president of John Hipp Construction. She is reappointed for a term beginning March 8, 2013, and ending March 1, 2017.
In advance of spring break season, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has issued a statement warning students about the dangers of synthetic drugs. Synthetic drugs, sometimes referred to as “incense,” “potpourri,” “K2,” “spice,” and “bath salts,” can cause psychotic episodes, hallucinations, seizures, paranoia, tremors, and more.
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network report, more than 11,000 emergency room visits nationwide involved a synthetic cannabinoid product in 2010, and the majority of the visits were from kids ranging from 12 to 17. In December, Bondi announced an emergency rule banning additional synthetic compounds, and this legislative session she is working with Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, and Rep. Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola, to permanently ban 23 synthetic compounds.
“Synthetic drugs are extremely dangerous substances that are being marketed to our youth,” Bondi said in her release. “I urge students across the state to stay away from these drugs, and I remind retailers that carrying these substances is illegal under Florida law.”
Bondi has made the drug war a priority of her administration. In 2011, she signed an emergency rule that temporarily outlawed MDPV, commonly known as "bath salts." She has also worked closely with the Florida Legislature over the past two legislative sessions to add cathinones, also commonly known as “bath salts,” and cannabinoids, commonly known as “K2” or “Spice,” to the schedule of controlled substances.
Earlier this month Abu Ghaith was secretly brought to New York to stand trial for conspiring to kill Americans.
“Simply put, foreign terrorists who attack the United States should be treated as enemy combatants, not common criminals,” Buchanan writes in the letter. “By no means should Mr. Abu Ghaith, a man who sat next to bin Laden when he took credit for the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 Americans, be entitled to the same protections as an American citizen, including a speedy trial and ‘the right to remain silent.’ That is why I am calling on the administration to immediately transfer Mr. Abu Ghaith to the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he can be interrogated, prosecuted and tried by a military tribunal.”
Last year Buchanan introduced legislation requiring all terror suspects to be tried by a military tribunal.
While Florida lawmakers fiercely debate a wide scope of issues from Medicaid to gun control, state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, may have found something even “Joe the Plumber” and the liberal Palm Beach County legislator can agree about.
Clemens is sponsoring SR 1760, which would proclaim Monday as “World Plumbing Day” in Florida. The resolution states, "World Plumbing Day was founded on March 11, 2010, as a way to highlight the important role played by the plumbing industry and today’s plumbing professionals."
The World Health Organization estimates 1.1 billion people are without safe water supplies.
We'll keep an eye out for this celebration.
Gov. Rick Scott today shared his proposed 2013-2014 Florida Families First budget, which provides $36 million in funding to people on the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) waiver waiting list, during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day at the Capitol.
According to a release issued by Scott's office, more than 22,000 people are on the APD waiting list. The $36 million increase will allow individuals on the waiting list to enroll in the APD Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Medicaid waiver so they will receive services in their local communities. This new funding is part of the $1.1 billion budget being proposed for APD in the coming year.
The Florida Families First budget also includes $2.5 million to assist people on the waiver waiting list who have indicated that they want to be employed. The funding will pay for job internships and supported employment job coaches for about 1,000 people with developmental disabilities.
“We are working to make sure every Florida family has the opportunity to get a job and a great education, and from our efforts – it’s working," Scott stated. "Since December 2010, Florida has created around 200,000 private-sector jobs and our unemployment rate continues to drop. Our commitment to helping people on the APD waiver waiting list, as well as assisting people who want to work, is another step in our plan to ensure that every Floridian has an opportunity to live the American Dream."
“We greatly appreciate Governor Scott’s support of our work to improve the agency," APD Director Barbara Palmer was quoted. "We have been meeting with families and stakeholders to determine the best approach to begin serving people on our waiting list. We hope the Legislature will also see the importance of this critical funding for the agency. The additional money for employment opportunities will help individuals to become self-sufficient, enhance their quality of life, and benefit their families and Florida’s economy.”
“I am very pleased with the governor’s budget proposal for APD for the upcoming fiscal year," Scott's statement quoted Lou Ogburn, chairperson of the Tallahassee Family Care Council and mother of a daughter with a disability. "This funding is much needed. I am particularly pleased to see that money is being directed to the waiting list. While it doesn’t eliminate the list, it is a step in the right direction. In today’s society, providing tax dollars to support individuals with disabilities so they may live in the least restrictive environment and be a viable part of their community is the right thing to do.”
Scott awarded Sarasota resident Korinne Kaliher the Fourth Annual Idelio Valdes Leadership and Advocacy award. Kaliher was honored for her "exemplary personal achievements and her efforts in promoting disability awareness throughout her community."
Kaliher, a student at the Academy for Community transition at Oak Park in Sarasota, is a member of the Developmental Disabilities Committee of the Community Alliance of Sarasota County, and has spoken on disability awareness issues to the Girl Scouts of Gulf Coast, Florida and the Home Depot store in Sarasota.
“Korinne has a positive outlook and is always encouraging people with disabilities to get out in the community and become active, participating members of society,” stated FDDC Chair Kathy McAllister. “She believes in making the world a better place and sharing her message of valuing and accepting persons with disabilities, emphasizing one’s ability rather than their disability. She has found her niche as a public speaker and has a wonderful message to share with everyone she meets.”
According to a press release issued by her office, the National Retail Federation estimates retailers lose more than $30 billion per year to retail theft, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation considers retail theft a “gateway crime” committed by major crime rings that use the proceeds to fund other illegal activity. In a typical retail theft scheme, criminals steal thousands of dollars worth of products over a period of time and often sell them at flea markets or online.
The legislative proposal sponsored by Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, (HB 1173) and Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, (SB 1404) would enhance the penalties for a violation of Florida Statute 817.034(4)(a) by increasing the sentencing scoring guidelines for an organized retail theft offense that exceeds $50,000. The enhanced penalties align the sentencing of organized retail theft charges with first-degree grand theft. As a result, a person convicted of retail theft at $50,000 or more would face a baseline sentence of 21 months in prison.
“Organized retail crime is a highly sophisticated operation that involves the large-scale theft of everyday consumer items by professional shoplifters,” stated Bondi. “The legislation will give law enforcement and prosecutors the tools needed to arrest and prosecute these individuals, so consumers don’t have to bear the financial brunt of this illegal activity.”
“Millions of dollars are being stolen from businesses in Florida every year by organizing retail fraud. In order to crack down on this illegal industry, our laws against such offences need to be strengthened," the release quotes Stargel. "I am excited to sponsor legislation that enhances the Florida Communications Fraud Act and to work with Attorney General Bondi in addressing this issue on behalf of Florida’s businesses and consumers."
“This legislation offers significant protection to both businesses and consumers who ultimately (bear) the costs associated with organized retail crime," Spano is quoted. "I commend Attorney General Bondi for taking the lead on this initiative and look forward to championing House Bill 1173 in the Florida House."
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has announced that Florida has recovered nearly $50,000 through a settlement with Par Pharmaceuticals Inc.
The settlement resolves allegations that Par promoted sales of the drug Megace ES, a drug approved to treat significant weight loss problems caused by AIDS, to elderly patients who weren’t diagnosed with AIDS. The alleged off-label purpose is not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration and not covered by Florida’s Medicaid program.
“We will not allow pharmaceutical companies to market drugs for purposes not approved by the FDA, and we will ensure that our Medicaid program does not cover the costs of this illegal activity,” Bondi said in a press release.
The settlement is the result of a joint investigation by the Florida attorney general’s office, the United States attorney’s office for the district of New Jersey, the U.S. Department of Justice, Arizona, New York, and Ohio.
A Parent Empowerment in Education bill cleared the Florida House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee Thursday.
PCS for HB 867, by Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, was recommended favorably by the members, by an 8-5 vote, after an energized and lengthy discussion. The bill enables parents to petition the school board to request school turnaround options if the school earns an F grade.
Much of the debate in opposition to the bill was centered on charter schools, including how they are funded and their performance, even though only 5 percent of charter schools in the state are failing, according to information presented at the committee.
Notwithstanding the fact the vote was down party lines, with Republicans voting in favor, Trujillo said, “It's not a Republican or Democratic issue; it’s an American issue. We have to start being proactive. For us to find solutions. For us to move the state forward.”
During Thursday's meeting of the Florida Cabinet, Gov. Rick Scott expressed his appreciation for Florida’s teachers and applauded their commitment to improving Florida’s education system by presenting special commendations to several North Florida 2013 Teachers of the Year.
The commendation was created to honor Florida’s valued educators and their effort to foster greater student achievement. The five winners invited to attend Thursday's meeting come from Franklin, Gadsden, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla counties.
“Every day you help Florida’s students realize their potential, fulfill their dreams, and embark on challenging journeys toward college and successful careers,” Scott was quoted in a release by his office. “Florida’s strong, effective teachers give students an advantage in today’s competitive environment, and that is why I am proud to award this special commendation to teachers who go above and beyond to make a difference in education.”
Scott's recognition takes place a few weeks after he announced his Florida Families First budget proposal to increase Florida teacher salaries and education funding.
According to the release, the participating 2013 Teachers of the Year are:
"Laura King, Franklin County – King teaches social studies and language arts at Franklin County K-12 School. With more than 16 years of classroom instruction under her belt, King’s classroom management is an example to her peers and her use of technology in the classroom captures students' attention right away.
"Zola Akins, Gadsden County – In addition to being the reading coach at George W. Munroe Elementary School, Akins also teaches language arts, reading, and writing. She has been teaching in Gadsden schools for 11 years. This is her second year as Gadsden’s Teacher of the Year.
"Rebecca Kirchharr, Leon County – Kirchharr is a reading and English teacher at Leon High School. She also serves as a gifted coordinator, reading coach, and coach of the junior varsity tennis team.
"Samantha Newsome, Liberty County – Newsome is a 6th grade math teacher at W.R. Tolar K-8 School. Before beginning her teaching career, she helped Florida children as a child-abuse investigator.
"Jodie Martin, Wakulla County – A 5th grade teacher at Medart Elementary School, Martin is committed to 'teaching students, not teaching subjects.' She is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, the Medart Reading Leadership Team, the science curriculum team, and math curriculum team."
During Thursday's Florida Cabinet meeting, Gov. Rick Scott presented Publix with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award for the company’s "longstanding commitment to hiring people with disabilities throughout the state."
Publix’s Associate Diversity Development Specialist Greta Dupuy, Store Manager Chip Seale, and Store Manager Mark Grant accepted the award during the meeting. Scott and the Florida Cabinet also declared the month of March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.
“I am happy to recognize Publix with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award for their work to ensure every Floridian has an opportunity to get a great job," Scott said in a statement released by his office. "Over the past two years, we have taken steps to make sure Florida businesses can grow and it’s working. I thank Publix for their commitment to creating jobs and opportunities for Florida families.”
“Our legacy of community engagement has spanned for 84 years," Dwaine Stevens, Publix media and community relations manager - Jacksonville division was quoted in the same statement. "Our founder, George Jenkins, gave us the greatest examples for striving to be reflective of communities in which we serve and operate; including diversity in the workplace. We are deeply honored to be recognized for such a prestigious designation and recognition for our support of the total community.”
Last month, the governor announced his Florida Families First budget, which provides $36 million in funding to people on the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) waiver waiting list. More than 22,000 people are on the APD waiting list and the $36 million increase will allow individuals on the waiting list to enroll in the APD Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Medicaid waiver so they will receive services in their local communities. Those with the most critical needs will benefit from this new funding. This new funding is part of the $1.1 billion budget being proposed for APD in the coming year.
Gov. Scott’s budget proposal also includes $2.5 million to assist people on the waiver waiting list who have indicated that they want to be employed. The funding will pay for job internships and supported employment job coaches for about 1,000 people with developmental disabilities. Scott says this funding will help ensure that all Floridians can find employment.
During a meeting of the Florida Cabinet Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott announced that according to preliminary estimates released by VISIT FLORIDA, visitors to the state spent a record $71.8 billion, an increase of 6.8 percent over 2011. This represents a record year of spending in 2012 by tourists in Florida, exceeding the previous highs of $67.2 billion in 2011 and $65.5 billion in 2007.
“Today’s news from VISIT FLORIDA demonstrates ‘It’s Working,'" Scott said in a statement released by his office. "Travelers to Florida spent an additional $4.6 billion in 2012, marking the second consecutive record year for visitor spending in the Sunshine State. Florida’s tourism industry is critical to Florida families as it serves as a vital source of revenue to the state and a key driver of employment – and that’s why our Florida Families First budget commits $75 million to VISIT FLORIDA, so we can better grow jobs and opportunities for Florida families.”
“Last year, visitors spent over 500 million vacation nights and nearly $72 billion in the Sunshine State,” the release quoted Will Seccombe, president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. “While it’s still very early in 2013, all indications are that VISIT FLORIDA is well-positioned to build on the previous two years’ momentum as we strive to make Florida the No. 1 travel destination in the world.”
The Florida Department of Education will hold an educational seminar in Orlando Friday to help school districts implement Common Core State Standards.
Florida Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett will host the “Transitioning to the Common Core” Community of Practice meeting that will include presentations and discussions on curriculum development, best practices and lessons learned and support for educators during the transition, which will be led by staff from six Florida school districts.
The meeting will be held at the J.W. Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes from 9:30 a.m.– 4 p.m.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam has announced legislation that would enable parents to protect their children from the growing crime of identity theft.
The legislation, introduced as SB 566 and HB 493, would require the nation’s three consumer reporting agencies to allow parents or guardians to open a credit record for their child and freeze it, preventing others from using that child’s personal information to open fraudulent accounts. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers.
In a press release announcing the legislation, Putnam highlighted what he said was the growing problem of this crime: “Studies indicate that one out of every 10 children is a victim of identity theft. That means one of these children in front of you will be a victim."
“These children are going to have it tough enough without having a bad credit history,” Detert was quoted in the release.
Florida is only the second state in the nation to pursue such legislation. A similar bill passed last year in Maryland.
“There are all kinds of devious methods they are using to hurt Florida’s children,” Fitzenhagen is quoted. “We want to put a stop to it.”
The release also quotes Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Col. James Previtera as saying: “Identity theft can be just as devastating to a victim as an assault, and in many ways, it takes longer to recover."
“If we don’t protect a child financially, their futures are hampered," Jack Levine, a statewide child advocate and founder of 4Generations Institute, is also quoted. "This is one example of how we can do the right thing – protect and preserve each child’s future.”
The House staff has reviewed and released the latest actuarial study of the House Pension Reform Bill (HB 7011). According to the Milliman study -- not accounting for "intervening variables and variations in assumptions" the bill would incur the following costs and savings:
· An estimated $9.8 billion in savings to taxpayers in 2042-43.
· An estimated $2.1 billion in savings to taxpayers in 2023-24.
· No cost in the first fiscal year of the implementation and a modest $2.7 million cost in FY 2014-15.
· First savings realized in 2015-16 ($12.9 million).
· Reduction in taxpayer risk as taxpayer savings increases.
The House Pension Reform Bill would close Florida's 623,000-member pension system to new employees as of 2014 and instead direct them to a 401(k)-style option.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has announced that one of her top priorities for the 2013 legislative session is a bill that will enhance the state's False Claims Act and better protect taxpayers from false or fraudulent claims seeking money from the government.
In a press release, she thanked Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, for sponsoring SB 1494 and HB 935 respectively, which would strengthen her office’s ability to protect taxpayers by enhancing its investigative and prosecutorial authority, including giving the office the power to issue subpoenas in non-Medicaid cases.
“Expanding our subpoena power and updating this important law will allow us to better protect taxpayers’ hard-earned money by stopping unscrupulous individuals or companies that seek to defraud the government,” Bondi said.
"Providing the attorney general’s office with the needed investigative tools is essential to protecting taxpayers from the increasing costs of fraud,” Thrasher is quoted in the release.
“This legislation demonstrates Florida’s continued commitment to preventing fraud against the government. With this bill, we will give the attorney general's office the power they need to find those who seek to defraud taxpayers and hold them accountable,” Young is quoted.
The Florida False Claims Act authorizes a private person or “relator” who claims to have knowledge of fraud involving public funds to bring a sealed “qui tam” case on the state’s behalf. The attorney general’s office then has the opportunity to investigate the allegations, gather additional information, and intervene in and proceed with the case if appropriate.
While “qui tam” complaints are routinely brought in Medicaid cases, reports of non-Medicaid fraud against the state are increasing, according to Bondi's release. These cases can include any individual or company that engages in business with the state of Florida and knowingly scams the state by inflating prices or otherwise obtaining unwarranted payments. Bondi's office says the legislation would be the first significant enhancement to the Act since its passage nearly two decades ago and would provide the office with the necessary tools to independently verify the fraud allegations and make an informed decision on pursuing a "qui tam" case.
"For years Hugo Chavez used fear, demagoguery and force to destroy the freedom, hopes and dreams of the Venezuelan people. He formed military and economic alliances with some of the world’s staunchest enemies of the United States. He snuffed out a free press and meaningful dissent. He nationalized businesses and stole the wealth of his countrymen. And he attempted to plunge all of Latin America into a new and lasting era of despotism and tyranny.
"Today, we do not mourn the death of Hugo Chavez, but instead, we celebrate the possibility that Venezuela can be born anew as a free, secure and prosperous democracy and that Latin America can embark on a new and peaceful path in the world.
"The Venezuelan people are entitled to free and fair elections as quickly as possible so that they can begin to turn the corner on the dark legacy that was Hugo Chavez."
The Florida League of Mayors liked what they heard Tuesday, fully support Gov. Rick Scott’s economic development efforts and released a statement to say so publicly.
"Mayors are leaders in their communities and, like Governor Scott, understand the importance of economic development in their cities," according to the League's statement. "They also know that when cities are given home rule authority to meet the unique needs of their citizens, economic opportunity and prosperity will follow."
The mayors went on to say, "Success of small businesses is closely related to the prosperity of cities, and Florida’s mayors support the governor’s continued efforts to help create new jobs and promote economic growth for Florida’s municipalities.
"The Florida League of Mayors looks forward to working with the governor and elected officials to eliminate unfunded mandates and create legislation that helps cities grow and prosper."
For more information about the League and its activities, visit www.floridamayors.org.
Several dozen members of the group Dream Defenders apparently figured Tuesday's busy session opener was their best shot at grabbing lawmakers' attention.
They rallied outside the House and Senate chambers through the morning to give their version of the State of the State.
The Dream Defenders formed to protest Florida's Stand Your Ground law after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The suspect in that case is using the law in his defense.
Marie Paul, one of group's spokespersons, said they believe the Stand Your Ground law creates a "hunting season" on minority youths. Immigration policy, she said, unfairly divides families -- and they oppose stricter voting rules in Florida.
Paul asks, “Are we still, on March 5, 2013, considered three-fifths human? The America that was spoken about in the Constitution is not the America of today. This is unacceptable.”
Reporter/videographer Dave Heller gathered this story.
“Floridians who buy a new or demonstrator vehicle shouldn’t be stuck with a ‘lemon,’ and Florida law provides significant protection against these situations,” Bondi stated in a press release.
According to the same release, consumers must report defects to the manufacturer or its authorized service agent during the first 24 months after the date of delivery of the vehicle. If the manufacturer fails to conform the vehicle to the warranty after a reasonable number of attempts to repair these defects, the law requires the manufacturer to buy back the defective vehicle and give the consumer a purchase price refund or a replacement vehicle.
Gov. Rick Scott hasn't yet begun his third State of the State address, but House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, already released his response earlier Tuesday.
Naturally, it has a House Democratic Caucus perspective on the governor's address. Have an early read. It will, however, be carried later on The Florida Channel:
Hello. I’m State Representative Perry Thurston. As the House Democratic Leader, I am proud to speak to you about the state of our state.
Floridians deserve better leadership than what the Republicans have delivered.
The best way to create jobs and secure a strong economy for Florida is to invest in our future.
We need to educate our children and increase the success of our public schools.
We need to make sure that Floridians have health insurance. And we must allow for the Medicaid expansion that could save the lives of thousands of adults and children every year.
These are not issues to play politics with. These are issues that demand leadership.
The legislative session that starts now presents many important opportunities and challenges.
I am grateful to work with a 44-member strong House Democratic Caucus comprised of talented lawmakers from throughout Florida and from all walks of life.
We will work on behalf of you -- our neighbors, and our communities.
In looking out for small businesses and the middle class, we believe the new state budget should be guided by one simple premise … Every Floridian deserves a fair opportunity to achieve the American dream.
Democrats in the House of Representatives will work this year to ensure that our state makes a commitment to equity and opportunity for all, secure jobs with upward income mobility, safe communities, a strong education system, and affordable health care.
We believe in an effective and efficient government that uses your tax dollars wisely, and makes smart investments.
And with a budget surplus available for the first time in five years, the Legislature has opportunity now to do more than just window-dress education issues as the governor has proposed.
We’ve got to do better! And we certainly have to do better than what occurred only two years ago when Governor Scott and the Republican-run Legislature slashed $1.3 billion in funding from Florida’s schools.
We also must do better than last year when the state cut Bright Futures Scholarships that help students attain a college education.
By focusing on education and health care, House Democratic Caucus members hope Florida can begin to shift state investments from addressing problems after they develop to preventing them in the first place.
Expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act is not just an achievable approach to ending Florida’s problem of a vast uninsured populace. It’s also a means of accelerating Florida’s economic recovery to restore our shared prosperity.
Governor Scott has cut more than a billion dollars from education while giving tax breaks to big corporations. He has the wrong priorities on education, jobs, land and water usage, and voting rights.
The Legislature is taking steps to reverse bad decisions that were made only two years ago that made it harder for people to exercise their right to vote.
While there will be bipartisan progress on this important issue, there’s much more work to be done. Florida needs more voting days, more polling locations, and for those voting sites to be properly staffed and properly equipped.
There are many changes still needed to ensure that everyone’s vote is counted, whether the vote is cast on Election Day, by mail, or through early voting.
In the House Democratic Caucus, our priorities are clear: Putting children and education first, investing in jobs and innovation for Floridians, protecting our environment, and promoting public safety and health, as well as our state’s great diversity and workforce.