Sunshine State News Blogs
Gov. Rick Scott has tapped Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, to be his designee on the Florida Defense Support Task Force.
The task force is an entity Scott and the Legislature formed to preserve, protect and enhance Florida's military missions and installations.
In a written announcement Monday morning, Scott said, “Rep. Young has a passion for protecting the military and has been a strong advocate for MacDill Air Force Base and the Tampa Bay community throughout her time in the Florida House. She is committed to making sure Florida families succeed and I know she will help ensure that Florida remains the most military friendly state in the nation.”
Young replied in kind, saying, “I am honored to receive this appointment ... and thank (Scott) for the opportunity to serve Florida and our military families in this capacity. With so many major military installations in our great state, including MacDill ... the importance of the military to both our economy and our citizens cannot be overstated.
"I look forward to working with this task force to ensure that Florida continues to support and protect the military installations, missions, families and veterans that call our great state home.”
Young, an attorney, was first elected to Florida House District 60 in 2010. She is currently deputy majority leader and majority whip.
President Barack Obama used his weekly address Saturday to explain to Americans his budget compromise plan.
Obama's budget was delayed because of fiscal cliff negotiations and is expected to be released on Wednesday, the same night he dines with GOP senators.
In his address, the president says that under his actions, the deficits are reducing.
"I’ve already signed more than $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction into law, and my budget will reduce our deficits by nearly $2 trillion more, without harming the recovery. That surpasses the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that many economists believe will stabilize our finances," Obama asserts.
The president also discusses what he believe is a compromise. "While it’s not my ideal plan to further reduce the deficit, it’s a compromise I’m willing to accept in order to move beyond a cycle of short-term, crisis-driven decision-making, and focus on growing our economy and our middle class for the long run. It includes ideas many Republicans have said they could accept as well. It’s a way we can make progress together."
Read more about the budget ...
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has signed on to Sen. Rand Paul's move to filibuster an upcoming gun-control bill that is expected to land on the Senate floor this week.
In a second letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, obtained by Politico, the Kentucky Republican was backed by a dozen other GOP senators, including Rubio. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran of Kansas are among other signatories.
The gun bill would expand background checks and attempt to rein in gun trafficking across state lines. But, the GOP senators' letter states they “intend to oppose any legislation that would infringe on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms, or their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance,” reports Politico.
Paul's 13-hour March filibuster that held up the nomination of CIA Director John Brennan shows he has what it takes to mount a successful stand on the Senate floor.
Due to injuries to the Gator's offensive line, the University of Florida's annual Orange and Blue spring game is getting a little tweak.
With the challenges facing his quarterback's wall of protection, Head Coach Will Muschamp had to get creative with the fan-favorite early look at what Gator football has to offer in 2013.
Gator Boosters received an email Friday assuring them that even with the changes, there would be "some special additions to enhance the experience for fans."
"Before, during and after the practice, Coach Muschamp will address the crowd to give them an inside look and an explanation of some of the drills and scrimmage situations the team will be running. The team will still have several 11-on-11 scrimmage periods, but there will also be periods of special teams and individual work mixed in that will closely resemble a normal Gator football practice," the emails stated.
No matter what's on the plate, Gator fans will be lining up at the gates. Verizon presents the GatorFan Fest outside the North endzone from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Friday told of plans for a NASA mission to retrieve an asteroid from space and bring it back for research.
While visiting Orlando, the Florida Democrat, who has been in public office since the early 1970s, told of the futuristic plan that the agency hopes to hatch in eight years. Nelson said a spaceship would grab an asteroid and bring it to orbit around the moon, reports Florida Today. Didn’t Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck star in that film?
NASA, the newspaper reports, would then study mining on the asteroid and come up with ways to avert a collision with Earth.
President Barack Obama’s budget has $100 million tucked away for the NASA asteroid mission, according to Nelson, who is perhaps most famous for being the second sitting member of Congress to head to space. Nelson was a payload specialist on a space shuttle Columbia mission from Jan. 12-18, 1986.
Anyone else worried about intentionally bringing an asteroid closer to Earth?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Friday that it will delay the closure of 149 federal air traffic control towers, including 11 in Florida, until June 15.
On March 22, the FAA said it would be eliminating funding for the towers as part of its $637 million budget cuts under sequestration.
The FAA said that during the delay it will try to resolve the legal challenges against it, of which Florida is involved. It also said the extra time will allow the agency and airports to move forward with changes to the National Airspace System.
“This has been a complex process and we need to get this right,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in the release. “Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports.”
According to the FAA, roughly 50 airport authorities and other stakeholders have said they may join the FAA’s non-Federal Contract Tower program and fund the tower operations themselves.
“We will continue our outreach to the user community to answer any questions and address their concerns about these tower closures,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
The list of tower closures in Florida includes:
APF - NAPLES MUNI, NAPLES
BCT - BOCA RATON, BOCA RATON
EVB - NEW SMYRNA BEACH MUNI, NEW SMYRNA BEACH
FMY - PAGE FIELD, FORT MYERS
HWO - NORTH PERRY, HOLLYWOOD
LAL - LAKELAND LINDER RGNL, LAKELAND
LEE - LEESBURG INTL, LEESBURG
OCF - OCALA INTL-JIM TAYLOR FIELD, OCALA
OMN - ORMOND BEACH MUNI, ORMOND BEACH
PGD - PUNTA GORDA, PUNTA GORDA
SGJ - NORTHEAST FLORIDA RGNL, ST AUGUSTINE
Heads still in the clouds, the high-flying Florida Gold Coast University Eagles basketball team will stop in for a look at the Florida Legislature sometime before the current session ends.
If they can work out scheduling arrangements and accept the invitation.
"The Southwest Florida legislative delegation has drafted a proclamation," said Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers. "We're so proud of this team and what they've done for Florida and for Southwest Florida in particular. We just want to introduce them and honor them."
Edward Metzger, Fitzenhagen's aide, said Friday the proclamation is getting a final polish before it goes public.
The Eagles dazzled the state and the nation with their acrobatics and attitude, the first 15-seed ever in the NCAA tournament to become one of the top 16 basketball teams in America.
To do it, they first beat No. 2 seed Georgetown -- picked by many to make it to the Final Four -- and then San Diego State, winning both games by 10 points.
On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott announced a new economic daily update via Twitter.
Friday's message was on Florida's jobless rate. @ItsWorkingFL had this to say: "Since @FLGovScott took office, the state’s unemployment rate has dropped 3.4 percentage points, the second largest drop in the nation."
The governor clearly hopes his economic success will resonate with voters to send him back to the state's chief executive spot in the next election.
“The Republican Executive Committee of Miami-Dade County express their staunch disapproval of siphoning $120 million from Miami-Dade taxpayers, and $47 million from Florida taxpayers, for multibillionaire Stephen Ross,” reads the resolution, which passed by a vote of 37 to 34 committee members. “Taxpayers should never be the source of corporate welfare for billionaires, and should not be responsible for the funds to renovate Sun Life Stadium for the Miami Dolphins.”
Catch the full scoop at Sunshine State News!
What a shame to see the Internet sweepstakes cafe bill go to the governor with harmless senior arcades attached.
And why? Because the pari-mutuels want it all. Because at the eleventh hour, their lobbyists convinced gaming committee members that senior arcades were no different from Internet cafes. Presumably now, they believe, seniors will hobble into track casinos and play slot machines instead -- given that their arcades are standing empty.
This is crazy.
Seven years ago Gale Fontaine, now president of the Florida Arcade Association, tested FS 849.161, Florida's constitutional law on gambling -- and senior arcades were found legal.
On Aug. 15, 2006 -- in less than four hours of deliberation -- a Broward County jury acquitted Fontaine, owner of a Pompano Beach adult game room, of illegal gambling charges. The case might not have been finite, but it had immediate ramifications for the adult arcade industry, not only in Broward County, but across Florida. The case marked the first time in the county -- and one of the first times statewide -- that an adult game room owner had a jury decide the legality of the businesses' video machines.
Fontaine proved her point, period. Arcade machines follow the law.
Here's what jury foreman Christopher Peters said after the trial: "I think we felt she acted in good faith in opening up her establishment and we also felt the machines were a game of skill."
A game of skill. Not a game of chance.
I don't hold out much hope, knowing his feelings on Internet cafes, but I very much wish, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of law-abiding senior citizens this legislation affects, that Gov. Rick Scott would insist senior arcades are stripped from the Internet cafe bill.
The Florida Senate followed the Florida House’s lead Thursday, voting in favor of a ban on Internet cafes.
The bill will now go to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott, since the House approved it last week. While some senators argued that the ban would overreach and take out senior arcades with it, the bill received a vote of 36-4.
The Florida Chamber, which has been a leader in opposition of gambling expansion in Florida, commended lawmakers for what they called “a bad bet for Florida.”
"For far too long, strip mall casinos have deteriorated Florida’s quality of life,” said David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber. “Today, the Florida Senate joined the Florida House in banning Internet cafes, and took a major step toward improving the state where we live, work, and play. The Florida Chamber thanks Sen. John Thrasher, President Don Gaetz, Rep. Carlos Trujillo and Speaker Will Weatherford for moving quickly to prohibit Internet cafes in Florida.”
Tallahassee reporter/videographer Dave Heller reports this:
The Florida Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a bill that would require insurance companies to charge the same price for IV and oral cancer drugs.
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, made an emotional appeal to her colleagues to pass the legislation.
Benacquisto choked up as she recalled her mother’s fight with cancer and how she sat in the doctor’s office with an IV in her arm, watching the slow drip of the chemotherapy drugs.
Benacquisto said IV medications typically cost about $30 for the insurance co-pay. But the same medication in oral form can cost thousands of dollars a month.
So some people face a terrible decision: Will they go deep in debt or take a cheaper, but less effective, IV drug?
Benacquisto said not enough cancer patients are getting access to oral cancer medications.
“For every patient that gets access to this medication, 324 new people every day" ... the senator fell quiet for a moment ... "that sound is the silence of people who won’t get that access.”
The Florida House Thursday continued the perfect voting streak for a bill that would add cyberbullying to the state's antibullying measures.
HB 609 passed the full House in the same manner it had passed its previous three committees, unanimously.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville, changes the statutory definition of bullying to include cyberbullying as "bullying through the use of specified technology or electronic communications; the creation of a webpage or weblog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person or the knowing impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or messages; or the distribution by electronic means of a communication to more than one person or the posting of material on an electronic medium that is accessible to others."
The cyberbullying bill does not limit the action to the use of computers but also extends it to cell phones and other related technology.
The law also makes actionable cyberbullying that occurs off school grounds if it "interferes with or limits the victim’s ability to participate or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by a school or substantially disrupts the education process or orderly operation of a school."
While 49 states have laws against bullying, only 16 other states specifically include cyberbullying.
Educational leaders and elected officials will come together in Florida to discuss the future of public universities amid technological advances and virtual learning.
The “Bricks and Mortar in a Digital Age: The Uncertain Future of Higher Education” symposium is being hosted by the University of Florida on April 11, marking the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act that established the land-grant university system.
According to organizers, "Relentless financial pressures and rapid technological changes are challenging bedrock principles and raising basic questions about public higher education in America. Is a college education worth the cost of tuition? Can students learn all they need to know online? A century and a half ago, the nation embraced a new notion of higher education when it created the land-grant universities. This symposium concludes UF’s yearlong celebration of the sesquicentennial of the Morrill Act with a forward-looking conversation on the next chapter in the public higher education story."
Participants in the event, which will be moderated by Mike Foley, master lecturer, UF department of journalism and Hugh Cunningham Professor in Journalism Excellence, include:
• Adam Putnam, Florida commissioner of agriculture
• Bernie Machen, president, University of Florida
• Jeff Selingo, editor at large of The Chronicle of Higher Education and author of the forthcoming book, “College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students.”
• Daphne Koller, MacArthur Fellow, Stanford University professor of computer science, and co-founder of the online education platform Coursera. (Participating via video from California.)
• Mori Housseni, vice chair, Florida Board of Governors
• Jackson Sasser, president, Santa Fe College
No, fishing isn’t always free in Florida’s 3 million acres of lakes, ponds and reservoirs and 12,000 miles of fishable rivers, streams and canals, but on April 6, Floridians can cast their lines without penalty.
Saturday will be the first of four license-free recreational fishing days provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
“The FWC scheduled the first of four license-free recreational fishing days on this weekend, because it coincides with a productive freshwater fishing period, when the weather is usually pleasant. Many of Florida’s recreational sport fishes, such as black bass, bluegill and redear sunfish, move into the shallows to spawn during spring, making them more available for anglers to catch,” the agency said in a release.
Fishing on a non-exempt day requires a permit from the state that comes with a $17 fee. June 8 will be the second free day for freshwater fishing. June 1 and Sept. 1 have been designated license-free saltwater fishing days.
HB 333, sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, would ease some restrictions on fishing, like nonresidents’ timeframe to get licenses, and would create exemptions for veterans.
Bag limits, season and size restrictions apply on license-free days for recreational fishing.
Gov. Rick Scott's office Thursday launched a new Twitter feed to get out information about Florida's economic recovery.
@ItsWorkingFL will be a daily news feed with stats.
Its first message: "Florida has experienced positive annual job growth now for 31 consecutive months."
The governor's best re-election message for Florida voters is the state's economy, which has gained more than 300,000 private-sector jobs since Scott took office. That number, he says, compares to the more than 800,000 jobs lost under former Gov. Charlie Crist.
A new study from the University of South Florida finds tougher requirements to qualify for Bright Futures scholarships will reduce the number of incoming freshmen who qualify for the award in 2014.
That's the idea, apparently. The tougher Bright Futures requirements get, the more money you've got for the next trust fund raid.
At any rate, the study finds that in 2014, black freshmen with a Bright Futures scholarship would drop 75 percent, Hispanic freshmen more than 60 percent and white and Asian freshmen more than 40 percent.
Florida Student Association President Cortez Whatley says the association hasn't taken a position on the study yet.
Should marijuana be legalized for medical purposes in Florida?
That was a question being asked in the Florida Legislature during the 2013 session, with Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, filing a bill to allow patients suffering from illness to be able to use medical cannabis with a doctor’s permission.
HB 1139, the “Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act,” was named in honor of a woman who has lived with ALS since 1986 and uses marijuana to alleviate her symptoms. Last month, Manatee County sheriff’s officers raided her home and seized more than 20 pot plants.
Edwards’ bill is not likely to get a hearing. Sunshine State News asked if our readers think it should. More than two-thirds of readers felt that marijuana legalization should have its day in front of the Florida Legislature.
The voting closed Wednesday with 77 percent in support and 23 percent opposed.
The Republican National Committee struck out at what they deem to be President Barack Obama's hypocrisy Wednesday, as he cuts White House tours because of the sequester, but takes pricey Air Force One flights to pad his campaign account.
"On the campaign trail, Obama's favorite applause line was attacking the very people he's now begging for campaign cash," said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. "Hypocrisy at its finest. Barack Obama has his priorities completely backward -- prioritizing billionaires over the taxpayers who demand and deserve a budget and cancelling White House tours while he spends $180,000 an hour flying Air Force One to fundraise on Billionaires Row."
Obama travels west from Washington Wednesday, making one official stop in Colorado to push for gun legislation, before heading to California for four fundraisers aimed at putting control of the U.S. House back in the hands of Nancy Pelosi.
The president will start his donor dance at the home of Keystone pipeline opponent Thomas Steyer, the founder of Farallon Capital Management, with the $5,000-a-head checks going to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Upping the ante at his next visit, Obama will head to dinner at Gordon Getty's pad where a seat at the table costs a mere $32,400. The DCCC is again the lucky recipient of those funds.
Then, on Thursday, the president focuses on digging the Democratic National Committee out of debt, starting with a $32,400 brunch at the home of an Environmental Defense Fund board member, and wrapping with an event that ranges from $1,000 to $20,000 for attendance.
In light of the commander in chief's upcoming schedule, the RNC released a video Wednesday reminding voters of Obama's campaign rhetoric.
A law that would allow members of the court to access personal records from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) Driver and Vehicle Information Database (DAVID) passed the House Economic Affairs Committee Wednesday.
HB 987, sponsored by Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, would create an additional exemption to the public records law to would allow judges and court employees to have duplicate records within the DAVID database, which holds the digital image and signature recorded on Floridian's driver’s licenses.
Currently, the information is available to state agencies like the Departments of State, Children and Family Services, Business and Professional Regulation, Financial Services, and Revenue. Medical Examiners and law enforcement agencies are also able to access the information.
The Office of the State Courts Administrator says being able to access driver license photographs makes its job easier and is necessary for the courts system.
Democrats applaud the idea of the federal government keeping a list of every gun owner in the country. But, Republicans flock to say it's a bad idea.
While the federal government currently does not keep track of potential gun buyers whose names are submitted for background checks, and no such list is being proposed, individual states do keep lists of licensed gun owners and those with concealed weapons permits.
Rasmussen took voters' temperature to see if a federal proposal had any merit. Democrats overwhelmingly support it, with 71 percent of likely Democratic voters saying they favored it.
Meanwhile, on the other side, Republicans and Independents want to keep the federal government out of the Big Brother role. Sixty-eight percent of GOP respondents said they were opposed to the idea, while almost as many Independents -- 60 percent -- also said no.
The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted on March 30-31 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
Gov. Rick Scott punched back after the Tampa Tribune, his office says, "mischaracterized Florida’s business-incentive program to make a political statement."
The governor's office released the following list of misreported facts from the Trib's “State's incentives less successful than advertised” story.
Claim: “Legislators are getting misleading information from the state’s own report card on economic incentives.”
FACT: Legislators receive complete information on ALL projects, including the inactive, pending inactive, and terminated projects. Because there are no future measurement requirements or payments scheduled for inactive, pending inactive, and terminated projects, no jobs would be due.
Claim: “13 companies that signed up for the grant program but failed to create the required number of jobs are not included in the official results.”
FACT: Companies that failed to create their required number of jobs are not in the official results because they returned economic incentives provided and have no additional commitment to Florida taxpayers. These projects are still included on the list, but their numbers are no longer included because no jobs are required.
Claim: “[T]wo other companies listed as hitting their job targets are 1,300 jobs behind schedule.”
FACT: When companies are behind schedule they do not totally fail to create jobs. Incentive contracts are formatted to expand or contract based on performance levels.
Claim: “Evidence shows that rather than beating expectations, as the state suggests, the upfront grant program is thousands of jobs behind schedule.”
FACT: This is completely false. The Closing Fund incentives have met or exceeded performance. At the time the incentives report was published, 9,192 jobs were due and 9,776 had been confirmed, several hundred more than the target.
Claim: “[N]early half of the companies in the Quick Action Closing Fund program had failed to hit the state's timetables for jobs, capital investment or both.”
FACT: Most QACF projects lead to some level of job creation and/or retention. If businesses do not achieve their full projections, state funding is adjusted accordingly and the company may be required to repay state funds. The program is designed to be a winning investment for workers who get new jobs and Florida taxpayers.
Claim: “The most embarrassing recent failure was last summer's collapse of Digital Domain.”
FACT: As confirmed by the recent inspector general report, the previous administration circumvented the state’s incentive approval process to get the Digital Domain project approved.
Claim: “13 companies labeled ‘inactive,’ ‘pending inactive” or ‘terminated’ are listed as having no jobs due. In fact, the contracts required those 13 companies to create about 4,500 jobs. Their contracts suggest at least 2,000 are due.”
FACT: Legislators receive complete information on ALL projects, including the inactive, pending inactive, and terminated projects. Because there are no future measurement requirements or payments scheduled for inactive, pending inactive, and terminated projects, no jobs are due.
The Everglades Improvement and Management bill passed its sponsor's committee Tuesday.
SB 768, sponsored by freshman Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, puts into statute a deal struck by Gov. Rick Scott and the Obama administration about how to move forward with the last phase of restoration. Simpson said it is a result of the two sides "putting politics aside" and that it has been celebrated by environmentalists, agriculture and policymakers.
The bill outlines funding sources and timelines for construction of the final suite of projects for Everglades restoration. Sources include a state appropriation and a tax increase on Everglades Agricultural Area farmers through the Agricultural Privilege Tax they pay. Farmers will also be required to continue their Best Management Practices, which have reduced phosphorus in the water by 55 percent.
Representatives of the South Florida Water Management District, Everglades Foundation, Audubon Florida and Associated Industries of Florida declared their support of the bill at the meeting.
Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, congratulated Simpson for pushing through "one of the heaviest lifts this session," especially in his first year in the Legislature.
The measure quickly passed the Community Affairs Committee.
The companion bill, HB 7065, sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, unanimously passed the full House in March.
A representative of Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands Corporation told Florida lawmakers Tuesday that the way to take gaming in the state is to “go big”.
Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist for the world’s largest destination-resort developer, told the House Select Committee on Gaming that they should create a tax rate that allows destination casinos to do it right – on a large scale.
“What we would encourage this committee to look at, and the legislature as a whole, is providing a tax rate that provides incentive to go big, to build an iconic structure that not just caters to locals or to regionals around Florida but will convince people to travel to Florida from out of state and out of country in order to see and visit and spend their money in the economy here,” he said.Florida should also look at the Las Vegas regulatory structure, Iarossi said, and consider a gaming commission.
Attempting to weed through the noise of naysayers, Iarossi said that South Florida already has the same amount of slots as are located on the Las Vegas strip.
"When slot machines were authorized in South Florida… the sky didn’t fall," he said in response to critics.
Read the full story...
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection got another step closer Monday to being allowed to implement the state’s own science-based rules for numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) in Florida’s waterways.
HB 7115 was voted favorably by the House Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal Subcommittee, which means Florida is on track to be the first state in the nation to implement statewide nutrient standards for its waterways.
The bill stems from a decade of work by DEP to develop NNCs for Florida. In 2003, DEP created a technical advisory committee to begin analyzing biological conditions in Florida’s waters.
But, the committee’s work was cut short when environmentalists sued in federal court over the process, and EPA took over the rule making. State leaders spent years fighting against EPA’s standards.
Rep. Jake Raburn, the bill’s sponsor, said EPA used a broad-spectrum system to assign nutrient limits. That’s the wrong approach. Florida is ahead of the federal agency, because state scientists understand that not all water bodies are the same, and therefore they develop site-specific criteria.
Raburn said his bill will save Florida hundreds of millions of dollars by using “sound science” to develop the water standards.
EPA accepted DEP’s rules in November. The bill grants DEP the authority to implement its standards for streams, springs, lakes, and estuaries as outlined in its "Implementation of Florida's Numeric Nutrient Standards" document.
“A ‘no’ vote means we don’t care about science and what’s best for Florida,” Raburn told committee members.
Florida already has more nutrient rules on its waterways than any other state in the nation. In fact, 22 states have no rules on any water bodies.
The idea of starting the regular session of the Florida Legislature in chilly January got a warm reception on Monday, as a Senate committee voted to move the measure forward.
The Ethics and Elections committee heard SB 1356, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, which takes advantage of a loophole provided in the state’s constitution regarding when the Florida Legislature must be in session. While the constitution says the regular session must start in March during odd-numbered years, it leaves room for lawmakers to set the opening day on even-numbered years.
The Miami Republican's proposal would start the session on the first Tuesday after the second Monday during even-numbered years. Meaning, the effective start date in 2014 would be January 14, and ending on March 16, a Sunday.
The bill has more challenges than continuing its momentum in the Senate, as it lacks a House companion. It could be introduced as a proposed committee bill.
Full story ...
The chief of the state's insurer of last resort made his case Monday before a Senate committee, and after nearly two hours of questioning, he secured the panel's favorable vote to move forward for Senate confirmation.
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Executive Director Barry Gilway was reported favorably for confirmation by the Ethics and Elections Committee to continue his $350,000 position. Gilway came to the job nine months ago amid a storm of scandals involving employee misconduct and abuse of expenses at the company. The executive told the committee cleaning up the black eyes on Citizens' reputation was one of his first duties. “What I have done is assess the need for change and improve the organization moving forward," he told the panel.
When he started at Citizens, Gilway was asked by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to depopulate the insurer as his first priority. Gilway said that in his nine months at the helm, Citizens has gone from a $7.2 billion assessment load for a one in 100 storm down to $4.1 billion. The corporation has also reduced the amount of policyholders by 300,000, down to 1.2 million entering the wind season. The sheer size of the insurer is illustrated by the fact it has $600 million worth of vendor agreements, he said.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, reminded Gilway that in his early days on the job, the CEO criticized the media for hyping up the insurer's problems. The committee chairman asked Gilway if he had changed his tune.
Gilway admitted the company's problems were real and said he “look[s] at the press in a different way today.” As part of his efforts to clean up Citizens' image, the executive has engaged the media and said he had made more than five editorial visits in a handful of weeks.
The CEO was grilled by senators on topics ranging from sinkholes to reinsurance forms, but at the end of it, he had gained enough confidence to secure a yes vote from the committee.
The Land Report magazine compiles an annual list of America's 100 largest landowners, and five are in Florida, reports Florida Trend in its April issue.
As one of the country's largest states, there's a whole lot of land to own. Who are Florida's top landowners?
The Lykes family: The heirs of Dr. Howell Tyson own 337,000 of their 615,000 acres in Florida.
The Collier family: The holdings from the company founded by Barron Gift Collier Sr. include 280,000 acres.
The Fanjul family: The family business run by Alfonso Fanjul and Pepe Fanjul owns 155,000 acres in Palm Beach County.
The Duda family: Based in Oviedo, the company owns 47,500 acres and leases another 23,000 in Florida, Texas and California.
King Ranch heirs: The Texas family established itself in Florida in 1961, with 42,000 acres. The Florida land holdings presently total 20,000 acres.
The Land Report's full list:
1. John Malone -- with a whopping 2.2 million acres.
2. Ted Turner.
3. Emmerson Family.
4. Brad Kelley.
5. Irving Family.
6. Singleton Family.
7. King Ranch heirs.
8. Pingree heirs.
9. Reed Family.
10. Stan Kroenke.
11. Ford Family.
12. Lykes Bros. heirs.
13. Briscoe Family.
14. W.T. Waggoner Estate.
15. D.M. O’Connor heirs.
16. Phillip Anschutz.
17. Drummond Family.
18. Simplot Family.
19. Robert Earl Holding.
20. Malone Mitchell III.
21. Hughes Family.
22. Collins Family.
23. Patrick Broe.
24. Nunley Family.
25. Flitner Family.
26. Jeff Bezos.
27. Collier Family.
28. H. L. Kokernot heirs.
29. Anne Marion.
30. Babbitt heirs.
31. Lyda Family.
32. Jones Family.
32. True Family.
34. Mike Smith.
35. Reynolds Family.
36. Paul Fireman.
37. D.K. Boyd.
38. The Koch Family.
39. McCoy and Remme Families.
40. Llano Partners.
41. Homer Scott heirs.
42. Louis Moore Bacon.
43. Roxana Hayne and Joan Kelleher.
44. Cassidy heirs.
45. Killam Family.
46. East Wildlife Foundation.
46. Eugene Gabrych.
46. Langdale Family.
49. Bogle Family.
50. Hunt Family.
51. Tim Blixseth.
52. Bidegain Family.
52. Williams Family.
54. Robert Funk.
55. Russell Gordy.
56. Broadbent Family.
56. Irwin heirs.
58. Sugg Family.
59. Fasken Family.
60. Benjy Griffith III.
61. Mike Mechenbier.
62. Cogdell Family.
63. Fanjul Family.
64. Hearst Family.
65. Ellison Family.
66. Bass Family.
66. Emily Garvey Bonavia.
66. Boswell Family.
66. Eddy Family.
66. William Henry Green heirs.
66. J. Luther King Jr. and Frank King.
72. David Murdock.
73. Wells Family.
74. L-A-D Foundation.
75. Gerald J. Ford.
76. Thomas Lane Family.
76. Harrison Family.
78. Isaac Ellwood heirs.
78. JA Ranch heirs.
78. Monahan Family.
81. Les Davis heirs.
82. Booth Family.
82. Brite Ranch heirs.
82. Stefan Soloview.
85. Milliken Family.
86. Roxanne Quimby.
87. Reese Family.
88. Moursund Family.
89. Scharbauer Family.
90. Clayton and Modesta Williams Jr.
91. Stan Harper.
92. Frank VanderSloot.
93. Richard and Victoria Evans.
93. Linnebur Family.
95. Moore Family.
96. Robinson Family.
97. Beggs Family.
97. Powell heirs.
97. Walter Umphrey.
97. Yates Family.
The Florida chapter of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a nonpartisan group that aims to put the country on a sustainable economic path by tackling the federal debt, will join with the national Concord Coalition to address Floridians at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
The 7 p.m. event, which will be moderated by Rob Lorei, managing editor of Florida This Week on PBS, is open to the public and will feature the following presenters:
• Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition.
• The Honorable Jim Davis, former congressman.
• The Honorable Paul Hernandez, Council member, city of Hialeah.
• Paul Stebbins, executive chairman and CEO World Fuel Services.
On-campus co-sponsors of the event are the Eckerd College Pi Sigma Alpha chapter, Eckerd College Republicans and Eckerd College Young Democrats.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in an Easter morning statement that he won't be rushed to agree on immigration reform, in spite of the reports that the entire bipartisan group of eight senators are good to go with their legislative proposal.
Rubio headlines his statement, "No final agreement on immigration legislation yet."
Politico opines that the GOP's rising star was timing his words for consideration on Sunday talk shows.
Rubio's support is crucial if the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” is to have a deal. He spoke out a day after business and union groups signed off on a temporary-worker program that appeared to be the biggest remaining hurdle for Senate negotiators.
Here is Rubio's full Easter morning statement:
“I’m encouraged by reports of an agreement between business groups and unions on the issue of guest workers. However, reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature.
“We have made substantial progress, and I believe we will be able to agree on a legislative proposal that modernizes our legal immigration system, improves border security and enforcement and allows those here illegally to earn the chance to one day apply for permanent residency contingent upon certain triggers being met. However, that legislation will only be a starting point.
“We will need a healthy public debate that includes committee hearings and the opportunity for other senators to improve our legislation with their own amendments. Eight senators from seven states have worked on this bill to serve as a starting point for discussion about fixing our broken immigration system. But arriving at a final product will require it to be properly submitted for the American people’s consideration, through the other 92 senators from 43 states that weren’t part of this initial drafting process. In order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret.”