Posted: March 29, 2010 11:11 AM

Here's how small-business owners can become politically active through the Florida Chamber of Commerce:
1. Join a local chamber.
2. Sign up for e-mail updates.
3. Lead a local task force, such as an effort to delay unemployment-tax increases.
4. Join a national industry group.

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By: Keith Laing The News Service of Florida | Posted: March 26, 2010 8:14 PM

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, March 26, 2010.....The battle over the nation’s health care system that has consumed Washington, D.C. for more than a year moved to the states this week, lead by one state in particular: Florida.

Attorney General and likely Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill McCollum suited up for a healthy legal fight over the recently approved the federal plan and lawmakers waged battles in committees and on the floor of the Senate that echoed the contentious health care debate in Congress.

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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 25, 2010 2:21 PM

Florida remains the political frontline in the battle on health care.

As Florida Republicans in Washington demand the repeal of the new health-care reform law, Democrats in Florida blast Attorney General Bill McCollum’s lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality.

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Florida, introduced a bill in Congress to repeal health-care reforms that President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday.

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By: Will Weatherford | Posted: March 25, 2010 2:16 PM

Monday, March 22, 2010

It is the beginning of week four. It is hard to believe that the session is almost half over.

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By: David Royse News Service of Florida | Posted: March 24, 2010 7:05 PM
Despite a reminder from the governor that he doesn't like the bill, a Senate committee on Wednesday pushed through a plan to allow property insurance companies to raise rates without regulatory approval.

Passage of the measure in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee followed testy exchanges between members of the divided panel, hostile questions of an insurance company lobbyist and state regulatory officials, and a vote against allowing actual debate on the bill before a vote.
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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 24, 2010 5:22 PM

Health care continued to dominate the Florida Legislature Wednesday -- this time with nurse practitioners demanding to be able to write prescriptions.

More than 300 nurse practitioners rallied at the Capitol to lobby for legislation that would allow them to prescribe medicines. Florida and Alabama are the only two states in the nation that don't allow nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled medicine.

Bills in the House and Senate would change the law. But, neither has much of a chance of passing during the session.

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By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 23, 2010 4:58 PM

The U.S. House siphoned the so-called "Gator Aid" provision out of one health-care bill, but that wasn't nearly enough for Florida business organizations. They remain adamantly opposed to anything that smacks of Obamacare.

The erstwhile proposal by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., would allow senior citizens on Medicare Advantage to stay in the program.

Prior to Sunday's House vote, Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said, "Of the one million or so Floridians participating in Medicare Advantage, about 800,000 are expected to be protected from possible cuts."

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By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 23, 2010 4:51 PM
In an escalating political and legal battle over America's new health-reform law, Florida is again ground zero in an election year. And at stake is a renewed debate over who is setting the national agenda.
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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 23, 2010 11:04 AM

State lawmakers convene each year to conduct a legislative session that has one legal requirement -- approve next year's budget.

What that means is the governor, the Senate and the House each get an initial crack at where to spend tax dollars. They then try and work through their differences toward common ground and a final budget plan.

The first big step in that process was completed Tuesday with the release of the House budget plan. The Senate released its budget Monday, while the governor released his budget weeks ago.

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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 23, 2010 (All day)

An "outside the box" plan to reorganize the Florida Department of Health sailed through the House Health Care Regulation Policy Committee on Monday.

Sponsored by Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, the legislation reduces the Department of Health’s mission from 13 to seven responsibilities and would require DOH to propose a new organizational structure, including reduction of divisions and bureaus, to the Legislature by November 2010.

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By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 21, 2010 4:25 PM

The battle over political boundaries is heating up, with Democratic-leaning labor unions and trial attorneys helping to stoke the fire.

Fair Districts Florida, which collected enough signatures to place Amendment 5 on the Nov. 2 ballot, wants to re-engineer how legislative and congressional districts are drawn in the state.

If approved by 60 percent of the voters, the measure would:

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By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 21, 2010 12:30 AM
After the Florida Legislature gets through this session, and does whatever it must to fill a $3 billion budget gap, what then?

Lawmakers may congratulate themselves on not raising taxes, but several big initiatives will be left undone or unrealized.
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By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 20, 2010 12:20 AM

Florida has whacked its budget by $7 billion over the past three years. That's not just slower growth; that's a real decrease in spending.

Has Tallahassee cut all it can? Gov. Charlie Crist apparently thinks so, because he proposes a $2.7 billion hike this year.

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By: Will Weatherford | Posted: March 19, 2010 (All day)

Monday, March 15

Today, the Select Policy Council on Strategic and Economic Planning met. We heard presentations on energy exploration from the Collins Center for Public Policy and the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

I met with my Education Policy Council staff to discuss the agendas for our committees on Wednesday.

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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 19, 2010 (All day)

The Florida House of Representatives passed a number of bills Thursday morning with some debate but no close votes.

Republicans took aim at trial attorneys in a measure that limits fees for private attorneys representing the state attorney general’s office and also in a bill reforming slip-and-fall tort law.

The House voted along party lines to cap attorney fees by a vote of 71-40 after debate. Three Democrats voted for the measure, Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington, Rep. Leonard Bembry, D-Greenville, and Rep. Debbie Boyd, D-Newberry.

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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 19, 2010 (All day)

Legislation shifting the burden of proof from retailer to plaintiff in slip-and-fall cases overwhelmingly passed the House Thursday and took a step toward passage in the Senate.

Proponents of the legislation say their bills shift Florida’s law back to where it was before 2001. In that year, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in Owens vs. Publix that the burden of proof in such tort cases was on retailers. The next year, lawmakers adopted legislation that fell in line with the court's ruling.

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By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 18, 2010 12:53 AM
Medicaid is sick, and it's giving Florida a case of budget consumption.

Gobbling up nearly a third of the state's revenues, the medical program for the indigent and disabled is projected to cost Floridians $19 billion this year -- a billion more than last year.

What's worse, patients are unhappy about the level of care they receive, and some providers flat-out refuse to serve them.
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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 18, 2010 (All day)

The Crist administration continues to base its budget plan on unsecured funding sources -- in particular, $1 billion from Medicaid, which has not received final congressional approval, and $250 million from a proposed pact with the Seminole tribe.

Director Jerry McDaniel of the Office of Policy and Budget addressed House Democrats on Gov. Charlie Crist’s proposed budget Wednesday, saying he was optimistic these measures would soon be finalized.

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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 18, 2010 (All day)

Despite a setback on Tuesday, Democrats in both houses are still trying to repeal the law that blocks homosexuals from adopting.

Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, and Rep. Mary Brandenburg, D-Lake Worth, have introduced bills repealing the current ban prohibiting homosexual individuals or couples from adopting children.

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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 18, 2010 (All day)

Gov. Charlie Crist had a solitary message to millions of Floridians Wednesday -- fill out the census form.

“The census is very important for our fellow Floridians,” Crist said at a press conference. “Filling it out is an important civic duty.”

Florida can get up to $400 billion in federal funding with an accurate census count, according to the governor. He said the state can also gain an extra congressional seat.

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By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 17, 2010 4:43 PM
Three bills governing red-light cameras appear to be on a collision course.

Two bills authorizing the use of cameras -- HB 325 and its companion, SB 294 -- cleared their committees with just one dissenting vote.

HB 1235, which would prohibit camera use for the purpose of levying fines, passed its first committee Wednesday on a 7-5 vote, with two lawmakers absent.
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By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 17, 2010 12:12 PM
A plan to break up the state Department of Management Services is being called a "rational reorganization" or, in less glowing terms, "rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic."

Senate Bill 1238 would disperse the 1,266-employee DMS by shifting many of its functions into the Department of Financial Services, while creating a new Agency for Asset Management to be housed temporarily under the Department of Environmental Protection.

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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 17, 2010 (All day)

Republican leaders in both House and Senate set the table for conservative legislation due to come to a vote when both convene Thursday.

The House pushed through the following:

• a measure capping legal fees for private attorneys representing the state Attorney General’s Office;

• legislation moving the burden of proof from retailers to injured plaintiffs in slip-and-fall cases;

• a bill restoring affiliated political-committee funds; and,

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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 17, 2010 (All day)

Attorney General Bill McCollum declared Tuesday there is "no benefit" to the federal health care legislation supported by the Obama administration and invited attorneys general from around the nation to join him in preparing to challenge the policy on constitutional grounds.

“There is no benefit to this bill,” McCollum said of the pending health care reform. “I can’t conceive of any.”


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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 16, 2010 (All day)

The Florida House of Representatives continued to study the benefits and drawbacks of offshore drilling for energy on Monday, even as leaders from both parties in the House the Senate cautioned there was little hope for progress during this session.

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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 16, 2010 (All day)

Lawmakers and journalists came together Monday to celebrate citizen access to government against a backdrop of calls for greater transparency in state lawmaking.

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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 12, 2010 3:10 PM

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By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 11, 2010 6:37 PM

As members of both chambers of the Florida Legislature struggled to cut an already lean budget Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed a measure that extends unemployment benefits and, more important to the state government, provides extra funds to the states for Medicaid.

The measure passed the U.S. Senate 62-36. Fifty-six Democrats and 6 Republicans supported the legislation.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson voted for the measure; Sen. George LeMieux, against it.

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By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 8, 2010 5:54 PM

Stakes are rising in Florida's brewing water war with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Potentially, this will cost businesses $100 billion to $200 billion, just in capital costs," Kurt Spitzer, executive director of the Florida Stormwater Association, told Sunshine State News Monday.

"Frankly, we're mystified by the (proposed) rules."

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By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 8, 2010 (All day)

By Kenric Ward

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