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Controversial Felons' Rights Plan Clears the Senate

May 3, 2019 - 8:45am
Jeff Brandes

Seeking to carry out a November constitutional amendment, the Florida Senate on Thursday passed a measure that would require repayment of financial obligations before felons’ voting rights could be restored, an issue that’s been a sticking point as lawmakers grappled with one of this year’s most controversial pieces of legislation.

The Senate spent about two hours in emotional debate on the measure before voting strictly along party lines and sending the proposal to the House for consideration Friday, the final day it can pass before the legislative session ends.

Would a Lottery-Addiction Warning Make Florida a Nanny State? Lawmakers Divided

May 2, 2019 - 8:00am

Booze and beer don’t carry similar cautions, but some Republican lawmakers want people playing the state lottery to be warned that the games may be addictive.

With the 2019 legislative session in its final days, the Senate is considering a proposal that would require all lottery tickets to include a warning, which also would be part of any advertisements for the state-sponsored games.

The bill would require the tickets and promotions to include the words: “Warning: Lottery games may be addictive,” or “Play responsibly,” under an amendment approved Wednesday by the Senate.

Felons' Rights: Democrats Say Legislature's GOP Just 'Does Not Want Certain People to Vote'

April 30, 2019 - 9:30am
Perry Thurston and Jeff Brandes

With days left before the legislative session ends Friday, the Senate sponsor of a proposal aimed at carrying out a constitutional amendment on felons’ voting rights said he worked all weekend to reach what he called a compromise with his House counterpart.

But Senate Democrats are still opposed to the measure, which they believe creates onerous financial barriers to restoring voting rights for people who’ve already got the odds stacked against them.

Sports Betting? DeSantis Studies Late Gambling Proposal

April 25, 2019 - 7:30am

Gov. Ron DeSantis and his staff continued Wednesday to scrutinize a proposed gambling agreement, but the odds of closing out what some lawmakers have called a “three-dimensional game of chess” grow dimmer as the clock winds down on the legislative session.

After weeks of negotiations, Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and representatives of the Seminole Tribe reached a tentative deal on Tuesday. DeSantis and House Speaker José Oliva received an outline of the agreement, known as a “compact,” on Tuesday.

DeSantis Says Gambling Deal Could Be a 'Lift'

April 24, 2019 - 7:00am
Ron DeSantis

With time already an enemy, Gov. Ron DeSantis injected more uncertainty Tuesday into a gambling deal reached by a Senate Republican leader and a representative of the Seminole Tribe, saying its passage would be a “legislative lift” with less than two weeks remaining in the annual session.

“There’s a lot of stuff to go through,” DeSantis told reporters Tuesday morning. “I’d like to get a deal, but at the same time I’ve got to make sure that what we’re doing is right for Florida.”

Weekly Roundup: Heading Toward the Home Stretch

April 20, 2019 - 7:30am

A gambling deal may or may not happen, but lawmakers are racing toward the finish line in the 2019 legislative session.

As in previous years, Republican leaders are horse-trading over their priorities in the lead-up to budget negotiations, expected to kick off when lawmakers return to Tallahassee following the holiday weekend.

Armed teachers, immigration and abortion were among the high-profile issues that prompted party-line schisms this week, as lawmakers took up issues considered GOP “red meat” while also setting the stage to finalize the leaders’ priorities.

More Medical Marijuana Licenses on the Horizon

April 19, 2019 - 7:00am

State health officials are preparing to revamp the application process for medical-marijuana businesses, with the hope of issuing up to seven new licenses before the end of the year, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office told The News Service of Florida on Thursday.

The state Office of Medical Marijuana Use is expected to withdraw a series of proposed rules, which were never finalized, and restart the process with a new set of proposed regulations as early as May.

Armed Teachers Plan Clears Senate Hurdle

April 18, 2019 - 8:45am

A little more than a year ago, the idea of allowing armed teachers in classrooms nearly scuttled school-safety legislation hurriedly crafted in the wake of the horrific mass shooting at a Parkland high school that left 17 students and staff members dead.

But now, a sharply divided state Senate is prepared to sign off on another far-reaching school safety bill that includes a provision to allow classroom teachers to serve as armed school “guardians.”

Supreme Court Rules against Ousted Okaloosa Superintendent

April 17, 2019 - 9:00am
Mary Beth Jackson

Siding with Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously ruled Tuesday that the governor acted within his authority when he suspended Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson.

DeSantis stripped Jackson of her post less than a week after he was sworn into office, citing “scathing” grand-jury reports that alleged “dereliction of duty.”

Card Games Could Be Key in Gambling Deal

April 16, 2019 - 9:00am
Wilton Simpson

Sports betting, “designated player” card games and bingo are all on the table as a future Senate president tries to nail down a gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida as early as Friday.

The state and the tribe are back at the negotiating table in hopes of finalizing a revenue-sharing agreement, called a “compact,” in which the Seminoles would pay the state in exchange for the exclusive rights to operate certain types of gambling.

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