The Florida House will consider a bill Thursday that limits tuition differential to 6 percent and eliminates automatic tuition increases tied to inflation. Here is an excerpt from a story about the true ramifications of the tuition proposals being considered during the 2014 session:
Gov. Rick Scott and legislators are so opposed to tuition increases that they want to change the law to get even more control over future hikes.
Currently, state universities can ask the Board of Governors for up to 15 percent higher rates, known as tuition differential. Additionally, there is an automatic increase to keep up with inflation. House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz have proposed cutting that flexibility by more than half. Scott wants to eliminate it altogether, making it that much tougher to raise tuition.
That's all good news for students and families worried about paying for higher education in the coming years. As for universities? Most say they're not fighting this united effort by a fiscally conservative governor and Legislature.
Read more here.Full Story
Curt Clawson is campaigning for an open congressional seat as the turnaround jobs-creating candidate in Southwest Florida.
But on the campaign trail and in his ads, Clawson never mentions a former employee, Shawn Boone, who died in a fiery blast in the Hayes Lemmerz automotive plant in Indiana that Clawson's company ran.
"I think the most important thing for people to realize was that when he [Clawson] was working at Hayes, they shut down a lot of plants that were good jobs,," Boone's sister, Tammy Miser told The Naples Daily News in a must-read piece. Beyond Boone's death and the company's apparently spotty safety record, the Daily News exposes how the company filed for bankruptcy under Clawson's leadership.
It shut down factories. It outsourced jobs. And it even relied on an Obamacare bailout. Today, Clawson wants to repeal Obamacare. And Clawson got rich, the Daily News reports:Full Story
About 300 homeowners have agreed to settle their disputed sinkhole claims with Citizens Property Insurance, the company announced Wednesday, leaving an estimated 1,800 more lawsuits still unresolved.
The group settlement involves policyholders who were challenging the state-run insurance company for failing to agree to the method and cost of repair for sinkhole damage to their homes.
The company has watched as lawsuits have ballooned in recent years as most homeowners were challenging Citizens for forcing them to repair their homes by putting grout in the ground instead of underpinning their homes with steel beams, or both.
The policies included in the settlement were all represented by the Clermont law firm of Boyette, Cummins and Nailos. The cost to Citizens for making the repairs have not yet been determined but the avoided legal fees and streamlined repair procedure is expected to save the company about $30 million, said Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier.
“Our message to policyholders and the courts is if there is a confirmed sinkhole, we do want to repair the home – but we do not want to write a blank check,’’ said Dan Sumner, Citizens general counsel, at the company’s board meeting in Orlando Wednesday.Full Story
A steadily improving Florida economy means that lawmakers will have a bit more revenue in this year’s budget.
Chief state economist Amy Baker said Wednesday that the state’s $75 billion budget will have about $150 million more in general revenue, thanks to more consumer spending. That estimate doesn’t vary greatly from the ones made last year, meaning Florida’s economy has stabilized and is not experiencing the wild swings of the housing boom years and the subsequent collapse.
“It is very good news that the economy is behaving in some way that’s predictable and that we can forecast well,” Baker said.
While most sources of revenue were upgraded from last year, Baker lowered her estimate for revenue derived from revenue, such as documentary stamp tax and the intangibles tax. Those sources were lowered because of rising interest rates.
“A lot of it is refinancing, as rates climb back up, opportunities to refinance are limited,” she said. “People are largely positioned as best as they can be right now.” …Full Story
Rep. Alan Grayson's office says his estranged wife, Lolita, has voluntarily dropped a petition for a restraining order against him.
"While this is certainly positive news, we want to emphasize that these baseless charges should never have been brought in the first place," read a statement from the lawmaker's office. "Two eyewitness accounts, video evidence, a thorough police investigation, and Ms. Carson-Grayson's own 911 call confirmed the Congressman's innocence - and that Ms. Carson-Grayson was, in fact, the aggressor.
"For the sake of the all parties involved, we sincerely hope that this concludes Ms. Carson-Grayson's efforts to misrepresent and exploit the family's private affairs.
"As many Americans know, dealing with the intensely personal and emotional matter of divorce is challenging enough - the added pressure of trying to protect your family's privacy, while being forced to defend yourself from false accusations as awful as these ones, has made for an emotional and stressful time for all members of the Grayson family." …Full Story
In early January, as the state’s new $63 million unemployment website continued to struggle to pay claims on time, state lawmakers considered taking action.
But as the second week in this year’s 60-day legislative session comes to an end, lawmakers are backing away from using their oversight powers to intervene with how Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity is managing the CONNECT project.
In fact, now it appears that they are instead endorsing the agency’s handling of the crisis. On Wednesday, a Senate appropriations committee voted 11-0 to support the confirmation of the DEO’s executive director, Jesse Panuccio.
“I’m not just going to support you, I’m going to do everything I can in the process to make sure you get to the end,” said the committee chair, Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando to Panuccio, who must clear two more senate committees and a floor vote to keep his $141,000 job.
No state lawmakers have asked to study the spending on the project or why it failed. They haven’t filed any bills that would address a requirement that they passed in 2011 forcing claimants to apply for weekly benefits online -- which federal officials flagged last year as unconstitutional. …Full Story
The Florida House passed four bills Wednesday that subject violent sexual offenders to longer sentences and more scrutiny upon the completion of their sentences.
In an election year where not many controversial bills are expected to pass, a number of bills bolstering Florida’s sexual predator laws have sailed through the Legislature buffeted by strong bi-partisan winds.
“It’s a proud moment,” said Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation.
The bills come after the South Florida Sun Sentinel last year ran an investigative series of the conduct of violent sexual offenders after they were released under the Jimmy Ryce law, which is intended to keep the most dangerous offenders separate from the public after their sentences have ended.
The newspaper found that 594 offenders who were released since 1999 were convicted of new sex crimes -- molesting more than 460 children, raping 121 women and killing 14.
On Wednesday, the House passed three Senate bills that passed that chamber on the first day of session, in addition to an amended version of a Senate bill that will be voted on later. …Full Story
Here's the Bob Barker video that played during David Jolly's victory party last night.
"Congressman David Jolly, come on down!" the former The Price Is Right host said. The video was produced by Jolly ad maker Adam Goodman.
Alex Leary | Times
View from Rep. Bill Young's former office
David Jolly will be sworn in tomorrow afternoon, a House GOP leadership aide confirms.
The Republican will get the Rayburn House Office Building that was occupied by the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young, whom Jolly worked for on Capitol Hill before leaving for a lobbying career. The prized digs will likely not last long. After the November election, the office space will be up for grabs for a more senior member.Full Story
By any account, it’s been a rough stretch for Jesse Panuccio, the embattled executive director of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity.
Since mid-October, Panuccio has had to explain to state lawmakers what went wrong with the launch of CONNECT, a $63-million unemployment benefits website plagued with glitches that has prevented thousands from collecting their weekly jobless payments in a timely manner.
But such issues didn’t interfere with Wednesday’s unanimous confirmation of Panuccio by a senate appropriations committee that not only overlooked the disastrous rollout of the project, but rewrote some of the history surrounding it, as well.
By an 11-0 vote, the Senate’s appropriations subcommittee on transportation, tourism, and economic development confirmed the 33-year-old Panuccio to the $141,000 job that oversees an agency with 1,621 employees and an $872.7 million budget. He started the job 15 months ago after a stint as Gov. Rick Scott’s general counsel. He has two more committees and a floor vote in the Senate before he’s fully confirmed. …Full Story
Former Florida Gov. Reubin Askew, who in recent months has battled pneumonia and hip replacement surgery and suffered a stroke, is in "very grave condition" in a Tallahassee hospital with family members by his bedside.
He was admitted last Saturday to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. A family spokesman, Ron Sachs, issued a statement confirming his condition. Askew's wife of 57 years, Donna Lou, has been at his hospital bedside along with their son Kevin and daughter Angela White.
Askew, 85, was one of the most popular and effective governors in Florida history. From 1971 to 1979, the Democrat from Pensacola directed an an ambitious legislative agenda that included stronger ethics laws, merit retention for judges, the state's first corporate profits tax and regional water management districts. He also guided the state through a period of explosive population growth and school desegregation and in 1978, his last year in office, he led a statewide campaign to prevent casino gambling in South Florida. …Full Story
Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby, who earned about 5 percent of the vote in the Pinellas congressional election, has issued a lengthy statement. You can read it here: …Full Story
Dirk Shadd | Times
Alex Sink delivers her concession speech Tuesday night.
DCCC Chairman Steve Israel this morning deemed Alex Sink an "extraordinary candidate" and said he wants her to run again.
"The decision is hers to make," Israel said in a conference call. "We're not going to approach her until she has time to kind of assess her options. But I believe that if Alex Sink decides to run, she will win November and we do will everything, and I mean everything, to support her."
Asked about other potential challengers to Rep.-elect David Jolly, Israel said: "We haven't started thinking about who else may be viable. I am hopeful that Alex and I can talk soon."
Israel and pollster Geoff Garin played down the effect of Obamacare in the outcome, though conceded it was a motivating factor for Republicans. Sink lost, they asserted, because Democrats did not turn out on Election Day. If Obamacare motivated Republicans yesterday, Democrats feel Gov. Rick Scott will drive November turnout in their favor. …Full Story
Tampa Bay Times
Tampa Bay Times
The front page of today's paper: Jolly wins race in national eye. Plus, Adam Smith's analysis is here, and a list of winners and losers is here.Full Story
After a year of damaging news reports about child deaths from abuse and neglect, a Florida Senate committee on Tuesday passed a package of proposals intended improve the quality and quantity of regulation over the state’s child welfare system.
The wide-ranging bills proposed by the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee are intended to improve what Senate President Don Gaetz called “a porous system” that has led to hundreds of child deaths under the state’s watch.
“We need to professionalize and make more effective our approach to child welfare in the state and then plug the side doors and the holes and windows, which I think make for a system that’s way too porous,” Gaetz told reporters Tuesday.
Under the proposals, the state Department of Children and Families would be required to increase the educational expertise of the child abuse investigators, create a website to report basic facts about child deaths reported to the child abuse hotline and mobilize a trained team to analyze the cause of deaths. …Full Story