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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

State universities: Changes to state-funded scholarships impacted 38 percent of freshman

When Florida lawmakers made it harder to earn a Bright Futures scholarship, they celebrated the cost savings.

But the changes to the eligibility criteria may actually come with an unforeseen price tag.

State universities say they will need an additional $45 million next year to provide more need-based financial aid, according to a new budget proposal.

"The additional funding will be targeted to ensure lower-income students who are impacted by the loss of Bright Futures scholarships and academically qualified will continue to have the opportunity to pursue higher education goals without depending solely on student loans," university officials wrote.

The Board of Governors will hear a presentation on their request Wednesday.

Prior to 2011-12, students who scored 970 or higher on their SATs were eligible to receive a Bright Futures scholarship. Now that the law has been changed, students must earn a score of at least 1170 to receive the award.

According to a staff analysis by the universities, the change affected 38 percent of last year's freshman class. …

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State NAACP endorses Amendment 2

The Florida State Conference of the NAACP endorsed Amendment 2 on Tuesday. President Adora Obi Nweze noted that African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by debilitating disease. "It is vital to ensure that all health care options are on the table,'' she said.

"At a time when the African-American community is disproportionately impacted by debilitating diseases and conditions such as certain cancers, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, diabetes, and sickle cell anemia, it is vital to ensure that all health care options are on the table,” said Adora Obi Nweze. “The scientific community has consistently concluded that medicinal marijuana can improve the quality of life of certain sick and suffering individuals.”

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In Rick Scott's Rothstein attack ad, mystery man is revealed -- and he misleads

With soft piano music in the background, an anonymous Republican in Gov. Rick Scott’s latest attack ad levels an explosive claim about Democrat Charlie Crist and Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein.

“I got swindled by both Rothstein and Charlie,” the man says.

But not only is there no evidence to support this accusation about Crist, the Miami Herald has identified the man as Fort Lauderdale investor Dean Kretschmar — and found that he never made that allegation in his successful lawsuit to recover millions of dollars in Rothstein-related losses.

Also, Crist isn’t directly named in the suit Kretschmar joined. Nor is Crist mentioned in any of the other major court actions brought by victims of Rothstein’s $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme, the fourth-largest in U.S. history.

Rothstein showered Crist and other politicians, mostly Republicans, with tainted money that nearly all of them returned when the scheme was exposed in 2010. Rothstein used his close relations with Crist, other politicians, sports stars and area religious and charitable leaders as an advertising tool to dupe investors. …

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Rep. Darryl Rouson lands gig at Clearwater law firm

More than a year after leaving a high-profile firm, state Rep. Darryl Rouson announced today that he has joined Clearwater-based personal injury firm Dolman Law Group.

Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, left his job at the Morgan & Morgan firm in May 2013. He had taken the opposite side of his boss John Morgan's very public support of a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. At the time, Rouson said he was leaving the firm to focus on his political career and both insisted the separation was amicable.

Rouson joined the Dolman firm two months ago, according to a press release, and the company is looking to open an office in St. Petersburg.

Rouson faces a write-in candidate and a candidate with no party affiliation in the general election race and is expected to win a fourth term in the Legislature.

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New Crist ad says Scott sacrificed teachers to help corporations

Charlie Crist's latest TV ad takes aim again at Rick Scott's education budget cuts at the start of the Scott administration's term:

"They don't fly on private jets or float on fancy yachts, but the job Florida teachers do couldn't be more valuable. And when Rick Scott cut education by over a billion dollars thousands of them lost their jobs. Class sizes went up. Our kids paid the price. Why'd he do it? To pay for millions in handouts to big corporations."


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Finalist for FSU president, Michael Martin, won't make his Wednesday interview

UPDATE 2:52 PM: Michael Martin, one of the finalists for the FSU presidency, was unable to make it to Tallahassee for his interview Wednesday because he had to have emergency surgery for a detached retina. No details yet about when his interview will be rescheduled or how it will affect the search timeline.

ORIGINAL POST: One of four finalists to become Florida State University's next president notified the school today that he is sick and unable to travel to Tallahassee for his interview on Wednesday.

Michael Martin, chancellor of the Colorado State University System, is one of the favorites of FSU faculty although the vast majority of the schools' community has not had a chance to get to know him. Renisha Gibbs, vice chairman of the search committee, said Martin is still considered a candidate and any decision about rescheduling his interview will be made by this afternoon. …

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Liberal group planning to distribute 'Shady Rick hand sanitizers'

Florida for All

The liberal advocacy group Florida for All plans a downtown Tampa protest Tuesday afternoon outside a fund-raiser for Gov. Rick Scott's re-election.  The group says it will distribute "Shady Rick Hand Sanitizers" outside the event, which is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.

Florida for All also listed what it calls Scott's "Ten Dirtiest Deeds" on its website, including his opposition to high speed rail, support for prison privatization and his switch from opposition to support for state funding of a Sarasota rowing center.

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Welcome to a new look for PolitiFact, PolitiFact Florida & PunditFact, w/video

Today, we unveil a new look for PolitiFact. And it extends to PolitiFact Florida and PunditFact.

Our overhaul includes responsive design, so our website works better on tablets and smartphones. When you browse the site on those devices, you’ll see a larger Truth-O-Meter rating along with easy-to-read text of the entire report.

We’ve also made colors brighter and increased the size of the text, adding more white space to pages to make the reading experience easier on the eyes.

What hasn’t changed: The same great fact-checking you’ve come to expect.

Check it out!

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Scott leads by 5 points, pot amendment sinking in WFLA poll

A new statewide Survey USA robo poll for WFLA Channel 8 in Tampa has Republican Gov. Rick Scott with a 5 point lead over Democrat Charlie Crist, 44 percent to 39 percent, with Libertarian Adrian Wyllie at 7 percent and 9 percent undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points.

The same poll also has Amendment 2, the medical marijuana ballot question, supported by 56 percent of voters and opposed by 31 percent. It must reach a 60 percent threshold to pass.

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New GOP ad wraps Obamacare around Charlie Crist

Sorry for the poor quality of this video, but the state GOP won't publicly release many of its ads in the governor's race, so we had to make do. The latest spot highlights the positives things Charlie Crist has had to say about the Affordable Care Act.

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Thrasher threatens to walk out of FSU interview with students, faculty, and staff

Today's paper recaps state Sen. John Thrasher's sometimes testy interview on FSU's campus Monday:

Long considered to be the candidate to beat, state Sen. John Thrasher was short on specifics and easily rattled during a series of interviews Monday for the presidency of Florida State University.

As the first of four finalists to be invited on campus for daylong interviews, Thrasher, 70, had several hours to sell his vision for FSU to students, staff and faculty. But he spent much of that time dodging questions about his political beliefs and promising the FSU community his devotion, but only in vague terms.

"If I get to this job, I am going to be an advocate for Florida State University for every single constituency whether it be faculty, students or whoever," he said.

Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, is expected to win re-election to his northeast Florida state Senate seat. When asked whether he would still commit to increasing faculty salaries, decreasing student debt and helping FSU improve its national standing if he did not become president and remained in the Legislature, he demurred. …

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Crist gets $1.5m boost from DGA

The race for Florida governor is shaping up to be one of the closest and costliest in the nation this year, as the Washington money pours in.

The Democratic Governor's Association just gave Charlie Crist another $1.5 million, bringing the total it has invested in the Florida governor's race to about $5.6 million. The breakdown: $3.5 million for Charlie Crist for Florida, $1.15m for the Florida Democratic Party and nearly $1 million to a political committee called Florida For All.

For the DGA, this is huge money in Florida. 

In October 2010, DGA had given then-Democratic nominee Alex Sink nearly $6m. Considering the fact that it's September, DGA So is on pace to beat that record.

But it can't match the Republican Governor's Association's giving to Gov. Rick Scott this cycle: $11.2 million.

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Sachs Media Group agrees to dismiss controversial lawsuit

After finding itself in a public relations nightmare last month, a prominent Tallahassee media firm has dropped its lawsuit against the family of a paralyzed Broward County man.

The firm, Sachs Media Group, had said the family of Eric Brody owed $375,000 for four years of public relations and media outreach services.

"We are a small business and it is difficult to walk away from nearly $400,000," Chief Operating Officer Michelle Ubben said. "But it became clear to us that it would take a long time to reach a resolution, and we didn’t want to put the family or the firm through that."

Sachs Media Group and Brody’s guardianship released a joint statement saying they had "amicably resolved all outstanding issues."

"The guardianship acknowledges that it entered into an agreement with Ron Sachs Communications [now Sachs Media Group] in late 2008, for services related to the passage of a claims bill," the statement said. "The Brody family recognizes and appreciates the outstanding work the firm did to bring significant attention to their son’s tragic case." …

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Miami grower sues over agency's proposed 'lottery' for marijuana

The Florida Department of Health says it wanted to use a lottery to select the companies that will dispense low-THC cannabis in Florida to avoid lawsuits, but on Monday the agency in charge of writing the medical marijuana rules drew its first lawsuit -- because of the lottery.

Costa Farms of Miami, one of the state's largest farming operations filed an administrative complaint against the Department of Health Monday, alleging that it is violating the law authoritizing the selection of five companies to dispense low-THC cannabis by requiring they be selected through a lottery system.

The company claims that the lottery system violates the law authoritizing the selection of five companies to dispense low-THC cannabis because the lottery system, adopted by the agency after three public hearings, "is not mentioned in the legislation." …

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President Obama's visit will snarl Tampa traffic

President Barack Obama is scheduled to fly into MacDill Air Force Base late Tuesday for a briefing at U.S. Central Command, but city officials say his visit will also affect traffic in and around the southern part of downtown Tampa.

Commuters and residents will see the impact on the road, at parking garages and at businesses, city officials said, without providing further detail. Obama is expected to spend the night in Tampa and to meet with military leaders on Wednesday as they work on military plans for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Street closures and detours will be announced by programmable message boards. Drivers should be ready to be flexible and allow for extra travel time.

For example, city officials said, downtown commuters should consider flexing their hours and leaving work early on Tuesday, and either coming in earlier or later than usual on Wednesday morning.

More here.

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