Group asks to join lawsuit on rule freeze
Another group has asked the Supreme Court to let it participate in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Gov. Rick Scott's rulemaking freeze. Disability Rights Florida filed a motion Monday asking for permission to file a brief in support of Rosalie Whiley, a Miami woman who filed suit against the governor last week. In court papers, Disability Rights says the rulemaking freeze, among other things, suspends consideration of extending Medicare waiver benefits to some people with autism, is delaying discussion of treatment for at-risk juveniles with emotional disturbances, and slows implementation of rules for the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. The rule freeze was one of Scott's first acts as governor, included in an executive order. More than 900 rules on their way to approval were affected. The Audubon Society asked last week for permission to file a brief in support of Whiley, and the court granted that permission Monday. The court also ordered Scott to respond by April 25. Whiley, a blind woman seeking to reapply for food stamps, alleges one of the rules would make it easier for her to handle that task online.
Charter school bill cuts pilot program
One of the Senate's top voices on education issues managed to strip a fast-moving charter school bill of its provision creating a boarding academy for at-risk students. Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, said she was uneasy about spending money on the pilot program that would benefit a relatively small number of students, 400 at most. Eligible students would be fifth- or sixth-graders from low-income homes and with records of struggling in school. Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, the bill's sponsor, agreed to Lynn's proposal. "Obviously, I'm okay taking it out at this point," he said. "It's a good program and one whose time will come, eventually." Thrasher's bill, SB 1546, would let "high-performing" charter companies more easily expand into new counties. Colleges or universities could approve charters, which use public money but operate independently from local school districts. The bill, with Lynn's amendment, unanimously passed the Senate's Higher Education Committee.
Animal fight law may get teeth
Animal fighting is illegal in Florida. But it is almost impossible to prosecute, some state law enforcement officials say, because to pursue a case, they have to catch the actual fight in action. Sen. Oscar Braynon II, a Miami Gardens Democrat, wants to change that. A Braynon-sponsored bill that cleared its first Senate panel Monday would allow other signs of fighting to be used in a case, including fresh wounds or scars on an animal or possession of apparatus, paraphernalia or drugs to train animals to fight. Braynon told the Senate Agriculture Committee that cockfighting happens in parts of his district. "It's a terrible thing," he said. "It's not something we should continue doing." It sailed unanimously through after this facetious question from Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs: "Do you think that possibly this could apply to the Legislature?"
Times/Herald staff writers Janet Zink, Jodie Tillman and Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.