Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Politics

Florida legislators sweeten bill for sugar industry

RECOMMENDED READING


Florida legislators used a bill changing wetlands regulations to block a lawsuit against the state for approving two no-bid, 20-year lease agreements with sugar and vegetable farmers.

The leases were approved by the governor and Cabinet in January and are being challenged by the Florida Wildlife Federation, which alleges the leases allow sugar growers to continue to farm without reducing pollution levels.

The provision was added to HB 999, which the House approved 106-10 and the Senate approved 39-1 on Friday, sending the measure to the governor.

The sugar industry said in a statement that the legislation was needed to "avoid obstructionist litigation from some extreme environmental activists" and to complete the state's cleanup efforts that are part of the Everglades settlement legislators also ratified.

The Senate stripped the bill of other provisions opposed by environmentalists, including a three-year ban on local fertilizer ordinances and a measure to prevent water management districts from local wetlands regulations.

Foreclosure reform on Scott's desk

A proposal to speed up foreclosures passed the Senate on a 26-13 vote and now heads to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.

The third attempt at foreclosure reform in three years, HB 87 creates new options for expedited foreclosures and tightens up filing standards for banks.

Opponents claimed it would harm homeowners and favor banks, who have been accused of engaging in questionable foreclosure practices. But proponents hailed it as a way to fix Florida's nation-leading foreclosure problem, and return the state's housing market to normal.

"I believe we have a product here that will be an improvement in the process," said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. It's "far more tilted to consumers than it is to banks."

Joyner to lead Senate Democrats

Senate Democrats elected Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, their 2014-16 leader. Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Allison Tant called Joyner "a tireless advocate for Democratic values and ally to Florida's middle-class families."

Joyner, elected to the House in 2000 and Senate in 2006, is the first black woman to serve as Senate Democratic leader, the party said. The current leader is Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale.

Card and support for Ken Plante

On the hectic final day of the legislative session, dozens of people paused in the rotunda to sign a poster-sized get-well card for Ken Plante, a highly respected lobbyist and former Republican state senator from Winter Park.

Plante, 72, is suffering from ALS, known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, a progressive neurological disorder with no cure. To many who earn a living in Florida's capital, the good-natured Plante has been a role model, teacher and mentor.

The inscription next to the large card asked for $250 donations to help with Plante's medical expenses. It read: "Kenny is at home, but is using a ventilator to help him breathe, and so his home health care is not covered by insurance. He also suffers as a result of the Medicare 'doughnut hole' in which his prescription medicine costs are astronomical. So Kenny Plante's many friends around Florida have banded together to help cover the health care costs and invite you to join us."

Katie Sanders and Steve Bousquet contributed to this report.

Comments
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s tourism chiefs at Visit Florida spend a lot of public money taking trips to exotic places to promote Florida as a top worldwide destination.Four former top-level staff members at the state’s tourism promotion and its c...
Updated: 1 hour ago
2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching.Lindsay Menz tells CNN that Franken placed his hand on her bottom as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, two years into Fran...
Published: 11/20/17
Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

Senator Nelson on tax reform bill: Small business will ‘get it in the neck.’

TAMPA — A week ahead of the expected vote on a controversial tax reform bill, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., visited Tampa to deliver a message to small businesses: This bill will hurt you."Small businesses are the economic engine of F...
Published: 11/19/17
Updated: 11/20/17
As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Sunday that the White House is willing to remove a contentious provision taking aim at the Affordable Care Act from the GOP tax overhaul plan if politically necessary, a move ...
Published: 11/19/17

Many Christian conservatives are backing Alabama’s Roy Moore

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama’s Christian conservatives see Roy Moore as their champion. He has battled federal judges and castigated liberals, big government, gun control, Muslims, homosexuality and anything else that doesn’t fit the evangelical mold. ...
Published: 11/19/17
Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

WASHINGTON — It’s been nearly six years since the Senate Ethics Committee conducted a major investigation of a sitting senator. Next year, the panel could be working nonstop, deciding the fate of up to three lawmakers, including two facing allegation...
Published: 11/18/17
PolitiFact: Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Here’s why

PolitiFact: Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Here’s why

Before gobbling turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie — or engaging in a well-informed political spat with your family — some of you might wonder where the Thanksgiving tradition originated.We wondered, too. So we talked with historians to get the facts s...
Updated: 7 hours ago
In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

UTICA, N.Y.Pat Marino pulled into the shop on a cold, wet Thursday and stood close as a young mechanic with gelled-up hair and earrings lifted the truck and ducked underneath."You need a little bit more oil," the mechanic said."Five quarts wasn’t eno...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/20/17
Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners recently decided to go after the pocketbooks of several residents who filed unsuccessful ethics complaints against one of their colleagues.If history is any indicator, the maneuver is more likely to cost taxp...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/19/17