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The Buzz: Gov. Rick Scott takes drug testing fight to U.S. Supreme Court

Gov. Rick Scott wants the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision by a federal appeals court striking down random drug testing of state workers as a violation of their Fourth Amendment protections.

Scott filed a petition for a writ of certiorari Monday with the nation's highest court. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last May that his executive order making consent to suspicionless drug testing a condition of employment was unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was brought by Council 79 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a union that represents many rank-and-file state workers, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

"The (Scott) administration seems to wish to fight to the bitter end to defend this wrongheaded and unconstitutional policy," said a statement from ACLU attorney Shalini Goel Agarwal. "We are prepared to demonstrate to the U.S. Supreme Court, as it has found before, that the state has no authority to require people to submit their bodily fluids for government inspection and approval without reason or suspicion."

Young's widow to get $174,000

Tucked inside the $1 trillion spending bill congressional negotiators have produced is a perk for the widow of Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

The bill includes $174,000 for Beverly Young, an amount equal to the annual salary for a member of Congress. The benefit is customary when a member dies.

Mrs. Young was a key subject of a recent Tampa Bay Times story that looked at the genesis of her relationship with the lawmaker and the isolation of his first family.

In a brief telephone interview Tuesday, she said she was not aware the money was in the budget. "You guys have ruined my life," she said.

Class-size penalties may decline

The penalties may soon be less severe for school districts that fail to meet state-mandated class-size limits.

A House subcommittee on Tuesday gave early support to a proposal that would change the way class-size compliance and penalties are calculated.

Florida public schools must abide by the class-size limits outlined in a 2002 constitutional amendment.

Under the amendment, kindergarten through third-grade classes may have no more than 18 children. Fourth- through-eighth grade classes are capped at 22 students, and high-school classes are limited to 25.

The penalties are not included in the amendment, but are written into state statute. Traditional public schools are judged (and punished) based on the number of classrooms that are out of compliance. Charter schools and other schools of choice (i.e. district-managed magnet schools) can submit their average class size.

If HB 319 becomes law, traditional public schools could also submit schoolwide averages. What's more, the bill would repeal language set to make the penalties even more costly beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

The House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee voted 12-1 in favor of the bill.

PunditFact, 10 News partner

PunditFact, the new fact-checking website of the Tampa Bay Times and the Poynter Institute, is partnering with WTSP 10 News to air video fact-checks.

PunditFact launched in November 2013 to fact-check political pundits who appear on television, radio and in print.

10 News will now begin taking that work and adapting it for its on-air broadcasts. The first PunditFact TV segment debuted Tuesday.

Aaron Sharockman contributed to this report.

The Buzz: Gov. Rick Scott takes drug testing fight to U.S. Supreme Court 01/14/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 9:23am]
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  1. Judge throws out $458,000 condo sale, says Clearwater attorney tricked bidders

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold on Monday threw out the $458,100 sale of a gulf-front condo because of what he called an "unscrupulous" and "conniving" scheme to trick bidders at a foreclosure auction.

    John Houde, left, whose Orlando copany was the high  bidder June 8 at the foreclosure auction of a Redington Beach condo, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground,  during a hearing Monday before Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold.  [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times ]
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    Members of the Vision Zero workshop cross Hillsborough Avenue and Kelly Road during a on-street audit of Town 'N Country roads in January. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
  3. Pasco EDC names business incubator head in Dade City, will open second site


    Pasco County economic development officials are busy reigniting their business start-up resources following the departure earlier this year of Krista Covey, who ran the Pasco Economic Development Council's SMARTStart business incubator in Dade City.

    Andrew Romaner was promoted this summer to serve as program director of the Dade City SMARTStart Entrepreneur Center, a start-up incubator service of the Pasco Economic Development Council. He succeeds Krista Covey, who relocated to Texas for another startup position. [Courtesy of Pasco EDC]
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    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, center, attends a hearing on Monday Circuit Court Judge Jack St. Arnold at the Pinellas County Courthouse in Clearwater. The hearing was requested by attorneys representing John Houde, left, who filed a motion to invalidate the sale of a $458,000 Redington Beach condo, a deal orchestrated by Skelton, who stands accused of deliberately misleading bidders in a the June 8 foreclosure auction. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]
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    Former Vice President Dick Cheney will be honored as "Statesman of Year" by the Sarasota GOP, a title that twice went to Donald Trump.

    Dick and Liz Cheney