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Florida Legislature

  1. Early voting opens in Pinellas as both parties ramp up get-out-the-vote efforts

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — Early voting got under way in 30 counties across Florida on Monday, including Pinellas, Miami-Dade and Broward, as both parties ramped up their get-out-the-vote efforts in the final two weeks of the race for governor.

    Florida Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist examines a portable hand fan given to him before he voted early Monday in St. Petersburg. "It's nice to be cool." he said. [SCOTT KEELER   |   TIimes]
  2. Jeff Vinik hires Tallahassee lobbyists amid talk of USF med school move

    Legislature

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has hired heavy-hitting lobbyist Brian Ballard and two others to represent his interests in Tallahassee.

    Lobbyist Brian Ballard and two others have been hired to represent Jeff Vinik’s interests in Tallahassee.
  3. Charlie Crist stakes election victory on Broward County turnout

    Legislature

    FORT LAUDERDALE — Broward County is smack in the center of South Florida and is more populous than a dozen states, but many people couldn't find it on a map.

    Alan Abdin, on phone, and Saif Mamideh work at a grass roots rally in support of Charlie Crist's gubernatorial candidacy in October in Davie. [Miami Herald]
  4. Gov. Scott's incentive-based jobs program still falling short of promises

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott has used tax breaks and other incentives to attract tens of thousands of new jobs to Florida, but after nearly four years, most of the jobs still don't exist, according to state records.

    Ann Scott speaks at a campaign rally for her husband, Gov. Rick Scott, at the Laser Spine Institute in Tampa on Sept. 16.
  5. Bousquet: Gov. Rick Scott's tax attack on Charlie Crist skirts truth

    Legislature

    As they prepare for the first of three TV debates, Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist are fine-tuning their talking points for viewers who are just starting to pay attention to the biggest race for governor in the country.

  1. New voucher program helps Florida special needs students

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The news literally made Mary Kurnik jump with joy.

    John Kurnik, 12, looks for crabs with his dad John Kurnik (left), sister Krystyn Kurnik, 14, and mom Mary Kurnik (not pictured) along the banks of Old Tampa Bay in Oldsmar. The kids, who are homeschooled, were on a nature lesson.  (JIM DAMASKE   |   Times)
  2. Gov. Rick Scott rolls out plan to increase per-student spending

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The governor's race on Thursday turned into a contest to see who would spend more on education.

    Gov. Rick Scott speaks at the Florida Polytechnic University's ribbon-cutting ceremony in Lakeland last week. [DEMETRIUS FREEMAN   |   Times]
  3. Charlie Crist campaigns in school bus to boast his education record

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Traveling on a yellow school bus, Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist toured the state last week to tell Floridians that public schools would fare better under his watch than that of Gov. Rick Scott.

    Charlie Crist and running mate Annette Taddeo visit at Al Lopez Park in Tampa on Thursday to stump about education.
  4. Florida teachers union challenges voucher expansion bill

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The state teachers union filed a challenge to a controversial education law Wednesday, saying it violates a constitutional requirement that each law be limited to a single subject.

    Lee County social studies teacher Tom Faasse(cq) and Florida Education Vice President Joanne McCall announce a new lawsuit on Wednesday in Tallahassee challenging a controversial education law. The union says the law violates the constitutional requirement that each legislation proposal be limited to one subject.  A lawsuit filed by Florida teachers union at a presser Wednesday, July 16, 2014,  in Tallahassee.
  5. Parent, teacher groups urge Scott to veto school voucher bill

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Parent and teacher groups are turning the pressure up on Gov. Rick Scott to veto a proposed expansion of the state school voucher program.

  1. In GOP-dominated Legislature, black lawmakers caucus struggles

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — When the last cocktail had been poured and the last guests had floated away from the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators' annual Scholarship Gala last month, thousands of dollars had flowed into the nonprofit foundation, courtesy of five-figure checks from a variety of special interests …

    As Rep. Bobby Powell, D-Riviera Beach, left, looks on, the chairman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, is interviewed at the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators’ 21st annual Scholarship Gala in Tallahassee.
  2. Watchdog report says power companies wield too much influence in Florida Legislature

    Energy

    TALLAHASSEE — To understand the influence of Florida's largest electric companies in Tallahassee, look no further than your monthly bill.

  3. Big money, powerful lobbying groups push Florida voucher proposal

    K12

    TALLAHASSEE — Nearly 200 schoolchildren greeted Senate President Don Gaetz last month when he visited a Catholic school in Pensacola to get a firsthand look at the impact of Florida's controversial school voucher program.

  4. Capitol's dash for cash: Florida lawmakers race against time, picking up checks

    Elections

    TALLAHASSEE — The race for campaign cash shifted into high gear Monday as dozens of state legislators sought contributions from lobbyists before today's start of the legislative session when such fundraising is banned for two months.

    Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, receives a campaign contribution from veteran lobbyist Paul Jess of the Florida Justice Association, at a fundraiser Monday in Tallahassee, the last day he could raise funds before the 2014 session begins.
  5. Times/Herald special report: Tallahassee's torrent of campaign contributions

    Elections

    TALLAHASSEE — When Florida legislators open their annual 60-day session on Tuesday, many of the decisions about what issues make it onto the agenda have already been made — thanks in large part to the powerful special interest groups and a torrent of cash flowing into the coffers of legislative political …

  1. Florida Gov. Rick Scott signs budget, vetoes $69 million in spending

    State Roundup

    PANAMA CITY — Gov. Rick Scott signed a $77 billion state budget Monday, the largest in Florida history, packed with hundreds of millions of dollars in popular election-year projects championed by his fellow Republicans in the Legislature.

     Florida Gov. Rick Scott, pictured giving his State of the State address to a joint session of the Florida Legislature in March, signed a $77 billion budget Monday, the largest in Florida history. [SCOTT KEELER    |    Times]
  2. Film commissioner: Tax snub will keep movie out of Florida

    State Roundup

    Dale Gordon awoke Saturday to gray, drizzly skies and an immediate future for her industry just as depressing.

  3. Florida Legislature adjourns 2014 session, approving medical marijuana strain and immigrant tuition

    Gubernatorial

    TALLAHASSEE

    Florida lawmakers adjourned their 2014 election-year session late Friday, approving in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, legalizing a strain of marijuana for limited medical use and expanding corporate tax credits that allow poor children to go to private schools.

    Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R- Wesley Chapel, waves to members of the House after he completed his farewell speech, Friday, May 2, 2014, the last day of the 60 day session in Tallahassee.
  4. Tampa Bay local projects in line for legislative largesse

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE

    The $77.1 billion budget that lawmakers will vote on tonight is studded with hometown projects, the first time this has happened in an election year since 2006.

    A decorated Bulls cap is shown during the University of South Florida St. Petersburg fall 2013 Commencement Convocation at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg on Dec. 15. USF St. Petersburg is set to get $10 million for a new building for the College of Business under the state budget.
  5. With cash to spare, legislators clamor to get pet projects in the budget

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Unlike previous years, when lawmakers struggled to plug deficits, this year's budget is awash in cash.

    Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Joe Negron, R-Stuart, speaks to reporters Tuesday about budget talks between the House and Senate. On Tuesday night, negotiators printed and distributed the budget to lawmakers, who are constitutionally required to pass it by 11:59 p.m. Friday.
  1. Health insurance for Florida employees gets another look

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Compared with other states, Florida's health insurance plan for government employees is about average.

  2. Florida House votes to regulate e-cigarette sales

    Health

    TALLAHASSEE — A bill that would make electronic cigarettes off limits to young people won unanimous support on Wednesday in the Florida House.

    Dominic Crupi, 24, of Clearwater smokes an e-cigarette at Vape Joe in Largo earlier this year. Crupi has been vaping for two years, and is venturing to get into the industry.
  3. Florida lawmakers pass bill to shield nursing home investors from lawsuits

    Health

    TALLAHASSEE — Investors in nursing homes in Florida would be shielded from lawsuits when residents are abused or neglected under broad new provisions authorized in a bill the Florida House sent to the governor on Wednesday.

  4. Florida lawmakers make one more push to extend health care to immigrant children

    Health

    TALLAHASSEE — A bill to extend subsidized health insurance to the state's youngest legal immigrants has stalled in the Florida Legislature, due largely to the initial $27.5 million price tag.

  5. Legislator seeks to go easier on struggling nursing schools

    Medicine

    TALLAHASSEE — A proposal winding its way through the Florida Legislature seeks to raise the bar for nursing education programs.

  1. In paying late claims for jobless, why did Florida wait so long?

    Business

    TALLAHASSEE — It took Florida officials more than three months to decide to pay overdue jobless benefits to about 10,000 unemployed workers, many of whom went without checks since October because of a defective online registration system.

  2. Talk of budget turkeys ruffles some feathers

    Legislature

    For the past three decades, Florida TaxWatch has been a self-appointed fiscal watchdog, blowing the whistle on what it considers wasteful pork-barrel spending by the Legislature.

    Florida TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro brings out his giant stuffed bird for the organization’s post-legislative selection of “turkeys” from the budget passed in Tallahassee in 2007.
  3. Gov. Rick Scott wants $1.2 billion more for schools, bonuses for state workers

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott will send the Legislature a $74 billion budget today that he says would boost spending in schools by $1.25 billion, but some of that money will never reach students.

  4. Gun makers, violent film and video creators benefit from tax breaks in Florida

    Health

    TALLAHASSEE — What do violent video games, gory movies and high-powered assault weapons have in common? They have all been blamed for tragic mass shootings, including last month's at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — and are all subsidized by Florida taxpayers. With Florida's tax code more …

    Parker, a violent action movie starring Jason Statham, received $424,820 in tax credits for production in South Florida last year.
  5. State wants bad $20M investment in movie company back

    Economic Development

    TALLAHASSEE — Call it another unfortunate plot twist in an already upsetting script.

  6. Florida Gov. Rick Scott calls for more early voting days, sites

    Elections

    TALLAHASSEE — After months of defending the status quo, Florida Gov. Rick Scott drew praise and criticism Thursday as he endorsed early voting changes pushed by county election supervisors.

    Steve Bozsanyi of Spring Hill checks his watch while waiting in line with his wife, Dorothy, left, to vote at a supervisor of elections branch office on Forest Oaks Boulevard in Spring Hill on Oct. 30.
  7. Interest groups, donors spent $306 million on state political campaigns in 2012

    Elections

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's sputtering economy did not stop interest groups and donors from spending $306 million this election cycle on state political campaigns, according to final election year tallies released Friday.

  1. Does 'warning shot' bill weaken Florida's 'stand your ground' law?

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — When lawmakers passed the "warning shot" bill during the 2014 session, a key selling point was that it would prevent cases like that of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a shot to ward off her estranged husband.

    Marissa Alexander faces 60 years in prison for firing a bullet that hit a wall.
  2. NRA-backed bill done in by Sen. Jack Latvala, sheriffs

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — It's not often that a bill backed by the National Rifle Association dies in the Florida Legislature.

    Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, talks with Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, on Thursday after the defeat of a controversial gun bill.
  3. Florida House votes to allow arming teachers

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House on Monday approved a bill that would let teachers pack heat at school.

  4. Over sheriffs' objections, House approves bill to allow concealed weapons during emergencies

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Evacuations caused by hurricanes, toxic spills and riots could be grounds for people to conceal guns in public without a permit, according to a bill backed by the National Rifle Association that passed the Florida House 80-36 on Friday.

    Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri calls the bill “crazy, it’s absurd.”
  5. Florida House bill would allow carrying guns without a permit during riots

    Public Safety

    TALLAHASSEE — Under a bill backed by the National Rifle Association and other gun groups, riots could be the newest safe haven for those carrying firearms without a permit.