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Florida Legislature

  1. Senate approves Keystone oil pipeline, setting up likely veto


    WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to force approval of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, which President Barack Obama is almost certain to veto in his first official clash with the new Republican-majority Congress.

    Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., sponsor of the Keystone XL pipeline bill, right, joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, after winning a critical procedural vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline bill. [AP photo]
  2. Law enforcement officials back medical marijuana legislation


    Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, a key opponent to Florida's medical marijuana amendment, says he could support a new legislative push to legalize pot for patients. And he's not alone in the law enforcement community.

    Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times Tuesday that he supports a bill introduced Monday by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, that would allow a variety of patients to use a number of different marijuana strains.
  3. PolitiFact Florida: Is online voter registration more secure?

    State Roundup

    Florida lawmakers have overhauled many aspects of our elections laws in recent years, but one aspect has remained untouched: Voters can't register online. The statewide elections supervisors association, which represents officials in both major parties, wants lawmakers to change that during the upcoming session.

  4. Florida lawmaker revives old idea of 'charter' school districts


    Back about 15 years ago, the Florida Legislature gave school districts the opportunity to apply for charter status, freeing them from many of the rules and limitations that the state imposes on public education.

  5. Florida lawmaker seeks to up the ante for passing a stopped school bus


    In 2010, 12-year-old Gabby Mair stepped off her school bus in DeBary and was struck by a passing car while walking home. She was pronounced brain dead a day later.

  1. Gov. Scott proposes Bright Futures expansion but doesn't address criticisms

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday proposed spending $23.5 million to expand Bright Futures scholarships but did not address recent criticism of the program — namely, that new eligibility standards put in place to control costs have kept thousands of low-income and minority students from receiving the …

    Critics say minority and low-income students are disproportionately left out of the Bright Futures scholarship program.
  2. Florida House panel approves guns on college campuses

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House is moving quickly on a proposal to allow guns on college campuses.

    A shooting on Nov. 20 at Florida State University in Tallahassee has brought renewed interest in campus safety. FSU president John Thrasher opposes guns on campus.
  3. Gov. Rick Scott proposes record high education spending in Florida

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — After promising to boost education spending to a record high, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday released a plan to spend $7,176 per student in 2015-16.

    Gov. Scott wants to boost the K-12 education budget from $18.9 billion to $19.75 billion. A little more than $11 billion would come from state coffers. The rest would be funded by property taxes.
  4. Judge dismisses Florida voucher program lawsuit

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A judge on Tuesday dismissed one of two lawsuits aimed at Florida's controversial school voucher program.

  5. Election altered balance of Florida's school choice debate

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The state representatives who lost their seats last week had more in common than their political party.

  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


    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


    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


    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


    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. Gov. Scott proposes $77 billion budget with $673 million in tax cuts

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Rick Scott unveiled a proposed $77 billion budget Wednesday that spends nearly all of a $1 billion surplus on tax cuts and an increase in education spending, but it also cuts the state workforce further while shifting education costs to local taxpayers.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks to the media during a pre-legislative news conference, Wednesday in Tallahassee. (AP Photo)
  2. Gov. Rick Scott proposes $5 billion Everglades plan

    State Roundup

    Standing outside a Miami airboat attraction with some of the state's top environmentalists and a caged panther named Harley, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday proposed spending $150 million in his next budget on Everglades restoration and habitat preservation.

    Gov. Rick Scott unveiled an ambitious $5 billion, 20-year environmen­tal plan.
  3. 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]
  4. 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.

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



    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.

    House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, waves to members of the House after he completed his farewell speech Friday. He noted that lawmakers delivered on Gov. Rick Scott’s priorities. “We’ve been very good to the governor this year.”
  1. Florida League of Women Voters pushes for Medicaid expansion

    State Roundup

    A drive for Medicaid expansion grew Thursday with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Florida — one of the state's oldest political groups — calling on legislators to find a "unique and flexible Florida solution" to cover an estimated 750,000 uninsured people this year.

  2. Business groups back Medicaid expansion in Florida

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — For the past two years, the Republican-dominated Florida House has turned away federal funds intended to expand health care coverage to nearly a million uninsured Floridians.

    As a safety-net hospital, Tampa General is among those that stand to lose millions in federal funds unless Florida legislators agree to expand the Medicaid program, one factor that could push compromise on the measure this year. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT l Times]
  3. 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.

  4. Florida House votes to regulate e-cigarette sales


    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.
  5. Florida lawmakers pass bill to shield nursing home investors from lawsuits


    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.

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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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. Florida House panel approves guns on college campuses

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House is moving quickly on a proposal to allow guns on college campuses.

    A shooting on Nov. 20 at Florida State University in Tallahassee has brought renewed interest in campus safety. FSU president John Thrasher opposes guns on campus.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  5. 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.”