When the bailiff proclaimed the session completed, the stampede began.
Nearly 100 drug offenders had been crammed in Courtroom 1 at the Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater for hours, and they were now scurrying for the doors.
If you weren't looking for him, you might have never noticed the young man lingering behind. He was the one whose shirt and tie clashed just as boldly as his past and future....
Not everyone believes in the warming of Rick Scott's heart.
While it is true he supported expanding Medicaid, critics point out that he was nowhere to be seen while zealots in the Florida House were voting it down.
And while it is fact he pushed for teacher pay raises, that didn't require much arm-twisting when dealing with a rare budget surplus.
So what's a conservative with a corporate image to do? Just how does Gov. Private Jet convince voters that he truly is a man of the people?...
Start with the statistics.
Democrats in Florida have an undeniable advantage. They currently outnumber registered Republicans by more than a half-million voters.
Then consider the trends.
Democrats in Florida are showing signs of life. They just closed the gap on Republicans in the state Legislature, and in recent years have handed critical electoral votes to both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama....
05/08/13 Human Interest
Years from now, the question will be posed by someone too young to know better.
Shielding their eyes from a midday sun, they will see the name adorning the baseball and softball fields at Boca Ciega High School and ask who Gerry Ramsberger was.
Should I be nearby, I would suggest the youngster find a seat. For there is a story to tell, and it is too important to rush.
Gerry Ramsberger, who passed away Monday at 88, was a character in the best sense of the word. Wholesome, but never preachy. Wise, but down to earth. Sweet, corny, caring and accomplished. And to those who knew him, inordinately lovable....
Sad to say, but the heart sometimes wanders. Today's love becomes tomorrow's regret.
And so I find myself torn, pledging devotion to Lorelei but wondering if Rosie is really the one. And you know all bets are off if Ariel ever looks my way.
So I come to you today. I seek your counsel and assistance. Help me choose the perfect manatee to adopt at Homosassa Springs.
For as cavalier as I sound about this process, the intent is actually critical. The need for assistance and awareness about the plight of manatees is at an all-time high....
They applauded one another.
They embraced, they laughed, they took group pictures.
All in all, during the final hours and days of the 2013 legislative session, your state lawmakers seemed very happy with themselves.
And that's a good thing because I'm not sure who else is feeling charitable toward our senators and representatives these days.
This legislative session feels more notable for what didn't happen than what did. For instance, some really bad ideas got squashed. And one really important issue got tabled....
To: Producers of the A&E show Flip This House
From: Talent Scout
RE: Possible show topic
First of all, love your show!
This idea of watching someone purchase a house and then "flipping'' it for a profit is pure genius. It's ruthless, risky, and it feels so darned American.
In that same spirit, I'm bringing this unique idea to you today....
Maybe they got greedy. Maybe they were too cocky.
Maybe they just didn't think anyone was paying attention.
No matter the explanation, supporters of a parent trigger law went one step too far when they produced a petition riddled with inconsistencies and doubt.
The petition was supposed to prove this pro-charter school legislation had grass roots support among parents, but instead it highlighted what critics have been saying all along:...
Not long ago, I was invited to be a judge in a middle school debate.
Some of the kids were nervous, some got sidetracked and some clammed up. Yet for all their jitters, giggles, anxiety and backtracking, the entire morning felt true.
No matter how they looked while presenting their case, they had done their research and came across with absolute sincerity while making their arguments....
The story begins horribly enough, with the accusation of a teenage rape.
From there, the implications are enormous:
Lives interrupted and families torn apart. Innocence shattered and scars unseen.
And, yet, as we have reluctantly learned, there is a twisted temptation in an Internet-is-everywhere society to take a heartbreaking saga and make it exponentially worse.
By now, you may have heard of the Tarpon Springs High School sophomore charged with the sexual battery of a physically incapacitated girl at an underage drinking party....
They are tighter than you know. Practically pen pals.
Hardly an economic crisis goes by without Gov. Rick Scott sitting down to jot off another letter to his comrade-in-arms Barack Obama.
Let's see, there was the time he asked him to intervene in a dockworkers strike. And the time he complained about a cut in federal funding for a particular Army aircraft.
There have been multiple letters regarding Obamacare or Medicaid expansion, and who can forget the sequestration letter that suggested the president was a total goof-off?...
04/20/13 Human Interest
From down the hall comes a sound like no other.
It is quick, sharp and unmistakably authentic.
It travels beyond closed doors, past the nurse's station and bounces off the walls of the air-locked seventh floor at All Children's Hospital.
This is the sound of teenagers. Not the silliness, but the devotion.
One is stuck in an isolation room, the other is days away from major surgery. Both are taking on cancer for the second time....
Legislators see failing schools and look for someone to blame.
They see struggling students and come up with one-size-fits-all solutions. They see funding for education and devise schemes to funnel it to their corporate friends.
And this is why every parent of a Pinellas County public school student should offer a word of thanks this morning for school superintendent Mike Grego.
On the job for seven months, Grego has approached the problem of low standardized test scores with rational, compassionate and proactive solutions....
04/15/13 Local Government
The race for the next mayor of St. Petersburg just got more interesting.
Also potentially more expensive, complicated, contentious and humorous.
But for now we'll stick with interesting.
Twelve years, seven months and two weeks after announcing her first attempt at the mayor's office, Kathleen Ford has once again dusted off the resume.
She wasn't very specific about her plans on Monday, but sequels are rarely driven by their details. So you might assume Ford's message will sound vaguely familiar....
Time and dissonance have a way of obscuring the past. We lose track of where an argument began, and which roads led us to this point.
Take expanded health care in Florida.
Today's debate is far removed from where it began months ago, and the testimony of those involved has long since faded from memory.
So, as the state Legislature heads into its final weeks with a solution still nowhere in sight, there is a critical detail that should not be overlooked....