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Kristen M. Clark, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Kristen M. Clark

Kristen Clark covers the Florida Legislature and state government in the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau. A Michigan State graduate, Kristen previously covered community news for the Palm Beach Post, Michigan state government for the Lansing State Journal and local and federal politics for the Forum in Fargo, N.D. She is married to Ryan S. Clark, a sports journalist who covers Florida State athletics for Warchant.com.

Email: kclark@miamiherald.com

Twitter: @ByKristenMClark

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  1. Black lawmakers, Democrats irate after senator says slavery memorial would 'celebrate defeat'

    Blog

    House Democrats and members of the legislative black caucus are offended and irate after a conservative Senate committee chairman said Friday the reason he didn’t hear a bill to create the first slavery memorial in Florida was because he didn’t want to “celebrate defeat.”

    “I would rather celebrate overcoming the heartbreak of slavery. I wouldn’t want to build a memorial to child abuse; I wouldn’t want to build a memorial to sexual abuse,” Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley told the Herald/Times for a story that was published online midday Friday. “I have a discomfort about memorializing slavery. ... I would like to take it in a more positive direction than a memorial to slavery.”...

    Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala
  2. Meet the descendant of a Confederate soldier who is blocking Florida's first slavery memorial

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A proposal to create the first slavery memorial in Florida unanimously passed the state House on Friday with roaring applause — but its prospects in the Senate are uncertain after one committee chairman stalled the legislation over a "philosophical objection" to the concept.

    Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley — the chairman of the Senate Government Oversight & Accountability Committee to which the bill was assigned — never scheduled a hearing to consider the bill calling for a Florida Slavery Memorial near the Capitol in Tallahassee....

    Sen. Dennis Baxley, seen here in 2007. [Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Lawmakers set to defund Miami school that educated makers of 'Moonlight' and 'Hamilton'

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers are on the brink of cutting $650,000 in state grant funding to the Miami arts school whose alumni helped create the Oscar-winning film "Moonlight" and the Broadway hit "Hamilton."

    The Florida House wants to entirely defund the New World School of the Arts, while senators propose keeping just $20,000 in aid to the school.

    If lawmakers approve such drastic cuts, Miami's widely admired public arts school would lose the state aid that sustains its dance, music, theater and visual arts programs....

    Andre Holland and Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight (2016). A24 Films.
  4. Florida House approves ban - and penalties - on 'sanctuary' cities

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's Republican-led House voted Friday to outlaw "sanctuary" cities and to impose harsh penalties on elected officials or communities that seek to thwart that ban.

    After a divisive debate that spanned almost three hours over two days, the House endorsed the proposed law by a 76-41 vote, with Democrats vehemently opposed.

    Republicans said the bill supports American freedom and "the rule of law" by prohibiting local law enforcement from resisting compliance with federal immigration laws and detention requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement....

    State Rep. Jason Fischer says it should be “offensive to everyone” to encourage illegal activity.
  5. Senator's 'discomfort about memorializing slavery' could block House-approved state monument

    Blog

    A proposal to create the first slavery memorial in Florida unanimously passed the state House on Friday with roaring applause — but its prospects in the Senate are uncertain after one committee chairman stalled the legislation over a “philosophical objection” to the concept.

    Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley — the chairman of the Senate Government Oversight & Accountability Committee who is known for his conservative positions — never scheduled a hearing to consider the Senate’s version of a bill calling for a Florida Slavery Memorial near the Capitol in Tallahassee....

    Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami
  6. Jack Latvala: Budget 'driven strictly by the guy that wants transparency'

    Blog

    Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, the Senate Appropriations chairman, told reporters Friday that in his 15 years in the Florida Senate he's "never seen" a budget negotiated like the one lawmakers are crafting for 2017-18. 

    And he cast blame on one person: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes -- although not mentioning him directly by name....

    Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, with Senate Appropriations chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.
  7. 'Schools of hope' compromise all-but finalized -- in secret

    Blog

    Lawmakers secretly struck a tentative compromise Thursday on one of the most consequential education reforms of the 2017 session — a $200 million program to help students who attend perpetually failing K-12 public schools in Florida.

    Specifics of the proposed deal were not released, as some of it was still being finalized, House and Senate pre-K-12 education budget chairmen said late Thursday. But the general description of the agreement was enough to earn initial support from some House Democrats, who had — until very recently — staunchly opposed the concept....

  8. House considers letting elected officials have secret meetings

    Blog

    The Florida Constitution and the state’s famed Sunshine Law give residents the right to know about and observe meetings held by the elected officials who represent them and make decisions on their behalf.

    But a bill going to the state House floor on Friday would effectively thwart significant aspects of that constitutional guarantee and potentially render it meaningless by allowing local elected officials — from city and county commissioners to school board members — to meet behind closed doors and discuss public matters in secret....

  9. Bill proposes to cloud Sunshine Law by letting elected officials meet privately

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Constitution and the state's famed Sunshine Law give residents the right to observe meetings held by their elected officials.

    But a bill going to the state House floor today would render significant aspects of that constitutional guarantee meaningless by allowing local elected officials — from city and county commissioners to school board members — to meet behind closed doors and discuss public matters in secret....

    If a House measure passes the Legislature this year that allows two members of a public board to meet legally in private, are meetings like this 2015 St. Petersburg City Council workshop going to be rendered moot? [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]
  10. College, university emergency response plans will be out of Sunshine

    Blog

    The substance of plans Florida’s public college and universities have for responding to campus emergencies or threats will soon be kept secret, under a proposed law that is on its way to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.

    The measure creates an exemption in Florida’s public records law that shields from disclosure such materials as photographs, presentations, sheltering arrangements, training manuals and equipment and supplies related to emergency response strategies....

  11. Senate's vetting of 'schools of hope' has been vastly limited compared to House

    Blog

    Nine minutes.

    That’s how long senators on the Appropriations Committee spent this week to hurriedly describe, amend and approve their version of one of the most high-profile, substantial and costly education policy changes the Legislature will enact this year affecting K-12 public schools.

    Senators did not even debate their pair of bills Tuesday that counter a House Republican-approved $200 million “schools of hope” incentive for specialized charter schools. The one person from the public who wanted to weigh in was cut off after 56 seconds....

    Stuart Republican and Senate President Joe Negron, left, and Senate Appropriations chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, talk with reporters during a press conference in early April.
  12. House Speaker said horse-trading yields 'bad policy.' Now, it's OK - sometimes.

    Blog

    When Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran were asked two months ago if their legislative priorities in higher education and K-12 public schools, respectively, would end up becoming bargaining chips this session, Negron wouldn’t rule it out....

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes
  13. House says applicants for college, university presidencies should be a secret

    Blog

    Floridians would have no way to know everyone who applies to be the next president or other top administrator of a public college or university, under a proposed exemption in the state’s public records law that passed the House on Wednesday.

    Lawmakers voted 103-11 to approve the carve-out, which was sought after a former Republican lawmaker unsuccessfully applied to be Florida Gulf Coast University’s next president this year....

    Rep. Bob Rommel, R-Naples
  14. Gun bill affecting Florida courthouses passes final committee, goes to Senate floor

    Blog

    A proposed law that would let 1.7 million conceal-carry permit-holders temporarily store their guns with security while visiting Florida's courthouses is on its way to the Senate floor.

    SB 616 from Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube passed its final committee Tuesday afternoon. Members of the Rules Committee endorsed the relatively non-controversial measure -- with at least a couple Democrats opposed -- after offering no discussion or debate....

    Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube
  15. 'The House is prepared to walk away,' K-12 education budget chairman says

    Blog

    If House Republicans follow through this week on plans to vote on a budget for 2017-18 that simply mirrors this year's, they will have to scrap a slew of top education priorities they had sought this year and worked for months to craft -- including their $200 million "schools of hope" plan to provide incentives for specialized, high-performing charter schools to set up in predominantly low-income areas....

    Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, addresses a luncheon audience at the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, Fla. on Jan. 26, 2017 with Miami Republican Rep. Michael Bileca, left.