Florida Senate leaders rejected a budget amendment Wednesday that would have restored $222.5 million to the Florida Forever land-buying program that has been left threadbare since the Great Recession, arguing that the amendment was "out of order" because it would have left the Senate's proposed budget out of balance.The amendment, by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, would have restored the funding to the state's once-vaunted land acquisition program, heralded by environmentalists as visionary approach to shielding the state's fragile ecosystems and waterways from pollution and other development encroachment.The state program was wiped dry by lawmakers during the tight years of the recession and so environmentalists asked voters to approve Amendment 1 in 2014, creating a dedicated funding stream lawmakers would be required to use for land acquisition and water preservation.Despite that, legislators have steadfastly refused to restore the land buying program -- which was first begun as Preservation 2000 by Republican Gov. Bob Martinez in 1991 -- to its traditional level of $300 million a year. The 2015-16 budget includes only $17.5 million for the acquisition of vital conservation lands through Florida Forever. The Senate proposed budget raises that to $22.5 million.Altman's amendment would authorize $222.5 million in bond proceeds from recurring money used to fund the Land Acquisition Trust fund, to be used for land acquisition through the Florida Forever program. He argued that the revenue source -- the documentary stamp tax on real estate transactions -- is "a robust fund and is expected to grow" so earmarking the money to pay bonds for land buying "will not affect the stability of our state.""It's the best stewardship of our tax dollars,'' he said. "These lands we want to purchase; we will lose them. They're escalating [in value] faster than our ability to purchase them."But Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, the Senate majority leader, called a "point of order" saying the amendment was not appropriate because it upset the budget balance. Senate Rules Chairman David Simmons, R-Orlando, agreed and the amendment was withdrawn.Altman was angered by the ruling and said it exposed a serious flaw in the Legislature's budget process.
"All I was asking is to restore the right of this body in public to question an allocation,'' he told reporters after the Senate adjourned. "Horrific, horrific ruling that sets a horrific precedent."...02/09/16 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers made uneven progress on ambitious plans to rewrite the state's gambling laws Tuesday as a House committee did what has been virtually impossible for the conservative chamber to do in the last decade: pass a bill that expands gambling in Florida.
At the same time, though, the more gaming-friendly Senate put the brakes on its plan.
In the House, the Regulatory Affairs Committee gave the nod to one bill — ratifying the agreement between Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe to expand casino games on their reservations — and also approved a companion measure. The measure tightens loopholes in the state's gambling laws while adding slots permits in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties and offering new gaming options outside of South Florida....02/09/16 Blog
The House Regulated Affairs Committee on Tuesday accomplished what has been virtually impossible for the conservative House to do in the last decade: pass a bill that expands gambling in Florida.
The committee not only gave the nod to one bill -- ratifying the agreement between Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe to expand casino games on their reservations -- it also approved an ambitious gambling bill that tightens loopholes in the state's gambling laws but expands casino games at parimutuels in Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties....02/09/16 Blog
The House Regulatory Affairs Committee meeting is off and running, as they take up three high-profile bills aimed at rewriting the state's gaming laws and ratifying the compact negotiated between Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe.
First up, Rep. Mike Miller, R-Orlando, offered a rewrite of the compact, putting a cap on the number of slots the tribe can offer, giving blackjack to them for the next 15 years -- but not including craps and roulette and clarifying that they may not relocated their existing gambling facilities....02/09/16 Blog
Two legislative committees today will try to do what has been an impossible for the last five years: pass a gambling bill that expands casino gambling, starts to remove the life support for the dying parimutuel industry and does it in a way that doesn't cut revenues to the state.
The two packages of gambling bills, up today in the House Regulatory Affairs Committee and the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, are being done in tandem with bills that ratify the bulk of the governor's compact with the Seminole Tribe, guaranteeing the state $3 billion in revenue over 7 years. ...02/08/16 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — After months of being sidelined, a bill to legalize full-strength medical marijuana for terminally ill patients resurfaced in the Florida House on Monday with a rewrite that restores the number of eligible growers to five.
The bill, HB 307, was approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee by a 9-2 vote, leaving it one more stop before getting to the full House. If approved, it will allow terminally ill Floridians with less than one year to live to have legal access to marijuana grown by the five authorized distributors....02/08/16 Blog
After months of being sidelined, a bill to legalize full-strength medical marijuana for terminally ill patients resurfaced in the Florida House Monday with a rewrite that restores the number of eligible growers to five.
The bill, HB 307, was approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee by a 9-2 vote, leaving it one more stop before getting to the full House. If approved, it will allow terminally ill Floridians who have been diagnosed with less than one year to live to have legal access to marijuana grown by the five authorized distributors....02/04/16 Blog
The Senate's budget chief, Sen. Tom Lee, said Wednesday he is putting the bill to prevent local governments from imposing regulations on fracking for oil and gas on hold until the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, which he believes has been absent form the contentious discussion, is prepared to provide some "honest answers."
SB 318 allows the state to regulate and authorize the pumping of large volumes of water, sand and chemicals into the ground using high pressure to recover oil and gas deposits but allows the companies to shield from the public what chemicals are used by labeling them as "trade secrets." ...02/03/16 Blog
As the Florida House debated two measures to expand Florida's gun laws on Wednesday, a federal appeals court vacated a ruling that upheld a controversial 2011 Florida law restricting doctors from asking questions and recording information about patients’ gun ownership....02/03/16 Blog
The Senate shake-up continues as Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, told the Herald/Times Wednesday that he has decided to run for Senate District 40, the redrawn Miami-based district that now holds incumbent Sens. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, and Anitere Flores, R-Miami, which leans Democratic....02/03/16 Blog
Although the Florida House is expected to pass two controversial gun bills this afternoon, the odds are continuing to diminish that they'll become law this session.
Speaking to reporters today, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said the proposals are "in trouble," as far as the Senate is concerned. One of the bills allows concealed weapons permit-holders to carry openly and another lets them carry concealed on public college and university campuses....02/03/16 Blog
As members of the Seminole Tribe arrive in Tallahassee today to continue to put pressure on lawmakers to approve the compact they've signed with the governor the posturing between the Legislature and the governor's office continues.
House Regulatory Affairs Committee Chairman Jose Felix Diaz told the Herald/Times that he is drafting three bill relating to gaming, including one that tracks the governor's proposed compact with the Seminole Tribe -- to be released no sooner than next week. One bill would establish the parameters of the compact, another would apply to other parimutuel facilities and the third would be a constitutional amendment....02/02/16 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — In a debate that could reshape how the state handles its Sunshine laws, Florida lawmakers are swiftly advancing a bill that proponents say will crack down on "economic terrorists" that are abusing state law by extorting money from governments through frivolous and misleading public records requests.
But opponents say the solution is an overreaction that will "gut" the state's open records laws and permanently cloud its Sunshine Law tradition. They warn that the bill removes the only tool the public has to seek redress when government officials violate the state's public records laws and have offered a compromise that is being rejected....02/01/16 Blog
A company that provides prison healthcare services in five other states, announced Monday that it has signed a contract with the Florida Department of Corrections to fill in the gap in coverage after Corizon Healthcare terminated its agreement with the state last fall.
Centurion of Florida, LLC, a joint venture between Centene Corporation and MHM Services, Inc., announced it has signed a formal agreement to begin in April to replace Corizon Healthcare as the medical provider in Florida's prisons beginning in the second quarter....02/01/16 Blog
Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe of Florida are betting the Florida Legislature will approve a compact between the state and the tribe, and they’re betting big — $1.8 billion guitar-shaped hotel big....