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Mary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Mary Ellen Klas

Mary Ellen Klas is capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald and co-bureau chief of the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a graduate of the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn. Before she became bureau chief for the Herald in 2004, Mary Ellen was Tallahassee bureau chief for Florida Trend magazine and also served as a senior writer for the Palm Beach Post. She was bureau chief for the Palm Beach Post from 1990-94, after which she worked part time for 10 years while her daughters were young. She is married to John Kennedy, senior writer for the Palm Beach Post's Tallahassee bureau. They have two daughters.

Phone: 850-222-3095

Email: meklas@miamiherald.com

Twitter: @MaryEllenKlas

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  1. School voucher program survives teacher union's attempt to kill it

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by the state's teachers union to dismantle a tax credit scholarship program that finances students from low-performing schools to attend private schools, scoring a decisive blow for supporters of school choice.

    The Florida Education Association and other plaintiffs, including the NAACP, allege the scholarships are unconstitutional because the program diverts money that would otherwise go to state coffers that fund public K-12 education. They also argue that the scholarship program pulls poor students out of the public school system in favor of private schools, curtailing funds to nearly 2.8 million children served by public schools....

    Florida's Supreme Court  handed supporters of school vouchers a major victory on Wednesday by rejecting an appeal by Florida's teachers unions. The appeal, also supported by other groups, like the NAACP, argued that vouchers were unconstitutional because it diverted money from the state's public K-12 program. [Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Court rejects teachers' union appeal to challenge tax credit voucher program

    Blog

    Florida's teachers union struck out on its last-ditch effort to dismantle Florida's tax credit scholarship program Wednesday as the Florida Supreme Court rejected its appeal for legal standing to challenge the voucher-like program that finances students from low-performing schools to attend private schools. ...

  3. Sierra Club files lawsuit to try to stop FPL rate hike

    Blog

    The Sierra Club asked the Florida Supreme Court Tuesday to block a $811 million rate hike by Florida Power & Light over the next four years, arguing that regulators violated state law when they failed to determine if a billion-dollar expansion of gas-powered power plants are needed.

    The Florida Public Service Commission in November unanimously approved a settlement agreement reached by FPL and various consumer groups to raise utility bills by $400 million beginning in January, to be followed by $411 million in rate hikes in the next three years....

  4. Abuse of force continues to rise in Florida's prisons

    Blog

    Use of Force graphic...

  5. Florida would become the slot machine capital under this proposal

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida would become the nation's slot machine capital under a sweeping rewrite of the state's gaming laws filed Thursday that would give Miami-Dade and Broward counties each an additional slots venue and the Seminole Tribe seven full-scale casinos.

    The proposal by Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, would broadly expand gaming in Florida by not only providing an opening for Genting, the Malaysian company, to build its long-sought resorts casino in Miami. It would also serve to prop up the declining horse and dog racing and jai-alai industries by allowing them to breathe life into their operations with slot machines. For the newest gaming option, fantasy sports, the state would impose regulations, and require a permit to operate....

    Slot machines, like the ones at this Seminole Hard Rock Casino and Hotel in Hollywood Florida, could become more prevalent under a new plan negotiated by Sen. Bill Galvano. [Willie J. Allen Jr. | Times]
  6. Sen. Galvano pitches sweeping gaming bill - compact, fantasy sports and more slots

    Blog

    Florida would become the nation’s slot machine capital under a sweeping rewrite of the state’s gaming laws filed Thursday that would give Miami-Dade and Broward each an additional slots venue, the Seminole Tribe seven full-scale casinos, and horse and dog tracks in at least eight counties new slots parlors.

    The proposal by Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, would broadly expand gaming in Florida by not only providing an opening for Genting, the Malaysian company, to build its long-sought resorts casino in Miami, it would also serve to prop up the declining horse and dog racing and jai alai industries by allowing them to breathe life into their operations with slot machines. For the newest gaming option, fantasy sports, the state would impose regulations, and require a permit to operate....

  7. Legislator's audit: Florida paid prison operator $16 million too much

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida prison officials used an opaque pricing scheme that inflated payments to a private prison company operating Lake City Correctional Facility, costing taxpayers millions instead of producing promised savings, according to a financial audit by a state legislator.

    Rep. David Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat and retired forensic auditor, investigated state payments to Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), now known as CoreCivic of Tennessee. He concluded contract terms approved by the Florida Department of Corrections led to at least $16 million in overcharges over the past seven years....

    Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, recently conducted a financial audit of Lake City Correctional Facility, which he said found prison officials intentionally inflated payments to the private prison company operating the facility, Correcctions Corporations of America (CCA), now known as CoreCivic of Tennessee.  [SCOTT KEELER    |    Times]
  8. Progress emerges on compact to trade stagnant permits for new slots licenses

    Blog

    Florida lawmakers have inched closer to renewing a 20-year, multi-million dollar gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida by allowing owners of declining parimutuels to sell their permits to others who want to install slot machines at newer facilities outside of South Florida.

    Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, have been actively negotiating with the Tribe and the governor’s office on a new gaming compact after a portion of the current one expired in October 2015, but the state can’t count on the revenue just yet....

  9. Proposed deal to swap old gaming permits for slot machines

    News

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers have inched closer to renewing a 20-year, multi-million dollar gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida by allowing owners of declining parimutuels to sell their permits to others who want to install slot machines at newer facilities outside of South Florida.

    Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, have been actively negotiating with the Tribe and the governor's office on a new gaming compact after a portion of the current one expired in October 2015, but the state can't count on the revenue just yet....

    The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa is the most lucrative facility in the Seminole Tribe's empire, making it unlikely the Tribe will approve any changes to its compact with the state that would allow nearby parimutuels to install slot machines. Nevertheless, lawmakers are negotiating a renewal that could allow the expansion of  slots outside South Florida.  [Photo Credit: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino]
  10. Everglades restoration: Debate rages over plan to spend $800 million to build a massive water cleaning reservoir

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — Should Florida buy land to save water?

    That simple question is shaping up to be a complicated and politically tangled debate this legislative session as the state's powerful sugar industry ramps up against the widening reach of water-weary local communities in an age of climate change and sea level rise.

    Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has made the issue a top priority when lawmakers meet in regular session beginning March 7....

    A plume of tainted water from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River laps the shore of Captiva, left, and Sanibel Islands off the southwest coast of Florida in February. Photo by John Moran/Springs Eternal Project.
  11. Senate plan to buy land to save water is getting mixed review

    Blog

    Should Florida buy land to save water?

    That simple question is shaping up to be a complicated and politically tangled debate this legislative session as the state’s powerful sugar industry ramps up against the widening reach of water-weary local communities in an age of climate change and sea level rise.

    On one side is Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who has made the issue a top priority when lawmakers meet in regular session beginning March 7. After a summer of watching toxic algae blooms poison local waterways, Negron decided that nearly 20 years is long enough to complete the state plan to build a water-cleansing reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to bring more clean water to South Florida and reduce the polluted discharges from the lake that spoiled the estuaries in his district on the east coast, and the Caloosahatchee River estuary on the west coast....

  12. Rep. Carlos Trujillo, Corcoran's budget chief, is on Trump's ambassador list to Latin America

    Blog

    When few Miami Republicans were willing to embrace Donald Trump, state Rep. Carlos Trujillo emerged early and at his side and stayed with him as a top Hispanic surrogate throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.

    Trujillo, 33, the son of Cuban immigrants, is now being recruited by the Trump administration to serve as ambassador to a Latin American country somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, the details of which are still being negotiated....

  13. Legislators say they'll require companies to disclose pollution spills

    Blog

    In the wake of the Mosaic fertilizer spill last summer, Florida legislators are drafting a law to require companies and local officials to notify the public when pollution threatens public drinking water.

    The legislation, being drafted by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, is in response to a judge's ruling on Friday that rejected an emergency rule imposed by Gov. Rick Scott in September. Scott's rule was imposed after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Mosaic, the world's largest phosphate company, failed to notify the public for more than three weeks that the company had dumped 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Florida aquifer....

  14. Justice Perry's exit interview: Go back to the original thinking of the Founders? No. Never.

    Blog

    Justice James E.C. Perry nestled a box of mementos under his arm, pulled his black robe off the hook in his Tallahassee office overlooking a grove of live oak trees, and left his corner office in Florida’s Supreme Court for the last time two weeks ago.

    Perry’s nearly eight-year career on the state’s highest court ends Friday. He is forced to retire because, at 72, he has reached Florida’s mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices....

  15. Retiring Florida justice: 'Apartheid America' then and 'Obama backlash' now

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Justice James E.C. Perry nestled a box of mementos under his arm, pulled his black robe off the hook in his Tallahassee office overlooking a grove of live oak trees, and left his corner office in Florida's Supreme Court for the last time two weeks ago.

    Perry's nearly eight-year career on the state's highest court ends today. He is forced to retire because, at 72, he has reached Florida's mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices....

    Gov. Charlie Crist appointed James Perry to the Florida Supreme Court in March 2009 despite being heavily lobbied to reject him by conservatives and Republican party donors. [Special to the Times]