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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

  1. Florida Senate concedes legal battle, sets special session to redraw districts

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — After spending nearly three years and millions of dollars defending its redistricting maps, the Florida Senate gave up the fight Tuesday as it conceded for the first time that the courts were going to find it violated the state Constitution.

    Lawyers for the League of Women Voters and Common Cause have argued the Republican-controlled Senate violated the so-called Fair Districts provision of the state Constitution that prohibits drawing lines to favor a political party or any incumbents....

    The Legislature will meet from Oct. 19 to Nov. 6, according to a joint statement put out by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, pictured, and Senate President Andy Gardiner. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  2. Is easy accord likely at last on redistricting? Lawyers hint it is as Senate settlement appears underway


    Signaling a new sense of cooperation between lawyers for the Legislature and a coalition of voters groups over redistricting, a hearing to organize the trial schedule for the congressional map lasted just over three minutes Monday as both sides hinted that an early accord is likely. 

    “I think there’s a high likelihood, with the specific direction that the Legislature has from the Supreme Court, that maybe we won’t need a long remedial hearing,’’ said David King, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, which include the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida. ...

  3. Clock running out on Hard Rock casino table games but Galvano says it's déjà vu


    A deal authorizing blackjack and other types of card games at casinos such as the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood and Tampa expires Friday.

    The state’s top gambling regulator wrote a letter to the tribe chairman Monday asking for a meeting where tribal leaders are expected to give state officials a timeline for closing down blackjack tables.

    Ken Lawson, the secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, pointed out that the existing compact requires the tribe to close its blackjack tables within 90 days if legislators do not renew the provision. A proposal to extend the games for one year was considered but did not pass the Florida Legislature. Story here. ...

  4. Senate, feeling effects of congressional redistricting, faces new dilemma


    Crisafulli and GardinerLike the aftershocks of an earthquake, Florida legislators are feeling the tremors of the Florida Supreme Court’s redistricting ruling on their own districts — particularly in the state Senate....

  5. State Senate races likely to face fallout of redistricting

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Like the aftershocks of an earthquake, Florida legislators are feeling the tremors of the Florida Supreme Court's redistricting ruling on their own districts — particularly in the state Senate.

    Senators who thought they had comfortable re-election bids are now facing uncertainty as questions loom about whether the same factors that led the court to invalidate the congressional map will provoke judges to reject the Senate political boundaries, too. That would force the Legislature into another special session to redraw the Senate map and potentially make politically safe districts for many incumbents more competitive. ...

    A new Senate map could force Sen. Jack Latvala to run in 2016.
  6. Court sets four-day trial for reviewing latest congressional redistricting map


    by Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida

    The Legislature and a coalition that successfully challenged the state's congressional districts have agreed to a schedule for a Leon County judge to determine whether lawmakers' second attempt to draw a map complies with the state Constitution.

    The agreement, submitted to the Leon County circuit court late Tuesday, calls for a hearing on the new map to begin Sept. 22 and wrap up no later than Sept. 25. Leon County Circuit Judge George S. Reynolds III, who is in charge of a separate legal challenge to districts for the state Senate, had already set a Sept. 25 deadline for the end of the congressional case.

    Circuit Judge Terry Lewis --- who oversaw the initial challenge to the congressional map --- will also handle the second hearing. The case will ultimately return to the Florida Supreme Court, which struck down eight districts in a 5-2 ruling earlier this month....

  7. As number of no-party voters soars and politics gets more polarized, groups pitches plan to open primaries


    PrimariesArmed with data showing that the fastest growing segment of Florida’s electorate is choosing no party affiliation, a bipartisan group of activists is pushing for a constitutional amendment to open Florida’s closed primary system to all voters....

  8. Group proposes amendment to open Florida's primaries to all voters

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Armed with data that shows that the fastest growing segment of Florida's electorate is choosing no party affiliation, a bipartisan group of activists is pushing for a constitutional amendment to open Florida's closed primary system to all voters.

    The All Voters Vote amendment will be delivered today to the Florida Division of Elections with the hope of getting enough signatures to place it on the 2016 ballot....

  9. Legislators set August special session to redraw Florida congressional map, order staff to limit contact

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida legislators announced Monday they will convene a 12-day special session starting Aug. 10 to comply with a court order to revise the state's congressional districts and will take some extraordinary measures to make sure staffers draw an initial base map without consulting anyone but lawyers.

    The unusual process is a response to the unprecedented situation in which legislators find themselves after the Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 to invalidate the state's congressional map because it was "tainted with unconstitutional intent to favor the Republicans and incumbents."...

  10. House and Senate name Oliva and Galvano to chair redistricting panels


    Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, and Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, will chair the respective House and Senate redistricting committees when lawmakers convene in a 12-day session beginning Aug. 10.

    Also on the Senate committee are Republican Sens. Rob Bradley, Tom Lee and David Simmons. Democratic senators are Chris Smith, Audrey Gibson and Bill Montford.

    In addition to Oliva, the House committee will include Republican Reps. Travis Cummings, Larry Metz,  Marlene O'Toole, David Santiago, Jennifer Sullivan, Carlos Trujillo and Dana Young. Democratic representatives include Reggie Fullwood, Jared Moskowitz, Mark Pafford and Irv Slosberg....

  11. Legislative leaders order staff to draw new congressional maps without input from outsiders


    House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner said Monday they will take an extraordinary hands-off approach to revising the eight congressional seats and will require staff to "report" any legislator who attempts to inject illegal intent into the process.

    In a carefully-worded, three-page memo to legislators, the Republican presiding officers announced that the House and Senate redistricting staff will "work collaboratively with House and Senate legal counsel to develop a base map that complies with the Florida Supreme Court’s recent ruling" which invalidated the state's congressional redistrict map....

  12. Jeb Bush vows to take on bureaucracy, revolving door of influence if elected

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — With Tallahassee as his backdrop, Jeb Bush vowed to "disrupt" the Washington establishment if he's elected president, by shrinking government, seeking a line-item veto, campaigning for a balanced budget amendment and imposing a six-year ban on the revolving door of Congressmen entering the lobbying corps.

    "The ultimate disruption of Washington is to reject, as I do, the whole idea of a government forever growing more, borrowing more and spending more," Florida's former governor told 350 supporters at Florida State University on Monday. It was the first in a series of speeches intended to outline his priorities in his presidential bid. ...

    Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, autographs campaign literature for a young supporter after speaking at the Florida State University Conference Center in Tallahassee on Monday. [Associated Press]
  13. Jeb vows to take on 'deficit spending' with proposals that mirror his time in Tallahassee


    House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner said Monday they will take an extraordinary hands-off approach to revising the state's eight congressional districts and asked staff to sequester itself from input and draw a joint "base map."

    Staff is ordered to refrain from talking to anyone but legal counsel about the maps and "report" any legislators who attempts to inject illegal intent into the process.  ...

  14. Excerpts from speech: Jeb promises to reform the civil service system


    Borrowing a term from popular culture, Jeb Bush today will tell a Tallahassee audience that if elected president in 2016, he will not "preside" over the "establishment" in Washington but will "disrupt that establishment and make it accountable to the people."

    In excerpts of his speech to a GOP audience at Florida State University, he is suggesting that will mean disrupting the civil service system, as he did in Florida with his controversial efforts to seek civil service reforms. ...

  15. Jeb Bush returns to Tallahassee to target Washington and pitch ideas


    Jeb Bush returns to the Florida capital Monday brining the same anti-big-government message he used to win the Governor’s Mansion to his quest to take the White House in 2016.

    The former governor, who served from 1998-2006, will kick off the first of a series of speeches outlining  his priorities at Florida State Universit. His target: “Mount Washington,’’ as he portrays himself as an outsider ready to reform....