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Rochelle Koff, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Rochelle Koff

Rochelle Koff is a reporter in the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau. She previously worked at the Miami Herald as a business, news and features editor, reporter and Broward restaurant critic. Rochelle was also a reporter at the Sun-Sentinel and earned a bachelor's degree from Temple University.

Phone: (850) 224-7263.

Email: rkoff@tampabay.com

Twitter: @RKoff

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  1. Judge rejects lottery for medical marijuana growers; orders health department to write new rules

    Blog

    An administrative law judge on Friday ordered the Florida Department of Health to start over and map out a new plan for growing, processing and selling a form of medical marijuana, known as Charlotte's Web.

    Judge W. David Watkins of the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, rejected the idea of a controversial lottery to pick the nurseries that would grow the plants, a decision that could impact when the marijuana oil will be available to patients....

  2. State committee examines Florida's share of the gaming industry

    Blog

    The closing of Dania Casino & Jai-Alai's gaming operation is expected to cost the state an estimated $3 million in tax revenue, a state committee reported on Thursday.

    The Revenue Estimating Conference looked at money received from slot machines and Indian gaming in one of its three meetings of the year -- the last meeting was in July.

    Gaming revenues grow about 1.5 percent per year, said Amy Baker, coordinator of the state Office of Economic & Demographic Research. The forecast is slightly lower for the upcoming year because of the loss of the Dania Beach gambling. The state revenue from slot machines is an estimated $181.7 million though figures were adjusted slightly at Thursday's meeting and the final numbers aren't yet available.

    While jai-alai games are continuing at the longtime Dania Beach facility until Dec. 30th, the slots have already been shut down. The casino has announced that it would close for at least a year for a $50 million renovation. The Miami Herald reported in August the facility had the worst revenue performance in the South Florida gaming market....

  3. Report: Florida's business tax climate 5th best in the country but TaxWatch says there's a need for reforms

    Blog

    A new national report ranks Florida's business tax climate as fifth best in the nation, but it doesn't reflect the whole picture of the state's tax system, according to Florida TaxWatch.

    "In a couple areas, it overstates the quality of Florida's tax structure," Kurt Wenner, vice president of Tax Research for Florida TaxWatch, said.

    Florida's ranking was published in the 2015 State Business Tax Climate Index, an annual report that analyzes how tax structures compare across states....

  4. Movers & Shakers

    Blog

    Retired analyst for Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee back on the job

    Carol Preston, who retired as chief legislative analyst for the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs the end of last year, has returned to the post.

    Preston served for five years in the Senate and 14 years in the House before her retirement. At a December Senate meeting, Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, paid tribute to Preston's work, saying the analyst "personally wrote most of the laws that we're dealing with and fixed the ones that needed fixing."...

  5. Simmons named new Senate Rules Chair

    Blog

    Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamone Springs, has been named by Senate President-Designate Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, as the new chair of the Senate Committee on Rules. 

    "David is a loyal advisor, a trusted confidante and good friend," Gardiner said in a press release. "With over three decades of experience practicing law and ten years of service in the state legislature, he is well-qualified to assume this critical leadership position. Throughout his years of public service, David has exhibited sound judgment and a fair-minded, reasonable and thoughtful approach to decision making that, I am confident, will be a great benefit to the Senate over the next two years."...

  6. Bipartisan coalition to push for ban against anti-gay and LGBT discrimination in the workplace

    Blog

    Looking ahead to the 2015 legislative session, Florida Businesses for a Competitive Workforce has hired a team of bipartisan political operatives to push for a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    President Obama's top 2012 Florida strategist, Ashley Walker, will be campaign manager of the coalition. She'll be joined by longtime Republican lobbyist Towson Fraser, who was communications director for former House Speaker Allan Bense; Ann Herberger, a Miami-based Republican fundraiser and an advisor to former Gov. Jeb Bush; and Christina Johnson, a Tallahassee public relations executive who worked with the Republican Party of Florida and the Republican National Committee....

  7. Ken Detzner predicts a smooth Election Day at the polls

    Blog

    Voting is going "very smoothly" this morning, with all polls opening on time in the state's 6,222 precincts, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said at an elections briefing in Tallahassee.

    While millions are expected to vote today, the number of early votes cast could be a record, he said. As of last night, 1.7 million Floridians voted by absentee ballot and 1.3 million voted in-person at the polls. By party, 655,020 Democrats and 791,324 Republicans voted by absentee ballot and 555,473 Democrats and 518,476 Republicans voted early in-person at the polls....

    Secretary of State Ken Detzner discusses Election Day voting at a briefing in Tallahassee on Tuesday.
  8. Medical marijuana supporters blast latest web ad from opponents

    Blog

    With less than a week until the election, supporters and opponents of Amendment 2, which would allow marijuana for medical use, are still waging a fierce battle to sway voters.

    Amendment 2 advocates, United for Care, is blasting the latest salvo from the Drug Free Florida Committee. The political action committee on Wednesday launched a web ad featuring Polk County Sheriff Gray Judd....

  9. Report: Florida leads nation in disenfranchising offenders released from prison

    Blog

    The Sentencing Project has released a report showing that Florida has the highest felony disenfranchisement rate in the country, another issue dividing Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist.

    In 2011, Scott and the Cabinet imposed strict new barriers on felons who want to regain the right to vote, tossing out a streamlined policy adopted in 2007 by Crist and a different Cabinet. The discarded policy allowed tens of thousands of nonviolent offenders to regain their civil rights without a time-consuming application and hearing process. Murders and sex offenders were not eligible for faster review under the system approved by Crist and the Cabinet in 2007....

  10. Movers & Shakers

    Blog

    New leadership for Senate Democratic Office: David Cox, previously a senior legislative analyst for House Democrats and a former newspaper reporter, will be jumping into a new role as staff director of the Florida Senate Democratic Office on Nov. 1st.

    "David is a wonderful addition to the office staff," Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, the incoming Senate Democratic Leader, said in a press release. "His energy and knowledge of the legislative process will not only benefit our Democratic members, but the Senate as well."

    Cox, a University of Florida graduate, began working for the House in 2005. His journalistic career includes covering state government and the legislature for The Tampa Tribune and The Orlando Sentinel, among other publications. He also worked as a member of the Florida State University's media relations team....

  11. Public records available -- for a tab of $132,348

    Blog

     State agencies often charge for public records, but one news organization encountered sticker shock when it received the bill for its request. Florida's 17th judicial circuit court charged the Center for Public Integrity $132,348 for records regarding the procedures and policies surrounding foreclosure cases last summer

    A story from the investigative news organization states that Alexandra Rieman, general counsel for the circuit that includes Fort Lauderdale and Broward County, said the public records request would require staff to sort through 149,000 emails. That, in turn, would require 2,500 staff member hours at rates of either $45 or $53 an hour, which added up to the $132,348 figure. And whatever records the court system did provide would cost another 15 cents a page, Rieman added, without including estimates of staffer hours and hourly rates....

  12. Florida's hangup: High cell phone taxes and fees

    Blog

    If you think you're forking over too much of your paycheck to pay your cell phone bill, you're not imagining things.

    Florida has the fourth highest average state-local cell phone tax and fee rate in the country at 16.55 percent, according to a study by the Washington-D.C.-based Tax Foundation.

    "If you add in the 5.82% federal rate, Floridians are actually paying 22.38% of their wireless bill in taxes fees on average. The U.S. average combined federal, state, and local rate is 17.05%," according to the group's press release....

  13. Survey: Public lacks information on amendments, rates state badly for health care for seniors

    Blog

    A majority of Floridians believe the passage of a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana will lead to recreational use, according to the latest report from the Sunshine State Survey. But most of those surveyed said they didn't get enough information about proposed amendments or only heard one side.

    The survey, administered by the University of South Florida School of Public Affairs and Nielsen, also offers Floridians' views on health care, race relations, elections and transportation....

  14. Movers & Shakers

    Blog

    Update on the Status of Women: Melissa Hagan has been appointed by Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

    Hagan and her husband, Aaron, own Emerald Coast Interview Consulting, and she recently served as chief development Ooficer for Gulf Coast State College. Hagan, of Lynn Haven, is a former teacher, curriculum designer and caseworker for at-risk youth....

  15. Smith and Rader co-sponsor legislation

    Blog

    Prompted by stories written by a Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald capital reporter on problems plaguing the greyhound racing industry, Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale and Rep. Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton, have filed the Greyhound Safety Act to tighten regulations. Reporter Mary Ellen Klas  found myriad concerns in areas ranging from greyhound injuries  to rogue operators being allowed to train and own racing dogs....