Hundreds of jubilant same-sex couples made history Tuesday, lining up all over Florida to exchange vows after a federal judge overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
That same day in Miami, Jennifer Scott, 47, went to court for the flip side of that judicial ruling: Now Florida also must let gay and lesbian couples divorce.
It was "a very liberating moment," Scott said. "It let all the angst, frustration and anxiety that was lying under the surface for six years finally be released.''...
The medical marijuana fight is back on.
Attorney John Morgan's United for Care group has submitted a new constitutional amendment to the Florida Division of Elections that could go to voters as early as the 2016 general election.
United for Care's first proposed medical marijuana system gained 58 percent of the vote in November — two points shy of the 60 percent required to amend Florida's Constitution. That's close enough to make another effort worthwhile, said campaign director Ben Pollara....
12/26/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — City Council member Karl Nurse's question seemed so simple: If the Tampa Bay Rays plan to move to Tampa, why should the team benefit if St. Petersburg starts redeveloping Tropicana Field?
Nurse says he never intended to scuttle a deal to let the Rays embark on a regional stadium search. But when Rays president Brian Auld gave a blunt response to the question this month, Nurse's colleagues got their backs up and voted the deal down....
ST. PETERSBURG — A day after the City Council slammed the stadium door on the Tampa Bay Rays, two main players made pointed overtures toward reconciliation.
"Despite the tally last night there seems to be good momentum toward reaching an agreement,'' Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said Friday, referring to the council's 5-3 vote against a plan to let the team explore stadium sites in Hillsborough County....
12/18/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — The stadium standoff continues. Baseball's uncertain future in Tampa Bay has grown more complicated and — if possible — more testy.
The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday rejected an agreement negotiated by Mayor Rick Kriseman that would have given the Tampa Bay Rays three years to explore stadium sites in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.
Council members got their backs up when Rays president Brian Auld refused to yield an iota on development rights on Tropicana Field and other issues....
12/10/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — A day after announcing what he called an unprecedented agreement to let the Tampa Bay Rays look for stadium sites in Hillsborough County, Mayor Rick Kriseman asked the City Council on Wednesday to delay a vote on the deal for a week.
A vigorous lobbying effort by Kriseman and Rays executives fell short of persuading uneasy council members to support the complex deal right away. ...
12/09/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman on Tuesday announced a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays to let the team explore new stadium sites in Hillsborough County to keep them in the region and even — Kriseman hopes — in St. Petersburg.
The deal next goes to the City Council for a vote on Thursday. But within moments of Kriseman's news conference Tuesday, complications emerged....
12/09/14 Local Government
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the Tampa Bay Rays have reached a "memorandum of understanding" to let the team explore stadium sites in Tampa. The agreement will go to the City Council Thursday.
What would St. Petersburg get out of this deal?
The Tropicana Field contract expires in 2027. The team would pay $4 million for any lost season, or part of any season, before December 2018. That payment would drop to $3 million for any seasons lost between 2019 and 2022, and $2 million between 2022 and 2026. The city would also get in-kind compensation, such as season tickets and signs in the stadium, equivalent to a one-time payment of $1 million....
12/08/14 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman and the Tampa Bay Rays have negotiated an agreement to let the team search for new stadium sites in Hillsborough County in exchange for payments to the city if the team leaves before its contract at Tropicana Field expires in 2027.
Kriseman wants the City Council to approve the "memorandum of understanding" at its meeting on Thursday.
Payments would be based on how many years remain on the Trop lease if the Rays leave, starting at $4 million a season until December 2018, dropping to $3 million a season from 2019 to 2022 and $2 million from 2023 through 2026....
12/06/14 Local Government
TAMPA — After years of haggling with St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay Rays might soon get their chance to explore stadium sites in Tampa.
Major League Baseball prefers urban locations near office towers, restaurants, condos and parking garages — at least 10 acres in vibrant, walkable areas.
Unfortunately for the Rays, sites fitting that description are becoming hard to find in Tampa....
11/26/14 State Roundup
The group that put medical marijuana on the Florida ballot this year — and fell just short of passing it — intends to launch a new constitutional amendment campaign shortly.
"We are swiftly mobilizing a new petition push to get medical marijuana" on the next general election ballot, United for Care director Ben Pollara told supporters this week in a fundraising announcement.
A constitutional amendment would not be necessary if the Legislature approves medical marijuana by statute, but "we cannot rely on that," Pollara said. "We are going to pass a medical marijuana law in Florida by the end of 2016."...
ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the Tampa Bay Rays are nearing an agreement granting the team's long-standing wish to explore new stadium sites in Hillsborough County, people who have talked recently to the mayor say.
Kriseman "would like to get it done within the next month but definitely before Christmas'' so he can bring it to the City Council for approval, Council Chairman Bill Dudley said last week....
Attorney John Morgan's post-mortem and miscellaneous reflections on Amendment 2, the medical marijuana measure that won a majority of votes Tuesday, but not the 60 percent needed to succeed:
1. Blame the older voters: "People 65 and older really did us in,'' he told reporters Wednesday. "People 75 and older don't know the difference between marijuana, LSD and cocaine. They just think it's a drug and it's bad.''...
Medical marijuana may be spreading across the nation, but it will not gain a southern beachhead in Florida this year.
Though Amendment 2 once appeared to enjoy widespread support and did win a majority of votes Tuesday, it failed to clear 60 percent as required for constitutional amendments.
"We are very happy that our quality of life here in Florida is going to be preserved,'' said Calvina Fay, executive director of St. Petersburg's Drug Free America Foundation. "We are not going to be seeing pot shops everywhere. We are not going to see opportunities for marijuana to be promoted for our children. We are happy the voters in our state took time to actually read the amendment and vote smart.''...
Florida medical marijuana honcho John Morgan hopes for a victory on Amendment 2 when polls close on Tuesday. But a loss may not end the campaign, Morgan told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday. As long as the vote is close to the required 60 percent approval threshold, Morgan said, he will try again in 2016.
"I plan to win this,'' he said, saying his internal polls show it winning by a thin margin. "But if I lose a battle, I can damn sure still win the war.''...