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The Problem With “Step Up for Students,” Florida’s Voucher Jockey

| March 24, 2014

Step Up For Children CEO Doug Tuthill is shameless about the way his organization–the administrative agent for Florida’s school voucher program–spends lavishly on political races, which may explain why a Senate proposal to vastly expand the voucher program this year foundered.

Bill Vastly Expanding School Vouchers Dies As Questions About Accountability Mounted

| March 22, 2014

The decision represents a defeat for the GOP’s Will Weatherford, who was home schooled as a child and strongly pushed the expansion of the system, which gives companies tax credits for donating to scholarship funds that help children attend private schools. Under the bills, retailers would have been allowed to divert sales-tax payments to the system.

Spurred By Judge Craig’s Drubbing of Palm Coast, Rep. Hutson Calls for Repeal of Red-Light Cameras

| March 21, 2014

Calling himself “in complete opposition to the use of red light cameras in Florida,” Rep. Travis Hutson, whose district includes all of Flagler County, took the unusual stop of criticizing Palm Coast’s method of unduly punishing vehicle owners who are cited even though they may not be driving the cited vehicle. He called attention to two measures that would repeal ca,eras or change the rules in drivers’ favor.

In-State Tuition For Undocumented Immigrants Passes House, 81-33, as GOP Opposition Thins

| March 20, 2014

The measure allows undocumented immigrants to pay cheaper, in-state tuition rates if they attend Florida middle and high schools for at least four straight years before going to college.

Florida National Guard Stalls Proposal to Let Residents Carry Unlicensed Weapons During Emergencies

| March 19, 2014

Concerns expressed by the Florida National Guard stalled an NRA-backed Senate proposal that would allow people without concealed-weapons licenses to carry concealed firearms when forced outside in times of emergency.

Senate Panel Unanimously Approves Minor Changes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law

| March 18, 2014

The bill would clarify that a law enforcement agency must fully investigate whether a person claiming self-defense has lawfully used force. It also would no longer preclude lawsuits from third parties who are injured by negligent conduct used in self-defense.

Common Core and FCAT Replacement Test Leads “Florida Standards” To $220-Million Contract With AIR

| March 17, 2014

The $220 million contract with American Institutes for Research, which has been providing tests for just seven years, will be cheaper than it would have been to go forward with a test developed by a multi-state consortium that Gov. Rick Scott ordered Stewart to back away from last year, according to the Department of Education.

Unemployment Spike to 9.3% in Flagler Masks Larger Labor Force, More Job Creation and Flurry of Development Ahead

| March 17, 2014

Flagler County’s January unemployment is up sharply from from 8.8 percent in December. but in a brighter sign, the county’s labor force also added some 400 people, there was a net gain of some 200 jobs, and numerous commercial, residential and government construction projects suggest that the county’s economy is brightening.

Eight Gay Couples Married Elsewhere File Federal Lawsuit Challenging Florida’s Rights Violations

| March 14, 2014

The lawsuit lists numerous examples of alleged disparate treatment, such as the state retirement system providing benefits to the surviving spouses of dead public employees who were in heterosexual marriages. Such benefits are not available to surviving spouses in same-sex marriages.

Sheriff Jim Manfre: How To Restore Common Sense to Stand Your Ground

| March 13, 2014

The public’s valid concern over the vigilante-style actions of certain people who have watched too many Western movies should be dealt with through legislative action, argues Sheriff Jim Manfre, starting with a definition of self-defense that doesn;t leave its determination in the perpetrator’s hands.

Former Gov. Reubin Askew, Towering Force Behind Modern Florida, Is Dead at 85

| March 13, 2014

Reubin Askew, who died on March 13, led efforts to institute a corporate income tax, while reducing consumer taxes. He also spearheaded approval of what became known as the “Sunshine Amendment,” which opened government records and required public officials to disclose information about their financial affairs.

GOP’s Jolly Beats Sink in Congressional Election That Augurs Trouble for Democrats’ Midterms

| March 11, 2014

Both parties viewed the special election to replace Rep Bill Young as a critical test of their chances for success in the mid-term elections in November. The result spells trouble for Democrats, who are expected to lose seats in the House–amplifying the Republican majority–and possibly lose the Senate, which they’ve held since 2006.

Marco Rubio Flirts With Immigration Reform Then Capitulates to the Lunatic Fringe

| March 11, 2014

Rubio placed a dismal seventh at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in a straw poll of likely GOP presidential hopefuls, where his kind of immigration talk doesn’t sit well with the GOP fringe, political or lunatic, writes Andrew Skerritt.

NRA-Backed Measure to Let Armed Vets and Ex-Cops In Schools Triggers Controversy

| March 11, 2014

Under the bill, opposed by the state School Board Association, principals and school superintendents could appoint staff members or volunteers who are military veterans with honorable discharges, active military or retired law enforcement officials as gun-toting “designees.”

Al Sharpton Leads Call For Repeal of Stand Your Ground in Florida Capitol March

| March 10, 2014

Sharpton marched alongside the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, two teens the marchers said were wrongly killed under Florida’s first-in-the-nation law, which allows people to use deadly force when they feel their lives are in danger and provides immunity from prosecution.

A Florida Panther Struck By a Car Last May Is Returned to the Wild After 10-Month Rehab

| March 10, 2014

The 9-month-old kitten was panther was rescued in Collier County last May after a homeowner saw it drag her hind leg. She went through two surgeries and rehabilitated in a 10-acre enclosure before she was released back into the wild on March 10 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Supreme Court Calls on Florida Legislature to Legalize Right of Undocumented Immigrant “Dreamers” To Practice Law

| March 7, 2014

The Florida Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Thursday that undocumented immigrants cannot be admitted to The Florida Bar, calling on the Legislature to change state law to allow so-called “Dreamers” to become attorneys.

Life Without Parole for Juveniles: Florida Struggles to Comply With Supreme Court Ruling

| March 6, 2014

Florida sentences more juveniles to life in prison without parole than any other state, but the pressure is on the Legislature this year to comply with restrictive U.S. Supreme Court rulings because without sentencing guidelines, the Florida judiciary is filling the gap one case at a time.

Speed Limit of 75 Advances Against AAA Opposition as House Panel Endorses Measure

| March 5, 2014

The House Transportation & Highway Safety Subcommittee voted 13-1 to support the measure (HB 761), which would direct the state Department of Transportation to determine the safe minimum and maximum speed limits on all divided highways that have least four lanes.

With His Job in Mind, Gov. Scott Campaigns to “Keep Working” in State of the State Address

| March 4, 2014

The half-hour speech, delivered before a joint meeting of the Legislature, plowed little to no new ground on the policies the governor will tout during the 60-day session that opened Tuesday. But Scott used the speech to connect his family’s financial troubles when he was young to his quest to bring more jobs to the state.

Angel’s Diner in Palatka: Radiant Relay

| March 4, 2014

Angel’s Diner in Palatka is reported to be the oldest diner in Florida, across the street from the stately Larimer Arts Center and a toast’s throw from the St. Johns River. It’s also proving to be the ideal relay on the way to a nuking.

Moral Monday Comes to Florida as NAACP Leads Capitol Protest, and Right-Wingers Respond

| March 3, 2014

“Moral Monday” included an array of left-leaning groups calling for lawmakers to expand Medicaid, stop the state’s voter purge and roll back the “stand your ground” self-defense law, while a right-wing group later held its own event to oppose expanding Medicaid and support overhauling the state’s pension system, cut taxes and expand school vouchers.

Gov. Scott’s Secret Travels, Boy Scout Bigotry Loses Disney, Here Come Hillary and Jeb: The Live Wire

| March 3, 2014

Gov. Scott travels secretly on his private jet, claiming a dubious security exemption, the Boy Scouts deservedly lose Disney grants for insisting on remaining homophobes, a town in Nebraska enshrines anti-immigrant racism in its ordinances, Israel invites tourist target-practice against Palestinians, and a farewell to Paco de Lucia.

Enterprise Florida’s Version of Economic Development: Lavish Perks at Steakhouses, Hotels and Yankee Stadium

| March 3, 2014

Enterprise Florida, The state’s economic development agency, is under fire again. This time, a recent report highlighted lavish spending by its staff, which prompted a watchdog group to ask the governor to launch an investigation.

From Child Protection to Early learning, Advocates Aim For More Serious Funding From 2014 Legislature

| March 2, 2014

With Florida’s coffers filling again and state leaders focusing on child protection, advocates are hopeful the 2014 legislative session will bring both policy and funding gains for children’s services as high-profile issues include a massive crackdown on sexually violent predators and an overhaul of the child-welfare system.

Lock and Load: NRA-Willing, Florida Legislature Takes On Slew of New Gun Legislation

| February 28, 2014

Bills dealing with toaster pastries and insurance policies are just two of more than a dozen gun-related measures lined up for the 2014 legislative session that starts Tuesday. As in previous years, many of them will go nowhere, especially if Marion Hammer, the National Rifle Association’s powerful Florida lobbyist, doesn’t like them.

Ten Issues to Watch as Florida’s Legislative Session Starts

| February 28, 2014

Florida lawmakers will start the 2014 session Tuesday with a budget surplus and an eye on the November elections. But they still will have to address some tough questions before the session ends May 2. Among the questions: How can Florida better protect vulnerable children? Is it time to overhaul the state pension system? And should the state allow resort casinos to set up shop? Here are 10 issues to watch during the next two months.

Lawmaker Files Bill Favoring Trauma Centers Run by HCA, Gov. Scott’s Former Company

| February 27, 2014

The proposal, opposed by numerous Florida hospitals, would help the HCA health-care chain keep trauma centers open and could short-circuit a debate about how the Florida Department of Health determines where new trauma centers should be allowed to open.

Convicted in Trooper’s Murder, Paul Howell Is Executed, Gov. Scott’s 15th

| February 27, 2014

Howell was convicted in 1994 in the 1992 murder of Florida Highway Patrol trooper Jimmy Fulford in 1992 when a bomb Howell manufactured exploded in the trooper’s hands after a traffic stop.

A Matanzas High Teacher Reveals Her Evaluation Scores, and the Absurdity of Florida’s “VAM” Scam

| February 26, 2014

What do my almighty “VAM” scores reveal about me, my students, the quality of my instruction or what goes on in my classroom? Absolutely nothing, writes JoAnn Nahirny, who deconstructs Florida’s new teacher-evaluation scores, hers among them, and shows why they have little basis in reality, though they may well define a teacher’s fate.

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