As Fla. lawmakers push to limit LGBTQ discussions in schools, Orlando vows to keep teaching its history
After a gunman killed 49 people at Pulse nightclub in 2016, breaking the heart of this city, Orlando created some of the most LGBTQ-friendly public schools in the country. Now state lawmakers are considering reining that in.washingtonpost.com
Florida Senate steams forward on port restrictions for cruise ships
The Senate continued moving forward Wednesday with an effort to overturn a 2020 vote in Key West intended to limit cruise ship operations. The Senate Community Affairs Committee voted 5-3 to approve a bill (SB 426) that had been narrowed to address municipal-run ports in Key West, Pensacola, Panama City and St. Petersburg. Of the municipal-run ports, only Key West has cruise ship operations, though negotiations are underway to bring cruise ships to Panama City. Lobbyist Josh Aubuchon, representing the group Florida Ports for Economic Independence, said the Key West referendum didn’t ban cruise ships. And there’s jobs because of the businesses that sell to these tourists and entertain these tourists.
Funding debate remains in controversial Bright Futures bill
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Senate panel on Tuesday scaled back a bill that would have reduced Bright Futures scholarships for students pursuing certain degrees, but opponents are now focusing criticism on whether the measure will jeopardize future funding for the program. “I got well over 2,000 communications regarding this bill, so this is a very popular bill,” Baxley said of the controversial proposal, eliciting laughs from some lawmakers on the panel. AdAfter the outcry that included a student-led opposition campaign, most controversial parts of the bill have been eliminated. However, the lists would have no bearing on the awarding of Bright Futures scholarships and Benacquisto Scholarships for National Merit scholars. AdSeo is part of the student-led group Save Bright Futures, which was formed in response to the bill.
Florida Senate likely to scale back Bright Futures bill
The measure is scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee. However, the lists would have no bearing on how Bright Futures scholarships and Benacquisto Scholarships for National Merit scholars are awarded. Ron DeSantis voiced his support for the Bright Futures program, telling reporters that he wants to fully fund the scholarships. “I’ve made very clear, I think Bright Futures is something that Florida families have relied upon. Even as he proposed changes to his bill, Baxley wrote Monday that he still wants to strengthen a connection between higher education and the workforce.
Florida Bright Futures revamp clears its first hurdle
An amendment adopted by the committee changed the proposal from completely cutting Bright Futures aid for certain majors to reducing the scholarship amounts awarded to students. “We are still concerned about the repeal of the promise to pay either 100 or 75 percent of student and fees for Bright Futures students. Any cuts for Bright Futures will make it harder for students to reach their goals” said Alexandra Valdes, student-body president at Florida International University. “Bright Futures is not an entitlement program. AdThe proposal also would create the Florida Bright Opportunities Grant Program, aimed at helping pay tuition and fees for students eligible for need-based Pell grants.
Should details of elections security breaches in Florida be kept from the public?
“Shouldn’t the public know if there is a security breach,” Wilcox told the USA Network. In 2015, there was an election security hack in Florida that involved several counties. The exact details of that have still not been made public, and that would still be the case under the new proposal. If Broxson’s proposal passes, information about hacks would have to come from the state division of elections and not local supervisors. He said if there is a breach in security, information about that breach would have to come from police agencies, not his office.
Bill would reduce Bright Futures for degrees with low job prospects
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – How much money a student receives from their Bright Futures scholarship may depend on what major they pick if a bill passed Tuesday by its first Senate committee becomes law. The bill sponsor argues the goal is to ensure students have the best chance of getting a job after graduation. Nearly 3 million Florida students have helped pay for college with a Bright Futures scholarship. It is dictating our choices when it comes to majors, parents’ choices, students’ choices,” said Polsky. Baxley said it’s his hope the state won’t identify any programs that wouldn’t be eligible for full Bright Futures funding.
Bright Futures proposal to see changes
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Under pressure that has included a student-led opposition campaign, lawmakers are expected to overhaul a controversial Senate proposal that would tie Bright Futures scholarships to a list of job-creating degrees. The measure (SB 86) was tabled last week before it was set to be considered by the Senate Education Committee. AdBut the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday is expected to consider an amendment that would make significant changes to the bill. The change tying Bright Futures eligibility to the lists would go into effect during the 2023-2024 academic year, which is one year later than the original plan proposed. And so, we’re still going to be looking to scale back the Bright Futures portion of that opportunity if it does not lead to a job,” Simpson said.
Florida lawmakers move to ban absentee ballot drop boxes
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Republicans moved Wednesday to revise the state’s vote-by-mail system, banning ballot drop boxes and resetting the absentee ballot rolls in a step that would require millions of voters to reapply for mail-in ballots ahead of next year’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections. They are also moving to restrict other people from dropping off a voter’s ballot, a practice known as “ballot harvesting.”“It's not that there was a debacle so we have to fix it. So they pushed hard to get Democratic voters to apply for absentee ballots that they could put in the mail or deliver drop into special collection boxes. AdIn November, Florida Democrats outvoted Republicans by mail by 680,000 more mail ballots. ___The name of the League of Women Voters of Florida has been corrected by removing an extraneous word.
Florida lawmakers put Bright Futures revamp on hold
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A controversial Senate proposal that would cut state-backed Bright Futures scholarships for students in degree programs that don’t “lead directly to employment” has been put on hold and is expected to undergo changes. Under the bill, if students at state colleges and universities enroll in degree programs that are not on lists of “approved” programs, they would not be eligible for Bright Futures scholarships. Students who have not chosen degree programs would be eligible to have 60 hours of coursework covered by the scholarship. At least some of that input is coming from a group of prospective college students who are opposing the bill under the moniker Save Bright Futures. Baxley’s proposal would tie the amount of students’ Bright Futures scholarships to the amount appropriated in the state budget.
Controversial Pasco County school-to-police records pipeline could end under legislation
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A controversial three-year agreement that has Pasco County Schools sharing student data with the Sheriff’s Office could soon end under legislation moving in the State Capitol. For three years, Pasco Schools have been providing the Pasco Sheriff’s Office with student data, then cross-referenced for any law enforcement contact and possible follow-up. AdIf approved, the Parents’ Rights legislation would take effect July 1, just in time for the fall semester. The Pasco School Superintendent did not return our call. We did speak to the Pasco County Sheriffs Office, which said it has not planed to work against the legislation.
Florida father pushes for CPR mandate in high schools
It’s a promise Sima made when his daughter collapsed while running on a treadmill in a gym near their Melbourne home. “She was flying through the air off that treadmill and that’s when the clock started ticking.”At the time, Sima’s 16-year-old daughter, Lexi, was the picture of health. Their story was so powerful, they convinced State Sen. Dennis Baxley to sponsor a bill that would make CPR training mandatory for high school seniors to graduate. “It could be during a health class, physical education, sports,” he said, adding that the new mandate would not require any additional school funding but would instead draw from community programs that offer CPR training for free. For Sima, an Air Force veteran who now works as an orthopedic physician’s assistant, CPR training has become a mission: education as many people about the life-saving skill as possible.
Florida is a model for voting. The GOP wants change anyway.
Yet three months later, Florida Republicans have set out to overhaul the state's voting system anyway. To explain the efforts, Florida Republicans point not to evidence of problems but to the potential for voter fraud and suspicion about the process. State Republican lawmakers in Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania have introduced voting bills, many aimed at curbing mail voting. While ballot counts in many states new to mail voting dragged on for days, Florida's count was quick and efficient. AdIn Florida, state Sen. Dennis Baxley, the bill's author, says he isn't trying for any partisan advantage but simply wants to reverse a 2007 measure that created the two-year window.
Bill changing vote-by-mail ballot rules sparks debate in Florida Senate
“This bill gives vote-by-mail security and choice,” Baxley said before his committee voted 5-4 to approve the measure. “This is a good bill. Under current law, Floridians’ vote-by-mail ballot requests are good for the years including the next two general elections. For instance, if a person requests a vote-by-mail ballot this year, the request would be good for all elections through 2022. The effect would be that people would have to request vote-by-mail ballots more often.
Controversial union dues bill backed in Florida Senate
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With unions and business groups squaring off, a Senate committee Wednesday backed a controversial proposal about the process for deducting union dues from the paychecks of public employees. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill (SB 78), which appears to be moving quickly toward a vote by the full Senate after the 2021 legislative session starts in March. That would be in addition to a current process of union bargaining agents submitting written requests to begin deductions. Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, described the bill as “borderline intimidation.”The bill has drawn opposition from major unions, including the Florida AFL-CIO, the Florida Education Association, the Florida Police Benevolent Association and Florida Professional Firefighters. AdThe bill is slated to go to the Senate Rules Committee next week and then could be ready to go to the full Senate.
Florida could expand law allowing babies to be surrendered
Florida now allows parents to anonymously surrender a newborn approximately seven days old at a hospital, fire station or emergency medical services station. It also would allow for a baby box at any of those facilities that are staffed 24 hours a day. "The box system doesn't provide for immediate care for the mother and the baby." There have been 324 babies surrendered in Florida since the safe haven law was enacted in 2000, compared to 62 that were abandoned in unsafe places, according to a legislative staff analysis. The Senate bill has one more committee stop before being considered by the full Senate.
Bill aims to ban abortions after 20 weeks in Florida
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A new bill would make it illegal for doctors in Florida to perform abortions after more than 20 weeks of gestation. The legislation, which would essentially ban almost all abortions in the state after 20 weeks, would mean that doctors who perform the procedure after that timeframe could be charged with a felony. Under the legislation, doctors who break the law could face a felony and five years in prison. It’s not always right or wrong, black or white.”Activist Charo Valero said mothers already face big problems getting abortions. Opponents believe the legislation violates the second trimester, or 24 weeks, allowed under Roe v. Wade.
3 years after Parkland, lawmakers mixed on Florida’s gun laws
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Sunday will mark three years since the Parkland High School mass shooting that left 17 students and staff dead. Manuel Oliver’s son, Joaquin, was one of the 17 killed in the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Oliver, who says her son was also her best friend, is still waiting for lawmakers to take action. AdAfter the Parkland shooting, the Legislature increased the age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21. The same legislation also allowed trained school staff to possess firearms on school grounds.
Mandatory moment of silence, civic education bills on fast track
The Florida legislative session hasn’t officially begun, but both bills are already moving forward in committees. Baxley wants to mandate a moment of silence at the start of each school day. “Who knows what a moment of silence can do for each of us,” said Baxley. “Requiring a moment of silence sets up other people who do not want to take part in this for bullying,” said Graham. AdTextbooks wouldn’t be at the center of the program, instead, they would teach students by actually getting them involved in the political process.
2020 a record year for gun sales in Florida
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Background checks conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show a record number of Floridians are purchasing guns this year. Gun industry insiders say civil unrest and the election have created a perfect storm for increased demand. With two and a half months left to go in the year, it’s already smashed the previous record set in 2016. “We’ve seen a unprecedented number of people coming and buying guns,” Charlie Strickland, owner of Talon Tactical Outfitters in Midway, Florida, said. If Trump wins, there could also be a spike if civil unrest continues.
Healthy Marriage Guide making gains in the Florida Legislature
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – There were 156,168 marriages in Florida in 2018, and nearly half as many divorces. At least five states already require couples to read a marriage guide before they can be wed.Florida would be the next if sponsor Dennis Baxley has his way. The publication is more like a glossy magazine than the currently required Florida bar pamphlet. “It’s the height of hypocrisy,” said Barbara DeVane with the Florida chapter of the National Organization for Women. Clerks of Court would be required to post the publication on their websites and and hand out copies when available.
Parental consent for abortion slows down in Florida Senate
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Time ran short Tuesday, delaying a vote in a Senate health-care panel on a controversial bill that would require minors to get parental consent before having abortions. The Senate Health Policy Committee met for 90 minutes to discuss the bill (SB 404), but Democrats on the panel proposed 15 amendments. While the committee didn't take public testimony on the bill, the meeting drew supporters and opponents to the Senate. Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, said she will put the parental-consent measure on the committee's agenda when it meets again next month. Along with the Health Policy Committee, the bill would need to go to the Senate Judiciary and Rules committees before it could get a vote in the full Senate.
Florida lawmakers want couples to read marriage guide before tying knot
While that question may never truly be answered, a group of Florida lawmakers believe the state isn't doing enough to help new marriages succeed. Baxely is backing a bill that would provide couples seeking a marriage license with an informational package full of marriage advice and resources. Richard Albertson with Live the Life said the guides would help steer couples to the existing marriage resources in the state. "You're talking about temporary assistance for needy families, the child welfare system, the juvenile justice system, Medicaid," Yarborough said. Those seeking a marriage license would have to sign off saying they've received and read the guide, but sponsors said whether couples follow the advice is out of their hands.
Bible courses proposed for public schools
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A Senate Republican filed a proposal Monday that would require high schools to offer elective courses in the study of the Bible and religion. Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, filed the bill (SB 746) for consideration during the 2020 legislative session, which starts Jan. 14. Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville, filed an identical bill (HB 341) last month in the House. The bill, in part, would require courses providing an "objective study of the Bible, including, but not limited to, a course on the Hebrew Scriptures and Old Testament of the Bible; a course on the New Testament of the Bible; and a course on the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible, and the New Testament of the Bible." Also, the bill says courses would be required to follow "all state and federal laws and guidelines in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions, and perspectives of all students in the school.
Fetal heartbeat' bill filed for 2020 session
Photo Illustration/CNNTALLAHASSEE, Fla. - State Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, will make a renewed attempt during the 2020 legislative session to pass a "fetal heartbeat" bill that would dramatically limit abortions in Florida. Hill this week filed a bill (HB 271) that would block physicians from performing abortions if fetal heartbeats have been detected. Hill and Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, also filed such bills for the 2019 session, but the measures were not taken up in House and Senate committees. Hill filed his bill for the 2020 session as Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, also filed a proposal (HB 265) that would require parents to give consent before minors can have abortions. That would be an expansion of a current requirement that parents receive notification if their daughters plan to have abortions.
Florida cracks down on human trafficking ahead of 2020 Super Bowl
Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed 15 bills, including a measure that allows needle-exchange programs across the state and a plan to help curb human trafficking. He signed it just a few days after a human trafficking sting in Tampa yielded 85 arrests. "This activity is, unfortunately, taking place in hotels and motels in the state of Florida," said Samantha Padgett, with Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. In the week of last years Super Bowl in Atlanta, more than 160 people were arrested on human trafficking charges. They can help us be the eyes and ears on the ground to prevent human trafficking," Moody said.
Needle exchange, human trafficking bills signed
Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed 15 bills, including a measure that allows needle-exchange programs across the state and a plan to help curb human trafficking. The needle-exchange bill (SB 366) is aimed at preventing the spread of diseases such as HIV by intravenous drug users and builds off a Miami-Dade County pilot program that lawmakers authorized in 2016. An early iteration of this years legislation would have allowed the use of tax dollars to help fund the needle-exchange programs, but House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, objected. Lawmakers ultimately did not allow the use of state or county money for the programs, which can receive private funds. DeSantis office Wednesday night released the list of 15 bills he had signed.