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  • Confederate Controversy 1, July6, 2015
    Monday was supposed to be a joyous celebration of the new class of Florida Veterans inducted into the state’s Veterans Hall of Fame.  But as Matt Galka tells us, a wild scene erupted because of a Confederate Veteran supporter. David McCallister with the Sons of Confederate Veterans group was outraged Monday. He’s pushed for Confederate […]
    Matt Galka
  • Punching Video leads to charges against FSU Quarterback De’Andre Johnson 1, July6, 2015
    Surveillance video released by the office of State Attorney Willie Meggs appears to show freshman FSU quarterback De’Andre Johnson punching a woman at the bar Yanni’s. Johnson was charged with battery after the video was seen by the State Attorney. He has been suspended from the team indefinitely.
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Cracking Down on Johns to reduce Prostitution Demand 1, July6, 2015
    State lawmakers have increased the penalties for people soliciting prostitutes. A second offense now requires at least ten days in jail. And as Mike Vasilinda tells us, those convicted must also pay for and attend a “johns” school. Prostitution is said to be the worlds oldest profession. But here’s something you don’t often see…The woman […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • No More Quotas 1, July2, 2015
    If you’ve ever seen what seems like a lot of cops going after speeders on a drive and said to yourself “I guess they have to meet their quota,” you can worry a little less now. AS Matt Galka tells us, a new law cracks down on quotas. Juanita Boykin and her husband were on […]
    Matt Galka
  • Fake Service Dog Legislation Takes Effect July First 1, July1, 2015
    Starting today, people using fake service dogs might find it a littler harder to pull off their scam. New Legislation gives businesses more flexibility, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the legislation also makes sure people with real disabilities aren’t mistreated. Meet Lando….and owner Tiffany Baylor.  Tiffany is sight challenged. “For me, I see my […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Abortion Law Back and Forth 1, July1, 2015
    A North Florida judge temporarily blocked a 24 hour abortion waiting period law from taking effect Wednesday, but the decision was immediately appealed. As Matt Galka tells us, that meant the law did apply to Floridians, but opponents continued the fight. July 1st is typically a day where new laws take effect and plenty did […]
    Matt Galka
  • Jumping Sturgeon on the Suwanee 1, June30, 2015
    Each year thousands of prehistoric Gulf Sturgeon enter the Suwanee and six other rivers in Florida. The fish are know to jump, and have hurt two people, neither seriously, so far this year. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, state officials are warning July fourth boaters to be on the lookout. The Suwanee River. Quiet. Peaceful. […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Another City Opts Out of Red Light Camera Program 1, June30, 2015
    The $158 dollar red light camera fine has annoyed plenty of drivers around the state. As Matt Galka tells us, another city is opting out of the program – and cities around the state aren’t seeing the same amount of money coming in they once did. Attorney Ian Nesbeth has defended dozens of red light […]
    Matt Galka
  • Executions Back on Track after High Court Ruling 1, June29, 2015
    The US Supreme Court has ruled that the drug midazolam is acceptable for use in lethal injections. Four Oklahoma convicts had challenged the drugs use, and Florida courts stopped executions here pending the outcome. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the ruling is now likely to open the door to dozens of executions in Florida. The […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Juice Gets the Budget Squeeze 1, June29, 2015
    Florida’s budget takes effect Wednesday and among the vetoes – a tourism staple. As Matt Galka tells us, money requested to serve free Florida orange and grapefruit juice at welcome centers got the ax. “Welcome to Florida would you like some juice.” That phrase has greeted tourists stopping by Florida welcome centers near the state […]
    Matt Galka

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    "It's the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter."
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    "Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty."
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Confederate Controversy

July 6th, 2015 by Matt Galka

Monday was supposed to be a joyous celebration of the new class of Florida Veterans inducted into the state’s Veterans Hall of Fame.  But as Matt Galka tells us, a wild scene erupted because of a Confederate Veteran supporter.

David McCallister with the Sons of Confederate Veterans group was outraged Monday. He’s pushed for Confederate Florida soldiers to be honored in the state’s Veteran’s Hall of Fame.

“CONFEDERATE VETERANS SERVED FLORIDA, TOO! WHY ARE THEY NOT BEING PUT INTO THE VETERANS HALL OF FAME? IT’S A SCANDAL!” shouted McCallister.

Florida’s Governor and cabinet rejected 3 Confederate soldiers from the hall of fame earlier this year – including a former Governor, U.S. Senator, and Florida National Guardsman.

Dale Landry with the Florida NAACP has been against including the soldiers all year.

“They should keep it just the way it is, for the veterans who died serving our country,” said Landry.

The main reason Confederate soldiers aren’t currently allowed in the hall of fame: they never served in the United States military because they fought for the Confederacy.

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs went ahead with the ceremony and inducted 5 new members into the state’s Hall of Fame.

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Punching Video leads to charges against FSU Quarterback De’Andre Johnson

July 6th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Surveillance video released by the office of State Attorney Willie Meggs appears to show freshman FSU quarterback De’Andre Johnson punching a woman at the bar Yanni’s. Johnson was charged with battery after the video was seen by the State Attorney. He has been suspended from the team indefinitely.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on Punching Video leads to charges against FSU Quarterback De’Andre Johnson

Cracking Down on Johns to reduce Prostitution Demand

July 6th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

State lawmakers have increased the penalties for people soliciting prostitutes. A second offense now requires at least ten days in jail. And as Mike Vasilinda tells us, those convicted must also pay for and attend a “johns” school.

Prostitution is said to be the worlds oldest profession. But here’s something you don’t often see…The woman working the corner is an undercover cop. In this file footage we witnessed two johns being arrested in just a few hours before noon.

Now state lawmakers are trying to reduce demand for prostitutes

by upping the penalties for soliciting. Meg Baldwin of the Refuge House, counsels domestic violence victims and says the new legislation is a huge step forward.

“One is that the bill recognizes that buying someone for sex is harmful” says Baldwin.

The first offense is now punishable by up to a thousand dollar fine…up from 500. Second and third offenses become felonies.

First offenders will now serve a hundred hours of community service, but a second offense will get you ten days here in the county jail.

The legislation was hailed by State Representative Jeanette Nunez and the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking.

“the wives and spouses…this will certainly be a wake up call for them” said Nunez at at recent meeting.

Domestic Violence counselors are especially keen on provisions that require Johns to pay for and attend an education program on prostitution and sex trafficking.

“The rate, the recidivism rate among johns who received these kinds of interventions is nearly zero”  says Baldwin.

But for the law to succeed…police will need to divert more resources to enforcement…which hasn’t been on their front burner.

In 2013-14 only 336 people went to jail under the prostitution statute, but the statistics do not readily reveal how many of them were Johns.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on Cracking Down on Johns to reduce Prostitution Demand

No More Quotas

July 2nd, 2015 by Matt Galka

If you’ve ever seen what seems like a lot of cops going after speeders on a drive and said to yourself “I guess they have to meet their quota,” you can worry a little less now. AS Matt Galka tells us, a new law cracks down on quotas.

Juanita Boykin and her husband were on their way to Louisiana when we caught up with them at a rest stop on I-10.  She says they’re always aware of cops around holidays.

“I know they’re ready for us (laughs) speed devils,” she said.

While there are plenty of drivers out there who probably think law enforcement is trying to meet a certain number of tickets written every month, a new Florida law is a quota crackdown. It outlaws all law enforcement quotas and went into effect July 1st.

 

The law was inspired by a small North Florida town once considered one of the country’s worst speed traps

The Waldo Police Department was notorious for tickets.  Nearly half of the city’s revenue was coming from traffic tickets on U.S. 301. Triple A was even warning drivers to avoid the trap.

“When the people found out about it, they were upset, a lot of people were upset,” said Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) the bill’s sponsor.

The new law outlaws all ticket quota systems at a state and local level, and requires local law enforcement to report revenues to the state.

“We don’t need to be in the law enforcement business because all we’re doing is just pulling people over and giving them tickets in order to support the operations of the law enforcement,” said Sen. Bradley.

Waldo police officers disclosed a ticket quota system last year for the busy road of U.S. 301. The Waldo police department disbanded in the fallout from the story.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on No More Quotas

Fake Service Dog Legislation Takes Effect July First

July 1st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Starting today, people using fake service dogs might find it a littler harder to pull off their scam. New Legislation gives businesses more flexibility, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the legislation also makes sure people with real disabilities aren’t mistreated.

Meet Lando….and owner Tiffany Baylor.  Tiffany is sight challenged.

“For me, I see my hands about there” says Tiffany, holding her hands out in front of her about six inches apart.

Tiffany and Lando are one of the reasons Florida has a new law on Fake Service dogs.

Carol Dover and The Florida Restaurant Association pushed for a change when it saw a trend of increasing abuse.

“We hears some of the strangest stories of people who believe their monkeys are service animals” says Dover.

Cracking down on those who abuse the system has gone nowhere for several years. But that changed last fall when Tiffany and Lando were harassed by guards at the state museum.

“The blind will not be dismissed.”

The video caused protests.

Tiffany got a quick apology. She’s since given sensitivity training to the guards who stopped her…but she says impostors are giving legitimate service dogs a bad name.

“People who pass their pets off as service are making people question and second guess us” complains the visually handicapped educator. Tiffany works for the Division of Blind Services.

Now watch what happens when Lando walks by this play area…then imagine what a pet dog might do. He ignores all the activity.

Service dogs, when they are working are all business…Scenes like this would never distract them.

“Their who consciousness is all about his job” says Tiffany.

But When Lando isn’t working…he can be just as playful as any other dog….

Nat sot; “ This is my dog when he’s off working”.

The bottom line. Focus is the easiest way to tell a real service dog from a fake.

The new legislation provides for up to 60 days in jail or a five hundred dollar fine for people who use a fake service dog or for merchants who refuse access to litigate service dogs. Someone convicted can also be ordered to do 30 hours of community service helping the disabled community.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on Fake Service Dog Legislation Takes Effect July First

Abortion Law Back and Forth

July 1st, 2015 by Matt Galka

A North Florida judge temporarily blocked a 24 hour abortion waiting period law from taking effect Wednesday, but the decision was immediately appealed. As Matt Galka tells us, that meant the law did apply to Floridians, but opponents continued the fight.

July 1st is typically a day where new laws take effect and plenty did in Florida.  130 new rules hit Floridians Wednesday, but at least 1 is up in the air.

The American Civil Liberties Union successfully challenged a 24 hour abortion waiting period law that had a July 1st start date. It requires women to wait 24 hours and make two visits to the clinic before they can get an abortion. A judge granted a temporary injunction late Tuesday.

 

“This law had absolutely no medical justification. It was completely grounded in politics, and at the end of the day the state was unable to satisfy it’s burden of showing why this law was medically necessary,” said ACLU Legal Director Nancy Abudu.

Attorney’s for the state argued last week that the law isn’t an added burden on women.

 

“This is still her decision to make, there is nothing in this law that is taking away her right to make a decision, the question of whether there’s a 24 hour wait giving her time to contemplate the full impact and ramifications of the decision is obviously what we’ve been talking about,” said Special Counsel Blaine Winship.

The judge didn’t agree. But soon after the ruling, Florida’s Attorney General appealed the decision. That meant the law went on the books Wednesday.  Clinics we called were following the rules for now.

 

The case is one of many challenges the state has had to defend against.

The legal challenge comes on the heels of a recently settled lawsuit between the state and ACLU over the Governor’s failed push to drug test welfare recipients and state workers. Taxpayers picked up the tab for legal fees. The cost was more than $1.5 million dollars.

The ACLU requested the judge put the injunction back into place while the challenge is deliberated.  Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office did not comment on pending litigation. The temporary pause on the lawsuit is only meant to provide clarity while the judge decides the overall case of whether or not the law is constitutional.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on Abortion Law Back and Forth

Jumping Sturgeon on the Suwanee

June 30th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Each year thousands of prehistoric Gulf Sturgeon enter the Suwanee and six other rivers in Florida. The fish are know to jump, and have hurt two people, neither seriously, so far this year. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, state officials are warning July fourth boaters to be on the lookout.

The Suwanee River. Quiet. Peaceful. Until.

That was the voice o Fish and Wildlife Conservation spokesperson Karen Parker. She is still thrilled to to see the giant fish leap.

“They’re Basically doing what they’ve been doing for the last two hundred million years, and that’s jumping.  And the scientist I spoke with finally figured out why they jump…which is pretty amazing. Its for communication between other fish, and to gulp air so they can fill up their swim bladder” says Parker.

Catching the fish on camera is a feat in itself…you never know when…or where they will jump, which is why boaters are always at risk. Two people…a 59 year old woman and a 14 year old girl were hurt in separate incidents this year.

“It’s simply, they’re jumping and at a time when we want to use the rive too. So we are both trying to use the river, and sometimes we collide” says Parker.

The fish arrive in April and leave when the water starts to cool in the fall.

What we do know for certain is that the fish aren;t jumping for food. They don’t eat the entire time they are in the river.

Q:”from what I’ve read, they really fill up on shrimp and crab before they move into the river.

A:”Yeah, they’ll lose like twenty-five percent of their body weight when they get in here” says Parker.

So boaters beware…there are fish beneath the Suwanee just waiting to communicate.

The state didn’t start keeping track of collisions with the Sturgeon until 2006, when 9 people were injured. The Gulf Sturgeon are protected under federal law.

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Another City Opts Out of Red Light Camera Program

June 30th, 2015 by Matt Galka

The $158 dollar red light camera fine has annoyed plenty of drivers around the state. As Matt Galka tells us, another city is opting out of the program – and cities around the state aren’t seeing the same amount of money coming in they once did.

Attorney Ian Nesbeth has defended dozens of red light camera tickets.  He says they’ve been a headache for the past five years, and they’re unconstitutional because cities send off pictures of the potential violator to a third party.

“If the state wishes to reduce the number of infractions, then put some more police officers out there, lets get something that’s actually constitutional that complies with our laws,” said Nesbeth.

Nesbeth and other Tallahassee attorneys won’t have to worry much longer. Florida’s capital is taking the cameras down in August.

In the city of Tallahassee’s case, one of the reasons the cameras are coming down is because drivers are driving better. Instead of pulling up to yellow lights and speeding through them, drivers are hitting the breaks.

“There’s not enough people running red lights to pay for the program,” said City spokeswoman Michelle Bono.

And there’s a statewide revenue dip.  Revenue from red light camera tickets went from $62 million in 2013 to just $37 million in 2014.

The Florida League of Cities says they empower the cities to do as they see fit.

 

“The league has the position that cities that determine that it enhances public safety, they should be able to use cameras,” said Legislative Affairs Director Scott Dudley.

But feedback from local governments has been positive.

“There’s people who are getting tickets at red lights that are not too happy about it,” said Dudley.

The state legislature has failed at repealing the program recently. If revenue numbers continue to trend downwards, more local governments will be faced with the decision of whether or not to leave them up.

$83 dollars of every $158 dollar ticket goes to the state of Florida. The remaining $75 dollars is used to pay for the cameras…if violations and revenue continue to go down, many cities could opt out or continue to pay for the program out of pocket.

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Executions Back on Track after High Court Ruling

June 29th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

The US Supreme Court has ruled that the drug midazolam is acceptable for use in lethal injections. Four Oklahoma convicts had challenged the drugs use, and Florida courts stopped executions here pending the outcome. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the ruling is now likely to open the door to dozens of executions in Florida.

The High Court ruling is 127 pages long, but it’s essence can be found in the first sentence. “Because Capital punishment is constitutional, there must be a constitutional means of carrying it out” wrote the majority.

The ruling is a set back for anti death penalty advocates in Florida. Sheila Meenan represents Citizens Against the Death Penalty and while disappointed, remains hopeful.

“I don’t think there’s going to be an end to the death penalty anytime soon, but I do believe and am extremely hopeful, and it won;t be too long from now when the U-S Supreme Court is going to say that the death penalty is against the constitution” says Meehan.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote one of two blistering dissents.

“She really talked about how this drug, midazolam, could even be the equivalent of the chemical of burning at the stake. She used very strong language along those lines and as I say, three others concurred with her in that dissent” says Meehan.

Quadruple murderer Jerry Correll’s execution was stopped in February. It could soon be back on. Jerry Correll’s execution would set a record of 22 for one governor in modern times. A list prepared by the Florida Supreme court identified more than 100 inmates who have exhausted their appeals. Meehan says the decision opens the door to multiple warrants.

“Now that this decision is out, there is really nothing to stop Governor Scott from signing lots of death warrants. We’ve got lots of people, more than 400 people on Florida’s death row” says Meehan.

The Florida Department of Corrections did not respond to requests for an interview

This afternoon’s death row count was actually 396. And late this afternoon, Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the Florida Supreme Court to lift the Stay of Execution for Jerry Correll. Once lifted, the door is open for Governor Rick Scott to sign his and other death warrants.

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Juice Gets the Budget Squeeze

June 29th, 2015 by Matt Galka

Florida’s budget takes effect Wednesday and among the vetoes – a tourism staple. As Matt Galka tells us, money requested to serve free Florida orange and grapefruit juice at welcome centers got the ax.

“Welcome to Florida would you like some juice.”

That phrase has greeted tourists stopping by Florida welcome centers near the state line for decades.

Woody and Lois Allen are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary and are on their way to the beach. They always stop in for a cup of OJ.

 

“Florida orange juice, you know everyone’s heard of it. It’s the only rest area around the country, I think, or places we’ve been in the world where they’re actually right there serving,” said Lois Allen.

The Roberts family from Ohio quenched their thirst, too.

“If it wasn’t any good we wouldn’t be talking to you,” said Danny as he sipped some juice with his kid.

But the world renowned citrus juice got a scare last week. Usually it’s pork getting vetoed from the budget but the Governor put the squeeze on juice this year.

Rick Scott vetoed $250,000 from the state’s spending plan that was set to be used for the juice at the state’s five welcome centers.

“I went through the budget and looked at what was a state priority,” the Governor said last week.

Don’t’ tell citrus growers the oranges and grapefruits aren’t a priority. Visit Florida vows the free drinks will continue to flow.

“It’s a tradition. Grandfathers bring it to their grandsons, families bring it to their sons and daughters, and it’s a tradition. It’s a true Florida experience,” said David Dodd with Visit Florida.

Visit Florida hopes the state has enough juice – literally and figuratively – to attract 100 million tourists in 2015. The juice will continued to be paid for with other money from the state’s Department of Citrus budget.

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