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  • FHP Troopers Reprimanded, Fired, Suspended for Overtime Violations 1, September3, 2015
    One of three state troopers reviewed under a special overtime program to deter speeders has been found to claim overtime for hours spent at home or eating, But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, some of those being disciplined say they were following an unwritten rule that’s been in place for decades. More than 900 troopers […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Emails Show Governor’s Office Changed Planned Parenthood Press Release 1, September2, 2015
    Emails show the Governor’s office changed a press release involving investigations into Planned Parenthood, and as Matt Galka tells us, the healthcare group says the changes show the Governor was only trying to play political games. Viral videos from another state sparked outrage over Planned Parenthood’s alleged fetal remains practices.  The videos caused Governor Rick […]
    Matt Galka
  • Underage Bar Hopping Difficult for Lawmakers 1, September2, 2015
    Wednesday is often called over the hump day, a chance to start celebrating the coming weekend. The drinking age in Florida is 21, but 18 year old’s are allowed in bars. It’s gotten three FSU football players in hot water, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, keeping underage people out of bars has always been […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • DOE says Test Scores Will Count, Superintendents Cry Foul 1, September1, 2015
    Test scores from this spring will count says the State Department of Education after a new report ordered by lawmakers has been released. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, school superintendents say the report points out too many problems to ignore. After thousands of students were unable to take standardized tests this past spring, state […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Solar Amendment Gets Day in Court 1, September1, 2015
    Florida Supreme Court Justices asked tough questions today about the intent of a proposed constitutional amendment that would let businesses install large solar arrays on their roof tops and then sell extra power to their neighbors. The measure is opposed by all of the states big power generators, and after the hearing Steven Smith of […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Arrest Made in FSU Attempted Abduction 1, September1, 2015
    A 35 year old man is in custody in the state Capitol tonight. Antoine Warren was driving on the FSU Campus late Monday when he approached a young woman and asked if she was waiting for an Uber driver. The woman got into his car, but after driving aimlessly, the man tried to assault the […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Ethics Commission Staff Seek Financial Disclosure Compliance 1, August31, 2015
    Hundreds of public officials across Florida are about to be fined twenty-five dollars a day because they have failed to file required financial disclosure information. The information was due July first, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us the grace period to file the financial snapshot for almost a thousand people who have yet to file […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Tracking TS Erika 1, August28, 2015
    Watching and waiting. That’s what state officials and Floridians are doing as all eyes are on Tropical Storm Erika and it’s still to be determined path towards Florida. As Matt Galka tells us, the Governor has already issued a state of emergency. The effect Tropical Storm Erika will have on Florida is still very unclear.  […]
    Matt Galka
  • A Small Panhandle Dairy Fights State Over “Natural” Skimmed Milk 1, August28, 2015
    A small panhandle dairy 50 miles west of the State Capitol has been fighting the state for three years over whether or not it can sell it’s skim milk without being forced by the state to add vitamins to the milk. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, A federal judge may soon make the call. Ocheese […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Hurricane Ready 1, August27, 2015
    State officials are tracking Tropical Storm Erika as it makes it’s way potentially toward Florida. As Matt Galka tells us, it could turn into a hurricane, and the Governor says after all these years of Florida being hurricane-free, people still need a plan. Emergency management officials briefed Governor Rick Scott on the latest information for […]
    Matt Galka

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Death Penalty Set to be Reviewed

September 3rd, 2015 by Matt Galka

Florida doesn’t have any scheduled executions on the books and is in the midst of it’s longest stretch without one since the Governor’s first year in office. As Matt Galka tells us, inmates on death row continue to appeal, with another death penalty debate brewing.

This 2008 video from a St. Petersburg convenience store captured the murders of two people at the hands of Khadafy Mullens.  A judge sentenced Mullens to death for the crimes in 2013.  His lawyer made his appeal to Florida’s Supreme Court Thursday.

Mullens is one of 395 inmates on Florida’s death row, second only to California. Charles Grover Brant is another.  He admitted to killing his neighbor in Hillsborough County and was sentenced to death in 2007. His appeals attorney argued his previous counsel failed him.

“He was born with a bad brain because of lack of pre-natal care, and his lawyers failed to investigate his case,” said attorney Marie-Louise Samuels Parmer.

The state hasn’t carried out an execution since January. They were temporarily on hold while a decision was made on the legality of lethal injection drugs.  The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the drugs use in June, and a circuit judge in Florida did the same earlier this week. Brant’s lawyer still says the death penalty in the state needs a review.

“We have a huge death row population, it’s a tremendous burden on the tax dollars, it doesn’t deter crime, and I think it’s something that we really should take a look at,” she said.

Florida’s current Governor is tied with Jeb Bush for most executions under a Governor’s watch since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

The United States Supreme Court will consider a case in its next term on whether or not juries need to be unanimous when recommending a death sentence. Currently, a unanimous decision is not required.

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FHP Troopers Reprimanded, Fired, Suspended for Overtime Violations

September 3rd, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

One of three state troopers reviewed under a special overtime program to deter speeders has been found to claim overtime for hours spent at home or eating, But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, some of those being disciplined say they were following an unwritten rule that’s been in place for decades.

More than 900 troopers participate in the SOAR program…which is designed to pay 8 hours of overtime a week to crackdown on speeders or help stranded motorists. Internal investigators at the patrol choose the top three SOAR earners from each district. Of the 36 cases reviewed, three were fired, four retired, three were suspended, one was reprimanded and another is facing termination after claiming overtime for working from home or while eating. Capt. Nancy Rasmussen says discipline was based on the sererity of the infractions.

“Some were sitting at their houses longer and it was a continuos issue, then they were disciplined more than, you know, the ones that just went to the restaurants for a few minutes or whatever. So it was based on what their egregious activities were on the program” says the FHP Spokesperson.

Troopers were sited for turning off their automatic locating devices or failing to call in when they were taking dinner breaks.

The Police Benevolent Association says it won’t talk about the troopers in this report because it doesn’t talk about pending litigation.”

Attorney Sid Mathew represents two of the 12 being disciplined. He says both were following long standing unwritten rules and that no one was goofing off on the states dime.

“They paid overtime for 20 years for meal breaks, and now all of a sudden, they are changing their policies” says the labor attorney.

The FHP says the actions taken will not impact increased presence on the highways  this holiday weekend.

The FHP says there are no unwritten rules. But attorneys say if they are changing policies, Troopers must be told in advance.  In June, after some of the disciplinary actions had already been started, the FHP issued a memo saying no one was authorized to work from home.

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Emails Show Governor’s Office Changed Planned Parenthood Press Release

September 2nd, 2015 by Matt Galka

Emails show the Governor’s office changed a press release involving investigations into Planned Parenthood, and as Matt Galka tells us, the healthcare group says the changes show the Governor was only trying to play political games.

Viral videos from another state sparked outrage over Planned Parenthood’s alleged fetal remains practices.  The videos caused Governor Rick Scott to call for an investigation into clinics in Florida.

The investigations found the 16 facilities didn’t participate in fetal remains deals.  An early August press release originally obtained by Politico Florida intended to make that clear.  The line “However, there is no evidence of the mishandling of fetal remains at any of the 16 clinics we investigated across the state,” appeared in the version the Agency for Healthcare Administration wrote.  But once it went through the Governor’s office, the line disappeared.

Planned Parenthood spokesman Damien Filer said this confirms what the healthcare provider has been saying all along.

 

“From the beginning, our take on this has been the motivations were political, because we couldn’t understand what else they would be,” he said.

When asked if his office was trying to make Planned Parenthood look bad, the Governor was non-committal.

“The agency, our state Agency for Healthcare Administration, they’re responsibility is to make sure everyone who does healthcare in our state does it right, so what I asked them to do is just go look at it, make sure Planned Parenthood and their facilities are compliant with the law, and that’s what they’re doing,” said Gov. Scott.

The investigation originally found three clinics to be performing abortions outside their licensed time frame to do so, a claim Planned Parenthood disputed. The violations were eventually dropped.

We reached out to the Governor’s communications team asking why exactly the line saying there was no evidence of fetal remains violations was taken out. Communications Director Jackie Schutz responded “our office often works with our agencies on materials,” and that the document was a working draft.

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Underage Bar Hopping Difficult for Lawmakers

September 2nd, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Wednesday is often called over the hump day, a chance to start celebrating the coming weekend. The drinking age in Florida is 21, but 18 year old’s are allowed in bars. It’s gotten three FSU football players in hot water, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, keeping underage people out of bars has always been a heavy lift for lawmakers.

Jameis Winston, Dalvin Cook, and D’Andre Johnson,  were all investigated after allegations from women in bars. All three players were 19 at the time.

Winston was accused of raping a co-ed. Cook and Johnson were accused of punching women. There is video of only one of the incidents…Johnson’s punch…but before the punch a band on his arm suggests he is old enough to drink. State Attorney Willie Meggs, who has been involved in all three cases, questions the wisdom of being underage in a bar.

“It makes absolutely no sense to me, so it would strike me they ought not be allowed in the place” says the retiring State Attorney.

Cook was acquitted by a jury and is back on the team. The police report shows a 19 year old witness was so intoxicated, police had trouble understanding her. In court, Cook’s accuser, Madison Geohegan, was asked about her friends drinking.

They didn’t ID us.”

Q:They didn’t ID?”

“No” she said under oath.

It’s been more than 25 years since lawmakers looked at trying to keep everyone under 21 out of a bar. Just about every proprietor in the state complained, and the idea died a very quick death.

Dave Ericks owns one of the state Capitol’s best known watering holes.  “And it’s part o the experience. You’re, lets say, dating a 21 year old, and you are 19 or 20 and you couldn’t go somewhere with them, it just wasn’t right” says Ericks.

And Ericks says there are heavy penalties for serving underage drinkers. Bars could lose their license.

In a statement today, the state says it has made more than 100,000 visits to places that sell alcohol, arresting 1843 people for selling to minors over the last three years.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on Underage Bar Hopping Difficult for Lawmakers

DOE says Test Scores Will Count, Superintendents Cry Foul

September 1st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Test scores from this spring will count says the State Department of Education after a new report ordered by lawmakers has been released. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, school superintendents say the report points out too many problems to ignore.

After thousands of students were unable to take standardized tests this past spring, state lawmakers ordered a study to see if the Florida Assessment Test was valid. With report in hand, Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart says scores from the spring tests will count.

“The first thing I would say is there were eight conclusions, and I think that it came back positively in all eight areas” Stewart told reporters.

As a group, Florida’s school Superintendents has a completely different interpretation of this report. They’re calling foul.

The report shows one of every three questions asked of third graders on the test designed in Utah does not cover standards taught in Florida. On Algebra one, the report says one in five questions is beyond Florida Standards.

Sen. Bill Montford says  the Department needs to rethink its use of the test.

Q:”So you thin that their conclusions that everything is fine for the most part, are erroneous?”

“I think they’re not accurate. That’s correct. And when you look at the report itself says it did not meet the normal rigor expected of high stakes assessment. And that in itself should draw some serious questions.

Q:”:And the line before that said  the problem is so big we’re not sure how big it is?”

“That’s Correct” says Montford.

One of the reports conclusions is that tests given with paper and pencil were accurate, but tests taken via computer were suspect.

The Department says decisions on using the scores for advancement, graduation or placement will be left up to local districts.

While standing behind the test results, the Department of Education did say it would pursue monetary penalties against test contractor AIR for delays in administering the test.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on DOE says Test Scores Will Count, Superintendents Cry Foul

Solar Amendment Gets Day in Court

September 1st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida Supreme Court Justices asked tough questions today about the intent of a proposed constitutional amendment that would let businesses install large solar arrays on their roof tops and then sell extra power to their neighbors. The measure is opposed by all of the states big power generators, and after the hearing Steven Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said utilities will stop at nothing to defeat the amendment.

“We’re trying to speak on behalf of the people. We’re trying to speak on opening up the Sunshine State to allow the sun to shine, to give people choice. And the big monopoly utilities have an unlimited budget and they’re going to do everything they can to hold people back, They’re going to roll out all kinds of dirty tricks, they’re going to roll out all kinds of fat cat attorneys, and all these other kinds of things” says Smith.

So far the group has collected about one tenth of the signature it needs to get on the ballot…but first the court must decide if the ballot summary seen by voters is accurate.

Posted in State News | Comments Off on Solar Amendment Gets Day in Court

Arrest Made in FSU Attempted Abduction

September 1st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

A 35 year old man is in custody in the state Capitol tonight. Antoine Warren was driving on the FSU Campus late Monday when he approached a young woman and asked if she was waiting for an Uber driver. The woman got into his car, but after driving aimlessly, the man tried to assault the woman. She escaped and he was later arrested. FSU Police Chief David Perry isn’t sure if Warren is responsible for at least a half dozen near campus abduction attempts in as many months.

“Warren was taken into custody and transported to the Leon County Jail and charged with kidnapping with the intent to commit a felony. There is no evidence at this time that Warren has ever worked for Uber or representative of Uber. At this time, warren has not been linked to ongoing attempted abductions in the area” says the FSU Police Chief.

Police say the are checking with other victims and running evidence at the Department of Law Enforcement to see if Warren was involved in other attempted abductions.

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Ethics Commission Staff Seek Financial Disclosure Compliance

August 31st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Hundreds of public officials across Florida are about to be fined twenty-five dollars a day because they have failed to file required financial disclosure information. The information was due July first, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us the grace period to file the financial snapshot for almost a thousand people who have yet to file ends tonight.

Governor Rick Scott has a net worth of 147 million. We know, because Scott is one of 38 thousand public officials required to disclose how much money they made in the previous year, what they own and what it’s worth. The form is due on July fist  but fines don’t kick in until September.

“With the Florida Commission on Ethics.”

“This is about her disclosure”  is how phone concersations sounded as the entire ethics commission staff spent a day calling the 1300 who were still late. Executive Director Virlindia Doss says they would rather not fine people. “We would much rather get people to file than to fine them at the end, collect those fines, or even prosecute them for failing to file” says Doss.

The filing requirements have been in place since the late 1970’s. There were eight elected legislators who had not filed by Monday morning.

It’s not just public officials who have to file, it’s also people who have the authority to spend more than twenty thousand dollars of your tax money.

The disclosure is one of the main ways  to know if someone is profiting from their service said Chris Anderson between phone calls.

“You have somebody on the zoning board and they disclose they own a particular piece of property at a certain location, and you might say, aha..no wonder they are taking this position toward this rezoning change that’s right down the road from their property/

Those who don’t file by the end of the day Monday face a 25 dollar a fine starting Tuesday morning

“You mailed it yesterday. Very Good wa the response to one official on the other end of the line.

The fine is capped at 1500 hundred dollars…which takes 60 days to accumulate.

The day began with 987 people who had yet to file. 67 were constitutional officers, another 230 were from state boards, and just over 700 local officials had yet to disclose their finances.

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Tracking TS Erika

August 28th, 2015 by Matt Galka

Watching and waiting. That’s what state officials and Floridians are doing as all eyes are on Tropical Storm Erika and it’s still to be determined path towards Florida. As Matt Galka tells us, the Governor has already issued a state of emergency.

The effect Tropical Storm Erika will have on Florida is still very unclear.  The state’s Division of Emergency Management center continued to buzz Friday, but didn’t provide many details about preparations.

The State’s Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee remained at activation level 2 Friday but declined to give any further comment on-camera

We were shut out and told to reference the Governor’s meeting in Miami Friday morning.

“Right now we don’t know how much rainfall we’re going to get, the storm tracks west, which means we’re probably going to get more rainfall, again we don’t know yet. That’s probably one of our biggest risks,” said Governor Rick Scott after his South Florida briefing.

The Red Cross is gearing up. Shannon Tyler says Centers in the North, Central, and Southern regions are making preparations.

“All three have stood up and are actively calling volunteers, and getting volunteers to let us know their availability in the event that we need. We’re putting shelters on standby across the state,” said Tyler.

Tyler says even if the storm turns out to be nothing, situations like this are still good reminders for people who may have forgotten just how devastating they can be.

 

“Everyone needs to be self sufficient for up to 72 hours in the event of any kind of large disaster…that means water, food. It’s important not only to have a plan but to share your plans with families,” she said.

The storm is being blamed for deaths in the Caribbean as it continues to thrash the island region.

The state of emergency helps Florida when it comes to seeking assistance from other states or the federal government. The National Guard has been activated as long as the storm threat remains.

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A Small Panhandle Dairy Fights State Over “Natural” Skimmed Milk

August 28th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

A small panhandle dairy 50 miles west of the State Capitol has been fighting the state for three years over whether or not it can sell it’s skim milk without being forced by the state to add vitamins to the milk. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, A federal judge may soon make the call.

Ocheese Creamery started selling milk wholesale and directly to the public five years ago.

“This is actually where the milking takes place up here” says Pierre Wesselhoft, the son of the owners.

Its a niche dairy…using low temperature pasteurization “We think this makes a better product.”

And even bottling in glass bottles. “There’s no possibility of things to leach into the milk you don’t want there” says Wesselhoft.

Three years ago, the state ordered Ocheesee to stop selling skim milk…unless it agreed to add vitamin A back into what is already a natural product. Ocheesee says its customers want no part of added vitamins.

“Let us make our product. Say what it is, Natural skim milk with nothing added to it, and let us sell it like that, and they want to say, no, you can’t do that, so..” says Pierre.

Now its a case of David battling Goliath. Ocheesee is suing in Federal Court. They argue the state can’t make the dairy call its milk “imitation skim milk” because it isn’t.

On any given day, this dairy is milking a hundred cows a day. Each one producing five gallons of milk.

Ironically, Ocheesee is allowed to use the skim milk it can’t sell to make yogurt or cottage cheese. “It’s sort of silly” says Wesselhoft. “We can make yogurt from it. All we do is add culture to the skim milk so we can sell that yogurt and its safe for people to eat and we don’t add vitamin A to the yogurt.”

Until the case is resolved, OCheesee will keep skimming it’s milk to make cream and butter, and will keep dumping as many as 400 gallons of drinkable skim milk each week onto its fields as fertilizer.

Not all states require the vitamins removed from milk in the skimming process to be added back in before it can be sold. A ruling from the Federal Courts is expected in about a month.

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