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  • Untitled 1, April16, 2015
    Hard ball politics over health care reform are on full display at the State Capitol this week, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, Governor Rick Scott is now threatening legal action against the Obama Administration. ”We need you to flip one more time Rick!” Rick Scott was once for expanded healthcare. Now he is against […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • End of Life Marijuana 1, April16, 2015
    Debate over legislation allowing terminally ill people to use experimental drugs turned into a debate about medical marijuana at the state Capitol today. Rep. John Wood, of Winter Haven sited the constitution and says sick people who believe marijuana will help their condition should go ahead and break the law. “The right to try represents […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Online Voter Registration 1, April16, 2015
    Registering to vote by using a pen and paper in person could be a thing of the past under a proposed online voter registration bill. But as Matt Galka tells us, one of the Governor’s top officials, the Secretary of State, is adamantly opposed, much to the dismay of Senators. Florida lawmakers say it’s about […]
    Matt Galka
  • Same Sex Bathroom Bills fails to get key Committee Hearing 1, April15, 2015
    Same sex bathroom legislation that has been highly controversial a the state capitol failed to get a key committee hearing  this week effectively killing the bill. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, transgender activists say it is too early to claim total victory. the legislation requires people to use restrooms matching the gender on their […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Millennials Push for Health Care Extension 1, April15, 2015
    As the House and Senate remain divided over how and whether to expand health care using Federal money, two dozen young adults told reports they were being forced to choose between education or careers and health care. Charlotte Cassell is a young lawyer for Florida Legal Services who has a client in dire need of […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Seer Sucker Suit Day in the Legislature 1, April15, 2015
    Blue and white seersucker suits, a trademark of times gone by were revived at the state capitol today by two dozen or so state House members. The annual day is a nod to when times were more simple. Wikipedia says seersucker weave was introduced to the American south, probably through British colonial trade, sometime in […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Senior Day at the Capitol 1, April15, 2015
    Rain didn’t dampen the spirits of a thousand senior citizens at the state Capitol today. Some came to make their voices heard on health care, others, like Donnell Crews of Jacksonville came to make his wish for the future known. “What I’d really like to see is mass rail system in Florida. A mass rail […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Bear Hunt Likely 1, April15, 2015
    It could soon be open season on bears in Florida, but as Matt Galka tells us, animal rights advocates say killing the animal isn’t the way to go about cutting down dangerous interactions with humans. Protestors took to the state’s Fish and Wildlife meeting Wednesday. Bryan Wilson put on a bear costume before it began but […]
    Matt Galka
  • Body Camera Legislation Watered Down in Senate, but is it Enough? 1, April14, 2015
    Legislation giving police almost total control over who can see video from body cameras was watered down today at the state Capitol, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, open government advocates say the legislation is almost self defeating. The video of a man fleeing and being shot by a police officer in South Carolina. If […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Gaetz for US Senate? 1, April14, 2015
    Former State Senate President Don Gaetz is considering running for the US Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio. Gaetz says he never considered such a run until people started reaching out to him this weekend. “Ah, but when you get calls from people you respected admire, as I have. People here and elsewhere around […]
    Mike Vasilinda

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April 16th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Hard ball politics over health care reform are on full display at the State Capitol this week, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, Governor Rick Scott is now threatening legal action against the Obama Administration.

”We need you to flip one more time Rick!”

Rick Scott was once for expanded healthcare. Now he is against it. A hundred nurses took over the Capitol’s fourth floor rotunda to urge Scott to “flip again” State Senator  Oscar Braynon (D-Miami) told the nurses that people at the Capitol are talking theory when a health crisis is real.

“In theory, we may lose our public hospitals. In theory, people may not get health coverage. In theory people will actually die as a result of this.”

The Federal government has said it is pulling the plug on two billion in funding for hospitals who treat people who can’t pay. That’s unless the state adopts a Senate plan to expand care to the poor using federal money.

The standoff has the House and Governor on one side and the Senate on the other.

Despite the nurses upstairs, Governor Rick Scott,in a release, said he’s standing firm.

flip00000005Scott’s office calls the threat of losing money cohesion and says he will file suit against the Obama Administration. Scott was out of town, but Lt Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera spoke for him. “Well, we need to explore every option to ensure that these funds are available for the most needly here in Florida.”

At a minimum, the standoff will trigger an expensive special or extended legislative session. House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford calls it unnecessary.

“I mean its wasted money. What have we done?  We can put together an 80 billion dollar budget in 60 says.”

And in the first sign of a thaw in the fight, House Speaker Steve Cristifuli says the House is reviewing its options.

“You know, finding other free market ways to approach that is what we are looking at” says Cristifulli.

A plan to cut taxes sought by the Governor is already an early casualty of the standoff. It’s on hold while lawmakers sort out how to get themselves out a dilemma of their own creation.

More than 800,00 people would be covered under an expanded Medicaid program. The Federal Government would pick up the tab for the first three years, and 90 percent in year four. Opponents say they don’t believe the Feds will follow through in later years.

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End of Life Marijuana

April 16th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Debate over legislation allowing terminally ill people to use experimental drugs turned into a debate about medical marijuana at the state Capitol today. Rep. John Wood, of Winter Haven sited the constitution and says sick people who believe marijuana will help their condition should go ahead and break the law.

“The right to try represents a core value, protected in by our constitution. And if you are facing death and there is a substance you want to use for your personal health, that’s not set forth in this legislation, assert your constitutional right and use it.”

The remarks brought applause from fellow members. Wood and others voted to bring back legislation next year to widen the scope of medical marijuana in Florida.

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Online Voter Registration

April 16th, 2015 by Matt Galka

Registering to vote by using a pen and paper in person could be a thing of the past under a proposed online voter registration bill. But as Matt Galka tells us, one of the Governor’s top officials, the Secretary of State, is adamantly opposed, much to the dismay of Senators.

Florida lawmakers say it’s about time the state joins 20 others in implementing online voter registration.  A computer based tool that could help boost ballot numbers.

“We can’t be stuck in the 1900’s anymore, we’ve found a secure way of doing this,” said bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth).

But Secretary of State and top election official Ken Detzner isn’t backing it, even though he originally did. Senators grilled him over his flip flop.

“Have you had any direction from the Governor’s office or anyone else that influenced you to change your position and say that we shouldn’t do this and shouldn’t pass this bill?” asked Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Niceville).

Detzner gave a wordy “no.”

“I’m concerned about having the date hanging over my head because it changes and enforces a realignment of the people and the resources the taxpayers resources,” he said.

The program would need to be in place by October of 2017. Clemens isn’t so sure the lack of support isn’t just a Republican roadblock.

“Truthfully, if you’re giving someone two and a half years and you can’t do it, than you probably need to find some new staff,” said Sen. Clemens.

The sponsor said he’s admittedly worried about a veto, but it might not even get that far after hitting a snag on the House floor. The bill was supposed to be taken up but was postponed after questions arose over funding.

The Senate says the program could cost anywhere between $250 grand up to nearly $2 million, based on other state’s implementation.

Florida’s House Speaker said his chamber could take up the Senate bill, but Florida Governor Rick Scott could veto the measure if it makes it to his desk.

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Same Sex Bathroom Bills fails to get key Committee Hearing

April 15th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Same sex bathroom legislation that has been highly controversial a the state capitol failed to get a key committee hearing  this week effectively killing the bill. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, transgender activists say it is too early to claim total victory. the legislation requires people to use restrooms matching the gender on their official ID’s.

The House Judiciary Committee held it’s final hearing this week. Not on the agenda; Same Sex Bathrooms. Chair Charles McBurney of Jacksonville chose not to force his members to vote on something so divisive.

“If its not going to be heard in the Senate, or its not going to go far in the Senate, regardless of its merits or lack thereof as the case may be, we don’t hear it” says the Jacksonville lawmaker.

At the bills last hearing, 50 people signed up to speak.

“What is going to happen to me when I walk into a male bathroom? Asked a man undergoing transformation to a woman.

Because the bill didn’t get heard, its fair to say its on life support, but nothings really dead here until lawmakers go home.

Sponsor Frank Artilles says he isn’t backing down.

Q: Dead?” we asked.

“Um, I don’t know. The legislative process doesn’t end until May second.”

Q: Would you attempt to amend it?’

“We’ll see. Everything on the table.”

Artilles options are limited. To revive the legislation he would have to attach the bill as an amendment to another bill dealing with the same chapter of law…There is only one likely target…legislation being voted upon next week protecting pregnant women from discrimination. We asked Sponsor Geraldine Thompson is she would accept such an amendment,

“I would not” she told us.

Carlos Smith of Equality Florida says he will be watching to make sure there are no shenanigans with the bill…while at the same time saying people made their voices heard.

“Citizens, everyday citizens are not going to be, they’re not going to tolerate this type of discrimination” says Smith.

And on the same day the committee didn’t hear the bill, lawmakers sent the Governor legislation ending the states ban on gay adoptions.

The legislation requiring people to use the bathroom of the gender on their official ID isn’t the only highly controversial bill on life support. Senators said this week they would likely not hear the bill allowing gays to be discriminated against by adoption agencies.

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Millennials Push for Health Care Extension

April 15th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

As the House and Senate remain divided over how and whether to expand health care using Federal money, two dozen young adults told reports they were being forced to choose between education or careers and health care. Charlotte Cassell is a young lawyer for Florida Legal Services who has a client in dire need of care.

“We have a client who has a brain tumor. She has not been able to get the surgeries she needs because she doesn’t have insurance.”

Q:”what happens to her?”

“We wait and see. We are working with her  for the safety net in Florida, but even in the best case scenario, she’ll still get huge medical bills which terrify her.”

Tampa Doctor Dennis Deruelle told reporters it is the people who need health care most who are being denied.

“So were actually hurting the poorest of the poor in our state. What does that mean? That means they can’t afford medications/ That means they are delaying seeking care for things that could really impact their lives” says Deruelle.

Under the Medicaid expansion, the Federal government will pay 100% of the cost of increased care for three years,and 90% after that.

 

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Seer Sucker Suit Day in the Legislature

April 15th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Blue and white seersucker suits, a trademark of times gone by were revived at the state capitol today by two dozen or so state House members. The annual day is a nod to when times were more simple. Wikipedia says seersucker weave was introduced to the American south, probably through British colonial trade, sometime in the second half of the 19th century. The wearing of seersucker suits declined with the advent of air conditioning.

 

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Senior Day at the Capitol

April 15th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Rain didn’t dampen the spirits of a thousand senior citizens at the state Capitol today. Some came to make their voices heard on health care, others, like Donnell Crews of Jacksonville came to make his wish for the future known.

“What I’d really like to see is mass rail system in Florida. A mass rail system and I understand there has been some talk, but I don’t know if it will happen in my lifetime. I’m 77” says the retired appliance repairman.

In 2011, one of Governor Rick Scott’s first actions was to refuse two billion dollars for a high speed rail connection between Orlando and Tampa.

 

 

 

 

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Bear Hunt Likely

April 15th, 2015 by Matt Galka

It could soon be open season on bears in Florida, but as Matt Galka tells us, animal rights advocates say killing the animal isn’t the way to go about cutting down dangerous interactions with humans.

Protestors took to the state’s Fish and Wildlife meeting Wednesday. Bryan Wilson put on a bear costume before it began but took it off when he went inside.

“There are people here who want to hunt bear, and I don’t want to be in a room full of people who want to hunt bear wearing a bear costume,” said Wilson with the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida.

Wilson and others pleaded with the FWC to not allow a bear hunting season. It would be Florida’s first in 20 years.

“All of the scientific studies that have been done show no correlation between a bear hunt and the reduction of human bear conflicts. What does show reduction In human bear conflicts, are bear proof garbage cans, bear proof dumpsters, and bear education,” said Wilson.

But an uptick in bear and human interactions – including showing up on the front porches of houses and even attacking people – swayed the commission. Even though 75% of the feedback they’ve received was against the proposal.

“Most people that are commenting don’t understand enough about the wild. These bears are dangerous. Do you want blood on your hands? We don’t,” said FWC Chairman Richard Corbett.

The commission received guidance from New Jersey’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. The state authorized bear hunting in 2010. More than 1,800 bears have been killed in the garden state in 5 years.

“For the first three years of our hunt there was a statistical drop in incidents,” said Director David Chanda.

The Florida season would last for 7 days. The Florida black bear was just taken off the threatened species list in 2012.

The FWC approved the proposal in the first of two required votes to authorize a black bear hunting season. The statewide limit on bears killed during that time would be 175. They’re expecting to get updated population numbers in the summer.

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Body Camera Legislation Watered Down in Senate, but is it Enough?

April 14th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Legislation giving police almost total control over who can see video from body cameras was watered down today at the state Capitol, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, open government advocates say the legislation is almost self defeating.

The video of a man fleeing and being shot by a police officer in South Carolina.

If it had been shot on a police worn body camera, not a citizens cell phone, it might never have seen the light of day under legislation Florida lawmakers are considering…but then..

“We’re taking that portion out of the bill”  Sponsor Chris Smith told fellow Senators.

Lawmakers then removed exemptions from showing video taken by police at accident scenes or medical emergencies including officer involved shootings.

“That would have been overly broad, because technically, a lot of circumstances where we need to see the video um, sometimes involves injury” said Smith.

The legislation still keeps private video that is shot by police in your home of hospital room, although you would have a right to see and release the video. Other members of the public would have to go to court. “and if there is some great public purpose that I’m not a part of and I don’t release it, you go in front of a judge and show the judge that public purpose.”

But while the changes were enough to win some supporters in the Senate, Public Rights Advocates, including Michelle Richardson of the ACLU Florida,  remain opposed,

“We’re concerned that its too far weighted in l;aw enforcements favor. They’ll be able to release the video when ever they want, regardless of the privacy implications. The public, however, will have to get a lawyer, go to court, and meet a very strict test to see the video” Richardson said after the bill got tenative approval from the Senate.

Because this legislation creates a new exemption to public records, it will require a two thirds vote…not just a simple majority.

Advocates say they will keep working to make as much video open to the public as possible until a final vote on the bill next week.

And while open government advocates made progress today, they are not claiming victory. The legislation keeping the exemption of video at medical emergencies, which could include officer involved shootings, remains the House version of the legislation.

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Gaetz for US Senate?

April 14th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Gaetz

Former State Senate President Don Gaetz is considering running for the US Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio. Gaetz says he never considered such a run until people started reaching out to him this weekend.

“Ah, but when you get calls from people you respected admire, as I have. People here and elsewhere around the state, I have to think about it. All I’ve been asked to do is not say no until I think about it” Gaetz told reporters.

This past weekend, Florida CFO Jeff Atwater, who was considered a top contender for the GOP nomination, said he would not get in the race.

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