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  • On the Attack 1, March31, 2015
    The Florida Senate looks like it’s poised to pass a plan that would expand Medicaid in the state which could help almost one million Floridians. But as Matt Galka tells us, some conservatives are feeling heat from their own supporters. Margarita Romo says members of Farmworkers Self Help – the group she established to provide […]
    Matt Galka
  • Testimony Nearly Non Existent at Abortion Hearing 1, March31, 2015
    There were dozens of angry women in the State Capitol today who were denied a chance to speak against a controversial 24 hour waiting period for abortions. Only two speakers, one for and one against got just seconds to make their case before the committee. The legislation requires a woman seeking an abortion to make […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Expanding Medical Marijuana 1, March31, 2015
    An expanded version of medical marijuana cleared the Senate Health Policy Committee today. The bill expands last years low THC law from five to 20 distributors and allows them to be selected by a lottery. Anneliese Clark traveled from St. Johns County on the east coast to show the committee pictures of her ten year […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Smoking in Cars with Kids 1, March31, 2015
    People who smoke in their cars with kids under 13 could be stopped by police under legislation approved five to one in a state Senate Health Policy Committee today. The fine for non moving violations ranges from $116 to $129 dollars. Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tamp[a says the legislation is appropriate because kids in the […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Juvenile Citations 1, March30, 2015
    Lawmakers are pushing a bill that could cut down on juvenile arrests and hopefully still set kids on the right path, but as Matt Galka tells us, retailers are worried it could end up costing them. Edward Barnes says an arrest when he was a kid sent his life barreling down the wrong path. “By […]
    Matt Galka
  • Florida Aviation Expert says Lufthansa Dropped the Ball 1, March30, 2015
    Pilot too inexperienced   Florida Aviation analyst Jay Rollins spent 25 years as a Captain flying International routes for American Airlines. He now teaches aviation at a south Florida flight school and at the University of Miami. Rollins says the co-pilot of the ill fated Germanwings flight should never have been hired with 600 hours. […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Class Size Changes 1, March27, 2015
    Florida voters put class size limits into the constitution in 2002. As Matt Galka tells us, a bill passed by the Florida House would give schools a break for exceeding the class size numbers, but opponents say that’s not what voters wanted. A little more than a decade ago, Florida voters put caps on class […]
    Matt Galka
  • Uniforms Coming to a School Near You? 1, March26, 2015
    The Florida House of Representatives has given tentative approval this afternoon to make it easier for school districts to adopt standard uniform policies for kindergarten through eight grade. Under state law, uniforms are already allowed, but this legislation offers an encouragement. The legislation offers a ten dollar per student incentive for districts th […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Hitting a Donkey with a 2X4 1, March26, 2015
    One lawmaker likened legislation making major changes in the body that regulates high school sports in Florida to hitting a donkey on the head with a 2 x 4. The House Education committee today passed legislation requiring a complete shakeup of the governing organization, reorganizing its board and membership, allowing students to attend any school. […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Cards on the Table 1, March26, 2015
    Destination resort casinos, the future of greyhound racing, and renewing the compact that allows blackjack in certain places around the state. All were topics of discussion for lawmakers today, and as Matt Galka tells us, the odds are against getting many of the proposals to pass. A four hour long workshop saw legislators diving into […]
    Matt Galka

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Abortion Debate Day 2

April 1st, 2015 by Matt Galka

A day after pro choice voices were stifled in a Florida Senate abortion debate, the House got an earful. As Matt Galka tells us, the result was the same.

A heated abortion debate boiled over on the second straight day in the Florida Capitol.

The House’s version of an abortion waiting period bill drew an expected crowd. Under legislation from 23 year old freshman Representative Jennifer Sullivan (R-Mount Dora), women would have to meet a doctor for a face to face visit before an abortion, then wait 24 hours to go through with the procedure if they still want to.

“I know in my community, the people I’ve worked with the ones I’ve referenced, a lot of women haven’t taken time, a lot of women, especially younger women, being young myself, have seen that they’re very much pressured in the decision,” said Sullivan.

Many of the people speaking were the same people who got shut out from a Tuesday discussion in the Senate.

Outbursts in Tuesday’s Senate made way for emotional testimony in the House.

“I had a friend of mine that took me to get an abortion illegally,” said Dian Alarcon through an interpreter.

Melisa Maderas says she had an abortion at 17 and went on to earn her doctorate.  She says the waiting period is all about trying to talk women out of going through with the procedure.

“We’ve already thought about it, women already spent time talking to their families, friends, having thought about it for themselves, deciding that abortion was the right choice for them and their futures, so we don’t need 24 hours to wait. What they want is for us to change our minds,” said Madera.

The third House committee for the legislation didn’t change its mind. They passed the bill 12 to 5 along party lines.

The waiting period bill now awaits a floor vote from the House. The Senate version has two more stops.

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Health Care Gamble Could Cost You More

April 1st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

 

Florida lawmakers are doing battle over providing health care to a million working poor Floridians. Not expanding health care with Federal money could end up increasing health insurance costs for everyone with insurance.

Florida currently gets one point two billion in federal money to pay for emergency room visits and hospital care for people who can’t pay. Its called the Low income pool, or LIP.

The Feds told lawmakers last year that without an expansion of Medicaid..part of the Presidents plan…the money would go away. US Senator Bill Nelson was in the State Capitol telling lawmakers, the feds aren’t blinking.

“The Federal government will not renew LIP as it is now because they told them over a year ago that its not going to continue” says Nelson.

The State Senate has a plan…the House doesn’t. Kim Williams of A Healthy Florida Works says it is time for the House to get off the dime, or everyone is going to pay higher insurance.

“And when you bring down the uncompensated care, you take away the need to raise the rates on private insurance holders in Florida, like ME as a business owner and like  my employees who pay a part of their insurance coverage.”

Joe Negron is the point man for the Senate . Publicly…he is optimistic.

But so far the Governor has been mum on any Medicaid expansion.

House leaders are sticking to their guns. Rep. Tom Goodson of Titusville says

“you know, we have another whole month, anything could happen.”

Q:”So there is room for negotiation?”

“I didn’t say that. I said anything could happen.”

And while bridging the health care gap is possible…It’s looking more and more like it won’t happen before May first, when lawmakers are set to go home. Anchor Tag: Without a budget, legislators will have to go into special session at a cost of $65,000 a day.

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A “Shell Game” on Amendment One Funding

April 1st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Today is the halfway mark in the Florida Legislative session and both the House and Senate debated their differing budget plans. Both chambers, to the dismay of environmentalists who pushed the land buying and conservation amendment approved by 75 percent of voters last November, about 200 million dollars from last years budget is being included in spending for conservation lands. Aliki Moncrief says the spending isn’t honoring voters intent.

“It’s a bit of a shell game, unfortunately, and certainly not what the voters intended. The voters expect to see more land protected. People don’t want to see their neighborhood parks paved over. People want to be able to go out and and enjoy the amazing nature features out state supports.”

Both budgets use Amendment One money to fund managerial positions that were already in last budgets and do not represent an expansion of environmental programs.

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Domestic Violence and Financial Literacy

April 1st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

The Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence is partnering with Allstate Insurance to help domestic violence survivors learn more about financial literacy. FCDAV President Tiffany Carr says surveys of domestic abuse victims came to a clear conclusion.

“98 percent report that their finances were controlled as part of the abuse. 98 percent have told us they need help rebuilding their credit, and they need help rebuilding their lives.”

Florida has 42 certified domestic violence centers where last year survivors and their children spent more than a half million nights.

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Historic Education Funding…at local taxpayers expense

April 1st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

State lawmakers spent the day asking questions about the state budget. The two chambers disagree over health care funding for the poor, but they are in general agreement when it comes to funding schools. House Education Budget Chairman Erik Fresen of Miami told House members that schools will see a historic increase.

“The FEFP budget increases the funds per student by 3 point one one percent, which is a two hundred and fourteen dollar and 74 cent per student increase. This increase provides a historic level of funding per student, exceeding the highest level of funding previously funded, which was in 07-08.”

While there is more money for schools, it isn’t coming from state coffers. The increase is based on higher property tax collections at the local level due to increased property values.

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On the Attack

March 31st, 2015 by Matt Galka

The Florida Senate looks like it’s poised to pass a plan that would expand Medicaid in the state which could help almost one million Floridians. But as Matt Galka tells us, some conservatives are feeling heat from their own supporters.

Margarita Romo says members of Farmworkers Self Help – the group she established to provide assistance to migrant farm workers – know all too well the pains of falling into the Medicaid coverage gap.

“I don’t know why we get so wrapped up in thinking that we have to pass a budget and that it has to kill a lot of people in order for it to be right,” she said.

Romo said expansion is important not just for adults, but thousands of children who have to wait years for a doctor’s visit.

The Florida Senate is pushing an expansion plan called the Florida Health Insurance Affordability Exchange, or FHIX.  FHIX would require low-income Floridians to work or use copays instead of receiving insurance subsidies.

Skylar Zander with conservative group Americans for Prosperity are now on the attack.  The group, funded by the billionaire Koch brothers,   are sending out mailers to constituents of 25 Senators, including the Senate president, urging them to speak out about the move.

“This is a very bloated expansion and the citizens need to know that,” said Zander.

Senator Anitere Flores (R-Miami) is brushing off the criticism.

“I understand Americans for Prosperity has a job to do and I get it, but the fact is that we have a job as legislators, we have a job that we have to ensure that Floridians have access to healthcare. That it’s affordable, that it’s something they can use. We’re fulfilling our job and we’re doing it in a responsible way,” said Sen. Flores.

Some Senators say they’re fully willing to push session into overtime if the House doesn’t come around on the idea.

“My peers are already prepared to continue this session on, not Sine Die, and force the House to make a decision,” said Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto.

The House has so far rejected the idea of any form of expansion.

Today, members of the Senate were in Washington to discuss healthcare funding, including Medicaid and other options, with federal officials.

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Testimony Nearly Non Existent at Abortion Hearing

March 31st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

There were dozens of angry women in the State Capitol today who were denied a chance to speak against a controversial 24 hour waiting period for abortions. Only two speakers, one for and one against got just seconds to make their case before the committee.

The legislation requires a woman seeking an abortion to make not one, but two visits on different days to a doctor before the procedure can be performed.

Eleanor Sobel sought to allow the consultation to be by phone or electronic communication.

“She physically would not have to make those two trips. It’s a burden for many women, especially those who travel long distance” Sobel told the Senate Health Policy Committee.

“Yea. All opposed please say nay. Nay.” the amendment was voted down.

More than 30 people signed up to speak. Just two got the chance.

Julia Costas is a Tallahassee Attorney. “I had an abortion over 30 years ago and years later I came to regret that decision.”

Dr. Christopher M. Estes works with Planned Parenthood. “This will place our patients in difficult situations, having an unnecessary delay in care” says Estes.

The lack of testimony prompted an outburst from the crowd, which applauded. But the lack of testimony one way or the other din’t stop the committee from approving waiting period along party lines.

“I just find it wrong” says terri Wonder, who drove 5 hours from Bradenton not to be heard. “And it was purposely, obviously, purposely put just before lunchtime to stifle free debate” said wonder afterward.

The legislation has two more committee stops, but one of those committees is chaired by the sponsor.

After the passage, supporters dressed in 1960’s garb…when abortions were illegal, delivered petitions to both presiding officers, but got to see neither.

The House version of the legislation has its final committee hearing at 8:30 tomorrow morning.

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Expanding Medical Marijuana

March 31st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

An expanded version of medical marijuana cleared the Senate Health Policy Committee today. The bill expands last years low THC law from five to 20 distributors and allows them to be selected by a lottery. Anneliese Clark traveled from St. Johns County on the east coast to show the committee pictures of her ten year old daughter. A year ago she was given no hope of surviving.

“We were told by her neurologist that we needed to believe in God because there were no other options for her, so we chose to turn to cannabis. This was her one year later” said Clark.

Q: Pretty remarkable?

“Its very remarkable. She made it 100 days without a seizure. She eats three meals a day. She is trying to walk again.

Opponents say the THC level allowed in the new proposal is too low to help many patients. They vow to push ahead with another constitutional amendment if lawmakers don’t increase allowable dosages.

 

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Smoking in Cars with Kids

March 31st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

People who smoke in their cars with kids under 13 could be stopped by police under legislation approved five to one in a state Senate Health Policy Committee today. The fine for non moving violations ranges from $116 to $129 dollars. Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tamp[a says the legislation is appropriate because kids in the back seat don’t have a choice.

“We should not allow them to expose children to the possibility of years of health failings.”

If approved, the legislation would take effect October first.

 

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Juvenile Citations

March 30th, 2015 by Matt Galka

Lawmakers are pushing a bill that could cut down on juvenile arrests and hopefully still set kids on the right path, but as Matt Galka tells us, retailers are worried it could end up costing them.

Edward Barnes says an arrest when he was a kid sent his life barreling down the wrong path.

“By profession I used to teach middle school, and as a result of that juvenile record I lost my career,” said Barnes.

Barnes travelled from Daytona Beach to tell lawmakers to support expanding the juvenile citation program.  First-time offenders are eligible to receive citations or  be put into diversion programs.  A proposal moving in the Capitol would allow those methods to be used on the second offense or beyond.

Retailers are worried that the bill could limit consequences for shoplifters, and that could end up costing the stores.

“Organized retail crime goes beyond what people normally think of as simple shoplifting, it’s a $2 billion dollar criminal enterprise in the state of Florida,” said Samantha Padgett with the Florida Retail Federation.

Padgett says without a limit on the program, juveniles could continue shoplifting or be recruited into shoplifting crime rings.

“It says you can issue it for a second or subsequent offense and it puts no limit on that. What we would prefer is a limit of three,” she said.

The bill passed its first committee overwhelmingly with lawmakers open to giving kids a second chance.

“If the members who are on this committee held to account for everything they did as children or juveniles, I have a sneaky suspicion that many of us would not be sitting here,” said Rep. Ross Spano (R-Riverview).

The proposal has the backing of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance and faith groups like the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Even lawmakers who supported the bill said it’s important that police have the ability to know in the field if a juvenile has been in the citation program already.

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