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  • Parents, Workers Rally For Child Care Wages and Affordability 1, February12, 2016
    As the state Office of Early Learning starts to figure out how to spend some federal money for child care, parents and workers are saying “we can’t afford it,” and are asking for help.  Matt Galka has the story. Hillsborough County Mother of two Nadia Morley has  Master’s degree…but barely makes above minimum wage. “It’s […]
    Matt Galka
  • Millions Lose Drivers Licenses Each Year 1, February11, 2016
    Debtor prisons are against the law, but tens of thousands of Floridians who can’t afford to pay a traffic ticket often end up jailed on felony charges. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, lawmakers want big changes in the ways fines are handled. It begins with a traffic stop. Those who can’t pay often ignore the […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Dog Lovers Rejoice! Protections for Pets who Bite 1, February11, 2016
    By a vote of 40 to nothing, the State Senate has sent a bill to the Governor allowing dog owners to explain why their dog bite someone and should not receive an automatic death sentence. The legislation was prompted by a dog named Padi who bit a child in a vets office where Padi lived. […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Forfeiture Changes coming for Law Enforcement Agencies 1, February11, 2016
    Under current law, police can seize your property, including cash, without charging you with a crime if they think you are suspicious.  the forfeitures have raised eyebrows for years, but lawmakers are on the verge of requiring that law enforcement must charge you with a crime before taking your property and they can’t keep it […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • House Passes Tax Cut Package, Increase in Required Local Effort 1, February11, 2016
    The Florida House today passed a billion dollar tax cut package that does not contain the Governor’s corporate income tax cut. But the budget also passed by the House today requires local school boards to spend more than four hundred million dollars to increase school funding in what is called the required local effort, or […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • State, Counties to Split Juvenile Detention Costs, Maybe 1, February11, 2016
    The state and counties have been at war over how juvenile detention centers are paid for for more than a decade. At least 23 counties have filed lawsuits against the state, alleging overcharges from a system that relied on estimates of human kids would be locked up. Today, a Senate committee approved a flat cost […]
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Juvenile Justice Reform 1, February11, 2016
    Florida tries more kids as adults than any other state in the country, and 98 percent of those cases are due to the state’s “Direct file” statute – it basically gives prosecutors the ability to move a juvenile into adult court on a whim. As Matt Galka tells us, lawmakers are now preaching “reform” and […]
    Matt Galka
  • Lawmakers Want More Ignition Interlock Devices 1, February10, 2016
    Lawmakers are looking for tougher penalties against convicted DUI offenders. As Matt Galka tells us, they’re touting a bill that installs breathalyzer technology on cars as a lifesaving tool…if they can get it passed. DUI…meet IID.  Lawmakers are pushing for the technology known as an Ignition Interlock Device to be installed on all first time […]
    Matt Galka
  • Thursday at the State Capitol 1, February10, 2016
    Mike Vasilinda
  • Lawmakers Split on Death Jury Verdicts 1, February10, 2016
    The US Supreme Court declared Florida’s death penalty unconstitutional a month ago and now Florida lawmakers are at odds over how many jurors should be required to recommend a death sentence. Until they settle the question, as Mike Vasilinda tells us, Florida will remain without the ultimate penalty. Serial killer Ted Bundy went to his […]
    Mike Vasilinda

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Parents, Workers Rally For Child Care Wages and Affordability

February 12th, 2016 by Matt Galka

As the state Office of Early Learning starts to figure out how to spend some federal money for child care, parents and workers are saying “we can’t afford it,” and are asking for help.  Matt Galka has the story.

Hillsborough County Mother of two Nadia Morley has  Master’s degree…but barely makes above minimum wage.

“It’s hard at home when you don’t know where you can get your next meal from or when your next light will cut off,” she said.

She has to work and provide for her family and that includes paying for child care.  She’s paying more than $100 bucks a week for daycare.

“I’m struggling weekly just to pay day care, and it’s depressing because I’m stressed at work, I’m stressed at home, I don’t feel like I’m fulfilling the needs of my children,” said Morley.

Morley was part of a group that travelled to Tallahassee Friday urging officials to think about child care affordability.

Child care worker LiAnne Flakes says it’s not just about the affordability, it’s about also paying child care workers a minimum wage. She’s pushing for $15 dollars an hour.

 

“We have one of the most important jobs, I believe, in the country, our job is important but we are the least paid. Even the person who walks dogs gets more than I do,” said Flakes.

A $15 dollar minimum wage bill has been filed in both the House and the Senate but there are no plans to hear either one.

State Representative Victor Torres has the bill in the House.  He says it’s the least the state can do for child care workers who are molding the future generations.

“They’re 2, 3 years old, this is their development stages, this is when the child is learning their ABCs, when they learn their names,” said Rep. Torres.

About a dozen people from the rally testified before the Department of Education Office of Early Learning late Friday afternoon urging them to consider affordability of child care.

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Millions Lose Drivers Licenses Each Year

February 11th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Debtor prisons are against the law, but tens of thousands of Floridians who can’t afford to pay a traffic ticket often end up jailed on felony charges. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, lawmakers want big changes in the ways fines are handled.

It begins with a traffic stop. Those who can’t pay often ignore the fine which leads to their license being suspended. People drive anyway and end up in jail.  Public Defender Nancy Daniels says sees cases like these almost every day.

“Every day at first appear you see the people who have been arrested for this. Now, they are entitled to a bond, but because they are so poor, they can’t pay the bond even. So they sit in jail and then we rack up jail costs for this too,”

We met Will Norman making a payment at the Clerks office.

“I’m here to pay them now. That’s pretty much all it is.”

Q:”How much extra did it cost you?”

A:”Ah, about 15 hundred.”

More than 8 hundred thousand Floridians had their license suspended last year for not paying a fine. Another six hundred thousand lost their diving privilege for other offenses, like under age smoking or drinking, theft, or even defacing a building. Sen. Jeff Brandes wants to stop suspending so many licenses,

“We suspend one point four million driver’s licenses in the state of Florida in any given year, and eighty percent of those are for the inability to pay fines or fees.”

Bob Inzer, Leon County Clerk of Courts, says without the hammer of a suspension, there’s not incentive to pay a fine.

“If you take that tool away, to some extent, what does a court order mean anymore? Because really becomes voluntary whether you pay or not.”

The legislation also requires the courts  to work on payment plans that don’t exceed 2 percent of a persons months income.

The Clerks estimate that is fifteen percent more people stop paying fines, it would cost the courts 24 million dollars a year. Money they say needs to be made up by lawmakers if the legislation becomes law.

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Dog Lovers Rejoice! Protections for Pets who Bite

February 11th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

By a vote of 40 to nothing, the State Senate has sent a bill to the Governor allowing dog owners to explain why their dog bite someone and should not receive an automatic death sentence. The legislation was prompted by a dog named Padi who bit a child in a vets office where Padi lived. He was followed under a desk by the child he was trying to avoid. Sponsor Greg Stube said filing the bill was a no brainer.

“It took this case to bring forward this fallacy in the law, a real inequity in the law, The case of Padi became such a huge political issue for Manatee County that they asked the set to get involved and they asked my office if we could do something about it.  And when I looked at it there was just a real justice as how normal dogs were treated in a bite situation, and how previously deemed dangerous dogs were treated.”

Not one single NO vote was recorded as the legislation was heard by six committees and on the House and Senate floors.

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Forfeiture Changes coming for Law Enforcement Agencies

February 11th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Under current law, police can seize your property, including cash, without charging you with a crime if they think you are suspicious.  the forfeitures have raised eyebrows for years, but lawmakers are on the verge of requiring that law enforcement must charge you with a crime before taking your property and they can’t keep it premaritally unless you are convicted.Attorney Justin Pearson of the Institute for Justice says it is often cheaper to let police keep  a portion of the property than to fight the seizure in court,.

They don;’t necessarily accuse the owner of anything. The premise is that its suspicious, so just the mere fact that for someone to do something that police view as out of the ordinary allows the police to take that money or property and keep it and force the owner to suet get it back, even though that law suit might cost more than the property is worth.”

The change is opposed by most police agencies and prosecutors.

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House Passes Tax Cut Package, Increase in Required Local Effort

February 11th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

The Florida House today passed a billion dollar tax cut package that does not contain the Governor’s corporate income tax cut. But the budget also passed by the House today requires local school boards to spend more than four hundred million dollars

to increase school funding in what is called the required local effort, or RLE. The Senate wants to reduce the RLE and  House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says the House is open to the idea of reducing the cost on local property tax payers, while the House Democratic leader says the tax cut is misplaced.

“We’re open to that conversation and their approach in doing that. However if we’re just pushing money back to the locals and not cutting milage, that’s not idea unless we’re writing checks back to the people who pay property taxes. So that’s s discussion that’s left to be had” Cristifulli told reporters.

Democratic Leader Rep. Mark Pafford is critical of the tax cut package.

“The House passed a tax package giving a lot of money away to people, in my view, who don’t need it, and leaving a lot of people behind to pay important bills, and education is certainly big one” says Pafford.

The Senate plan would reduce the Required Local effort by as much as 254 million.

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State, Counties to Split Juvenile Detention Costs, Maybe

February 11th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

The state and counties have been at war over how juvenile detention centers are paid for for more than a decade. At least 23 counties have filed lawsuits against the state, alleging overcharges from a system that relied on estimates of human kids would be locked up. Today, a Senate committee approved a flat cost proposal that has the state and counties splitting the cost of juvenile detention. Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox says the legislation is a big step forward.

“Its a twelve million dollar saving to counties and that’s very important and cost sharing is a better model for us all. I know for Leon County it’s about 120 thousand dollars a year. We’re currently paying about 970. This takes us to 850, which is great for us” says Maddox.

Lawmakers made it clear that all of the counties suing the state would have to drop their law suits for the legislation to move forward.

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Juvenile Justice Reform

February 11th, 2016 by Matt Galka

Florida tries more kids as adults than any other state in the country, and 98 percent of those cases are due to the state’s “Direct file” statute – it basically gives prosecutors the ability to move a juvenile into adult court on a whim. As Matt Galka tells us, lawmakers are now preaching “reform” and are trying to change the law.

If two kids commit the same crime in different parts of the state – one may go through the juvenile justice system – the other could be tried as an adult.  Representative Katie Edwards (D-Plantation) is looking for uniformity.

“I want to get every juvenile a first crack at the juvenile system so they get the programs that they need, the services, the support, and make sure that were not diverting a juvenile who could be rehabilitated in the juvenile system,” she said.

Edwards is part of a bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers looking to reform how kids are tried after they’ve committed crimes in the state.  Her bill would require prosecutors to get a judge’s approval before they can try a juvenile as an adult.

Of the more than 1200 juveniles tried as adults in 2014 and 2015. a majority of them were for non-violent burglary crimes.

Circuit Judge Terrance Ketchel says the adult system doesn’t help most juvenile offenders.

“Juvenile courts have a lot more services, the adult criminal courts, it’s more about punishment,” he said.

34% of the teens who are tried as adults wind up back in prison.

 

“What we’re doing is we are seeing kids who are crimjnally inclined not get the very help to keep them from recidivating,” said former state Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters.

Non-partisan research group the James Madison institute estimates that reform could save more than $12 million dollars over 10 years – which could then be reinvested for more state juvenile services.

The bill still gives prosecutors the ability to direct file and transfer a kid into adult court for more heinous offenses a juvenile may be charged with including murder, carjacking, and sexual crimes.

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Lawmakers Want More Ignition Interlock Devices

February 10th, 2016 by Matt Galka

Lawmakers are looking for tougher penalties against convicted DUI offenders. As Matt Galka tells us, they’re touting a bill that installs breathalyzer technology on cars as a lifesaving tool…if they can get it passed.

DUI…meet IID.  Lawmakers are pushing for the technology known as an Ignition Interlock Device to be installed on all first time offenders cars if they’re convicted of drunk driving.

Frank Harris with Mothers Against Drunk Driving gave us a demonstration

“And now it’s analyzing…and I passed,” he said.

First time offenders already have the devices installed on their cars, but only if they were convicted with a .15 blood alcohol level or above.

A bill moving thorugh the capitol would lower that threshold.  Kristen Allen with MADD says IID’s were responsible for stopping nearly 2 million drivers around the country from driving drunk.

“Residents and visitors deserve to drive without fear that the driver next to them has recklessly chosen to drive drunk,” she said.

Lawmakers say its about saving lives.

We need to do what we can to curb that behavior, and make sure we have fewer victims that just go out innocently to drive on our roads,” said Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood).

But opponents say the price tag which is about $80 bucks a month, means many drivers don’t get them even when court ordered.  What’s worse…a drunk driver could have a sober person pass the breath test for them before they get behind the wheel.

The device would stay on a first time offender’s car for 6 months if the legislation passes

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Thursday at the State Capitol

February 10th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Thursday at the State Capitol

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Lawmakers Split on Death Jury Verdicts

February 10th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

The US Supreme Court declared Florida’s death penalty unconstitutional a month ago and now Florida lawmakers are at odds over how many jurors should be required to recommend a death sentence. Until they settle the question, as Mike Vasilinda tells us, Florida will remain without the ultimate penalty.

Serial killer Ted Bundy went to his death on an 11-1 jury recommendation. John Couey, who killed 9 year old Jessica Lunsford got death on a 10-2 recommendation. Now lawmakers are struggling over how many jurors should be required to send someone to their death. Prosecutor Brad King, testifying before a House committee, said requiring a unanimous verdict like most other states would be a mistake.

“John Couey earned the death penalty by what de did.”

Prosecutors got help from victims like Emilee Cope. Her father was murdered seven years ago.:”

“ He was not able to be there when I learned how to drive. He was not able to be there when I graduated high school” the woman told lawmakers.

After Emilee’s testimony, the House committee voted down legislation requiring all twelve jurors to agree on death.

Instead, they would require a 9-3 vote.

Even at 9-3 or 10-2 Florida would remain an outlier for death cases. Something this court told them more than a decade ago.”

The Senate is pushing for a unanimous verdict, and the two agree, Florida remains without viable death penalty.

And even though his name is on death warrants, Rick Scott is yet to weigh in on the controversy.

“If the legislature passes something, I’ll be glad to review it” is all Scott would say.

A unanimous jury verdict is considered by many to be a safe haven for Florida’s death penalty. Anything else opens the door to more legal challenges.

Only Alabama and Delaware require less than a unanimous jury verdict for death. A recent poll by Public Policy Polling found that 62% of respondents preferred life in prison over the death penalty for convicted murderers, while 35% preferred the death penalty.

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Alzheimer’s Tracking Pilot on the Move

February 10th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

A pilot program for seven Florida counties would spend two hundred thousand dollars on tracking devices for alzheimer’s patients. The idea is to warn families the minute their loved one starts to roam. Rep. Elizabeth Porter sponsored the legislation after a first hand experience with her parents.

“Time matters when you are in search of a child or sometimes even an adult, who has eloped whether its suits or alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately autistic individuals do tend to be drawn to water and if you do not find them sick enough, that unfortunately, its often too late” Porter told the committee.

The pilot was originally set for five rural northeast Florida counties. It was expanded to include Broward and Palm Beach, and may be expanded to include other counties before the final vote.

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Career in a Year says Rick Scott

February 10th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Rick Scott is pushing for 20 million dollars to better fund technical training in Florida. He brought several dozen technical students to the Capitol to help him make his point. Scott recognized Taylor County Technical Student Michael Williams who is about to complete his training.

“There was a young guy just 19 years old who finished the program about two weeks ago, went to work his first job and is making seventy dollars an hour” said Williams, drawing applause from the Governor.

“We have a proposal for twenty million dollars in this years budget. It’s going to help all of our technical schools around our state make sure their individuals get jobs” says Scott.

Scott calls the program “Career in a Year.” He hopes it will attract companies to come to Florida by providing employment ready technical students.

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Assignment of Benefits Under Fire

February 10th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

In Florida, a growing number of third party administrators are getting homeowners to sign over their insurance claims with the promise of a bigger settlement. What they don’t know is that they lose control of the work and often end up with inferior or delayed work while contractors fight with insurers over inflated crimes. Roofer Rick Davis is part of a consumer movement to stop the assignment of benefits, which he says hurts consumers.

“This is wrong and very fraudulent activity and we need to get it dealt with. I’m fine with a check signed by the contractor and the homeowner and that way the homeowner stays in control of the construction activity” says Davis.

Davis and consumer advocates delivered a thousand petitions to legislative leaders, urging them to act on the assignment of benefits legislation.

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Guardianship Legislation Moves Forward

February 10th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

A House committee has approved sweeping changes to the regulation of court appointed guardians. Numerous reports indicate that some court appointed guardians

isolate their elderly charges, medicate them to keep them quiet and drain their bank accounts. New legislation sponsored by Rep. Frank Ahern of Tampa would give families more say in their loved ones care and allow them easier access to courts.

“It’s our duty, part of our duty is to protect the duty, and its an important part of job to make sure that under our care and court appointed, that they;’re getting the best possible outcomes and not being taken away from their children or denied]ed assess to their children as has been reported” says Ahern.

The legislation also creates a first ever register for public guardians and provides they can be taken off the registry for unscrupulous or fraudulent activity.

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February 9th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Wednesday at the State Capitol

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