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FCAT Results Carry Less Power, Educators Say its About Time

April 30th, 2008 by flanews

The way your childs high school is graded could soon change. Lawmakers passed a bill that would lessen the FCATs importance and shift some of the focus back on classroom performance. As Whitney Ray tells us, principles say its about time.

With pressure from parents and a different Governor at the helm, lawmakers took the reigns and unanimously approved a new grading system for high schools. For the past 10 years, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or the FCAT, has been the sole decider of a schools grade. Principal Rocky Hanna said the focus will return to the classroom.

I think this could certainly relieve some of the pressure that were given that our school grade was based on one test, said Hanna.

While half of a high schools grade will still come from the FCAT, the other half will come from graduation rates, college admission tests, and classroom performance. Lawmakers say its a fairer system.

We feel like that is going to give us a much more balanced indication as to how well the school is doing, said House Representative Anitere Flores.

The bill also pushes the test date back. If signed into law, the FCAT would be held in April. Teachers Union Spokesman Mark Pudlow says pushing the date back and lessening the FCATs power would give teachers a little more time to focus on other things.

It still carries an awful lot of weight, it just doesnt carry all the weight, said Pudlow.

Still most of the weight will be carried by the students who will still have to perform well on the test, and maybe even better in the classroom. The bills headed back to the Senate for a vote on changes added by the House.

Posted in Education, Legislature, State News | 2 Comments »

Florida to Lead the Way in Energy Conservation

April 30th, 2008 by flanews

Lawmakers have sent a precedent setting green bill to the Governor. Today the state Senate approved legislation aimed at cutting greenhouse gases and increasing ethanol use. The bill would also require new state, city and county buildings to be more energy efficient. Senator Burt Saunders says the bill will make Florida the nations clean energy leader.

“We’re going to make sure that all our public buildings are green buildings to the greatest extent that we can. We’re going to start making sure that the vehicles that we use at the state level are energy efficient, said Saunders. We’re going to, as the Governor said, lead by example. And I think over the next several years, you’ll see green technologies moving into the state, you’ll see universities doing more research and I think you’ll see a great movement toward greener buildings and greener homes.”

The bill will also set up incentives and education for businesses to go green.

Posted in Environment, Legislature, State News | No Comments »

Frustrated Condo Owner Killed, Lawmakers Push For Transparency

April 29th, 2008 by flanews

Condo owners could soon have more control over their property. Some condo association members have squandering dues and fees paid to the board. As Whitney Ray tells us, a bill to help owners hold board members accountable could soon become Florida law.

Condo owners pay thousands of dollars for services like lawn care and trash pick up. The money goes to condo association boards. Lawmakers said some board members are stealing the money.

There are normally kickbacks which seem to be the status quo when a board doesnt have integrity, said Julio Robaina.

Earlier this year a condo owner, mad about fees, took two board members hostage. Police shot the man.

One of the frustrations that individual had was that he couldnt get information about why these special assessments were being placed, why the raise in maintenance fees, said Robaina.

Legislation passed by both Chambers would give more power to condo owners. The bill would give condo owners access to official documents so they could see how the board was spending their money. Travis Moore, a lobbyist for Floridas Condo Associations, said the bill will help clean up the boards image.

We think this will get rid of a lot of the stories you do hear about in the press, where you hear, oh my God do not live in a condo association, Moore says.

Mike Mastry is the primary realtor for the Adams Street Lofts near the Capitol.

Anything that helps protect peoples investments is a good idea, said Mastry.

Before the bill can begin to offer protection it will have to be signed by the Governor. In Florida eight condo board members have been arrested for embezzling dues and fees.

Posted in Housing, Legislature, State News | 3 Comments »

Teachers Say Governor Isnt Keeping His Promise

April 29th, 2008 by flanews

About a dozen teachers and school board members crowded into the Governors office Tuesday. The final budget proposal calls for major cuts to education. Some schools will lose more than a hundred and forty dollars per student compared to last year. Education leaders say teachers will be laid off and schools will be shut down. Governor Charlie Crist promised to hold education harmless while campaigning for a property tax cut approved in January. Kindergarten teacher Chris Ott said he doesnt expect the Governor to keep his promise.

I think the governor says Ill veto this bill unless it holds education harmless but hell probably just wash his hands and say, well its the legislature, said Ott.

Lawmakers will vote on the budget on Thursday and send it to the Governor.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Children, Education, Legislature, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

Cheap Gas and Pencils Could Cost State

April 29th, 2008 by flanews

Despite a budget shortfall of more than three billion dollars lawmakers are still considering two tax break holidays. The Governor continues to support a gas tax reduction. House representative Marti Coley is pushing for a back to school tax break that would cut sales tax on items like notebooks and pencils. Coley said the tax break will stimulate the economy.

The whole budget is challenging. Once again let me emphasis the relief for our families. The relief for our economy will far outweigh any loss that we take, Coley said.

Early estimates show the week long tax break would cost the state about 23 million dollars.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Education, Legislature, State News, Taxes | No Comments »

Florida to Host International Climate Change Conference

April 29th, 2008 by flanews

Florida will host an international summit on climate change. Governor Charlie Crist made the announcement today in Tallahassee. The summit will be held in Miami. People from across the U.S. and around the world are expected to attend. Crist wants Florida to be at the forefront when it comes to the use of environmentally friendly technology. One of the topics of the summit will be the Governors energy bill. Part of the bill calls for more ethanol stations.

There are some of these stations starting to creep up. In this energy package we talk about, which I believe will pass this week, we talk about E-10 inching forward. Its very good for the people, very good for fuel efficiency and very good for low prices, said Crist.

The Governors energy bill passed the House. Its expected to be heard in the Senate before Friday. The summit will be held on June 25th.

Posted in Environment, State News | No Comments »

Parents of Murdered Son Host Birthday Party at Capitol

April 28th, 2008 by flanews

Soon your child could have more protection against the school bully. A bill requiring schools to set up standards to spot and report bullying passed the House. As Whitney Ray tells us, gay and lesbian groups want the bill amended to offer more protection for homosexual students.

Monday Ryan Skipper would have been 27. His parents were at the Capitol to celebrate his birthday and morn the son they lost to a hate crime.

You get up everyday and you say, Im going to take another day. And you do something that day to make a difference, said Pat Mulder.

Ryan was openly gay. Last year he was stabbed to death in Polk County. His parents say the bullying started in school long before he was murdered.

He endured name calling, throwing stones and sticks at his vehicle as he left the school parking lot, assaulted after school, Ryans Stepfather Lynn Mulder said.

An anti-bullying bill passed the House. Gay and Lesbian groups want the Senates version to specially address bullies who pick on homosexuals. Gays and lesbians are the victims on one out of every three hate crimes. House sponsor Ellyn Bogdanoff said amending the bill to specifically address any group would take the focus off the legislations true intent.

Whether or no the child belongs to a particular category or not, theres a behavioral issue with that bully. Theyd bully anybody and for what every reason because they have a need to bully people and thats were we need to focus, said Bogdanoff.

Right now the focus for lawmakers is on getting the bill passed before the end of session, but amending the bill this late in the game could postpone a vote for another year. The anti-bullying bill is expected to be taken up before session ends on Friday.

Posted in Children, Education, Legislature, State News | 1 Comment »

Twenty-Eight Years of Service and All I Got Was a Meeting Room

April 28th, 2008 by flanews

He served almost 30 years in the Florida legislature but his name wont leave the Capitol when hes term limited out this year. Monday lawmakers voted to name a committee room after Senator Dan Webster. Webster became the first Republican Speaker of the House in more than a hundred years.

Be pressed with this one thought that every member is important. The process is far more important than any other bill youll take up. Than any other bill youll hear and so make the process good and let the results be what they are, said Webster.

The committee room will officially be called the Dan Webster Hall starting in November.

Posted in Legislature, State News | 4 Comments »

Desperate Floridians Deliver Letter to Governor

April 28th, 2008 by flanews

Floridians fighting foreclosure delivered a letter to the Governor Monday asking for immediate help. Earlier this month a taskforce on foreclosure gave Governor Charlie Crist recommendations on how to slow the foreclosure crisis. ACORN a support group helping Floridians in danger of losing their homes attended all of the taskforce meetings. Member Carolyn Patmon said she needs help right away or shell lose her home.

People in foreclosure who are going through it right now, we need some instant resolve and of course we want to make it better in the future for others, but we would like to see him do something for all Floridians thats suffering right now, said Patmon.

The Governor accepted the letter in person.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Housing, State News | 1 Comment »

Governor Keeps Quiet about Evolution

April 28th, 2008 by flanews

The fight over what Florida students will be taught about the origin of man continued Monday in Tallahassee. Last week the academic freedom bill cleared the Senate. Monday the House passed its version of the bill aimed at giving teachers the right to teach students about the holes in Darwins theory. Opponents of the bill say it would allow teachers to teach religion in the classroom. Governor Charlie Crist still hasnt taken a public stance on the bill.

I have to see what they just passed. It just happened seconds ago, said Crist. In all fairness I should look at it before I give an opinion.

The legislation will go back to the Senate for a final vote before the Governor will be forced to take a stance and decide whether or not hell sign the bill into law.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Education, Legislature, Religion, State News | No Comments »

Budget Nears Final Vote

April 28th, 2008 by flanews

After eight weeks of amending and tweaking budget, the legislature has a final proposal. Lawmakers are working with a budget thats more than 3 billion dollars less than last years. Lawmakers are asking the Governor to uses reserves to make up part of the shortfall. Theyve decided to cut their salaries. One state agency not hit as hard as expected is the Department of Corrections. Original budget proposals eliminated more than 500 probation officers. The final version cuts about 200 positions. Florida Probation Officers Chapter President Richard Gordon said losing the positions will make the job harder on the remaining 2,500 officers.

Were not going to have to absorb some of those cases that those 199 officers were going to take over so thats going to increase officers case loads. The more work load you have the less opportunity we have to go out in the community and do our real job, said Gordon.

The Attorney Generals Office prepared for major cuts. The new budget doesnt eliminate any positions, but it does slow down the opening of two new offices.

We are committed to bringing our sex crime units to Tampa and Pensacola. We dont know what the time frame of that will be at this point, but we are very encouraged that there seems to be a commitment from the legislature and the Governor expressing that we have a priority responsibility and we need to keep our children safe from predators. Were going to get there we just dont know when yet, said Attorney General Spokesperson Sandi Copes.

The Pensacola office was scheduled to open last week. The Tampa office is slated to open May 9th. No word on when either office will open. The legislature will take a final vote on the budget Thursday, and then it will be in the Governors hands.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Criminal Justice, Legislature, McCollum, Politics, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

Opponents Say Vouchers Could Hurt Public Schools

April 28th, 2008 by flanews

A proposed constitutional amendment would offer parents vouchers to send their kids to private schools. The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission approved an amendment Friday combining two plans. The joint plan requires school districts to spend 65 percent of money in the classroom and would allow also parents to receive state vouchers to sends their kids to private schools. ACLU spokesman Larry Spalding says the plan could create an exodus from the public school system and allow the state to provide funding to religious schools.

Public schools are the foundation of this country and I think tax dollars ought to be restricted to funding our public schools. Private schools are great, religious schools are great, but taxpayers shouldnt be funding those types of programs, said Spalding.

The school voucher plan is one of seven constitution amendments the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission approved for the November Ballot.

Posted in Amendments, Children, Education, Legislature, State News, Taxes | No Comments »

Debate Over Religious Plate

April 25th, 2008 by flanews

State lawmakers are fighting over whether or not to authorize a Christian themed license plate. The I Believe features a cross on a stained glass window. As Whitney Ray tells us, opponents say if the state approves the tag, they could be forced to issue dozens of other religious tags.

Floridians like to wear their causes on their cars. From Save the Manatees, to Support Special Olympics, it seems everyone wants to make a statement.

We have Marine Corps on just about everything, said Leslie Bragg.

Braggs husband is a retired Marine. Bragg is glad the State issued a tag that allows her to show patriotism. Representative Ed Bullard wants the State to issue a tag to help Christians pronounce their faith.

A lot of people dont support the Dolphins or Tampa or whatever, but the churches are packed said Bullard.

If approved, the I Believe tag would be one of more than a hundred specialty tags in the state. But if you wanted the I Believe tag on your car, youd have to pay an additional 25 dollars.

The money would go to a nonprofit organization promoting faith-based education. ACLU spokesman Larry Spalding says the State should keep God off of license plates.

Im a Christian, but the State shouldnt be in the business of advertising somebodys religion, said Spalding.

Bragg isnt waiting on the state. She already uses her SUV as a faith-mobile.

Between the Marine Corps and the Christian symbol someone might ask why you have a fish on your car. Its just a chance for us to share our testimony, said Bragg.

Lawmakers who believe will have to put the fate of the tag in the hands of two Chambers that may not have enough faith or votes to pass the plate to the Governor. The I Believe tag proposal is part of a larger bill to issue several new tags. The state Senate booted the Christian tag from the bill, but the House could add it back when they vote on the legislation.

Posted in Highways, Religion, State News | No Comments »

Ohio Woman Wants Florida Law Changed

April 25th, 2008 by flanews

As if a trip to the dentist doesnt cause enough anxiety, now theres concern about dangerous metals in the implants and crowns. Implants made in China and India and shipped to the U.S. arent strictly regulated. The first confirmed case of lead contamination in a crown happened in Ohio earlier this year. Friday the women who found the lead crown, Faye Lewis, addressed lawmakers in Tallahassee to gain support for a bill that would implement stricter regulations on dental imports.

The way it made me feel was at first fear, concern, and then anger and thats why Im here, Im angry that someone can get away with this, many somebodies obviously, said Lewis.

The bill cleared the Senate. Its still waiting to be heard in the House.

Posted in Health, Legislature, State News | 1 Comment »

Healthcare Workers Fear Cuts Could Shut Down Nursing Homes

April 25th, 2008 by flanews

Nursing home workers say budget cuts will put them out of business. Lawmakers propose cutting healthcare funding by about a billion dollars. The cuts would leave Floridas nursing homes with 165 million dollars less. Nursing homes get state funds and are required to provide about three hours of personal care a day to every patient. Florida Healthcare Association Chairman David Sylvester said if funding is cut then nursing homes couldnt meet the three hour requirement.

Were faced with a choice of breaking the law perhaps and not standing where were suppose to by the law or putting our facilities in serious financial risk, said Sylvester.

Sylvester wants the state to use matching federal funds to lessen the blow to nursing homes.

Posted in Health, Legislature, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

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