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Coastal Drilling Could Bring Down Prices at the Pump, or Not

June 20th, 2008 by flanews

Drilling off the coast of Florida continues to be the hot topic in Florida. Four dollar a gallon gas has lawmakers looking for solutions. As Whitney Ray tells us, drilling off the coast may not lower the prices at the pump, but it could slow down the increase.

Hear It Here: Coastal Drilling Could Bring Down Prices at the Pump, or Not

The pain at the pump has people screaming for relief, even if it means drilling off Floridas coast.

If its there, lets go for it. Come on lets go, said Gary Wichware.

The states Chief Financial Officer says not so fast. CFO Alex Sink says finding oil off the coast doesnt mean youll pay less at the pump.

I defy you to get an oil company to get a contract in writing for the people of Florida, if you let us drill then we will reduce your gas prices at the pump by two dollars a gallon, said Sink.

Even if oil was found off the coast of Florida, it would have to be traded on the world market before it impacted the price at the pump. Florida State University Economist Mark Isaac says if rigs began pumping oil out of state waters, it may not have much of an impact at the pump.

It may just mean it keeps the price from going up less than it might have otherwise gone up, said Isaac.

It could take years for oil found off the coast to reach the market. Still knowing there is more supply could affect the price of gas.

Just the revelation that theres more oil out there, thats going to impact the price one way of another, again how big an affect we dont know, Isaac said.

Economist say it would take more than just a few oil rigs off the coast of Florida to have a significant impact on the price. If the federal ban on drilling near the coast was lifted it would still be up to individual states to decide if they would allow drilling. So far Floridas Democratic leadership has taken a stand against drilling. Governor Charlie Crist says hes willing to consider it.

Posted in Oil Drilling, State News, Transportation | No Comments »

Let the Races Begin

June 20th, 2008 by flanews

Candidates start your engines. The first official step in the campaigning season ended today at noon. State and County candidates had all week to file the proper paper work and pay a fee to get their names on the ballot. Several state senators and house representatives won reelection because no one qualified to run against them. In years past people waited to the last minute to file their paper work. Secretary of State Kurt Browning says a change in the law has helped people qualify without traveling to Tallahassee.

The laws been changed that provides that candidates can file papers 10 days prior to the qualifying period. As a matter of fact we encourage candidates to file the papers early so we can go ahead and check those and get the websites updated as soon as twelve noon when the first day gets here, said Browning.

A Miami Dade House Hopeful waited till the last day to qualify. Democratic Candidate Juan Espinosa is running for a Miami House seat. Espinosa is 4- feet 2 inches tall, but that hasnt gotten in his way of achieving his professional goals. Espinosa is a television and movie actor. He says the failing economy has impacted his family and now he wants to do something about it.

My Grandfather lost his house because he couldnt afford the tax rates and I want to see if I can bring solutions to all those problems, because Ive seen in the past nothings been done, said Espinosa.

The Secretary of States office hopes to have a list of every one who qualified on its website by 6 oclock tonight. For a list you can go to www.dos.state.fl.us and click on Candidate Listing for 2008.

Posted in Elections, Legislature, State News, Voting | 4 Comments »

Oil Drilling Rallies Dems, Divides the GOP

June 19th, 2008 by flanews

Drilling for oil off of Floridas coast is quickly becoming the hot button topic moving toward the general election. As Whitney Ray tells us, the issue is not only pitting Democrats against Republicans, its splitting the GOP as well.

Hear it Here: Oil Drilling Rallies Dems, Divides the GOP

Two Days after the governor changed his tune about drilling for oil off Floridas Coast.

I think we should study it, Governor Charlie Crist said on Tuesday.

Florida Democrats are voicing their frustration with the states chief executive.

I just think the Governor is wrong on this, said Democratic State Senator Arthenia Joyner.

The States lone Cabinet Democrat said shes stunned by the governors change of tune and adds Floridians wont be duped.

The voters of Florida can see through whats going on here, said Alex Sink, Floridas Chief Financial Officer.

Few issues in Tallahassee have rallied Democrats against the governor like the idea of opening Floridas coast to oil rigs. Just hours after Governor Crist changed his tune, the Florida Democrats released a statement calling him a flip-flopper. Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman said this issue is rallying Democrats.

I absolutely think its one of the largest issues weve seen at the beginning of this campaign that draws the line in the sand.

Not all Republicans are supporting the Governors change of heart. Some top GOPers remain skeptical that drilling off the coast could lower gas prices. The Republican Party of Florida refused to comment on the divide within the party.

If oil was found and excavated off of Floridas coast it would take years to impact the market, although the state could make hundred of millions of dollars by leasing land to oil companies.

Posted in Elections, Environment, Oil Drilling, Politics, State News | No Comments »

Truck Drivers With Idling Engines Face Fines in Florida

June 19th, 2008 by flanews

Soon truck drivers in Florida will have to kill their engines if theyre not moving. The Environmental Regulation Commission approved a rule Thursday, imposing fines from keeping an 18-wheelers idling for more than five consecutive minutes. The plan is to cut greenhouse emissions. Anne Blair with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said the emissions from diesels are not only bad for the environment, they can also make you sick.

They are a contributor to many adverse health impacts, such as respiratory and lung disease. It exacerbates asthma attacks and many other health problems in localized areas where you often find large concentrations of diesel engines, said Blair.

The rule goes into effect on December 15th. There are exemptions for truck drivers who sleep in their cabs and refrigerator trucks drivers who need to keep their engine running so cargo doesnt spoil.

Posted in State News, Transportation | No Comments »

Doctors Face Charges for Giving HIV Patients Vitamins Instead of Medicine

June 19th, 2008 by flanews

Five Florida doctors and a health clinic owner are facing fraud charges. Floridas Attorney General investigated the Esther Romeu health clinic in Miami. The AGs office say doctors at the clinic cheated Medicare and Medicaid out of more than 15 million dollars. Victoria Langley Heller, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General, said the doctors were charging the programs for HIV drugs, pocketing the money, and injecting patients with vitamins.

These Medicaid and Medicare dollars were suppose to go to help patients in need and instead apparently lined the pockets of five doctors and a clinic owner, the very people who we expect to take care of our injured and ill patients, said Heller.

According to the AGs office some of the patients received money from the doctors to play along.

Posted in Health, McCollum, State News | No Comments »

Not Your Grandfathers Oil Company?

June 18th, 2008 by flanews

As the appetite for drilling off the coast of Florida increases so do safety concerns. Environmentalists say drilling near the coast would ruin Floridas beaches. As Whitney Ray tells us, a lot has change in the oil industry since the last domestic spill.

Hear it Here: Not Your Grandfathers Oil Company?

With four dollar a gallon gas, public opinion about drilling off Floridas Coast is shifting. So is the Governors.

What we ought to be willing to do is study it, Crist said Tuesday.
Florida Petroleum Council Executive Director David Mica recognizes the oil industries infamous past, but said things have changed.

Its not your grandfathers oil company anymore, Mica said.

The oil industry has pumped billions of dollars into high-tech equipment aimed at finding oil, preventing leaks and stopping spills. Newer oil rigs have remote centers to shut down operations in case of an emergency. During Hurricane Katrina and Rita in 2005 remote centers in Houston, Texas, were used to shut down oil rigs a hundred miles out at sea. Oil rigs survived Katrina with little oil spilled.

One of the things that happened in Katrina is, while we had very little if any environmental damage, we had significant damage to many of our platforms, Mica said.

Theres no guarantee against a spill which worries environmentalists.

People come here for Floridas beautiful beaches if we drill for oil we run a very high risk that well ruin those beaches with oil spills, said Eric Draper with Audubon of Florida.

Drilling closer than 125 miles would require a change in federal law. The last major oil spill in America happed almost 40 years ago in Santa Barbara, California. An estimated three million gallons of oil ended up in the Pacific Ocean.

Posted in Environment, Oil Drilling, State News, Wildlife | 1 Comment »

CFO Stunned by Governors Change of Tune

June 18th, 2008 by flanews

The states Chief Financial Officer says shes stunned at the Governors change of tune about the possibility of drilling for oil off Floridas Coast. Just weeks ago Governor Charlie Crist was saying Florida was the last place he wanted to see oil drilling. He changed his tune this week. CFO Alex Sink held a late afternoon news conference asking the Federal Government to quit tossing around the idea of drilling for oil in Florida. Sink said oil companies are taking advantage of the economic downturn to push their agenda.

The oil companies have been waiting for years now for just an opportunity like this which we are suffering with four dollar a gallon gas to get their nose under the tent and convince Americans its time to resume oil drilling, said Sink.

Sink says Americans should focus on conserving and the government needs to focus on alternative energy sources not drilling.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Environment, Oil Drilling, State News, Wildlife | No Comments »

Lawmakers Keep On Trackin

June 18th, 2008 by flanews

Lawmakers want to fight high gas prices with more public transportation. State senators met with Amtrak officials today to talk about building a rail system through Central Florida and the possibility of receiving federal funding to finance the project. There is already a commuter rail from Jacksonville to Miami with about 20 stops in-between. Senator Paula Dockery said people need more travel options.

We want to offer some alternatives and we have to start now to have it years from now and Ive been trying to have rails system for 12 years. So the longer we delay the more expensive it will be, said Dockery.

Lawmakers plan to meet with the Department of Transportation and Amtrak officials again this summer.

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

Governor: Study Gulf Oil Drilling

June 17th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Embracing oil drilling off the Florida coast has long been considered a death knell for Florida politicians, but as gas tops the four dollar mark, Mike Vasilinda tell us, drilling is now bing talked about as a savior.

charlie-and-alex-leary.jpg

For the last three decades, even thinking about Rigs like this one off Florida were sudden death for politicians. But Governor Charlie Crist spent 30 minutes answering questions from a moving gaggle of reporters, talking about why the idea may now feasible.

You know, it would all depend on the parameters. How far off the coast, how safe it would be, how much it would protect our beaches. Crist said at his first media stop.

The governor concedes his position is evolving. Just a week ago he was still saying no.

There are several obvious factors,” Crist said.”Lets face it, the price of gas has gone through the roof and Florida families are suffering as a result.”

The sudden about face has environmentalists worried. Their decades long fight has never been so close to failure. Holly Binns of Environment Florida says opening new lease areas has only resulted in higher prices.

Last year, President Bush signed a bill that opened up 8 million acres to offshore drilling. As a result, gas prices are through the roof, the price of oil is the highest its ever been, and the oil industry is awash with record profits,” Binns said.

So as the governors gaggle moved from one location to another, the question came up…was he wavering because it improved his chances of being John Mc Cains running mate?

The quick answer was No .

What happens next and who decides it is still up in the air, but the Governor now favors getting a study to find out if the treasures of the Gulf could lower the price at the pump.

Any move to allow exploration will likely take an act from congress or the state legislature, although the governor may be able to allow some exploration with an executive order.

Posted in Business, Charlie Crist, Environment, Legislature, Politics, State News | No Comments »

115,000 Felons Have Rights Restored In Governors First Year

June 17th, 2008 by flanews

More than a hundred thousand ex-offenders can now vote, serve on a jury and hold public office. Today Governor Charlie Crist says its just the first step in restoring the rights of all nonviolent felons but as Whitney Ray tells us, there are hundreds of thousand more without civil rights and very little money to get the job done.

rstoration-poster.jpg

Bernie DeCastro traded his prison stripes for a business suit. DeCastros running for an Ocala House seat, a goal he could never reach if he hadnt had his rights restored.

People can change. Im a living example. I was in prison four times and Ive been out of prison now for 25 years. I have five children all in the school system. I have my own company, said DeCastro.

In the last year, since the Governor pushed a plan allowing non-violent offenders to regain their rights automatically, 115,000 felons can now pursue their futures. The Governor said its just a start.

We have to remain vigilant and stay on it and create the opportunity for more people who deserve it to get their rights restored as quickly as possible, said Governor Charlie Crist.

There are still more than 300,000 people waiting for their civil rights to be restored. Mark Schlakman, with the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, says the Governor should separate rights restoration from employment issues, an idea which has so far failed.

When employment eligibility issues are decoupled from the clemency process there would be absolutely no reason to have a three tiered review, said Schlakman.

The economy is also slowing down the process.

Another obstacle felons face when trying to have their rights restored is the budget. The parole Commission lost 1/5th of its funds. Which means there are nine fewer employees to do the work which is already backlogged. A restoration of rights summit was held at the capitol today.

charllie-at-podium.jpg

The event will continue tomorrow as lawmakers and community advocates continue to discuss ways to keep ex-offenders out of jail.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Criminal Justice, State News | No Comments »

CFO Sink Launches A.L.Ex. Program

June 17th, 2008 by flanews

Floridas Chief Financial Officer is tapping the states university talent pool. About 20 Florida college students began working for CFO Alex Sink this week. The paid internships are part of the Academy of Leadership Excellence Program, also know as A-L-Ex, for the CFOs first name. This is the first year for the program. The students will work in 11 different divisions of the Department of Financial Services. Every student will be assigned a mentor. FAMU Grad-student LaToya Russell will work in the CFOs office of Communication this summer. Russell said the program has given her the opportunity to pursue her dreams

I see it just adding to my basic experience and helping me cultivate knowledge that I can apply to what I want to do in the future which is policy, said Russell.

CFO Sink hopes the program will encourage the states best and brightest college students to stay in Florida.

Posted in Education, State News | No Comments »

Doc Stamp Tax Points Up

June 17th, 2008 by flanews

Governor Charlie Crist says there may be a sign in the latest tax collection numbers that amendment one is working. The May Department of Revenue data shows sales and corporate taxes continuing to fall but the Documentary Stamp Tax is coming in higher than expected. The Doc Stamp Tax is a tax on the legal paper work people filled out when they buy a house. The Doc Stamp collections are 13 million dollars higher than expected. Governor Charlie Crist said an increase in the Doc Stamp Tax could mean the property tax amendment passed in January is working.

Starting to have more revenues begin to come in via ad valorem in particular, then obviously somethings happening out there in a positive way, said Crist.

The Florida Realtors Association says the housing market is on the rise. The Association will release housing numbers next week.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Housing, Property Taxes, State Budget, State News, Taxes | No Comments »

A Ray of Hope for The Sunshine State

June 16th, 2008 by flanews

The budget is 6 billion dollars lighter than it was a year ago, sales and corporate tax revenues continue to fall and the governor is asking state departments to hold back four percent of their budgets. Despite the failing economy Whitney Ray tells us, theres a sign things could be getting better.

Hear It Hear: A Ray of Hope for The Sunshine State

Floridians are spending less and so is big business. For May sales tax collections are 50 million dollars less than estimated. Corporate income tax is also down. Economists say declining home sales and high gas prices are hurting Florida.

We do face the challenges from rising energy prices. We got the drag on the economy from the war in Iraq which is ongoing. So weve got the challenges, said Randall Holcombe, an Economic Professor at FSU.

But this home loan paperwork could send a signal that the state is rising to the challenges. Theres a lot of paper work involved in buying a house and with the paper work comes a lot of taxes and fees.

Those collections go into the general fund as documentary stamp taxes. For May the Doc Tax came in 13 million dollars higher than expected. The Florida Realtors Association says home sales are up and an increase in the doc tax is good news.

With increases in homes sales the doc stamps goes up and that helps build the state funds, said John Sebree with the Florida Realtors Association.

Realtors say Amendment one is helping revive the states housing market. The amendment, approved by voters in January, allows homesteaded property owners to take their savings with them when they move.

Weve been talking to property appraisers across the state who are seeing a significant number, like in the thousands, of property owners who are filing for portability, said Sebree.

The Florida Realtors Association will release its latest sales figures next week… But early indications are they numbers will be up. The new budget takes effect in July First. This is the first time in the States history; Florida has had back to back budgets with less money in them than the previous year.

Senator Oppose Gay Marriage Amendment

In November Floridians will be asked if they want a gay marriage ban written into the states constitution. Florida already has a ban on gay marriage. Supporters of writing a ban into the constitution say it would better protect Florida against lawsuits. US Senator Bill Nelson said the amendment would do more than keep the state out of lawsuits. Nelson said the amendment would hurt heterosexual couples living together.

It would ban more than gay marriage. It bans any kind of sharing of property between people who are not married and I think that is why you see former Governor Bush and Governor Crist that are opposing it, said Nelson.

Sixty percent of voters would have cast ballots for the Amendment in order for the ban to be written into the state constitution.

Posted in Housing, State Budget, State News | No Comments »

Senator Nelson: Dont Rule Hillary Out

June 16th, 2008 by flanews

US Senator Bill Nelson says Barrack Obama should pick Senator Hillary Clinton as his running-mate. Senator Nelson spoke to reporters at his Tallahassee office Monday. Nelson was a Clinton supporter. Now hes backing Barack but says if Barack is down in the national polls he should pick Hillary for V. P. to increases his chances. Nelson said the country will know very soon whether or not Hillary will be on the ticket.

Youll know in about the next two and a half weeks, because if Obama bumps us, I think its less likely, in the national polls if he bumps up, its less likely that he picks Clinton. If he rises slightly or stays the same theres a greater likely hood that hell pick Clinton, said Nelson.

Nelson also said Obama would need Clinton in order to carry Florida. Recent polls show Obama losing to McCain.

Posted in Elections, State News, Voting | No Comments »

Senator Poised to Fight

June 16th, 2008 by flanews

Florida continues to battle with Alabama and Georgia over water flow to the Apalachicola River. The US Army Corps of Engineers has reserved the right to cut the water flow from Georgias Lake Lanier to help conserve water. Some say cutting the flow would hurt Floridas oyster business and kill 4 threatened species that live in the Apalachicola Bay. US Senator Bill Nelson said hes ready to go to war with the Army Corps of Engineers if they hold the water back.

If we get into a drought this September, when the Army Corps has said that Georgia can hold back that stretch of Water, Im getting ready to fight them to release waters from Lake Lanier where they have a year and a half of fresh water supply, said Nelson.

Ten Percent of the nations oysters are harvested from the Apalachicola River.

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

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