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Real ID a Real Pain

February 26th, 2010 by flanews

Thousands of Florida drivers are unable to renew their driver licenses because of new federal restrictions. The Real ID standards went into effect on January first and require you to provide more identification. As Whitney Ray tells us, many people have lost or destroyed the birth certificates and social security cards they need to get a license.

David Kirkland has missed hours of work and made multiple trips to the DMV just to renew his drivers license.

Here, then over to the Social Security Office, back home to get a couple of things of mail, said Kirkland.

New federal restrictions require four forms of ID to get a license. Since the Real ID program began in January, half a million people have received a Florida license; thats down 260-thousand drivers from a year ago. Marsha Allen wasnt aware of the new requirements.

I discovered that I need four different types of verification just to get a renewal and Ive been driving for over 20 years, said Marsha.

She headed back home Friday to get her birth certificate, passport, social security card, and a couple of utility bills.

People who arent able to find their documents have to attempt to replace them, but theres a catch 22 because many of the agencies that renew the documents require a drivers license.

DMV Spokeswoman Ann Howard says licensing offices will work with people who encounter road blocks.

Just bring in as much documentation as you have and we will work with you one-on-one, said Howard.

The new restrictions were adopted after 9/11 when several of the terrorists were able to get Florida licenses. Real ID is supposed to weed out the bad guys.
For more information about what is needed to get a Real ID go to www.GatherGoGet.com

Posted in Highways, State News, Transportation | 2 Comments »

Accused Child Molester Beaten

February 26th, 2010 by flanews

An accused child molester appeared before a Leon County judge this morning with a black eye, and scratches: his wound healing after family members of his alleged victim caught him in the act.

Erik McDonald was arrested yesterday for the sexual assault of a toddler. Police say he broke into a house and began molesting the child, when family members awoke. They grabbed objects in the living room and began beating McDonald. Tallahassee Police Spokesman David McCranie says if the family hadnt acted the situation could have gotten worse.

The family was a hero; this could have easily turned into a tragedy where someone died, a kidnapping of the child or heaven forbids he runs out of the house and we can’t find him or we don’t know who he is for months and months and he’s still in society. So, I applauded them for their heroic efforts and I’m glad that it wasn’t any worse than it was,” said McCranie.

A judge denied McDonald bail in a court hearing this morning. McDonald is taking medicine for schizophrenia and told police voices told him to molest the toddler.

Posted in Children, Criminal Justice | 2 Comments »

Crist to Rubio: Welcome to the NFL

February 25th, 2010 by flanews

Former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio is catching heat tonight for using campaign cash to pay for personal expenses. Rubio charged 110-thousand dollars on a Republican Party credit card. He says he repaid all charges that werent related to promoting the Republican brand. As Whitney Ray tells us, hes also blaming his US Senate rival for the leaked credit card statements.

If you contributed money to the Republican Party of Florida your donation may have bought former House Speaker Marco Rubio a 400 dollar meal at the Macaroni Grill, a 130 dollar haircut or a 3-thousand dollar car rental.

Over a two year period Rubio charged nearly 110-thousand dollars on an RPOF credit card, according to a newspaper report. His Senate campaign manager says he reimbursed the party for all personal expenses.

Shortly after the story broke, Rubio released a campaign video in an attempt to change the subject. Then he claimed his primary rival Governor Charlie Crist leaked the credit card statements to the press. Crist bristles back.

The people have a right to know how people spend there money, how they comport themselves, how they conduct themselves before they put themselves up for public office. Thats happened to the speaker. He apparently doesnt like it. Thats too bad. Welcome to the NFL, said Crist.

But there may be more than just political penalties tied to the spending allegations. Florida Democrats are calling for a federal investigation into 3.6 million dollars charged on Republican Party credit cards.

Crimes probably were committed at the RPOF, that there was illegal activity at the RPOF, said Eric Jotkoff, a spokesman for the Florida Democrats.

A spokesman for the IRS would neither confirm nor denied they were investigating the Republican spending scandal.

The party has also denied requests from its own members to release the spending statements to the press. On the day the partys former chairman announced his resignation, a paper shredding truck was spotted outside party headquarters.

Rubios campaign manager told us the former speaker was unavailable to answer questions about the spending because he was out of the state.

Sink on Questionable Spending and Ethics Reform

The Democratic frontrunner in Floridas governors race is calling for more transparency in campaign spending.

Alex Sinks plan would ban gifts from lobbyists, increase transparency into the spending of campaign contributions and require state workers to attend ethics training. Sink is releasing her plan as former House Speakers Marco Rubio and Ray Sansom are both catching heat over thousands of dollars spent on RPOF Credit Cards. Sink says more transparency would help donors know how their contributions were being used.

We ought to be having reporting on any credit card transactions at political parties. Im going to require our state employees not to take any gifts at all from lobbyist or vendors, said Sink.

Sink says if she is elected governor she will push for more protection for whistleblowers working in state government who are more comfortable sharing their stories with a journalist than rather than reporting to their own agency.

Posted in Charlie Crist, Politics, Sink, State News | 2 Comments »

Health Care Chat

February 25th, 2010 by flanews

As Republicans and Democrats battled it out on the airwaves in a day long health care summit, the editor of one of the industrys top journals was in Tallahassee to discuss reform.

Susan Dentzer, of the Health Affairs Journal says medical costs are out of control and the issue has become too political. Dentzer says whether or not you like the current reform legislation, its at least a start.

If you look at the facts on the table in front of us and said you know weve got to do something and even what Obama is proposing is incremental compared to the scope of the problems weve have so we could argue about how incremental it ought to be and various proposals, but I think the facts are pretty clear that we need to act, said Dentzer.

Dentzer has spent more than 30 years coving health related issues.

Posted in Health | No Comments »

Attack Ads

February 24th, 2010 by flanews

Florida Governors race is heating up as both parties release attack ads. The ads target TV audiences, but as Whitney Ray tells us, theyll also get a lot of play on the web where a majority of young voters get their news.

Florida is still nine months away from choosing its next governor and the political punches are already beginning to fly.

Tuesday the Republican Governors Association released this ad claiming Alex Sink cut thousands of jobs as head of Bank of Americas Florida Branch. Sink says no way.

Theyre clearly desperate and misleading, said Sink.

Wednesday the Florida Democrats fired back, releasing this anti McCollum ad airing around the state. McCollum says hes proud of his time in Washington.

Im proud of my service of Congress and my record there, said McCollum.

By airing the ads on television and posting them online campaigns are able to target two audiences, TV viewers and younger voters who spend more time on the web.

The ads are coming earlier than usual, a trend political scientist expect will continue. The TV and internet ad battle will really kick off once Sink and McCollum begin spending their own campaign cash. Both of the ads we just showed you are being financed by political groups.

Posted in McCollum, Sink | No Comments »

Jeb on Crist: Unforgivable

February 24th, 2010 by flanews

Former Governor Jeb Bush is publicly chastising Governor Charlie Crists support of the economic stimulus package. Bush told anchors on a political talk show Crists endorsement of the spending is unforgivable. Crist says tell that to the firefighters, police officers, and teachers who were able to keep their jobs, he says, because of the spending.

Everybody has a right to their opinion and I respect that, but I also understand that 87-thousand jobs would have been lost if we didnt have it, 20-thousand educators. I cant, in good conscious, not support those people. I work for them, said Crist.

The criticism from Bush is in line with remarks Crists primary rival for US Senate is spreading on the campaign trail. Still, Bush has yet to endorse a candidate.

Posted in Charlie Crist | 3 Comments »

Florida Chamber of Commerce Legislative Priorities

February 24th, 2010 by flanews

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is asking state lawmakers to protect businesses for tax hikes, lower property tax, and increase their focus on education. Members of the chamber were at the capitol today to celebrate free enterprise and announce their 2010 legislative agenda. Governor Charlie Crist addressed the chamber and says the business climate in Florida is improving.

Crime has continued to decline. Education happens to be up. Property taxes are down. Property insurance is lower. You are covered and we havent had a hurricane. Thank God for that one. Things arent so bad, said Crist.

Crist did concede that the state is facing challenges and says hell talk more about the struggles facing small business owners and employees during his State of the State address next Tuesday.

Posted in Business, Charlie Crist, Education, State News | 1 Comment »

Gang Reduction Strategies

February 24th, 2010 by flanews

There are an estimated 50-thousand gangsters living in Florida. The Attorney Generals Council on Gang Reduction came up with the estimate earlier this year as part of its first ever report. The council is taking credit for helping busting 12 Latin King Gang members in Orlando earlier this month. Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Jerry Bailey says data sharing among different agencies and departments is helping bust more bad guys but adds theres room for improvement.

“We’re going to have to be able to talk better, to share more of the information, but the big thing is getting it all into a centralized database so that gang that’s working today in Palm Beach County and tomorrow in Leon county – that we can better track their movements and their activities,” said Bailey.

The 50-thousand gangsters counted belong to 11-hundred gangs. The council says knowing the states gang population gives them a starting point to measure their progress.

Posted in Criminal Justice, McCollum, State News | No Comments »

Attack Ads

February 24th, 2010 by flanews

Florida Governors race is heating up as both parties release attack ads. The ads target TV audiences, but as Whitney Ray tells us, theyll also get a lot of play on the web where a majority of young voters get their news.

Florida is still nine months away from choosing its next governor and the political punches are already beginning to fly.

Tuesday the Republican Governors Association released this ad claiming Alex Sink cut thousands of jobs as head of Bank of Americas Florida Branch. Sink says no way.

Theyre clearly desperate and misleading, said Sink.

Wednesday the Florida Democrats fired back, releasing this anti McCollum ad airing around the state. McCollum says hes proud of his time in Washington.

Im proud of my service of Congress and my record there, said McCollum.

By airing the ads on television and posting them online campaigns are able to target two audiences, TV viewers and younger voters who spend more time on the web.

The ads are coming earlier than usual, a trend political scientist expect will continue. The TV and internet ad battle will really kick off once Sink and McCollum begin spending their own campaign cash. Both of the ads we just showed you are being financed by political groups.

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

Red-Light Cameras on Legislative Agenda

February 23rd, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

More than 50 cities in Florida have installed cameras at busy intersections to catch red Light runners, even though a 2005 opinion said the cameras, while illegal, could not be used to fine motorists. Now a judge is saying the fines levied by the cities is unconstitutional. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, State lawmakers will likely have the final say.

In 2005, then attorney general Charlie Crist issued an opinion saying local governments could install all the red light cameras they wanted…but they couldnt fine people based solely on the camera.

More than 50 cities ignored the advice. But now a South Florida judge has used the opinion to say the fines are unconstitutional.

State Representative Ari Porth is a co-sponsor of red-light legislation that has languished in Tallahassee for most of a decade. He believes the judges decision and a tight budget might finally light a fire under lawmakers.

I think there are benefits financially for the cities and for the drivers on the road, Porth said.

Under the plan, half of the 155-dollar fine would go to the state, with 25 dollars of each ticket going to support trauma centers.

In one study, in an intersection like this one, when motorists were told there was a camera, the number of red-light runners dropped from 50 a day to just 20.

Nationally, support for the cameras is overwhelming. We found the same support in random interviews.

Absolutely no problem. Abide by the law, one driver said.

I think it would be good. I think it would help keep people accountable, another said.

Put the cameras up there and give them tickets, driver Koceem Stanbury said. Thatll slow them down.

And while safety is important, in the end, it will likely be the search for cash that motivates lawmakers to finally legalize with dozens of cities have been doing for years.

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Posted in Charlie Crist, Legislature, State Budget, State News | 10 Comments »

Sansom Tribunal Disbands

February 22nd, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

Former House Speaker Ray Sansom resigned his legislative seat on the eve of a scheduled disciplinary hearing over whether he misused his official position. The resignation effectively ended the legislative hearing, so, as Mike Vasilinda tells us, taxpayers will have to wait for criminal proceedings to know the truth about the tangled relationship with a well-healed donor.

In November 2008, Ray Sansom was at the apex of power in Florida. 15 months later he resigned his legislative seat on the eve of disciplinary hearings that he misused his official position.

Sansom’s attorney says the deck was stacked against justice.

“He couldn’t defend himself in this process,” Gloria Fletcher, Sansom’s attorney, said. “There was no way for him to compell the attendants and witnesses.”

At the core of the charges, is a six million dollar appropriation Sansom steered to a hometown college. It appears to be for an airport hangar for a well-healed contributor. Sansom, the college president, and the contributor, all face felony grand theft charges.

“Any violation would have had to have been proved by clear and convincing evidence,” Galvano said. “So that’s where I’m going to leave it and I’m going to respect the resignation.

Sansom joins at least nine other legislators who have chosen to resign rather than face discipline or even expulsion at the hands of their colleagues.

Representative Rich Glorioso regrets lawmakers will not get to the bottom of the story.

“I wanted to see the evidence laid out so we could make an honest decision about what we were going to do,” Glorioso said. “Unfortunately we didn’t have that opportunity today, so it’s going to leave a lot of voids in our mind.”

But the truth, if it’s ever to be known, will have to wait for criminal proceedings.

Posted in Criminal Justice, Legislature, Sansom, State News | No Comments »

Ran Sansom Resigns from House

February 22nd, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

Former House Speaker Ray Sansom has resigned from the Florida House of Representatives rather than face disciplinary proceedings that were scheduled to begin today. Attached is his letter of resignation. sansom-resignation-letter

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Haitian Class Size Problems

February 19th, 2010 by flanews

Florida lawmakers are worried students arriving from Haiti could bankrupt local school districts. 23-hundred have already enrolled, and more are coming. As Whitney Ray tells us, even if the feds chip in, they probably wont give enough to help schools meet strict class size requirements.

The final phase of the class size requirements goes into effect next school year, but principals fear they wont have the money to meet the mandate.

Were up against some serious financial challenges, said Rocky Hanna, Principal of Leon High School.

Adding to the financial fiasco, hundreds of new Haitian students fleeing their earthquake ravaged land. 23-hundred are already here, with an estimated 200 arriving daily.

We are having to dip into our reserves right now to pay for those additional students, said Wayne Blanton, President of the Florida School Boards Association.

Most of the new students are enrolling in South Florida schools, but once commercial fights to Haiti pick back up other areas are likely to see a larger increase.

Lawmakers began discussing the problem this week. No one knows how many new students will be enrolled next August when stricter class size requirements go into effect.

There is no money in our districts to build new schools, so if we need now new class rooms I think it is a federal issue, said State Senator Nan Rich.

State officials are expecting federal help in May to cover the cost of teaching the new students, but theres no word on whether Washington will send money to build new classrooms.

State lawmakers are pushing a constitutional amendment that would allow schools to meeting class size requirements based on school wide averages, but voters will have to sign off on the deal in November, three months after the stricter rules go into effect.

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

Acreage Cancer Cluster

February 19th, 2010 by flanews

Experts from the Centers for Disease Control visited the Florida Department of Health today to discuss an action plan for the Acreage Cancer Cluster.

Women and children in the Palm Beach County community are experiencing higher than normal levels of brain cancer. State inspectors are in Acreage trying to find the source. Michael McGeehin, the CDCs Director of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, says the source may never be discovered.

The cause of these cancer clusters is virtually never found and part of that is that cancer has a large latency. Cancer clusters can variably have small numbers. They seem very large. Cancer clusters are difficult because of so many different exposures that might be association with cancer cluster, so when you are doing these investigations so many factors come into play, said McGeehin.

McGeehin says as the state searches for answers the public needs to be kept up to date on the states progress.

Posted in Health, State News | No Comments »

Sansom Tribunal to Proceed

February 19th, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

Beginning Monday, a select group of Florida lawmakers will take on the
rare responsibility of disciplining one of their own members. Former
House Speaker Ray Sansom will be on trial before a political tribunal
accused of violating House ethics rules. As Mike Vasilinda tells us the
charges revolve around Sansom’s job as chief budget writer.

Ray Sansom’s troubles began the November 2008 day he was elected speaker
amid a throng of applause. It was the same day he took an unadvertised
six figure part time job at his home town college. Details surfaced that he
had sent more than 35 million dollars to the schools…more than any
other college. 6 million was allegedly destined for an airport hanger for a close
political supporter.

The five member select committee begins calling witnesses Monday. Sansom
himself isn’t talking. Neither will the former college president or the
political supporter. All three are also facing criminal charges.

Bill Galvano will lead the probe.

“What it ultimately boils down to is actions or a series of actions,” Galvano said.

Sansom could face expulsion from the house but that is not likely. E. Bert
Riddle, shown here cleaning out his desk in 1961, is the only person ever expelled from the legislature. He was convicted of propositioning a young female page.

The legislative hearings are political, not judicicial. That means the five member panel can give the evidence whatever weight it wishes.

Four days of hearing are scheduled, with a fifth set aside
if necessary.

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

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