Welcome to

Capitol News Service

Florida's Best Political Television Coverage


Visit the Lobby Tools Website


Visit Legislative IQ Website


Recent Posts



RSS Capitol News LIVE

RSS Quote of the Day

Florida Integrity Calls for Ethics Reform

March 30th, 2012 by flanews

An ethics case against a Republican State Senator is now in the hands of the Florida legislature. Today the Florida Commission on Ethics asked lawmakers to discipline Senator Jim Norman for failing to report a 500-thousand dollar home his wife received as a gift. Ethics commissioners are passing the buck because they lack the authority to punish lawmakers. As Whitney Ray tells us, the case is shedding light on what some government watchdogs consider a flaw in Florida’s ethics policy.

A half a million dollar home on a lake in Arkansas is at the center of an ethics case against an up and coming Florida senator. The home was a gift to Senator Jim Norman’s wife, in 2006. Norman failed to report the property when he ran for senate four years later.

Friday, the Florida Commission on Ethics asked the State Senate to decide a penalty, because they lack the authority to punish lawmakers. Norman’s attorney says there should be no penalty because his client was just following the legal advice he was given at the time.

“He did what he was given advice of council to do. The commission determined there was cause on that,” said Mark Levine, Norman’s Attorney.

The commission’s lack of power to punish lawmakers coupled with the fact that it can’t launch its own investigations, has help earn Florida a C minus in a statewide corruption report.

The grades were given earlier this month by the Center for Public Integrity. Dan Krassner, Director of Florida Integrity, has been compiling data for his own report.

“It’s time to give the Florida Ethics Commission the power to investigate and the ability to impose fines on sitting senators and sitting members of any public office,” said Krassner.

Krassner says a lot needs to change to improve Florida’s ethics grade, and adds the state legislature can start now by taking up Norman’s case quickly and handing him a stiff penalty. Florida Integrity will release its own report on corruption in the state legislature later this spring and offer legislative fixes to the problems.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

DCF Issues New ID Cards

March 30th, 2012 by flanews

The state is taking action tonight after a half dozen cases of people posing as child welfare investigators surfaced. The Florida Department of Children and Families has issued high tech badges to its caseworkers. The investigators began wearing the badges today. The ID cards have the state seal and a hologram of Florida built into them. They also have a QR code on the back that can be scanned with an Iphone. When scanned the phone dials DCF. DCF Secretary David Wilkins says the changes will bring uniformity to the process.

“Every region had different protocols, different processes and procedures on how they do that work and that is one of the changes we are making now, really standardizing the process,” said Wilkins.

More changes are being considered to bring more uniformity to the child investigation process, including official uniforms for case workers.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Concealed Weapons Permits Popular in Florida

March 28th, 2012 by Mike Vasilinda

State officials say state law forbids them from talking about Sanford Shooter George Zimmerman’s concealed weapons permit. Information about concealed weapons was taken out of the public domain in 2006, so we don’t know who has a concealed weapon, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, we do know a lot of people are carrying weapons in Florida.

One in every 20 Floridians has a valid concealed weapons permit. Sanford shooter George Zimmerman still has his. State law is very specific about when the permits can be suspended or revoked.

“If you’re charged with a felony crime, and the department is notified, we can certainly move to have the license suspended,” Sterling Ivey with the Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “Once a conviction takes place, we can revoke that individual’s license.”

This past year, state lawmakers lowered the cost of a concealed permit by fifteen dollars. They now cost 70 dollars. Applicants must also pass a gun safety course. The Brady Project to prevent gun violence says concealed carry permits are too easy to get in Florida.

“You know, this man George Zimmerman, is a living example of that,” Brady Project President Dan Gross said. “This is a guy who had an arrest record, this is a guy who had a violent past. This is a guy who in numerous other states would never be offered a permit to carry a loaded, hidden, handgun.”

The NRA declined to appear on camera for this story. But they argue that statistics show only law abiding citizens get and keep a permit. State figures show 98 percent of all applicants receive a carry permit.

Since 1987, more than 2 million concealed weapons permits have been issued in Florida, and of those permits just three of every thousand have been revoked.

The Brady project counters that just one concealed permit in the wrong hands is an injustice.

In addition to lowering the license fee, lawmakers also reduced the renewal fee by ten dollars. Concealed weapons permits now cost about eight and a half dollars a year.

Posted in Adam Putnam, Amendments, Business, Cabinet, Charlie Crist, Children, Civil Rights, Crime, Criminal Justice, Drugs, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Ethics, FAMU, Gambling, Gas Prices, Gulf Oil Spill, Health, Highways, Holidays, Housing, Hurricane Season, Insurance, Legislature, McCollum, Oil Drilling, Pam Bondi, Pension, Politics, Property Taxes, Religion, Rick Scott, Sansom, Sink, State Budget, State Employees, State News, Supreme Court, Swine Flu, Taxes, Tourism, Transportation, Unemployment, Unions, Utilities, Veterans, Voting, Weather, Wildlife | 24 Comments »

Stand Your Ground Special Session

March 27th, 2012 by flanews

The Florida House held a moment of silence this afternoon to honor the life of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. Martin was shot and killed a month ago by 28 year-old George Zimmerman. Zimmerman claimed self-defense. Now Democrats want a special session to review Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. As Whitney Ray tells us, scrutiny over the law is growing, even as new information about the shooting begins to surface.

Wearing a hoodie over his shirt and tie, Representative Dwight Bullard joined House members in a moment of silence for Trayvon Martin. Martin was killed February 26th while walking through a Sanford neighborhood wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

“We continue to morn his untimely death and search for answers,” said Rep. Dwayne Taylor.

His shooter, 28 year-old George Zimmerman, is claiming self-defense. The case has sparked debate over Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, with House Democrats calling for changes to the self-defense statute.

“You can not balance the cost of life, the loss of life against the cost of a special session,” said Rep. Darryl Rouson.

“Someone had mentioned waiting until after the election. That’s totally inappropriate,” said Rep. Perry Thurston.

The number of justifiable homicides has nearly tripled since Stand Your Ground became law in 2005. Representative Dennis Baxley sponsored the bill. He says the number of self-defense shootings has risen because Floridians feel more empowered to protect themselves.

“I think those numbers reflect that the statute works, that in those circumstances when a person is under violent attack they are able to turn the situation around,” said Baxley.

Baxley says Stand Your Ground should not apply in the Martin case, based on what he’s heard. But new information leaked by police suggests Martin may have been beating Zimmerman just seconds before he shot and killed the teen.

As House Democrats continue their calls for a special session to review stand your ground, Republicans want to wait until all the facts behind Martin’s death are revealed before deciding how to move forward.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Inspirational Messages Could Face Challenges

March 26th, 2012 by Mike Vasilinda

School children as young as six could deliver unsupervised inspirational messages under legislation signed by Governor Rick Scott. The policy is optional for the state’s sixty-seven school boards and, as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the boards are being warned they will be sued if they go forward.

State lawmakers pray before each session and now they think prayer should return to public schools.

Nowhere in the two page bill signed by the governor permitting inspirational messages is the word prayer used, but sponsors left no doubt prayer is what they intend.

“Before inspirational messages were removed from our schools, the number one problem was talking out of turn,” Rep. Charles Van Zant (R-Keystone Heights) said during debate. “Today, it is drug abuse.”

Sponsors believe a Jacksonville case allowing prayer at a voluntary graduation opens the door for the return of prayer to school events. But the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations have written all 67 school boards letting them know litigation is inevitable if they adopt the message policy.

The official position of the Florida School Board Association: Don’t change a thing; why spend money on a lawsuit?

“It’s very simple: the policies they have now are working and they have not been litigated or challenged,” Wayne Blanton with the Florida School Boards Association said. “We feel that any changes made in those policies will be litigated.”

The legislation forbids teachers and school administrators from having any say in the messages. That alone, says Senate Sponsor Gary Siplin, should make the bill constitutional.

“The way it is now, it will meet constitutional muster because it doesn’t put any mandate on the school boards,” Sen. Gary Siplin (D-Orlando) said.

But finding out could be costly. Santa Rosa County has spent more than half a million in legal fees in a losing school prayer case.

During the debate on inspirational messages, lawmakers considered reimbursing school districts for any legal fees, but later dropped the provision, making local boards responsible for their legal costs.

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

FSU, FAMU Unite for Justice

March 26th, 2012 by flanews

One month ago today 17 year old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Cries for Zimmerman’s arrests are reaching a fever pitch. Thousands are rallying in Sanford tonight and in Tallahassee, as Whitney Ray tells us, FSU and FAMU students are joining forces and descending on the state capitol.

Students are outraged that George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed 17 year old Trayvon Martin, is still walking free.

“It just seems like not much is being done at this point, so, are we going to keep rallying or are we going to take some action at some point,” said FAMU Senior Raymond Coleman.

Martin was killed a month ago. Since then FAMU students have rallied on campus and at the state capitol. And early Monday morning more than 150 FAMU students boarded buses to join the thousands rallying in Sanford.

FSU students in Tallahassee are uniting with FAMU students in a march to the state capitol. Michael Sampson, a senior at FSU, has been organizing protestors from his school to join FAMU students.

“FAMU and FSU are definitely united for justice for Trayvon Martin,” said Sampson.

Students at FAMU say at this point, it’s not about race it’s about justice and the fight transcends city, state and school boundaries.

“I think it’s great that the two schools are trying to collaborate on the effort,” said FAMU Senior Rodger Brown.

Besides seeking Zimmerman’s arrests, students also want to see the Sanford Police Chief fired and racial profiling ended. It’s not just FAMU and FSU and it’s not just happening in Florida. Over the weekend protestors rallied in Atlanta, Nashville, Oklahoma City and Seattle just to name a few.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Debate Predicted “Stand Your Ground” Tragedy

March 23rd, 2012 by Mike Vasilinda

Task Force to Examine “Stand Your Ground”

George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, then told police the shooting was justified because he had just been attacked. During the 2005 debate on Stand Your Ground, opponents predicted such a scenario.

Our law enforcement officers will not know who attacked first,” Rep. Eleanor Sobel (D-Broward) said. “This bill creates a wild, wild west out there.”

Dan Gelber, a prosecutor at the time from Miami said the legislation would be a “dramatic change in common law.”

It legalizes dueling,” Gelber said. “It legalizes fighting to the point of death without anybody having a duty to retreat.”

Sponsor Dennis Baxley told House members that no one should have to run from a fight.

I’m sorry people, but if I’m attacked, I shouldn’t have a duty to retreat,” Baxley said in debate. “That’s a good way to get shot in the back.”

Three weeks later, the legislation became only the second bill signed into law that year.

I think it will help us continue to see lower crime rates and protect peoples’ rights,”Governor Jeb Bush said in 2005, upon signing the bill into law.

Both sponsors are now saying that the law is being misapplied in the Martin shooting, but others aren’t so sure.

State Senator Chris Smith knows that saying ‘I told you so’ won’t bring Trayvon back, but he says the law needs to be changed.

I think we need to clarify that you cannot be an instigator of an incident and then try to avail yourself of a law used for protection,” Smith said.

Governor Rick Scott has ordered a task force to look at how the Stand Your Ground law is being applied in Florida.

Any changes to the law are likely to wait until the facts of Trayvon Martin’s death are sorted out.

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

Progress for Protestors Calling for Arrest

March 23rd, 2012 by flanews

It’s been nearly a month since 28 year old George Zimmerman shot and killed 17 year old Trayvon Martin, sparking worldwide outrage. Pressure from community activists resulted in Governor Rick Scott appointing a new prosecutor to the case last night. Now, as Whitney Ray tells us, a new investigation is being launched and Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense will be scrutinized.

Progress for protestors calling for justice in the shooting death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. It’s been nearly a month since George Zimmerman shot and killed the unarmed teen and these 911 calls came pouring in. Zimmerman claimed self-defense and police let him walk.

The case is causing worldwide outrage. At the state capitol students and community activists stormed Governor Rick Scott’s office demanding the state intervene. Scott ordered FDLE to assist with the investigation. State Senator Gary Siplin took it a step further and asked Scott to assign a new state attorney to the case.

“The current prosecutor who has a relationship with the Sanford Police Department would not be fair,” said Siplin.

Scott appointed Angela Corey, a state attorney from Jacksonville with a reputation as a hardnosed prosecutor. Attorney General Pam Bondi has known her 20 years and says Corey’s the right person for the job.

“We are going to start with a clean slate and Angela Corey will be a great prosecutor on the case,” said Bondi.

If Corey files charges against Zimmerman, the question becomes where can there be a fair trial?

Posted in State News | No Comments »

SCOTUS to Hear Health Care Suit Monday

March 23rd, 2012 by flanews

The US Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Affordable Care Act lawsuit Monday. Florida is leading the suit against the new health care law. In total 26 states are suing to repeal, what many opponents are calling Obamacare. Attorney General Pam Bondi, says the suit is about more than medicine. The mandate penalizes citizens who don’t buy health insurance.

“This is such an overreach by the federal government. Never in our history have we seen anything like this and that is why we have the strongest opinion in the country right now form the 11th circuit court of appeals,” said Bondi.

The court is giving the suit an unprecedented six hours, spanning three days; Monday through Wednesday. A ruling is expected this summer.

Posted in State News | 4 Comments »

Unemployment Tax Reduction Goes to Gov

March 23rd, 2012 by flanews

Florida businesses will now see huge relief on their unemployment taxes. Today Governor Rick Scott received legislation to cut the increase nearly in half. In January, the tax increased from 72 dollars an employee to 172. Statewide the increase would have cost Florida businesses more than 800 million dollars. State Representative Will Weatherford worked with the Florida Chamber of Commerce to cut the increase by 550 million dollars over two years.

“To me, in this environment to allow an 800 million dollar tax increase on our state and on our citizens and on our businesses would have been completely going in the wrong direction and so we had to find a way to solve that problem,” said Weatherford.

The tax is increasing because the state borrowed 2.6 billion dollars from the federal government to pay unemployment claims at the height of the recession. Now the bill has come due with interest.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

ACA Turns Two

March 22nd, 2012 by flanews

Tomorrow marks two years since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, making it the law of the land. State leaders in Florida call it Obamacare and have filed a lawsuit to block the new regulations. As Whitney tells us, they’re also turning down half a billion federal dollars to implement health care changes.

Turning two, the Affordable Care Act has been changing health care and sparking political debate since 2010.

At a cupcakery in Tallahassee a group of ACA supporters celebrated two years of health care changes. But despite those changes, the store’s owner Jean Bates still can’t afford heath insurance for her seven employees.

“Our health care is pretty much get enough sleep, try not to come in here too sick and taking a lot of vitamin C,” said Jean.

US Health and Human Services Regional Director, Anton Gunn, says because of the new law there is a tax credit for business owners like Jean.

”Forty billion dollars has been set aside in the new health care law for small business owners,” said Gunn.

The Act is being phased in. The rebates, free flu shots and new rules on how much insurance companies can spend on lobbying and marketing are in effect now.

There is also billions of dollars available to states to expand Medicaid and Medicare, but here in Florida lawmakers are refusing the money. The budget awaiting the governor’s signature forgoes half a billion federal dollars for health care.

Florida is leading 25 other states in a lawsuit to over turn what opponents call Obamacare. Attorney General Pam Bondi says the mandate that everyone buy insurance is unconstitutional.

“I think it’s so important for the country that we have a resolution and we commend the Supreme Court from getting us in this term,” said Bondi.

The US Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in the heath care case next week. A ruling is expected this summer. By turning down the money, many supporters of the new law fear Florida is being set up for disaster. If the state loses its court battle, Florida could need billions of dollars to catch up with other states already accepting the federal cash.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Claims Bills Await Gov’s Signature

March 21st, 2012 by flanews

Ten claims bills offering relief to Florida families injured by government carelessness await the governor’s signature. Governor Rick Scott is reviewing the bills. As Whitney Ray tells us, Scott wants to develop criteria to compensate people for their losses that’s fair to both the victim and taxpayers.

Governor Rick Scott has been in office through two legislative sessions, but this is the first year a claims bill has crossed his desk. He quickly signed the first one he received. A million dollars for an innocent man jailed for murder.

“My life was gone. I can’t do anything but look forward. I’m blessed and lucky to be here,” said William Dillon.

Last year the legislature failed to pass any legislation to compensate people injured by government neglect. This year lawmakers passed 11 bills worth more than 40 million dollars. Scott wants to take more time with the remaining bills.

Including 15 million dollars for Aaron Edwards, who was injured at birth and 10 million dollars for a man paralyzed by a speeding sheriff’s deputy. New to the process, Scott is trying to develop a plan to be fair to the victims and taxpayers.

“I think it’s fair that people should expect me to be consistent, to figure out what should the standard be,” said Scott.

Anxiously awaiting to see how the governor will act on the relief legislation are the parents of a murdered FSU students. Rachel Hoffman was killed during a botched drug sting conducted by Tallahassee police in 2008. State lawmakers approved a bill to pay her parents 2.4 million dollars.

“Rachel was very kind and loving and didn’t deserve to die,” said Rachel’s Father Irv Hoffamn.

A judge already awarded the family the money, which will be paid by the City of Tallahassee, but state law requires legislative approval for any settlement over 200-thousand dollars. In a claims case a judge sets the award and then the legislature can change the amount, but the governor can only sign or veto the bill. He has no authority to alter the amount.

Posted in Rick Scott, State News | No Comments »

Senators Call for Special Prosecutor

March 21st, 2012 by flanews

Black state lawmakers are calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin.

Martin was unarmed when he was shot and killed by 28 year old George Zimmerman last month. Zimmerman claimed self-defense and was never charged. State Senator Chris Smith says the case has gotten so hairy only an outside prosecutor could do a fair job investigating the shooting.

“I think this case has grown big enough that we need an independent person to go down there and look at whether this person should be prosecuted or not,” said Smith.

Smith is also calling for a bi-partisan legislative committee to review Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. The 2005 law allows people to use deadly force instead of fleeing if they feel their life is being threatened.

Posted in Criminal Justice, State News | No Comments »

Drug Testing is the Law, for Now

March 20th, 2012 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Rick Scott has signed legislation requiring a pre-employment drug test for new state hires. The legislation also sets up random testing for up to ten percent of the state workforce four times a year. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, whether anyone has to take a test will likely be decided by a federal court.

Jamal Langley is the first face you see when you enter the Governor’s office. Jamal took a drug test seven months ago when he applied for the job. “I mean I knew I would have to take it to get employed. Its part of the application process. So I didn’t mind doing it because it’s part of the application and I applied for the position,” says Langley.

Rick Scott says everyone in his office was tested before they got a job…That includes his secretary of state who told us “And I was happy to do it, and I passed.”

Legislation signed by Scott will require pre employment drug testing for all state applicants. The legislation also allows agencies to order random tests of up to ten percent of the existing work force four times a year. Scott says he will implement the testing at every agency under his control. “I think its the right thing to do for the state. We want to have, just like a private company, you want to have a productive work force” says Scott.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which stopped the Governor from drug testing welfare recipients says it won’t announce in advance if it plans a lawsuit, but this one is certainly on their radar. The ACLU says the legislation clearly violates Constitutional principles, but attorney Maria Kayanan says there are not differing levels of constitutionality. “Pre employment drug testing is just as unconstitutional as testing of current employees. there are no levels of unconstitutionality.”

The law takes effect July first unless a court says otherwise. The state is still in Federal court over the drug testing of welfare recipients. Before that testing was stopped, just two percent of those being tested positive.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

County Medicaid Costs to Rise

March 19th, 2012 by Mike Vasilinda

County governments in Florida stand to spend an additional $155 million taking care of Medicaid patients in Florida hospitals under legislation approved by state lawmakers this year. That’s why, as Mike Vasilinda reports, county governments are asking Governor Rick Scott to veto the legislation.

Florida counties pay a portion of lengthy hospital stays and nursing home care for low income people receiving Medicaid.

Legislation approved in the just concluded 2012 session would change how the state bills the counties. The counties have written Governor Rick Scott, asking for a veto They say they are not being allowed to challenge billing errors. In their letter they say it is like not allowing their taxpayers to question errors in a credit card bill.

It’s common sense that we review our bills before we pay them,” Cragin Mosteller, with the Florida Association of Counties said. “It’s common sense that we have the chance to challenge anything that’s incorrect. But unfortunately, with this new bill, counties won’t have the chance to do that, which means the taxpayers foot the bill.”

Statewide, the cost shift to local taxpayers could be as much as 155 million dollars a year.

The counties say the bills are rife with errors, including being billed for out-of-state patients and even being billed for the same patient 15 times.

But Lawmakers pushing the change want counties to pay up first and argue later.

There were some billings that were questioned, so we provided a 15 percent discount, so counties only have to pay 85 percent,” Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) said.

Some of the billing disputes go back at least four years, to the time the current billing system was implemented.

Florida is one of the few states in the nation to shift Medicaid costs to local governments.

Posted in State News | 6 Comments »

« Previous Entries

copyright © 2016 by Capitol News Service | Powered by Wordpress | Hosted by LyonsHost.com