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FAMU Back on the Field

June 27th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda

FAMU Band Reinstated

Florida A & M Universities Marching Band will be back on the field this fall. Interim President Larry Robinson today lifted the suspension that was imposed after the hazing death of a drum major in 2011. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, school officials say there is no guarantee that hazing has been totally eradicated.

The Florida A&M Marching 100 band was suspended following the hazing death of Drum Major Robert Champion. Since the November 2011 tragedy, an anti hazing czar hired, there are also nearly a dozen new procedures to cope with hazing.

“When considering all of the measures we have put in place, I believe that this constitutes, what I’ve been saying for the last several months, the right conditions to lift the suspension of the Marching 100” says Interim President Larry Robinson.

The new band director was asked if hazing were still a threat “I’m thinking, in time, the culture of the band will change” says Dr. Sylvester Young.

Students cheered the news and the band director posed for pictures with excited band members. “We have a different mindset, you know the band is going mentally and maturely also”  says Miami Tuba Player Lance Roberts. Roberts marched with the band one year before it was suspended.

Incoming freshmen Destni Hamilton and Aleya Hamilton say they chose FAMU for the historically black college experience.

“You always wanted to come to HBCU, and so I didn’t really care what was going on, ’cause I’m not my school, I’m me” says the Jacksonville Freshman

Now they say having the band will only make their college stay more vivid.

“It’s going to bring liveliness to the school, more spirit, hopefully more people start getting involved around campus, you know, so we are really excited. Out freshmen year will be amazing” says Orlando Freshman Aleya Bradley.

Not having the band has financial consequences for the university, fewer people in the seats here and in away games.

The band director hopes to be on the field at the first football game, September first but that depends on how many students show up and how ready they are to March and play.

FAMU remain embroiled in litigation with the drum majors family. They have asked the suit be dismissed because Champion consented to the hazing. The family is seeking an unspecified amount of money.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Teachers Talk Best Practices

June 27th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda

Teacher Summit in Tallahassee

41 of the state’s 67 county “Teacher of the Year” winners spent the last two days at the state capitol. They were invited by the Governor for a summit on education policy, and they were asked to share best practices. Most like Cassandra Mattison from HillsboroughCounty, say the experience was a good one.

Some remain skeptical of the Governor after he cut one billion from schools in his first year. He also signed ill conceived merit pay legislation that has since been revised. But Scott also won praise for pushing and getting what should be a twenty five hundred dollar raise for teachers.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

FAMU Hazing Director Says Program in Place

June 27th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda

 

FAMU Hazing Director

The Florida A&M Marching 100 will return to the field this fall. The band was suspended following the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion in 2011. The school has implemented more than a dozen new procedures in it’s  get tough against hazing, including the hiring of a new anti hazing czar. Bryan Smith says he’s confident the right policies are in place, but says ending hazing still depends on the students.

“I know we have to remain diligent, we still have to keep providing our preventative measures, we have to keep enlightening and educating the students as well as out faulty and our alumni about our anti hazing and our initiatives, so ultimately it will still fall and come back to the students should they decided to do what’s right” says Bryan Smith, whose official title is Special Assistant to the President.

The school also hired a compliance officer to make sure band members are actually enrolled. Felony charges are still pending against more than a half dozen band members accused in the hazing that took Robert Champions life.

Posted in Business, Crime, Criminal Justice, Economy, Ethics, FAMU | 8 Comments »

Florida to Defend Traditional Marriage

June 26th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda

Today’s Supreme Court ruling on Gay Marriage is expected to have limited impact here in Florida, but advocates say it should be seen as a call to action.

Six of every ten voters approved the Florida Marriage Protection Act in 2008. It says the state can only recognize a marriage between one man and one woman. The addition to the constitution is a road block to legal challenges in Florida and Governor Rick Scott says he’s going to follow the law.”The voters in 2008 decide that we are going to be a traditional marriage state, and that is what the voters decided. It’s my job as governor to uphold the law of the land” Scott told a gaggle of reporters.

“And if there were to push to change, would you take the position on it.” asked a reporter.

“Well, look, I’ve been married since I’m, since I was 19, I believe in tradition marriage” responded Scott.

Gay activists say the state is changing. Voters this past year elected two openly gay members of the state legislature. Joe Saunders even brought his partner for the swearing in.

Jim VanRiper of Equality Florida says the ruling should be seen by gay activists as a call to action.

“In the past, you know, maybe people didn’t pay much attention to it, but we are bringing to the forefront of attention and you know, I think we are going to see a significant drive in this day to repeal the Constitutional Amendment” says VanRiper.

“Gay activists have basically three options for trying to change the constitution,  they can come here to the legislator and get them to put it on the ballet, they can have an initiative petition or they can wait for four years for the constitution revisions commission.

And voters will still have a final say on any constitutional changes.

Asked if the he would defend a law suit if one were filed, Rick Scott didn’t hesitate.

“Yes, yes.” Said Scott, leaving no doubt he meant it.

Posted in State News | 3 Comments »

Best Practices and More

June 26th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Rick Scott is holding a reception for Teachers of the Year tonight at the Governor’s Mansion. Tomorrow the education starts will meet to share ideas. Scott says the idea is to reward those who are improving Florida schools and also to learn from them.

“National Counts for Teach Quality says we have the most effective teachers so we are headed in the right direction. So today we are going to learn from them, we are going to try to share our best practices, and let’s also just recognize them for what they are doing” says Scott.

The teachers will hold a round table discussion tomorrow morning at the state capitol.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Sad Stories at Clemency Hearing

June 26th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda

Four times a year, the Governor and State Cabinet listen to the stories of convicted criminals seeking the restoration of their rights or even a pardon.

Today was just such a day. In one of the few successful pleas, Jessica Chiappone a mother of three who was convicted of drug conspiracy got her rights back after an emotional plea. Jessica has graduated from law school and even with her rights realizes she has an uphill battle.

“I can apply to take the bar, so I could sit for the bar exam but I would still have to pass the bar exam and go through a rigorous character in fitness review prior to be admitted” says Jessica.

Only a few of the 80 or so cases heard today got favorable results. In each case, the Governor wants to know about drug and alcohol use and any family tensions.

Posted in State News | 2 Comments »

New Inspection Law to Keep Eateries Clean

June 25th, 2013 by flanews

If you have you ever wondered if you’re favorite restaurant passes a health inspection Or how often they are actually inspected, Matt Horn tells is Florida’s cleanest restaurants are about to get a break from the state while those in trouble will get closer scrutiny.

The thought of having bugs crawling around in the kitchen or on your food at your favorite restaurant may put chills down your spine. But, a new law approved by Governor Rick Scott will make sure restaurants with health issues are checked more often. Those which are clean will see fewer inspections.

”There’s a lot of great things that have happened this year in regards to improving lives,” said Scott.

Eateries with past health violations may be in trouble under the new law.

”If they get more scrutiny they get into enforcement cases which probably means more fines or perhaps license suspensions or revocations,” said Geoff Luebkemann, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Under the legislation, restaurants will have a year to adjust to the changing inspection schedule.

“The department will have to go to rule making to come up with details of where particular type of operation falls on the spectrum,” said Luebkemann.

The current law makes sure every food business is inspected at least twice a year. The new law will allow a restaurant to be inspected as few as once …or up to four times a year.

”The department currently has and retains the ability to go anytime they need to,” said Luebkemann.

The new law will also take a closer look at high-priority violations like those that can cause food-borne illnesses.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Governor Scott Recognizes Fire Fighters

June 25th, 2013 by flanews

In front of nearly two dozen fire fighters, Governor Rick Scott honored them as he approved the construction of a new fallen-firefighter memorial in Tallahassee.

The memorial will be open for everyone at the state capitol to visit and honor those who have died in the line of duty.

The Governor also signed a bill into law allowing the Florida Chief Fire Marshal to better protect firefighters and the public.

“During today’s cabinet meeting we approved a measure to construct a Fallen Firefighters Memorial here at the capital. This monument will allow all visitors to reflect and appreciate the work of Florida’s Firefighters,” said Scott.

The new law goes into effect July 1st.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Man Walks to End Capital Punishment

June 25th, 2013 by flanews

One protester against death row hopes to make an impact in Florida by walking across the state to end capital punishment.

Kurt Wadsworth is protesting against the death penalty by trekking up and down the coast of Florida to inform its residents about the issue. His journey started in Pensacola one month ago and plans to head south to Key West and end back up at the Death Chambers. Kurt is hopeful to get the states attention with this protest and to eventually abolish capital punishment in the state of Florida.

“This march is for the victims, it’s for everybody involved 140 nations of Earth have ended the death penalty, no longer use it 16 states abandoned the death penalty because most states come to the conclusion that taking the life perpetuates violence, its not justice, it is revenge,” said Wadsworth.

He is unsure how long it’ll take to complete his walk.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Citizens Property Under Fire

June 25th, 2013 by flanews

Florida’s public insurance company has been scrutinized after the deal with newly formed private insurance company, Heritage.

The property insurance company is now under fire after exploring proposed rate hikes for policyholders.

The overall hike would be up to 8-point-8 percent for those who use the insurer.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater says the public insurance company needs to be more transparent and listen to the public before making any huge decisions.

”My clear direction to Citizens is look, you have a process, you have a responsibility. Take the time, make it available to the public and make your decisions on that,” said Atwater.

Some homeowner’s average premium may increase 400 dollars a year.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Governor Rick Scott Supports 2nd Amendment

June 25th, 2013 by flanews

The only gun legislation to make it to the Governor’s desk has created state-wide controversy.

The Governor has until July 2nd to sign the bill into law, which will not allow people seeking mental treatment to purchase a gun – even if they volunteer for commitment.  

On one side, people say it will keep the guns out of the hands out of those with mental illness, while others say it violates constitutional rights.

”I’m a strong supporter for the 2nd amendment so I’ll be reviewing that bill like I do with other bills. But, I’m a very strong supporter for the 2nd amendment,” said Governor Rick Scott.

If the Governor signs the bill into law. It will go into effect July 1.

Posted in State News | 20 Comments »

Floridians Social Security Numbers Breached for Two Weeks

June 24th, 2013 by flanews

Nearly 50,000 Florida college students personal information was compromised because of an unsecured website at Florida State University. According to the Department of Edcuation, the information was left unsecure for 14 days.

A breach in a state database has exposed tens of thousands of Florida college student’s personal information.

“It kind of makes you wonder whether or not all of our students are protected,” said FSU Senior, Amanda Chown.

The information which includes social security numbers and home addresses was exposed in late May. The breach occurred after Florida State University’s Center for Interactive Media moved the student information to a new server. After the move, measures to restrict who was allowed to view the site weren’t put in place. “When FSU was moving from one server to the other, the security guys there didn’t shut the door on the second go around,” said Florida Department of Education’s Joe Follick.

FSU was hired by the State DOE to secure the information. “We take the protection of information very seriously. We’ve worked very closely with DOE,” said FSU VP for University Relations, Liz Maryanski.

The students affected are preparing to become teachers. “We have no indication at this point that any of the data has been misused,” said Maryanski.

Over the two week time span, the unsecured information was viewed 23 times through Google . It’s unknown how many had unauthorized access. “We want to be extra-extra cautious though and make sure that people have confidence in this. So we’ll be notifying everyone personally,” said Follick.

So far there is no indication the information is being used illegally.

Posted in State News | 3 Comments »

Millions to be Sent to Florida Families

June 21st, 2013 by flanews

You may be one of 614-thousand Floridians receiving a check in the mail later this summer. Hundreds of thousands were overcharged for health-insurance premiums. As Matt Horn explains, the rebates are required by the Affordable Care Act because insurance companies aren’t operating efficiently.

More than 614-thousand Floridians will soon be getting a rebate from their health-insurance company.

”For consumers, some people will be getting money back,” said Ken Stevenson.

Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, insurance companies aren’t allowed to overcharge consumers. The companies must spend 80-cents for every dollar collected on patient care. The other 20-cents goes for administrative costs. When a company doesn’t spend enough on care, they must refund the consumer.

“It just depends on the carrier and if they’re operating in the parameters that were set in the Affordable Care Act,” said Stevenson.

”Floridians will be receiving 54 million dollars in rebates from their heath insures. That’s an average of 132 dollars per family,” Matt Horn reports.

Insurance Regulators say rates have increased in individual markets as a result of the federal health care reform.

In a statement, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation says: “The office believes that whatever savings that may be realized as a result of the medical loss ratio rebates will be short-lived.”

“What happens down the road remains to be seen. These savings are based on how much the insurance companies need to spend in claims,” said Sam Miller, Executive Vice President of the Florida Insurance Council, Inc.

Consumers should have their rebates by August 1st.

More than 77-million consumers have saved 3-point-4 billion dollars up front on their premiums as private companies are being forced to become more efficient.

Posted in State News | 8 Comments »

Governor: Data Must be Protected

June 21st, 2013 by flanews

Governor Rick Scott returned to the state Capitol late this afternoon after a week in Paris at a trade show. While the Governor was gone, news leaked that as many as three thousand names of people in the prescription drug monitoring program were improperly disclosed. Scott originally opposed the creation of the database, but now says it is saving lives.

“As we all know what’s going on nationally we are all concerned about our privacy. This is just another example, we got to be very cautious. Make sure that when there’s any public personal information out there that we keep it as confidential as we can,” said Governor Rick Scott.

The Department of Health is responsibility for maintaining the security of the data. They have so far refused public comment.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Natural Gas Law Gains Support

June 20th, 2013 by flanews

State lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bill providing 30-million dollars to convert commercial fleet vehicles to natural gas. Even though Florida’s new law is considered the most progressive in the country, not everyone agrees it’s the best for the state.

Natural gas is cheaper, more efficient and cleaner than gas or diesel. State government and private companies have already started using the alternative form of fuel. ”The fuel is very economical. We bought 8 buses, now we have 44 buses,” said Manny Joanos, Leon County Schools.

Schools in Tallahassee were the first to use natural gas to power buses. About one-third of their fleet uses the domestic gas. ”It wasn’t until 2009 before we bought the first school buses,” said Joanos.

This legislative session, state lawmakers passed a bill which encourages private and public companies to convert commercial fleet vehicles to natural gas. ”This legislation is going to push a lot of people over the fence. Where they’ve been on if they can make it work for them,” said Dale Calhoun, Natural Gas Supporter.

The Governor signed the bill into law. It’ll reimburse companies 50-percent for the extra costs to purchase a vehicle running on natural gas. Supporters say it will encourage more natural gas refueling stations and in the long run, it will save money for companies.

Even with support for the use of natural gas; Florida tea partiers don’t support state rebates. ”What it sounds like to me is the state taking away voices. Anytime you have rebate incentive on state, federal or local. They’re picking the winners and losers,” said Pace Allen, Tea Party member.

The law goes into effect January 1st; it also repeals provisions requiring annual decal fee program, and provides natural gas fuel tax.

Posted in State News | 5 Comments »

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