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Floridians Urge Governor Scott to Veto Mental Health-Gun Reform Bill

June 18th, 2013 by flanews

A bi-partisan gun bill has made its way to the Governor’s desk. If signed into law, it will prevent tens of thousands of Floridians from buying firearms.

Gun control legislation intended to save lives, may deny thousands of Floridians the right to buy a gun. The legislation is on the Governor’s desk “I would think it would be very difficult for the governor not to sign a bill that keeps guns out of the hands of dangerous people with mental illnesses,” said the National Riffle Association’s Marion Hammer.

The legislation requires people who volunteer for mental health treatment to give up their gun rights. Mental health professionals want Rick Scott to veto the legislation. ”We believe in a sense the federal standard is the sound standard and that is there needs to be an adjudication,” said Florida Council for Community Mental Health’s John Bryant.

Supporters say the bill will only cover people who would otherwise be committed under the Baker Act. Commitment requires a diagnosis of mental illness and is considered harmful to themselves or others. Opponents worry the new bill creates unreasonable time frames for doctors to make life altering diagnosis.

“I think the people who have to implement this bill will find out it’s a lot more complicated and difficult to implement than anyone envisioned,” said Bryant.

Hammer says after a person with mental illness is treated, they’ll be able to petition the court to get their gun rights back. “They will not be able to purchase a gun until they had been treated and a psychiatrist says they need relief from disability,” she said.

Scott has two weeks to decide if he will sign the legislation.

According to the Governor’s Office, 17,008 e-mail’s have been sent, urging Rick Scott to veto the bill. Just one email encourages him to sign the legislation. Additionally, 2,730 calls have been received. 2,711 were in opposition, 12 were in support of the bill and 7 were general questions on the legislation.

Posted in State News | 14 Comments »

Sick Time Bill Signed Into Law by the Governor

June 17th, 2013 by flanews

A controversial measure that blocks local governments from requiring employers to offer paid sick time has been signed into law by Governor Rick Scott.

Feeling sick? Beginning July first you may no longer be eligible for sick time. A new state law takes away local government ordinances requiring employers to offer paid sick time. “This law will take away their right to make those decisions for themselves at the local level,” said spokesman for the Florida Coalition for Local Control, Damien Filer.

The Florida Coalition for Local Control fought the bill in the legislative process. The group argues the new law wrongfully separates the poor and women from everyone else. “It’s disappointing; the Governor clearly sided with big corporation over the interest of many Floridians,” said Filer.

Those in support of the law say it creates consistency for employers across the state. “It creates consistency, predictability and conformity of regulation through-out the state. Anytime a business is looking to settle or move to Florida they have to see what regulations will cost them,” said Florida Retail Federations General Counsel, Samantha Padgett.

“Before the bill was signed into law, two neighboring counties may have had different sick-time laws. Now, when you cross into a new county, the laws will be the same,” Matt Horn reported.

“It really does encourage development and it really does protect our economic growth in the state of Florida and encourage the economic growth,” said Padgett.

“Those are great talking points, but there is no truth…and what we see consistently is when earned sick times are in place that it increases the economic stability of those places,” said Filer.

Opponents say they will work closely with the state to make sure employees, not just employers, are protected under this new law.

A recent public poll shows 8 in 10 Floridians support employers providing sick time benefits.

Posted in State News | 15 Comments »

Online Retailer to Bring Thousands of Jobs to Florida

June 14th, 2013 by flanews

Online retail giant Amazon is announcing a deal to create thousands of new jobs here in Florida. As the announcement of jobs will also mean Florida consumers will pay more money to use the site.

At the end of your finger tips is an online retailer where you can buy nearly anything you’ll ever need. Now the online giant Amazon will open a 1-million-square-foot warehouse here near Tampa.

“This is good news for retail in the state of Florida,” said Florida Retail Federation John Fleming. “It means another major retailer is chosen to locate in our state, its growth in retail industry and a sign Florida’s a good place to do business.”

Amazon expects to hire 3,000 Floridians by 2016. The deal comes less than a month after Governor Rick Scott turned down the internet giant’s first offer. ”My job is to make sure I do the right thing for taxpayers in our state and based on the opportunity I had at the time, it didn’t make sense,” said Gov. Rick Scott.

After further talks with the company, the Governor and Amazon came to a deal. The Governor’s office refused an on-camera interview, but released a statement saying: “Amazon’s commitment to create more than 3-thousand new jobs in Florida is further proof that we’ve turned our economy around.”

The move to Florida will come at a price. When Amazon opens a warehouse in Florida, they will be required to charge Florida consumers a 6-percent sales tax.

“It’s not a tax increase; it’s the same sales tax that you pay everyday at every store you go to in your community,” said Fleming.

The collection will begin when the company opens its doors in Florida, which is expected next year.

Amazon hasn’t made any announcements about the expansion, but they expect to create more than 300-million dollars in investments in Florida.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Rally Held for Suspended Sheriff

June 14th, 2013 by flanews

A rally was held at the Capitol for a North Florida officer arrested for official misconduct earlier this month.

Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch was arrested after FDLE agents say he told jailers to free a man arrested on gun charges and then destroyed paperwork with the case.

Finch says he was upholding the oath he took when he went into office by protecting the second amendment.

”I’ve had people from all over this country call me on the phone, text me, email me, facebook message me,” said Finch. “It does my heart good to know there are so many people who support the constitution and the second amendment.”

Governor Scott’s office released a statement saying: “Any time an elected, local, public official is charged with a felony, the Governor suspends the official until the case is concluded. This safeguard is in place to ensure Floridians are best served in their communities.”

Posted in State News | 7 Comments »

Foreclosure Law Creates Controversy

June 13th, 2013 by flanews

May numbers show Florida is first the nation in foreclosures. Last week the Governor signed a bill making it quicker for banks to foreclose. Homeowners advocates say the bill will negatively affect homeowners dealing with hardships.

A fast-track foreclosure law will shorten the length a homeowner has to fight a bank. Governor Scott signed the Republican-driven bill and it is now the law in Florida.

“It’s going to help make sure we have a timely foreclosure process,” said Governor Scott. “So our families make sure they can keep their homes.”

Scott says the bill will help put abandoned homes back on the market. The Florida Bankers Association says it will help rejuvenate the economy.

“Our members do not want to foreclose. But, when we have to get to that point, we need to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Florida Bankers Association, Anthony DiMarco.

Homeowner advocates say the bill is unconstitutional, making it difficult for a person to save their home if they have difficulties paying their mortgage.

“In the long run, it’s going to limit homeowners rights when they try to defend a foreclosure on their home,” said Edward Grunewald with the North Florida Center for Equal Justice, Inc.

But Bankers counter that homeowners have plenty of time before banks start foreclosing.

“We don’t start a foreclosure until 4, 5, 6 months after you’ve missed your first payment. So, we’ve tried to work with the borrower so they’ve had the opportunity for several months,” said DiMarco.

Florida courts have dealt with extreme numbers of foreclosures due to the housing bust. Earlier this year there was a little less than 400-thousand cases in the system.

Advocates say with a shorter time frame, banks may file inaccurate papers against a homeowner

“If the homeowner doesn’t have the time to get adequate defense or legal help then the bank will never have to prove they are the proper party to be suing in foreclosure,” said Grunewald.

Governor Rick Scott has also signed a bill which allows landlords to evict tenants more quickly after accepting a partial rent payment.

Posted in State News | 12 Comments »

Death Penatly Opponents Remember Latest Person to Die By Lethal Injection

June 13th, 2013 by flanews

Opponents of the death penalty met at the Florida Capitol to remember the latest person to die by lethal injection.

William Van Poyck was pronounced dead Wednesday evening, making the third person executed this year. The Citizens Against Death Penalty met to remember him. The group says they meet every time after someone is executed, saying killing another person is wrong.

“We as citizens in the state of Florida and taxpayers in the state of Florida are participating in the killing of a human being,” said Sheila Meehan. “Something of course we all say is wrong.”

Van Poyck was executed for the murder of a guard at a 1987 prison van ambush.

Posted in State News | 48 Comments »

Doctor Awarded Prestigious ‘Great Floridian’ Award

June 13th, 2013 by flanews

Doctor Charlotte Maguire, the founder of two medical schools in Florida, was honored by Governor Scott Thursday.

Dr. Maguire practiced medicine for 50 years and helped in the creation of medical schools at the University of Florida and The Florida State University.

Thursday she was presented the prestigious “Great Floridian” award. She says it wasn’t possible without hard work.

“I started off as a little girl with a parent who told me, you can do anything you set your mind to. But you have to work,” she said.

She was the only woman in her medical class when she graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1944.

Posted in State News | 3 Comments »

Governor Prepares for Paris Trade Mission

June 13th, 2013 by flanews

Governor Scott leaves Friday for another trade mission, this time it’s at an air show in Paris.

This is the second year he has attended the air show, and he says its all in hopes of bringing more jobs back to the Sunshine State.

The Governor has time set aside for meetings in Paris with non-aviation related French investors.

“Last year we had a good trip, we brought … more jobs, 230 jobs there,” said Governor Scott. “You just keep building these relationships to get more jobs for Florida.”

Scott has started working with Enterprise Florida for a mission trip to Japan later this month.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Confidential Medical Information Leaked

June 12th, 2013 by flanews

A statewide database used to end pill mills is now accused of leaking thousands of Floridians medical information to third parties.

A program used to crack down on pill mills is now being blamed for leaking personal medical information. “People should be concerned,” said the ACLU of Florida Associate Legal Director, Maria Kayanan.

The American Civil Liberties Union says the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program disclosed more than 33-hundred Floridians’ medical information to third parties. The information was requested by Seminole County; and shared with attorneys in six criminal cases in Volusia County. The attorney’s received confidential prescription information not related to the cases.

The Department of Health, which is responsible for maintaining the database, denied multiple requests for an on-camera interview talking about what happened.

In an email state health officials say: “a law enforcement agency…has indirect access to information maintained in the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.” The A-C-L-U disagrees and says it violates HIPAA laws. ”We want to know how information of private confidential medical information made it from what was presumed to be a safe database,” said Kayanan.

The program, up and running in late 2011, was once ridiculed by Governor Scott, ”I don’t support the database. I believe it’s an invasion of privacy.” Now he’s backing it to the tune of 500-thousand dollars for the next fiscal year. The A-C-L-U says they hope this leak will lead to the closure of the program.

The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office denied a request for an interview, but say they are reviewing the case.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Student Loan Rates Set to Double

June 10th, 2013 by flanews

Interest rates for federal student loans may double if Congress doesn’t act fast to stop it. The hike comes at a time Florida Universities are increasing tuition.

College students across the Florida are deeper in debt than ever before and the interest they pay could soon double. “Some of my friends have recently graduated and they’re struggling to pay interest rates on student loans,” said FSU Senior, Stephen Craun. “They’re working 2, 3 part time jobs just to pay interest rates.”

Congress must act before July first to keep interest rates low; but, there is no guarantee they will do anything. “In the next couple of years no one’s going to be able to afford college; and how do you expect anyone to get a job if they don’t have a college degree,” asked FSU Junior, Jasemine Thompson.

Student interest rates are 3-point-4 percent. Competing measures in Congress fell short of the votes they needed to keep rates where they are. A bipartisan effort will be the only thing to stop the rates from doubling.

Last week Governor Rick Scott pleaded with university presidents to keep the cost of tuition the same as last year. “I want to make sure our education is affordable and when they walk out of these universities, they have a job and a higher paying job if they had not gone,” said Governor Scott.

On Friday the University of South Florida listened to the governor, but Florida State and The University of Florida both voted to increase tuition to keep up with inflation. “I’m going to be broke. But that’s okay, that’s okay,” said Thompson. “Hopefully this degree from FSU will help me pay it back in a speedy time.”

Federal figures show 1 in 8 people are at least three months behind on their student loans. The delinquency rates grew from 8 to almost 12 percent over the last two years.

Posted in State News | 3 Comments »

FCAT and End of Course Results Released

June 7th, 2013 by flanews

Low classroom test scores plagued Florida schools after changes to standardized testing over the last few years. New scores were released Friday, even though results have increased; there is still a long way to go.

School has been out for the summer, but students and administrators alike have been waiting for F-CAT and End of Course Scores. “We’d of liked to have scores earlier; the fact is they’re here,” said Florida School Board Association’s Dr. Wayne Blanton. “We’re very pleased with scores.”

Released Friday; FCAT scores were flat. End of course results increased. “It’s a mixed bag. I think we’re very pleased with what we saw and assessments we saw gains; end of course assessments,” said Florida Commissioner of Education, Dr. Tony Bennett. “On the other hand we saw some flat scores with FCAT.”

The new FCAT tests were created to focus more on the learning process. The old testing was more memorization. “Florida historically has been the nation’s leader on literacy. Florida’s been the nation’s leader on fundamentals of mathematics,” said Dr. Bennett.

Lawmakers passed and the Governor signed into law a bill insuring teachers would receive a pay raise. Educators say more money, better results. “I think the incentive of additional dollars for this year and next year will produce even better results,” said Dr. Blanton.

End-Of-Course scores increased from 58-percent to 64-percent for all grades.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Tropical Storm Andrea Hits State; Officials Warn Floridians to Prepare for Hurricane Season

June 6th, 2013 by flanews

Tropical Storm has spawned tornadoes and caused localized caused flooding. Disaster officials are calling the storm a wake up call and as the Governor says Florida would be better prepared if not for politicians in Washington.

Andrea’s rain began falling Thursday across the Panhandle. The first named storm kicks off what’s expected to be a busy hurricane season. Emergency managers say Andrea is a wake up call.

“It’s a good reminder to citizens in Florida that basically anywhere in the state you can be impacted by a tropical storm or hurricane,” said State Emergency Director, Bryan Koon. “Now is a great time to prepare.”

Governor Rick Scott met with emergency response coordinators Thursday morning. “We talked with emergency management teams and they’re ready,” said Scott.

Florida National Guard troops were also put on standby early Thursday. “To monitor and standby, and prepare to escalate. Depends on the impact of storm,” said Koon.

The governor worries the federal sequester is cutting the time National Guardsmen have to train. That could create problems later. “One thing I still remain very concerned about is President Obama’s sequester efforts,” said Governor Scott. “They are forcing our National Guard, 50-percent of our National Guard to be furloughed part of their time.”

The Guard and governor say the state will do whatever is necessary to keep Floridians safe. “Take this as a precursor, get ready. Three days of food, three days of water,” said Scott.

As many as 20 predicted storms are expected this hurricane season.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

University Board of Trustees Pressured by Governor Scott

June 6th, 2013 by flanews

University Boards of Trustees are getting pressure from Governor Rick Scott to forego an automatic tuition hike based on inflation.

This year the hike is supposed to be one point seven percent. Scott is telling University Presidents they must lower other fees if they can’t circumvent the hike.

FSU Board Chair Allan Bense says different schools have different needs. “It’s one of those things where I think we as trustees need to decide what’s best for each individual university: Florida State, University of Florida, University of South Florida – whatever. I think those decisions should be based upon what each individual university’s needs are. Decide what’s best,” said Bense.

If Universities give up the automatic hike, they could face problems getting more money from lawmakers next year. But if they take the hike, they risk angering the Governor.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Officers Battle Human Trafficking Through New Course

June 5th, 2013 by flanews

Nationally Florida ranks thirds for human trafficking. Now a new program will help officers identify victims. The hope is to stop criminals before they exploit victims.

Florida officials are fighting for freedom. ”The Florida Police Chief’s are committed to do what it takes to end human trafficking in our state,” said Quincy Chief of Police Walter McNeil.

In a new training course, officers will be taught how to spot human trafficking victims. ”Thank you for taking this online training to learn more about human trafficking so you can stop this horrific crime from occurring in our state,” said Attorney General, Pam Bondi.

In 2011, Florida had 3,949 reports of human trafficking. The volume makes Florida the third most trafficked state. “We’re going to continue everything we can as we told you we’re partnering up with the business community, attacking with new legislation and on an educational front,” said Bondi.

New recruits have been trained to spot trafficking since 2006. Now all officers will be able to receive training.

“It’s important in that they let us know back months ago that what we had in basic training with the way crime was developing in our state wasn’t enough,” said FDLE Commissioner, Gerald Bailey. “So, this is strictly situational awareness and as I try to stress there the most important part is going to help those front line officers.”

The introductory course is up and running now. So is an advanced course for officers.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Millions in Foreclosure Settlement Help Floridians

June 4th, 2013 by flanews

If you lost your home due to foreclosure, you may already be receiving money from mortgage companies as a part of a national settlement. Now, various state programs will also receive its cut of the payout.

For four years, Florida homeowners were losing their homes because of shady lending practices and overzealous buyers. In 2010, the state had the dubious distinction of having the second highest foreclosure rate, behind only Nevada. Now Florida and 48 other states will share 26-billion dollars.

”The settlement will provide important relief to Florida homeowners and enable our state to get its fair share of the relief being provided across the country,” said Governor Rick Scott.

Florida’s cut is just shy of 9-billion dollars. Tuesday morning, Governor Rick Scott signed a bill that will appropriate 200-million dollars to various housing initiative programs. Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi says the settlement is to protect Floridians and to keep banks from abusing the system. “We are doing everything to hold banks accountable and to be sure this money is being handled in the right way,” said Bondi.

Florida is set to receive 8-point-4 billion dollars from the settlement. The numbers are self-reported by the same banks which have already caused the problem. “It’s self reporting by the banks,” said Bondi. “I’ll tell you, I’ve had issues with the banks.”

Bondi says she is working closely with the monitor of the National Mortgage Settlement to get official payout numbers.

“We are doing everything to hold the banks accountable; and to be sure this money is being handled the right way,” she said.

Overall the state received 334-million from the settlement.

Oklahoma is the only state that wasn’t a part of the settlement

Posted in State News | No Comments »

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