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New Incentive May Provide Better Learning Environment

July 31st, 2013 by flanews

Most teachers will see a pay raise this fall thanks to state lawmakers. Lean budget years have also cut money for classroom expenses, forcing teachers to dig into their own pockets. But, teachers in need of paper and pencils may not have to dig as deep this year.



In a few weeks – school hallways will be filled with students. First grade teacher Bridget Gainous says she is anticipating a new year with new incentives.

“That’s really exciting and anything teachers can get is always wonderful,” said Gainous.

Wednesday morning, Governor Rick Scott tweeted a new teacher debit card. The card is part of a classroom supply assistance program allowing teachers to spend up to 250 dollars on items for their classes. The cards will be distributed in the upcoming weeks.

According to Ganious, “This will help cut down on some of the costs I have to spend out of my own pocket.”

As teachers get to ready to go back to school, the teacher debit card comes at a perfect time as this weekend kicks of the sales tax holiday weekend.

John Fleming with the Florida Retail Federation says the sales tax holiday will generate an estimated 400-million dollars for the state.

“That’s an added increase in revenue in sales you wouldn’t see without a tax holiday. It’s a pretty big boost for retailers and it’s a good bargain for Florida’s families,” said Fleming.

The sales tax holiday has been in place since the late 90’s with a two year hiatus in the late 2000’s. The sales tax holiday applies to clothes, school supplies and, for the first time, to computers.

“That’s a pretty big tax savings you’ll be able to get this weekend,” said Flemming.

Remember this, there are price caps on the sales tax holiday. You can only spend up to 75 dollars on clothing, 15 dollars on school supplies and 750 dollars on computers.

For years teachers have been reimbursed for some school supplies. In the past, they would have to use their own money first, instead of having a debit card.

Posted in State News | 209 Comments »

Democrats Seek Resignation

July 31st, 2013 by flanews

Several state lawmakers are calling on Governor Rick Scott to request the resignation of Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett.

In a recent Associated Press article, Bennett has been identified in changing grades schools received while he was overseeing Indiana’s Public Schools. The reports say Bennett changed the school accountability system to boost the grade of a charter school owned by an influential Republican party donor.

Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant said there needs to be a high standard of education in Florida, “You can’t have a system of integrity when you change the rules and move the goal posts to suit a particular school.”

The Department of Education has said there are misunderstandings with the changes in Indiana, saying the schools were graded incorrectly because it was a K through 10 school.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Big Guns Come Out in Support of Protesters

July 30th, 2013 by flanews

A protest in Florida’s State Capitol is becoming a focal point for national civil rights leaders. Singer Harry Belafonte was there Friday. The crowd of sign carrying protestors was highlighted by another nationally known civil-rights leader Tuesday at the Florida Capitol. The Dream Defenders were joined by Reverend Jesse Jackson.



Civil Rights Leader Reverend Jackson spoke during the visit and said, “We intend to sit-in so justice can standup.”

Jackson made the decision to go to Tallahassee Monday night.

“We want the governor to have a special session. This is an emergency. People are crying out, people are hurting,” said Jackson.

Jackson’s visit helps kick-off “The People’s Session”, the Mock legislative session is the Dream Defenders version of a special legislative session. The group is trying to highlight what they are calling policies harmful to Florida’s youth.

LaShanett Lorraine participated in the sit-in and said, “Our roles as citizens are not to abide by a governance. It is to step up and take your part in it.”

The Dream Defenders are using events like the special session in Tallahassee to educate state leaders on changes they believe need made. The group says they will continue to urge state lawmakers and the governor to call a special session of the legislature to address the Stand Your Ground law, racial profiling and the school to prison pipeline. Reverend Jackson says he’ll do what he can to help.

“We’re going to bring in more adults and more ministers and more bishops, more students from around the state to mobilize in Tallahassee,” said Jackson.

As the fight continues for the group; the likelihood of a special session still remains very unlikely. Reverend Jackson announced he is staying overnight with the Dream Defenders at the Capitol tonight.

Posted in State News | 8 Comments »

Sit-In Reveals Struggles Among Floridians

July 29th, 2013 by flanews

A protest at the state capitol is entering its third week. The goal is to bring change to the state. As Matt Horn reports, the group is overcoming obstacles, from challenges at the state capitol to life on a daily basis.



At the Florida Capitol, a group of protestors who range from children to the Golden Years are entering their third week.
The struggle of sleeping on the hard marble floor and limited access to everyday supplies is making their goal of changing stand your ground, discrimination and zero tolerance laws even more appetizing.
The adversities the group faces in the capitol, is only a reflection of what they say they’ve experienced for their entire life.
“It’s a constant struggle,” said 70-year-old Cynthia Gardner. “This reminds me of some of the experiences I had in the past.”
Over the weekend, the group faced its latest round of struggles. A hot environment in the state capitol – literally and metaphorically.
”They were like you know you can leave and eat if you really want to. We were like we could but we’re not leaving until a special session is called.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says the latest struggles are not a negative reflection of Capitol Police. F-D-L-E spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger says rules have been outlined for the group since day 1. ”After business hours when the capitol is closed, Capitol Police will not let anyone come into the capitol,” said Plessinger.
F-D-L-E says they will continue to do their job by the books; while the protesters continue to play by the rules on their road to change.
Tuesday the group kicks off “The People’s Session” to examine the circumstances they say led to the death of Trayvon Martin.

Posted in State News | 33 Comments »

Common Core Future in Florida

July 29th, 2013 by flanews

Florida’s constant change with school assessments has Senate President Don Gaetz speaking out on Common Core.

Florida is one of dozens of states that have adopted the program. Many politicians have said common core started as a well-intentioned effort to challenge students using rigorous curriculum standards.

Speaker of the House and Senate President Gaetz called on the state to pull out of the group who has designed the tests aligned with Common Core. Gaetz says he wants to make sure standards are high for students and teachers.

”I’m for higher standards as a former superintendent of schools,” said Senate President Don Gaetz. “I think if you raise standards and you provide tools for effective teaching, you get better results.”

Florida has changed how schools are graded again this year…creating concerns with school district’s grades.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Senate President on Special Session

July 29th, 2013 by flanews

The Dream Defenders are entering into their third week at the state capitol demanding a special session of the legislature.
Governor Rick Scott met with the protesters the first week they started staying at the capitol. He told the group he would not call for a special session. The group says they are not going anywhere until he does so. Senate President Don Gaetz says he backs the governor’s decision.

”I stand with Governor Scott on this and I stand with Speaker Weatherford,” said Senate President Don Gaetz. “I think you call a special session of the legislature when you have a landing zone that’s agreed upon on an issue.”

The protesters say they will stay put until their demands are met.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Governor Reubin O’D. Askew Honored for Dedication to Florida

July 29th, 2013 by flanews

Former Florida Governor Reubin Askew was honored at the historic Capitol Monday morning for his dedication to education and politics.
Governor Askew has taught at the majority of Florida’s public universities and was Governor in the state during the 1970’s. He has been known for the changes he made in the state. One of his fondest memories was being a supporter during the civil rights movement.

”People in the south should have a chance at life. Not who they are, status in society, but they should have a right,” said Governor Askew.

The governor announced his last year of teaching at Florida State University this year.

Posted in State News | 1 Comment »

Housing Market Rebounding; Buyers Still Struggling

July 24th, 2013 by flanews

Florida’s economy continues to improve after the ‘Great Recession; and the housing market is on the way up, too. Even though the numbers look good on paper, there are still a lot of concerns.



In early July, Governor Rick Scott said, “In less than 2 ½ years, the private sector has generated over 330,000 jobs.”

A University of Central Florida report shows the state economy is expected to grow steadily over the next three years; but not at a rapid pace. The Florida Chamber of Commerce says either way, growth is good for Florida.

Executive Vice President for Florida Chamber Foundation Tony Carvajal said,

“Would you rather have a lot more money in your pocket or a little more dollars over time. Reality is, we need both. We need a lot of movement in the right industries.”

At the same time, home sales are rebounding.

Senior Vice President of The Florida Association of Realtors John Sebree said, “This is a very positive trend. It’s not just a blip on the screen.”

But, the rebound isn’t necessarily good news for people buying.

“The teacher, the first responder, the ones that you want to live in the neighborhood they serve and they can’t get in because financing is still very tight,” said Sebree.

One major issue for most home buyers are investment firms and cash sales.

Cash sales are almost always an issue for home buyers needing financing. That’s because after the housing burst, there are typically fewer issues with cash sales than financing. In Florida, nearly half of home sales are bought outright with cash.

“That’s a tough situation for the young couple that really want to buy and start a family, if a cash buyer can beat them out,” said Sebree.

In addition to home sales, nearly 7 out of 10 condo sales are cash sales in Florida.

According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, more people are still moving to the Sunshine State. By the end of the year, the state is expected to be the third largest in the country, by leapfrogging New York.

Posted in State News | 3 Comments »

More Jurors = Better Justice?

July 23rd, 2013 by flanews

Following the acquittal of George Zimmerman some are questioning whether six member juries are sufficient enough when determining quilt or innocence.



Across the United States 12-member juries are used in all felony cases. Not in Florida, a 1970’s state law only requires 6-member jury.

Former President of the Florida. Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer

Tom Powell said, “When somebody stands to go to prison for the rest of their life, or for 30 years, I think a 12 person jury is important.”

In the recent George Zimmerman trial – six women were used in the case. Only one was non-Caucasian. Zimmerman was eventually acquitted in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Representative Randolph Bracy has been drafting a bill which would change the state law; his proposal would require 12 jurors in felony trials.

When asked why there should be an increase in the number of jurors in felony trials Representative Bracy said, “They have more people and more opinions.”

Currently the only time a 12-member jury is used in the Sunshine State is for Capital Punishment cases and when the state tries to take over your property.

“This is part of our trial, court system. I think it needs some changes,” said Representative Bracy.

Florida is one of two states with six-member juries, the only other state in the country is Connecticut.

Supporters are concerned money will keep the law the same. According to Powell, “There no doubt will be a fiscal impact. You have to call more jurors if you have a jury of 12.”

Currently jurors are not paid anything for the first three days of a trial. After day three, they are paid 40-dollars a day.

Posted in State News | 2 Comments »

Sit-In Continues into Week Two

July 22nd, 2013 by flanews

Seven days after protesters began camping out in the state capitol they got their second meeting with state officials today. The protesters are happy about the dialogue, but expect the state to make changes.


After seven days of sleeping on the hard marble floors, the Dream Defenders are gearing up for week two at the state capitol.

“We’re getting like I’ve said before, comfortable with being uncomfortable we know we’re here with a goal,” said Dream Defenders Executive Director, Phillip Agnew.

Standing tall and telling personal stories; the group is showing their strength by not going anywhere. Monday morning Governor Rick Scott had Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters meet with the group. The group continues to demand changes to state law.

“It’s time for work,” said Agnew. “The talk is over, people are dying, young people are dying; young people want a change.”

The Secretary met with the group for about two hours the group says there is still a long way to go.

Last Thursday night, Governor Rick Scott met with the Dream Defenders. The protesters are demanding a special session. Monday morning the Governor reiterated his stance on the group’s demand.

“I’m not going to call a special session,” said Governor Scott. “I believe in the stand your ground laws in our state and I continue to believe in those.”

Lists were made and comments were shared during Monday’s meeting between both sides.

“Or are you saying you’re trying to protect the children,” asked Ciara Taylor.

“Now, Ciara. You have to know something, I have a long standing record in protecting and fighting for children,” Wansley Walters responded.

Until a special session of the state legislature is called, the Dream Defenders say their not going anywhere.

Only about 20 protesters stayed the entire weekend at the capitol.

Posted in State News | 18 Comments »

Protestors Continue Sit-In at Governor’s Office

July 17th, 2013 by flanews

After nearly 36 hours protestors still fill the Governor’s Office demanding change in Florida. When talking to the protestors, they say the crowd will continue to grow.

Chants continue to fill Governor Rick Scott’s office – as the second day of the sit-in protest is underway. Protestors continue to wait for the Governor, who is back in Florida. They want to meet with Rick Scott after the George Zimmerman verdict this past weekend. They have three demands they want addressed: racial profiling, the Stand Your Ground law, and the War on Youth.

Executive Director for Dream Defender Phillip Agnew says, “People from around the country are watching. I think the Governor has an interesting opportunity to prove his commitment to the future of youth in this state.”

According the Governor’s Press Office, the governor is not scheduled to be back in the capitol anytime Wednesday.

Protestors say they’ll wait until their demands are met. In regards to waiting, more than 30 protestors slept in the Capitol Tuesday night.

Protester Sherika Shaw who stayed over night said, “You know we all have beds at home, but we’re making the best of it because we’re dedicated.”

Those who stayed overnight say it’s not the most ideal; but they are willing to sleep on the capitol floor to prove they are serious about changes coming to Florida.

When asked what kind of impact is shown by staying at the Capitol, Shaw said, “It shows our resilience and shows how passionate we are about the Trayvon Martin case and how passionate we are on our future.”

As time progresses more people have been coming to Tallahassee from across Florida and neighboring states. Protestors say if the governor doesn’t agree to the demands; the crowds will get larger and louder.

“We’re still willing to meet, it will escalate, more people will come, he’ll get visitors,” said Agnew.

Even though the crowds may get bigger, protestors say they still plan on remaining peaceful.

Around 2 Wednesday afternoon, the NAACP asked to speak with the Chief of Staff at the Governor’s Office. Sources say the Chief of Staff never came out to meet with the group. Protestors are planning on staying overnight, again.

Posted in State News | 2 Comments »

Protesters Hold Sit-In at Governor’s Office

July 16th, 2013 by flanews

Just days after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the death of Trayvon Martin; protestors from several Southeastern States took over Governor Rick Scott’s office.

Those protesting say they will hold a peaceful sit-in until they meet with the governor, no matter how long that will take.

With signs held high, and voices in harmony; protestors made their way into Governor Rick Scott’s office Tuesday morning. The group is waiting to speak with the Governor, who’s in New York. Protestors say they want Rick Scott to call a special session of the legislator to address racial profiling and the Stand Your Ground law.

“He’s the only person that can do that and we believe this is a crisis moment,” said protester Phillip Agnew.

“Together we are united to ensuring Trayvon’s unjust death was not for nothing,” said protester Ciara Taylor.

Last Saturday, George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Central Florida. Protestors say they will make sure Trayvon’s death was not in vein. “I’m angry because justice hasn’t been served. I’m anger because a murderer walks free,” said protester Andrew Arachikavitz.

“As you can see here there’s a great amount of anger about it,” said Agnew. “We’re here in support of what we’re calling the ‘Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act of 2013.’”

Law enforcement says they’ll keep a close eye on demonstrators to make sure they don’t get out of hand. “We opened the dialogue early on with the organizers of the protest and we laid out some ground rules that keep us all safe and secure,” said Director of Capitol Police, Rick Swearingen.

Protestors say they will stay peaceful as they make plans to camp out in the capitol as long as needed.

More than 100 rallies are expected nationwide as a result of the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

New Concussion Drug Created in Florida

July 15th, 2013 by flanews

After nearly 10 years in development; a new drug to help people with concussions is about to undergo testing. The drug, which was created in Florida, will help people after they get a concussion.

Every year more than 1-point-3 million Americans bang their heads and end up with a concussion. A new drug developed at Florida State University College of Medicine may stop the concussion from turning into a more serious health issue. “If we can get this treatment in them very soon and manage them for 30 days after the injury we can prevent the negative long term outcomes associated with concussions,” said Dr. Jake VanLandingham.

Doctor Jake VanLandingham has been working on the new drug since 2004. The drug will reduce inflammation, and brain cell damage in concussion injuries. “We developed the concussion model to be able to test how well it worked,” he said.
There are three common ways mild-traumatic brain injuries happen: military-related accidents, car crashes, and sports- injuries. Florida A&M University head athletic trainer Akima Dima says there have been major advances in concussion treatment.

“Can it be controlled? I think to some extent, yes. It can be controlled,” said Akima Dima.

Even though the drug treatment may be here in the next few years, athletic trainers say they will continue to use their current concussion evaluation until the FDA approves the drug.

“We’re doing a good job in terms of monitoring the athletes and getting them back to the playing field so I don’t think I would do anything different right now,” said Dima.

Its estimated 90-percent of concussions are under diagnosed.

Posted in State News | 2 Comments »

Students March for Equality

July 12th, 2013 by flanews

Students from three Florida universities rallied today to end voter suppression.

Friday morning nearly 100 people marched to the historic state capitol with one mission: making their voices heard. “The march and the rally is to bring awareness to a movement the no vote, no voice movement,” said Florida State University Student, Eugene Butler III.

A recent 5-4 Supreme Court ruling struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; shocking many of those who marched here. “Often times it takes measures like these to let them know we know what’s going on,” said Florida A&M University student, Tom Diamond. “Our voice still matters, we sill still show up at any time.”

”Although the rally ended here at the historic state capitol, students hope their message goes much further and makes an impact nationwide,” Matt Horn reports.

“We stand for so many voices and so this means that we will do what we have to do so that people, the Supreme Court will hear our voice,” said Diamond.

Supporters say voter suppression goes beyond the Supreme Court ruling. They argue Florida has a long track record of making it difficult for people to vote. Including the 2011 law which created long lines. That law has since been reversed. Students say other laws still make it difficult for Floridians to vote.

“I think those long lines where people didn’t get to vote, are a direct result of slashing early voting hours,” said FSU Alum, Cecelia O’Brien. Students say they are planning for more rallies this fall after school is back in session.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Get Wine by the Gallons

July 11th, 2013 by flanews

Your favorite glass of wine may soon come out of a keg. As Matt Horn explains, a new Florida law will allow businesses to save money and protect the environment while serving customers favorite glass of wine.

Your favorite glass of wine may soon be served out of a keg. A new Florida law allows restaurants and bars to serve wine from a 5-gallon keg. One wine keg holds 26 bottles of wine.

”This is really something customers have asked us for. People like to be able to order by the glass when they go to a restaurant. Having it in kegs makes it easier for restaurants to do that,” said John Fleming.

Shula’s Restaurant is just one Florida Company that’s looking into the options of buying wine by keg.

”Obviously the law is newly passed, so we’re in a pattern where wine distributors are feeling their way through it,” said Steve Adams.

Because wine can spoil after being open a few days, many eateries and bars throw out half-empty wine bottles. The kegs will keep the wine to fresher… longer. Saving money for distributors, restaurants and customers.

“We see it as a great opportunity to give the consumer a better choice, hopefully at a better price,” saidAdams.

A bi-product of the new law: less trash inFlorida’s landfills. One estimate is that there will be 350-thousand fewer wine bottles dumped in landfills every year. “There’s less waste when you do it this way,” said Fleming.

Distributors and restaurants are still early in the planning process on the changes. Look for wine kegs to be a reality around the first of the year.

Wine kegs are already legal in 48 other states.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

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