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Statement Regarding Screen Identifying Information

January 31st, 2014 by Mike Vasilinda

Statement Regarding Screen Identifying Information

Capitol News Service takes full responsibility for an error that resulted in one of our clients, WTVJ incorrectly labeling on screen material.

In a report in which we played a web ad by the Republican Party of Florida, our employees indicated it should have the on screen chyron “ Reprehensive Party of Florida.”  We deeply regret this incident.  The people who made the error and reviewed it without catching it are no longer in our employ.


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Jobs Boom in Florida

January 31st, 2014 by flanews

Governor Rick Scott has used job creation as a reelection pitch against former Governor Charlie Crist. As Matt Horn reports – a job growth report supports more jobs, but Rick Scott isn’t solely credited on the increase.

Florida continues to outpace most states in the country by adding private industry jobs. Florida TaxWatch is reporting the highest increase per capita since 2005.

“On a percentage basis, we’re second in the entire country on job creation, only behind North Dakota this year,” said Dr. Jerry Parrish, Florida TaxWatch. “That’s a big improvement.”

It’s a reelection year and Governor Rick Scott is using the increase in jobs as his key pitch to be re elected.

“Florida shed more than 800 thousand jobs in the four years before I took office. Taxes increased, debt increased and the unemployment rate rose to 11 point four percent,” said Governor Rick Scott, (R) Florida.

Florida’s economy plummeted during former Republican Governor turned Democrat Charlie Crist’s time in office. But, during Crist’s time in office, the entire country was in the worst recession since the Great Depression.

“The notion that any one person brought that, or any one governor certainly brought that on, it’s just absurd, it’s laughable,” said Crist. “If they try to sell that to people, people are smarter than that.”

A key factor in Florida’s 2013 job growth is a direct reflection of other states across the country.

“One of the main things is, is record tourism. We’ve had record tourism over the last couple of years and that contributes significantly to not only the economy, but to the state revenues as well,” said Dr. Parrish.

The report shows the only sector to lose jobs was Government…state and federal while local government continued to add jobs. Overall 192-thousand jobs were created in 2013.

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Scott-Crist Turn AP Event into Debate

January 30th, 2014 by flanews

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows former Governor Charlie Crist leading incumbent Rick Scott by 8 points. Crist and Scott held a defacto debate this week, even though the two weren’t in the room at the same time.

Rick Scott used his budget unveiling before editors and writers to criticize rival Charlie Crist at least seven times. “Florida shed more than 800 thousand jobs in the four years before I took office. Taxes increased, debt increased,” says Governor Rick Scott.

Crist wasn’t in the room but appeared hours later, fighting back with his own critique. “This is a guy who headed a company that ended up having to pay the largest fine for fraud in the history of the United States of America,” says Charlie Crist.

The sparring match came one day before a new poll shows Crist leading Scott by 8 points. The poll found men split evenly, but women and independents showing strong support for Crist.

Political Scientist Carol Weissert says it is too early to take the numbers to the bank. “Independents are key, right, in Florida and as you know the number of independents is increasing,” says Carol Weissert, FSU Political Scientist.

Governor Rick Scott has been basing his entire campaign so far on an improving economy. One of the surprises in the poll? Only 29 percent say the economy is the most important thing.

While Scott was bashing Crist, the Republican Party of Florida released a web ad it parroted Scott’s talking points on the economy

Until voters start paying attention, all bets are off. “The summer will be an important time,” says Weissert.

And that promises to make the summer hot in more ways than one.

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Ice Cripples Florida Panhandle

January 30th, 2014 by flanews

For the second day more than it 200 miles of interstate 10 have been closed because of winter weather. As Matt Horn reports the closure re-routed trips and delayed drivers.

Milt Gernhart has been a trucker since the 1980s. He’s seen plenty of winter weather in other parts of the country but never in Florida.

“You wouldn’t think its going be an issue. But, as it turns out, its an issue and you can’t move,” said Gernhart.

From the Alabama-Florida state line to mile marker 233 east of Tallahassee, Interstate ten has been closed for more than 24 hours; forcing drivers to look for alternative routes.

“What we’re trying to do is protect all of our residents and visitors who come to our state. It’s an inconvenience, we understand that, but it’s a necessary one,” said Major Mark Welch.

Across the Panhandle inexperienced drivers were unable to drive on icy roads. Roads, bridges and schools across the Panhandle were closed for the second day to this unusual winter storm.

“I lost control last night coming across and thank God I made it safe,” said Gernhart. “But, in the meantime I saw a bunch of cars off the shoulder.”

Jasper Simmons is from Pensacola. He and his family have been stuck in Tallahassee since Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s been like 20 some hours, it’s been a minute. We didn’t expect to have to get a hotel, but we had to,” said Simmons.

The last winter storm to cripple Florida was the Christmas storm of 1989.

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Budget Proposal Unveiled

January 29th, 2014 by flanews

Governor Rick Scott unveiled a 74 point two billion dollar budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. As Matt Horn reports – the Governor says he wants more money in Floridians wallets.

Governor Rick Scott unveiled his election year budget in front of newspaper editors meeting at the capitol. He has been dribbling out details for the last several weeks.

“My message for the people of Florida is this: it’s your money we want you to keep it in your pockets, invest in your hopes, and invest in your dreams. Our state is heading in the right direction,” said Gov. Scott.

His proposals include a 542 million dollar increase for K through 12 education; and plans to cut 500 million dollars in tax and fees.

“We want to create an opportunity economy in Florida,” said Gov. Scott.

David Hart with the Florida Chamber of Commerce says an early look at the budget suggests a big win for Floridians.

“I’m very encouraged by the additional funding; the historic high levels for education, for K through 12, our state colleges and universities, said Hart. “That’s pretty exciting.”

Former Florida Governor and Gubernatorial Candidate Charlie Crist is concerned with Governor Scott’s budget announcement.

“I’m disappointed from what I heard about how it relates to education funding, requiring about 300 million dollars more in property taxes on the backs of our fellow Floridians with the required local effort that doesn’t sound like the right thing to me,” said Crist.

Legislative leaders responded with mostly favorable comments on the Governor’s tax cutting plans. Lawmakers will have the final say on how much is spend and where.

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Extreme Weather Closes Schools and I-10

January 29th, 2014 by flanews

Motorists traveling across North Florida were forced to take alternate routes as freezing bridges caused the closure of nearly two hundred miles of Interstate 10. It’s been 25 years since a winter storm closed I-10.

In what’s being called the storm of the decade, Winter Storm Leon closed nearly two hundred miles of Interstate ten, from west of the state capitol to Pensacola. Florida Highway Patrol Captain Mark Welch blames icy conditions. “The bridges are icing over and people aren’t, don’t recognize the ice and when they hit it, they lose control of their cars and end up crashing. Well, we did [see accidents] before we started closing the interstate down,” says Capt. Mark Welch, FL. Highway Patrol.

Where I-10 was open, the DOT was spreading sand on bridges in an effort to keep them open.

Giving meaning to the term ‘storm of the decade, the interstate hasn’t been closed since 1989.

Freezing rain fell through mid morning. “It is absolutely freezing, cold wet,” says Mike Cusick/Lobbyist.

Schools were closed across much of the panhandle. Leon Superintendent Jackie Pons said better safe than sorry. “We didn’t want our students driving at six 45 this morning in the ice and our bus drivers out driving in the ice,” says Jackie Pons, Leon School Superintendent.

Florida A&M University was also closed for the day. FSU had plans to open at noon but then cancelled classes for all of Wednesday.  “I am very cold.” Amy Katzman, FSU Student.

We found FSU student Amy Katzman, who grew up in the panhandle, freezing as she waited for a bus. “No, never, never [have I] been this cold,” says Katzman.

Traffic was light on area roads as many stayed home. Freezing temperatures are expected through Thursday morning.

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Retail Trend Increase

January 28th, 2014 by flanews

Florida retailers have added tens of thousands of jobs over the last year. As Matt Horn reports – the industry is optimistic the trend will continue.

Florida Retailers added 55-thousand new jobs from December 2012 to December 2013. Rick McAllister with the Florida Retail Federation says stores saw a three to four percent increase over the holidays.

“We really expected it to continue the trend that we’d seen over the last 24 months which has been a good healthy, steady increase,” said McAllister.

To keep growing, retailers have a legislative wish list. It includes three tax free holidays. One for school supplies, another for hurricane preparedness, and one for energy star appliances.

“Florida’s families need tax relief and tax relief also energizes sales,” said McAllister.

One of every three jobs created in 2013 were in the retail industry. Retailers fear losing market share to on line dealers unless the state starts collecting the tax already owed on internet sales. Current law exempts businesses without a brick and mortar presence in the state.

“They’re gonna sale it seven to seven and a half percent cheaper than we can do it because we have to tax it. That’s just not fair,” said Randy Miller.

Construction is the only industry that grew faster than retail last year…good news for retailers because growth in the construction industry helps other industries.

“Thank God for that because we all know and learned during the recession the construction and housing industry has such a huge impact on our state economy,” McAllister.

Governor Rick Scott is proposing a ten day back to school sales tax holiday.

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Money For All

January 27th, 2014 by flanews

Governor Rick Scott today proposed increased spending for Florida schools. A billion dollar increase in state revenues is allowing the Governor to make a lot of groups happy.

Florida schools would see a 542 million dollar increase under the Governor’s proposed budget. The increased would take schools almost back to pre recession per student allocations. The union representing teachers is cautiously optimistic. “The devil is in the details and where is that going to go, for what categories? Is it going just to public schools? Is it going to public charter? We have to see where all that ends up,” Joanna McCall, Florida Education Assn. VP.

For state employees, the Governor is suggesting performance bonuses of 25 hundred or five thousand dollars.

On the Environmental front, there is also money for cleaning up springs and the everglades. Like teachers, environmentalists are cautiously optimistic. “Every Governor has been for the Everglades, for land conservation and for taking care of our water supplies and I think this Governor is going to do that same thing,” Eric Draper, Audubon Florida.

Democrats are quick to point out that it was this Governor who quartered the tea party during his first budget cycle.

In his first year, Rick Scott unveiled and then signed the state budget at a tea party rally. Democrats say he no longer sounds like the outsider that got him elected. Screven Watson, Democratic Consultant says, “Floridians need to ask themselves this question: Who’s the real Risk Scott? Is it the tea party Rick Scott of his first year? Or this new and improved Rick Scott that we see now?”

When he ran for office, Rick Scott avoided editorial boards. As another sign of how he has changed, his official budget rollout will come before state newspaper editors gathered at the capitol on Wednesday.

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Signing Up For Coverage

January 27th, 2014 by flanews

Florida is in the minority of states when it comes to expanding health care to the working poor.. As Matt Horn reports, Floridians say the state needs to expand benefits so more people can receive life saving healthcare.

Uninsured Floridians like Nikki Hall are meeting with navigators to sort out questions on health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“I had absolutely no clue about how to even go about maneuvering my way throughout it, so this has been a big help, a large help, shed a lot of light on a subject I had no clue about,” said Hall.

Navigator Jasmine Burney says it’s essential for Floridians to sign up for coverage.

“It’s extremely important for people to get set up and aligned and enrolled in healthcare simply because there is a penalty that will be associated in the event that they do not enroll for the March 31 deadline,” said Burney.

27 states are already expanding Medicaid, three are considering it. Florida killed the expansion last year, but some lawmakers will try again this year.

Lawmakers are pushing to expand Florida’s Medicaid program. It resembles a 2013 bill that passed through the Senate, but failed to make it out of the House.

The 2013 expansion would have insures 900-thousand Floridians, paid for with 52 billion dollars from the federal government. A skeptical Governor Rick Scott suggested taking the money for three years…then deciding again.

“The question is, is the federal government gonna fund what they said their gonna fund,” asked Governor Rick Scott in a 2013 interview.

Those signing up for coverage say healthcare is critical for people’s livelihood.

“I’m sure there are people today who are going to die who don’t have healthcare or don’t feel comfortable going in because they can’t afford it,” said Amy Datz. “It’d wipe them out.”

A University of Florida research estimated an expansion would create more than 100-thousand jobs.

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Sexual Assault Epidemic

January 24th, 2014 by flanews

A White House report says one of every five female college students are victims of sexual assault. There have been 13 sexual assault cases at Florida State and four across town at Florida A&M since 2010. Florida universities say safety begins before students even show up on campus.

“We actually start before the students move-in on campus and we provide information to them during orientation session and also to their parents,” said Tanya Tatum, Director of Student Health Services, Florida A&M University.

Only one in every eight sexual assaults is reported. Alleged victims often feel like they won’t be believed. Or they are ashamed. FAMU student Taylor Altidor says students can’t stick their head in the sand.

“You have to know these are things you can’t be afraid to think about because once you think about them you’ll talk to yourself about how to protect yourself,” Altidor.

Universities say students need to have information readily available to make a difference in the numbers being assaulted.

“It’s very important that all students get information and education and the institutions put in supports for students to help prevent sexual assault,” said Tatum.

Students say the efforts by the university are paying off.

“The police officer comes in and he tells you all of the services they do for you,” said Alexandra Hidalgo-Gato, Florida State University student.

It’s estimated 22 million American women and one point six million men have been victims of rape.

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Tightening the Reigns on Loosening the Belt

January 23rd, 2014 by flanews

If you have found yourself loosening your belt an extra notch lately, you are not alone. State Health officials say Obesity is the number one health risk, and as Matt Horn reports, a new study shows seven out of ten Floridians overweight.

The State of Florida is at war against obesity. Catherine Howard with the Department of Health says more people are becoming overweight at an alarming rate.

“Children who start out at an unhealthy weight that are overweight and obese in childhood are much more likely to stay overweight or obese in adulthood,” said Howard.

Currently only three out of ten Floridians are at a healthy weight. Florida State University Assistant Professor Doctor Michael Ormsbee says it’s a trend sweeping the nation.

“If you can just eat according to your hunger, it helps a lot. We overfeed ourselves so much. We don’t need the Thanksgiving belly every time we eat,” said Ormsbee.

Florida is battling the bulge by introducing a new “Healthiest Weight” campaign.

“It’s not so much the way people look, its how healthy are they, “said Ormsbee.

As Matt Horn reports, six out of 10 children born today will be obese by the age of 18 if nothing is done to curb the current trend.

Experts say everyone can change no matter their weight or waist size.

“We don’t need to be perfect, but if you can be consistent with your eating patterns and consistent with your exercise. If you have a bad day, it’s okay. Just get back on track the next day, Ormsbee continues.

Currently one out of four adults is obese.

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You can Drive but You can’t Hide

January 23rd, 2014 by flanews

New law enforcement technology allows a single patrol car to capture up to five thousand license plate numbers an hour, computer analyze them, and potentially track where your car has been spotted. One state lawmaker wants to put the brakes on how the auto recognition system is used.

This is a marketing video for something called an Automatic License Plate Recognition System, or ALPR. The Video states, “It helps find offenders, even if they don’t draw attention to themselves.”

ALPRs can capture and read up to five thousand plates an hour.

The devices can instantly pick up if someone’s got an unpaid parking ticket. With multiple cameras are combined, you can even track the movement of a vehicle used in a robbery.

The Florida Highway Patrol is using seven units across the state. “We are looking for a stole tag, stolen cars. The hot list informs us, it’s undated every two hours,” says Capt. Nancy Rasmussen,        FL Highway Patrol.

The recognition systems can also be used on bridges or toll plazas. State Senator Jeff Brandes says there are no limits on the information collected. He wants to change that. “Today, a divorce lawyer, someone could physically stalk you or could stalk you through doing public records request on the license plate readers,” says Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-Pinellas County.

Brandes would put a thirty day time limit on storing the information and he would keep others from asking for data about your tag number. “And if the department has a policy that allows them to keep these records for 6 months, a year, they can pull any time your licenses plate reader has been- your licenses plate has been read over the course of that year,” says Sen. Jeff Brandes.

While the technology is still young, the staff analysis for the legislation envisions millions of records being collected every day and stored indefinitely if limits aren’t imposed.

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Sign Up For Pot

January 22nd, 2014 by flanews

Medical Marijuana Supporters have collected more than 1-million signatures to put the issue on the ballot this fall. As Matt Horn reports – even if enough signatures are verified, it could all be for nothing if the state Supreme Court finds fault with the initiative.

More than 1 million signatures have been collected and are being verified. At midday Wednesday, the United for Care group was 80 thousand signatures short of making the ballot…but verification will continue through the end of the month.

“This just shows the will of the people, which is really what the petition drive is all about,” Michael Krehl, Medical Marijuana Supporter.

The battle isn’t only taking place with petition drives across the state; the battle is also brewing among the state’s top leaders…and those running for office.

“I support it. I think it’s the right thing to do. It is out of compassion and I’m glad John’s doing it,” said Former Governor and Gubernatorial Candidate Charlie Crist.

“I’ve said all along I’m against illegal drug use, I’ve watched how it impacts families,” said Rick Scott, (R) Governor.

Even if the number of valid signatures is reached– the final say rests with Florida Supreme Court.

Justices heard arguments in December. They can throw out the proposed amendment is they decide it covers more than one subject or if the ballot language is misleading.

A Quinnipiac University Poll shows more than 80 percent of Floridians support medical marijuana…positive reinforcement for those collecting signatures.

“This is good for the people; this is what the state of Florida needs for medicine, for jobs, for the well-being of the state,” said Krehl.

20 states already allow medical marijuana, an additional six states have pending legislation to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes.

The Florida Supreme Court has until April 1st to make a decision on medical marijuana

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Abortion Debate has Changed

January 22nd, 2014 by flanews

Today is the forty-first anniversary of the landmark US Supreme court decision legalizing abortion. Still divisive as an issue today’s protests are a far cry from years past.

In 1989, fifteen thousand people, equally split between pro and anti choice factions, came to the State Capitol for a special session on abortion.

The law didn’t change but each year State Lawmakers tried to restrict abortions. There is a Choose Life License plate that funds pregnancy help centers. Ultra sounds are now required before an abortion and minors must have a parents blessing in most cases.

Each week, a small group of protestors pray silently in front of the state supreme court.

Each year on the anniversary of Roe, Catholic high school students protest at the State Capitol. “We’re just here to let women know they are loved and to let them know there is support for them if they are in crises pregnancy,” says Sister Colleen Mattingly, John Paul II Catholic High school.

On the other side, a small gathering of pro choice women worried publicly that women’s rights are under attack. “Access to birth control is under attack.” Patricia Ireland, Former NOW President.

And a Democratic dark horse candidate for Governor argued she is the only sure bet to protect women’s rights. “We will not allow government to intrude into our bedrooms and our doctor’s offices.” Nan Rich, Gubernatorial hopeful (D).

In 2012, Florida voters turned down a constitutional amendment that could have opened the door to more restrictions on abortions leaving Florida status quo.

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Springs Protection

January 21st, 2014 by flanews

Governor Rick Scott is proposing the state spent five times more than it did last year to protect springs in Florida. Environmentalists are both applauding the money , and criticizing the Governor for being lax on polluters.

This 1980 photograph of Wakulla Springs  shows crystal clear water. Today, manatees frolic, but the water is dark and cloudy.

Water quality has caused Glass bottom boat tours to drop from thirty or forty weeks a year to just three last year. “We’re going to invest 55 million dollars to protect Florida’s springs,” says Governor Rick Scott.

Governor Rick Scott used an employee recognition ceremony to announce increased spending on springs protection. The state will seek ideas on how to spend the money. Identifying the cause isn’t a problem. “It’s septic tanks, it’s run off from our urban communities, it’s excessive fertilizer, it’s waste water treatment plants,” says Hershel Vineyard, DEP Secretary.

The Governor’s ask of 55 million dollars is more than five times what was spent last year. Audubon Florida lobbied for the increased cash. “This year we hope that they will do more to protect the right around the springs as well as replace septic tanks and get the sewage that’s going into springs right now out of the springs.” says Eric Draper, Exec. Dir.  Audubon Florida.

David Guest of Earth Justice says the new money wouldn’t be needed it the state did its job in the first place. “This is the Governor who has the polluters write their own rules, it comes as no surprise that throughout the state of Florida the water bodies are turning to green slim,” says David Guest,   Earth Justice. In 2010, the state enacted legislation to clean up leaking septic tanks. The program was defunded a year later and repealed in 2012.

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