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State Doesn’t Have Power to Shut Down Gambling

October 30th, 2015 by flanews

All deadlines and grace periods have passed in the dispute over a new blackjack deal for Seminole casinos in Florida. As Matt Galka tells us, the tables won’t be folding up anytime soon.

The deadline for a new gambling deal between Florida and the Seminole tribe expired over the summer. The 90 day grace period was up Thursday at midnight.  The state has maintained that they expect Seminole Casinos to stop dealing blackjack after the grace period ends. The Governor was asked about the deadline earlier this week.

“My legal team is reviewing it, and we’re going to do the right thing for the state,” said Gov. Rick Scott.

The cards are still being dealt and the Tribe’s lawyer says there’s really not much the state can do.

“The state doesn’t have any jurisdiction to go in and shut it down, only the federal government does, but second, because the compact itself in the compact the parties agreed that this is the way we’ll resolve a dispute like this,” said Attorney Barry Richard.

Richard says the Seminoles have gone through all three steps they’ve needed to in an attempt to reach a resolution.  The latest was filing a lawsuit in federal court Monday.  Richard says the court will have the final say if no new deal is reached. Florida State University gambling professor Marc Dunbar agrees.

“Until they actually file something in the federal court requesting some level of injunction there’s really nothing the state can do. The state can’t send law enforcement officers to stop the activity,” said Dunbar.

The Seminoles allege the state breached the terms of the deal by violating the exclusivity rights of blackjack when they allowed video versions of the game elsewhere in the state. They say that gives them the right to stop paying the state, something they haven’t done yet.

The state has made more than a billion dollars form the Seminole Compact since it started.  We reached out to the Governor’s office directly about the deadline passing and have yet to receive a response.

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Scheduled Execution Would Break Record

October 29th, 2015 by flanews

A temporary suspension of the death penalty is expected to come to an end tonight in Florida. As Matt Galka tells us, the next inmate executed would be a modern record for the state.

Jerry Correll was supposed to be executed earlier this year in February. He was convicted for murdering four people in 1985.  But his execution, and all others, were delayed until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on lethal injection drugs.  He’s now scheduled to die Thursday night.


Ingrid Delgado and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops are asking the Governor to spare his life and convert his death sentence to life in prison.

“We’ve had a nice break in executions, we’ve had a lot of back to back executions for a while, and we’ve had a break now, and I think it’s reminded the state of Florida that we don’t need executions to keep our Floridians safe,” she said.

Thursday’s scheduled execution will be the first in Florida since January.

The Catholic Conference says there’s another problem: The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing a case that could impact the state’s death penalty sentencing.  Florida doesn’t require a unanimous jury to recommend the death penalty.

“It’s another reason to stay this execution. Our capital sentencing schemes are being evaluated,” said Delgado.

Florida is the only state that allows a non-unanimous jury to recommend a death penalty.  State Democrats are pushing a change to state law again. The U.S. Supreme court is expected to rule on the issue in 2016.

Protests are expected outside of Florida State Prison before the execution. If it goes ahead as scheduled, it would be the 22nd under Governor Rick Scott, breaking Jeb Bush’s record of 21.

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October 29th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida A & M University President Elmira Magnum refused to answer questions today after her Board of Trustees took two failed votes to fire her a week ago. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, one high profile alum thinks the those who wanted to fire the President should step down.

Elmira Mangum was chosen as FAMU’s first female President in January 2014.

“I am a change agent” she said on the day she was selected.

“Madam President” but she wouldn’t respond to our questions as she drove from campus today.

She has been quiet since the University’s Board of Trustees took two failed votes to fire her last week.

But FAMU graduate and State Senator Arthenia Joyner is now calling on the Trustees who voted to oust Mangum to themselves step down.
“She’s still the President.It’s obvious that there are some problems here” said Joyner.

While the President here gets high marks for handling the finances, many say that her problem is that she doesn’t smooze, doesn’t play the political game.

Marjorie Turnbull was on the search committee that recommended the new President.

‘We knew that there were board members, even from the first day she came on board who were opposed to her selection and were not in favor of her continuation” she told us.

Now the University is at a crossroads. One trustee resigned from the board this week. Five others terms run out at the end of the year. A sixth trustee is still serving after his term expired. All of which means the Governor and University Board of Governors can reshape the troubled governance at FAMU.
“I want to make sure that when you finish you are prepared or have a job, and that’s what I want all the trustees to focus on” said Scott after this week’s Cabinet meeting.

But former Trustee Turnbull cautions a new board could be worse than the current one if the appointments become political.

“Then you may see more of the same” she says.

The current trustees meet again in November.

After the failed votes to oust the President, the Chair of the FAMU Trustees resigned his chairmanship. He remains on the Board until his term expires in January next year.

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Finger Pointing and Flaring Tempers as Senate Approves New Map

October 28th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Tempers flared as a sharply divided state Senate approved new maps for the 40 member body, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us the map is likely to run into political and legal trouble.

The map drawing turned into finger pointing, with St. Petersburg Sen. Jack Latvala questioning the politics behind the new Senate map and the cost of being told by the courts twice before to draw it again.

“This whole process has cost the taxpayers eleven million dollars. I predict if we pass this map today, we’re probably in it for another million at least” said Latvala.

Latvala has personally singled out the chairman of the first map drawing effort, Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville. Gaetz took to the Senate Floor for a rare point of personal privilege.

“When a bully  throws a sucker punch, you hit back and never give in. These are sad days in the history of this institution.”

The current map splits three counties…Alaucha…Volusia, and Sarasota, which brought Sarasota’s Nancy Detert to her feet.

“It’s just a terrible map for my district. 128 miles long. Harder to serve” says Detert.

The map also has one Tampa seat crossing Tampa Bay…which the courts said was unnecessary when it ordered a congressional map redrawn. Sen. Arthenia Joyner (D-Tampa0 believes the courts will get another say.

“We’ll see what the court has to say about it. You know, I said initially, this is not going to be an easy process. A dog fight I think I said.”

Given the dissension here in the Senate, it’s highly unlikely the House is going to approve this map, and that means its going to be back to the drawing boards.

The House will vote next week while Senators go home.

“These are difficult days” Senate President Andy Gardiner told fellow Senators before gaveling the Senate to recess.

Detractors also say the map will make it harder for central Floridians of  Puerto Rican descent to elect one of their own…which they did for the first time in 2012. A leadership fight in the Senate is complicating the map drawing process.

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State Training for Cyber Attacks

October 28th, 2015 by flanews

Every Florida resident has some piece of information about themselves on a state computer, and as Matt Galka tells us, that makes government computers targets for hackers, but the state isn’t sitting idly by.

The Florida Department of Education fell victim to a high profile cyber attack earlier this year. It came during statewide school testing.

“We are trying to identify the perpetrators of that attack,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen in March earlier this year.

The incident raised questions about state government internet security.  The Agency for State Technology is holding a tech summit this week to better prepare departments for future attacks.

“We often say it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ when something like that is going to happen, and we have to make sure we have a good quality response and a good understanding of the types of threats that are out there,” said AST Executive Driector Jason Allison.

The state along with the National Guard will actually simulate a cyber attack on government computers as part of the training. Different agencies will get the chance to do a mock scenario where computers are attacked.  The state’s Chief Information Security Officer Danielle Alvarez says they can come in many different forms.

“Sometimes there’s an economic facet to the attacks. Sometimes there’s information they’re wanting, health information, because they’re wanting to steal an identity to receive benefits, it varies. Sometimes they’re an activist motivated attack, which we tend to call those “hacktivists,'” she said.

No suspects were ever identified and the case was closed in September in the cyberattack against the state’s standardized tests.

The cyber summit in the state capital included presentations from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in an effort to better train departments to handle online attacks.

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LeRoy Collins Institute Seeks Citizen Involvement in CRC

October 27th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Every twenty years, Florida’s Constitution gets the once over for change from a panel appointed by the state’s leaders. It’s only happened twice before and the third time begins next year. Today the LeRoy Collins Institute launched an iniatitive to get average Floridians involved in the process. Carol Weissert of the Institute and a coalition of 18 groups say they hope to double the number of suggestions the Commission gets.


“In 1997-98 average citizens submitted 200 suggestions to the CRC. We’re hoping to double that this time around” Weissert told reporters.

LeRoy Collins served as Governor from 1955 through 1960 and is credited with modernizing state politics. He was the first Constitutional Revision Commission Chairman in 1978.

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Seminole Gaming Deadline Nears

October 27th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

The clock is ticking on blackjack and other card games at five Seminole Indian casinos. The tribe has until Thursday to shut down the gaming after the state and Seminoles didn’t reach a renewal agreement. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the tribe is instead going to court.

The Seminole compact allowing black jack and other banked card games ran out in July…but a second deadline…to shut down the card games comes on Thursday. On Monday, the tribe went to federal court, arguing they have a right to keep dealing because the state hasn’t negotiated in good faith.

Governor Rick Rick Scott says his lawyers are looking at the suit.

”Well, I want to take care of our state. I want to make the best deal I can to represent our state and that’s what I’ve worked on doing” said Scott. AP reporter Gary Fineout followed up with this question: ”But sir, I guess what I want to know are you going to ask the tribe to follow the law?”

A:”well, Gary as I said, our legal team is reviewing it and we’re going to do the right thing for the state.”

Legislative negotiator Sen. Rob Bradley says they are getting closer…but not likely to have a new deal by Thursday.

“Central to the negotiations is the idea that if we are going to extend this agreement for the tribe to conduct banked card games, then that would necessarily include a higher payment to the state” says Bradley.

In a statement, the tribe says it is hopeful a new deal can be reached, but says it will be business as usual as it continues to operate the card games

In 2010 when the Supreme Court said the original compact was illegal, the cards kept dealing and the cash kept flowing.

Efforts to reach a new deal have been stymied by a legislative push to expand casino gambling in Florida. That includes giving dog and horse tracks more leeway to stop racing or offer other forms of gambling.

Earlier today, the group NO Casino’s announced it is seeking to require voter approval for any expansion of  gambling in Florida.

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Rick Scott’s Perfect Presidential Candidate

October 27th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

scott on trump

Some reports have suggested Governor Rick Scott may support Donald Trump in the state’s March 15th Presidential Primary, but today Scott said he hasn’t seen much of what he’s looking for from any of the candidates.

“We need a candidate that says I’ve got a plan to add twelve million jobs, We need a candidate who says I’m going to balance the federal budget now, cut the federal regulation in half. We have way too much federal regulation. And we’ve got to get somebody who’s going to destroy ISIS. That’s what I’m looking for” says Scott.

Scott is widely expected to be a candidate for the US Senate in 2018.


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Will Atwater Run. He Isn’t Saying

October 27th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida CFO Jeff Atwater made it clear today he is under no pressure to make a quick decision about entering the so far lack-luster GOP primary for the US Senate. Atwater said two weeks ago, he was looking at the race. Today he would go no further.

“We made out communication. We felt that we had just been re-elected and we fell that way today. I’ve got a job to do and that’s really what I should be pursuing. But I only acknowledge that people have been asking and I said we would be open to it and would stay open to the idea, but we are not out pushing it.” says Atwater.

Atwater says no donors have been called, nor has he sought grass roots support.

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Rick Scott in No Hurry to Name TIA Aviation Authority Board Member

October 27th, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

After calling a public relations consultant a “tax-payer subsidized slut”, Tampa Aviation Authority Board member Sam Rashid resigned earlier this month. Now the aviation authority president has called out Rick Scott to quickly name a replacement, but today the Governor says he is in no hurry.

“Like all boards, we’re going to take out time to find a good person. We’ve made significant investments in the airport, they’ve got a major expansion going on, the airport is doing very well. I’m going to make sure we get a good person” says Scott.

Rick Scott appointed Rashid to the Aviation Authority in June 2014

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Black Bear Hunt Over After Just Two Days

October 26th, 2015 by flanews

The state’s controversial bear hunt was over almost as soon as it got started.  As Matt Galka tells us, wildlife officials are calling it a success.

298 bears were taken down by hunters across Florida in just 48 hours.  State fish and wildlife officials called Florida’s first black bear hunt in more than 20 years off Sunday night.

Dr. Thomas Eason/FWC Habitat and Species Conservation

“Definitely were surprised by the amount of harvests that happened on the first day.  The actual success rates were within the range that we would expect using similar techniques from other states, but again, I think all of the discussion and focus on the hunt, I think a lot of hunters knew they wanted to be out on the first day,” said Dr. Thomas Eason, the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation director.

Hunters who came up empty handed probably expected they’d have more time in the woods. The hunt was scheduled for seven days but was called after only two.

More than 3,500 hunters purchased permits and nearly hit the season long quota of 320 bears.  112 bears were killed in the Eastern Panhandle region of the state, nearly triple the kill limit for the area.

“We are confident that this hunt got us to what we were achieving. This was to start stabilizing these large growing populations of bears,” said Diane Eggeman with the agency.

But not everyone is lauding the hunt as a success.  Laura Bevan with the Humane Society of the United States says she’s not shocked so many animals were bagged in such a short amount of time.

“We knew when 3500 hunters pour into the woods that it’s going to be a bloodbath and that’s what it was,” she said.

The FWC says they have no plans of stopping the hunt in the future and plan on making it an annual season as long as black bear population numbers continue to grow.

The FWC estimated there were 3,500 black bears in the state before the hunt.  The agency took in just under $377,000 dollars which they plan on putting toward bear proof trash cans to try and limit human and bear conflicts.

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Protests Throughout the State on Eve of Bear Hunt

October 23rd, 2015 by flanews

Wildlife advocates and state officials have gone back and forth for the entire year arguing over a Florida black bear hunt.  As Matt Galka tells us, hunters can start taking aim Saturday.

Dozens of protestors lined up outside Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission headquarters in a last minute push to stop Florida’s black bear hunt scheduled for Saturday.


“We’re concerned that the population could drop down below a level that it could recover,” said Sally Sanders with Stop the Hunt.

Recent estimates put the black bear population in Florida around 3500.  When the deadline passes, there could be one bear for every hunting permit sold.

“We’ve got hunters bickering among themselves as to what’s the best way to kill the bear. That’s even more wrong,” said protester Martina Brawer.

Fish and wildlife officials say that all of the money earned from the sales of the bear hunting permits will go towards other bear management techniques.

The permits were 100 dollars for Floridians.  The sales have generated more than $300,000 dollars for the agency.

“Our intent is to utilize those revenues…to go towards technical assistance, education outreach, and particularly bear proof trash cans,” said Dr. Thomas Eason with the FWC.

Protesters say it’s too little too late.

“They’ve had plenty of opportunity to do the bear proof trashcans before. They’re not about conservation, this commission is about killing, not about conservation,” said Sanders.

The hunt is scheduled to go for seven days, but state officials say they’ll end it sooner if 320 bear quota is met.

Hunting permits will be sold up until 11 59 p.m. Friday night.  Protesters we talked to said it’s too late to stop this year’s hunt, but they’re trying to stop future hunts from happening.

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Lawmakers Get Prescribed Burns Update

October 22nd, 2015 by flanews

A legislative agricultural panel got an update on the state’s prescribed burn program Wednesday. Florida Forest Service Director Jim Karles told the panel how important the program is to the state, and that it can prevent catastrophic wildfire situations like the western part of the country has been experiencing.

“When we’ve got wetter years, we need to do everything we can, because when the dry years come it’s too late. Now the fires are on us and we have to deal with them,” he said.

The state is coming off a record year for intentional burns, where more than 246 thousand acres of land were intentionally burned and rejuvenated.

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Lawmakers Push Poverty Commission

October 22nd, 2015 by flanews

17 percent of the state’s population is living in poverty. As Matt Galka tells us, lawmakers say it’s about time to bring groups together and start coming up with real solutions.

D’Andrea Williams is one of more than three million Floridians in poverty.

“It’s hard making ends meet. I don’t want to stay where I’m at, but I want to get out of where I’m at to have a better foundation for my family,” she said.

The Getting Ahead program from the Capital Area Community Action Agency is helping Williams get there. Tim Center is the agency’s CEO.

“Once we’re able to stabilize them in crisis, we can then work with them and get them out of crisis and into a better situation, hopefully moving out of poverty and off of public assistance,” he said.

But here’s the problem. Groups like Community Action – who help low-income families with anything from paying utility bills to child care – are working independently from other poverty-focused groups around Florida. Now lawmakers want to bring groups across the state working on Florida’s poverty problem together and form a new commission.

Legislation introduced Thursday would create the Florida Commission on Poverty.

“There’s a lot of great work being done throughout each of our 67 counties, but there could be a more coordinated effort,” said bill sponsor Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee).

The bill’s sponsors were quick to point out that some people may roll their eyes at yet another Florida commission…but they’ve been successful in the past.

“The defense support task force we created, and Florida has led the nation in becoming the most military friendly state,” said Senate Sponsor Thad Altman (R-Rockledge).

If the bill were to pass, the Governor, Chief Financial Officer, Senate President, House Speaker and Florida Association for Community Action would all be able to appoint a member to the problem solving group.

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Bear Hunt Set to Begin Saturday

October 21st, 2015 by Mike Vasilinda

More than 28 hundred people have applied to take part in Florida’s first Black Bear hunt in more than 20 years. It begins on Saturday, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, opponents continue to push back.

15 Year old Laura Reeder was attacked by a bear as she walked her dog  just before Christmas last year. Stan Kirkland of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Says she was hurt badly.

“She’s got tooth marks on her head. Bite marks on her arms and legs” Kirkland told us last December.

The bear was later caught and destroyed.

This bear broke into two porches in June, was captured, and euthanized by wildlife officers. FWC Bear Management Technician David Telesco says they have few choices.

“And once an adult bear is used to people, there’s really nothing we can do to reverse that” says Telesco.

Beginning Saturday, Florida opens what could be a one week bear season. More than 2800 hundred hunters have paid a one hundred dollar fee for the chance to take one of 320 bears. Environmentalists tried to stop the hunt, arguing in court the bears were sitting ducks. AttorneyRalph Brooks represented Stand Up Wekiva.

“These bears haven’t been hunted in more than 20 years. They are not as afraid of people, as perhaps, bears that are being hunted” Brooks told the judge.

Hunter Wayne McDaniel doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s just like the alligators. We have to regulate them to keep the numbers down. There have been bear attacks on many dogs, even people, and it’s mot going to be long and someone can get killed” says McDaniel.

Opponents are going quietly. They plan a dozen protests across the state for Friday, including one here, at the Commission that authorized the hunt.

Laura Bevan of the Human Society of the US, says FWC did too little too late.

“We don;t have a bear problem. We have a garbage problem, and the Wildlife Commission didn’t address it sufficiently” says Bevan.

While scheduled for a week, the hunt is expected to be cancelled once the quota of 320 bears is reached.

From January first through September 30th, 83 bears were euthanized by the Fish and Wildlife Commission. As Mike said, a dozen protests across the state are planned for Friday. You can locate one near you by visiting: http://stopflbearhunt.com/pages/statewide-protests. And if you are interested in being a hunter, permits cost $100.00 and are available through Friday.

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