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Doctors Hope Appeals Court Lifts Gun Gag Order

April 28th, 2016 by flanews

Doctors opposing a law that prevents them from talking to patients about guns filed briefs this week in an appeals court. As Matt Galka tells us, the ongoing legal fight looks to be continued on the federal level.

A group of doctors are hoping a law imposing a gag order on them preventing conversations about gun ownership with patients gets ruled unconstitutional in an appeals court.  Pediatrician Louis St. Petery says it’s a doctor’s job to talk to patients about potential risks – whether it’s with gun ownership or drowning hazards of a pool.

“The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC encourage physicians to have discussions with parents of kids about safety issues,” he said.

The NRA is taking the state’s side and says that politics don’t belong in the doctor’s office. National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer says a doctor’s personal agenda shouldn’t be imposed onto patients.

“It doesn’t keep them from passing out brochures if they’re concerned about safety, but they should not single out gun owners and try to tell them to get rid of their guns or that they shouldn’t own them,” she said.

Dr. St Petery says no doctor is telling patients to ban the weapons.

“Doctors are telling parents if you have a gun then it needs to be properly stored,” he said.

The law was passed in 2011 and has been in and out of courtrooms since as doctors have been challenging it as an unconstitutional infringement on their first amendment rights.

The group opposed to the law said that brochures don’t go far enough because there’s no guarantees patients will read them. They say verbal communication has a better effect.

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State DOC, Transitional Center Clash Over Potential Closing

April 27th, 2016 by flanews

A prisoner rehab and non profit in south Florida is on the verge of closing as the state’s department of corrections plans to use it, instead, for, for office space. As Matt Galka tells us, critics say it isn’t the right move for rehabbing prisoners, and are afraid the same could happen to similar facilities around the state.

The Broward Bridges of America facility in south Florida helps prisoners re-enter society and hopefully keep themselves out of trouble in the future.  It boasts a less than 10 percent recidivism rate for prisoners for those who graduate the program. It also provides drug abuse treatment. Jerry Goodner says it changed his life – he now runs a housing assistance program.


“I celebrated 13 years clean and sober in November, and I don’t know if I could say that if I had not been blessed with this program,” he said.

And it’s about to close.

The Department of Corrections told us in a statement that they’re going to use the facilities for office space because of zoning issues.

The DOC’s contract expires with the facility in mid-May.  Bridges of America president Lori Constantino-Brown believes they’re being singled out.

“We feel that the men in this program are worth it. We feel that there are too few programs like this for the thousands of men who are coming out and we feel that the department has made a mistake,” she said.

DOC promised they have a transition plan in place – but the plan is exempt from public record while litigation plays out between the state and Bridges of America. The plan includes work release, substance abuse treatment, and probation services.

But letters from inmates posted on the Keep the Bridge Open website all paint a similar picture – inmates are being told to pick a prison to go back to, and that there might not be any room in other transitional programs.

A similar facility located in Bradneton is set to have its contract expire in July. Bridges of America fears the Department will also close that facility later this year.

The FDOC told us in an email about the prisoner letters “A transition plan has been formulated which will ensure a smooth transition for work release and substance abuse treatment services. As we move forward through this process, no action taken by this Department will negatively affect the future of the inmates currently incarcerated at Broward Bridge. Opportunities will be made available for these individuals to continue in their journey to rehabilitation and successful transition into Florida’s communities.”

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Insurance Commissioner Search Continues

April 26th, 2016 by flanews

Florida’s Governor and another top state official are still in a standoff over who should be the state’s next chief insurance regulator.

Governor Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater need to agree with each other on who the next Florida Insurance Commissioner can be before they can be hired…but for the second meeting in a row, they failed to agree on one candidate.  Florida’s Attorney General tried to move the process forward.

“I think, gentleman, if you’re not going to budge on one of these candidates, then you need to say that so we can just strike them off the list and move on, because again we’re entering hurricane season,” said Pam Bondi.

There will be a special cabinet meeting Friday to further consider more candidates.

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FSU Officers Honored

April 26th, 2016 by flanews

The officers who helped prevent a shooting at Florida State’s library from turning into a bigger tragedy were honored by the Governor and cabinet Tuesday.

Five officers were awarded the medal of heroism for their actions on November 20th 2014. They responded to an active shooter situation at FSU’s Strozier library where an alumni turned gunman shot and injured three people.

“They do this every single day, this was one incident which they were trained for, they responded adequately, and they did what they had to do, but they do it every single day to keep our campus safe, and I’m sure officers around the state do the same,” said FSU President John Thrasher.

The officers shot and killed the shooter while responding.

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Hurricane Tax?

April 26th, 2016 by flanews

A decade of no hurricanes is a streak the state hopes will continue – but what if it doesn’t? As Matt Galka tells us, state leaders are considering re-insuring the pot of cash Florida has on hand just in case we get hit by the big one – and it could cost you a little more.

With hurricane season a little more than a month away – Florida has big insurance decisions to make.  Florida’s Governor and cabinet are in the middle of a search for a new insurance commissioner – something causing concern heading into storm season.

“We should all have a comfort level that, as we move into hurricane season, that we have a commissioner that’s fully focused, fully engaged, and full time,” said Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

But a hurricane drought has put the state in a good position to handle a potential big storm.  The state’s Catastrophe fund – which provides relief after big storms – is in one of the healthiest positions it’s ever been in.

“We’ve been fortunate, the wind has not blown and we haven’t had a major land falling storm in a decade, second, we’ve had a number of very prudent policies in place that have helped build the assets of the CAT Fund,” said Ash Williams, the director of the State Board of Administration, at March’s cabinet meeting.

But there’s a possibility Florida opts for even more insurance in case of a catastrophic storm. The idea is being tossed around to spend nearly $70 million dollars on reinsurance – which would get an additional 1 billion dollars of coverage for the state.

The complicated issue could add up to costing homeowners more money on their insurance premiums in Florida by levying a so called “hurricane tax.” Outgoing insurance commissioner Kevin McCarty says there’s no easy answer.

“Reinsurance doesn’t seem to make sense when you don’t have a storm, but of course it’s a brilliant idea when you do have a storm and you avoid an assessment. I think each year has to be calculated on its own. I can say this much; reinsurance is as cheap as its ever been. I mean I’ve never seen reinsurance as cheap as it is right now,” said McCarty.

A decision is expected to be made at next month’s cabinet meeting.

Florida Homeowners would be looking at a $7 dollar increase on a typical premium if the state opts to buy the extra insurance.

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Rick Scott’s California Dreaming

April 26th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Rick Scott is off to California next week in search of jobs, ,and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the Governor is already sparing with California’s Governor.

On Monday, Enterprise Florida released a radio ad titled Keep the sunshine, Lose the taxes. It’s running in Los Angeles and San Fransisco, and takes the Golden State to task for raising the minimum wage to 15 dollars.

“Seven Hundred thousand. that’s how many jobs  California jobs will be lost, thanks to the politicians raising the minimum wage” chimes a female voice in the ad.

Scott opposes a minimum wage hike in Florida.

“Why do oppose a hike in the minimum wage?”

“I want more people to get jobs. One of the things…there’s a study that says in California they’re going to raise the minimum wage, their gonna lose 700,000 jobs.”

California Governor Jerry Brown is basically saying bring it on…just much more nicely.

In a statement Browns Press Secretary points out that since Scott was last in California, “California has added twice as many jobs as Florida, while paying down debt.

The statement goes on to say the state has taken bold action action on issues Governor Scott continues to ignore, like climate change and poverty.

“Our labor force is growing faster than California, wage growth, job growth rate is after than California. What they are doing is hurting their economy. It hurts the people who need the jobs the most” says Scott.

Florida’s minimum wage is now 8.05 an hour. It’s ten bucks an hour in California. And Under the legislation approved in California, it will rise to 15 dollars over the next six and a half years.

Legislation to pay a 15 dollar minimum wage in Florida died without a hearing this spring.CALIFORNIA00000007

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Madison Residents Cautious after Abduction, Return

April 25th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

A week ago today, a seven your old boy knocked on the door of a Jacksonville home almost 13 hours after he had been abducted from his home a hundred miles away in  Madison. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, police are still looking for a suspect and have offered a fifty thousand dollar reward.

As dawn broke last Monday, seven year old Bryan Williamson knocked on the door of this Jacksonville residence, capping a 13 hour ordeal. Bryan had been kidnapped Sunday outside his home in Madison, a hundred miles to the west. Police Chief Ken Moore held a news conference later Monday.

“Let me start off by saying how thankful we are that seven year old Bryan Williamson was found alive today” said the Chief.

Seven year old Bryan  left his house here to give him a piece of bubblegum. He never got there.

On Thursday, police released grainy surveillance video. They are looking for a dark sedan, but are giving up few details about the suspect. His capture couldn’t some soon enough for nervous residents. We met Cindy Oberstllake picnicking with her grandson just blocks from Bryan’s home.

“It is  a frightening thing that somebody would abduct a child in such a small town when we feel so safe” said the grandmother.

:”And do you let your grandson out of your sight after that” we asked.


Ten to twenty officers are working 24/7 out of this command post. A fifty thousand dollar reward is being offered. Rafphine Ghent is Bryan’s Sunday School teacher.

“His cousin is usually with him?”

“He’s with him, watching out for him. He do most of the talking for him.”

A woman who identified herself as Bryan’s aunt answered a knock at the families home.

“Right now, we don’t want to talk at all” she told us.

A week after the happy ending, this small city is still shell shocked. For now, signs like these aren’t necessary…few here are letting their children out to play unsupervised.

Authorities say “No piece of information is too small.” They  are asking to be notified of any unusual sale or alteration of a black or dark colored four-door sedan since Monday morning. The abductor is said to be a black or hispanic male.


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24 Hour Abortion Waiting Period Bill On Hold Again

April 25th, 2016 by flanews

Since last year, a controversial law requiring women to wait 24 hours before they can get an abortion has been bogged down in ongoing legal fights.  As Matt Galka tells us, the law – which has been on and off the books for nearly a year – is stalled once again.

Momentum swung back towards pro-choice supporters as the state’s supreme court put another temporary halt to a 24 hour abortion waiting period law.

The law requires women to make two visits to a clinic before they can go forward with an abortion.  It was in effect for one day last July before an injunction stopped it.  The American Civil Liberties Union is one of the groups suing the state.

“They should not be forced to delay the procedure, they should not be forced to undertake the additional costs and burdens of having to take more time off of work,” said ACLU staff attorney Julie Kaye earlier this year.

The law was on hold until February of this year when an appeals court reinstated it. Now the state’s Supreme Court has put the law on hold again.

Planned Parenthood of Florida says the law has always been unnecessary. They say the uncertainty has put clinics and patients in limbo.

“From the beginning when the bill received an injunction and then got overwritten, patients were coming in for scheduled appointments to be told you now have to come back tomorrow for the 24 hour mandatory delay from the state, on Friday when the Supreme Court ruled its no longer in effect, patients were in health centers across the state receiving treatment and then did not have to come back,” said Missy Wesolowski with the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.

State lawmakers who supported the legislation reacted with disappointment – including incoming House speaker Richard Corcoran who said the court “has allowed it’s personal political biases to grossly influence its constitutional role.”

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New Law Hopes to put Florida at Forefront of Healthcare Transparency

April 22nd, 2016 by flanews

If you’ve ever needed a medical procedure, one question that always comes up: how much? As Matt Galka tells us, a new law hopes to put Florida at the forefront of answering that question.

After Florida lawmakers pushed back against Medicaid expansion – the quest to keep healthcare costs down and affordable in Florida turned towards transparency. Enter a new online database bill signed by the Governor last week.  The state’s Agency for Healthcare Administration and private vendor will now be required to provide pricing information online.

The state has been given low marks on healthcare price transparency in the past.

LuMarie Polivka-West with the Florida Community Health Action Information Network says it’s great for consumers.

“This is one of the major costs that each of us have in our budgets, 18 percent of the costs in our country goes to healthcare, it’s a major part for all of us that we play, so this is very important information,” she said.

The Florida Hospital Association also ended up backing the bill.  But not before a provision was taken out that would have penalized hospitals – something that was a priority for the Governor before it was scratched out.

“The goal of this legislation is to make sure people are more informed about healthcare and about cost, access, and quality then we support that. But if the idea is just to try to penalize folks or try to create a villain, then we would not be supportive of that,” said FHA President Bruce Rueben.

The database will cost the state almost four million dollars the first year, and then 600 thousand dollars for data collection and storage the year after.

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Amendment One Funds Still Being Diverted

April 22nd, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Three of every four voters in 2014 said they wanted to use an existing tax source to fund land and water acquisition, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, nearly one in three dollars of that money is being spent somewhere else this year, and environmentalists aren’t happy.

The land and water conservation amendment on the 2014 ballot got more votes than any statewide elected official. It was a rebuke of lawmakers who slashed environment funding during the recession, then didn’t restore it when the economy improved.

Will Abberger ran the campaign.

“Almost a third, arguably a quarter to a third are being spent on existing agency operations. that’s not what voters voted for when four point two million said yes on Amendment One” say Abberger.

The amendment dedicates one third of the taxes on land transactions that were already being collected to environmental spending. Environmentalist Aliki Montcrief says lawmakers haven’t listened to voters as much as they should.

“When we focus on all of the money that has been misspent by the legislature, one of the things that gets lost is how overwhelming voters turned out” says Montcrief.

Florida Conservation Voters has created a web site detailing how all of the 900 million that’s supposed to go to land and water conservation is being spent this year.  Included is the entire cost of fighting forrest fires in Florida, the cost of enforcing boating regulations on the water.

The conservation money is even paying all of the salaries of the people who run all of the agencies that have anything to do with conservation. that’s all case that that came from general revenue before.

Lawmakers defended the spending, saying running agencies that have ties to the environment is part of the cost of conservation. environmentalists don’t think voters will buy it.

Conservationists say Earth Day is a good day to remember why the amendment was needed. They are planning voter outreach to let voters know who is a fried to the environment and who isn’t this fall.

Conservationists say Earth Day is a good day to remember why the amendment was needed. They are planning voter outreach to let voters know who is a fried to the environment and who isn’t this fall.


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Florida Leaves 250 Million on the Table that Could Have Helped Homeowners

April 21st, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida homeowners lost th opportunity to apply for a share of 250 million dollars the federal government set aside to help those with underwater mortgages. That’s because The Florida Housing Finance Corporation didn’t ask for the money and it went to other states. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, Florida has the lowest approval rate of any state participating in the program to help underwater homeowners.

The Hardest Hit Fund was established to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, but the state Housing Finance Corporation missed a March deadline to apply for 250 million dollars to help additional homeowners. The money has instead gone to other states.

We went to the agency to ask why and were asked to turn our camera off. We did.

Once upstairs we were told we could only take pictures of the lobby.  We asked to see the Executive Director.

“Is Mr. Auger here” we asked.

He wasn’t in. But we did reach Communications director Cecka green  by phone. She said the agency received 78 million in February that it wasn’t expecting.

“we feel like we’ve been doing what was expected of us from the federal government.”

Green says the application for the 250 million was received in Mid February, but it wasn’t discussed until a March 20th board meeting. 7 days after the deadline to apply had passed.

Q:”What was the reason for not filing the application?”

A:”Quite frankly, we have an additional allocation now that still available. We haves programs that are operational and moving, and that’s where we wanted to keep our focus.”

There are still more than a million florida homeowners who ower more to a lender than the house is worth. And if the state had taken that additional money, that would have helped at least five thousand of them.

An October report shows Florida has the lowest acceptance rate of homeowners of those states participating.

The agency says the reason it has the lowest acceptance rate is because it does not pre-screen applicants, and accepts applications from everyone. Senator Bill Nelson calls the refusal to accept the additional money “tragic”


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Graham Won’t Seek Reelection and Bashes Redistricting, League Fires Back

April 21st, 2016 by flanews

A major announcement from one of Florida’s Democratic members of congress could have an impact on the next Governor’s race, and we’re still two years out from that. Matt Galka explains.

Early Thursday morning Florida Democratic Congresswoman dropped a bombshell. She won’t be seeking re-election for her North Florida Congressional seat.  The daughter of former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham was up for re-election in November.

The rising Democratic star may now have her sights set on the Governor’s mansion.

Graham says she’ll seriously consider a run for Governor in 2018. She also bashed the redistricting process that would have caused her to run in a new district.

“Unfortunatley, the politicians, lobbyists and courts in Tallahassee have been at work, too. Redrawing and dividing up North Florida and the district I Represent. Turning a fair district into two partisan districts,” she said in the video.

The league of women voters – who were at the forefront of the fight for non gerrymandered districts – was shocked by her comments.

“She owes the League of women voters, and the courts, and more importantly, the 3.1 million voters that put those standards in the constitution quite an apology,” said President Pamela Goodman.

The redrawn maps also led another North Florida congresswoman – Corrine Brown – to announce her plans to run in her newly drawn district. Brown fought tooth and nail to try and prevent the new district from taking effect.

Graham’s district was redrawn and favored Republicans. It was widely speculated she wouldn’t have been able to win her seat back if she chose to pursue it.

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Guardians Could Face Loss of License Under New Law

April 20th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Important work was done this morning in a nondescript state building in Tallahassee. The Department of Elder Affairs began the process of implementing new rules for the Guardians who care of those who can’t care for themselves. And As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the change comes after years of complaints.

94 year old Ernestine Franks sill lives in her Pensacola home, but her family claims she is being isolated by professional guardians who have gone through a million and half dollars of her savings. Her son, Doug Franks, has been a leader in the fight for legislative changes

“They are taking the greatest generation ever and imprisoning them. they are taking all their wealth away and isolating them and its making a disaster for their golden years” says Franks.

A dozen people showed up for rule making session on the new legislation. Alan Sayler of St. Petersburg battled with his mother-in-laws guardian before she died.

“The guardian has restricted family visitation” Sayler told the hearing officer.

Other called in.

“I’ve been through hell, sir!” said a caller.

Sharing one horror story after another.. Families were destroyed. Wards over medicated to keep them quiet.

“she sat all day in a windowless room with no bed” said another caller.

Heirlooms sold to pay the guardians.

Professional guardianships are a growth industry in Florida. Fueled by cash. They’ve grown from just a few n to more than 450 in the last decade.

The new legislation biggest hammer is the ability to take away a guardianship license.

Lynn Sayler spend years battling her mothers guardian.

Sot: Lynn Sayler

St. Petersburg

“If they re committing crimes and they are hurting people, they should be held accountable. In all aspects” says Sayler.

We asked: ”But all this will do is take away their license.”

A:”Right,  but then they can’t practice, so maybe it works” she replied.

The new rules are expected to be in place this fall.

Being a professional guardian requires the completion of a 40 course,  and a one hundred dollar registration fee, a successful background check, a credit check, and the completion of 16 hours of continuing education every other year.

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Tax Freedom Day 2016

April 20th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Today is the first day of the year that we get to keep what we learn for ourselves. Up until now everything that we earned has gone to paying local, state, and  federal taxes. Dr. Jerry Parrish of the Florida Chamber says Tax freedom Day came on the same day last year.

“What that means is that if you take all the taxes that Florida families and Florida businesses are going to pay this year, and you divided it into the year, that means that by today, you’ve paid all the state and federal land local taxes. So then the rest of the year, you get to work for your own family” says the Chamber economist.

Floridians pay about 267 billion in total taxes each year, with about 80 billion going to state and local governments.


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Tourist Lower Floridians Tax Burden

April 20th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Floridians tax bill this year will top 267 billion. 7 of every ten dollars in taxes goes to the federal government, with about 80 billion paid to state and local governments. Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish says the burden of funding state and local governments would be even bigger if it were not for the contribution of tourists who come to the state.

“Visitors spent 89 point one billion dollars in this state last year on taxable goods. And so they paid around five billion dollars of our taxes for us.  So therefore that’s taxes Florida Businesses and Florida families don’t have pay” says Parrish.

The 80 billion in taxes collected in Florida is split almost equally between individuals and businesses, with business paying about 42 billion and families about 38 billion this year.

TAX DAY00000004

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