May 15th, 2013 by Matt Horn
Under a new bill sent to the Governor by state lawmakers, Floridians battling mental illness will be banned from purchasing a gun.
Supporters say it will save lives, while medical professionals say it will wrongfully take away second amendment rights for a large group of Floridians.
A loophole in Florida law has allowed people diagnosed with mental illnesses to continue purchasing firearms, until lawmakers closed the loophole with just one dissenting vote. “If it’s just one and they save one life, it’s a significant bill,” said Representative Barbara Watson (D) Miami.
The bill gained support by Democrats, Republicans and the NRA. “Keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people with mental illness saves lives,” said NRA past President Marion Hammer.
The legislation requires people who voluntarily commit themselves to give up their gun rights. “This only keeps mentally ill people who are determined to be dangerous from being able to buy guns,” she said.
But thousands have called or emailed the governor seeking a veto of the bill. “I hope the governor vetoes it,” said counselor Robert Carton. Health officials worry the legislation will keep people from seeking treatment. “It’s likely to create the opposite effect of what legislators are intending,” he said. “Not everybody with a mental illness is homicidal, not everybody with a mental illness is suicidal.”
90-thousand mentally ill Floridians are already prohibited from buying guns. If the governor signs the bill that number is expected to drastically increase. If signed into law, the mentally ill would be prohibited from buying a gun after July 1st.
Posted in Business, Civil Rights, Crime, Criminal Justice, Firearms, Guns, Mental Health, Politics, Rick Scott, State News | No Comments »
May 9th, 2013 by Matt Horn
State lawmakers recently passed “Lets Kids Be Kids” bill, focusing on allowing foster children to live lives as similar to their peers as possible.
State lawmakers were in Washington trying to help reform the national foster care
19-year-old Martan Gordon is adjusting to life after being in Florida’s foster care system for more than eight years. “It was basically go to school come home or group home. Wherever I was and that was basically my life,” said Gordon.
Laws had forced kids and their foster care families to get approval from social workers and judges on nearly every decision made, creating a feeling of isolation. “We have bubble wrapped these kids and deprived them of any kind of normalcy when it comes to childhood,” said Senator Nancy Detert.
Federal lawmakers listened to Florida’s new bill giving insight on possible changes at the federal level. “States might examine a law Florida enacted just this year, that is to ensure that foster youth are treated like every other child,” said U.S. Representative Dave Reichert.
Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, David Wilkins says the strict rules made it difficult for not only kids in the system, but the adults trying to help those children. “Foster parents are burdened with paper work, court responsibilities, and jobs responsibilities all surrounding protecting the child,” he said.
Now federal officials are looking to Florida to see what changes to make so foster kids everywhere feel some sense of normalcy while living in the system.
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May 8th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
Florida A&M University has named a new Director of Bands, which is seen as a major step toward reinstatement of the famed Marching 100. The band was suspended following the hazing death of a band student in November 2011.
Florida A & M has crowned Dr. Sylvester Young as the new Director of Marching and Pep bands.
The appointment is a home coming. Young experienced a form of Hazing as a student in 1965. “And I wore red socks with my short white pants, and the first sense of hazing I had was an upper class-man made me leave the field and take those socks off.” Young chuckled.
Young knows he has to change the culture of the band. Hazing has gotten progressively more violent since his stint as a trombone player. Ten people still face second degree murder charges in the hazing death of Drum Major Robert Champion. “Other schools are watching us very closely and we can actually come out of this being an icon for all other universities” says Young.
The new band director is adamant. He wasn’t promised the band would be back this fall. Interim President Larry Robinson says while no date has been set to make a decision about the bands return, all the right people are now in place.“This is critical piece of that, and we’ll do our assessment, and once we’re done, we’ll be prepared to make an announcement one way or the other” says Robinson.
Students Kachi Ukpabi Jr. worries the clock is ticking too fast for the band to return this fall “If he can’t come in to June, People want a band by August, I mean, its a lot of work.”
Young starts in mid June, but a decision on the bands return could be made before then. Dr. Young was the Universities second choice for band director. The school had scheduled an announcement on January 15th, but the candidate backed out at the last minute. Young says he didn’t apply during the initial selection process, but decided he had something to offer.
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April 30th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
State lawmakers have sent the Governor a bill closing a loophole that has allowed mentally ill people to purchase guns. The legislation requires those who voluntarily commit themselves to sign away their firearm rights until they are well. The legislation is the only bill dealing with guns that will be approved by lawmakers during the 2013 legislative session. Sponsor Audrey Gibson calls it the beginning of a conversation. ”It’s something that is a rallying point because of the some of the incidents that have happened in our country. And as I told Marion , at least we’re at the table talking about it. And we should continue to talk about other ways to make sure we stop gun violence” says the Jacksonville Demcrat.
At the beginning of the session there was great speculation the Stand Your Ground law would be reviewed. NRA’s Marion Hammer, who watched today’s bill pass, says there was not need for a review. “There is nothing wrong with the legislation. There are problems with the way people are interpreting it, and that’s an easy fix. So, there was no “Stand Your Ground” or Castle Doctrine legislation” says the longtime NRA spokesperson.
A Stand your ground task force held meeting across the state and made several recommendations on stand your ground changes, but no legislation was heard.
Posted in Business, Civil Rights, Economy, Education, Firearms, Guns, Legislature, Politics, State News | No Comments »
April 25th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
Governor Rick Scott has been championing a twenty-five hundred dollar a year pay raise for every teacher in Florida since February.
Today is the fifty-second day of the annual sixty day legislative session, and lawmakers have yet to agree to the raises. They would prefer merit based pay hikes, but Scott says teachers have done their job and deserve an across the board hike. ”We’ve had a dramatic turnaround in this state. We can brag about our education system; number six in the country. But we constantly have to work on how to do we improve it. Right now one way to improve it, in my opinion, is the classroom, the payroll increases” says Scott.
Scott’s second priority, a sales tax break on manufacturing equipment is also in limbo. He has been using veiled threats of vetoing priority projects of legislative leaders if he doesn’t get his way.
Posted in Business, Children, Education, Legislature, Politics, Rick Scott, State Budget, State News | No Comments »
April 25th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
Air Traffic Jam
Governor Rick Scott has been complaining about air traffic control furloughs every chance he gets, including on national talk shows. He says reducing air traffic controllers by ten percent each day could be disastrous for Florida Tourism. ”I don’t want our hotels to be impacted; our restaurants to be impacted. Our businesses in the state to be impacted, and I clearly don’t want anything from the safety standpoint to happen. So, I am hopeful that the White House will do the right thing” says the Governor
Scott says 142 million people travel to Florida by air each year and tourism supports one million jobs. He wants the Obama administration to change the furlough policy quickly.
Posted in Business, Economy, Rick Scott, State News, Tourism | No Comments »
April 22nd, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
House and Senate negotiators have said no to the Governor’s across the board pay hike for teachers, opting instead for merit based increases. Both plans cost 480 million dollars. The Governor says the across the board raises are one of only two priorities he has and believes the legislature will come through. “We need to do an across the board twenty five hundred dollar pay raise for each and every one of our classroom teachers. Our k-12 school system is doing an outstanding job” says Scott.
Scott got a boost from Orange County School Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, who says implementing merit pay a year earlier than scheduled for 2014 would be difficult. “We are convinced that it is a time to reward our teachers for their hard work and for our great outcomes. It’s also a great mechanism for us to retain our talent and to recruit new talent as Florida lags behind the nation on average teacher pay” says Barbara Jenkins.
Two weeks remain in the legislative session. What’s uncertain is if the differences in pay plans are philosophical, or if lawmakers want something from the Governor in return.
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April 20th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
Increased health care for up to a million Floridians remains up in the air tonight as legislators in Tallahassee push drastically different plans. The end result could be no additional coverage for anyone.
Under a plan being pushed by the state House, 113,000 low income Floridians would pay a 25 dollar monthly co-pay for private insurance. A plan favored by the Governor and State Senate, would cover ten times more people. It’s funded completely by the federal government for the first three years. But it is that federal funding where House Republicans are drawing the line.
Rep. Charles McBurney R-Jacksonville, told the panel “What the government giveth, the government taketh away.” Rep. Steve Precourt, R-Orlando, called the Feds record into question “Furthermore the federal government does have a demonstrated check record of being an unreliable funding partner.”
In pushing for the larger coverage, Democrats made a reference to Boston, where first responders rushed to a crisis. Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg says Florida should be rushing to solve a health care crisis. “We lend a helping hand. That’s what America is all about” said Rouson.
Despite the plea the committee shut down the federal money plan on a party line vote.
Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, says the GOP is still angry they lost the election “It’s really not about providing coverage under those plans, it’s simply about saying no to the Affordable Care Act.”The decision not to take federal money sets up a very real possibility the lawmakers could leave the State Capitol in two weeks and do absolutely nothing to expand health care.
Doing nothing says House Speaker Will Weatherford, would be profitable to taking federal money. “If it’s taking federal money that we can’t count on going home, I think we would prefer to go home” Weatherford said in an exclusive interview.
The plan being pushed by the House Speaker, gives eligible enrollees two thousand dollars to buy coverage of their choice. The House plan does not cover single, childless adults, which is one of the major differences from the Medicaid expansion favored by the Governor. His plan also saves the state an estimated 430 million dollars on money it now spends on the medically needy program.
Posted in Business, Civil Rights, Drugs, Economy, Health, Legislature, Politics, Rick Scott, State Budget | No Comments »
April 19th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
Internet Cafe Ban “Too Broad”
The Florida Arcade Association, made up of two hundred amusement centers is filing a law suit, saying the law that closed internet cafes was so vaguely crafted, it had the unintentional consequence of also shutting down legitimate businesses who cater to seniors. Trimmel Gomes says the arcade association want the law declared unconstitutional.
“Senior arcades, this is for seniors, they go it’s a place for good, clean entertainment and we’re not internet cafes and that’s the problem here. We should not have been lumped in to the internet cafe ban” says Gomes.
One consequence of the law is that it bans amusement machines that take anything but coins.
Posted in Business, Civil Rights, Crime, Economy, Legislature | No Comments »
April 19th, 2013 by Mike Vasilinda
More Environmental Education Needed
Rain dampened Earth Day ceremonies at the state Capitol today, but several hundred kids still showed up to hear from the state hydrologist why rain is a good thing. Environmentalists applauded the Department of Environmental Protection sponsored event, but Janet Bowman of the Nature Conservancy says kids in Florida today are being shortchanged at schools when it comes to environmental education.
“If we don’t expose children to the outdoors. They won’t be important to them. They won’t understand why protecting water and our lands are important. And when they grow up, they won’t really have the background to appreciate what many in Florida have fought for 30 years to protect” says Bowman.
State parks across the state will celebrate Earth Day this weekend with a variety of activities.
Posted in Business, Children, Economy, Education, Environment, Health | No Comments »