Welcome to

Capitol News Service

Florida's Best Political Television Coverage

 


Visit the Lobby Tools Website

 


Visit Legislative IQ Website

 


Recent Posts

Categories

Archives

RSS Capitol News LIVE

RSS Quote of the Day

Solar Amendment already having positive impact on industry

December 29th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Nearly 2 million people voted to allow tax breaks for solar and other energy saving devices  in August. The Amendment becomes effective with the new year, but lawmakers must also act to make the savings a reality.

David Van Winkle is having 39 solar panels installed on his horse barn. They will power his 35 hundred square foot home, and the barn. Van Winkle voted for Amendment 4 in August,

“That was a positive” says the FSU Professor of Physics.

By the time these panels are on the roof and working, the electric bill here is going to be virtually zero.

Van Winkle will break even in just under seven years.

“It’s not going to take us off the grid entirely” says David, “because it doesn’t work at night and we’re not putting in a battery system.”

Amendment four says both businesses and homeowners can’t be taxed for the value of the improvements to their property, or for the value of the solar system. Voters approved a similar homeowners only amendment in 2008. It took lawmakers 5 years to put the tax breaks in place.  but even with the past history, Kim Ross of Rethink energy Florida says Amendment Four is already having a positive effect on the solar industry.

“I think in five years, we’ll see a lot more solar on rooftops in particular” say Ross.

And the growth is creating another problem. scarce labor. Al Simpler says when incentives went away a handful years ago, installers left for brighter pastures.

“It’s gonna make a long term difference, yes” says Simpler. We’re going to actually start bringing people into Florida now, to get trained in the solar business.”

And having too much business is a problem many business owners would like to be dealing with everyday.

Solar advocates do worry that big utilities, which tried and failed to pass what was dubbed the shady solar amendment one this year will try to delay lawmakers action on the tax breaks. But the advocates say they will be watching closely.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Reducing Prison population only way to save significant cash

December 28th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

One of the major focuses of lawmakers in the coming year is going to be cutting the cost of jails and prisons, which means locking up bad people but not necessarily everyone who has done something wrong.

An average of 99,163 people were in Florida prisons every day this past year. That’s up from just 42 thousand 20 years ago,..a 57 percent increase. New studies show recidivism down, but 2017 is likely to be the year lawmakers reduce the prison population to save money. Dominic Calabro of Florida Taxwatch says the reduction needs to be dramatic.

“I mean get it down from somewhere around a hundred thousand to 80, then 75, 70, until we’re at 60 thousand inmate population we really can’t have the kind of savings” says Calabro.

saving-billions00000009The Prison system cost two point three billion to operate this year. A constitutionally mandated review of state spending recommended letting elderly prisoners out early and reducing the number of people who go to state prison for non violent crimes. Ideas include issuing civil citations to both juvenile and first time adult non violent offenders.

As the prison debate is unfolding, many lawmakers are saying  we should lock up those people we’re afraid of, but not those people we simply don’t like.

saving-billions00000008Barney Bishop says that philosophy is at the core of the Smart Justice initiative.

“Give people a second change if they haven’t been violent” says Bishop.

Taxwatch says the saving need to be spent on things that will keep people from going back behind bars.

“Drug abuse counseling and so forth, and things that will help them when they transition out that they stay out” says Calabro.

The Government Efficiency task Force says every 5 percent reduction in recidivism saves 8.3 million.

The report also recommends creating more work release centers for those nearing the end of their sentence. The task force says  each inmate on work release saves the state 76 hundred dollars a year.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Texting Drivers Delaying Emergency Vehicles

December 27th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Texting and driving can be deadly for those not paying attention and others on the road, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, it could also be a problem for someone miles away.

Just about every time engineer David Morrison wheels out of the firehouse with lights flashing and sirens blaring, he’s delayed by someone texting or on the phone who are clueless who don’t even know he’s there.

“We see absolutely everyday” says Morrison. “Almost overtime we take this fire engine out of the station, we come across someone that just isn’t paying attention, whether it be on their phone or  something else.”

State Senator Renee Garcia has filed legislation to make texting for drivers under 18 a primary offense. That means they can be ticketed without committing any other infraction. For adults, texting and driving would remain a secondary offense, punishable by a thirty dollar fine. Garcia decided to file the legislation after a hard earned personal lesson.

“I got on my phone and started texting and I hit th guardrail going into the highway’ says the bill sponsor. “That’s the movement I said I’m going to stop texting and driving, and I think people need to be aware of the importance of having this bill.”

Lawmakers have balked at making texting a primary offense over privacy and profiling  concerns. Garcia concedes passing it could be a heavy lift.

Has a texting driver kept a firetruck from getting somewhere timely, yes. Did it matter? Nobody knows.

“Absolutely we see it everyday where the fire engine does not get to the scene as quickly as possible because we were slowed down by a distracted driver” says Engineer Morrison.

Lawmakers begin committee meetings on January 9th. their annual session begins in early March.

Texting is responsible for six thousand deaths nationally. In Florida, at least one firefighting agency has started a campaign called “stop the texts, stop the wrecks.Firefighters do ask that once you know they are being you, that you pull over to the right, leaving the left lane for them to maneuver through traffic.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Florida Supreme Court says not all death row inmates entitled to relief despite unconstitutional sentencing scheme

December 22nd, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Nearly half of the 384 people who woke up on Florida’s death row this morning may be getting a new sentencing hearing. In three separate rulings today, Florida’s high court ruled that some but not all death row inmates are entitled to a new sentences. The state has already been preparing to send some inmates back to the general prison population.

The Florida Supreme Court drew a line in the sand, ruling in the case of Mark Mosley,  that inmates sentenced after The Ring V Arizona case in 2002 are entitled, at the very least, to a new sentencing hearing. It used the case of Mark Assay, who was convicted of multiple murders in 1988 to say the Ring decision was not retroactive to cases decided before 2002.

The court said 45 percent of the inmates on death row, that’s 172, were all sentenced after Arizona V ring, and that means they are likely entitled to relief.

Prior to the Courts ruling, the Department of Corrections had been making plans to begin emptying death row id necessary.

“If we have to integrate them back into the general population” says Secretary Julie Jones  “we have to be very carful how we do it.”

The state remains without a valid sentencing scheme after last years non unanimous  jury law was thrown out. Senate President Joe Negron told reporters earlier this week the state will wait for the legislative session to enact what he hopes is a requirement for unanimous juries.

“That actually strengthen the efficacy of a jury verdict, on appeal, for it to be a unanimous verdict” says Negron.

The courts decisions are almost certain to be appealed on the grounds that it’a not fair to execute one person and not another \for the same crime based solely on what year the murders were committed.

The Court cleared the way for the Governor to sign another death warrant for Mark Asay, but not until the two week period for lawyers to ask for a rehearing expires.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

The kitchen sink of gun rights may have clear path to becoming law

December 21st, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Contentious pro gun legislation appears to be on the fast track in the State Capitol in the coming year, and it is proof that elections matter.

The NRA’s top priorities stalled last year. Open Carry Campus Carry, and changes to Stand Your Ground all died in committee. On Tuesday, the new Senate President was asked about their future this time around.

“I’ve always been a proponent of the second amendment rights of law abiding citizens”

says Sne. Joe Negron (R-Stuart).

Hours later, Senate President Joe Negron referred the legislation to three committees chaired by second amendment advocates. The referrals pleased the NRA’s Marion Hammer

open-carry-clear-path00000006“This year the bills will get a fair hearing” says Hamer.

Last year, the Senate Judiciary Chairman promised to hear the bills, then didn’t, then bragged about how he sandbagged everybody. He wasn’t reelected.

Legislation filed by newly elected State Senator Greg Stube is the kitchen sink of gun rights: Open Carry, Concealed Carry on Campus, arming and training school personnel, and allowing  guns in non secure areas of airport terminals.

“Carrying in legislative committee hearings,” added Stube. “local government hearings, secondary schools, carrier centers.”

Stube’s bill also allows lawyers to carry to the courthouse door for security.

“Whoever is in charge of that courthouse would secure your firearm. When you came out of the courthouse you could re-get your firearm” he added.

Hammer is quick to point out getting a hearing is not the same thing as a bill becoming law.

“I never make predictions. I just do my homework and work hard” she says.

And she seldom loses in the long run.

The Senate President did not refer the bill to the Criminal Justice Committee, who’s Chairman is a Democrat with anti second amendment votes as a House member. Lawmakers return to the Capitol for committee hearings on January 9th.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Medical Marijuana’s Future Uncertain

December 20th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved expanding medical marijuana in November. Lawmakers must now decide whether the distribution systems needs to be altered from what was already in place, and whether local government should be allowed to decide where dispensaries can be located.

medical-marijuanas-future00000003

Senate President Joe Negron says lawmakers got to the message that voters sent when it comes to Medical marijuana.

“It passed with 71% of the vote” noted Negron. ”Which is more votes than I got in my re-election.”

But what happens next remains a bit of a question. State Senator Jeff Brandes thinks anyone who has one of the ten debilitating diseases set out in the amendment can start treatment January third as along as they have a doctor who’ can prescribe and meet a 90 day treatment requirement.

“Those who are allowed to treated today will be able to treat to a wider network, because the list of conditions go into effect January 3rd, says Brandes, who helped sponsor the measure.medical-marijuanas-future00000008
But the Department of Health has sent mixes messages, agreeing with Brandes, but adding it has 6 and 9 months to implement rules.

One grower told us, “we want to sell legal marijuana come January 3rd, but we don’t know what that is.”

And where it can be sold is a question as local governments are placing moratoriums on dispensaries. Negron thinks they can do that within limits.

“I do think the state has a responsibility to make sure that people’s rights under the constitution, their right to participate in legal commercial activities are completely taken away” opined the Senate President.

medical-marijuanas-future00000007Some are pushing for a more free market approach than just the six licenses already allowed. But State Senator Dennis Baxley isn’t one of them.

“We’re really in a very awkward place where we could be setting loose a Pandora’s Box of social problems.

Lawmakers will have till the end of June to sort it out. If they can’t the courts will likely be asked to decide hats legal.

Another uncertainty is that marijuana remains legal under Federal law. the Obama administration has differed to the states, but there is no guarantee the Trump administration will do the same.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Medical Marijuana Faces Uncertain Future in Florida

December 20th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

medical-marijuanas-future00000002 medical-marijuanas-future00000001 medical-marijuanas-future

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved expanding medical marijuana in November. Lawmakers must now decide whether the distribution systems needs to be altered from what was already in place, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, whether local government should be allowed to decide where dispensaries can be located.

Senate President Joe Negron says lawmakers got to the message that voters sent when it comes to Medical marijuana.

“It passed with 71% of the vote” noted Negron. ”Which is more votes than I got in my re-election.”

But what happens next remains a bit of a question. State Senator Jeff Brandes thinks anyone who has one of the ten debilitating diseases set out in the amendment can start treatment January third as along as they have a doctor who’ can prescribe and meet a 90 day treatment requirement.

“Those who are allowed to treated today will be able to treat to a wider network, because the list of conditions go into effect January 3rd, says Brandes, who helped sponsor the measure.

But the Department of Health has sent mixes messages, agreeing with Brandes, but adding it has 6 and 9 months to implement rules.

One grower told us, “we want to sell legal marijuana come January 3rd, but we don’t know what that is.”

And where it can be sold is a question as local governments are placing moratoriums on dispensaries. Negron thinks they can do that within limits.

“I do think the state has a responsibility to make sure that people’s rights under the constitution, their right to participate in legal commercial activities are completely taken away” opined the Senate President.

Some are pushing for a more free market approach than just the six licenses already allowed. But State Senator Dennis Baxley isn’t one of them.

“We’re really in a very awkward place where we could be setting loose a Pandora’s Box of social problems.

Lawmakers will have till the end of June to sort it out. If they can’t the courts will likely be asked to decide hats legal.

Another uncertainty is that marijuana remains legal under Federal law. the Obama administration has differed to the states, but there is no guarantee the Trump administration will do the same.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Florida gives Donald J. Trump and Michael R. Pence 29 Electoral Votes

December 19th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida’s 29 electoral votes have been cast for Donald J. Trump. For the first time in recent memory, protestors tried to convince some Electors to change their vote, but in the end, Florida Electors chose the man they had pledged to support.

Hundreds of letters arrived at Elector Brian Ballard’s office over the weekend. More last week. Most if not all ask him to vote for Hillary Clinton or anyone but Donald trump. Their efforts were wasted. Ballard is as staunch a Trump supporter as they come.

“He had the will of the people of Florida, He won Florida. I voted for him, I supported him, I raised money for him. I represent him” said Ballard before the vote.

ballard

Among the mail, copies of the Federalist papers in which Alexander Hamilton says the electoral college is a good thing for America.

It was Alexander Hamilton’s essay on the electoral college the inspired protestors Like Pam Bergsma of Lake Worth to try and change the electors minds.

“This is about giving our electoral voters an opportunity to vote their conscious and maybe save our freedoms” she told us.

The crowd of protestors grew to three or four hundred by the time the Presidential electors convened.

Then, precisely at two pm, Secretary of State Ken Detzner called the Electors to order “The meeting of the Florida’s 29 Presidential Elector’s is now in session.”

18 minutes later is was over.

“Let the record reflect that Donald J. Trump received 29 electoral votes for President of the United States’ announced Detzner.

As electors applauded and cheered, protestors outside erupted with boos.

“Shame, Shame” they shouted

Mark Stowe from Gainesville knew it was a lost cause, but said he had no choice but to come. “These people at some point are going to regret what they did today” he said as he headed back to Gainesville.

electoral00000011

But In the end, Electors selected the man voters preferred by more than a hundred thousand votes.

The results of today’s vote in the Tallahassee and State Capitols across the country will be accepted by a joint session of Congress on January 6th.

 

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Gwen Graham says decision on Governor’s race will come “sooner than later”

December 19th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Retiring one term Congresswoman Gwen Graham highlighted constitution services in her last news conference as a House Member. Graham has not yet announced for Governor, but hinted strongly that it was coming sooner and later, and virtually said so when asked about her political future.

“I will be absolutely transparent and available at all times to talk with you all” graham told reporters, “I believe that I as someone as an elected officer or running for office if I.m doing what’s right and I believe what I believe is the right direction for the state of Florida. then you all working together with me can help me spread that message.”

Graham is the daughter of former US Senator and Governor Bob Graham. Her husband Steve is currently battling cancer, and she says his health will have to come before any political plans.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Top Visit Florida Staff out or on their way following Pit Bull dustup with House Speaker

December 16th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda
Governor Rick Scott sent a letter to the Board of Visit Florida, calling on the Board to institute new leadership. Within hours, the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Financial officer, both of whom were intimately involved in the Pit Bull contract that required confidentiality were fired by President and CEO Will Seccombe. Seccombe is also on the way out. We were told he is negotiating his exit with the Visit Florida Board. Spokesperson Kathy Torian says the agency remains proud of the work they have done.
“Two positions have been eliminated. That would be our CMO and CFO. We are also in receipt of a letter from the Governor’s Office seeking a change in leadership. Will is pull together our staff this afternoon to let us know e is in agreement with that recommendation and that he will be working our board in the coming weeks to work through a plan of what that entails” says Torian. 
 pit-bull00000002
The Visit Florida board meets next on January 9th

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Rick Scott appoints conservative Justice to Florida Supreme Court

December 16th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Governor Rick Scott this morning appointed his first state Supreme Court Justice since taking office in 2011. Scott named Alan Lawson to the high court. Lawson is a Tallahassee native and graduate of the FSU College of Law. He is currently the chief judge of the Fifth District Court of Appeal.

In making his first Supreme Court appointment, Governor Rick Scott made it clear he wanted someone who would not legislate from the bench.

“Judges should not be passing laws on their own.” Scott told reporters. “They should not be creating law. they get to interpret the law, enforce the law. they should not be creating new law.”

When  the newly appointed Justice was asked if there were high court decisions he disagreed with, he responded  “No.”

But Justice Lawson also made it clear, he understands the Governors Concerns.

“Those who’re critical of opinions just think courts and judges have moved away from whats clearly laid out and precedent that’s not really liberal or conservative” says Lawson.

Sticking points for Scott have been the High Courts declaration that the new, 10-2 death sentencing scheme was unconstitutional. The court also threw out the workers comp statute because it restricted access to attorneys, and the court twice ruled against lawmakers in redrawing political boundaries.

Lawson’s appointment will shift the philosophical leaning of the court from a five two majority to a four three.”

When Justice Lawson was asked who he admired on the court, his named the most conservative justices. “Charles Canady is a dear friend, as is Ricky Polston.”

Canady and Polston were the lone dissenters in the death and workers comp rulings.

Under Florida’s constitution, Lawson does not need to be confirmed. He will take office next year as Justice James Perry faces mandatory retirement at the age of 70.

 

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Rick Scott wants Pam Bondi to remain Attorney General

December 16th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida Attorney Pam Bondi met with President Elect Trump in New Your on two weeks ago today. The meeting was that Trumps request. Bondi has yet to say if she has been offered a job, but a week ago, she left unanswered the question of whether she would finish her term. Today Governor Rick Scott was asked if her leaving would be good for Florida.

 

“First off, Pam Bondi is a friend, I hope she doesn’t leave.  I think if she does, I know she’ll work hard, and work hard to do a good job, but my goal is that she not leave” says Scott.

Under Florida law, the Governor would appoint Bondi’s successor if she left. That appointee would have to stand for election in 2018.

scott-on-bondi00000004

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Presidential Electors being pressured to change vote

December 15th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

When you went to vote on November 8th, you weren’t voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, even though their names were on the ballot. You were voting for a slate of 29 electors. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, those 29 are getting lots of pressure to change their vote, even though state law requires them to vote for Donald Trump.

Pressure is building on the 29 people named as electors for Donald Trump.  Posts on social media call on the 29 to vote for someone else or face recall. Lee State Senator and GOP elector Lizbeth Benacquisto tis getting an earful.

Pressure is building on the 29 people named as electors for Donald Trump.  Posts on social media call on the 29 to vote for someone else or face recall.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a republican from Lee County is one of the electors.

“There are a lot of folks out there that won’t give up. It’s a little disappointing  that they are so vigorously trying to change the course of the election” say Benacquisto.

Benacquisto has been getting an earful.

“I read the post cards that have come to my home. There’s some”

Very negative?

“Very, very.  Some are inappropriate, but there’s free speech in this country so everyone has the right to share their opinion” says Benaquisto. “ I just fundamentally disagree with what they are saying.”

Electors meet here, in the State Senate Chambers at 2 Monday Afternoon. Protests at the Capitol are planned.

In the Federalist papers, written to sell the new constitution to America, Alexander Hamilton described the Electoral College as a sort of backstop to keep someone unqualified from winning the office. Full page newspaper ads are telling electors they are free to vote their conscience. But even the state Senates Democratic leader Oscar Braynon is disappointed.

pressuring-electors00000006“The election is over. Um, he’s won, says Braynon. “The way our system is set up, the electoral College is the vote.”

The Sec of States office did a run thru of the vote ceremony Thursday. No votes are expected to change. Electors in Florida must take an oath to support the winning candidate.

Even though Florida law is clear, the Secretary of State has been getting upwards of a hundred calls a day, asking how the Electoral College system works.

Posted in State News | No Comments »

PIP under fire for second year in a row

December 14th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

Every driver in Florida is required to have at least ten thousand dollars in Personal Injury Protection, or PIP insurance. The coverage pays medical bills after a car accident,  but the system has been rife with fraud, and many are calling for its repeal.

Under PIP, fraud rings stage accidents like this one. Here’s how it works. Two cars, drop off as many as 8 people, One car hit the other. everyone jumps back in and claims they are injured. They all end up at doctor who’s in on the fraud. Insurance companies then pay up to ten thousand dollars for each supposedly injured person.

pip00000002

“Just was an innocent bystander to it.” says Insurance Consultant Lisa Miller who says she’s see one first hand.

“And they have a mission” says Miller  “and they want to milk as much money out of the system as they can.”

For the second year in a row, State Senator Jeff Brandes has filed legislation to repeal PIP.

We pointed out It was supposed to keep people from suing each other in court.

“Right, and unfortunately, that;’s not what has really played out.” says the St. Petersburg

Republican. “It’s fraught with fraud, and we think this is the best way to replace it.”

Q:”And what replaces it?”

“Well, right now were focused on just doing a full repeal. we’ve set a timeline of 2020 when that repeal will take place. We think that will focus us, the legislature, on coming up with solutions, what the next steps are.”

Cost saving could be significant. 80 dollars a car a year. A billion dollars statewide.

One of the biggest obstacles to reforming PIP is that the industry can’t agree on what to do next.

Miller says that what happens this year with PIP is a big question.pip00000001

“There are those who believe that PIP is the only alternative have for those who don’t have access to heath insurance. There are those who believe it can be fixed, and there are those who believe it needs to be flushed” says Miller.

The Brandes plan wouldn’t repeal PIP starting in 2020, and between now and then, lawmakers would have to come up with an alternative.

Under the Brandes plan, motorists would still have to carry Bodily injury and property damage insurance.

 

Posted in State News | No Comments »

Prisons ask for money to end hiring problems

December 14th, 2016 by Mike Vasilinda

The head of the state corrections department today asked lawmakers for a ten percent raise for her officers. DOC has a ten percent vacancy rate and a turnover rate of just under 30 percent. Secretary Julie Jones says the current 29 thousand dollar starting salary isn’t enough to attract people who want to stay with the department.

“By raising the base pay for officers, sergeants, lieutenants,a nd captain ten percent, give coms flexibility in there. I want the best and brightest to feel good about moving up and be compensated for it. So this plan really goes to the core of what I thing the issue is: retaining people who really do want to work for us” says Jones.

Because of the turnover, over half the officers and command staff in some prisons have less than two years experience on the job.

hiring00000002

Posted in State News | No Comments »

« Previous Entries

copyright © 2016 by Capitol News Service | Powered by Wordpress | Hosted by LyonsHost.com