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Abortion Protestors Charged with Trespass

February 17th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says twenty five people were issued trespass notices early this morning as the Florida House was about to vote on a bill restricting abortions to fifteen weeks, down from 24, when protestors started shouting from the gallery.

As the protestors were lead from the building, Lauren Brenzel of Planned Parenthood refused to provide identification. She was charged with “giving false name or false identification by person arrested or lawfully detained.”

Her attorney is State Representative Michael Grieco of Miami.

“Obviously, someone was arrested last night as a result of the late night protests during the abortion bill debate. I got the night call , I am a criminal defense attorney by trade. So I we went across the street. We went to court and I can tell you right now, I have never had a faster court hearing in my life. I have never seen a judge make a determination that no probably cause existed in a case as quickly as I saw it this morning” said Grieco.

Brenzel spent the night in jail and was released around noon today on her own recognizance. And while the judge found no probably cause, we have been unable to determine why the case remains active.

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Unemployment Changes Stalled in Legislature

February 17th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

More people were denied unemployment benefits during the pandemic than actually qualified. Now, Democrats in the state legislature are saying GOP colleagues have reneged on making changes to the system. Legislation that would add two more weeks, from twelve to fourteen, and another hundred dollars, from $275 to $375 have stalled as lawmakers enter the last third of the annual session. Dr. Rich Templin of the AFL-CIO says the changes are modest and need to be adopted.

“It is time to make these changes” says Templin. “And these bills will increase benefits by a moderate amount, will increase the time by a minimal amount, and will fix some of the most glaring eligibility requirements so we can start moving in the right direction.

Many were denied benefits because the system bases eligibility on how much a person made in previous quarters, not the most recent, which advocates say was designed before computers when employers had to mail in their payroll information to the Capital.


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Historic Fatherhood Initiative on the Table

February 16th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida lawmakers are putting nearly seventy million dollars in the coming years budget to strengthen fatherhood in Florida through grants and education. The legislation directs DCF and the Dept of Juvenile Justice to coordinate care when a child is involved with both agencies, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, this is the first effort of its kind with any real cash behind it.

One in four children here in Florida and across the country have no father, stepfather, or adoptive father in their household. House Speaker Chris Sprowls calls the lack of guidance the root cause for may of the states problems.

“From poverty to crime, to incarnation, just about every negative outcome that we see that faces boys here and across the country can be linked back to an absent father in the home” says Sprowls.

House Bill 7065 will provide nearly seventy million in grants to help fathers find a job, 

Satisfy child support obligations, transition from being in jail, and getting parenting education. Rep. Thad Altman, (R-Brevard) is the committee chair that developed the bill. 

“With House bill 706, we can change lives” says Altman. “We can make a difference. We have the opportunity to connect fathers with their families.”

State Rep. Ramon Alexander’s day job is finding mentors for kids. 

”This is a game changer” he told the crowd.

The legislation puts more cash into the effort.

“These young people, they don’t have a deficit in talent” says Alexander. “They just have a deficit in opportunity.”    

The staff analysis for this bill says there are studies that show fathers who are involved with their children are happier, and may live longer.

We asked Speaker Sprowls about the expected outcome.

“So, you ask what the outcome is Mike. The outcome is that we move the needle on fatherlessness and therefore we have a great huge benefit to our community as a whole,” says the Speaker

And for Jack Levine, who has fought for kids for more four decades, there is hope.

“I’m  very very optimistic. There are good people driving this bus” Levine told us.

June is Fatherhood month. Expect to see a month long campaign and education effort from the state.

The legislation is the last bill on the House Calendar today and is expected to be sent to the Senate by the end of the night.

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15 Week Abortion Ban to be Debated

February 16th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

An estimated 50 abortion opponents walked to the state Capitol this afternoon and filled a gallery in the House Chamber, waiting for the debate on House Bill five. It limits abortions to no more than 15 weeks since a woman’s lasts menstrual cycle ended. That’s down from 24 under current law. Laura Goodhue lead the crowd. She is from the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood.

“They are telling politicians tahat they want them to respect their right  to bodily autonomy. They don’t think politicians should be interfering in these very private, personal decisions about whether or not a person should be able to continue their pregnancy” says Goodhue.

The legislation is up for a final vote in the Florida House late this afternoon or sometime this evening. It then goes to to the Senate where one more committee meeting is scheduled before a floor vote in the upper chamber.

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Bill Seeks Secrecy for Execution Drugs

February 15th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

States across the country have been experiencing a shortage of the drug or drugs used for lethal injections, sometime in part because of a public outcry and a manufacturers desire not to have their products used to carry out an execution. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, today, A Florida Senate Committee voted to keep the name of companies and their drugs out of the public record.

Serial Killer Gary Bowles was the last person executed in Florida. It was August 2019, two and a half years ago.

Now, State lawmakers are moving to keep the name of pharmaceutical companies and the drugs they supply to the state from public records. Sen. Doug Broxson 

(R-Pensacola) is the sponsor.

“It insures DOC will be able to obtain the drugs to carry out their constitutional requirements” Broxson told the Senate Rules Committee. 

But the request was not without opposition. Kristi Arnol spoke for the FL Catholic Conference of Bishops.

“Drug manufacturers widely voice their moral opposition to the use of their life saving drugs for the application of the death penalty, and they have litigated when their contracts are breached by suppliers anyway” Arnold told the committee.

In addition to opposing the death penalty, Pharmacist Michael McQuone said the drug being used to kill is better off left in hospitals. 

“They continue to be at critical levels because they are being used by hospitalized patients, particularly patients on ventilators” says McQuone.

State Senator Jeff Brandes argued the information should remain public

“The place we should be the most public and the most open is when we are taking a human life” Said Brandes.

But the committee didn’t agree

And if Florida resumes executions in the future, the next one will be the one hundredth since the state resumed executing people in 1979.

Afterward Broxson was unhappy the bill became about the death penalty and not the drug being used.

“This is an effective way to do what sorely have to do” said Broxson. “And we want to make sure it is available for the DOC to use in the future.”

And Tuesday began with 314 men and three women on Florida’s death row. 

Opponents say the goal of keeping the information secret is to keep public pressure off the companies who supply the drugs. Of the 317 people on death row, all but one have chosen lethal injection over the electric chair.

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Equality Florida Out in Force Against “Don’t Say Gay”

February 15th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Equality Florida today called on lawmakers to abandon the so called “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It argues the legislation is overly broad and will lead to unintended consequences. 

Todd Delmay, one of the first five plaintiffs in the gay marriage law suit that legalized marriage between same sex partners told of having to have his husband adopt because gay couples were prohibited from adopting. Now he says the legislation will hurt not help kids.

“If this bill had been in force, and one of my sons classmates had said, why does Blake have two dads? The teacher would have been forced to say go home and talk to your parents about that. That isn’;t right. It would have shamed my son, and it would have made all the other students think what’s wrong with Blakes family that we can’t even discuss it at school.”

And Equality Florida says if the Don’t Say Gay Legislation becomes law, it will erase every conversation from the classroom about being gay or transgender.

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Faith in Florida Outlines Agenda

February 15th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Pastors from around the state were in the Capitol today lobbying against legislation that would penalize transportation companies or providers who care for stop immigrant children brought to the state by the Biden Administration. Pastor Tracy Stallworth says the state is speaking out of both sides of its mouth.

“Would you want to be separated from your loved ones? Can you imagine being separated from your baby? Can you imagine being separated from your parents? But yet we can use  them in the pipeline to pick produce. To pick this.  But yet we won’t allow them to remain here” Stallworth told reporters.

during the event, the pastors also addressed gun violence, freedom in education, and the affordable housing crisis.

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Gator Day at the Capitol

February 15th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

This year will be UF President Ken Fuchs last year as President of the Institution and his last trip to the Capitol for Gator Day as the schools top administrator. He noted for the crowd that Florida is doing a good job of funding higher education and that the University of Florida has a bright future ahead under a new leader.

“Specifically to the University of Florida, I really believe our ambition is not just to compete with public’s outside the state, but also the privates” Fuchs told us. “And we are indeed amongst that group of the best universities, but there’s ways to go in our global reputation and our national reputation and all of that just contributes to the success of the state.”*

Fuchs has agreed to stay on through the Fall 2022 semester and into early 2023 when a new president is named. He will return to teaching electrical and computer engineering.

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Abortion Ban Ready for Full House Vote

February 10th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida’s proposed ban on abortions after 15 weeks is now ready for a vote in the full House. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, opponents are angry because they believe their voices are being ignored. 

Security was exceptionally heavy, after protestors shouted down the previous committee stop last week. Sponsors Erin Grall began by describing fetal development.

“At twelve weeks gestation, an unborn child can open and close his or her fingers, starts to make sucking motions, and senses stimulation outside the womb.”

Public debate was limited to 45 seconds,. Both sides found themselves getting cut off. Madison Donnelly argued shortening the time from 26 to 15 weeks could hurt women.

“Fifteen weeks is an undue burden. Chair Colleen Burton interrupted “Ms. Donnelley, Miss Donnelley, your time is up thank you”.

The same thing happened to Ocala Doctor John Littell as he was speaking.

“To allow a mother who had not been able to achieve pregnancy for ten years to hear the heartbeat of  baby at 12 weeks is overwhelming. Its always overwhelming.” Again, an interruption. “Dr. Littell, you time is up.”

And in the end, the outcome was never in doubt.

“Show the bill reported favorably.”

The committee even finished 30 minutes early. It left opponents feeling their time had been limited on purpose.

“They don’t respect us” shouted on protestor afterward.

Then Littell, a supporter of the 15 week ban challenged opponents outside the building.

“The best way to save a babies life…cover your ears” he yelled.

The situation came close to becoming physical until Oponnent Lauren Branzel intervened stepping between Littell and an Oponnent of the abortion ban as the two shouted. 

“So tensions ar high and its really unfortunate to see them insert themselves” said Branzel, who works for Planned Parenthood.

If, and likely when this bill becomes law, abortions up to twenty-four weeks are still going to be legal Roe vs Wade, but the clock is ticking.

Florida’s ban is modeled after a Mississippi statute that has already made it to the US Supreme Court. A ruling is expected in June.

Neither the House Bill or its Senate companion contain an exception for rape or incest. Attempts to add the provision have failed.

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Lawmaker Wants More Financial Disclosure from Local Officials

February 10th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Most city or municipal officials, including mayors and city managers file a limited financial disclosure that only lists broad categories, but now they may soon be required to provide full financial disclosure, which includes a complete list of your assess and liabilities. Critics on a Senate committee questioned the need, but Sponsor Jason Brodeur (Bro Deer) told the committee when people can decide million dollar purchases, they need to disclose.

“We now preserved the ability for somebody, if they don’t want to disclose some of this stuff, just file your tax return, so that’s been preserved as well.  Others have options to file married but separate, and if you want to do that. There are also options for folks who are concerned about it to not run for public office. Its an option.This is a privilege and if so you choose to do that, I think the voters deserve your full financial transparency.”

State lawmakers and other constitutional officers, including county commissions already file the more detailed information. The filing would become effective January first if the bill becomes law.

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Holocaust Exhibit Provides Intimate Experience

February 10th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

A rail car replica of those used by Nazi Germany was on display outside the state Capitol today. It provides a twenty-one minute virtual experience on the inside walls of the car, describing the trip Jews made from Hungary to a concentration camp. The governor went inside with about 40 people. In Germany one hundred or more were stuffed into the cars with no place to relieve themselves and no food.

“You can talk about the six million people that were killed” said the Governor. “We all know that’s terrible. You can read it on a sheet of paper, but what does that actually mean when you can see the tragedy. You can see videos, you can see some of the artifacts.” 

Florida has the toughest law on anti semitism in the country. It was signed into law in May 2019 in Israel when the Governor was on a five day trade mission.

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Budget Cuts for 12 School Districts Move Forward

February 9th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

The full House Appropriations Committee today approved cutting 200 million from the budgets of 12 districts that defied the states ban on mask mandates. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, even with the cuts, lawmakers say each district will still have more money than the current year.

The sponsor of the move to cut a combined 200 million from 12 school districts that defied the states ban on mask mandates faced tough questioning Wednesday.

Representative Matt Wilhite (D-Palm Beach) asked “How is this not punitive to those twelve counties, or the parents in those twelve counties. You want to talk about parents, putting parents first?”

He was followed by Representative Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa) “Putting parents first was intended to be punitive to the school districts that received those deductions?”

But Rep. Randy Fine held his ground.

“I don’t think its punitive” responded Fine. “I think its holding people accountable, and I think it is saying that we expect that the laws we pass be followed by all of our school districts.”

Two parents, both from Leon County spoke…one against.

Marie-Claire Leman of Fund Education Now called the legislation politically motivated. 

“This is being done to further divide our electorate. So one legislator ids proposing this because he thinks he can. And the rest of you are going to go along with it, stoking those divisions” said Leman. 

Parent Elizabeth Walker complained Leon school administrators dared her to sue if she didn’t like the mask policy” said walker..



“She has been denied entry into her class room without a mask. And she not given credit for any hour that she missed.

The budget was approved with the cuts. 

If these cuts remain in the budget, all twelve districts are still going to have more money in the next year than they do right now, but not as much as they would have had if they hadn’t bucked the state.

Representative Randy Fine told members “There’re going to have more funding per student, they’re going to have more funding over all. This is a way to send a message, an important message.”

So far there has been no effort to push the cuts in the Senate. But they are likely to be an issue when negotiations begin.

This coming school year Florida will spend 28 billion dollars on public education, up from 26.7 billion in the current year.

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Dems Issue Plea for Affordable Housing Help

February 9th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida Democrats today again called on the Governor to declare a state of emergency for affordable housing to stop dramatically ricing rates. They also want a 90 moratorium on evictions and legislation to help people evicted during Covid from having it used against their record when rent again. Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) pled with GOP lawmakers to do something.

“The reality is that rents are rising across Florida at an unconscionable rate. We are talking ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty percent rent hikes across Florida. And we know that our families can not afford thee types of rent hikes and something has to be done.”

This coming year, Florida will spend just under three hundred million on affordable housing, most of it distributed through local coalitions.

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FSU Day Touts Accomplishments at Capitol

February 9th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Garnet and gold balloons graced the courtyard at the state Capitol today to honor Florida State University. The marching ban played, cheerleaders cheered, and hot dogs and hamburgers were plentiful for the several hundred who came. President Richard McCullough told the crowd that more than seventy-three thousand students applied for just sixty-two hundred openings this school year, in part because of FSU’s dramatic rise in national rankings.

“There is no university that I can think of that has risen so fast in the rankings, from forty-three to nineteenth in just under six years” McCullough told the crowd. “And our student success is a driving force for what we do at Flordia State University.  Ninety-five percent of our students return after their freshman year, and seventy-four percent of them graduate in four years. That graduation rate is among the top in the country.”

The national champion FSU woman’s soccer team was also honored at the event. Coach Mark Krikorian noted the overall championship team GPA is 3.5.


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“Don’t Say Gay” Legislation Clears Committee

February 8th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Legislation that would prohibit the discussion of gender identity in the classroom moved forward today in the state Capitol after more than a hundred people voiced their displeasure with the idea. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, changes to the bill are expected, including clarifying which grades will be impacted.

It was standing room only as more than a hundred people showed up to speak against the legislation sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala).

“We’re talking about K thru three” Baxley told the committee.

He argued that schools are lax about involving parents in discussions about sex and gender.

“These children belong to families. They are not wards of the state” says Baxley.

Senator Tina Polsky asked if the bill would prohibit a child from talking about their family in class. “Why does Johnny have two mommies?” She asked. “ What is the teacher supposed to say?”

Baxley responded, saying “I think you should talk, some discussions are for your parents.”

Dan Van Trice told us it will very much impact what his kids can say in class.

“They take pictures of their family to school and they put them up on the bulletin board, and they talk about their families. Well, my kids won’t be able to participate in that” the father or two worries.

Jackson County Teacher Anita Hatcher spoke about her transgender son and his father.

“When you reassert parental authority, sometimes you get the parental authority of my child’s father, who told him it would be better if he took his own life” Hatcher told the committee, stressing the anxiety kids questioning their gender face.

And while this bill only applies to kids up to the third grade, parents tell us it needs to apply to all classrooms.

January Littlejohn was one of handful who testified in favor. She has filed suit in Federal Court after Leon schools went behind her back counseling her 13 year old about her sexual preferences.

“They told me they could not tell me anything about the meeting.” Littlejohn told us.  “That my daughter was protected from me.”

As written, the bill would allow parents to sue school boards that violate the law.

The ability for parents to sue is expected to be stripped from the bill at its next stop and be replaced with a fine or other sanctions.

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