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Repeal o fFairness in Women’s Sports Filed

February 8th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

After a lengthy hearing on parents rights in their child’s sexual orientation discussions, Sen. Gary Farmer (D-Broward) held a news conference to say he has filed legislation to repeal the “Fairness in Womens Sports Act, passed last year that bans someone born a male from participating on a woman’s team.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to keep reminding people” says Farmer. “But I;’m happy to keep saying it, and I’m not going to stop saying it, is that trans girls are girls, and trans rights are human rights. So I know everyone up here joins me in saying, let the kids play. That’s what this is about”

There is also pending legislation that would provide an option to choose non-binary on your drivers license, which means you neither identify as male or female.

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Grandparents Rights Bill Tied to Markel Murder

February 8th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Legislation allowing grandparents to visit their grandchildren when one parent is accused in the complicity of the death of the other cleared its second of three committees today. The bill is narrowly tailored and based on the murder for hire of FSU law professor Dan Markel in 2014. His parents have been forbidden from seeing his two sons. Both his wife and mother in law have been named by police in the case, but neither has been charged with a crime. Senator Keith Perry is sponsoring the bill. 

“When you think about grandparents in general, and as a matter of fact we talked about broadening the scope of this bill at some point in time, When you think about grandparents who have relationships with grandkids, really close, and sometimes I think it might be in the best interest to have the grandparent have a relationship with that child. Not lose that,” says Perry.

Under the bill, if a surviving parent was convicted of a crime involving the other parents death, or found liable in a civil suit, grandparents can ask a judge to be involved in their grandchildren’s lives.

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12 School Districts Face $200 Million Budget Loss

February 7th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Twelve Florida School districts that defied the state’s ban on mask mandates are now scheduled to lose two hundred million dollars in the budget as a consequence to their action. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the plan is to spread the money around the other fifty-five districts that followed the Governor’s executive order.

The twelve districts that defied a ban on mask mandates now collectively face a loss of two hundred million dollars.

“They didn’t defy the mask ban, they broke the law” says State Representative Randy Fine. “They acted in an illegal way and they engaged in the second largest state sponsored act of child abuse in the history of Florida.”

But now the powerful appropriations chair says the districts must face the consequences of their actions.

To try and sweeten the pot and get enough votes to pass this plan, the House version would take the two hundred million and give it to the fifty-fife school districts that didn’t buck the state says House K-12 Appropriations Chair Rep. Randy Fine (R-Brevard).

 

“And we have to send the message that when you follow the law, you are rewarded. When you do not follow the law, you are not.”

Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna tells us his constituents wanted masks worn in schools despite the state saying no.

 

“Would you do all of that again?” We asked Hanna. 

“Absolutely. Absolutely, I would” he told us. “And if we need to go to war with him, with representative Fine and this issue with salaries, we’ll just lawyer up and have at it.”

Democrat leader Evan Jenne thinks it would be foolish for any GOP members from the 12 counties to agree to moving the money.

“How any legislature can turn around and tell his community that I am here for you, ,or she turns around and says I’m here for your kids  don’t tell me that when you’ve just yoked millions of dollars away from their education” says Jenne, who represents Broward, one of the counties facing a loss of millions.

The plan gets its first test on Wednesday when the proposed budget goes before the full appropriations committee.

The twelve districts account for half of the public school enrollment in the state. The 200 million is based on the number of administrators in a county making more than one hundred thousand dollars a year.

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Olympic Challenge

February 7th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida Congressman Michael Waltz, a former green beret, has produced a television spot named “Genocide Games,”taking the Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee, and US companies to task for holding and supporting the games in a nation rife with human rights abuses.

The ad also encourages Americans to stop buying products made in China, with Waltz telling consumers to “put them down.”

“Let’s not have American companies supporting a Chinese dictatorship that is abusing its own people, but seeks to replace the UnitedStates as a world leader” says Waltz. “And I think we’ve got to start voting with our wallets, and again in the ad, if you see made in China, put it down. It’s not just a human rights issue or a jobs issue, its now national security issue.”

NBC has refused to air the ad on its local station in Washington DC because it shows the logos of US companies. But more than half a million have seen the ad on You Tube as of mid afternoon today.

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DeSantis Immigration Proposal Moving

February 3rd, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Legislation aimed at ending midnight flights of immigrants into Florida cleared its first House Committee today in the state Capitol. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the state can’t stop those who transport the immigrants, but it can stop the companies from doing business with the state or local governments.

The staff analysis for House Bill 1355, quoting News4 Jax, says that 78 charter flights carrying unaccompanied children landed at Jacksonville International during a six month period last year. 

“A number of children have been locked on airplanes in the middle of the night and left on tarmac’s” said Sponsor John Snyder (R-Stuart), the Sponsor.  

“There are individuals from every corner of the earth that know, if you can make it to Mexico, there’s an open ticket” added Snyder.

The bill goes after common carriers, those who transport people for money, from getting state or local contracts if they were hired to transport immigrants who were apprehended at the border.

“How many contracts like that are in force?” Asked Democrat Gearldine Thompson 

“We don’t know what we don’t know” responded Snyder.

Advocate Karen Woodall told lawmakers the Feds are just following the law.

“The transport is not illegal. It’s required by Federal law.”

Then there was Zachery, a 12 year old who asked  “Why are you attacking kids who look like me? Kids, we’re just kids.”

The bill was approved twelve to five.

The legislation did garner the vote of one Democrat.

Outside, Yenniser Molina, Zachery’s mother, was near tears.

“We’re here to provide for our families. We don’t want to do any harm. We love it here.”

The legislation is one of the Governor’s top priorities.

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Pharmacutical Drugs Found in Bonefish

February 3rd, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

A first of its kind study by the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust sampled 93 bonefish in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys and found pharmaceuticals in their flesh, absorbed from poorly treated wastewater.  The study points to the need for continued improvement of waste water systems says Bonefish and Tarpon Trust CEO Jim McDuffy.

“58 Pharmacutical contaminants were detected in these fish. Drugs that are commonly prescribed for humans. Seven, an average of seven drugs were detected for each bonefish” said McDuffy.

The most commonly detected pharmaceuticals were: Blood pressure medications, Antidepressants, Prostate medications, Antibiotics, and Pain relievers. Not one of the ninety three fish sampled was free from drugs.

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Utilities Net Metering Plan Moves Forward

February 3rd, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida’s investor owned utilities want lawmakers to restructure what they are required to pay roof top solar homeowners who sell excess power back to the companies. Currently the utilities are required to pay retail for the power. They are asking lawmakers to make the payments equal to what it costs the utilities to generate a kilowatt hour, claiming customers with rooftop solar are being subsidized by those without solar. But George Cavros of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy told lawmakers that despite asking for hundreds of millions in higher rates, solar was never mentioned.

“The state’s big three monopoly utilities last yea requested rate increases from the Public Service Commission.  Not one utility, not one utility identified last revenue Fromm roof top solar customers as a reason for the rate request. Not one.”

Sponsor Lawrence McCure of Lakeland calls the current payments unfair, but says he is working on a compromise that will satisfy solar installers.

“This is in real time a mandate to take it in whether they need it or not.” McClure said afterward.  “So, we take that all into consideration. I pledged to committee members, my colleagues, and everyone in the industry, we’re going to work on it.”

Solar installation companies said the legislation would cost the state thousands of jobs and gut the roof top solar industry. The investor owned utilities were also behind a 2016 constitutional amendments that also would have put solar producers at a disadvantage. Voters turned it down. 

Florida’s investor owned utilities want lawmakers to restructure what they are required to pay roof top solar homeowners who sell excess power back to the companies. Currently the utilities are required to pay retail for the power. They are asking lawmakers to make the payments equal to what it costs the utilities to generate a kilowatt hour, claiming customers with rooftop solar are being subsidized by those without solar. But George Cavros of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy told lawmakers that despite asking for hundreds of millions in higher rates, solar was never mentioned.

“The state’s big three monopoly utilities last yea requested rate increases from the Public Service Commission.  Not one utility, not one utility identified last revenue Fromm roof top solar customers as a reason for the rate request. Not one.”

Sponsor Lawrence McCure of Lakeland calls the current payments unfair, but says he is working on a compromise that will satisfy solar installers.

“This is in real time a mandate to take it in whether they need it or not.” McClure said afterward.  “So, we take that all into consideration. I pledged to committee members, my colleagues, and everyone in the industry, we’re going to work on it.”

Solar installation companies said the legislation would cost the state thousands of jobs and gut the roof top solar industry. The investor owned utilities were also behind a 2016 constitutional amendments that also would have put solar producers at a disadvantage. Voters turned it down. 

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Abortion Ban Continues without Rape or Incest Exception

February 2nd, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Just under seventy five thousand abortions were performed in Florida during 2021. Just six percent or about 45 hundred were performed after 15 weeks. Legislation reducing the time for legal abortions from 24 to fifteen weeks cleared a Senate committee along party line votes this afternoon. And as Mike Vasilinda tells us, efforts to add more exceptions to the 15 week ban failed.       

The hearing drew more people to the committee room than any time since the pandemic began. Sponsor Kelli Stargel told the crowd “The bill prohibits abortions after fifteen weeks.”

Nearly a hundred either waived in support or opposition to the bill.

Democrat Lauren Book tried to add an exception to the fifteen weeks for rape or incest.

“So victims keep quiet. They just don’t tell. For weeks, months, or years. 

It failed. Minutes after the vote, Samantha Deans, a Planned parenthood Doctor told the story of an11 year old who was raped by a family member.

“When her stomach began to show, her mother took her to a physician,. Who diagnosed her at twenty three weeks” said Bean, who also said the eleven year old said she did not want to be pregnant.

The hearing coincided with Catholic Days at the Capitol. So many wanted to speak, they were limited to thirty seconds a piece.

“The unborn child is a person with rights that should be protected under the law” said Rita Galliano. 

Dorothy Clark from the Villages was admonished for trying to show an ultrasound of her grandson. “No props please. Sorry about that..its the rules.”

And Kelly Flynn told the committee “This fifteen week abortion ban is just an excuse to continue stripping away our rights and make person decisions about our own pregnancies.”

Democrats gave up their time for debate to listen to more in the audience, which gave  Rachel Rapkin time to talk about safety.“Abortion is safer than continuing a pregnancy to term” she told the committee

The party line vote was expected.

If this bill becomes law, North Carolina will be the closest place Floridians can go to get an abortion after fifteen weeks

Democratic Leader Sen. Lauren Book says she will try again for the exception for rape or incest.

“At the end of the day it giving them a little bit more grace to decide what to do.” 

But Book also concede its going to be a hard sell to Republicans.

Of the 74 thousand plus abortions last year, just over forty-four hundred, or about six percent, were past the fifteen week deadline in the bill.

                       

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Individual Freedom Legislation Clears Second House Committee

February 1st, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Legislation prohibiting the teaching of Critical Race Theory or other ideas designed to make some feel uncomfortable continues moving through the state legislature. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, sponsors say they want history, not historical theories taught in the classroom. 

Examples of what can’t be taught in the classroom under the legislation include the denial or minimization of the holocaust, or that the purpose of the US Legal System is to uphold the supremacy of white people. Sponsor Bryan Avila says most everything else is fair game.

“Everything should be taught from an objective point of view.  Really, what we are trying to prevent is whatever ideology or whatever take they have in order to essentially twist the material into making someone feel a certain angst” Avila told committee members.

Several dozen spoke. Most, like Rev. Rachel Gunter Shapard, a Jacksonville mother of three, said its okay if her kids are occasionally made to fell uncomfortable.

“It is not discomfort in the classroom that I fear for my children. It is indifference” Shapard told lawmakers.

Aaron DiPetr of the American Family Policy Council was one of the few to speak in favor.

“Systems of supremacy, white guilt, and other such concepts are not facts of history. Those are ideologies.”

And Michael Moore of the Florida Education Association argued it will be one more burden on teachers.

“We have a severe teacher shortage” said Moore, “and this bill does nothing to help recruit and train high quality teachers.”

Afterward, the sponsor reiterated the idea was to keep facts in the classroom and opinions out.”

“No one in the State of Flordia should be made to feel any sort of anguish or guilt for something, quite frankly, they were not a part of that occurred in our nations history a long long time ago.”

Business can also face discrimination lawsuits under the legislation.

The legislation, which is a top priority of the Speaker governor has one more committee meeting in both the House and Senate before heading to the full Chambers.

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Children’s Week at the Capitol

February 1st, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Brightly colored drawings cover the rotunda of the state Capitol and will for Children’s Week. There were also activities, games, and displays across the courtyard. Advocates say they are pushing for better children’s health care while also asking lawmakers to do something about the covid induced lack of available child care. Phyllis Kalifeh (Ka-Leaf-EE) says the lack of available facilities is hurting the recovery.

“We have classrooms that are empty. We have families that can’t access child care because they don’t have staffing to fill their classrooms. So it certainly does impact them and it means families can’t go back to work. So its an important issue, certainly.”

Children’s Week is an annual event to lobby for those who have needs but not means.

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Voting Rights Trial over Senate Bill 90 Begins

January 31st, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Today was the first day of what is expected to be a two week trial over election law changes passed by lawmakers in 2021. As Mike Vasilinda tells us, the makor issues being challenged are changes to drop boxes, vote by mail ballots, and who can return vote by mail ballots.

Election law changes made after 2020 have voting rights advocates in Federal Court crying foul. “We don’t like to ascribe intent, but it’s odd this bill would move forward after so many voted by mail in record numbers” says Brad Ashwell of All Voting is Local.

As Senate Bill ninety moved through the 2021 session, Sponsor Dennis Baxley told us:

“I was very proud after going through some tough elections, that we had such a smooth one and I want to protect what is working well.”

The new law requires drop boxes at a supervisors office to be monitored by a person 24/7. Elsewhere, drop boxes can only be used during early voting hours.

Nat sot: “It’s a solution looking for a problem” Ashwell told us. He worries the legislation now before the Federal court will make voting harder.

“There is no question SB 90 makes it harder for people to vote, whether it be registering to vote, making it harder for third party voter registration groups to operate, or to vote by mail, making drop boxes less accessible” says the voting rights activist.

There are new requirements and notices that third party voting groups must give applicants they sign up. That includes telling applicants their application might not get turned in on time.

League of Women Voters President Cecelia Scoon was the first to testify. She said that her volunteers were actually embarrassed when they have to tell a voter that the League may not turn in their application.

And while lawmakers are in the middle of their 2022 session, No major election overhaul legislation has been introduced yet, but Baxley told us to stay tuned.

In 2020, nearly nine million Floridians voted early or by mail. Just one point nine million voted in person.

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Alimony Reform on Fast Track

January 27th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Efforts to reform Florida’s alimony laws are moving quickly in the state Capitol. The legislation abolishes permanent alimony and sets up a formula based on the length of a marriage, and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the legislation contains a clause that has sunk reform efforts in the past.

Permanent alimony would end under the legislation. It would be replaced with a formula based on the length of a marriage.

And for the first time, the change is being supported by the Family law section of the Florida Bar.

Philip Wartenberg is the Family Law Chair Elect, and told the committee “This is something the section has historically opposed, but we believe the time has come to move away from this concept of permanent alimony.”

The most controversial provision says child custody issues begin with a presumption that parents will share time equally.

“What would happen is you will have a huge hurdle, this presumption, before you even get to the 20 factors” says Wartenberg.

Before the bill was approved by the House Civil Justice Sub Committee sponsor Jenna Persons-Mulicka (R-Ft. Myers) said there was one goal.

“To insure that this leads to a better system that provides predictability. That provides certainty and fairness.”

Anna Eskamani voted no.

“When you have a fifty-fifty assumption, it can tie a judge’s hands.”

The sponsor twice refused to talk with us about the legislation.

What we would have asked is why the sponsor included the presumption that parents would share children equally. That has killed the bill in the past.

And Barbara Devane of Florida NOW told us the threat of child sharing is often used as leverage.

“To get them to agree to something that is not in their financial economic interests, or the child’s” says Devane. 

The legislation also creates an avenue for the payor of alimony to seek to lower the amount or end it altogether when someone reaches retirement age.

Under current Florida law a judge evaluates 17 to 20 factors to decide child custody. It would remain, but the fear is it will take a back seat to the 50/50 sharing provision.

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Ending Campus Hunger

January 27th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Pending legislation would encourage state universities to voluntarily come up with plans to end hunger on college campuses. The measure would also create a grant program through the Department of Agriculture to finance better eating for students.

Students who appeared with the bills sponsors on the steps of the Capitol say food uncertainty is rampant, but often overlooked. Andres Cubillos is the President of the Public Interest Research Group on the FSU campus.

“Nationwide, thirty-four percent of students say they know someone who has dropped out of college because of the difficulties getting food. In a state as prosperous as Florida,, we cannot continue to allow that to happen” says Cubillos.

Nastassia Tazzy Janvier is the FSU Student Body President. She says no one should face being hundgry.

“No student should have to go home and be hungry. No student should have to think about where there next meal is going to come from” 

Some ideas include texting students when there is left over food from on campus events, and providing vouchers at on campus food service facilities.

FSU currently has a food pantry, but students today said it is poorly located on the edge of campus in a high profile building. A grant would make it possible to put the pantry in a more convenient high traffic area.

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Crist Campaign Pitches Insurance Bundling

January 27th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Former Governor Charlie Crist returned to the Capitol this morning in his quest to regain the job. He was there to announce he wants to require insurance companies that write auto insurance to also be required to sell homeowners. Crist says it will lower rates for homeowners, who pay the third highest rates in the country, while auto insurers here charge the highest rates nationwide.

“Right now, they are cherry picking and that’s not fair to our Floridians. If they want to make a rate increase and do well by selling auto insurance,, they ought to have to sell property insurance too. It’s only fair to our people” said Crist.

The former Governor also said he would veto any legislation that would raise auto insurance rates. That puts him in agreement with the current governor, who vetoed a plan to end no fault insurance last year. The alternative was expected to initially raise rates for policy holders with minimum coverage.

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Report says FSU Building is Sick

January 27th, 2022 by Mike Vasilinda

Black mold and radon in a 1950’s era building at Florida State is the subject of a report by four faculty members of the College of Health and Human Sciences, which occupies the building. The 129 page report, first reported by Florida Politics, outlines issues with air quality, high radon levels, possible chemical exposure and a “cancer cluster” on the fourth floor of the building. The report says at least eight faculty or grad assistants who worked on the fourth floor have been diagnosed with cancer over the last ten years. A public records request for the report has been acknowledged by the University, but not yet delivered.  A request for an interview has so far gone unfulfilled.

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