Florida Legislature

It was a vote heard ‘round the legislature this week, when the Senate Minority Leader voted down on a bill looking to add protections from anti-Semitism discrimination in public schools. Senator Audrey Gibson is now walking back comments made in committee.

Gerald Herbert / Associated Press

Families who lost loved ones in the Parkland school shooting likely won’t find monetary relief from the Florida Legislature this year.

Bills seeking to avert litigation by creating a taxpayer-backed assistance fund haven’t gotten a hearing, and they aren’t likely to pass this session, which ends on May 3.

Florida’s tourism and marketing agency could be going away if the Florida House has its way. It comes as tourism remains the state’s dominant industry, and the state continues recovering from toxic algae blooms and hurricanes. 

Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr

A Senate panel on Tuesday approved a bill that would threaten local governments with hefty fines if they prohibit the sale of certain sunscreens, though lawmakers dropped an initial part of the bill that would have prevented local officials from banning plastic straws.

The bill targets sunscreens in an attempt to keep Key West from enforcing an ordinance that would ban the sale and use of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, a chemical that a study says harms coral reefs. That ordinance is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

As the legislative session continues in the Florida Capitol, advocates question if lawmakers are making climate change a priority. 

TheNewsHerald/Flickr

A House committee wants to limit the strength of smokable medical marijuana less than a month after Florida lifted a ban on smokable forms of the plant.

The House Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would limit the strength of marijuana flowers to 10% THC over the objection of patient advocates.

The 12-5 vote was along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats against.

Emily Michot / Miami Herald

People who kill or seriously injure police dogs in Florida soon could face tougher penalties after the Senate unanimously passed a bill inspired by the shooting death of a canine named Fang.

The bill passed Wednesday would make that crime a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It's now a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Republican Sen. Aaron Bean said his bill was inspired after Fang was "executed" in Jacksonville last year. The 3-year-old German shepherd was killed as police chased a 17-year-old carjacking suspect.

Mental health has been a frequent topic at the Capitol following more tragic news from Parkland. Two students who survived last year's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre took their own lives last month. 

The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald bureau reports that while the Legislature allocated $69 million for student mental health after the tragedy, almost none of it went to suicide prevention. But some lawmakers have begun to study prevention programs.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee. He's troubled by a recent report of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. In mid-February as his panel heard a presentation on suicide, he pointed to data showing Americans' life expectancy had dropped for the third year in a row.

Samatha Gross / Miami Herald

A controversial set of bills to ban so-called “sanctuary cities” in Florida appear to be on a fast-track to passage in Tallahassee. And that could be thanks in part to a secret deal made by lawmakers from both parties, according to Mike Fernandez, a billionaire healthcare magnate and prominent political booster in Miami.

In Florida a court can sentence a person under the age of 21 as a youthful offender. If a court does so that person can only receive a maximum sentence of six years. But the court process can take time. Public Defender Carey Haughwout says a bill moving through the legislature makes sure people aren't penalized by the delay.

A committee bill in the Florida house looking to make sweeping changes to the state’s election laws has cleared a key committee stop. A number of them would modify the state’s vote-by-mail procedure, which sparked a partisan debate about voter access.

Supfroyd / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Florida Legislature increased Medicaid nursing home rates in the state budget by $138 million last year. But the one-time boost is slated to expire on June 30, and unless lawmakers agree to maintain the funding, Florida nursing homes will lose an average $300,000 per year.

In an effort to prevent the funding loss from occurring, AARP Florida is teaming up with the state’s two nursing home associations to lobby the Legislature to make the money recurring. The trio is branding itself the “Coalition for Silver Solutions.”

In November, voters agreed to change The Florida Constitution to ban fracking. A bill moving through the legislature sort of implements that.

Florida Lawmakers Eye Tougher Texting While Driving Ban

Mar 26, 2019
Wikimedia Commons

An effort to put more teeth into Florida’s ban on texting while driving continued its Senate journey Monday, after lawmakers stripped out proposals that could have allowed police to pull over motorists for potential distractions such as talking on cell phones, eating hamburgers or self-grooming.

Pixabay

Legislation raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 for Floridians to possess tobacco or vaping products has cleared a state Senate committee.

The Senate Health Policy Committee voted in favor of the measure Monday. In addition to raising the minimum age to 21, the bill also prevents sale of tobacco and vaping products in vending machines and substitutes non-criminal fines for criminal penalties for those who sell or provide these products to underage people.

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