legislature

Florida lawmakers this month approved a controversial bill that is expected to make it harder to put citizens’ initiatives on the ballot.

Judge Rejects Miami-Dade Expressway Authority Case - For Now

May 20, 2019
Miami Herald

Saying the case was not “ripe,” a Leon County circuit judge has denied a request for an injunction to block a bill that would eliminate the Miami-Dade  County Expressway Authority and replace it with the newly created Greater Miami Expressway Agency. But Judge John Cooper left open the possibility of revisiting the issue if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the bill (HB 385) into law.

The expressway authority filed the lawsuit early this month, arguing that changes in the bill are unconstitutional because they would violate home-rule powers in Miami-Dade County and would impair contracts.

JACQUELYN MARTIN / AP

Days after Alabama’s governor signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, a conservative lawmaker in Florida says he’s encouraged about what that could mean for similar legislation here.

“I certainly expect that this discussion will continue and that I will be a part of it,” State Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala said Friday on The Florida Roundup. “As policymakers we now have a lot to look at. And I think that we see a growing number of people moving more to some pro-life views.”

Tom Hudson

During Florida’s 2019 Legislative session, lawmakers had two months to debate hundreds of bills. In the end, the House and Senate worked a half-day of overtime to approve a $91-billion budget -- with record spending on the environment and even more planned for public schools.

But the session closed with hundreds of measures left undebated and a number of high-profile issues that didn’t pass.

Texting While Driving Bill Goes To DeSantis

May 16, 2019
Wikimedia Commons

A bill that would toughen the state’s texting-while-driving law was formally sent Thursday to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has voiced support for the proposal.

The bill (HB 107), a compromise passed by the House and Senate in late April, would make texting while driving a “primary” traffic offense on July 1.

However, the change would be phased in, according to the bill, with warnings issued starting Oct. 1 and tickets beginning Jan. 1.

Sherrilyn Cabrera / WLRN

For the last two years, Key Biscayne resident Debbie Wanninkhof has advocated for stricter texting while driving laws. A new law in the state of Florida will do just that.

The House bill will likely go into effect July 1 and will make texting while driving a primary offense. Under current law it is only a secondary offense, and police officers are not allowed to pull over drivers for texting while driving.

Florida Lawmakers Eye Change In Divvying Up School Money

May 14, 2019

A long-controversial part of the state’s formula for distributing money to public schools could be headed toward a change.

DeSantis Vetoes Bill On Plastic Straw Bans

May 13, 2019

In his first veto, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday rejected a bill that would have blocked local governments from banning plastic straws.

The First Amendment Foundation (FAF) in Tallahassee keeps watch over policy discussions that could impede the public’s right to know about government business.

“We track all bills that affect the public’s ability to oversee government and hold it accountable," says FAF president Barbara Petersen.

The foundation tracked 111 bills this year that would create new open government exemptions or extend current exemptions. 25 of them passed.

Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority Battle Speeds Into Court

May 9, 2019
Miami Herald

A circuit judge has scheduled a hearing Friday in a lawsuit quickly filed by the Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority after lawmakers passed a bill that would eliminate the authority and transfer its responsibilities to a new agency.

The authority filed the lawsuit Sunday in Leon County circuit court, two days after the Legislature gave final approval to the bill, which drew heavy debate from Miami-Dade lawmakers. While the bill has not formally been sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis, the authority is asking Circuit Judge John Cooper to block it.

Timmy Gunz/C.M. Guerrero/Martin County Health Dept / Creative Commons/Flickr/Miami Herald

Florida lawmakers have finished their work for the year. The 60-day legislative session had to have a few extra hours on Saturday for them to okay a $91.1 billion state budget.

Associated Press

A bill that will increase the penalty for texting and driving has passed the legislature and is heading to Governor Ron DeSantis for his signature.

Under Florida law it’s currently a secondary offense to text and drive.

But the new bill would make it a primary offense starting July 1.

That’s when Orange County Sheriff Chief John Mina says officers will be able to pull over offenders and write them citations for non-moving violations.

These types of violations result in fines and court fines-beginning at around $30.

ICE To Train Florida Officers To Serve Federal Warrants

May 7, 2019
Associated Press

The country's immigration enforcement agency on Monday announced a new partnership in Florida to allow some sheriff's deputies to serve warrants on behalf of the federal government.

Pinellas County in the Tampa Bay area is the first jurisdiction to participate, but more have expressed interest, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.

The plan is intended for jurisdictions restricted by local policies so they can keep certain immigrants requested by authorities in custody for a longer time, the agency said.

Sammy Mack / WLRN

The state legislative session is over and the fate of a bill that would allow the expansion of needle exchanges throughout Florida is now up to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Infectious Disease Elimination Programs bill creates a legal mechanism for counties to authorize programs that swap clean syringes for dirty ones. Needle exchanges have been shown to reduce the spread of blood borne infections—like HIV and hepatitis C—among injection drug users.

The bill passed 111-3 in the Florida House and unanimously in the Florida Senate.

Lawmakers Back Short-Term Health Insurance Policies

May 6, 2019

Insurers would be given the green light to sell scaled-back health insurance policies under a bill that the Florida Legislature passed Friday. 

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