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Weekly Roundup: Washington (County) and the Russians

May 18, 2019 - 8:45am
Ron DeSantis drops a bombshell

When Gov. Ron DeSantis held a quickly called news conference Tuesday, he dropped a bombshell: Two Florida counties were hacked by Russians before the 2016 elections.

DeSantis said he received the information during a briefing with the FBI, confirming longstanding speculation and reports about Russians trying to get into Florida voting systems.

But the governor emphasized that the hacking did not involve “manipulation” of voting results.

State Seeks to Bolster Human-Trafficking Fight

May 14, 2019 - 8:15am
Heather Fitzenhagen

Gov. Ron DeSantis could soon sign legislation that creates a statewide registry for pimps and johns in an effort to crack down on human trafficking. But Florida officials are not stopping there.

With their eyes on the Super Bowl and WrestleMania, both of which the state will host in 2020, officials are looking for new ways to ensure victims are not trafficked for sex or labor.

DeSantis Signs Bill Allowing Armed Teachers

May 9, 2019 - 8:45am

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed legislation that expands the controversial school “guardian” program to allow armed classroom teachers.

DeSantis’ office announced the signing shortly after 6 p.m. without ceremony or comments about the bill, which was widely backed by House and Senate Republicans and heavily opposed by gun-control activists, Democrats and some students who survived the mass shooting last year at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The governor signed the bill (SB 7030) hours after it was sent to his desk.

House, Senate Still Grappling with 'Sanctuary City' Differences

May 1, 2019 - 9:00am

House and Senate Republicans support passing a ban on so-called sanctuary city policies, but differences between the chambers are stalling final passage of one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ top legislative priorities.

The House late Tuesday night was preparing to take up the issue, but Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, had made clear the House does not support a Senate version of the bill. The House was expected to substitute its version for the Senate bill. Such a decision, however, could potentially send the “whole thing up in flames,” said Sen. Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine.

Senate Republicans Give Voucher Expansion a Big Day

April 26, 2019 - 7:00am
Manny Diaz, sponsor of SB 7070

Florida senators on Thursday passed legislation that would allow more students to use taxpayer-funded scholarships to pay for private-school tuition, a major step toward expanding school choice in the state.

Voting 23-17 along party lines, the Senate signed off on a wide-ranging education proposal that would also restructure a controversial teacher-bonus program, tweak other voucher-type scholarship programs and make it cheaper for teachers to get certified by the state.

Five Questions for Session's Bulldog, Randy Fine

April 23, 2019 - 8:00am
Randy Fine

This legislative session, state Rep. Randy Fine has become one of the Florida House’s most-fierce and eager debaters.

Whether it be discussions on expanding school choice, holding higher-education officials accountable for misusing state funds or championing legislation to battle anti-Semitism, the Brevard County Republican is no stranger to headlines.

'Sanctuary Cities' Ban Moves Closer to Passing

April 17, 2019 - 9:00am

As the debate over so-called sanctuary cities is back in the national spotlight, two Republican-led proposals that would bar such policies in Florida are close to being ready for final consideration.

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved the House version of the bill, which would carry fines and penalties for local governments that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

“It is important to not put the citizens of our state at a disadvantage to criminal aliens,” said Rep. Cord Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican sponsoring the bill (HB 527).

Weekly Roundup: Democratic Leader in Hot Water

April 13, 2019 - 7:30am
Audrey Gibson

It’s not every day that the Senate’s top Democrat has to clarify, “I am not anti-Semitic.”  

But that is what happened this week.

It all started Monday, when Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, voted “no” on a bill (SB 1272) that is designed to treat discrimination against Jewish students in public schools and colleges like the way acts of racial discrimination are treated.

Weekly Roundup: Halfway Home

March 30, 2019 - 7:30am

It’s midway through the legislative session and all eyes are on the money now.

The House and Senate this week unveiled competing budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year. And at roughly $1 billion apart, money fights are sure to abound, as lawmakers inch toward final budget negotiations.

One of the biggest points of contention so far has to do with funding for the state’s tourism industry, particularly Visit Florida, the tourism-marketing agency whose life is on the line.

Group Works to Sway 'Sanctuary Cities' Bill

March 27, 2019 - 7:15am

A hard-line group that wants to “defeat immigration anarchy” in Florida influenced the drafting of a Senate proposal that would ban so-called sanctuary cities, one of the legislative session’s most politically charged fights.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, would give the attorney general authority to take action against local governments, an approach suggested in January by a lawyer for the group Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, according to emails obtained by The News Service of Florida.

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