Dara Kam - News Service of Florida

Dara Kam is the Senior Reporter of The News Service Of Florida.

woman with sign that says, "Stop State Killing"
Kurt and Sybilla via Flickr

Florida lawmakers are pledging to remedy the state's death-penalty sentencing structure after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the state's method of giving judges the power to impose death sentences is unconstitutional.

greenhouses and plants
Loop's Nursery

Nurseries have filed more than a dozen challenges to the medical-marijuana licenses granted by Florida health officials, with some asking that the licensing process be put on hold until their petitions are heard in court.

As of Monday's 5 p.m. deadline to challenge the licenses, the Department of Health had received 13 petitions, according to agency spokeswoman Mara Gambineri.

greyhounds racing
Rainer Hungershausen via Flickr

Once posh destinations drawing A-list socialites, celebrities and gangsters, Florida's dog and horse tracks are now at the center of a dispute over whether they should be allowed to do away with live racing altogether.

Jamie Adams / Wikimedia Commons

Far from a sure bet, Gov. Rick Scott's $3.1 billion gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida is getting a tepid response from some legislative leaders, virtually guaranteeing that the proposal could require major changes to win enough support for passage.

The agreement, signed by Scott and tribal Chairman James Billie on Monday, equates to a major expansion of gambling in Florida, bringing to the state craps and roulette for Seminole casinos and opening the door for slots and blackjack in areas where a previous agreement prohibited the games.

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The Florida Supreme Court will decide whether a Gadsden County racetrack should be allowed to have slot machines without the express permission of the Legislature, in a case with widespread implications for gambling throughout the state.

The court on Tuesday accepted jurisdiction in the Gretna Racing case after a split appellate court reversed itself on the issue in October.

Wikipedia

Voters next November will almost certainly have the chance to again decide whether Florida should legalize medical marijuana, after narrowly rejecting an almost-identical proposal a year ago.

A Quinnipiac University poll last month found that nearly 90 percent of Florida voters support allowing adults to use medical marijuana. Numerous other surveys in Florida and across the country consistently show that a majority of voters endorse medical marijuana for sick and dying patients.

And voters aren't the only ones who've warmed up to the once-sticky issue.

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Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is staging another comeback, this time in a bid for a newly crafted congressional district in Pinellas County that appears tailor-made for the political phoenix.

The Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat made the widely expected announcement Tuesday in his hometown of St. Petersburg, a year after narrowly losing to Gov. Rick Scott in an attempt to return to the governor's mansion.

"Public service is in my heart. I can't help it. I guess that's fairly obvious," he said.

Prison Legal News

Inmates won't be reading a newspaper banned by Florida corrections officials anytime soon, due to a decision by a Tallahassee federal judge who said the publication's advertisements pose a threat to security.

But in a ruling last week, U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker also handed a partial victory to Prison Legal News, finding that Department of Corrections officials violated the publication's constitutional due-process rights by failing to provide notification when copies of the monthly periodical were impounded.

Pam Bondi
State of Florida

Same-sex marriage is the law of the land, but the legal battle between Attorney General Pam Bondi and gay couples in Florida continues to drag on.

Lawyers for plaintiffs in a key Florida gay-marriage lawsuit asked a federal appeals court Thursday to reject Bondi's request to dismiss the case as moot. The plaintiffs want Tallahassee U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who ruled last year that Florida's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, to issue a permanent injunction against the state.

Ray Hollister / Brett Levin / WJCT News / Flickr

Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize medical marijuana this week sent 100,000 petitions to county elections supervisors, one of the first steps in getting the proposal before voters next year.

It's the second shot for United for Care, the committee behind the petition drive, to get the proposal on the ballot. A similar plan received 58 percent of the vote in November, just shy of the 60 percent required for passage.

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A sharply-divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to the lethal-injection protocol used in Oklahoma and other states, opening the door for executions to resume in Florida.

In the 5-4 majority opinion issued Monday, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that Oklahoma prisoners failed to prove that the use of the drug midazolam, the first of the three-drug lethal cocktail used also used in Florida, "entails a substantial risk of severe pain."

The petitioners also failed to offer an alternative execution method that would be less painful, Alito wrote.

marijuana plants
eggrole / Flickr

Patients could have access to long-awaited, non-euphoric pot products by the end of the year, after a judge on Wednesday rejected a challenge to a proposed rule setting up the medical marijuana industry in Florida.

Department of Health officials could begin processing applications for the low-THC cannabis within 41 days of Wednesday's decision by Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins, according to an agency spokeswoman.

Watkins pointedly began his 68-page ruling with an excerpt from "Charlotte's Web," by E.B. White.

Jeb Bush is keeping Sunshine State governors in the global-warming crosshairs with comments this week in which he called the science surrounding the issue "convoluted."

On the campaign trail last year, Gov. Rick Scott demurred when asked about climate change, saying, "I'm not a scientist."

Former Florida Gov. Bush isn't a scientist either --- he earned a bachelor's degree in Latin American studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

Wikimedia Commons

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones plans to bar the use of chemical agents on prisoners with histories of respiratory ailments and is changing procedures to reduce the use of force on severely mentally ill inmates.

The changes to the policy regarding inmates with respiratory ailments, such as asthma, come after reports of at least two prisoners dying as a result of complications from preexisting breathing-related medical conditions. The inmates had been gassed by guards.

skeeze / Pixabay

Three-year-old Dinah is the latest face joining the entourage pushing for medical marijuana in Florida, arriving on the scene just as the Senate is poised to broaden the state's non-euphoric cannabis law approved last year.

Like others whose loved ones pleaded for the law, Dinah suffers from frequent seizures caused by severe epilepsy. The biggest difference is that Dinah is a dog.

The bulldog-labrador mix's owner, Lisa Miller, has spent nearly three decades walking the halls of the Capitol as a lobbyist and regulator pitching lawmakers on insurance issues.

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