Jim Turner - News Service of Florida

Reporter

Jim Turner is a reporter for The News Service of Florida.

beach chairs
Pixabay

Florida surpassed Gov. Rick Scott's goal of attracting 100 million visitors last year. And Scott is setting a higher target for tourism officials in 2016.
 
The governor and Visit Florida, the state's tourism-marketing arm, announced last week that an estimated 105 million tourists made their way to the Sunshine State in 2015, topping the 98.5 million reported the previous year.

Law enforcement officers would need "reasonable suspicion" to stop and inspect boats sporting state safety stickers, under a measure that sailed through its final House committee last week.
 
The Economic Affairs Committee voted 12-3 to approve the proposal (HB 703), which would revise a state law about reckless and careless operations of vessels.
 

From muck removal to paying for a dolphin pool or beef advertising, the House and Senate have a lot to hash out as they negotiate a roughly $80 billion spending plan for next year.

The Senate last week approved a package (SB 2500) that stands at $80.97 billion, while the House's spending plan (HB 5001) comes in at $79.98 billion.

Enterprise Florida via YouTube

Enterprise Florida, the state's public-private economic development agency, has introduced a new $10 million global advertising campaign that declares, "Florida: The Future is Here."

protesters holding "no fracking way" signs
Progress Ohio via Flickr

After an intense debate spread over two days, the Florida House last week approved a bill that would revamp regulation of the controversial oil and gas drilling process known as "fracking."

The bill, in part, would bar local governments from imposing moratoriums on fracking, while requiring the state Department of Environmental Protection to undertake a wide-ranging study that would include looking at potential risks and economic benefits of the process.

water flowing  out of tap
next. via flickr

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a water policy bill Thursday despite calls from environmentalists to veto the measure.

The St. Johns Riverkeeper was part of a statewide coalition calling for the veto.


Via Tsuji via Flickr

A proposal that would prevent local governments from regulating popular app-based transportation services such as Uber and Lyft continues to roll through the Florida House.

solar panels on roof
Marufish via Flickr

A coalition trying to expand who can provide solar energy in Florida formally shifted its focus Monday toward trying to pass a ballot initiative in 2018.

Members of the group "Floridians for Solar Choice," which had fallen behind in qualifying for the November 2016 ballot and remains in the midst of a contract dispute with a petition-gathering firm, announced the change during a news conference at the Florida Press Center in Tallahassee.

Trump at Landing
News 4 Jax

Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday he "currently" doesn't plan to endorse a candidate before the March 15 Republican presidential primary in Florida.

But in an opinion piece for USA Today, Scott praised Republican front-runner and part-time Florida resident Donald Trump.

Florida rest stop
Mark D L via Flickr

Signs intended to raise awareness about human trafficking are expected to be prominently displayed at rest areas, airports, emergency rooms and strip clubs starting Friday, Jan. 1, as a law passed during the 2015 legislative session goes into effect with the new year.

Another new law revises requirements for athletic trainers, while a portion of a tax-cut package also is put in place.

The new laws taking effect this week are almost the last of 232 bills that came out of the 2015 session. The bulk went into effect July 1.

crowd at Miami Beach
pml2008 via Flickr

Florida has surpassed the 20 million population mark while growing faster than California.

The Sunshine State, adding more than 1,000 people a day, is nearly up a half-million people on New York, which it surpassed a year ago to become the third most-populous state, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Tuesday.

Florida, with an estimated 20,271,272 residents as of July 1, is also growing faster than a year earlier, when 803 people a day were being added to the state's head count.

Floridians for Solar Choice

The light is fading for one of two solar-energy initiatives trying to get on Florida's 2016 ballot.
 
The "Floridians for Solar Choice" coalition, which remains about 400,000 petitions short of qualifying for the 2016 ballot and is in the midst of a contract dispute with a petition-gathering firm, announced Thursday night it has started to explore options for appearing on the 2018 ballot. 

Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a key supporter of the coalition, on Friday called the decision "a strategic pivot."

SunPass highway sign
bankbryan via Flickr

Time is running out for about 100,000 SunPass customers to convert, for free, to new transponders.

Older, battery-operated transponders used for Florida toll roads and some bridges become obsolete with the New Year.

Jessica Palombo

Visitors to the Florida Capitol likely won't see a Nativity scene this year. They also won't see a protest display from the Satanic Temple.

However, they could see a menorah. And an irreverent disco ball-topped, multi-colored gay pride festivus pole --- built of beer cans --- might still be on tap.

A Leon County judge on Friday quickly rejected a Florida Senate request to bring in an outside expert to redraw the Senate's 40 districts.

Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds III, who turned down the Senate proposal during a 30-minute hearing conducted over the phone, said there wasn't enough time remaining to bring in a "special master" to help draw new district lines.

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