Jim Turner - News Service of Florida

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

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.

EverBank Field / Facebook

Florida's three professional football stadiums and Daytona International Speedway are seeking millions of dollars from the state to help pay for upgrades that in most cases are already underway.

Google Earth

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet agreed Tuesday to spend $630,000 to obtain the development rights for several acres west of Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville.

The deal is viewed as a way to restrict the amount of future development within the neighboring Mayport Village and as a defense against potential military downsizing in the next round of the federal process known as "Base Realignment and Closure," which could occur in 2017.

The Office of Governor Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott continues telling business leaders to pressure lawmakers for more incentive money to help attract companies to Florida, despite pushback from the state Senate.

Scott on Tuesday reiterated his position that Enterprise Florida, the state's business-recruiting arm, is running short of cash for incentives. He said at the Gulf Power Economic Symposium in Destin that more money must be set aside in next year's budget if the state wants to continue enticing companies to relocate to the state.

Trying to make legal services more accessible in Florida, recommendations released Monday call for a "robust" website outlining local, state and national legal resources that low- and moderate-income residents could access at home or on an increased number of public computers.

The Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, created by Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, also called in an interim report for additional people providing pro bono services and to draw leftover money from class-action lawsuits to help fund legal-aid efforts.

State of Florida

Florida Cabinet members agreed Tuesday to spend $7.8 million to conserve two large tracts of ranch land over objections from Gov. Rick Scott, who said he wanted a better deal on one of the parcels.

The debate stemmed, at least in part, from appraisals on the Central and Southwest Florida properties, which will continue to be used for ranching after state acquisition. Scott and Cabinet members received two appraised values for each.

It will be illegal to post sexually explicit material without the knowledge of people identified in the images, and criminal penalties will increase to try to help curb sex trafficking, as 27 new Florida laws hit the books Thursday.

The bulk of the 232 bills signed by Gov. Rick Scott out of the 2015 legislative session went into effect July 1.

Lucio Eastman / WIkimedia Commons

A proposal that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to pack heat while hitting the books on college and university campuses notched it first two successes Wednesday.

The legislation (SB 68 and HB 4001), which won support from criminal-justice committees in the House and Senate, is widely opposed by academic leaders.

Proponents argued that the proposal would make colleges safer, while opponents questioned the need to allow weapons into an already stress-filled atmosphere.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Gov. Rick Scott will not use executive authority to block the state's first bear-hunting season in more than two decades, despite pleas from animal-rights groups.

While anti-hunt groups have been collecting petitions and planning protests across the state on the eve of next month's hunt, the governor's office said Scott has left the issue up to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which has already voted to proceed.

Floridians for Solar Choice

In a battle involving two solar-energy ballot initiatives, a political committee backed by major utilities collected $335,000 in August — and had raised $798,000 in less than two months, according to a newly filed finance report.

The group, known as Consumers for Smart Solar, also had nearly $400,000 in the bank as September began.

Meanwhile, rival group Floridians for Solar Choice, which awaits a state Supreme Court decision on its proposed ballot language, appeared to be living almost paycheck-to-paycheck based on a financial report filed Thursday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi put added pressure Wednesday on lawmakers to increase funding for crime labs as she detailed a massive backlog of untested rape kits across the state.

"Those need to be tested because, hidden in those estimated thousands of untested rape kits, we have the potential to solve cold cases and lock up sexual predators and make Florida the safest place to live and raise a family," Bondi said during a news conference at The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

Architect of the Capitol

The bronze statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, which has stood in the U.S. Capitol since 1922, would be replaced by a statue more representative of Florida, under a bill filed Tuesday by a Republican state lawmaker.

Rep. Jose Felix Diaz said he's been considering the proposal (HB 141) for several years, and the bill comes as people across the country have reconsidered Confederate symbols after the racially motivated slaying in June of nine black church members in South Carolina.

bear sleeping
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission via Flickr

A target was placed on at least 320 black bears Wednesday as the once-threatened species will be hunted across Florida next month for the first time in more than two decades.

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