Jim Turner - News Service of Florida

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

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.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be asked next week to set a quota of 320 bears for a controversial hunt in October.

The hunt, the first in the state in more than 20 years, has already attracted 1,795 hunters who have purchased permits, according to the commission.

http://www.beachsidekeywest.com/

The president of a Key West real-estate development company has been named to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, replacing the former chairman who announced last week he is stepping down after 12 years on the board.

The appointment late Friday of Robert Spottswood by Gov. Rick Scott came three days after Richard Corbett, whose term on the board was scheduled to expire in January 2018, submitted his resignation to Scott.

State of Florida

A dispute alleging Gov. Rick Scott and his staff subverted public-records laws will cost the state $700,000, according to an agreement released Friday by the governor's office.

As first reported by the Herald/Times capital bureau, the state will pay the money to Tallahassee attorney Steven Andrews, who until this week had been involved in a legal battle with Scott and the Cabinet about the state's desire to expand property known as "The Grove" near the governor's mansion.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Conservation groups want a judge to shoot down the return of bear hunting in Florida and to halt the pending sale of bear-hunting permits.

With permits for this fall's hunt going on sale Monday, the Seminole County-based group Speak Up Wekiva filed a lawsuit in Leon County circuit court Friday challenging the constitutionality of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission-approved bear hunt.

"There is no evidence to support the supposition that hunting bears in remote wildlife management areas will reduce conflicts in suburbia," the lawsuit contends.

fdle.state.fl.us

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement wants more investigators to handle an increase in shooting incidents involving officers at other police agencies across the state.

The department next week will present Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet an outline of its budget proposals, which include requests for a boost in salaries for forensic lab technicians and for additional staff to help investigate officer-involved shootings and use-of-force cases.

State of Florida

Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll has described her exit from office more than two years ago as a "knee jerk reaction" by Gov. Rick Scott.

Now, Scott will get the final say in Carroll having to pay a $1,000 fine to resolve allegations she did not properly report income from consulting work that led to her sudden resignation.

The state Commission on Ethics on Friday unanimously, and without comment, agreed to support the fine as part of an agreement with Carroll.

Florida House of Representatives / myfloridahouse.gov

Republican legislative leaders, who have been huddling with staff and counsel, continue to offer little comment publicly as they decide how to respond to a Florida Supreme Court ruling last week that eight congressional districts must be redrawn.

But state Democrats haven't been holding back.

Shortly after Thursday's court ruling, Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, announced that he would reintroduce legislation for the 2016 session to create an independent commission to oversee future district-map drawing.

The Florida Channel

Nearly a third of state lawmakers are millionaires, with two members of the Senate having net worths that top $20 million, according to newly filed disclosure reports.

Almost half of the Senate is in the millionaires club, and more than two dozen senators saw their net worths grow in the past year. Some reports remain to be filed, but so far no senator sits in the red financially, according to the reports posted on the Florida Commission on Ethics website.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources / via Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Florida will land about $3.25 billion as part of a multi-state federal settlement with BP over widespread damages caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The deal announced Thursday requires London-based BP to pay $18.5 billion in economic and natural resources damages to the five Gulf Coast states affected by the disaster, which pumped at least 3.9 million gallons of oil off the coastlines of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

The state's record-setting budget goes into effect on Wednesday, along with 130 other new laws that were produced by the Legislature this year in the regular and special sessions and signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Starting Wednesday, the state will no long collect sales tax on gun club memberships, people with 64-ounce beer containers known as "growlers" can get them filled at breweries, and governments in Florida will have to start looking to buy American-made U.S. flags.

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