07/06/18: Algae Hits Florida Again, Teachers Sue Over New Law

Jul 6, 2018

On this week’s Florida Roundup podcast we find that Florida’s inland sea is a mess of algae.

Teachers are suing over a law that threatens teacher unions and we looked at a new law designed to fight the state’s opioid crisis.

Green Algae Threatens Lake Okeechobee

On a map of Florida, Lake Okeechobee is a brilliant blue eye in the lower third of the peninsula.

But this week, it’s almost filled with blue-green algae, some of it toxic. The slime threatens the summer season along the lake and in the waterfront communities to its east and west, where water from the lake is redirected out into the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

It’s happened before -- just two years ago when the algae fouled up waterways and marinas, leading the state Legislature to approve spending millions of dollars to build a massive reservoir, but construction could take at least seven years.

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The Lake Okeechobee algae is a reminder of how what happens in different parts of the state can affect the environment in other parts. It is also a sign of how the environment affects the economy, water and the quality of life in Florida.

Some cities have banned polystyrene containers from their parks. Others want to ban plastic grocery sacks. And some restaurants have stopped using plastic straws in an effect to clean up local waterways.

Jill Roberts from WQCS in Ft. Pierce and Jenny Staletovich with the Miami Herald joined in on the discussion.

New Fiscal Year, New Laws

July first marked a new fiscal year in Florida and it brought with it dozens of new laws. One of those is the target of a lawsuit filed this week by Florida’s largest teachers’ union.

The Florida Education Association argues part of the law is unconstitutional because it targets only unions representing public school employees. The law is known as House Bill 70-55.

It is a big piece of legislation. Part of it requires local teacher unions to have at least 50 percent of eligible members pay dues. If not, the union could be de-certified and lose its right to negotiate salaries, benefits and working conditions for teachers and other staff members.

The law goes into effect as some local school districts are working to ask voters this fall for more money earmarked for higher teacher salaries.

Diane Phillips, a Brevard County high school teacher and the 2011 Brevard County Teacher of the Year is plaintiff in the lawsuit who discussed the topic along with WLRN’s Jessica Bakeman

We also heard from Dave Galloway, president of the Jackson County Education Association, via WFSU.

Managing Pain, Addiction And Prescriptions

If you have a painkiller prescription to fill, you may only get three-days-worth thanks to a new state law that took effect this week.

The law limits new opioid prescriptions to three or seven days and has new rules for doctors prescribing the medicine.

The law comes as Florida and the nation have declared a public health emergency because of the opioid epidemic. 

Danielle Prieur from WMFE joined us along with Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg.