State News

solar exposure map
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Jacksonville City Councilman and Republican mayoral candidate Bill Bishop was on WJCT's "First Coast Connect" call-in show this week. When a listener asked Bishop why there's not more solar power in Florida, he said a low amount of sunshine is a big factor. But research shows Florida actually has above-average solar potential and production.

tax cut chart
Jessica Palombo / WJCT News

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is proposing to cut taxes on cell phone, cable and satellite services. The governor was at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce this morning to push for the cuts.

Under the governor's plan, a family with a $125 monthly cell phone bill would save just over $50 a year in taxes. Scott says the state can afford losing $470 million in telecom tax revenue because the property and sales tax bases are growing.

JAXPORT

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is inviting energy-industry workers laid off in other places to start new careers in Florida. 

Bloomberg News estimates more than 30,000 oil and gas industry workers have been let go as companies slash budgets amidst declining oil prices. Scott’s administration is posting an open invitation to those workers to come find a job in Florida. The state has created the website Fueling Florida Jobs.com, where job seekers can search openings available through the CareerSource Florida network.

Wikimedia Commons

For more than 20 years, the state of Florida and lawyers representing prisoners wrangled over inmates' health care, resulting in nearly a decade of federal-court oversight of health services in the Department of Corrections.

Now, lawyers who represented prisoners in the mid-1970s say conditions may be worse today than they were when attorneys for Michael Costello, an inmate at Florida State Prison, convinced a federal judge that inadequate health care amounted to a violation of Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is getting a federal grant to step up protection efforts for some of the state's threatened and endangered species.

The Commission wants to use the $370 million federal grant to target the gopher tortoise, Florida panther and Florida grasshopper sparrow.

The FWC project will help manage wildlife in Polk, Osceola, Okeechobee, Highlands, Hardee, Desoto and Glades counties. FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley says Florida wildlife is one of the biggest economic engines in the state.

The Republican Party of Florida has elected a new chair, state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill). That means Governor Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairwoman, Leslie Dougher is out.

Dougher was appointed by Scott in May. She replaced Lenny Curry, who resigned in order to run for Mayor of Jacksonville. Dougher led the party to victory during the recent election cycle—and Republicans won a super-majority in the Florida House, and secured all cabinet positions, including Governor Rick Scott’s re-election. She was campaigning for a two-year term.

beers
Jessica Palombo / WJCT News

Florida’s craft beer brewers are feeling threatened after a court filing by the Florida Retail Federation. The lobbying association, which represents large-scale beverage makers and distributors, is asking for clarification about which beer brewers are allowed to sell their product on site. 

Retail federation lawyer Samantha Padgett says, “If you get everybody participating in the rule process, you get all the perspectives, all the different viewpoints, aspirationally what will result is a good rule that will be understandable for all licensees and all potential licensees."

Study Raises Questions About Group Homes For Kids

Jan 13, 2015
stephanski / Flickr

A new study shows that placing children in group homes instead of with foster families is much more expensive — and many children's advocates say it's also worse for the kids.

The study, released last month by the Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, found that slightly more than 11 percent of children who are removed from their families are placed in group homes rather than with relatives, friends or foster families.

Florida State University President John Thrasher said Monday that campus shooting victim Farhan “Ronny” Ahmed should be ready to return to classes in February or early March.

Administrators are doing everything they can to ease his transition, Thrasher told the FSU board of trustees on Monday.

“We’re working on ways in which we can accommodate him in terms of his transportation, in terms of his place to stay on campus, doing something for his mother who plans to be here with him for a while and certainly some other things involving fundraising,” Thrasher said.

Photo of a dog behind a chain-link fence at the Paws and More No Kill Animal Shelter in Washington, Iowa.
Nhandler / Wikimedia Commons

Florida animal shelters could have to wait longer before destroying stray and abandoned pets. Legislation being pushed by a South Florida lawmaker would also let voters approve special animal care taxing districts.

Rep. Barbara Watson (D-Miami Springs) says she isn't a pet owner, but she she's heartbroken by statistics that show nearly 700 animals are euthanized every day in Florida.

Cowboy Wedding Brings Tears, Laughter

Jan 12, 2015
Tom Urban / The News Service of Florida

Wearing cowboy boots and bolo ties, Steve Schlairat and Ozzie Russ exchanged wedding vows as they stood beside two saddles perched atop bales of hay on a chilly Saturday afternoon with friends and family looking on.

The longtime duo are among hundreds of gay and lesbian couples who received marriage licenses or were married this week after a federal judge's decision striking down Florida's gay-marriage ban took effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

With same-sex marriage now the law in Florida, a lot of new husbands and wives will be able to join their spouse's state of Florida insurance plan.

Marriage qualifies as a life-changing event under the state's plan, so enrollees won't have to wait for the open enrollment period to add their spouses. But the window to do so is from now to March 6.

That's only about 60 days.

Mark Pudlow is a spokesman for The Florida Education Association. The union represents 140,000 Florida teachers.

Gay Marriage Fight Finds Unlikely Home In Rural Panhandle

Jan 1, 2015
Tom Urban / The News Service of Florida

Chipley, Fla. — Stephen Schlairet and Ozzie Russ have almost as much in common with their neighbors in the tiny Panhandle community of Chipley as the way of life that sets them apart.

They raise horses and dogs. They live on a 20-acre spread on the outskirts of town. They lend a hand for the annual back-to-school fundraiser. They help out with the United Way. They wear cowboy hats.

Kidde

Tomorrow, Jan. 1, a new Florida law aimed at preventing fire deaths goes into effect. Smoke alarms installed in homes must be powered by either electricity or so-called “permanent" batteries.

Before the change, fire alarms in new or remodeled homes had to be connected to the house’s electricity. Now, builders and residents replacing old smoke alarms have another option: a device with a tamper-proof battery that lasts 10 years.

B A Bowen Photography / via Flickr

The Florida Park Service invites the public to start 2015 outdoors by participating in First Day Hikes.

On New Year's Day, many Florida State Parks are offering free guided hikes for the public. This year there are more than 30 events throughout the state, including at parks in St. Augustine, Flagler Beach, and Palatka.

Most of the January 1st hikes begin at 10 a.m.

The events are part of a national initiative by America’s State Parks to get people outside and healthy.

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