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First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross

12/15/17: Race, Drug Crimes And Prison, Sen. Rubio's Tax Vote, Climate Change In Fla.


On this week’s Roundup we look at the racial difference for jail terms for drug crimes in Florida just as the fate of tax reform may hang on Senator Marco Rubio’s vote. Plus, a federal judge orders a Florida county commission to stop using a prayer to open its meetings. 

Race, Drugs Crimes And Prison

An investigation into drug sentences finds racial differences in how punishment is meted out in Florida. 

In 2004, a Florida woman named Alethia Jones agreed to go with her sister Diane to buy drugs. It was supposed to be one last time. Now, Jones is serving a life sentence for her role in that twenty-dollar drug deal.

Her case is one of the thousands reviewed by the Herald-Tribune newspaper in Sarasota.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune Editor Michael Braga and Reporter Josh Salman joined us to discuss their findings.

Senator Rubio And Tax Reform

Congressional Republicans finished rewriting their massive plan to overhaul the tax code on Friday, adding in a significant expansion of the Child Tax Credit aimed at boosting benefits for low-income families.

That 11th hour change was added to meet demands from Senator Marco Rubio, who threatened on Thursday to vote against the bill.

Kelsey Snell is NPR’s Congressional correspondent. She joined us with a look at the U.S. Senator from Florida’s last minute negotiating, the Republican leadership, and the razor thin margin the GOP tax reform package is facing.

Climate Change’s Impact In Florida

Climate change could cost local and state governments more to borrow money.

In low-lying Florida, sea level rise may put pressure on government budgets as they look for money to hold back the water. This week, bond rating agency Moody’s released a report, warning if local, state and the federal government don’t adapt to climate change, the risks will grow and likely become more expensive.

That got us to wondering:  How are Florida cities and counties spending money now to adapt to climate change? Chris Castro, Director of Sustainability for the City of Orlando joined us with some perspective.

Prayer And Government

In November, when the Brevard County Commission began its meeting, it was business as usual with a local pastor offering an invocation.

But then a federal judge ordered them to stop having a clergy member deliver a prayer to begin their meetings.

Florida Today’s Dave Berman has been following what started with a lawsuit and joined us with a look at who sued and why.

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