Blaise Gainey

Blaise Gainey is a Multimedia Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.

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A bill ending requirements that governments and agencies place public notices in local Florida newspapers passed out of a Tallahassee civil justice and property rights subcommittee this week. 

Lynne Sladky / Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union and Duval County voter advocates are calling for early voting sites to be placed at the University of North Florida and Edward Waters College. 

Updated 9:08 p.m. ET, Apr. 27, 2020

The trial over whether a state law can require felons to pay back fines and fees before voting started Monday morning. Brennan Center for Justice attorney Sean Morales-Doyle says Florida’s law makes it harder for felons to vote.

Thousands of Floridians are struggling to apply for unemployment benefits. Long waits on hold, a crashing website and now long lines to pick up paper applications are slowing the process down. The state’s Democratic Congressional Caucus is calling for Governor Ron DeSantis to make the process faster and make benefits start from the day a person was fired, not the day their application went through.

Florida’s unemployment system problems date back to 2013 when the state changed the process, shrinking benefits and making it harder for people to apply for them. Those changes were made under former governor and now U.S. Senator, Rick Scott. Now, Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s clearing the way for DEO to do whatever they need to fix the problems.

The U.S 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has unanimously denied the state’s request for a rehearing in a case over felon voting rights in Florida. 

In response to COVID-19 Governor Ron DeSantis has made all restaurants take-out or delivery only and closed all bars. He’s also limited gatherings on beaches to no more than 10 people and is asking people 65 and older to stay home.  But state elected officials believe more needs to be done to help stop the spread of the virus. Lawmakers spoke about what they think should be the next steps.

The Florida Department of Health is now allowing medical marijuana patients to use telehealth to check in with their doctors. 

Law enforcement and court officials are working to keep coronavirus out of their systems. Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil says his department is working to create more space inside their detention centers to comply with social distancing recommendations. That could involve releasing some inmates and using more discretion when it comes to booking new ones.

A bill to make K-12 student-athletes safer in Florida is now being sent to the governor after receiving a unanimous vote in the House and Senate. The bill focuses on heatstroke prevention for outdoor sports.

Unmarked African-American burial grounds are scattered throughout Florida. Sen. Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) wants to fund and reinstate a 10-member task force to locate and preserve the abandoned cemeteries.

Update: House members are back to work after checking with Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees. He told the five members and staffer who had self-quarentied they were at "low risk" and didn't meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to be tested. They've resumed normal activity.

Five Florida House members, along with a staff member, are now self-isolating. House Speaker Jose Oliva says they'll be tested for the coronavirus after attending the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington D.C. 

Florida lawmakers are working on a plan to allow college athletes to earn money for their name, image and likeness. The move comes after California created a path for college athletes to be compensated, forcing the NCAA to consider making changes. Now with a week left in session, lawmakers in the Senate are questioning whether any potential loopholes in the bill would give universities an advantage in recruiting.

The Florida House has approved a measure that includes a plan to curb the arrest of children under 10. It came after last-minute negotiations and personal pleas from six-year-old Kaia Rolle and her grandmother.

More than 5 million teenagers reported using e-cigarettes in November, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The legal age to purchase and use nicotine products is 18. That changes to 21 in June after a federal law was signed in December. Now Florida is adjusting its laws to reflect the national change, but the House and Senate aren’t aligned on what needs to be done.

With time winding down bills that haven’t gotten a first hearing are starting to near their death. One measure running out of time would allow non-violent prisoners to be released sooner. It would increase the amount of time off for good behavior. Gain time bill sponsors are trying to rally support.

If you’ve ever streamed music or browsed the internet during a road trip in Florida, you might have noticed the service can be spotty. Now lawmakers are looking into a plan to increase broadband access for rural communities.

Sen. Ben Albritton (R-Bartow) lives in a rural area and frequently deals with poor internet service.

Florida lawmakers say it should be a crime for fertility doctors to inseminate patients with their own sperm without consent. Several cases have popped up recently as the popularity of at-home genetic testing has grown--revealing the actions of unscrupulous doctors. But most states have no laws against the act.

In Florida, every car owner must have Personal Injury Coverage. The rule went into place 40 years ago and many say since then it’s gotten too expensive. Now lawmakers are looking into a new plan to revamp the system.

Jamee Johnson

Jamee Johnson, 22, had plans to graduate this spring from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University alongside his sister. But in December he was killed by police officers during a traffic stop in Jacksonville. 

State estimates show Florida could save hundreds of thousands of dollars if it were to allow certain inmates to be released from prison early.

Fifteen months. That’s how long it’s been since Hurricane Michael upended the lives of many Floridians living in the panhandle. For some of them, not much has changed since. They blame that on insurance companies. Tuesday Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis held a press conference with victims of the Category 5 Hurricane to highlight legislation he says will help speed up the process.

One of the first bills ready for a vote by the full Senate would stop local governments from regulating sunscreen. It’s one of several preemption bills that has been filed this session.

Kids who get arrested can get their records cleared if they complete a diversion program. But it’s currently limited, so Senator Keith Perry wants to expand it.

The Florida Supreme Court has struck down the Citizens for Energy Choices ballot initiative. They say the ballot summary tells voters they are granted a personal right to sell electricity but that’s not what the amendment would do.

Florida state workers haven’t gotten a pay raise since 2008. Now the public employee union is calling for one. But if state negotiators have their way, that won’t happen without the legislature stepping in.

Florida currently allows medical marijuana use and St. Petersburg Republican Senator Jeff Brandes thinks it’s time to take the next step to recreational. The drug is currently legal in 11 states for recreational use, and the majority of states allow medical marijuana.

"I would be shocked if we don’t have adult use in Florida by 2024 just via the constitutional amendment," says Brandes. "I think it’s time for the legislature to take this issue on so we’re going to be proposing legislation this year that would allow for adult use cannabis in Florida."

State workers in Florida haven’t gotten an across-the-board pay raise since before Gov. Rick Scott took office. State senators are looking at how they may be able to fit a pay raise into this year’s budget.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday Florida is officially partnering with ERIC or the Electronic Registration Information Center. It's a non-partisan organization that essentially creates a multi-state database.

A lack of affordable housing will soon be a problem in more parts of Florida. According to a Florida Housing Coalition report, 921,928 very low-income households are spending more than half of  what they earn on housing.