Brandon Larrabee - News Service of Florida

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Brandon Larrabee is a reporter for The News Service of Florida.

A coalition of voting-rights groups has unveiled six possible maps for the Florida Senate's 40 districts, setting up a court battle that could boost Democrats' hopes of retaking a toehold in state government now dominated by Republicans.

The maps, released Wednesday shortly before midnight, will be considered by Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds. He will decide among the plans submitted by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida, the plaintiffs in a long-running legal fight, and a proposal floated earlier Wednesday by Senate leaders.

After a second consecutive redistricting session fell apart Thursday and the Legislature went home yet again without passing a map, lawmakers' message was more or less: We told you so.

The Florida Channel

A last-ditch effort to keep the courts from drawing state Senate districts collapsed Thursday, as senators voted down a plan proposed by the House and a special session called to draw the lines crashed to an end.

On a 23-16 vote, the Senate killed the House version of the map (SJR 2-C) and any hope that the Legislature would decide the lines. Nine Republicans bucked their party's leadership and joined all 14 Democrats in opposing the plan.

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Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is staging another comeback, this time in a bid for a newly crafted congressional district in Pinellas County that appears tailor-made for the political phoenix.

The Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat made the widely expected announcement Tuesday in his hometown of St. Petersburg, a year after narrowly losing to Gov. Rick Scott in an attempt to return to the governor's mansion.

"Public service is in my heart. I can't help it. I guess that's fairly obvious," he said.

Senate seal
Florida Senate

Without a formal vote, the Florida Senate on Monday agreed to strip the Confederate battle flag from its official seal, removing one of the few remaining vestiges of the infamous icon in state government.

After some hesitation when the change first came up, senators—back in Tallahassee for a redistricting special session—agreed without objection to adopt a new rule removing the controversial emblem from the chamber's insignia. Approving the change without objection avoided the need for even a voice vote on the emotional issue.

The Office of Governor Rick Scott

Saying he wants to spend $20 million to help technical schools respond quickly to employer needs, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday began what is likely to be a stream of announcements about his upcoming budget proposal.

In a ruling that could reshape the state's political landscape, a Leon County judge recommended Friday that the Florida Supreme Court adopt congressional districts proposed by a coalition of voting-rights groups.

The decision by Circuit Judge Terry Lewis was a blow to House and Senate leaders who argued for other maps of the state's 27 congressional seats in a three-day hearing last month. Lewis was charged with recommending a plan to the Supreme Court, which will make the final decision, after the House and Senate failed to agree on a new map during an August special session.

State of Florida

Lawmakers took a step toward removing the Confederate battle flag from the Senate's official seal Thursday, as a committee unanimously voted to establish a new seal without the Civil War banner.

The Senate Rules Committee's recommendation, which follows a request by Senate President Andy Gardiner and Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner to re-examine the flag's place on the seal, is another sign of a backlash against the symbols of the South's rebellion in the 1860s. The backlash has come after a white supremacist massacred nine black churchgoers in South Carolina this summer.

State of Florida

State senators are scheduled next week to begin considering whether to keep the Confederate flag on the Senate's official seal, another sign of a growing national tide against icons of the South's rebellion in the 1860s.

The Senate Rules Committee will meet Oct. 8 to begin re-examining the current emblem of the chamber. Under Senate rules, the seal includes "a fan of the five flags which have flown over Florida" — those of the United States, Confederate States of America, France, Great Britain and Spain.

Everaldo Coelho, YellowIcon / Wikimedia Commons

An investigation into a cyberattack launched earlier this year against the state's computer-testing platform for public schools has ended with no suspects and no apparent motive, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

State officials emphasized that the March incident was what is known as a Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS, attack — which occurs when someone bombards a server with requests to overload it and make it unable to handle legitimate traffic.

bubble test
Tim Lewis / Flickr

A study has found the state's new standardized test for public-school students is valid, paving the way for the exam to be used in teacher evaluations and school grades, the Florida Department of Education announced Tuesday.

But critics said the controversial Florida Standards Assessment is still deeply flawed, and that the report is not as flattering as the department is portraying it. Lawmakers required the report in legislation passed this spring, following a slew of technical problems and a cyberattack on a computer platform.

Florida Department of Education

The State Board of Education decided Wednesday to once again ask lawmakers for record per-student funding for public schools — with the lion's share of the increase coming from local taxpayers.

Board members unanimously approved a budget request of nearly $20.2 billion for the main funding formula for public elementary and secondary schools in the fiscal year that begins next July 1. That would set a new benchmark for total funding, up from this year's $19.7 billion, as well as marking the highest per-student amount in state history.

Florida Senate

A plan to redraw Florida's 27 congressional districts overwhelmingly passed the state House on Tuesday, inching closer to a potential faceoff with the Senate over districts in Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area.

Nine Democrats joined with the majority of Republicans in approving the new map on a 76-35 vote. Nine members of the GOP, some of whom fulminated against a Florida Supreme Court decision that prompted the ongoing redistricting special session, joined the majority of Democrats in opposing the proposal (HB 1B).

Changes to a proposed map of Florida's 27 congressional districts emerged Wednesday, a day before key hearings in the House and Senate about how to comply with a court order finding the current map violates the anti-gerrymandering "Fair Districts" requirements.

Meanwhile, a congresswoman whose district has been targeted to be radically redrawn made good on her threat to file a federal lawsuit trying to complicate the process.

Florida Senate

The first draft of a new set of Florida congressional districts came under fire on several fronts Tuesday, with two members of Congress blasting the plan and some state lawmakers suggesting they would draw their own maps.

Corrine Brown
U.S. House of Representatives

Florida Congresswoman Corrine Brown went to federal court Thursday to try to block a proposal that would radically redraw her district, complicating the legal fight over the state's congressional map days before a special legislative session on the topic is set to begin.

Brown, an African-American Democrat from Jacksonville, made a legal maneuver to try to use a case challenging her current district to launch a defense of it. Brown is hoping to intervene in the lawsuit and get judges to order the Legislature not to reorient the district, which ambles from Jacksonville to Orlando.

Florida Senate

A new set of congressional districts that could alter the futures of several members of the state's U.S. House delegation was released by the Legislature on Wednesday, days before the beginning of a special session where redrawn lines will be approved.

The Orlando Sentinel has created an interactive map to show the new and old districts.

Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame

Never a group content to abandon lost causes, the Sons of the Confederate Veterans continues to push for soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War to be included in the Florida Veterans' Hall of Fame --- through legal action, if necessary.

Eric Lowe / Google+

A panel formed by Gov. Rick Scott to examine the finances of hospitals and other parts of the health-care industry held its first meeting Wednesday since the end of two legislative sessions dominated by those issues, as Scott signaled he would continue pushing for changes.

The governor's Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding met in Jacksonville to hear from local hospitals — and particularly UF Health Jacksonville — and to consider data on executive compensation and the quality of care around the state.

JIM LO SCALZO EPA / LANDOV

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a crucial interpretation of the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, preserving health insurance for more than 1 million Floridians but providing no larger solutions to the national or statewide divisions on the law.

In a case that hinged on what Congress meant by making tax credits for insurance available to people using "an Exchange established by the State," a majority of justices found that credits could be given to people who purchase coverage through an exchange set up by the federal government if the state doesn't operate one.

Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

House and Senate budget negotiators struck a deal on a state spending plan Monday night moments before the stroke of midnight, pouring $301 million into projects at the last minute and closing out one of the more-raucous legislative debates in recent years.

Gage Skidmore via Flickr

The Florida Commission on Ethics has found probable cause that former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll did not properly report income from consulting work that led to her 2013 resignation, but it cleared Carroll of potentially more-serious allegations regarding her dealings with Allied Veterans of the World.

In response, Carroll said the decision vindicated her, and she called again for Gov. Rick Scott to publicly apologize for pushing her out of office in the wake of an illegal gambling probe.

UF Health

Dozens of budget issues — including the one that threw lawmakers into a special session to finish work on the state budget — moved up the legislative ladder Tuesday, starting the next round of talks aimed at resolving differences between the House and Senate spending plans.

Capitol building
Jessica Palombo / WJCT News

A second day of negotiations between House and Senate lawmakers over a spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1 seemed to highlight longstanding divisions between the two chambers even as legislators tried to come to agreement.

The Office of Governor Rick Scott

A congressional committee will hold a hearing on Gov. Rick Scott's showdown with the federal government over health-care funding, but that meeting could come too late to help close a potential $2.2 billion hole in the state budget.

Scott announced Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., will have the House Energy & Commerce Committee look into the governor's allegations that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to illegally coerce the state into accepting Medicaid expansion.

UF Health

On Dec. 17, almost three months before the annual legislative session began, new Senate President Andy Gardiner met with reporters in the conference room of his Capitol office. He talked with the press for 30 minutes, touching on a wide variety of issues, including a plan by business groups and others that would use Medicaid expansion dollars to help lower-income Floridians purchase private health insurance.

2bgr8 / deviantART/Wikimedia Commons

A ban on Florida judicial candidates personally raising campaign funds, which supporters said was a key element in reforming the state's court system after a series of scandals in the 1970s, was upheld Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Michael Rivera / Wikimedia Commons

 Updated 4/29 at 9:40 a.m.: 

The legislative session collapsed Tuesday amid an increasingly bitter budget fight over health-care funding, with the House abruptly adjourning and going home in a move that killed scores of bills and deepened the divide between the House and the Senate.

Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott filed suit against the federal government to try to stop the Obama administration from linking $2.2 billion in funding for health-care providers to a potential expansion of Medicaid.

Peter Haden / WJCT

The Senate unanimously approved legislation Wednesday revamping how local pensions for police officers and firefighters are funded, bringing closer to resolution a long-running debate over the retirement plans.

The bill (SB 172), which now heads to the House, cleared the upper chamber 36-0 after less than 10 minutes of debate. It relies on a deal struck between cities and unions last year &mdash one that cities have backed away from after the re-election of Gov. Rick Scott in November.

The Office of Governor Rick Scott

In a new sign of escalating tensions between state and federal officials, Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday he will sue the federal government to try to resolve a standoff over $2.2 billion in funding for hospitals and other health providers.

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