State News

Anna Hamilton

This September, St. Augustine will commemorate 450 years as the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States. Anniversary planning has been an arduous process for St. Augustine City officials — and with only six months to go, there is still much to be done.

Signs are already up in historical St. Augustine announcing the 450th commemoration. Crowds pass under them in the trolley plaza next to a big new parking garage. In anticipation of September, the city is dusting off its dancing shoes.

dads and daughter
Elvert Barnes / Flickr

Weeks after the Florida House passed a bill promoting adoption, the chamber Thursday approved a controversial measure that would allow private adoption agencies to refuse to place children with same-sex couples.

The move Thursday came after a conservative backlash about part of the first bill (HB 7013), which primarily involves providing cash incentives to state workers who adopt children in foster care. The backlash focused on a provision that would repeal a decades-old law that banned gay adoption in Florida.

Florida House of Representatives

For hours today, the Florida House of Representatives discussed a measure recognizing adoption agencies’ right to refuse prospective parents based on the agencies' religious beliefs.

Opponents of the controversial measure fear it gives agencies that use state money the license to discriminate against a host of people, including those who are gay, transgender or unmarried.

But bill sponsor, Rep. Jason Brodeur (R-Sanford), says religious freedom trumps those concerns.

David Torres / Google+

Many Duval County jail inmates live with mental illness, but the county struggles to provide enough mental-health services. That’s why local officials are hoping the state Legislature can help.  

A Jacksonville lawmaker is proposing one solution: Keep more criminals with mental illness from getting locked up in the first place.

Psychiatric nurse Lynnette Kennison remembers a particularly challenging day at the Duval County Pre-Trial Detention Center. That's the main jail in downtown Jacksonville.

Florida Water and Land Legacy / Instagram

Among the issues Florida lawmakers are wrestling with is how to spend a pot of money set aside by last year’s Water and Land Conservation Amendment. Voters passed Amendment 1 with overwhelming support after a long and expensive campaign by conservation advocates. But as the House and Senate hash out the details, those advocates are worried the Legislature is ignoring their intent.

Amendment 1 Easily Passed Into Law

defibrillator
David Bruce via Flickr

The Florida Supreme Court has sided with the family of a high-school soccer player who suffered brain damage after collapsing during a game. The Lee County family will now have the chance to seek damages from his school district.

The ruling in favor of the family overturns two lower court rulings that sided with the school district and dismissed the case.

Carleton Atwater via Flickr

A South Florida appeals court Monday heard arguments in a challenge to the constitutionality of the state's workers-compensation insurance system --- as two other closely watched challenges also await rulings at the Florida Supreme Court.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal took up a case in which a Miami-Dade County circuit judge ruled last year that a key underpinning of workers-compensation laws was unconstitutional. That underpinning involves cases being handled through the workers-compensation insurance system instead of through civil lawsuits.

Daniel Lobo / Flickr

With the state's unemployment rate holding steady as Gov. Rick Scott's second term got underway, he focused Tuesday on private-sector job growth since he first took office.

The jobless rate stood at 5.7 percent in January, equaling a revised unemployment mark for December, the state Department of Economic Opportunity said Tuesday.

The December figure had initially been posted at 5.6 percent. The national unemployment rate stands at 5.5 percent.

The January figure represents approximately 551,000 Floridians qualifying as unemployed from a work force of 9.7 million.

Daniel Lobo via Flickr

After spending at least $300,000 of taxpayer money on legal expenses, Gov. Rick Scott is abandoning his fight to force welfare applicants to undergo mandatory drug tests.

A federal appeals court ruled in December that the state's mandatory, suspicion-less drug testing of applicants in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program is an unconstitutional violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

Florida Supreme Court

The Florida Supreme Court should order a third draft of the state's congressional districts to fully eliminate illegal gerrymandering, attorneys for groups that have challenged the map argued Wednesday.

But lawyers for the Legislature said Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis acted appropriately last year when he upheld lawmakers' second version of the map, drawn after Lewis found that political consultants managed to "taint the redistricting process and the resulting map with improper partisan intent" the first time around.

Clyde and Corrita Warner came to St. Augustine on vacation from Louisville, Ky. They know their history.

"Well, I knew that this started before the Pilgrims landed and before Jamestown," says Corrita. "You know, this area was first."

St. Augustine treasures being the first — and oldest — city in the United States. So when the area around Jamestown, Va., adopted the title "America's First Region" a while back, the gloves came off.

headshot
Florida Senate

A Fernandina Beach lawmaker is pushing for even more state funding to promote medical tourism. Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) wants the Sunshine State to better compete with other doctor-heavy destinations.

baby's shoulder
Lisa Williams via Flickr

Blaming a budget shortfall, the Florida Department of Health has laid off most of the administrators at the Early Steps program, which serves babies and toddlers with developmental disabilities and delays.

The department said the cuts won't affect services to families. But critics of the move say it will leave the program --- which gets the majority of its funding from the federal government --- unable to meet requirements that keep the money flowing.

The workers received letters of termination Thursday, advising that their last day would be March 2.

JAXPORT / Flickr

The top lobbying group for Florida's seaports wants the state to establish a marketing campaign to help lure cargo-shipping companies from major ports in other areas of the country.

A study released this week by the Florida Ports Council calls for lawmakers to create an advertising effort to entice shipping firms to move cargo through the Sunshine State rather than ports in Savannah, Houston, New York or even Los Angeles.

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.

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