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Kristen M. Clark, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Kristen M. Clark

Kristen Clark covers the Florida Legislature and state government in the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau. A Michigan State graduate, Kristen previously covered community news for the Palm Beach Post, Michigan state government for the Lansing State Journal and local and federal politics for the Forum in Fargo, N.D. She is married to Ryan S. Clark, a sports journalist who covers Florida State athletics for Warchant.com.

Email: kclark@miamiherald.com

Twitter: @ByKristenMClark

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  1. Should Capitol's Confederate monument be removed? Scott won't say.

    Blog

    Florida’s Republican governor won’t take a position on what should be done with a monument that honors slain Confederate soldiers on the state Capitol grounds, even as a growing number of elected leaders around the country take steps to remove such monuments after last weekend’s violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va.

    Rather than lead on the issue, Rick Scott is deferring to state lawmakers and has remained silent on whether such monuments in Florida — and particularly the one at the Capitol — should be taken down....

    Gov. Rick Scott won't offer an opinion on whether a Confederate monument should be moved from the state Capitol Complex in Tallahassee.
  2. Dem lawmaker also wants special session on Confederate statue. (Scott already rejected idea)

    Blog

    Echoing a request from U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz two days ago, a Democratic lawmaker in Palm Beach County sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday asking for a special session so the Legislature can select a replacement for the statue of a Confederate general that represents Florida in the U.S. Capitol....

    State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana
  3. Florida debates: Should a Confederate monument at the state Capitol be removed?

    Blog

    A monument honoring slain Confederate soldiers in front of Florida’s Old Capitol is the latest subject of debate by politicians seeking to act against racism in response to a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.

    Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Florida’s capital city and a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, called on Gov. Rick Scott to remove the monument from the Capitol grounds, where similar memorials honor Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., veterans and firefighters, among others....

    A monument honoring slain Confederate soldiers stands on the grounds of the state Capitol Complex in Tallahassee. Some politicians want the monument removed in the wake of the violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, on Aug. 11-12.
  4. Worried about vandalism, police are watching a Confederate monument at Florida's Capitol

    Blog

    After violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend prompted a national conversation about public symbols of the Confederacy, law enforcement in charge of the Florida Capitol took preventative steps to watch over one very prominent symbol right in downtown Tallahassee.

    A monument honoring slain Confederate soldiers — described as a “Civil War marble obelisk” by the state Department of Management Services, which oversees the Capitol Complex — sits in a lawn in front of the Old Capitol along Monroe Street, a main thoroughfare in Florida's capital city....

    An unmanned patrol car from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sits parked near a monument honoring slain Confederate soldiers at the state Capitol Complex in Tallahassee on Wednesday afternoon.
  5. Wasserman Schultz wants special legislative session to remove Confederate statue

    Blog

    Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants the Florida Legislature to convene a special session to vote on removing a confederate statue from the U.S. Capitol.

    “While the events in Charlottesville represent our nation’s original sin, we know these hateful acts do not define who we are as a country," the South Florida Democrat said in statement Tuesday. "We must denounce white supremacy and domestic terrorism and stand up for love and compassion – not just with our words, but with our deeds....

    The statue of Edmund Kirby Smith was given to the National Statuary Hall Collection by Florida in 1922
  6. State: Each school district must review teachers' eligibility for 'Best & Brightest' bonuses

    Blog

    The Florida Department of Education says it will be up to each of the state's 67 county school districts to determine which of their local teachers is eligible for the state "Best and Brightest" bonus program that lawmakers revamped as part of a massive education law that took effect this summer.

    Hershel Lyons, Florida's chancellor of public schools, issued guidance to school district superintendents through a two-page memo last week that details how the revised and expanded program should be implemented. It's the latest in a trickle of memos from the DOE that explain how school districts should make sure they comply with the plethora of new education policy in House Bill 7069....

    By Dec. 1, each school district must tell the state Department of Education how many classroom teachers they have eligible for the "Best and Brightest" bonuses.
  7. 'Courthouse carry' bill proposed again for 2018

    Blog

    Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube is reviving one of the less controversial of his gun bills from last session, which would let concealed-weapons permit-holders carry their firearms into Florida courthouses and store the weapons temporarily with building security.

    Steube on Thursday filed a bill for the 2018 session (SB 134) that puts that same proposal back on the table. It has a viable chance, if this spring was any indication....

    The First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee
  8. Special election dates set for Hillsborough state House seat

    Blog

    With Plant City Republican state Rep. Dan Raulerson stepping down this month, Gov. Rick Scott has decided voters in Hillsborough County should select their next state representative in time for he or she to take office before the 2018 session begins in January.

    Scott signed an executive order Tuesday that sets the special election dates for Raulerson's District 58 seat. The special primary election will be held Oct. 10, with the special general election happening Dec. 19....

    State Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City
  9. Scott declares emergency - including in Tampa Bay - because of Tropical Storm Emily

    Blog

    With Tropical Storm Emily bearing down on Florida's west-central coast, Gov. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency in 31 counties late Monday morning.

    The affected counties include those in the Tampa Bay area, such as Hillsborough and Pinellas counties which are among those under a tropical storm warning. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties are also covered by the emergency declaration, although they aren't forecast to be in the direct path of the storm. Read the declaration here....

    Gov. Rick Scott
  10. Miami-Dade schools will weigh joining HB 7069 lawsuit during Wednesday workshop

    Blog

    Miami-Dade Public Schools could decide as soon as Wednesday whether to join Broward County and other school districts in challenging the constitutionality of a sweeping K-12 education reform law that took effect this month.

    Miami-Dade School Board members are holding a workshop to discuss their legal options when it comes to House Bill 7069 — but it’s evident by legal counsel they’ve already received which avenue they’re most likely to pursue: Suing the state....

    Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho (center) and Miami-Dade School Board members will gather for a workshop Wednesday to weigh the district’s legal options in response to House Bill 7069, which could include joining the effort of other districts in suing the state.
  11. Florida taxpayers will shoulder $1.1M in legal fees in state's defense of 'Docs vs. Glocks'

    Blog

    From Jim Saunders at the News Service of Florida:

    Florida will pay $1.1 million in legal fees to attorneys who challenged a controversial state law that sought to prevent doctors from asking patients about guns, a group representing opponents said Monday.

    The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence announced the legal-fees agreement more than five months after a federal appeals court sided with doctors and medical groups in striking down key parts of the 2011 law --- which became known as the “docs vs. glocks” law. The state did not appeal the Feb. 16decision by the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    A copy of the legal-fees agreement had not been posted in an online court file Monday morning. But documents indicate the state and the law's opponents had been in mediation on the fees.

    The law, which was backed by groups such as the National Rifle Association, included a series of restrictions on doctors and health providers. For example, it sought to prevent physicians from entering information about gun ownership into medical records if the physicians knew the information was not "relevant" to patients' medical care or safety or to the safety of other people.

    Also, the law said doctors should refrain from asking about gun ownership by patients or family members unless the doctors believed in "good faith" that the information was relevant to medical care or safety. Also, the law sought to prevent doctors from discriminating against patients or "harassing" them because of owning firearms.

    Opponents argued, in part, that the law violated free-speech rights. The full appeals court found that the record-keeping, inquiry and anti-harassment parts of the law were unconstitutional, but upheld the portion of the law that bars doctors from discriminating against patients who have guns.

    “Legislators across the country should learn from Florida's example that if you side with the corporate gun lobby instead of your constituents, you endanger the safety of children and families, impinge upon First Amendment rights of doctors, and force taxpayers to pay millions to unsuccessfully defend unconstitutional laws,” Jonathan Lowy, director of the Brady Center's Legal Action Project and an attorney in the case, said in a prepared statement Monday. “Thankfully, in this case justice prevailed and the court recognized that doctors have a First Amendment right to tell the truth about guns, and the risks they can pose to children and families.”

    When asked for comment Monday about the legal fees, John Tupps, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, said in an email that Scott signed the 2011 law after it “was approved by a large, bipartisan majority in the Florida Legislature.”

    “Governor Scott is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment,” Tupps said. “Much of this law was either never challenged or upheld in court. This (legal fees) settlement is in accordance with Florida law and a recommendation from the Department of Financial Services.”

    The challenge to the law was filed in June 2011 and played out over nearly six years. A U.S. District Court judge blocked the law from taking effect, but a three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld the law in three rulings before the full appeals court agreed to take up the case.

    Supporters of the law said it was necessary to prevent doctors, such as pediatricians, from harassing and discriminating against patients and parents about gun ownership. The also described the law, formally known as the Firearm Owners' Privacy Act, as a Second Amendment issue.

    But Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, an attorney with the firm Ropes & Gray, who argued the case for the plaintiffs, said in a prepared statement Monday that the case allows doctors to “go back to giving their best advice to patients when it comes to gun safety.”

    “From day one in bringing this case, our commitment has been to protect doctors' First Amendment rights to ensure the safety of individuals, families and communities in Florida,” Hallward-Driemeier said. “The successful resolution of the litigation and subsequent fees and costs award are both critical to furthering that goal.”...

  12. Lacking key DOE guidance, Florida schools try to adopt statewide reforms in HB 7069

    Blog

    Every year, new state laws hit the books that have to be implemented once they take effect. But House Bill 7069 isn’t your average new law.

    The sweeping, 274-page, $419 million measure that reforms Florida’s public K-12 schools spans dozens of changes in statute — some of which are complex and take effect at different times over the course of the next few years....

  13. Gov. Scott vetoed a higher ed bill. Now he wants universities to spend their money wisely.

    Blog

    When Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a major higher education reform bill last month, it didn’t strip away millions of dollars for Florida’s public universities that was already approved separately in the state budget but linked to that proposed policy....

    Gov. Rick Scott
  14. FLDOE releases guidance on 'Schools of Hope,' new school improvement rules

    Blog

    More than two dozen low-performing traditional public schools in Tampa Bay -- and nine in Miami-Dade and Broward counties  -- can apply for extra funding this school year under the controversial new “Schools of Hope” program that lawmakers narrowly approved this spring....

  15. Florida gets another 60 days to prove why an abortion waiting period is needed

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Attorney General Pam Bondi's Office has 60 more days to gather evidence and testimony to defend a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for abortions, which lawmakers enacted in 2015 but blocked from taking effect amid a two-year legal battle.

    In granting the state extra time, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Wednesday also chided Deputy Solicitor General Denise Harle for not already being prepared to make her case....

    Florida Circuit Judge Terry Lewis.