10/11/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — State House members wasted no time this week in reviving a proposal for a Florida slavery memorial near the Capitol, an idea that stalled at the end of the 2017 session last spring.
Now several months later, the proposal — sponsored by Miami Democratic Rep. Kionne McGhee — takes on new meaning against a backdrop of the growing racial divide across America and of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., during the summer over the removal of a Confederate statue there....
10/06/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Families from Puerto Rico who were displaced by Hurricane Maria won't have to worry about having transcripts or immunization records if they enroll their children in Florida's public schools this month, state education officials announced Friday.
But for county school districts, there's no guarantee the state will provide financial help to cover the costs of all those additional students....
Florida Virtual School - the state's official provider of online-only learning - plans to accept 20,000 students from Puerto Rico who have been displaced by Hurricane Maria.
The resource is available to those students regardless of whether they're still in Puerto Rico or have since relocated to Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said in an announcement Thursday.
"Families in Puerto Rico have experienced extreme devastation of their homes and communities due to Hurricane Maria. As they work to rebuild their lives, these families should not have to worry about their children falling behind in school," Scott said, touting that Florida's public schools "offer a world-class education."...
10/02/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — As Florida communities prepare to take in Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria, five lawmakers are asking the state's top education official to grant flexibility to public schools so they can accommodate additional students in the coming months.
In a letter to state Education Commissioner Pam Stewart on Monday, the lawmakers formally asked the state to ensure schools receive additional funding that will be crucial to cover the uptick in student enrollment that wasn't anticipated when the Legislature approved this year's school spending in June....
TALLAHASSEE — The legal war has officially begun over a highly controversial, charter school-friendly education law Republican state lawmakers pushed through last spring.
Palm Beach County School Board members filed a lawsuit this week challenging the constitutionality of one part of House Bill 7069. Another, potentially more far-reaching lawsuit with the backing of at least 14 other school districts — including Pinellas County — is still expected in the weeks ahead....
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court on Friday said it won't reconsider the case of a longtime Death Row inmate who is scheduled to be put to death next week.
The ruling means the execution of convicted double-murderer Michael Lambrix will, for now, take place as planned at 6 p.m. Oct. 5.
Lambrix had filed another challenge to his death sentences — his eighth successive post-conviction motion, the court said — on the basis of recent changes to Florida's death-penalty sentencing procedures, which were prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case known as Hurst vs. Florida....
TALLAHASSEE — A deaf man from Tampa who was convicted of murder more than three decades ago will continue serving life in prison after state parole commissioners agreed Wednesday to make no changes to his sentence but to reconsider his request for early release again in 2020.
The earliest Felix Garcia could be released from prison is still Aug. 10, 2025, but his legal team continues to seek an earlier date....
09/19/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Florida residents will no longer get a free pass traversing most stretches of the Florida Turnpike or certain local expressways across the state.
The Florida Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that starting at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, tolls on a vast majority of Florida's Turnpike system, all state roads and bridges, and all regional toll facilities will be re-instated. ...
09/14/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Floridians still trying to drive home after Hurricane Irma were met with welcome news Thursday morning: Interstate 75 through north-central Florida would not close after all.
A 36-mile stretch of the north-south thoroughfare was under threat of being shut down because of the flooded Sante Fe River, which rose rapidly after historic-level flooding struck Jacksonville on Monday. The river's rise to unprecedented levels was concerning enough that the Florida Department of Transportation had alerted residents Wednesday morning of the potential interstate closure....
TALLAHASSEE — A rapidly rising river — caused by the historic flooding that Jacksonville saw Monday — threatens to force 36 miles of Interstate 75 to completely shut down in north-central Florida, from Interstate 10 in Lake City south to U.S. 441 in Alachua.
The swelling Santa Fe River, which closed two nearby highways late Wednesday, was the latest headache for motorists traveling back south after evacuating because of Hurricane Irma....
09/12/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — If you chose to drive back home Tuesday after evacuating from Irma, you were among thousands of others who faced a frustrating and long trip.
Traffic jams had already formed by mid-morning and continued throughout the day in Florida and southern Georgia, as millions of evacuated residents flooded back into and through the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
Many drivers confronted gridlock, lengthy delays and uncertainty in knowing where the next gas station with fuel might be....
09/07/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — The biggest storm on record has forced Florida prison officials to conduct the largest evacuation of prisoners in state history.
More than 7,000 inmates from work camps and community release centers in south and central Florida are begin evacuated from wind and flood-prone areas to more secure facilities across the state, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones told reporters Thursday....
09/07/17 State Roundup
The Florida Turnpike, Interstate 95 and Interstate 75 became increasingly clogged with traffic — with tens of thousands of Miami-Dade and Monroe County residents under evacuation orders and thousands more people across the state fleeing in anticipation of the category 5 storm's arrival this weekend.
Traffic woes escalated into central and northern Florida, as the crowds moved northward and as the day wore on....
09/05/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — Call it the "Schools of Hope" Sweepstakes.
When state lawmakers passed House Bill 7069 this spring, they enacted a program allowing failing traditional schools to apply for up to $2,000 per student.
Across the state, 57 of 93 failing schools applied for the money. But lawmakers capped the aid so that only 25 schools can get it at any given time.
As a result, the maximum amount that can be distributed this fall to the schools is $51.5 million, about 37 percent of the $140 million allocated for "Schools of Hope." (At most around 26,000 students statewide could benefit from the money, although tens of thousands more remain in failing schools.)...
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a controversial champion of school choice, is making another trip to the Sunshine State with plans to visit two schools in the state capital on Tuesday, one public and one private.
DeVos will spend the morning at Holy Comforter Episcopal School, a private Christian school that opened in 1955, before visiting Florida State University High School, an “A”-rated public charter school that’s known as “Florida High” and is affiliated with FSU’s College of Education....