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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


Twitter: @ByKristenMClark

  1. Slavery memorial wins support as Confederacy debate rages

    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....

    "This particular monument has garnered the support of everyone - the only people who I feel are going to be against this are individuals that haven't particularly sat down and come to grips with the reality that we have moved forward in a bipartisan way and the times that we've seen in the past where folk wanted to divide us based upon class and culture, those days are completely over," said Rep. Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, who's poised to be the House Democratic leader after the 2018 elections.
  2. Florida schools will take Puerto Rico students. But who will pay?

    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....

    A row of school buses lines the parking lot of the Hernando County Schools Transportation Center in Spring Hill in July. 

 [CHARLIE KAIJO | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Florida Virtual School available to 20,000 Puerto Rican students, Gov. Scott says


    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."...

    Francisco Martinez, 9, a student at the public school Jose Facundo Cintron, waits in line Sunday to get gasoline with his family in the town of Yabucoa after Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico on September 20.
  4. State lawmakers want flexibility for Florida schools to take in displaced Puerto Ricans

    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....

    People line up to get on a Royal Caribbean International, Adventure of the Seas, relief boat that is sailing to Ft. Lauderdale with evacuees that are fleeing after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria on Sept. 28 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Florida lawmakers asked Education Commissioner Pam Steward on Monday to ensure that schools would received additional funding to absorb the anticipated new students.  [JOE READLE | Getty Images]
  5. Stage is set for a big court battle over Florida's funding of charter schools


    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....

    Kindergarten students, shown here in May 2016, make their way back to class after lunch at Kid's Community College, a charter school in Riverview. The state's funding of charters will be the focus of a lawsuit filed this week by the Palm Beach County School Board. Another lawsuit involving more than a dozen other Florida counties, which includes Pinellas, is expected to be filed soon. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  6. Florida Supreme Court denies death row inmate's appeal


    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....

    Convicted killer Michael Lambrix is interviewed at the Florida State Prison in Raiford on March 2, 2016. In 1984 Lambrix was sentenced to death for the murders of Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore Jr. in rural Glades county. He was scheduled to die in February 2016 but his execution was put on hold after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Florida's death penalty system is unconstitutional. On Friday, the Florida Supreme Court said it would not reconsider Lambrix's case. [Times (2016)]
  7. No early release for deaf Tampa inmate convicted of 1981 murder


    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....

  8. Reload your SunPass account. Roadway tolls return Thursday.

    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. ...

    With a push by the Florida Turpike to encourage more drivers traveling the Veterans and Suncoast Parkway to buy a Sunpass, motorists will begin to see more lanes converted to handle Sunpass. [Tampa Bay Times]
  9. I-75 will remain open as flood waters recede

    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....

     The Santa Fe River spills onto the roadway of I 75 near O'Leno State Park in High Springs, FL just north of the CR 236 exit on Wednesday. [CHERIE DIEZ | Tampa Bay Times]
  10. Irma traffic: Flooding could close I-75


    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....

    On Wednesday, southbound traffic on Interstate 75 continued to crawl along as those who had fled north in anticipation of Hurricane Irma set out to return to their homes.
  11. Coming home after evacuating Irma? Here's what to expect on the roads.

    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....

    Heavy westbound traffic comes to a stop on Interstate 4 near the Celebration exit Monday in Lake Buena Vista as Florida residents make their way back home after evacuating from Hurricane Irma.
  12. Irma forces largest evacuation of prisoners in Florida history

    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....

    Corrections Secretary Julie Jones explained arrangements to keep thousands of state inmates and prison staff safe.
  13. Roads jammed as Hurricane Irma evacuation continues

    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....

    Scene on Thursday just south of Valdosta, Ga. Traffic flow 0-25 mph. [JEN JANECEK | Special to the Times]
  14. Florida schools compete for $51.5 million in Schools of Hope money

    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.)...

    Chamberlain High School is one of  three Hillsborough County schools applying for "Schools of Hope" money, a controversial program that state lawmakers passed this spring. [OCTAVIO JONES | Tampa Bay Times]
  15. Betsy Devos will be in Tallahassee today


    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....