Sunday, September 30, 2018

State News in Review - September 2018

The highlights of state news in September were the choice of running mates by gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum, the refiling by the Florida League of Women Voters of their challenge to Gov. Rick Scott’s intent to appoint state Supreme Court justices before he leaves office in January, and Supreme Court rulings on some but not all of the challenges to the amendments put on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission. I’ll begin with those, and then share a few other stories relevant to Florida voters.

The running mates
  • Republican Ron DeSantis chooses state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez as his running mate. Nuñez, a Cuban-American from Miami, is a hit with Florida’s Republican Party — but isn’t exactly a conventional pick. WFSU.org, 9/6/18
  • Democrat Andrew Gillum’s unconventional pick for Lieutenant Governor. Evangelicalism might have held Chris King back in the Democratic primary, but in a statewide general election, his ties to the Christian community could be an asset. The New Republic, 9/11/18

The upcoming battle over Supreme Court appointments

The three upcoming vacancies on the court have the potential to transform its ideological makeup.
  • Rick Scott asks for Supreme Court candidates, though it’s unclear if he’ll get to nominate any of them. Florida Phoenix, 9/12/18
  • Lawsuit filed (again) over Gov. Scott appointing justices to state supreme court. Tampa Bay Times, 9/20/19
  • Florida governor urges: Throw out lawsuit over new justices. Palm Beach Post, 9/26/18
  • Opinion: Florida Supreme Court’s future part of the governor race. By Randy Schultz, Boca Raton, via Sun-Sentinel, 9/11/18

The amendments

As I reviewed last month, several proposed constitutional amendments headed to Florida voters’ November ballot have been challenged in court. In September, some but not all of the challenges were settled. Specifically, the Supreme Court:

Approved Amendment 6, known as “Marsy’s Law,” that would create a series of constitutional rights for crime victims and would also increase the retirement age for judges.
  • Victims’ rights amendment will appear on ballot, justices rule. The ACLU of Florida and others claimed the amendment would expand victims’ rights at the expense of criminal defendants, and that the ballot language did not make that clear. Florida Politics, 9/7/18
Rejected Amendment 8, that would have imposed term limits on school board members, required civic literacy to be taught in schools and taken away the exclusive power of local school boards to oversee charter schools.
  • Florida Supreme Court strikes Amendment 8 from November ballot. By a 4-3 decision, the Court found that the amendment misled voters by not clearly stating its true purpose and never mentioning charter schools by name. Tampa Bay Times, 9/7/18
  • Erika Donalds: Roadblocks re-energize reformers. “The devastating 4-3 Supreme Court decision to remove Amendment 8 from the ballot was a loss not just for so many students in desperate need of education reform, but for millions of voters who are now susceptible to disenfranchisement anytime an activist group pushes and funds its agenda.” By Constitution Revision Commissioner Erika Donalds, the main sponsor of Amendment 8, via Florida Politics, 9/17/18
  • Patricia Brigham: League of Women Voters makes no apologies for exposing deception. Erika Donalds claimed the League, the plaintiff in the suit, was “disenfranchising” voters, but “non-transparency and sneaky omissions in ballot language are actually a better description of ‘disenfranchisement’.” By Patricia Brigham, President - League of Women Voters of Florida, via Florida Politics, 9/18/17
Approved Amendment 10, that would require all local constitutional officers, including sheriffs, to be elected, and would remove the ability of charter counties to modify those offices.
  • Amendment 10 OK’d for ballot by Supreme Court. The Court said the “summary tells voters that the amendment would ‘ensure’ election of constitutional officers in all counties, and provides that county charters may not allow for their selection by an alternative method. It is therefore unnecessary to explain the obvious result — that voters would not be able to eliminate election of the officers by charter or special law.”
Cleared Amendment 13, that would ban commercial greyhound racing.
  • Supreme Court clears dog racing-ban for ballot. It ruled that the ballot text itself does not “mislead voters about the effects Amendment 13 would have on other forms of gaming” – that is, none – because “a reasonable voter would understand” that other kinds of gambling like cards and slots “will continue without material change.” Florida Politics, 9/7/18

The challenge to three other bundled amendments — 7 (first responder and military survivor benefits), 9 (offshore oil drilling and vaping) and 11 (real property rights and effect of amendments to criminal statutes) — has not yet been addressed, even though ballots have been finalized. But if the Court decides they are unconstitutional, any votes for them won’t have any effect.
  • What’s up with Amendments 7, 9 and 11 — and 6, 8 and 10? The fate of three constitutional amendments is still hanging in the balance about six weeks from election day, and another three may suddenly be in a quandary. Florida Phoenix, 9/21/18

Our tax dollars
  • Florida’s next governor may have budget surplus to work with. The three-year forecast predicts a relatively small surplus of about $223 million. The state’s overall budget, which includes billions in federal grants, is slightly under $90 billion. Associated Press via Naples Daily News, 9/9/18
  • State finance problems and threats to tourism loom as next governor comes into office. An analysis projects that hundreds of millions of dollars now reserved in state trust funds will be redirected from their intended purpose and instead used to balance the budget for the next three fiscal years. Florida Phoenix, 9/13/18
  • ‘True cost of government’ has state $11.6 billion in the red. Florida scored in the lowest dozen states because, like many, it defers paying down pension debts year after year while only budgeting the bare minimum annually to fund the plan. Florida Watchdog, 9/24/18
  • What are your tax dollars paying for at women’s “crisis pregnancy centers”? Advocates for women’s health are demanding more oversight from the state Department of Health to ensure that the publicly-funded centers aren’t pushing a religious agenda or shaming women into making decisions about their bodies. Florida Phoenix, 9/6/18

Red tide and blue-green algae
  • State directs funds to Mote Laboratory for red tide research. Nearly a year into the current red tide outbreak in Southwest Florida, the state is directing more than $2 million to test innovative technologies to quell the effects of the deadly algae. Herald-Tribune, 9/24/18
  • Algae crisis task force proposed — again. Gov. Scott said he wants the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and others to develop a red tide research center, and for the state to again fund a task force aimed at studying causes and impacts of harmful algal blooms like red tide and blue-green algae. Naples Daily News, 9/25/18

Education
  • More Florida counties are voting to raise local taxes for schools. Is it a message to lawmakers? Education leaders trace the financial strain to events that go back decades, some triggered by progressive Democrats. Tampa Bay Times, 9/10/18
  • State Board of Education backs $673 million boost in public school funding. The budget request includes an increase in per-student funding from $7,407 to $7,607. News Service of Florida via DailyCommercial.com, 9/14/18
  • Integrity Florida study looks at political influence, growth of charter schools. It asserts charters have strayed from the initial purpose they were meant to serve and notes that increasingly they are managed by for-profit companies.WGCU.org, 9/17/18. Report here.
  • Analysis: Florida is the fifth-worst state to be a teacher. Florida teachers were paid on average less than teachers in 45 other states, when cost of living was taken into account, and ranked 41st for public-school spending per student. Herald-Tribune, 9/24/18
  • Florida wins approval for its federal accountability plan. State Education Secretary Pam Stewart long resisted some of the Every Student Succeeds Act provisions, particularly in relation to assessment of English language learners and the math testing of advanced middle school students. Tampa Bay Times, 9/27/18
  • Florida legislators reject Gov. Scott on school security. Despite repeated requests, state Sen. Bill Galvano, the incoming Senate president, officially refused to steer $58 million to school districts to help them hire more campus police officers. Associated Press via Naples Daily News, 9/9/18
  • Related Editorial: Gov. Scott got school resource officer money shift right. Naples Daily News, 9/25/18

Other state news
  • When top NRA lobbyist emails Florida government officials, they jump. While most states have a law enforcement agency manage concealed weapons licenses, Florida lets the Department of Agriculture oversee the program. Marion Hammer takes credit for setting it up that way. Miami-Herald, 9/21/18
  • Feds launch audit of Keys debris contracts. One year after Gov. Scott responded to the devastation of Hurricane Irma by ignoring the debris removal contracts already in place and opting instead to hire more expensive companies to do the work, the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security is launching an investigation into what happened. CBS Miami, 9/23/18

That’s it for September top stories about state government. My next post will summarize local news of note.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Get Ready to Vote in the November Elections

Election Day - November 6
November 6, Election Day, is just 50 days away! Vote-by-mail ballots will go out to Collier voters who requested them beginning October 2, and early voting begins on October 25. We’ve just been through the primaries so we know the drill. But it’s time to get ready once again.

As I’ve done in the past, I’ll research the candidates and issues, and share what I learn in a series of “Get Ready to Vote” posts. Just before the start of early voting, I’ll share how I’ll vote, and why. This is the first in that series, and I'll start with the basics.

What will be on the ballot?

The Collier Supervisor of Elections and Florida Division of Elections websites tell us which offices will be on the ballot. Those listed below with an asterisk will on the ballot only of those who live in the districts; the rest will be on the ballot of all Collier voters.

Federal
  • U.S. Senate
  • U.S. House of Representatives* (Districts 19 and 25)

State
  • Governor
  • Attorney General
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Commissioner of Agriculture
  • State Senate (District 28)
  • State House (Districts 80, 105, 106)*
  • State Attorney, 20th Circuit
  • Supreme Court (1 justice)
  • 2nd District Court of Appeal (4 judges)

Local
  • County Commission* (District 4)
  • Collier Mosquito Control District (2 seats)
  • Greater Naples Fire & Rescue District* (2 seats)
  • North Collier Fire & Rescue District* (3 seats)
  • County Court (1 judge)

Municipal
  • City of Marco Island City Council* (3 seats)


Things to do right now

  • Request a vote-by-mail (VBM) ballot. This will be a very lengthy and complicated ballot, and it will take time and care to complete it fully and correctly. Why not do as I do, and request a VBM ballot to complete at home, whether you'll be out of town or not?  
  • Check the status of your VBM ballot. If you’ve already requested one, make sure the Supervisor of Elections has the request, and the correct address to send it to. The postal service will not forward your vote-by-mail ballot, even if you’ve arranged for mail forwarding. You MUST give the Supervisor of Elections the address to which your ballot should be mailed. 
  • Review your voter registration; make needed changes. Make sure the Supervisor of Elections has your current address, and confirm exactly how you signed your name (e.g. with or without middle initial).
  • Update your signature. According to the Supervisor of Elections website, “When voting in person, by provisional ballot, or by Vote-by-Mail ballot, Florida election law requires each voter to sign a Voter’s Certificate. While an exact match of a voter’s signature is not required, the signature must reasonably match the signature of record. All voters should consider periodically updating their signature on file with our office.” Better safe than sorry. Learn how here.
All the above can be done online or by phone (239–252-VOTE) (8683). In addition:
  • Attend information sessions and forums. Put dates of upcoming information sessions and candidate forums on your calendar, and plan to attend. Check the Dates & Events tab on my website for presentations I will be giving about the candidates and ballot questions to various community groups. Also listed, sponsored by other organizations, are sales surtax and constitutional amendment information sessions and forums for candidates running for the U.S. Senate, Florida House and Senate, and the fire districts.
  • Seek out opportunities to meet candidates for whom forums are not being held. As of now, there are very few scheduled debates between candidates for the offices on our ballots, which is truly unfortunate. All candidates should be willing to meet with voters if asked. Contact them through their campaign offices and request meetings.

That’s it for now. I look forward to becoming a more informed voter and sharing what I learn. It’s in all of our best interests to participate in an informed way in the election process and to take full advantage of our right to vote. After all -- democracy is not a spectator sport!



Monday, September 3, 2018

Local News in Review - August 2018

While most of August’s local news was about the primary elections, there were other hot topics as well: the proposed stormwater utility fee for residents of unincorporated Collier County, and the new safety measures put in place at Collier County Public Schools in the wake of the Parkland and other mass school shootings. I’ll begin with these two issues, then share other news local residents should know.

But first, a clarification about terminology I used in my Recap and reflections on the August primaries. In reporting voter participation in various ballot questions, I used the terms “closed to Republicans” and “closed to Democrats” without defining them. A race that is “closed to Republicans” is a closed primary in which only Republicans can vote. A race that is “closed to Democrats” is one in which only Democrats can vote. Thank you to the readers who alerted me so I could explain.

Proposed stormwater utility fee


County commissioners will vote on a proposed new fee following a final Public Hearing this Thursday, September 6, beginning at 5:05 PM in Commission Chambers (directions). Click here for the meeting agenda and related materials.

Learn more, including the proposed fee to be charged for your property, at collierstormwater.com.
  • Brent Batten: Stormwater fee brings flash flood of opposition from Golden Gate Estates. An oft-voiced complaint is that people weren’t adequately notified about the fee. They also fault the methodology that counts gravel and shell driveways the same as paved areas, and point out that the plan does not give credit for the fact that large lots tend to absorb water before it runs off into the county drainage system. Naples Daily News, 8/23/18
  • Brent Batten: Stormwater tax passes easily — in Texas. In Collier, maybe not so much. Some residents of Collier County are finding that the stormwater fee, while technically not a tax, would increase the amount they pay to the county annually by 10 percent or more. Bill McDaniel is the only one of the five Collier County commissioners who has not gone along with the stormwater fee so far. Naples Daily News, 8/28/18
  • Brent Batten: Add a stormwater fee in Collier? What a difference a year makes. A year ago, Hurricane Harvey dumped up to 18 inches of rain on parts of Southwest Florida, filling swales and flooding low-lying streets. An already taxed drainage system was unable to shunt the water along, creating a backlog that lingered for weeks. Naples Daily News, 8/25/18

New school safety measures at Collier County Public Schools


  • New focus on mental health at CCPS after year tainted by Parkland, Irma. More than $1 million will be spent to add seven school psychologists and eight social workers to the district’s mental health staff, for a total of 31 psychologists and 16 social workers. Some mental health employees will receive school crisis intervention and trauma care training, at a total cost of $25,000, and teachers will receive training in suicide prevention and youth mental health assistance. Naples Daily News, 8/13/18
  • Collier Schools’ doors will be locked for safety. As of August 10, the front doors at all 50 CCPS campuses were locked and visitors must show a valid photo ID in order to enter. CCPS, 8/8/18
  • Collier, Lee school districts ban backpacks at sports events. Collier School Board member Erick Carter said, “I welcome feedback from parents as to what their thoughts are." Naples Daily News, 8/29/18
  • Florida law requiring schools inquire about students' mental health raises privacy concerns. The law, passed in the wake of the mass shooting on Feb. 14, does not explain or detail what mental health services parents should report on new student registration forms. Naples Daily News, 8/22/18
  • For more about CCPS safety programs, visit the District’s Keep Collier Safe website here.

www.collierschools.com

Other County news


  • With new hospitals proposed for SW Florida, state hearings on need set for January. Ave Maria-based Braden Clinic was given preliminary approval to build a 25-bed hospital at its clinic site. At stake is a shake-up of patient market share that has been the status quo for many years. Naples Daily News, 8/10/18
  • Scammers trick Collier Mosquito Control District out of almost $100,000. CMCD staff is trained on cybersecurity issues, and they followed correct procedures. They were also insured for the loss, so the money has already been replaced. Naples Daily News, 8/10/18
  • Michael Reagen appointed to vacant seat on Collier Mosquito Control District Board of Commissioners. The seat was vacated earlier this year when David Chapman resigned from the elected position. Reagen will serve the District’s Seat 5 position through December 2020. CMCD News Release, 8/15/18
  • Controversial fire fee draws more candidates to North Collier Fire District races. Often, fire board members run unopposed or have only one opponent, but the fire fee referendum has spurred more competition in the November races. Naples Daily News, 8/18/18
  • At red tide forum, scientists tried to answer residents' questions. More than 300 people attended a Public Information Meeting hosted by Commissioner Penny Taylor and the County. Naples Daily News, 8/30/18; recording here; materials here

City of Naples


  • Ethics Naples: Commentary: Unjust criticism of Naples mayor, attorney, council by Naples Daily News. There’s a difference between the Ethics Naples’ executive director’s “right” to speak as an individual and his “responsibility” as an appointed member of a city advisory board. By Bill Barnett, Naples mayor, via Naples Daily News, 8/11/18
  • Ethics Naples: Judge says council has right to question ethics referendum's legality. Judge Hayes is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks regarding the referendum’s legality. Naples Daily News, 8/21/18
  • Naples council selects six finalists to interview for city manager job. A tour, public reception and formal interviews are scheduled. The council is expected to make a decision Sept. 14. Naples Daily News, 8/15/18
  • New traffic control system aims to make driving in Naples less of a headache. City council agreed to spend nearly $58,000 on software, training and license to operate the 20 new traffic signal controllers received from the Florida Department of Transportation. Naples Daily News, 8/16/18

City of Marco Island


  • Marco Island may have new city manager by Sept. 4. "This council and the community desperately needs (sic) a qualified, professional city manager to make our government effective, performance-based and citizen-oriented," Vice-Chair Charlotte Roman said. Marco Eagle, 8/9/18
  • Related Editorial: Instability at top should concern Marco voters. Marco council will interview five finalists to fill the vacant city manager position in September. Each got three votes for consideration, but it takes five votes to hire anyone. Naples Daily News, 8/21/18
  • City council considering audit of purchasing contracts after employee's mishaps. “It’s the city manager’s job to deal with city employee issues,” Vice-Chair Roman said. “However, the council has an oversight role for the stewardship of the taxpayers’ money.” Marco Eagle, 8/10/18
  • Marco Planning Board opposes changes to land development code for assisted living facilities. Staff expressed concern that the large facilities were not anticipated and may have unintended consequences for the health, safety, and welfare of the community during an emergency evacuation. Marco Eagle, 8/10/18

Collier County Public Schools


  • Editorial kudos to CCPS Superintendent Kamela Patton. She continues to excel, earning a well-deserved high rating in her annual evaluation by the School Board. Naples Daily News, 8/3/18
  • Editorial: CCPS budget tentatively approved 3-2. We applaud the district’s administration for putting money away annually toward a new high school in 2023 that could be built without having to borrow, meanwhile working to become debt-free. Naples Daily News, 8/6/18
  • CCPS to receive $1 million from the United Arab Emirates for Hurricane Irma recovery. The funding comes from $10 million the UAE is dedicating to Florida as part of a tradition of helping communities in the U.S. that are devastated by natural disasters. Naples Daily News, 8/8/18
  • Federal-state conflict on medical marijuana confuses Florida schools. Collier County is one of six Florida school districts that are complying with federal law, which still classifies all marijuana, medicinal or recreational, as an illegal drug. USA Today, 8/11/18

That’s it for August’s local news. The General Elections are about ten weeks away. Between now and the October 25 start of Early Voting, I’ll review the local and state elections, proposed constitutional amendments and referenda that will be on Collier voters’ ballots. There’s a lot to cover, so I’ll be starting soon!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

State News in Review - August 2018

While much of the media attention in August was on the elections, two important statewide issues also received considerable press: the two-pronged environmental disaster of red tide and a massive, toxic algae bloom, and an increasing number of challenges to the “bundled” constitutional amendments headed to Florida voters’ November ballot.

Amendment 8, which would allow charter school organizers to bypass local school boards, received the most attention, following the filing last month of a lawsuit by the League of Women Voters of Florida that calls the amendment “intentionally misleading.” The proposal was sponsored by Erika Donalds, a member of the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) and charter school activist who serves on the Collier County School Board.

I’ll begin this post with those issues, then share some other news I think Florida voters should be aware of.

The environment


  • Governor Rick Scott declares state of emergency for red tide outbreak in Southwest Florida. The declaration comes a month after he declared a state of emergency for Lee and six other counties due to blue-green algae outbreaks caused by Lake Okeechobee water discharges. Naples Daily News, 8/14/18
  • Scott activates emergency bridge loan program to assist small businesses impacted by blue-green algae and red tide. The interest-free loans provide cash flow for up to 180 days until a business secures other financial resources. Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, 8/14/18
  • Congressman Francis Rooney asks SBA for disaster declaration, aid to businesses in Lee County. His appeal follows Gov. Scott’s request to the Small Business Association for an “economic injury disaster declaration” to help Florida businesses impacted by the algal blooms. News-Press, 8/24/18
  • Florida commits up to $1 million to Everglades Foundation algae removal prize. The state will provide technical expertise and funding for testing submissions to the competition seeking cost-effective solutions for preventing algal blooms. TCPalm via Naples Daily News, 8/25/18
  • State to give another $3 million to counties impacted by toxic algal bloom. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection earlier this month set aside a different $3 million for the counties impacted by red tide and another $3 million for counties impacted by the toxic blue-green algae that's plaguing the historic Everglades drainage system. Naples Daily News, 8/31/18


Who’s to blame?


  • As bouts with killer algae rose, Florida gutted its water quality monitoring network. Over the last decade, the state fought federal efforts to protect water, shrunk its own environmental and water-management agencies, and cut funding to an algae task force. Miami-Herald, 8/7/18
  • Dead in the Water. In the last seven years under Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the state hobbled water quality management mechanisms that had been helping Lake Okeechobee. Florida Sportsman, 8/22/18
  • Editorial: State Health Department is failing us. When it finally said something about the massive blue-green algae blooms and the spread of red tide, its best statement was there is no evidence that acute exposure to the toxins has long-term health impacts. Naples Daily News, 8/22/18


Challenges to proposed amendments


Several of the CRC’s proposed amendments are facing legal challenges stemming from the fact that they are really multiple, separate amendments rolled into one. The practice is alternatively referred to as “log-rolling” or “bundling. ”See Constitution Revision Commission proposes eight initiatives for voters in November. Tallahassee Democrat, 4/18/18

A number of prominent Florida figures have spoken out against the CRC’s amendments and/or publicly sided with the various legal challenges:
  • Save My Constitution launches to oppose proposed amendments in Florida. The group, including Republican former lieutenant governors Jeff Kottkamp and Jennifer Carroll, Republican former U.S. Reps. Sandy Adams and Connie Mack and a host of former state legislators will lead a movement to encourage Floridians to vote no on all CRC amendments and urge the Legislature to place an initiative on the 2020 ballot to either restructure or abolish the CRC. The Florida Daily, 8/21/18
  • Former Florida chief justice Anstead challenges Amendment 8, five others as unconstitutionally bundled. “This is logrolling and a form of issue gerrymandering that violates the First Amendment right of the voter to vote for or against specific independent and unrelated proposals to amend the constitution without paying the price of supporting a measure the voter opposes or opposing a measure the voter supports." Tampa Bay Times, 8/13/18
The news stories linked below explain the challenged amendments and status of the challenges.

Amendment 6 - Rights of Crime Victims; Judges (here)


  • Leon County judge throws Amendment 6 off Florida ballot. Tampa Bay Times, 8/27/18

Amendment 8 - School Board Term Limits and Duties; Public Schools (here)


  • League of Women Voters sues over education amendment. Florida Politics, 7/12/18; see also LWVF, “Don’t Take the Bait” Website
  • Former Florida Supreme Court chief justice Wells: Amendment 8 ‘misleading,’ ‘deceptive’. Tampa Bay Times, 7/27/18
  • Charter schools oversight at heart of lawsuit against Amendment 8. News4Jax.com, 8/11/18
  • Florida Amendment 8 challenge stems from policy disagreement, not wording problems, secretary of state argues. Tampa Bay Times, 8/13/18
  • As fight over education amendment rages in court, its creator Erika Donalds says '8IsGreat'. WLRN Miami, 8/16/18
  • Judge orders Amendment 8 be removed from Florida ballot. Tampa Bay Times, 8/20/18
  • Supreme Court will weigh Amendment 8 case. News Service of Florida via Florida Politics, 8/22/18
  • Pro-Amendment 8 committee 8isGreat.org adds $100K as Florida Supreme Court considers its fate. Florida Politics, 8/25/18
  • Groups file legal briefs to support education measure under challenge. The Urban Leagues of both Miami and Central Florida, along with the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools and the Florida Charter School Alliance, have filed briefs in support of Amendment 8. Florida Politics, 8/28/18

Amendment 10 - State and Local Government Structure and Operation (here)


  • Judge denies challenge to Florida constitutional amendment. Miami Herald, 8/10/18

Amendment 13 - Ends Dog Racing (here)

  • Florida Supreme Court to decide whether dog racing ban will be on November ballot. News Service of Florida via Palm Beach Post, 8/8/18

Other state government news


  • Supreme Court should hold state responsible for high quality public schools, plaintiffs argue. Urging the Supreme Court not to fall for the state's effort to evade constitutional responsibility for an "efficient" and "high quality" public school system, lawyers representing Citizens for Strong Schools argue that the constitutional terms are not vague, regardless of what lower courts have ruled. Tampa Bay Times, 8/9/18
  • Florida the only state that’s not in compliance with federal education standards. The current version of the state’s ESSA plan excludes critical protections for English learners, students with disabilities, students of color, and low-income students. Miami Herald, 8/27/18
  • Florida legislators, governor clash over school security. House Speaker-elect Jose Oliva and incoming Senate President-elect Bill Galvano, both Republicans, are rejecting Gov. Scott’s push to redirect $58 million so school districts can hire more campus police officers. Naples Herald via Naples Daily News, 8/24/18
  • Pam Bondi files 57-page brief supporting ban on smokable med pot. Pointing in part to smoking-related health effects, the Attorney General's office argues that an appeals court should uphold a decision by the Legislature to ban smoking medical marijuana. News Service of Florida via Tampa Bay Times, 8/6/18
  • Florida promises to reimburse motorists after toll troubles. Gov. Rick Scott has come under fire for the problems, especially after it was reported he attended a fundraiser in Texas this year where one of the hosts was a major shareholder of the company. Naples Daily News, 8/16/18
  • Stand your ground law should be reviewed by Legislature, Florida’s black leaders say. The debate over the controversial law was reignited last month after a heated argument outside a Clearwater convenience store left a black man mortally wounded, his white killer free to go home and civil-rights activists up in arms. Miami-Herald, 8/27/18
  • Florida Influencers: Medicaid expansion should be top health care priority for Tallahassee. Florida is one of 17 states that has not expanded Medicaid, which provides health coverage for low-income Americans. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.5 percent of Floridians lack health insurance, the third-highest rate in the nation. Miami-Herald, 8/27/18

That’s it for August top stories about state government. My next post will summarize local news of note. Stay tuned.