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Report: Florida’s imprisonment rate is 23 percent higher than the national average

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The national crime rate in the U.S. has been steadily declining since for two decades and is currently at its lowest rate since 1968. Likewise, Florida’s crime rate has dropped over the past few decades, but it is still 15 percent higher than the national average. And its imprisonment rate is 23 percent higher than the national average.

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Tampa Bay lawmakers admit criminal justice reform was a bust in Legislature this year

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Over the past decade, deep Red states like Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia have enacted serious criminal justice reforms. Florida? Not so much. That was going to change in 2017, several state lawmakers predicted earlier this year. Except it didn’t. “We walked into this session very high on idealism, thinking that we could accomplish quite a bit, that the climate was right for this,” said St. Petersburg Democratic state Senator Darryl Rouson, while speaking to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St.…

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Jeff Brandes, Dana Young endorse Ed Hooper

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Republican state Sens. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg and Dana Young of Tampa on Friday endorsed former state Rep. Ed Hooper in his quest to replace Clearwater Sen. Jack Latvala, who is term-limited in 2018. Brandes called Hooper “a true advocate for his community … thoughtful, collaborative, and trusted.” “These are some of the best qualities in a Senator and I’m happy to endorse him in his campaign for the State Senate,” he said. “He will help make Florida a more…

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Florida’s bizarre fireworks law still in place

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It’s almost Independence Day, which in Florida means: Time to scare some birds. Although you can buy fireworks in the state, they’re not actually legal here. Indeed, The Tampa Tribune in 2014 called fireworks sales in Florida an “institutionalized charade,” leading one lawmaker to call for “more freedom (and) less fraud.” Retail sales are allowed only because of a 62-year-old loophole in the law, the only known one of its kind in the country. That allows “fireworks … to be used…

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On open records, half Florida’s legislators rate F or D

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Half of Florida’s legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year’s legislative sessions. In a “scorecard” produced by the Florida Society of News Editors and based on information provided by Florida’s First Amendment Foundation — which tracked a priority list of public records exemptions — the 160 legislators totaled three Fs, 77 Ds, 71 Cs, and 9 Bs. Each year FSNE completes a project devoted to Sunshine…

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With law now in place, Tampa Bay region moves closer to regional transit

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Although modest in scope, Tampa Bay area lawmakers and business officials are happy that Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation (SB 1672) they believe is the first step toward creating a regional network to push for transit. The bill changes the actual title of TBARTA. It will now be the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (it used to be “transportation”). The new agency is slightly smaller in scope in terms of geography, but not smaller than originally envisaged by Clearwater Republican Jack…

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Jeff Brandes files amendment to medical marijuana in Senate

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Sen. Jeff Brandes is proposing a sweeping change to his chamber’s medical marijuana implementation bill that would, among other things, remove a limit on the number of licenses for medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs). The St. Petersburg Republican filed the 63-page strike all amendment late Wednesday. His “Putting Florida Patients First Act” also removes a requirement that marijuana growers and sellers be “vertically integrated,” or share ownership. The amendment will be formally offered on the Senate floor Thursday, an assistant said. It would be the first…

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