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House Democrats wake up on weed

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Perhaps they’ve been reading the rash of vitriolic emails and op-eds from Florida for Care, or the equally brutal reporting and editorializing from the Tampa Bay Times this past weekend. Maybe it was the litany of emotional public comment at Tuesday’s hearing. Whatever it was, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee – led by the always entertaining, snarky and whip-smart Jared Moskowitz – suddenly woke up on medical marijuana. It was a huge turnaround from just a few weeks ago. When…

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Booze bill ready for vote in Senate

in Statewide/Top Headlines by
beer

A bill that would allow advertising by beer companies in the state’s theme parks is ready for a final vote in the Senate. The measure (SB 388), carried by Republican Sen. Travis Hutson of Elkton, was heard on the floor Tuesday and placed on the third reading calendar. It eases the state’s “tied house evil” law by allowing ads, which could include a beer company sponsoring a concert or festival within a park. Universal Orlando has supported the bill. Some beer industry representatives had…

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Ridesharing bill advances to final vote in Senate

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Legislation creating a statewide regulatory framework for ridesharing companies was debated Tuesday on the Senate floor. Sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, SB 340 would require ride-sharing companies to carry $100,000 of insurance for bodily injury or death and $25,000 for property damage while a driver is logged onto their app but hasn’t secured a passenger. While with a rider, drivers would be required to have $1 million in coverage. It also requires transportation network companies to have third parties conduct local and…

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Senate advances plan for new Tampa Bay-area transit agency

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Legislation to reconfigure the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA) was approved Monday by the Florida Senate Commerce Committee. However, the bill passed with changes taking some power from the agency and giving it to the state. Sponsored by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, SB 1672 would change TBARTA to a transit agency (no longer transportation) and would encompass just four counties — Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas Counties. It’s been a top priority of the Tampa Bay Partnership this Session. However, two other…

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Bigger wine bottles could be coming to Florida

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Thanks to state Sen. Jeff Brandes, Nebuchadnezzar may come to Florida—the wine bottle size, not the king of ancient Babylon. Current law generally makes it illegal to sell wine “in an individual container holding more than 1 gallon.” A typical bottle is 750 milliliters, roughly a fifth of a gallon. Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, last week offered an amendment to a booze-advertising bill (SB 388). The amendment, adopted without objection, repeals the bottle-size law. It would allow wine bottles of all sizes, including the…

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Jeff Brandes wants to keep renewable energy bill clean

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A Senate panel approved a bill by St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes that would implement solar tax breaks approved by Florida voters in last year. More than 70 percent of Florida voters backed Amendment 4 in August, which makes it so the increased value of a home due to renewable energy improvements such as solar panels can’t be included when assessing a property’s value for tax purposes. SB 90, which is supported by environmental groups and solar panel installers, doesn’t…

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George Gainer, Jeff Brandes reverse positions on Tri-Rail, push bill to let controversial contract stand

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Tri-Rail’s controversial, one-source, half-billion, operations contract could go forward under an amended bill pushed Thursday by the Gov. Rick Scott administration and state Sens. George Gainer and Jeff Brandes. Just a few weeks ago, both Gainer and Brandes were hostile critics of the contract and Tri-Rail. Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, sponsored an amendment Thursday that strips away language that he and Scott had pushed for earlier that would have forced Tri-Rail to rebid the $511 million, 10-year contract. Tri-Rail’s operating…

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