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William March has 21 articles published.

Senate passes disabled children bill; now it moves to House

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The Florida Senate on Wednesday passed legislation expanding aid for students with intellectual disabilities and named the program for Senate President Andy Gardiner, who has made what he calls “people with unique abilities” the signature issue of his tenure as president. The bill (SB 672) increases funding from $55 million to $73 million for $10,000-per-year scholarships for children with autism, Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities, starting as early as age 3. The program was expanded last year to add…

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Environmentalists say water protection bill has loopholes

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A massive bill to protect Florida’s springs, waterways and groundwater appears headed for passage at the start of the coming Legislative Session, despite objections from environmentalists who say it’s been weakened by loopholes and the influence of industry and agriculture interests. Critics say they still hope floor amendments will close loopholes in Senate and House companion bills (SB 552 and HB 7005) and are trying to pressure legislators. Their legislative backers, including Orlando Democratic Sen. Darren Soto and House Minority…

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Group challenges inclusion of prisoners in voting districts

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A federal judge heard arguments Wednesday in a case that could affect whether prisoners are counted in drawing voting districts in Florida, an issue that affects voting power particularly in rural areas of the state. The American Civil Liberties Union and several Jefferson County residents charge the county used “prison-based gerrymandering” in drawing its five county commission and school board districts, each with about 2,950 residents. The county, with a non-prison population of 13,604 in the 2010 census, counted 1,157…

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Final week: Budget impasse, other issues remain on lawmakers’ plate

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With a week left in its planned 60-day session, a Republican civil war over health care has stalled the Florida Legislature on its single most important job, completing a balanced state budget. The budget, tax cuts and education spending are mired in a standoff between the House and Gov. Rick Scott on one side, and the Senate on the other. Legislators are heading for an extended or special session, but with no clear way out of the mess. Both houses…

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Internet piracy bill passes Legislature, goes to governor

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A bill to combat Internet piracy of music and movies is heading to Gov. Rick Scott for consideration despite opposition from some of the nation’s biggest Internet companies. Senate Bill 604 passed 78-38 in the Florida House on Friday and had previously passed the Senate 36-3. It requires websites that sell commercial music and movies to post identification and contact information on their sites. Backers say it’s a consumer protection measure, to help prevent piracy and save consumers from viruses,…

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Amendment would ban gun ranges in some residential areas

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A compromise between the National Rifle Association and the Florida Police Chiefs Association has revived the possibility of a ban on backyard gun ranges in Florida. The Florida House on Thursday amended a bill on Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulations to ban shooting in dense residential areas. The Senate has already adopted a similar amendment. The amendment, attached to House Bill 995 and Senate Bill 1444, makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to fire a gun for recreational reasons,…

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Internet companies oppose Florida proposals to regulate web

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Some Florida lawmakers want to impose state-level regulations on the free-wheeling online world, and are drawing opposition from some of the nation’s biggest Internet companies including Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Ebay. The conflict is over two proposed laws. One would affect who controls a person’s email and social media accounts and the secrets they may contain when the owner dies or becomes incapacitated. The other would make the state a combatant against Internet piracy of music and movies. The bills’…

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