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Bill banning smoking in car with young children moves through Senate

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Smokers beware: there may be one less place you can light up in the Sunshine State. The Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday gave the nod to state Sen. Jeff Clemens‘ bill that makes it illegal to smoke cigarettes in a car if there’s a child under 13 traveling in the vehicle. The bill — SB 548 — isn’t limited to just the driver, though. Anyone who chooses to  to light up with young children in tow could be charged with a…

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‘Assignment of benefits’ a bonanza for trial lawyers and vendors, bad for consumers

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Bills are gaining momentum in both the House and Senate and to rein in a rapidly growing insurance scam in which sketchy trial lawyers and remediation firms are getting stressed-out homeowners to sign over their policy benefits and rights after a burst water pipe or similar home emergency. Assignment of Benefits (AOB) is a long-used legal tool meant to allow vendors to get paid promptly for emergency repairs to a home without having to get the policyholder directly involved. But in…

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Florida Senate denounces Obama overture to Cuba

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President Obama‘s diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba last December has been met mostly with approval in the Tampa Bay area among political and business leaders. A delegation from Pinellas County visited the communist island for the first time in January, while the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce is planning another visit in May. And Hillsborough County area U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor will soon be hosting a summit on Cuba in Tampa. But that excitement is not shared across the state — and certainly…

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Arthenia Joyner filing budget amendment to boost land-buying

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State Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, the Senate Democratic leader, is filing a budget amendment to redirect $80 million toward the Florida Forever land-buying program and away from other purposes she said are not consistent with Amendment 1. Approved by 75 percent of voters in November, Amendment 1 is supposed to direct $742 million toward water and land conservation programs in the 2015-16 state budget. The Senate budget bill filed Friday provides $2 million for Florida Forever along with $20…

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Jack Latvala bill to exempt taxpayers email addresses from state’s open record law moves on in Senate

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A bill exempting taxpayers’ email addresses from the state’s open record law advanced in the Florida Senate on Wednesday. Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala argues the proposal protects consumers from scammers who use digital skills to defraud people. Latvala says he’s sponsoring the bill because tax collectors requested he do so. Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner questioned the need for the legislation, asking what was “the perceived notion” that tax collectors had about identity theft? Latvala said the open records exemption is needed…

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ClickAClinic named Florida’s first licensed telemedicine service

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As state lawmakers consider increasing telemedicine statewide, one provider of remote services takes the lead by becoming the first licensed telemedicine consulting service in Florida. In March, the Agency for Health Care Administration approved Lantana-based ClickAClinic as the only licensed telemedicine platform in Florida. ClickAClinic is a cloud-based platform that safely transmits medical information and healthcare services between providers and patients. Telemedicine, or telehealth, uses telecommunications technology to help patients avoid waiting rooms and late-night visits to the ER. ClickAClinic…

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TaxWatch finds mental health providers doing a good job and need more money

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A Florida TaxWatch study finds the state’s network of nonprofit mental health providers is doing such a good job it deserves more money. Florida provides substance abuse and other services to the uninsured through seven regional Behavioral Health Managing Entities. The network enables services to be tailored to the community needs. TaxWatch found the model does lower costs, increased accountability and is an efficient use of tax dollars. “It is critical that our state’s mental health dollars are spent most…

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