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Sunshine Week: First Amendment Foundation goes to bat for Florida’s right to know

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It’s Sunshine Week in the Sunshine State, and not just because it’s Spring Break. Since 2005, open government and freedom of information advocates have designated March 13-19 as a time to celebrate public transparency and raise awareness about the critical importance of access to government records. Sunshine Week is timed to coincide with the birthday of James Madison, author of the First Amendment. True to form, the First Amendment Foundation has been busy at the Florida Capitol battling to ensure…

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Senate Rules panel temporarily postpones prejudgment interest bill

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A Senate bill that would allow plaintiffs to recover prejudgment interest on noneconomic claims, including pain and suffering, was suddenly postponed during its final review panel Thursday. Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, moved to yank the bill (SB 334) from consideration during its public comment period before the Rules Committee. When done during a hearing, such a move suggests a lawmaker has counted votes and determined a measure isn’t going to pass. The bill is being pushed by Sarasota…

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Controversial public records bill clears second Senate panel

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A bill giving judges some discretion over whether to award attorney’s fees in public records cases cleared its second committee hearing Monday, but not before being amended in an attempt to alleviate opponents concerns. The bill (SB 80), sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube, aims to give judges discretion in whether they should award fees to the plaintiff and requires request be made in writing in order to be eligible to collect attorney fees. The committee amended the bill Tuesday to…

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Veterans group releases priorities ahead of 2017 Legislative Session

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Veterans advocacy group Concerned Veterans for America announced its priorities for the 2017 Legislative Session, including support for bills that would help veterans by giving them tax breaks and helping them hold down jobs after leaving the military. “Florida should welcome veterans and military families, instead of pushing them away with burdensome taxes and regulations that put special interests first,” CVA Director Diego Echeverri said in a statement. “When veterans or service members hang up their uniforms, our state government…

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Greg Steube files illegal immigration criminalization measure

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Anyone ordered out of the country and later found in Florida could be charged with a crime under legislation filed Wednesday in the Florida Senate. The bill (SB 1358), sponsored by Sarasota Republican Greg Steube, would create a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison. The proposal would apply to anyone who “is denied admission to, is excluded, deported, or removed from, or who departs the United States while an order of exclusion, deportation, or removal is outstanding…

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Craft beer debate includes … Chance the Rapper?

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Craft brewers can thank Chance the Rapper for getting this year’s beer bill over its first legislative hurdle. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Wednesday cleared the measure (SB 554) on a 6-3 vote. Democrats Perry Thurston and Randolph Bracy joined Republican Lizbeth Benacquisto in opposing the bill.   But Oscar Braynon, the chamber’s Democratic Leader, said he would support the legislation because of the example of the 23-year-old Chicago-based rap star. The measure would allow smaller craft brewers to…

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Flood insurance, HMO liability legislation clear Senate committee

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A Senate committee approved bills Tuesday that would encourage Florida insurers to write flood insurance as an alternative to expensive federal coverage, and would allow patients to sue HMOs for declining to cover doctors’ treatment recommendations in bad faith. “Why shouldn’t the HMOs be held liable for the decisions they make and the doctors aren’t making, and people are dying? I just don’t think that’s equitable,” said Sen. Greg Steube, the Sarasota Republican behind SB 262, the HMO bill. Existing…

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