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Joseph Geller

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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House puts fate of fentanyl trafficking bill at risk

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The Florida House has rejected a Senate proposal to loosen mandatory-minimum-sentence requirements in a bill that cracks down on synthetic drug traffickers, putting the legislation in jeopardy with only one day left for it to pass. The bill’s primary sponsor, Republican Rep. Jim Boyd, said the purpose of the bill would be defeated without the three-year mandatory minimum sentence for someone caught with at least 4 grams of fentanyl. He said the bill is meant to jail “scumbag” drug dealers,…

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Communications technologies, consumer choices, could end-run taxation

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Taxes that Florida and many local governments collect on phone, cable and other communication services are in steady decline for the same reasons as land-line telephones: people are finding different, better, and cheaper ways to consumer communications. An explosion in popularity of Internet video services such as Netflix and Hulu, combined with other technology and consumer choice advances, and the consequential falling telecommunication prices, are antiquating Florida’s communication services tax structure. And so the Florida House Ways and Means Committee, briefed on the…

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House advances bill allowing guns in private religious schools

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A bill in the Florida legislature that could arm teachers with guns in private religious schools passed the House Judiciary Committee Thursday. The legislation, sponsored by Polk City Republican Neil Combee (HB 849), would carve out certain religious private schools from Florida law that prohibits anyone except law enforcement officers from carrying guns in K-12 schools and colleges and universities, regardless of whether those schools are public or private. The decision about whether to allow concealed guns in these schools would…

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Democrats file bills that would allow citizens to directly propose legislation

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Democratic lawmakers have filed bills in the House and Senate that would make it possible for Floridians to directly propose legislation through a process similar to the state’s ballot initiative procedure. HJR 349, sponsored by Aventura Rep. Joseph Geller, and SJR 1332, sponsored by Orlando Sen. Vic Torres, would allow bills to be put on the next general election ballot if they get petition signatures equal to 4 percent of the turnout in the last presidential election from half of the state’s congressional…

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Hillsborough PTC chief tells House committee he still wants ride-share drivers fingerprinted

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The executive director for the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission told Florida lawmakers on Wednesday he’s OK if they ban his agency from regulating ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft. Kyle Cockream came before the House Economics Committee to speak in support of the bill, sponsored by Republican Dana Young from Tampa and Plant City’s Dan Raulerson. Young told the committee that it’s substantially similar to a bill proposed by Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz that overwhelmingly passed the entire House…

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Florida House votes 73-45 to approve fracking bill

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The state House voted 73-45 to approve a measure (HB 191) aimed at hydraulic fracturing. 
The decision came after more than an hour of debate, and now heads to the Senate. A companion measure (SB 318) has one more committee stop before it heads to the floor for a vote. “This process has taken four years. This topic has had 17 committee hearings here in the House, and three votes on the floor, after this vote today,” said Rep. Ray…

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