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Endorsement watch: National Right to Life, Sierra Club, Florida Retail Federation and others issue endorsements

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With just a few weeks until the election, organizations across the state are rolling out endorsements for state and federal candidates. — Neal Dunn has earned the support of the National Right to Life. The organization endorsed Dunn, a medical doctor, in his campaign for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. “This endorsement reflects your commitment to strengthening a culture of life throughout the nation and in the U.S. Congress,” said David N. O’Steen, executive director, and Karen A. Cross, political director of…

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Ken Welch is “fairly optimistic” electric buses will be in St. Pete next year

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Members of the board that oversees Pinellas’ bus system are split when it comes to deciding what kind of buses to buy. Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority CEO Brad Miller has proposed buying five new buses to replace worn out buses in the system’s fleet. The five buses would be the first of 70 buses the PSTA plans to buy over the next five years. Under Miller’s proposal, the five new buses would be diesel unless funding is found to install…

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Senate bill clears final committee stop despite concerns from counties, environmentalists

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A Senate water bill passed its final committee stop on Tuesday despite continuing concerns raised by counties and environmentalists. SB 918 replaces a Lake Okeechobee pollution permitting program with more reliance on water cleanup plans, sets deadlines for establishing minimum flow levels for springs, sets timelines for springs cleanup plans and creates a statewide advisory council to recommend funding for water projects. Sen. Charlie Dean, a Republican from Inverness who is bill sponsor, said SB 918 is close to matching…

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Senate bill amended to ban fracking during study, rule-making

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A bill that would regulate oil and gas hydraulic fracturing was amended by a Senate committee on Tuesday to place a moratorium on the activity until after a study is completed in 2016. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as “high-pressure well-stimulation” or “fracking,” is a process involving the use of water, sand and chemicals to extract oil and gas from rock. Supporters say SB 1468 is needed to provide regulation for fracking like that which occurred in 2013 in Collier County. The Florida Department…

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Bill delay septic waste ban passes House with calls for study, springs protection

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A bill that delays a ban on the disposal of septic tank waste on farm fields across the state passed the House in anticipation of a state study of the waste disposal practice. Florida has 2.6 million septic tanks scattered across the state that annually produce 100 million gallons of waste, called septage, when they are pumped out. About 40 percent is spread at 88 land application sites across the state, according to the Florida Department of Health. In 2010,…

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Bill doesn’t lift prohibition on plastic bag bans but does allow pilot programs

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A pilot program is a small step — but it is a step forward nonetheless, critics of disposable plastic shopping bags said Wednesday. A Senate committee on Wednesday approved a bill that allows coastal communities to create a 2-1/2-year pilot program to regulate or ban plastic bags. Critics say plastic bags become litter that choke waterways and often are eaten by sea turtles and other marine life because they look like jellyfish. California enacted a statewide ban in 2014. But…

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With Senate budget amendments teed up, calls flood senators

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Amendment 1 supporters on Tuesday were flooding senators with calls urging them to support funding for land-buying in advance of Senate floor action on the state budget on Wednesday. In November, 75 percent of voters statewide supported the water and land conservation funding initiative that provides an estimated $741 million in the 2015-16 state budget. The proposed Senate budget provides $2 million for the Florida Forever land-buying program and another $20 million for land acquisition for Kissimmee River restoration. On…

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