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Today on Context Florida: Public records, forfeitures, scam artists, Key West housing and risks & reward

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Today on Context Florida:

They call us the Sunshine State, but Diane Roberts says Florida’s government prefers to operate in the shadows. Like vampire bats, cockroaches and mold spores. If you can’t see what the government is doing, you can’t fight it. That explains the 74 public records exemption bills before the Legislature this session. Yes, Robert says, there are 74 new attacks on your right to know what’s going on. There’s CS/HB 905, the Matt Gaetz Mug Shot Relief Act, which would allow law enforcement agencies to decide which photos of people who were arrested the public should be able to see.

Civil forfeiture began as something relatively innocuous, says Justin Pearson. Throughout most of U.S. history, civil forfeiture was primarily used to enforce duties and excise taxes. But this all changed during the 1980s, as law enforcement agencies around the nation began to realize that they could supplement their resources by pursuing civil forfeiture instead of pursuing criminals. It was not long before 49 states, including Florida, passed civil forfeiture laws at the behest of law enforcement groups eager to supplement their budgets. The lone exception was North Carolina, and for good reason. The North Carolina Constitution requires all seized funds to be appropriated to public schools, thereby removing the profit incentive from law enforcement agencies there to lobby for the enactment of civil forfeiture laws.

Bill Day’s latest:

Granite

Apryl Marie Fogel warns about tax-season scam artists. With Tax Day less than three months away, folks across the country are scrambling to get their financial houses in order as they prepare to file with the IRS. Complicating an already stressful process is the increased threat of tax fraud, as a growing number of scammers and sophisticated hackers are hard at work trying to steal from unsuspecting tax filers.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd tells Florida taxpayers they should beware of a “dangerously naïve” proposal in the Legislature –politicians want to significantly damage the state’s successful Contraband Forfeiture Act.

Key West voters need to preserve housing for workers, says Linda Cunningham. Key West recognizes it’s face-to-face with a housing crisis. There simply isn’t enough affordable or workforce housing on or near the island for the workers needed to sustain the local tourism economy. Key West’s long-term rental market is disappearing as single-family homes become the darlings of second-home owners who put them into the lucrative seasonal vacation rental pool. Many of these homes are rented for three or four months of the season, then sit empty or barely used the rest of the year.

The United States is a country of risk takers. Often the risks fail but when they don’t you find Apple, Microsoft, Google, FedEx, Uber and so on. Don’t stop taking risks, writes Prof. Michael Bass. A fear of failure is still present in many places around the world, it can be seen in beautiful, clean, neat laboratories where not much is getting done. Take risks and savor the rewards, Bass advises.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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