August 29, 2014

After Sheldon raises debate challenge to five, will Bondi call?

Officially, Attorney Pam Bondi was the first to issue the debate challenge to George Sheldon.

It was just minutes after Sheldon had won the Democratic nomination for Attorney General on Tuesday night when Bondi's campaign blasted an email stating that Bondi "calls for general election debate."

"The voters will have a clear choice between candidates in this election and they deserve to hear directly from us on the distinct difference in visions and leadership that each candidate will offer," the email stated. "This can be accomplished through thoughtful and respectful dialogue worthy of our great state."

While celebrating with supporters at a Tallahassee wine bar, Sheldon accepted, and then some.

"I'll debate her five times if she's up for it."

To emphasize that, Sheldon's campaign blasted its challenge to Bondi on Friday: Five debates over the next two months.

"The choice of attorney general every four years deserves more than one debate," Sheldon concludes in an open letter to Bondi.

By Friday afternoon, it wasn't clear if Bondi would debate that many times. Her campaign has at least $4.2 million to spend, while Sheldon, financially exhausted after a primary battle against Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, has about $50,000. In a state where candidates need TV air time to win, debates are a valuable way to make up ground lost in campaign finances.

“We’re glad that Attorney General Bondi’s opponent has accepted her request to debate the issues. Our teams will be in contact to work out the details in the coming weeks,” said Bondi's campaign spokesman, Trey Stapleton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrews asks court to hold governor and attorney general in violation of state Sunshine laws

Tallahassee lawyer Steven R. Andrews expanded his public records complaints against Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi on Friday, asking the court to hold the state's top officers in violation of the state's public records laws and seeking relief and attorneys fees. 

Andrews, who successfully sued the governor and Cabinet for violating a contract he had to purchase the build that houses his office near the Florida Governor's Mansion, has engaged in a two-year battle to obtain public records as part of his legal battle.

He now alleges that the governor's office not only withheld documents but engaged in "actively concealing them" and "conspiring with others known and unknown, to conceal public records" from him as well as "dealying the production of public records to interfere with the Petitioner’s prosecution of Andrews v. Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund (“BOT”), Case No. 2012 CA 859." 

Lawyers for the governor and attorney general have repeatedly argued they have turned over all relevant documents and deny the allegations. 

Here's are his complaints.  Download 2014.08.29 MOT FOR LEAVE TO FILE AMD PET &#>

Crist asks Scott to let federal gay-marriage ruling stand

Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist sent a letter to Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Friday, urging him not to appeal the recent federal court ruling that found Florida's gay-marriage ban unconstitutional.

"By declaring the marriage ban finished you could discourage any future appeals and end the nightmare that loving same sex couples all across our state endure every single day, ending court battles that could drag on for months or years," Crist wrote.

Crist was Florida's Republican governor when voters approved the Constitutional ban on gay marriage. But he later expressed his support for marriage equality, and filed a legal brief in support of six same-sex couples seeking to marry in Florida.

The text of his letter to Scott is below.

Continue reading "Crist asks Scott to let federal gay-marriage ruling stand" »

Senate education chairman declines award from school boards association

Senate Education Commitee Chairman John Legg declined an award from the Florida School Boards Association on Friday -- one day after the organization announced plans to challenge the school voucher program in court.

"It is now apparent to me that the association's stance on educating low income students and access to choice in education is too conflicting with my own," Legg wrote in a letter to FSBA Executive Director Wayne Blanton. "It saddens me that the FSBA would take a position that looks to eliminate customization in education, an approach which is widely viewed to be essential to improving student learning."

The FSBA named Legg its Legislator of the Year on July 1.

His notification letter included a hand-written message from Blanton: "Thanks for all you have done for us. Your support of technology is greatly appreciated by all of the school districts."

Legg, a Trinity Republican and longtime supporter of school choice, declined the honor Friday.

"It is my sincere hope that the FSBA will abandon this hostile view toward low income students and customization," he wrote. "While in the past, we may not have agreed on every issue, we nevertheless maintained a healthy respect while working to resolve our differences for the betterment of all students. I hope the FSBA will redirect its efforts for the advancement of all our students and I look forward to working with you to that end."

The FSBA lawsuit takes aim at the tax credit scholarship program, which provides private-school scholarships to children from low-income families. The association's attorney claims the program conflicts with the state's Constitutionally mandated duty to provide a free and uniform system of public schools. 

The state teachers union, PTA and the League of Women voters of Florida are also participating. 

Read the letters from the FSBA and Legg below.

Download Legg  Download FSBA

Voter groups appeal newly drawn congressional map in latest redistricting challenge

@tbtia

The coalition of voter groups that originally challenged maps draw during redistricting efforts in 2012 said they will also apeal newly draw maps approved earlier this month by a Leon County circuit court.

Last week, Judge Terry Lewis upheld the revised congressional map that the Legislature approved during a three-day special session. Lewis said the new map corrected what he had determined were violations of the state's Fair District rules against gerrymandering. The new map updated boundaries for congressional seats currently held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, and U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, along with adjoining districts.

Lewis ruled that the new map would go into effect for the 2016 election. Both Brown and Webster are running for re-election now under the old boundary lines.

The coalition that originally challenged that map said the new one doesn't fix the issues they've raised and have criticized Lewis' ruling. They said the changes the Legislature approved to districts 5 and 10 didn't go far enough to fix the political gerrymandering.

The voter groups have now asked the state's First District Court of Appeal to look into Lewis's rulings. The coalition, which includes the League of Women Voters of Florida, the NAACP and Common Cause, makes it clear their fight is focused on changing the maps again in time for the 2016 election.

The First DCA has twice ruled against the voters groups on redistricting appeals but the Florida Supreme Court has twice overturned those rulings.

Florida Legislature sets schedule for 2015 session

@tbtia

Incoming Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli has notified members of which weeks to block out of their schedules leading up to the 2015 session.

They will first gather Nov. 18, two weeks after the election, to have an organizational session. If Gov. Rick Scott wins re-election, this will be business as usual. But if Democrat Charlie Crist wages an upset, there will be many changes in the Capitol and the Republican-controlled Legislature will have even more to discuss.

Of course, either way the gubernatorial election goes, there will be some newly elected members (and some former members returning) joining the Legislature on Nov. 18 and for training the week of December 8.

Here are the committee weeks:

  • -The week of January 5
  • -The week of January 20 (Begins on Tuesday because the state observes Martin Luther King Day)
  • -The week of February 2
  • -The week of February 9
  • -The week of February 16

The 60-day regular session begins March 3, 2015.

After winning GOP primary, Miami congressional candidate still doesn't intend to disclose firm clients

@PatriciaMazzei

Nothing has dogged Miami Republican congressional candidate Carlos Curbelo on the campaign trail more than his refusal to disclose the clients of his media and public relations firm, Capitol Gains.

The company isn't registered in his name. He hasn't appeared in corporation records filed with the state of Florida since 2009, when Curbelo says he was advised by U.S. Senate attorneys to divest from his firm. Curbelo was state director for Florida Republican Senator George LeMieux from 2009-10.

But Curbelo listed himself as the company's president, owner or principal in various federal campaign contributions he made in 2013.

That year, Curbelo donated $500 in January to Miami Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and reported his occupation as president of Capitol Gains. In May, a $2,500 contribution to Republicans for Immigration Reform, a so-called "SuperPAC," listed him as Capitol Gains' owner. And in December, in a $2,600 contribution to his own congressional campaign, Curbelo wrote that he was a Capitol Gains "principal."

That same year, Curbelo's financial disclosure filed with Congress reported the firm as an asset belonging to his wife that paid him a salary.

Curbelo readily acknowledges that he runs the firm he founded in 2002. His wife, Cecilia, who for the past five years as been listed as the corporation's sole managing member, stopped working in 2009 when the couple's first daughter, Sylvie Marie, was born.

Continue reading "After winning GOP primary, Miami congressional candidate still doesn't intend to disclose firm clients" »

Elected officials tour Miami-Dade courthouse, which judge compares to 'exploded meteorite'

@PatriciaMazzei

The crew traipsing through the nooks and crannies of the historic Dade County Courthouse Thursday comprised circuit judges, elected officials and their aides –- all of them far too nattily attired for the task at hand.

They had come from more elegant quarters -– a judge’s chambers -– but appeared out of place in the courthouse’s damp basement, stepping gingerly over water pumps and around protective plastic sheeting.

“Don’t get near the poles,” Chief Judge Bertila Soto, clad in high heels, warned, “because there’s live wires.”

(The warning sign, in case the others missed it, was a message inscribed in black marker: “Shock. Danger!”)

Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo initially declined an offer to walk into the former probate court division, closed because the level of carbon dioxide in the air was too high.

“Nah, you know what? I just kind of feel like I don’t want to,” Bovo joked. He eventually went in with the others.

In a restored courtroom, Circuit Judge Jacqueline Hogan Scola interrupted an attorney in trial to add to the banter.

“This is the Starship Enterprise,” she said of the courtroom in question. “The rest [of the building] is the exploded meteorite.”

“It’s beautiful,” Judge Jennifer Bailey said of the courthouse, which was completed in 1928. “It’s state of the art -– for 1930.”

Miami-Dade commissioner reveals 'hate' for Florida's open-government law

@PatriciaMazzei

A Miami-Dade County commissioner let it be known in a public meeting Thursday that she’s no fan of the state law that required the meeting to be public in the first place.

Sally Heyman bemoaned Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law, which among other things forces policy meetings between two or more commissioners to be advertised in advance and open to all.

“We still hate this,” she said at an aptly named “sunshine meeting” with Commissioners Esteban “Steve” Bovo and Xavier Suarez. They spoke about an upcoming vote on a ballot question to finance a new civil courthouse.

She and Suarez pointed fingers at Bovo, a former state legislator, and his ex-colleagues for the law. He answered that it predated him.

It was also already in effect when Heyman was in the Florida House of Representatives, from 1994 to 2002.

So she mentioned another commissioner, Javier Souto, who was not present and who served in the state Legislature from 1984 to 1992. “We can blame Souto,” she concluded.

Except Souto had nothing to do with it, either. The law, considered a model of government transparency for the rest of the country, has been in effect since 1967.

NextGen says Rick Scott trying to "hide from" donation

NextGen climate has unleashed another attack on Gov. Rick Scott as it relates to a drilling project that the state ultimately shut down.

"The Collier family, owners of the company that leased their land for oil exploration to the drillers that threatened drinking water for seven million Floridians," stated the narrator in the TV ad. "Rick Scott took $200,000 from them and now he is trying to hide from it. Sound familiar?"

At that point, the screen shows a photo of Scott while the text states, "He took the 5th 75 times."

The ad then replays video footage of Scott at a 1995 legal deposition saying, "I don’t recall. I have no idea. What’s your question?"

PolitiFact Florida previously fact-checked aNextGen ad about that $200,000 donation, rating it Half True. And we have fact-checked a Florida Democratic Party ad about Scott taking the 5th 75 times and rated it Mostly True. Scott's pleading the 5th was related to a Medicare case, though, not oil drilling. 

But this new ad tacked on another allegation that we will fact-check here: Is Scott trying to hide from this donation? Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the answer.

Florida Health Choices website aimed at the uninsured draws little interest

@tbtia

Last year, legislators allocated $900,000 to help Floridians find affordable health care through a new state-backed website.

At the same time, they refused to expand Medicaid or work with the federal government to offer subsidized insurance plans.

Six months after the launch of the state's effort, called Florida Health Choices, just 30 people have signed up. Another seven plans were canceled either because consumers changed their minds or didn't pay for services.

These numbers are dwarfed by the nearly 764,000 Floridians who are too poor to afford subsidized plans, yet can't qualify for Medicaid under Florida's stringent standards. They are supposed to be the target market for Health Choices.

But Health Choices doesn't sell comprehensive health insurance to protect consumers from big-ticket costs such as hospitalization. Instead, it has limited benefit options and discount plans for items like dental visits, prescription drugs and eyeglasses.

The plan's biggest backer in the Legislature blames the lack of business on the federal Affordable Care Act, which features comprehensive plans with varying subsidies for those who qualify.

Read more here.

August 28, 2014

Will Floridians be able to get endless supply of pot?

Opponents have made many arguments against Florida’s proposed medical marijuana amendment, but here’s a new one: They say patients would be able to get an unlimited amount of pot should the measure pass.

Dr. Rafael Miguel, director of the Sarasota Memorial Institute for Advanced Medicine's Pain Medicine Program, was one of three representatives for Drug Free America who visited the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Aug. 20. He joined Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Tallahassee attorney Susan Kelsey to discuss why the Sunshine State should shy away from Amendment 2 in November.

Miguel offered several reasons why the medical establishment did not like the constitutional amendment. He said there was an unreasonable focus on marijuana’s smokeable form in order to obtain psychoactive effects, and added that the process by which doctors help patients get cannabis flies in the face of the prescription model of doling out drugs.

Miguel focused on how "recommendations" to use marijuana are not prescriptions, and that they don’t allow doctors to control the amount and dosage patients consume, or for how long they consume it.

"You don't get refills -- you get it forever," Miguel said. "There's no regulation on consumption."

PolitiFact Florida has written about the amendment’s guidelines before, but we were curious in this case whether doctors who recommend medical marijuana to patients would indeed have no say in how much or for how long their patients could take it. See Joshua Gillin's full fact-check.

Rich shows her support for Crist at Broward rally

Former Gov. Charlie Crist and his Democratic primary rival former state Sen. Nan Rich of Weston put on a united front at a rallies Thursday in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

To show that longtime state Democratic politicians have fully embraced Crist as their own, several took the stage to praise the former Republican governore. Among them: U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant and Broward Democratic chairman Mitch Ceasar and state Sen. Chris Smith. Crist’s pick for lieutenant governor, Annette Taddeo of Miami-Dade, also spoke.

Crist, the Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat, defeated Rich, by nearly 49 percentage points inTuesday’s primary. Now he faces a a more expensive campaign and tougher foe in Gov. Rick Scott. The Democrats held the event next at the Urban League of Broward, next to Broward’s African-American library — a nod to the importance of the black and Democratic vote in Broward.

Rich introduced Crist and praised him for calling for increased education funding and Medicaid expansion.

“Charlie Crist will need all of our support to win,” she said. “He has mine."

Crist thanked “Nan Rich for being such a class act,” even though he all but ignored her during the primary and refused to debate her. He repeated campaign promises for equal pay for women, raising minimum wage and expanding Medicaid.

He sounded like the rest of the Democrats in the room when he trashedScott and saying of Scott's side “all they care about is their fat cat buddies.”

Also in attendance were George Sheldon, who easily beat state Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General.

Sheldon worked as a deputy to Attorney General Bob Butterworth between 1999 and 2002. He followed Butterworth to the Department of Children and Families. In 2008, Crist, who was governor at the time, named Sheldon to lead the agency.

Thurston was one of the only speakers to acknowledge the low Democratic turnout in Tuesday’s primary: only 11 percent of Broward voted, the second lowest in the state. Part of the reason for low turnout in Broward was the ballot lacked any exciting countywide races and included mostly district contests for school board and county commission.

“We didn’t show up like we should have shown up, but we have a second opportunity,” he said.

The key challenge for Crist is to boost turnout in South Florida in November. When Democrat Alex Sink lost her race against Scott in 2010, turnout in Broward was only 41 percent.

Sheldon drew big cheers when he voiced his support for medical marijuana, which is on the ballot in November. He also called for automatic restoration of the right to vote for ex-offenders.

A similar rally was held earlier on Thursday in Orlando.

About 250 Democrats showed up at the Fort Lauderdale event and waved signs representing different liberal constituencies including blacks, the LGBT community and women. A few people also waved signs for NextGen Climate, the PAC of billionaire Tom Steyer who is attacking Scott on environmental issues.

Shortly before the Democratic event started in Fort Lauderdale, Republican Party of Florida chair Leslie Dougher spoke outside the event bashing the Democrats for low turnout. She hit on familiar themes including the fact that more than 800,000 jobs were lost when Crist was governor, omitting much of the United States was in a recession.

“Florida Democrats are uniting behind Charlie Crist’s record of failure, but Floridians are going to unite against Charlie Crist on November 4th,” she said in a statement released earlier in the day.

Panel rewards legislative ties, nominating Patronis and Murzin for PSC

The Public Service Nominating Council on Thursday included a current and former legislator, as well as a sitting commissioner, in the slate of seven candidates forwarded to Gov. Rick Scott to fill two positions on the five-person board that regulates Florida utilities. 

Gov. Rick Scott will now choose from the following list to fill two seats on the panel that will shape the direction of electricity and water rates in Florida, as well as the future of energy policy for the next four years: 

Julie Immanuel Brown  Download (Redacted) Applicant 11 - Julie Imanuel Brown
David J. Murzin  Download (Redacted) Applicant 20 - David J. Murzin
Gerardo B. (Jerry) Fernandez  Download (Redacted) Applicant 25 - Gerardo B. (Jerry) Fernandez
Stuart Wayne Pollins  Download (Redacted) Applicant 29 - Stuart Wayne Pollins
Kevin LeRoy Wiehle  Download (Redacted) Applicant 30 - Kevin LeRoy Wiehle

Jimmy T. Patronis, Jr.  Download (Redaction Not Needed) Applicant 33 - Jimmy T. Patronis, Jr.

Regulatory experience or utility industry background was not abiding criteria for the council, which is dominated by legislators whose voting record frequently aligns with the agenda of the state's largest electric utilities.

The panel, chaired by Sen. Joe Abruzzo, D-West Palm Beach, and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami,  looked past the lack of experience of state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, a Panama City restaurant owner and Republican, and former state Rep. Dave Murzin, a Pensacola Republican and current aide to state Sen. Greg Evers, and included them on the list. Murzin once sat on the nominating council board.

Also on the list sent to the governor is Julie Immanuel Brown, a Tampa attorney and current PSC commissioner. The panel rejected others with years of experience in utility issues, such as Marshall Willis, a former 38-year veteran of the PSC who was fired without explanation as director of accounting and finance by PSC executive director Braulio Baez last spring.

 

Climate activists protest, but board nominating regulators ignores issue

@jenstaletovich
 
Scientists hoping to draw attention to Gov. Rick Scott's disregard for climate change and rising seas staged a press conference next door to a meeting of the Public Service Commission Nominating Council at the Miami International Airport Hotel Thursday.
 
But before they could even start, state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-West Palm Beach, who chairs the council, announced, "I support climate change," as he walked by University of Miami climate scientist Harold Wanless and South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard.
 
Abruzzo later walked into the press conference to urge Wanless and Stoddard to apply for a position on the advisory board that oversees Florida utilities, including Florida Power & Light, and noted that none of candidates for the regulatory board addressed climate change in their presentations.
 
"I'm a firm believer in global warming," Abruzzo said. "Renewables are important to me, especially solar power, because we're the Sunshine State."
 
Wanless and Stoddard have frequently criticized Scott for ignoring the dangers of climate change. They used the meeting of the nominating council to underscore what they say is a "cozy relationship" between the regulators and the utilities that have fought against increasing Florida's energy conservation mandates and wean Florida's energy market off fossil fuels. 

Continue reading "Climate activists protest, but board nominating regulators ignores issue" »

School voucher lawsuit sparks debate

Photo (46) Photo (45)

There were no surprises at a pair of Thursday press conferences addressing the legal challenge to the school voucher program.

The first press conference was held by the plaintiffs: the state teachers union, the school boards association, the school administrators association, the PTA, the Florida League of Women Voters, and the Florida Conference of the NAACP, among others.

In her opening remarks, Florida Education Association Vice President Joanne McCall referenced the 2006 state Supreme Court ruling that declared the Florida's original school voucher program unconstitutional.

"Since that time, the Florida Legislature has gone down the path of making more voucher programs, in spite of the fact that the court said it was unconstitutional," McCall said. "The Florida Legislature is not above the courts. It is not above the constitution."

Later, school choice supporters gathered outside the union headquarters in Tallahassee to make the case for the keeping the program, also known as the Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The crowd included parents, about 50 schoolchildren from Leon County, and a handful of pastors from around the state.

"We must not eliminate this program," said Robert Ward, pastor of Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg. "It is helping."

Read the lawsuit below.

Download McCall

Excerpts from the text messages that didn't exist

Text messagesFlorida Gov. Rick Scott's office has a no-texting policy for staff. It also has a policy that discourages the use of private email accounts and private cell phones for public business.

But as a result of a lawsuit by Tallahassee attorney Steven R. Andrews, documents have emerged that show both policies are routinely ignored by the governor's staff, agencies heads and countless others in state government. Here's today's story on how they kept details on a mansion plan under wraps. Here's last week's story on how the practice serves to put up barriers to public records.

Former members of the governors staff have also told the Herald/Times that two of the governor's former chiefs of staff, Mike Prendergast and Steve MacNamara, instructed employees to use personal emails and personal cell phone text messages to communication anything that was sensitive, creating a barrier to access when records requests were made.

Current chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth instituted the texting ban when he came to office and told reporters he doesn't use text messages to communicate, but that didn't stop him from accepting hundreds of messages from prominent Republicans seeking input with the governor.

Andrews' records show that in May 2013, Hollingsworth was texting FInkbeiner. First, Finkbeiner sent Hollingsworth a text that included only the word "PIN" and a number. Then Hollingsworth replied with this text:

"At the end of each bill summary, please give recommendation: we recommend signing the bill or we recommend a veto or we recommend additional due dilligrant and in that regard we will be doing the following."

Only after these messages were revealed did Hollingsworth turn off the text messaging function of his phone. 

When asked for text messages of state officials, the Office of Open Government has repeatedly told requesters that no text messages exist. But after a judge ordered documents in his property dispute with the state to be released, Andrews was able to break through that smokescreen. 

Photo: Excerpt from Chris Finkbeiner's text messages

Continue reading "Excerpts from the text messages that didn't exist" »

Why did more Republicans vote in the primary? They had 19 more legislative races than Democrats

@MarcACaputo

Democrats have good reason to worry that the base might not be enthusiastic about their party’s nominee, Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist.

Turnout in Democratic counties was low and more 114,000 more Republican ballots than Democratic ones were cast in the gubernatorial primary.

But you can’t pin this all on Crist or on some Republican love for Gov. Rick Scott, who has had to spend millions to get his poll numbers from bad to mediocre.

Republican voters had more reason statewide to go to the polls than Democrats. Compared to Democratic contests, there were 19 more Republican primary legislative races (that is, races for Congress and state Senate and House).

Continue reading "Why did more Republicans vote in the primary? They had 19 more legislative races than Democrats" »

Florida Supreme Court rules that PSC and FPL had right to cut out public counsel

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a unanimous decision that the Florida Public Service Commission did not violate the constitution when it approved a settlement agreement with Florida Power & Light that failed to include the legal offices that represents the public in rate cases.  Download Sc13-144

The case was argued in September of last year after the PSC approved a $350 million rate case with FPL in 2012 based on a settlement that was reached without the input of the Office of Public Counsel,  the legislatively appointed lawyer whose office represents customers in rate cases.

The settlement allowed for the initial rate increase to be expanded to include automatic rate increases of $236 million and $217.9 million, respectively, as FPL completed modernization projects for its Riviera Beach and Port Everglades plants in 2014 and 2016.

Public Counsel J.R. Kelly had opposed the rate increase, saying that FPL’s financial projections indicate that rates should be reduced not increased. He also objected to the settlement because it allowed the company to receive a future automatic boost in revenue without having to immediately justify its expenses.

It was the first time the PSC had approved a settlement without the public counsel’s consent, so Kelly, and his office, filed suit. They asked the court to invalidate the rate increases and require the PSC to start over.  

Writing for the court in a 62-page opinion, Chief Justice Jorge Labarga concluded that state law allows the PSC to independently determine rates of public utilities and that is not dependent on the approval of the Office of Public Counsel.

Continue reading "Florida Supreme Court rules that PSC and FPL had right to cut out public counsel " »

Lee County opts out of state tests

As our friends at the Naples Daily News report, the Lee County school district on Wednesday became the first in the state to opt out of all state-mandated testing.

Hundreds of opt-out advocates showed up at the district headquarters to watch the 3-2 vote against the new high-stakes assessment.

The story notes that Lee schools superintendent Nancy Graham expressed "grave" concerns about the decision. Graham also told reporters the district would still be teaching the Florida Standards, education benchmarks based on the Common Core State Standards.

It's not yet clear what consequences -- if any -- the district will suffer. Stay tuned.