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Weekly Roundup: Heading Toward the Home Stretch

April 20, 2019 - 7:30am

A gambling deal may or may not happen, but lawmakers are racing toward the finish line in the 2019 legislative session.

As in previous years, Republican leaders are horse-trading over their priorities in the lead-up to budget negotiations, expected to kick off when lawmakers return to Tallahassee following the holiday weekend.

Armed teachers, immigration and abortion were among the high-profile issues that prompted party-line schisms this week, as lawmakers took up issues considered GOP “red meat” while also setting the stage to finalize the leaders’ priorities.

More Medical Marijuana Licenses on the Horizon

April 19, 2019 - 7:00am

State health officials are preparing to revamp the application process for medical-marijuana businesses, with the hope of issuing up to seven new licenses before the end of the year, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office told The News Service of Florida on Thursday.

The state Office of Medical Marijuana Use is expected to withdraw a series of proposed rules, which were never finalized, and restart the process with a new set of proposed regulations as early as May.

Armed Teachers Plan Clears Senate Hurdle

April 18, 2019 - 8:45am

A little more than a year ago, the idea of allowing armed teachers in classrooms nearly scuttled school-safety legislation hurriedly crafted in the wake of the horrific mass shooting at a Parkland high school that left 17 students and staff members dead.

But now, a sharply divided state Senate is prepared to sign off on another far-reaching school safety bill that includes a provision to allow classroom teachers to serve as armed school “guardians.”

Supreme Court Rules against Ousted Okaloosa Superintendent

April 17, 2019 - 9:00am
Mary Beth Jackson

Siding with Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously ruled Tuesday that the governor acted within his authority when he suspended Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson.

DeSantis stripped Jackson of her post less than a week after he was sworn into office, citing “scathing” grand-jury reports that alleged “dereliction of duty.”

Card Games Could Be Key in Gambling Deal

April 16, 2019 - 9:00am
Wilton Simpson

Sports betting, “designated player” card games and bingo are all on the table as a future Senate president tries to nail down a gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida as early as Friday.

The state and the tribe are back at the negotiating table in hopes of finalizing a revenue-sharing agreement, called a “compact,” in which the Seminoles would pay the state in exchange for the exclusive rights to operate certain types of gambling.

Weekly Roundup: Parsing Pot, Felons' Rights

April 6, 2019 - 8:00am

Florida’s Constitution is in the crosshairs.

A little more than two years ago, voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. In November, nearly two-thirds of Floridians signed off on an amendment to restore the right to vote to certain felons who’ve completed their sentences.

Backers of both proposals maintain that the constitutional changes don’t require action from the Legislature.

Judge Backs DeSantis in Sheriff Suspension

April 5, 2019 - 9:00am
Scott Israel

Siding with Gov. Ron DeSantis, a judge Thursday threw out a lawsuit filed by suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, finding the Republican governor acted within his authority when he removed the embattled law-enforcement official.

DeSantis suspended Israel shortly after taking office in January, accusing the sheriff of “neglect of duty” and “incompetence” related to two mass shootings in Broward County, including the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

State Reaches Settlement in Pot Dispensary Fight

April 2, 2019 - 7:00am
Trulieve's medical marijuana warehouse, Quincy

State health officials have dropped an appeal of a Tallahassee judge’s ruling and agreed to allow Florida’s largest medical marijuana operator to open more dispensaries than a state law allowed.

Quincy-based Trulieve challenged a limit on the number of storefronts that was included in a 2017 law aimed at carrying out a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

Lawmakers Look at Limiting Marijuana Highs

March 29, 2019 - 7:45am

Florida patients can now smoke medical marijuana, but some Republican legislative leaders want to put a limit on how high they can get when lighting up.

The House is considering a proposal that would cap THC levels in medical marijuana at 10 percent, Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, said in an interview with The News Service of Florida.

No bill has been filed, and Rodrigues, who’s shepherded medical-marijuana legislation in the House since low-THC cannabis was first authorized in 2014, said legislation is still “up in the air.”

Five Questions for Kathleen Passidomo

March 26, 2019 - 7:15am
Kathleen Passidomo

Sen. Kathleen Passidomo started off the 2019 legislative session by giving each of her Senate colleagues a copy of “A Land Remembered,” Patrick Smith’s intergenerational novel that’s also a cautionary tale about the Sunshine State’s history.

And the Naples Republican will finish out the session with another treat for her legislative pals: an Italian feast that’s become a much-loved annual tradition when tensions are at their highest and fuses at their shortest.

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