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End of the Road Near for Old Sunpass Transponders

December 16, 2015 - 6:30pm

Time is running out for about 100,000 SunPass customers to convert, for free, to new transponders

Older, battery-operated transponders used for Florida toll roads and some bridges become obsolete with the New Year.

"It is important that anybody with that type of unit contact us now so that their service continues uninterrupted," Chad Huff, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Turnpike, said in an email.

Putnam Seeks Money for Rural Lands, Firefighter Raises

December 11, 2015 - 4:30pm
Adam Putnam

Florida's agriculture commissioner wants raises next year for state forestry firefighters, as well as money to buy and maintain active farm land --- items not included in Gov. Rick Scott's recommended budget.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, outlining his priorities to reporters this week, said he is lobbying lawmakers to include $25 million to keep the Rural and Family Lands Protection program active. Also, he wants lawmakers to provide $2,000 raises for the nearly 1,000 forestry firefighters and support staff, an idea that Scott vetoed earlier this year.

Backroom Briefing: Lawmakers Push 'Cut and Dry' Energy Plan

December 3, 2015 - 8:00pm
Installing solar

A pair of competing solar-energy initiatives seeking space on the 2016 ballot may cause confusion for voters.

But Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is confident that won't be the case with a separate measure involving solar panels and energy-saving devices that he wants to put before voters.

"Mine is cut and dry," Brandes said. "We're going to cut taxes."

Negron Chosen as Senate President as GOP Seeks Unity

December 2, 2015 - 9:15pm
Joe Negron

Stuart Republican Joe Negron, who until a month ago was locked in a contentious and expensive leadership battle, was formally designated Wednesday as the next president of the Florida Senate.

Members of the Republican caucus, praising Negron's "matter-of-fact style" and offering a video message about leadership from former Atlanta Braves star Dale Murphy, unanimously voted to have Negron take the gavel from President Andy Gardiner after the 2016 elections.

Cities Push to Retain Control of Local Election Dates

November 30, 2015 - 10:45pm

Florida's municipalities intend to fight a proposal now before state lawmakers that would take away their ability to set local election dates and could extend the terms of some current elected officials.

State lawmakers on Thursday will look at a proposal that seeks to improve local voter turnout by requiring every city, town and village to line up their elections the same day each year.

Environmentalists Say Scott Budget Doesn't Go Far Enough

November 23, 2015 - 6:30pm

Gov. Rick Scott is proposing more money for land preservation next year, but environmentalists say the levels fall short of what voters wanted in passing a 2014 constitutional amendment.

As part of his proposed $79.3 billion budget introduced Monday, Scott is asking for $62.8 million for the land-acquisition program Florida Forever, $188 million for work to improve the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee and another $50 million to help maintain the state's natural springs.

Scott called his proposal a "historic investment" as all the numbers top the funding for the current year.

Backroom Briefing: Time to Revisit Term Limits?

November 19, 2015 - 5:45pm

Eight has been enough for more than two decades.

Now, two state lawmakers think expanding term limits to 12 years is needed to reduce the influence of lobbyists and long-term staff.

But the proposal to give future lawmakers more time in office --- time that supporters say is needed to better learn the legislative process and to acquire more experience in handling leadership --- won't be easy.

Judge Rejects Senate Call for Outside Map Expert

November 13, 2015 - 8:30pm

A Leon County judge on Friday quickly rejected a Florida Senate request to bring in an outside expert to redraw the Senate's 40 districts.

Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds III, who turned down the Senate proposal during a 30-minute hearing conducted over the phone, said there wasn't enough time remaining to bring in a "special master" to help draw new district lines.

State Faces Second Challenge on Amendment 1 Spending

November 12, 2015 - 7:45pm

A Gainesville-based environmental group has launched a second legal challenge to how lawmakers carried out a constitutional amendment that requires spending on land acquisition and preservation.

Scott Budget Chief: State Can Afford Tax Cuts, Incentives

November 9, 2015 - 9:45pm
Rick Scott

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, November 9, 2015.......... The state has more than enough money to cover Gov. Rick Scott's push for business incentives and tax cuts while funding agency requests, his budget chief said in a memo Monday.

As Scott embarked on a statewide tour to push for his proposed $1 billion in mostly business-friendly tax cuts, Office of Policy & Budget Director Cynthia Kelly wrote that rather than the $635.4 million surplus state economists have predicted for the next fiscal year, "a more appropriate 'surplus' " is $1.6 billion.

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