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Plan Could Spur More Underground Power Lines

April 3, 2019 - 7:00am
Randy Fine

After hurricanes during the past three years knocked out electricity for millions of Floridians, lawmakers are moving forward with regulatory changes that could lead to more underground power lines.

But it would come at a cost.

A House panel this week approved a bill (HB 797) that would create a new process that would allow utilities to pass along costs to customers for storm-protection projects, including installing underground power lines. A similar bill (SB 796) has received unanimous approval from two committees.

Lawmakers Getting Behind Hemp Industry

March 26, 2019 - 7:15am
Hemp production

Looking at a potentially lucrative new industry, lawmakers are working on rules for farmers and businesses to grow and sell industrial hemp in Florida.

The Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday approved a bill (SB 1020) that would create a regulatory framework for the industry, which is emerging after a federal law last year legalized industrial hemp as an agricultural product. In doing so, Congress effectively separated industrial hemp, a type of cannabis, from marijuana that can get users high.

Judge Sides with Charter Schools in Safety Fight

March 13, 2019 - 9:00am

In a decision that could have statewide implications, an administrative law judge Tuesday ruled that the Palm Beach County School Board is required to assign safety officers to charter schools under a law passed last year.

Judge John Van Laningham sided with Renaissance Charter School Inc., which operates six schools in Palm Beach County and wanted the School Board to provide “safe school” officers. The School Board refused, leading to the legal battle.

Justices Delve into Stand Your Ground Change

March 8, 2019 - 10:30am

Two years after lawmakers approved a controversial change to the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law, the Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments about whether the change should apply to a woman charged in a shooting incident outside a Miami-Dade County nightclub.

The defendant, Tashara Love, was charged in 2015, but her case remained pending when lawmakers changed the “stand your ground” law in 2017. The issue before the Supreme Court centers on whether the revised law should apply to Love’s case --- and potentially other cases that began before 2017.

AOB Has 'Degenerated into a Racket,' Says DeSantis

March 7, 2019 - 9:15am

As the House and Senate try to resolve the complicated --- and heavily lobbied --- issue, Gov. Ron DeSantis used his State of the State address this week to call for changes in the controversial insurance practice known as “assignment of benefits.”

Assignment of benefits, or AOB, is a major issue in the legislative session that started Tuesday. Insurers contend that abuses of the practice are leading to higher insurance premiums, a position that DeSantis echoed.

Florida, Georgia Square off Again in Water War

March 5, 2019 - 8:30am
Isaac Lang-Apalachicola River Delta

Florida says the case is the “last, best hope” to save the Apalachicola River region from destruction.

Georgia says Florida’s arguments threaten to cause hundreds of millions of dollars in “real harm” to the Peach State.

Now, a federal appellate judge based in New Mexico will have to sort out the long-running battle between Florida and Georgia over water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, which starts in Georgia and flows south into the Florida Panhandle.

Ten Big Issues to Watch During the 2019 Session

February 26, 2019 - 9:00am

(This is the first in a series of stories advancing the legislative session)

Florida lawmakers will gather March 5 in the House chamber to hear Gov. Ron DeSantis give his first State of the State address, the traditional start of the 60-day legislative session.

Led by Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, lawmakers this year will deal with myriad issues, ranging from passing a state budget to deciding whether to allow patients to smoke medical marijuana.

Here are 10 big issues to watch during the session:

State Challenges Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ruling

February 19, 2019 - 8:45am

As lawmakers weigh changes to the state’s medical-marijuana laws, the Florida Department of Health has appealed a circuit judge’s ruling that struck down a limit on the number of dispensaries that marijuana businesses can operate.

Attorneys for the Department of Health filed a notice late Friday that said they were challenging a Feb. 1 ruling by Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers. As is common, the notice of taking the case to the 1st District Court of Appeal did not detail the department’s arguments.

Windshield Damage Claims: Insurance Companies Win One

February 14, 2019 - 9:00am

Supporters say the proposal could prevent shady insurance claims. Opponents say it would hurt small businesses.

But after a lengthy debate Wednesday, a House panel approved a bill (HB 323) that would prevent auto-glass shops from offering cash, gift cards and other incentives to motorists to attract windshield-repair work.

House Insurance & Banking Chairwoman Cyndi Stevenson, R-Saint Johns, pointed to concerns about “bad behavior” that can result from such incentives. That includes unnecessary insurance claims that could lead to higher premiums for motorists.

Port St. Lucie Restoration Firm Asks High Court to Overturn AOB Ruling

February 12, 2019 - 7:30am

In a closely watched case, a restoration firm asked the Florida Supreme Court on Monday to overturn a ruling that allowed restrictions on the controversial insurance practice known as “assignment of benefits.”

Attorneys for Restoration 1 of Port St. Lucie filed a 45-page brief at the Supreme Court arguing that the 4th District Court of Appeal improperly backed restrictions placed on a policy by Ark Royal Insurance Co. in a St. Lucie County dispute involving water damage to a home.


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