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Florida unemployment rate at 3.5 percent in February

TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s unemployment rate was 3.5 percent in February, virtually unchanged from a month earlier. Figures released by the state Friday show that 357,000 Floridians were jobless in February out of a total workforce of about 10.3 million. Florida’s unemployment rate remains below the national rate of 3.8 percent for February. Florida added 24,300[…]

Florida House, Senate release competing state budget plans

TALLAHASSEE — The Republican-led Florida House and Senate on Friday released competing budget proposals for the upcoming year with major funding differences in areas such as education and the environment — and an uncertain future for millions of dollars in Seminole Tribe gambling money. The legislative plans also differ in many ways with the $91.3[…]

Florida House passes bill to make opening hospitals easier

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House wants to eliminate a requirement that hospitals and other health care facilities show there is a demand for their services before getting licensed to build or expand. The House voted 77-33 on Thursday to eliminate the certificate of need for hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities. Republican bill sponsor Rep.[…]

House panel approves school bill allowing arming of teachers

TALLAHASSEE — A Florida House committee voted Thursday for a broad school safety bill that would expand an existing guardian program to allow classroom teachers to volunteer to carry weapons on campus if local school boards approve. The Republican-led legislation adopted 11-5 along party lines by the House Education Committee builds on a law passed[…]

Florida Senate budget brings Hurricane Michael aid to $1.8B

TALLAHASSEE — State taxpayer money for Hurricane Michael relief in Florida’s hard-hit Panhandle would top $1.8 billion under a budget plan outlined Thursday by Senate Republican leaders. Senate President Bill Galvano of Bradenton said an additional $219.9 million is included in the budget blueprint that will be considered in coming weeks. Galvano said about $1.6[…]

Gillum wants to register 1 million Florida voters for 2020

MIAMI — Former Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum wants to register at least 1 million voters in an effort to make the state swing blue in the 2020 presidential race, he announced Wednesday evening. Gillum told supporters at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens that Democrats must now begin to actively engage voters ahead[…]

Push to ban Florida sanctuary cities advances amid warning

TALLAHASSEE — A proposal that requires local law enforcement agencies to support federal authorities on immigration matters was approved by a Florida House committee Wednesday, while a civil-rights group warned that such cooperation can improperly ensnare U.S. citizens. The measure passed by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee would ban so-called sanctuary policies and would allow[…]

Florida Senate panel delays vote on school safety bill

TALLAHASSEE — A Florida Senate committee has postponed consideration of broad school safety bill that would make some teachers eligible to carry weapons in the classroom. Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee Chairman Tom Lee said time ran out Wednesday to vote on the bill. The Brandon Republican said the measure would be scheduled again next[…]

Virus sickens, kills freshwater turtles along Florida river

COCOA BEACH — Wildlife officials say a virus may be targeting freshwater turtles along a Florida river. According to a statement Tuesday from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, no toxins from harmful algae blooms were found in the turtles collected from the St. Johns River since March 2018. Approximately 300 sick or dead[…]

Senate GOP budget would spend $1.1B more on Florida schools

TALLAHASSEE — Senate Republicans rolled out an education budget Tuesday that would increase spending by $1.1 billion for Florida public schools compared with the current year, a proposal that is also higher than the plan released by the state’s GOP governor. The Senate spending plan outlined Tuesday envisions $22.2 billion for public schools, an increase[…]