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Florida House proposal cuts tourism, redevelopment money

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By Jim Turner / News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE – The tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida would be funded for only three months, while Enterprise Florida wouldn’t get any state money as part of a budget proposal released Tuesday by a House panel for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

Also left out of the House proposal was continuation of an $85-million-a-year economic-development effort, known as the Job Growth Grant Fund, that was created in a compromise between the House and former Gov. Rick Scott.

Meanwhile, the House would set up a $50 million grant program to offset local and county revenue losses and operating costs from Hurricane Michael, and the state Division of Emergency Management would receive money for 20 new positions.

The House prop...

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House Democrats unveil alternate budget, with tax increases, rebates

Florida Capitol complex (Richard Tribou)

TALLAHASSEE – Florida House Democrats on Wednesday released an alternate budget plan, with plans that include $1.8 billion in additional revenues received through closing tax loopholes and taxing online sales.

The “New Sunshine Deal” would use about $524 million of those revenues to give low-income families an average $500 tax rebate. House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee of Miami said the plan was designed to focus on working families that Republican leaders have ignored.

“Over the last 20 years the state budget has doubled while leaving hard working Floridians in the shadows,” McGhee said.

The rebate plan would be tied to the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, which is available to households based on income and number of dependents...

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Valenstein to stay as state environmental chief

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With a commitment to addressing the impacts of climate change, Noah Valenstein was approved Tuesday by the Florida Cabinet to remain as the state’s top environmental official.

The unanimous vote by the Cabinet — Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis — supported Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recommendation to keep Valenstein as secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

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Former Gov. Rick Scott first appointed Valenstein to the $151,000-a-year job in May 2017.

Fried, the lone Democrat on the Cabinet, said she was encouraged by Valenstein’s commitment in recent talks to work on water-quality issues with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which she leads.

“We’...

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Florida man’s death was blamed on alligators at first, but his mom’s determination led to the truth

It was a few days before Christmas 2000.

A pre-dawn duck hunting trip was Mike Williams’ time alone before a busy anniversary weekend with his wife, Denise. As he had done so many times before, Mike got up around 3 a.m. and left his home in Tallahassee, Florida, for Lake Seminole about an hour away.

This was duck season, and he had to be on the water before dawn and in his spot to start hunting legally at first light. Mike told his mom, Cheryl, that Lake Seminole was a special place for him.

"A lot of times, he’d go to Lake Seminole just to sit there in his boat and watch the ducks come in. He said, ‘Mom, a lotta times I don’t even — I don’t even have my gun in the boat,’" Cheryl Williams recalled.

But Williams never came home from this trip. It was as if he had vanished...

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Hurricane budget proposals continue piling up

Photo: James E. Wyatt

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Repairs to the Mexico Beach pier and Florida State University, after damage in Hurricane Michael, are among the latest storm-related proposals that House members hope to add to next year’s state budget.

As of Monday morning, more than 100 proposed projects seeking nearly $500 million were directed at recovery from the October hurricane in Northwest Florida, along with other projects to bulk up facilities statewide against future storms.

The proposals are among the more than 1,300 budget bills already filed for the annual legislative session, which begins March 5. The bills collectively seek $2.5 billion for projects across the state.

Rep. Jayer Williamson, R-Pace, proposed about $85 million in storm-related requests during the past week...

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$39 million wish list: Tallahassee lawmakers push projects for 2019 Legislative session

Rep. Loranne Ausley, Sen. Bill Montford, Rep. Ramon Alexander and Rep. Halsey Beshears, listen to constituents at the Leon Legislative Delegation meeting

(Photo: James Call)

The priorities are set but the negotiation strategies are still in flux as Florida lawmakers prepare to come to Tallahassee in search of money for local projects.

The spring legislative session begins in March and the number one job for lawmakers is to spend money. That is, write a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The Legislature, last week, began to dig into Governor Ron DeSantis’ budget recommendations for next year. DeSantis has set a $91.3 billion marker upon which lawmakers can begin to add to or (less likely) subtract from.

Whatever emerges after 60 days of politicking, if the past is any guide, wi...

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Florida budget counts on federal, state money for storm recovery

Southwest Florida journalists document Hurricane Michael as part of roof from hotel blows off on Oct. 10, 2018. Andrew West, News-Press

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed budget banks on at least $1.5 billion in federal money for Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael, a total the governor’s office anticipates could go up as damage estimates continue to mount from both storms.

DeSantis on Friday introduced a $91.3 billion budget proposal for the 2019-2020 fiscal year that includes at least $323.6 million in state funding tied to the two storms. The money would go to needs such as debris collection, housing and educational programs.

Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would put up an estimated $561.7 million for Irma and $942.6 million for Michael.

And those figures coul...

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Florida State Seminoles Dismiss Deondre Francois amid Abuse Allegations

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State’s head football coach announced Sunday that quarterback Deondre Francois had been dismissed from the team after allegations of domestic abuse surfaced.

The Seminoles dismissed quarter Deondre Francois from the team amid abuse allegations Coach Willie Taggart cited the team’s standards of conduct in explaining the dismissal Francois threw for 2,731 yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year

FSU head coach Willie Taggart said in a statement Sunday that he had notified Francois of his decision the night before. Taggart’s decision to drop Francois came the same day the quarterback’s girlfriend posted a video to Instagram alleging abuse by Francois.

“As we build a new culture and foundation for FSU football, we have high expectations for all of our s...

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If UCF has a spending scandal, the Legislature has a much bigger one | Commentary

The University of Central Florida misused more than $38 million in state money intended for operating expenses like salaries to build a new academic building.

Imagine you’re a naughty 4-year-old caught stealing cookies.

You have no excuse for your actions. You saw a box of unguarded Thin Mints, swiped it and scarfed them down.

Fortunately for you, you also happened to spy fellow 4-year-old Tommy do the same thing with a box of Peanut Butter Patties.

So what do you do when asked to explain yourself?

Fess up? Heck no. You start screaming about Tommy.

Tommy’s the problem!

Tommy needs to pay!

Let’s paddle Tommy!

Florida legislators are like this naughty little 4-year-old.

They caught the University of Central Florida using funds from the wrong pot of money — and are screaming bloody murder,...

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FAMU DRS Alum Looks To Have A Happy Homecoming When Louisville Faces Florida State Thursday

TALLAHASSEE, Fl. (WTXL) – For one Louisville player, Tallahassee and the Tucker Center are very familiar territory.

Jazmine Jones is a 2016 grad of FAMU DRS. She is a junior for the Louisville Cardinals, and she’s looking for a happy homecoming on Thursday when her team travels to Florida State for an ACC match-up.

Jones will have a lot of love in the stands. There will be a lot of Baby Rattlers cheering her on,young athletes who now look to her as inspiration.

"I think only one of the players we have played with her that we have left," said FAMU DRS girls basketball coach Ericka Cromartie...

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