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Florida Five: State economists deliver good news, EBT program has liquor loophole

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Five of today’s top Florida political stories at your fingertips:

Herman Cain
Photo Credit Fox News

Herman Cain: GOP Fla. win doesn’t ensure more to come: Republicans mustn’t think the surprise victory of Republican David Jolly in Florida’s special congressional election means future GOP victories are a sure thing, businessman and former presidential candidate Herman Cain says. On Tuesday, Alex Sink, one of the biggest Democratic names in Florida politics, was defeated by first-time candidate David Jolly in a special election — a victory believed to be a jab against the Affordable Care Act.”I agree with what David Jolly said when he was doing an interview earlier this morning that Republicans can’t just run against the failed Obamacare plan,” Cain told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV. Read more.

Steady growth add to size of Fla. budget surplus: TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida legislators, already set to cut as much as $500 million from existing taxes and fees, got some additional good news on Wednesday. State economists drew up new estimates that show state tax collections will grow 5.2 percent in the next year and should continue to grow between now and 2017. Read more. 

Florida’s EBT program has liquor loophole: Some Florida residents may be using EBT cards to buy liquor, which is illegal.Amid the federal backdrop of rising welfare entitlements, Florida lawmakers made it illegal a year ago to use the electronic benefit transfer cards at strip clubs, casinos and establishments licensed under Florida’s Beverage Law that sell distilled spirits.That includes all liquor stores, according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.Records obtained by Watchdog.org show nearly $25,000— from April 2013 through January 2014 — was withdrawn from liquor store ATM machines using Temporary Assistance for Needy Families EBT cards. Read more.

New statewide assessment test around the corner: Florida will officially implement its Common Core-aligned Florida Standards by the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, and with the new standards will come a variety of changes.One of the biggest changes coming to Florida’s education system is selecting a new test to replace the FCAT, which has been used to assess student achievement since 1998. The new test will have to align with the Florida Standards, which proponents say measure higher levels of analytical thinking.Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart is set to announce the replacement test this month. Read more.

Florida House passes strong protections against sexual predators: The Florida House unanimously passed four bills Wednesday to strengthen laws protecting children from violent sexual predators, to include establishing a mandatory 50 year sentence for dangerous sexual felony offenders.The legislation consisted of three Senate bills that passed that chamber on opening day, plus an amended version of a Senate bill that must go back for a vote, the Miami Herald reported.“This will make Florida the safest state in America to raise a family,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, told the Herald. “And the worst state for violent sexual predators.” The approved bills are part of the Legislature’s Work Plan 2014 “Protecting Florida’s Vulnerable” initiative, announced in January by House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz. Read more.

For more Florida political news, visit BPR’s FLORIDA NEWS page

Michele Kirk

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