Five of today’s top Florida political stories at your fingertips:
Both chambers offer ambitious child welfare bills: After a series of highly publicized child deaths last year, the House and Senate are taking different approaches to fixing the state child-welfare system — but both are considering ambitious measures that cover a lot of ground.Both chambers would require more professionalism — with an emphasis on social-work skills — for child protective investigators. Both would keep siblings together in the state system and help families care for medically complex children. Both would require the Department of Children and Families to publish the basic facts of all deaths of children reported to the state abuse hotline. And both would create critical incident response teams to conduct immediate investigations of those deaths and other serious episodes of child abuse and neglect. Read more.
Environment becomes an issue in the gubernatorial race: With a tough election looming in November, Gov. Rick Scott looked to showcase his commitment to the environment while his chief rival went on the attack this week. Scott, state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Sec. Herschel Vinyard and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs held a media event on Friday to announce 11 wastewater and stormwater projects are getting more than $27 million in loans from DEP’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Read more.
Marc Caputo: Charlie Crist’s Obamacare conundrum: Charlie Crist is in an Obamacare box. Opposed to Obamacare when he was a Republican, Crist is now a Democrat and is all for the Affordable Care Act.Such flip-flops and evolutions and pirouettes make Crist’s relationship with the unpopular law one of the most-complicated in the nation. Now it might be one of the riskiest.Yet Crist has little choice but to embrace the law right now. Running in a primary against Nan Rich, Crist needs to prove his Democratic bona fides. The Democratic base approves of the law. “I think it’s been great,” Crist said in a CNN interview last Sunday. Read more.
Florida’s Obamacare numbers are in, but where are the millennials? WHERE ARE THEY? Only 24 percent of Florida’s enrollees are within the coveted 18 year-old to 34-year-old demographic. In contrast, more than double that are older than 45.When it comes to Obamacare sign-ups, Florida is tops among the 34 states with federally run health exchanges.For many, that’s cause for celebration.But, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ latest enrollment report, it’s also a cause for concern.Only 24 percent of Florida’s enrollees are within the coveted 18 year-old to 34-year-old demographic. In contrast, more than double that are older than 45. Read more.
To test or not to test? Florida school choice proponents split: While Florida’s Legislature considers expanding its tax-credit scholarship program, it’s unclear whether the expansion will include tighter standardized testing requirements for students receiving the freebies. This year, 34,000 families had yet to complete the application when all the scholarships had been given out. Corporations can receive tax credits for donations made to Step Up for Students, a nonprofit that gives scholarships to low-income students who want an opportunity outside their traditional public school. The expansion would allow more families access to scholarships. While Florida considers expanding its tax-credit scholarship program, school choice proponents debate whether scholarship recipients should be required to take state tests. Senate President Don Gaetz said he supports the program, but that scholarship students should be required to take “valid and reliable assessments of their academic performance.” Read more.
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