Florida Five: Court rejects welfare recipient drug testing, Jameis Winston hearing at FSU ends

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

rickscott1218Court rejects Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s drug testing of welfare recipients – A federal appeals court on Wednesday dealt another blow to Gov. Rick Scott’s crusade to conduct drug tests on welfare recipients when it upheld a lower court ruling that the practice was unconstitutional. The unanimous ruling from a bipartisan panel of judges concluded that the state failed to show any evidence as to why it was necessary to force applicants seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to surrender their constitutional rights as a condition of receiving the aid. “We have no reason to think impoverished individuals are necessarily and inherently prone to drug use, or, for that matter, are more prone to drug use than the general population,” the court said in its 54-page ruling. Read more

Will state lawmakers go for new proposal to extend healthcare coverage? – A coalition of business interests and private citizens, including some prominent Republicans, unveiled a plan on Wednesday to accept federal dollars to extend publicly funded healthcare coverage to nearly a million Floridians — without calling it “Medicaid expansion,” as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act. The plan, called A Healthy Florida Works, offers an alternative to the ACA model while proposing a politically viable path for Florida’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives, an obstinate opponent of the health law, to extend coverage to more residents. Proponents have presented the plan as a “free market” solution that promotes “personal accountability” among beneficiaries by requiring them to pay monthly premiums and to search for employment or enroll in job training programs. Read more

Rick Scott slams Obama’s net neutrality proposal, says it will cost $18 billion a year – Gov. Rick Scott Wednesday criticized President Barack Obama’s net neutrality proposal will hurt the economy and could cost consumers more than $18 billion a year. A congressional subcommittee Tuesday delayed a hearing on the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to regulate Internet traffic rules to assure “net neutrality. The House Energy and Commerce Committee made the announcement on its Twitter account, adding that the issue “will be top priority in the new Congress.” Scott said a diet of tax cuts and reducing regulations has enabled Florida businesses to create 680,000 private sector jobs in the past four years and that Obama proposal harms job creators. Read more

Same-sex marriage in Florida could begin in January – Same-sex marriages could begin in Florida as soon as Jan. 6, now that a federal appeals court on Wednesday refused a last-ditch request for a delay from Attorney General Pam Bondi. Advocates of same-sex marriage were celebrating, saying the day when gay and lesbian marriage would be authorized in the Florida has never been closer to reality. “We are over the moon excited by this decision,” said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBT rights organization. The immediate legal situation arose after U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle overturned Florida’s same-sex marriage ban on Aug. 24 but put his own ruling on hold. The hold was to continue until 90 days after the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on state same-sex marriage bans. When the Supreme Court refused to take up these cases on Oct. 6, the 90-day countdown began. Read more

Jameis Winston hearing at FSU ends, no decision on whether he violated student code of conduct – A two-day hearing at Florida State that could determine quarterback Jameis Winston’s future at the university ended on Wednesday with no decision and no definitive timetable on when the case will be resolved. The hearing, which was held approximately two years after a female student said Winston sexually assaulted her in December 2012, was held to determine whether Winston violated any or all of four sections of the code of conduct — two for sexual misconduct and two for endangerment. John Clune, an attorney representing the woman at the closed hearing, did predict that the former Florida State Supreme Court justice presiding over the proceedings will announce his decision by the end of the year. Read more

Bonus: Legoland hotel coming next summer with themed rooms, ‘disco elevator’

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