Florida Five: Protesters close I-195 in Miami, Lawmakers could change school testing

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

protesters in Miami
Screen grab: CBS Miami

Protesters force closure of I-195 for second time – For a third day, protesters moved through the streets of South Florida. They are protesting the controversial deaths of African Americans at the hands of police officers. Sunday, protesters moved along through the Wynwood area and in the vicinity of NW 25th and 35th Streets and North Miami Avenue. Traffic in the area of the protest came to a near standstill at times. Police activity in Miami-Dade on the I-95 south ramp to Exit 4 I-195 East forced the off-ramp to be closed for a short time. Read more

No hospitals in Florida are designated as Ebola centers – Republican Gov. Rick Scott made Ebola preparedness a top priority in October during the final weeks of his re-election campaign — so much so that he appeared on live television to tout his plans for keeping Floridians safe. But as of Thursday, no Florida hospitals had been designated Ebola treatment centers. The 36 treatment centers are in New York, California and 10 other states, along with the District of Columbia, according to a list released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Pre­vention. The closest to Florida is Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. While the CDC plays a role in assessing potential Ebola treatment centers, it is up to state health officials to decide which hospitals receive the designation. Read more

New Republican lawmakers reflect Florida’s diversity – The new class of Republican state representatives doesn’t fit the national GOP stereotype. Four of the 19 new members are Hispanic. Two are women. The GOP has long been more diverse in Florida than in other states, thanks largely to Cuban Americans from Miami-Dade County. But the party is involved in a broader push to recruit minority and female candidates from across the state. The effort paid off in 2014. Three of the four new Hispanic members were elected outside of Miami-Dade. “This is the new face of the Republican Party of Florida,” said newly elected state Rep. Bob Cortes, an Altamonte Springs Republican who was born in New York but grew up in Puerto Rico. “You’re seeing more young, fresh, Hispanic Republicans not only run for office, but win.” Cortes and the other new members of the state House will be in Tallahassee Tuesday for training. Read more

School testing poised to get scaled back by Florida lawmakers – When the Lee County School Board voted in August to rid its classrooms of state-mandated tests, Superintendent Nancy Graham says the district lost sight of a key factor: Children. Adults with political agendas on testing, accountability, Common Core and other issues held sway with passionate pleas, and board members took the bait. The conversation about the impact of testing on students’ school lives got lost in the mix. “Lee County got caught up in the circus,” Graham said last week during a presentation to board members from around Florida. “But now we’re back on track.” The message is resonating in Tallahassee among lawmakers, the same group that spent the past 15 years gradually building the state’s testing system into what it is today. Now, many of them are looking to pare the system down after a chorus of complaints by local educators in recent months. Read more

Gov. Rick Scott’s new chief of staff quick “with both her smile and middle finger” – She ran a Texas state House campaign at 19, served as a media coordinator for President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign in her early 20s, and was a top aide to Gov. Bobby Jindal by age 25. Now Melissa Sellers can add another top job to her resume at a relatively early age — chief of staff. Sellers just completed her first week as Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff. The 32-year-old Texas native replaces Adam Hollingsworth and becomes one of the youngest people in Florida to serve in the role. Sellers has spent much of her career working in communications or on the campaign trail. She had a reputation in Louisiana as a hard-nosed spokeswoman and was described as someone who was “quick on the draw with both her smile and middle finger” in a 2008 profile of Jindal in Esquire magazine. Read more

ICYMI: Arizona, Florida and Ohio join multi-state lawsuit over President Obama’s immigration order

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


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