Florida Five: Florida may pass NY in population, Hastings rapped for bad behavior

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

Coney-Island-Beach-New-YorkFlorida may surpass New York in population – New York state has held the title of the third most-populous state in the US since 2000, but it may be getting bumped by Florida — known for its beaches, oranges and migrating retirees. New population figures to be released by the US Census Bureau this month could confirm the milestone, the Population Reference Bureau reports. The Sunshine State’s population estimates for July were put at about 19.6 million – a mere 100,000 less than the Empire State’s, according to the private, nonprofit bureau. The gap between the populations narrowed by about 150,000 yearly between 2010 and 2013, so a continuing trend would mean Florida may have already passed New York. Read more

Feds: Florida scholarship program does not violate anti-discrimination laws – Florida did not violate anti-discrimination laws by using standardized test scores to award Bright Futures scholarships, the U.S. Department of Education has found. The department’s Office for Civil Rights had been investigating the Bright Futures program, which awards college scholarships based on grade point average and SAT or ACT scores. The probe was based on allegations that the eligibility criteria had the effect of discriminating against Hispanic and African-American students. But federal authorities found “insufficient evidence of a legal violation” and concluded the investigation Wednesday, according to a memo addressed to Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and obtained by the Herald/Times. Read more

As dominoes fall in NE Florida politics, campaign cash starts moving – As the political dominoes fall in Northeast Florida, the campaign cash begins piling up. St. Augustine Republican state Sen. John Thrasher left the Legislature in November to become Florida State University president, leading to not one, but three special elections set for early 2015. Almost immediately, donors in both Tallahassee and Northwest Florida started writing checks, according to the latest finance reports on the state Division of Elections website. Palm Coast Republican Paul Renner arrived in Flagler County soon after losing an August GOP primary – by two votes — in Jacksonville House District 15. Renner seeks another House seat vacated by Elkton Republican state Rep. Travis Hutson, who is now running for Thrasher’s Senate District 6. Read more

In race for mayor, Lenny Curry raises more than $226,000 in November, outpacing Mayor Brown in bid – Continuing a strong and sustained fundraising push in the race for mayor of Jacksonville, Republican candidate Lenny Curry raised more than $226,000 in November through his campaign and a political action committee supporting his bid, according to the latest campaign-finance reports. That outpaced Mayor Alvin Brown, who, after refunding thousands he collected at a New York fundraiser headlined by Bill Cosby, netted $9,658 for the month. Curry is strongly backed by much of the city’s business leadership, and many of those names show up again in his latest finance report. He’s also found support from Florida Republicans with ties to Gov. Rick Scott, including political consultant Tony Fabrizio and fundraiser Darlene Jordan, who was a finance director for Scott’s re-election campaign. Read more

Rep. Alcee Hastings escapes sex-harassment ethics charge, gets rapped for bad behavior – The House Ethics Committee today said it was clearing Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, in a sexual harassment case, brought by a female employee of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Helsinki Commission. But the commission admonished Hastings anyway. “Despite the fact that the conduct in this case does not rise to the level of actionable violations of the rules, the Committee does not want to leave the impression that Representative Hastings’ behavior was at all times appropriate. He admitted to some conduct that, while not wrongful per se, certainly could be misunderstood. For example, Representative Hastings admitted that he hugged Complainant on a number of occasions. Read more

Hope and change bonus: Students cook up change in school lunches

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