Florida Five: House proposes ‘sin tax,’ Scott and Cabinet hit with lawsuit

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

stripclubHouse eyes ‘sin taxes’ for strip clubs, adult theaters – Patrons of strip clubs and adult theaters would have to pay a state surcharge before going in, under a proposal being looked at by state lawmakers who also want to close a tax loophole enjoyed by roll-your-own cigarette shops. The House Finance & Tax Committee, which is usually more averse to tax hikes, agreed Tuesday to advance separate “sin tax” bills out of the committee. One measure would impose entry requirements on adult establishments, including a $10 fee on top of any other existing admission charges. Also, it would require the business to keep records of customers. The second measure is intended to prohibit businesses from masquerading as roll-your-own “clubs” to avoid charging state and federal taxes on cigarette sales. Read more

Lawsuit alleges Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Cabinet violated Sunshine Law – The Florida Society of News Editors, the Associated Press and St. Petersburg attorney Matthew Weidner have filed a lawsuit accusing Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members of violating the state’s open meetings law by secretly orchestrating a top law enforcement official’s removal from office. The lawsuit, along with a statewide open government group’s call Wednesday for a special prosecutor, adds new dimensions to the controversy over Scott’s decision to force Gerald Bailey to resign as commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Filed late Tuesday in state court in Tallahassee, the lawsuit alleges that Scott and all three Cabinet members — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — used their staff members as conduits and “polled, discussed and exchanged communications” before “the forced resignation and replacement of the FDLE commissioner.” Read more

Man files ADA lawsuits against 24 Northeast Florida hotels – Many hotels in Northeast Florida, a total of 24, have been slapped with lawsuits alleging discrimination against people with disabilities and all the lawsuits have one thing in common — Howard Cohan. Cohan’s name appears as the plaintiff in all of the federal lawsuits Action News pulled Wednesday.  He alleges hotels like the Fairfield Inn & Suites Jacksonville Airport and Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Airport on Duval Road are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Joe Votano, who frequents Marriott hotels, said that’s concerning. Read more

Florida prison reforms could include independent oversight board – A Northeast Florida senator’s proposal to create an independent oversight board for the state’s embattled Department of Corrections is gaining steam. State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said he already has enough support on the Criminal Justice Committee to get language creating the review board added to Senate Bill 7020, a sweeping reform measure that already increases training standards for corrections workers, creates anonymous ways for prisoners and staff to report abuses, requires additional inspections of facilities and establishes new criminal penalties for bad actors. Read more

All sides praise House water bill effort while raising concerns – Environmental and agriculture groups raised concerns on Wednesday with draft water bill language presented by a House committee but speakers on all sides praised the chamber for its comprehensive approach on the issue. The House State Affairs Committee language addresses pollution threats facing springs and Lake Okeechobee and the need for increased water supplies in central Florida. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection would be required to complete an assessment of water quality for the state’s 33 largest springs, called “first magnitude” springs. Read more

Surprise! Gardener in Florida Spots 75-Pound Panther

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