Florida Five: Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville on for summer open, Fla. Senate to suspend school grades

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

Hollywood’s Margaritaville still on track to open this summer – That cheeseburger in paradise and its accompanying Jimmy Buffett-themed resort are on the way. They may just take a tiny bit longer than expected. The $147 million Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort broke ground in August 2013 and was initially scheduled to open in mid-July this year. But Wednesday, developer Lon Tabatchnick told city commissioners he couldn’t give them a concrete opening date yet. All he can promise is that it will open sometime this summer. Read more

classrooms-in-orlandoFlorida Senate moves to temporarily suspend school grades — The Florida Senate took a critical step Wednesday toward temporarily suspending school grades in response to the outcry statewide among parents, teachers and superintendents who want a smoother transition as the state shifts to new standards and tests. The Senate added a provision to its sweeping testing bill (SB 616) that would require an independent review of the new Florida Standards Assessments. The proposal says the results of this year’s tests cannot be used for school grades or teacher evaluations until the review is complete. Read more

Senate Prez Andy Gardiner says it’s time to find “common ground” on health care – Senate President Andy Gardiner issued a plea to the House late Wednesday night after hearing news that the federal government has stopped negotiating with the state over the future of a $2 billion program called Low Income Pool. “The time has come to find common ground and present a unified solution that is best for Floridians,” Gardiner said in a release. “We hope others will join us at the table to discuss a way forward.” Read more

Florida Senate passes sweeping prison reforms — Responding to allegations of abuse and corruption in Florida’s prison system, the state Senate voted Wednesday to create an independent oversight commission with subpoena powers to investigate wrongdoing at the Department of Corrections. SB 2070 passed 37-1 and creates the nine-member Florida Corrections Commission, which would have the power to investigate allegations of corruption, fraud and inmate abuse, as well as review budget proposals and make policy recommendations. Read more

560,000-Acre swath of Florida land going on the market – The largest contiguous parcel of undeveloped private land east of the Mississippi River, a vast swath of forest in northern Florida, is going on the market and is expected to bring $1 billion or more when it is sold this year. The enormous tract of land, owned by the Foley Timber and Land Company, is about 560,000 acres, or nearly the size of Rhode Island. Read more

Good news: Airline provides Florida trip for Boston Marathon bombing survivors

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