Florida Five: Two Fla. counties could get slot machines, House passes huge tax cut package

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

Slot Machines
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House committee votes to authorize slot machines in two more counties – The ice is melting on Florida’s gambling debate. After being frozen in inaction for the last several years because of powerful competing interests, House and Senate committees this week approved legislation to end the requirement that greyhound tracks race dogs, and opened the door to the expansion of slot machines at Palm Beach and Lee counties. Read more

Florida House passes nearly $700 million tax cut package— Nearly $700 million in tax cuts and breaks are coming after the House overwhelmingly approved a bill on Thursday. The legislation includes a substantial cut in the taxes charged on cellphones and cable television bills. The bill (HB 7141) also authorizes a three-day back to school sales tax holiday and exempts college textbooks from sales taxes. The tax cut bill passed by a 112-3 vote. Read more

After backlash, Florida puts limits on standardized testing – Responding to a backlash about the continued use of high-stakes standardized tests, the Florida Legislature on Thursday passed significant changes to the system that was primarily put in place by former Gov. Jeb Bush. The changes, though not as wide as critics wanted, still represent a departure for Republicans who had fully embraced the reforms championed by Bush during his eight years in office. Bush is touting his reforms in what appears to be a likely presidential campaign. Read more

Florida prison system under fire amid allegations of abuse, fatal shower scalding – Florida’s state-run prison system is being hammered with allegations that guards abused and even killed inmates — including one incident where, according to a witness, the skin was scalded off a prisoner’s body in a shower — leaving officials scrambling for answers and human rights groups urging the feds to intervene. In a stinging rebuke of Florida’s prison system, several current and former inspectors recently went on record claiming workers were routinely ordered to ignore evidence of brutal beatings and other alleged crimes taking place behind bars. Read more

Florida citrus crop suffers another decline – Florida grapefruit growers in the 2014-15 season will produce the fewest grapefruit since the Great Depression in a citrus season unaffected by hurricanes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday reduced this season’s projected grapefruit crop by 2 million boxes to 13 million boxes, a 13 percent drop from its March estimate. It held the projected orange crop at 102 million boxes but reduced the expected tangerine harvest by 8 percent to 2.3 million boxes. Read more

BONUS: Caught on video: Attack of the killer … manatee?

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