Florida Five: Justice Roberts rules with libs on Fla. judicial campaigns, Online voter registration passes

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

SC Chief Justice John Roberts
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Photo credit: USNews.com

Long read: Roberts rules with liberals, OK’s limits on campaign money – Despite a string of rulings equating political donations with First Amendment-protected speech, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday broke with the court’s conservative bloc and cast the deciding vote to uphold a Florida law banning state judicial candidates from directly soliciting cash for their campaigns. Critics, however, say the ruling’s a narrow one, and don’t look for the chief judge to do a 180 on the issue for political campaigns. It won’t affect what looks to be a gold-plated 2016 presidential election expected to easily eclipse the $1 billion spent in 2012’s campaign. Read more

Read also: Excerpts: Supreme Court ruling on judicial fundraising bans

House rejects Senate call to come back – The budget stalemate between the House and the Senate over health-care spending got worse Wednesday, and lawmakers can’t tell when it will get better. Senate President Andy Gardiner sent a letter to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli asking him to bring his chamber back to Tallahassee because its adjournment three days before the scheduled end of session violated the state constitution. “I respectfully request that you reconvene your chamber to finish the important work of the people of Florida,” the letter reads. Read more

Florida Legislature passes online voter registration – The Florida Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would bring the state’s voter registration system into the Internet age, sending an online voter registration plan to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk. SB 228, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, allows voters to apply and update their registrations using a website designed by the state Division of Elections within the Department of State. Voter information would be checked against Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles records. Read more

Senate passes special needs bill – and sends it to the empty Florida House – A Senate proposal expanding services for children with unique abilities may have virtually no chance of becoming law this year, but the Senate passed the bill anyway and sent it to the empty Florida House of Representatives. The bill (SB 602) was a top priority for Senate President Andy Gardiner, whose son Andrew has Down Syndrome. It would have expanded the Personal Learning Scholarship Account program, which provides $10,000 scholarships to children with special needs. The money can be used for tutoring services, various types of therapy and college tuition, among other things. Read more

Florida agencies will have to buy flags made in USA – All Florida city, county and state government agencies will have to buy state and American flags that are made in the United States under a bill going to Gov. Rick Scott. The Senate passed the bill Wednesday on a 38-1 vote. The House passed the bill last month. Read more

BONUS: Shocking video: Cuban refugees film harrowing dinghy journey to Florida

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

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