Florida Legislature Archives - Page 4 of 38 - Florida Politics

State’s DHSMV seeking permission to use drones

The state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) will ask lawmakers next session to consider legislation to “allow law enforcement to use drones for traffic crash management.”

The proposed bill is part of a “legislative concepts” package Executive Director Terry Rhodes plans to present at Tuesday’s Florida Cabinet meeting.

The state law governing drones, the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act, already includes an exception for “aerial mapping.” But a DHSMV spokeswoman says it doesn’t apply to the agency.

The department reports to Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet: Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The document explains that state law now prohibits law enforcement agencies from using drones “for surveillance and evidence gathering.”

Lawmakers in Florida and across the country have been passing laws related to drone aircraft in recent years. In Florida, the concerns have been mostly about invasions of privacy.

But the Florida Highway Patrol, which falls under the DHSMV, wants to use the remote-controlled flying machines “for complex traffic crash scenes where aerial photos and scene mapping can aid in clearing roads.”

Most commonly, drones are small helicopter-type craft used by hobbyists and others, and often equipped with cameras.

In 2013, Florida first enacted a measure limiting law enforcement from using drones to gather evidence in criminal cases. Two years later, the law was amended to prohibit using drones to photograph private property without the owner’s consent.

The law, however, says it “does not prohibit the use of a drone … for aerial mapping, if the person or entity using a drone for this purpose is operating in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.”

DHSMV spokeswoman Beth Frady explained that “state law … is more restrictive than federal law.”

“This means FHP is currently unable to collect aerial photos or aerial scene maps from traffic crashes, which can aid in clearing Florida’s roads more expeditiously,” she said in an email. “The legislative concept … could create a pilot program with specific criteria and measures that could be reported to the Legislature to determine the recommendations of the program.

“The pilot seeks to allow law enforcement the ability to use drones for traffic crash management and clearance in hopes of partnering with the (Department of Transportation’s) traffic management operations.”

 

Insurers hope for drug price transparency legislation — at a minimum

An insurance lobbyist hopes at least to win legislation next year allowing the state to negotiate drug prices for Medicaid patients, and requiring drug companies to disclose more information about their pricing, as a means to control pharmaceutical costs.

Price controls, said Paul Sanford of the Florida Insurance Council, would be a much bigger lift, and would have to happen on the national level.

But requiring price transparency as a condition of doing business in Florida might be realistic within a year or two, he said.

“If you really want to cut costs, you’re going to have to take some draconian steps,” Sanford said during a panel discussion on high drug costs sponsored by the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, a national group just beginning to work in Florida.

“Transparency in drug pricing – I think that’s the key,” said campaign representative Christina Johnson, who chaired the talks. She said the campaign itself does not support price controls.

“When an EpiPen goes from $50 to $500, that’s the problem,” she said. “It happens overnight, without warning,” forcing patients “to make a decision between medicine and a mortgage.”

Also represented on the panel were the Florida Association of Health Plans, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Elder Care Services in Tallahassee, and Tallahassee Memorial Health Care.

The coalition comprises 23 organizations that provide health care in some form, including the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Neurology, the AARP, the Federation of American Hospitals, and Wal-Mart.

Prescription drug spending represents nearly 20 percent of health care costs, according to the campaign, and is growing faster than any segment. Spending increased by more than 13 percent during 2014, the largest annual increase since 2003, and by another 12.2 percent in 2015, the campaign said.

Largely driving the trend are the costs of specialty medications — drugs for conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and hepatitis C — that require special handling.

These expenses exceed the consumer price index and are expected to comprise 44 percent of spending on drugs by next year. They account for 73 percent of spending on medicine.

Spending on 10 breakthrough drug therapies will cost the government nearly $50 billion over a decade, the campaign said.

Regarding Medicaid drug price negotiations, Sanford said following the panel discussion: “That’s not a stick in the eye to drug manufacturers like transparency, filing your prices.”

Yet it might seem attractive to lawmakers facing a tight budget next year.

If we can say, ‘We’re going to save some half-billion dollars by negotiating,” they’ll become very interested in doing it.”

Speaking for consumers was David Rothschild, a Parkinson’s patient who lives in Tallahassee. He said his out-of-pocket costs for one medication would hit $700 per month, if he didn’t buy it for $45 online.

“I wasn’t going to give my retirement entirely to the drug companies,” he said.

Even then, he has problems with misdirected deliveries.

“If I take the medicine, I don’t have to go to a nursing home, or I don’t have to go to a hospital. But if I couldn’t take the medicine, if I couldn’t afford it, I would be forced into one of these facilities. I think you’re well aware of the costs to pay for me in one of those facilities.”

“Rising prices drive up health care costs for all of us,” Johnston said.

“Businesses are forced to raise costs and cut wages. Consumers are forced to chose between paying for medicine and paying their bills. Workers delay care, live sicker and are less productive.”

Panel finds no easy answers on costs of voter rights restoration

A state panel struggled Monday to figure out a price tag for the proposed Florida Voter Restoration Amendment, which would automatically restore voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences.

The Financial Impact Estimating Conference heard testimony from a variety of state criminal justice agencies indicating it might be hard to nail down what the amendment would cost. The panel planned to reconvene next week for additional study.

Amy Baker, coordinator for the Legislative Office of Economic and Demographic Research, the Legislature’s policy-analysis arm, said lawmakers might have to clarify the meaning of key terms.

“We’ve got several issues we are struggling with,” Baker said during a break in proceedings.

The proposed amendment’s ballot summary says: “This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation. The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case-by-case basis.”

State elections officials certified in September that supporters had collected 71,000 petition signatures to place the initiative on the ballot, pending review by Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Florida Supreme Court. It could go on the ballot in 2018.

The budget implications could prove significant, particularly if the amendment applied retroactively. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says the state has returned more than 1.1 million felony convictions since 1950, not including federal convictions and those in other states against offenders now living in Florida.

The Florida Commission on Offender Review, which monitors offenders following their release, says roughly 375,000 already have secured reinstatement of their civil rights.

That leaves perhaps 600,000 potential applicants under the amendment, less offenders who have died or moved away, Baker said.

The conference estimates that perhaps 35 percent of those offenders might seek reinstatement of their voting rights, based on academic research.

That would still leave a sizeable “bubble” of offenders, she said.

“There’s a lot of caveats about these numbers,” Baker said. “We think it gives a good order of magnitude.”

One question is whether to pre-clear offenders regardless of whether they seek the right to vote. Another, cheaper, alternative is to wait until they file voting registration cards. But the Legislature “would not necessarily gravitate toward the low-cost solution,” she said. “They’ll do whatever policy decision they think best.”

Additional questions involve legal definitions for felony sexual offenses or murder — might that latter include manslaughter or attempted, members of the panel wondered.

And does “complete all terms of their sentences” include victim restitution? Orders to repay court costs and fees? And what if those orders have been converted into civil judgments for nonpayment — would that bar an ex-felon from recovering his or her voting rights?

“It is likely the Legislature is going to have to get involved in determining what the different terms mean,” Baker said.

Florida Court: Jury must unanimously agree on death penalty

The fate of convicted killers on Florida’s death row – as well as the fate of people awaiting trial for murder – was put in limbo Friday after the Florida Supreme Court ruled that death sentences require a unanimous jury.

By a 5-2 vote the court struck down a newly enacted law allowing a defendant to be sentenced to death as long as 10 out of 12 jurors recommend it. The court added that the new law can no longer be applied to pending prosecutions in the state.

Meanwhile, in another important decision Friday, the court opened the door to inmates already on death row getting their sentences reduced.

By a 5-2 vote, justices concluded that Timothy Lee Hurst — convicted of a 1998 murder at a Pensacola Popeye’s restaurant- deserves a new sentencing hearing.

A jury had divided 7-5 over whether Hurst deserved the death penalty, but a judge imposed the sentence. The state Supreme Court initially upheld his sentence, but the U.S. Supreme Court this past January declared the state’s death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional and forced the state court to reconsider.

That ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court led the state to halt two pending executions. State legislators responded by overhauling the law and requiring that at least 10 out of 12 jurors must recommend execution for it to be carried out. Florida previously required that a majority of jurors recommend the death sentence.

But justices said that change didn’t do enough.

“If “death is different,” as this Court and the United States Supreme Court have repeatedly pronounced, then requiring unanimity in the jury’s final recommendation of life or death is an essential prerequisite to the continued constitutionality of the death penalty in this state,” wrote Justice Barbara Pariente in a concurring opinion with one of the rulings.

Justices in their ruling did reject a request that all 385 inmates on Florida’s death row have their sentences reduced to life in prison. But based on the court’s decision in the Hurst case other inmates may wind up seeking new sentences.

Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott, said the governor’s office was “reviewing” the ruling and did not have any further comment.

The court’s decision means the Florida Legislature will have to overhaul the death penalty law once again. Lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Capitol for a one-day organizational session in November, but they are not scheduled to hold a regular session until March.

 

Reprinted with the permission of the Associated Press

Bob Sparks: The unconstitutional burden of voter registration deadlines

Floridians now have an extra week to register to vote. The State of Florida, according to a federal judge, has set up “unconstitutional” firm deadlines for voter registration, which must be remedied.

The offending statute is 97.055 Florida Statutes that says voter registration “must be closed on the 29th day before each election and must remain closed until after that election.” (emphasis added)

In this matter, the 29th day was Oct. 11. In a shrewd move, the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) sought an injunction to suspend the provisions of Florida law due to violations of the federal “Voting Rights Act and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”

As most anyone paying the slightest bit of attention now knows, the FDP prevailed. The defendants, Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner, did not contest the lawsuit.

Scott played it by the letter of the law and refused to extend the deadline, prompting the lawsuit. Even in ruling Florida law erects “unconstitutional obstacles” to voting, U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker opined “it appears Defendant Scott lacked the authority to extend the deadline.”

In other words, despite having two years to register, the Florida Legislature created unnecessary barriers to voting by having firm deadlines. Walker pointed out some states allow registration to take place on Election Day.

Walker put forth a confusing statement on page 11 of his order. He states that “In no way, can Defendants argue that there is some sort of limitation that requires them to burden the constitutional rights of aspiring voters.”

Did he not say within the same order that Scott “lacked authority to extend the deadline?” Detzner is an appointee of Scott, meaning he would have even less authority.

Had the FDP included the Florida Legislature as defendants, Walker’s statement would make more sense.

The purpose here is not to criticize Walker. Indeed, last year I praised this Barack Obama appointee’s restraint and deference to the Legislature in a case involving the Florida Education Association and teacher evaluations.

It is at this point that everyone should pause to remember those who have lost homes, livelihoods, perhaps even a loved one to Hurricane Matthew. To some of those, getting their lives back together is their highest priority right now. Others genuinely want to cast a ballot.

Matthew notwithstanding, the letter of the law reflects the peril of waiting too long to register. The law was passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor in good faith to help maintain some order, not keep anyone from voting.

To be fair, there were some silly steps taken in the past such as limiting the mechanism for early voting.

Judge Walker’s passion for going the extra mile for potential voters is noteworthy, but all too often the passion of judges far exceeds that of such “voters” themselves. There are those of us who believe judges should give due deference to state laws passed in good faith.

But thanks to Judge Walker, there is another week to register voters. Republicans have the same opportunity to add supporters as do Democrats.

That being said, voter registration should have ended on Oct. 11 as the duly-enacted law stipulated. Natural disaster clauses could have been implemented for future elections.

Now that all of this has been settled for this year, it is time to get back to attack ads and poll tracking.

Water rate hike approved for Pasco community, but with big string attached

State regulators approved a 5.5 percent increase in water rates Tuesday for residents of a Pasco County retirement community.

But Utilities Inc. of Florida can apply the new rates only after it switches from its own discolored, malodorous and nasty-tasting supply to cleaner county water.

The new rates will amount to $48,235 per year — an average $2 per customer per month — once the Florida Department of Environmental Protection finds that the water supply meets state and federal standards.

“We want to make sure they have clean water by Christmas,” Flip Mellinger, a utility administrator for Pasco County, said after the Public Service Commission voted for the rate increase.

The money will pay to connect the Summertree community to county water and retire utility company wells blamed for the substandard water. Residents said the problems have existed for decades — and that they pay a combined $1.5 million per year for water filtration and treatment and bottled water.

You can find the docket with background material here.

The transition faces hurdles — not least the condition of Utilities Inc.’s pipes, which may be significantly deteriorated and contaminated, Mellinger said. They still might carry contaminants into customers’ homes, and may not withstand the county’s higher water pressure.

Utility representatives wanted to begin charging the higher rate as soon as the connection is made, without regard to water quality. Attorney Martin Friedman saw “no need to delay implementation of the entire rate increase because of the water quality issue.”

But commission chairwoman Julie Immanuel Brown suggested the water-quality contingency “would be a sign of good faith,” and the board unanimously agreed.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, proposed an amendment this year to make it easier for public utilities to take over private monopolies through eminent domain, but ultimately withdrew it. Pasco County last year offered $2 million for the Summertree system.

Simpson told the commissioners he plans fresh legislation revamping regulation of private utilities, including the return on investment to which they are legally entitled. Utilities Inc. has secured multiple rate increases over the years, but the water quality remains poor, he said.

“That should not be legal in any state, for any monopoly or for any utility. You have to deliver what you promised,” Simpson said.

“Your hands are tied, but the Legislature’s are not. We are going to deal with this next year.”

Meanwhile, Utilities Inc. wants the commission to let it consolidate its Florida holdings under a single rate structure. Simpson was dubious of that proposition.

“You put all these organizations together, and they get so complex and so complicated that no one can every unravel them to deal with a certain unit. I don’t want to tell them how to run their business, but it has to protect the consumer,” he said.

“Private industry can do some things better than the government,” Simpson said. “This may not be one of them.”

FAIR names Jeff Atwater Florida’s ‘Consumer Champion’

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is the state’s “Consumer Champion” for 2016, an insurance industry watchdog organization announced this week, citing his support for legislative crackdowns on health and life insurers.

The Florida Association for Insurance Reform bestowed the accolade Thursday night during its annual awards ceremony.

The awards “recognize insurance and policy leaders whose work has made a meaningful difference in the lives of Floridians,” the group said.

“I believe that Floridians need strong representation when insurance issues are discussed, and it’s my privilege to go to bat for the people I’ve been elected to represent,” said Atwater, whose Department of Financial Services oversees the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

“I am honored to receive this award, and I thank the FAIR team for the work that they do on behalf of Florida’s more than 20 million residents,” he said.

FAIR cited Atwater’s successful push last year for legislation banning “balance” or “surprise” billing of patients by medical providers for out-of-network medical costs not covered by insurance.

Separate legislation addressed what FAIR called a “disturbing industrywide business practice that drastically reduced the number of life insurance policies that were paid out properly and in a timely manner.”

That last bill passed without a single dissenting vote.

FAIR bestowed its Outstanding Legislator Awards upon state Sens. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, and Maria Sachs, a Democrat from Delray Beach; and State Rep. Holly Raschein, a Republican from Key Largo.

Citizens Insurance fears being left in lurch during workers’ comp fight

Will next year’s legislative battle over workers’ compensation rates prove so all-consuming that other state priorities starve for attention?

Fears that it might emerged during the quarterly board meeting this week of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which wants the Legislature to clamp down on the assignment of benefits agreements blamed for driving up its own premiums.

“Workers compensation is such a huge issue, it’s going to take up a lot of the agenda,” said Barry Gilway, president of the state-owned property insurer of last resort.

“It’s going to chew up a lot of legislative focus. It’s going to be harder to get our issues acted upon in an environment where we can take the economy down.”

Gilway referred to the potential for job losses as businesses absorb the 14.5 percent workers compensation premium increase approved Tuesday by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. The increase applies to new and renewal policies; existing policies would absorb the shock as they come up for renewal during the next year.

The pain will extend throughout Florida’s economy.

“Everybody who earns a wage in this state has an employer who’s paying this,” Bill Herrle, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Florida, said Tuesday.

House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran said Citizens need not worry. “No one in the Legislature fails to fully comprehend the issues facing Citizens,” he said via email.

“We will address all issues facing Florida with equal vigor and thought,” Corcoran said. “Citizens’ issues with the Legislature in the past have been driven by their failure to comprehend the operation and need for robust free markets as well as failing to fully appreciate the needs of customers and the exposure of taxpayers.”

Business interests chiefly blame two Florida Supreme Court rulings that lifted both the cap on attorney fees in workers’ compensation cases and a 104-week statutory limit on temporary permanent disability benefits. That disappearing fee cap accounted for fully 10 percent of the 14.5 percent increase, according to state regulators.

Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce are leading efforts to undo the Supreme Court rulings when the Legislature next meets, setting up a conflict with the trial bar. Plaintiffs’ lawyers, in turn, insist attorney fees won’t add much to insurance costs in practice and prefer to see insurers dip into their surpluses.

Corcoran, too, blamed “judicial activism.”

“The premium increase announced yesterday clearly demonstrates that Florida has a serious problem,” he said “Namely, judges who don’t respect the separation of powers and the prerogative of elected bodies to set policy. I can say that there is a deep and broad appetite for reform in the House.”

Citizens has its own gripe with the trial bar, and it involves those assignment of benefits agreements, or AOBs, particularly involving non-weather-related water damage, such as from burst pipes.

These represent a way for homeowners to secure quicker repairs by assigning their insurance claims to third parties — chiefly, contractors.

But they drive litigation, according to Citizens. Nearly 88 percent of the AOB claims the insurer received this year have gone into litigation. That increased costs of resolving claims by 300 percent.

The problem is particularly acute in South Florida, where increased costs and decreased availability of private coverage is driving customers to Citizens, despite its efforts to shift policyholders into the private market.

Miami-Dade County alone accounts for 65 percent of the lawsuits filed against Citizens; add suits from Broward and Palm Beach counties, and the region accounted for 95 percent of Citizens’ caseload during the first seven months of this year. Look here for details.

Citizens losses from water-damage policies are projected to increase from $377 dollars per claim in 2011 to a projected $2,083 by this time next year.

Florida insurance regulators cited such data Sept. 18 in approving a 6.4 percent statewide average increase for Citizens policies next year.

“Were it not for water loss, more than two out of three Citizens homeowners’ policyholders would have seen a rate reduction in 2017,” the insurer said in a written statement Wednesday. “In contrast, Citizens’ 2017 approved rates will provide decreases to only 23,000 out of 142,000 homeowners’ multiperil policies.”

Citizens staff said 10 attorneys account for 57 percent of the litigation against it, mostly in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.

And the plaintiffs’ side is not interested in working out amicable solutions.

“The contractors that are associated with these AOB claims are non-responsive — they’re not interested in settling claims,” chief of claims Jay Adams said. “They just want to move straight into litigation. When we try to negotiate and settle those claims pre-litigation, a lot of times, they don’t even return phone calls.”

Last year, he said, Citizens drew 650 lawsuits per month. This year, the number was 790 per month through July, 1, 153 in August, and 826 thus far in September.

“We’ve been waiting throughout 2016 to see whether we are seeing an anomaly in this increase in suit volume, or if this is a new trend,” Adams said. “Where we sit today, we believe it obviously to be a new trend.”

Citizens has been encouraging policyholders to call it first, before undertaking repairs. Additionally, the company wants the Legislature to impose new limits on these agreements.

Board member Don Glisson Jr. urged Citizens’ executives to recruit consumer organizations to the lobbying push. “They’ve got to wake up and realize they’re paying for this,” he said.

Gilway said his team is doing just that. He also noted support by South Florida newspapers for AOB reform. “It’s going to take a combination of all these groups to be heard sufficient to make changes in the Legislature,” he said.

Board member Gary Aubuchon agreed. Policyholders who signed AOBs frequently are “appalled by the absurd expenditures of the remission companies doing work beyond what’s needed to rectify the problem,” he said.

“If we can get some of these policyholders to the committee meetings in Tallahassee, that presumably would have a greater effect than the rest of us in suits making presentations.”

The insurer might even find support among the trial bar, board member James Holton suggested.

“I’m hearing from a lot of lawyers in Miami-Dade that the courts are being clogged up as a result of all the AOB litigation there,” Holton said.

“There is a division in their ranks, and a lot of people in the legal community perceive this cottage industry of the AOB lawyers as being really outliers,” he said. “The stars are aligning to take them on in the next session.”

Rick Scott, Legislature scolded over cuts to Enterprise Florida

One of Florida’s best-respected business leaders read Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature the riot act Tuesday over insufficient support for business development.

Charles Cobb Jr. was polite about it — courtly even — during an address to the Economic Club of Florida in Tallahassee.

But he was clear that the state’s leaders need to invest more in building Florida’s economy.

“For the Legislature to totally gut Rick Scott’s recommendation of $250 million for Enterprise Florida, I think, is not wise,” Cobb said.

“Many of these large incentives are questionable. I think we do not have a good enough read on investment analysis to know whether some of these incentives are good. But not funding Enterprise Florida is really wrong.”

Scaling back or eliminating the organization “would be very, very unwise,” he said.

Cobb is senior managing director and chief executive officer of Cobb Partners, an investment company. Previously, he occupied top posts at some of Florida’s most prestigious companies — including Disney Development Co. and Arvida Corp. He has served on the boards of directors of nine of the country’s largest corporations and as ambassador to Iceland under George H.W. Bush.

He’s been active in Florida’s economic development for decades, and during his speech recounted the somewhat bumpy history of those efforts. In biotech, for example, “a new industry has been created. New jobs have been created,” Cobb said.

A legislative initiative during the Charlie Christ administration, allowing the Florida pension fund to invest 1.5 percent of its assets in venture capital, Cobb deemed “a roaring success.” Florida has reaped an 11 percent compounded return, he said, plus 15,000 jobs paying an average $85,000.

“Florida is one of the leaders in biotech because of that initiative. In my judgment, it has to be expanded,” Cobb said.

“Florida has been blessed,” he said. “We’ve had really good governors — Republican and Democrat. We’ve had really good legislatures — Republican and Democrat. We’ve had really enlightened business leadership.”

Yet the state no long leads in economic development, Cobb said.

Scott’s No. 1 priority in office has been job creation. Cobb criticized the governor for vetoing a $100,000 appropriation that would have allowed Enterprise Florida to lobby foreign governments.

“There is going to be [business] consolidation in the Americas,” Cobb said. “And, right now, Panama City is ahead of Florida. Some other regions in this country — Atlanta and Houston — are more aggressive in that area than Florida.”

Enterprise Florida is the state’s public-private development agency and has become something of a political football of late. The Legislature this year quashed Scott’s push to secure $250 million for the organization; opponents called the effort corporate welfare.

Bill Johnson, the organization’s director, stepped down shortly after the end of Session, and Enterprise Florida slashed its budget. A search committee plans to select from among five finalists to replace him at the end of this month.

Cobb doubts whether Enterprise Florida can attract top talent given its resources and the salary on offer — in the low six digits, he said.

“In my judgment, we’re not going to get a superstar to really drive Florida forward with the budget that has been created,” he said.

Cobb was asked what he thought of Donald Trump’s pledge to impose punitive tariffs if elected president. “I think it’s a disaster. It’s just a disaster,” he said. “As is his policy on trying to punish our NATO allies.”

The United States is a trading power that has done well through trade agreements including NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership — which Trump and Hillary Clinton both now oppose, he said.

“My judgment is that it’s bravado. Whenever President Trump or President Clinton gets into office, they’re going to recognize the reality,” Cobb said.

“I’ll bet anybody in the room whatever you want to bet: The Trans-Pacific Partnership will be approved, even though we have both presidents saying they’re against it. It’s so important.”

Florida universities may push for summer scholarships

Florida’s state university system may ask legislators to expand the state’s popular Bright Futures scholarship program to cover summer courses.

The Board of Governors plans to discuss this week whether to ask the Florida Legislature to set aside nearly $50 million so eligible students can use the scholarship for classes taken during the summer terms. Currently, Bright Futures scholarships can only be used during the fall and spring semesters.

Gov. Rick Scott has previously advocated for expanding the program to summer classes but legislators have been unwilling to go along with the idea.

A presentation prepared by state university system officials says that expanding the scholarships could help students graduate faster and improve the state’s overall college graduation rate.

The Board of Governors is meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Sarasota.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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