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News Story
Updated: 05/08/2014 10:24:04PM

A good year for Florida Legislature

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On the whole, the Florida Legislature earned high marks for the session that ended late Friday night.

Lawmakers approved a $77.1 million budget that contained additional money for schools and passed a few sensible, socially forward-thinking programs.

Some duds, also.

The Legislature’s refusal to revisit the question of expanding federal Medicaid coverage is a failure that will be felt by hundreds of thousands of lower-income Floridians. A measure that extends private and religious school vouchers to higher-income families is a step in the wrong direction.

And the law that allows people to fire off warning shots if they feel threatened? More of the same cowboy-culture war baloney and more reason to stay home on Saturday night.

Overall, though, it was a very good year for the Republican-dominated Legislature. The session lacked the heat and controversy of recent years, but we consider that a good thing. With this year’s elections came a shift to moderate positions on the environment, education and immigration. Good. We’d like to see more of it.

Some highlights:

• Lawmakers overhauled child-protective laws. They increased funding for the Department of Children and Families in order to strengthen the process of investigating cases of child abuse. They also increased accountability in a service that has had far too many high-profile failures.

• Used a substantial portion of the budget surplus to increase school spending by 2.6 percent. Per-student spending will be $6,937, the highest since $7,126 per student in 2008.

• Allowed graduates of Florida high schools to receive in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities, no matter a family’s immigration status.

• Banned sales of e-cigarettes to minors.

• Rolled back vehicle-registration fees by an average $20-$25. Unfortunately, the lower rates won’t take effect until Sept. 1.

• Approved the use of synthetic medical marijuana called “Charlotte’s Web,” which treats children with a rare form of epilepsy.

• Approved $150 million for Everglades restoration projects.

• Allowed speed limits to be increased to 75 mph, after review, on interstates.

One item on the downside: the failure to allow craft beer-makers to sell 64-ounce “growlers” at their breweries. Next year for that one.


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