List: Gov. Rick Scott signs Lake O reservoir bill, 10 other measures into law

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed 11 bills into law on Tuesday, including one that sets aside money to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

The bill, CS/SB 10, “authorizes a significant increase in southern water storage to further the goal of reducing and eventually eliminating harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee,” one of Senate President Joe Negron’s top priorities, Negron’s office said in a news release.

(Getty Images)

» Gov. Rick Scott: ‘I have the option of vetoing the entire budget’

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Negron, a Stuart Republican, has been pushing for relief for his Treasure Coast district, which has been hit hard by algae blooms tied to the Lake Okeechobee discharges in recent years.

In addition to SB 10, Scott signed the following bills, all of which take effect July 1 except where noted:

CS/CS/HB 111: Public Records/Identity of Witness to a Murder — Creates a public records exemption for criminal intelligence or criminal investigative information that reveals personal identifying information of a witness to a murder.

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CS/CS/HB 151: “Therapy Dog for Children Bill” — Allows children, victims and individuals with intellectual disabilities to use therapy animals and facility dogs in legal proceedings. “This legislation will help children and individuals with unique abilities in our state as they face some of the most challenging times in their life,” Scott said in a statement released Tuesday evening by his office. “I cannot imagine the emotional toll these terrible circumstances place on our state’s most vulnerable populations. The comfort and support provided by therapy animals can make a profound difference in someone’s life and I’m proud to sign HB 151 today.”

CS/HB 221: “Uber/ Lyft Bill” — Sets consistent operating standards throughout Florida for ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, including requirements for insurance coverage and driver background checks. “I’m proud to sign this legislation today to make it easier for ridesharing companies to thrive in Florida and help ensure the safety of our families,” Scott said in a news release after signing the bill. “Florida is one of the most business-friendly states in the nation because of our efforts to reduce burdensome regulations and encourage innovation and job creation across all industries, including transportation. I look forward to seeing the continued growth of ridesharing companies in our state.”

» Former Dem Senate hopeful Pam Keith explores challenge of Rep. Brian Mast

CS/HB 239: Public Records/Protective Injunction Petitions — Creates a public records exemption for petitions for protection against domestic violence, stalking or cyberstalking if it is dismissed.

CS/HB 305: Law Enforcement Body Cameras — Allows a law enforcement officer using a body camera to review the recorded footage before writing a report or providing a statement.

CS/HB 399: Guardianship — Revises procedures relating to incapacity hearings and the circumstances under which the court may approve divorce for persons under the protection of a guardianship.

CS/HB 401: Notaries Public — Allows public notaries to accept a veteran health information card issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a valid form of I.D.

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HB 671: Reemployment Assistance Fraud — Authorizes the Department of Economic Opportunity to access digital records maintained by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to prevent reemployment assistance claims fraud.

CS/CS/HB 805: Relating to Insurance Policy Transfers — Allows an insurer to transfer a residential or commercial residential property insurance policy to an authorized insurer of the same group or owned by the same holding company.

CS/HB 6533: Relief/Jennifer Wohlgemuth/Pasco County Sheriff’s Office — Directs Pasco County and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office to compensate the family of Jennifer Wohlgemuth for injuries sustained in an incident involving the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. Effective immediately.

Note: List provided by Gov. Scott’s office.

Scott signs two bills, including one to help foster kids get licenses

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed into law two bills, including one designed to help children in foster care in Florida get driver’s licenses.

Senate Bill 60, known as the “Keys to Independence Act,” cements a pilot program Scott signed into law three years ago and expands it to children in settings outside foster homes, including children living with relatives or non-relative caregivers, Scott’s office said in a news release.

(Getty Images)

» RELATED: Complete Florida Legislature coverage

“I’m proud to sign this legislation today to help Florida’s teens in foster care and out-of-home settings obtain their driver’s licenses. This bill continues our efforts to help children in our foster system thrive and live their dreams in our state,” Scott said in the news release.

Under the law, which went into effect with Scott’s signature, teens in foster care in Florida could be eligible for help from the state to pay for a driver education course “for up to 6 months after the date the child reaches permanency status or 6 months after the date the child turns 18 years of age,” according to the bill’s text. The program also could pay for “the costs of licensure and costs incidental to licensure” for children in foster care who are able to show that those costs are preventing them from staying employed or attending school.

On Monday, Scott also signed SB 7004, retains the public record exemptions for biomedical and cancer research programs within the Department of Health.

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Why President Donald Trump’s Palm Beach arrival could affect your Friday commute

Palm Beach County just got a better idea of when President Donald Trump will arrive for his first visit to Palm Beach since his Jan. 20 inauguration.

A temporary flight restriction issued for the Palm Beach area for Trump’s visit goes into effect at 4:15 p.m. Friday — a good indication the president will fly into town during the evening commute.

Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach will host the president and the International Red Cross Ball this weekend.
Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach will host the president and the International Red Cross Ball this weekend.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Donald Trump in Palm Beach

Commuters should expect heavier-than-usual traffic Friday evening, as the presidential motorcade will travel from Palm Beach International Airport, where Air Force One will land, and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club directly to the east. Past motorcades have passed through quickly, causing few traffic tie-ups. However, more security is anticipated because this is Trump’s first visit to Palm Beach County as president.

The restriction expires at 11:30 a.m. Monday, so Trump most likely will leave before then.

Trump and his wife, Melania, are expected to attend the 60th annual Red Cross Ball being held Saturday night at Mar-a-Lago. Protesters are expected to march from downtown West Palm Beach to the club, which sits on the east end of the Southern Boulevard bridge across the Intracoastal.

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Want to see Air Force One this weekend? You can’t miss it.

 

 

 

Gov. Scott’s budget would tighten state control over Tri-Rail money

Gov. Rick Scott has waded into a growing debate over Tri-Rail funding, and it could mean less money for the agency responsible for the trains.

Amid debate over a controversial contract awarded last week, Scott’s budget proposal released this morning includes a paragraph that would crack down on the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority’s spending.

Passengers board the Tri-Rail train at the West Palm Beach station, Friday, June 12, 2015. (Joe Forzano/The Palm Beach Post)
Passengers board the Tri-Rail train at the West Palm Beach station, Friday, June 12, 2015. (Joe Forzano/The Palm Beach Post)

The state and the authority, which operates Tri-Rail, have been at odds for months over how the authority spends its money. The issue came to a head in recent weeks as the authority awarded a $511 million contract for operating services for the next seven years to the highest bidder – something Politico Florida reports that rival bidders say is unfair, while the authority argues the contractor, Herzog Transit Service, was the only company to correctly submit a proposal meeting the authority’s requirements.

Under the Florida Department of Transportation’s section of Scott’s proposed budget, there is a paragraph saying the SFRTA is to be given no money until it has terminated the contract with Herzog and submitted in writing to the state a new procurement and contract for the operating services.

The section goes further to change how state money is distributed to the SFRTA in the future. Right now, the authority is dispensed money and then submits expenses. The proposed budget would change that, so that “no funds shall be provided to the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority by the department without the prior review and written approval by the department of the authority’s proposed expenditures.”

The Legislature must ultimately approve the governor’s budget, but lawmakers have been closely overseeing state agency spending — VisitFlorida and Enterprise Florida are just two agencies that have come under close scrutiny in recent months.

Read Scott’s budget proposal.

 

 

 

 

Florida National Guard troops help out at Trump’s inauguration

Members of the Florida National Guard are in Washington, D.C., to help local law enforcement with President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

About 340 Sunshine State troops assisted U.S. Park Police with crowd control south of the Capitol, and helped with cybersecurity efforts.

National Guard members from across the U.S. helped make the inauguration run smoothly. Here, troops help direct travelers at the Capitol South Metro station. (Kristina Webb/The Palm Beach Post)
National Guard members from across the U.S. helped make the inauguration run smoothly. Here, troops help direct travelers at the Capitol South Metro station. (Kristina Webb/The Palm Beach Post)

“Cyber security is an ever growing concern within the military services, as well as our government. Cyber warfare is a very real threat and we must be ready to meet that threat and safeguard our democracy,” said DCO Team Chief, Maj. Jennifer Hunt. “The Florida Army National Guard is honored to play a role in the Presidential Inauguration and for the opportunity to serve on the forefront of cyber defense operations for our nation.”

The Florida National Guard posted several images to its Facebook page showing its troops standing along barricades, positioned amongst the crowd on the west lawn and directing traffic.

Also assisting at the inauguration: members of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, who stood guard along the inaugural parade route.

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Lois Frankel: Women’s March a sign to Trump that ‘women are watching’

When U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel attends the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, she’ll stand alongside dozens of women from her district, which includes much of central and southern Palm Beach County.

The Democratic representative and former West Palm Beach mayor is slated to go to the rally after attending President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday, then co-hosting a breakfast Saturday morning to welcome Women’s March attendees from Florida.

Congresswoman (center) Lois Frankel hosts a roundtable discussion with local officials of Palm Beach County about the region's opioid epidemic, December 10, 2016 in Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce. (Yuting Jiang / The Palm Beach Post)
Congresswoman (center) Lois Frankel hosts a roundtable discussion with local officials of Palm Beach County about the region’s opioid epidemic, December 10, 2016 in Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce. (Yuting Jiang / The Palm Beach Post)

Frankel spoke to The Palm Beach Post earlier this week about her participation and support for the rally, which organizers say could draw 200,000 people.

RELATED: Latest news on Donald Trump’s inauguration

“We want to send a message to our new government on the first day in office that women’s rights are human rights, that we are standing together recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us,” Frankel said. “It is to be peaceful. That’s what our democracy should be about — making our voices heard, standing up for our safety, our rights, our families.”

Frankel said she thinks there is “a lot of fear” among women that the incoming administration could lead to women losing access to health care, including services provided by Planned Parenthood and benefits available under the Affordable Care Act.

“This is a productive way for people to channel their anxiety in a peaceful way with a strong message to not only the president-elect but to the Congress that will be there, that we are watching, that women are watching, that we are on our toes and we care very deeply about our country and our rights,” Frankel said.

Read more about Palm Beach County residents attending the Women’s March on Washington.

 

 

 

All motorcycle riders in Florida would have to wear helmets if this bill passes

If you enjoy riding your motorcycle with the breeze blowing through your hair, you might have to put a lid on those locks under a bill proposed in Florida’s House that would require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets.

The measure, HB 6009, would strip from state law an exemption added in 2000 that allows motorcycle drivers and riders to go helmet-less as long as they are over the age of 21 and have “at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of a crash while operating or riding on a motorcycle.”

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

State Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, R-The Villages, filed the bill in December for the upcoming legislative session, which kicks off March 7 in Tallahassee. If the bill passes, it would make riding a motorcycle without a helmet a noncriminal infraction.

While proponents of the state’s exemption say it should be up to each rider to decide if they want to wear a helmet, Florida saw an increase in motorcycle crashes in 2015 — the most recent data available — according to a report from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

There were more than 10,200 motorcycle crashes in the state in 2015, up 3.5 percent from 2014, the state report said. Deaths of motorcycle drivers in 2015 saw an even larger jump with 546 killed, up nearly 28 percent from the year before. And motorcycle passenger deaths spiked even higher, up almost 73 percent to 38 deaths in 2015. Nearly half of all people killed in motorcycle crashes in Florida in 2015 were not wearing helmets, according to state data.

Palm Beach County bucked the state trend, with a slight decrease in the number of motorcycle crashes from 2014 to 2015, dropping from 525 to 520.

But the number of people who died in motorcycle crashes in Palm Beach County doubled from 17 in 2014 to 34 in 2015.

Read the proposed bill here.

 

 

 

Bill would keep Florida from building more express toll lanes

A bill proposed this week in the Florida Senate would prevent the creation of more express lanes on the state’s highways while also setting rules for how express lane toll money must be spent.

The measure, SB 250, was filed Thursday by state Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami. If the bill is made law during the upcoming Florida legislative session, which begins March 7, it would ban state officials from creating any new express lanes after July 1.

Traffic comes to a standstill inside and outside the express lanes on Interstate 95 in Miami. (Miami Herald staff file photo)
Traffic comes to a standstill inside and outside the express lanes on Interstate 95 in Miami. (Miami Herald staff file photo)

Money collected from tolls on existing express lanes could only be used to pay off bonds used to create the projects. Once those bonds are paid off, the bill proposes that those express lanes would become general-use lanes.

» RELATED: 7 things to know about the I-95 express lanes planned for Palm Beach County

The use of express lanes in South Florida has been met with mixed reactions. While state officials say the lanes — which use dynamic tolling, meaning drivers pay a higher toll when congestion is worse and a lower toll when traffic flows more smoothly — help ease congestion, anti-toll advocates and some drivers argue the lanes create new problems, such as “lane diving,” where motorists weave through the poles that separate the express lanes from the general-use lanes to avoid tolls.

While Miami-Dade County has been ground zero for express lanes in South Florida, the Florida Department of Transportation is adding express lanes to Interstate 95 in Broward County with plans to extend them farther north to Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach, plus a study underway to see if express lanes should go even farther, to Indiantown Road in Jupiter.

On the Florida’s Turnpike system, express lanes are planned throughout South Florida — including southern Palm Beach County — with construction to begin locally in 2018. However, Artiles’ bill would not apply to turnpike express lanes, only those on highways owned by FDOT.

Read the bill here.

» RELATED: Florida’s Turnpike getting new lanes — but you’ll pay more to get in

 

 

 

 

Donald Trump inauguration: Florida pastor on list to participate in swearing-in

The inauguration committee coordinating the swearing-in of President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Wednesday announced a list of faith leaders who will participate in the ceremony. Among the names on the list: Pastor Paula White of the Orlando-area church New Destiny Christian Center.

She has served as Trump’s spiritual adviser for years, with Politico referring to her as his “God whisperer.”

Paula White. (Getty Images)
Paula White. (Getty Images)

White joins five others who will offer readings and participate in the invocation and benediction at the ceremony. Also on the list: the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of 98-year-old Christian evangelist Billy Graham.

“Since the first inaugural ceremony, our leaders have paid tribute to the blessings of liberty that have been bestowed upon our country and its people,” Presidential Inaugural Committee Chairman Tom Barrack said in a news release. “I am pleased to announce that a diverse set of faith leaders will offer readings and prayers at the swearing-in of President-elect Trump and honor the vital role religious faith plays in our multicultural, vibrant nation.”

According to the New Destiny Christian Church website, White has been senior pastor at the Apopka church since 2012. “By sharing her story of overcoming tragedy and finding restoration through the power of Christ, she has impacted people from every walk of life around the world,” the website states.

White has had her on TV show — on which Trump has appeared. Just before the Republican National Convention earlier this year, White spoke with The Christian Post about Trump’s faith. She spoke about her interactions with him, how they met — he saw one of her sermons on TV and contacted her — and why she supported him in the presidential race.

“I know Donald Trump. I know the strong leader he is,” she said. “I know how capable of a businessman he is. I know how compassionate he is. I know how smart he is. I know how he defends our values and the people whom he loves. I know how much he loves this country. I know how much he loves his children and how they admire and respect him.”

The Christian Post also asked White at the time if she might be called on to take part in the inauguration. “I don’t know and, frankly, I don’t care,” she said at the time. “The prayers I’m more interested in are prayers that are private, not public.”

Here are the other four faith leaders set to take part in the ceremony:

• Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York
• The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
• Rabbi Marvin Hier, Simon Wiesenthal Center
• Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, Great Faith Ministries International

Read Paula White’s interview with The Christian Post.

Donald Trump attends Christmas Eve service at historic Palm Beach church

President-elect Donald Trump attended a Christmas Eve church service at a historic church just a short drive from his Palm Beach estate Saturday night.

Trump and his wife Melania and an entourage of Secret Service agents and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputies made the trip from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club to attend the 10:30 p.m. service at the Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea, which sits about 400 yards from the Atlantic Ocean. They received a standing ovation from the congregation when they arrived.

President-elect Donald Trump, second from left, accompanied by his wife, Melania Trump, center right, departs after attending a Christmas Eve service at the Church of Bethesda-by-the Sea, in West Palm Beach, Fla., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President-elect Donald Trump, second from left, accompanied by his wife, Melania Trump, center right, departs after attending a Christmas Eve service at the Church of Bethesda-by-the Sea, in West Palm Beach, Fla., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

» Trump in Palm Beach: Profile of beloved church

The Trump family has frequented the church many times in the past few decades. Trump married his third and current wife, Melania, there in 2005. The following year, Trump’s youngest son, Barron, was christened there. And Trump attended the Christmas Eve service at Bethesda-by-the-Sea last year, and the Easter service earlier this year.

Before the service Saturday night, there were a few hints Trump was on his way: Guests were funneled through metal detectors, and ladies’ purses were searched under white tents temporarily pitched in front of the church.

Members of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office block an entrance to the Church of Bethesda by the Sea as President-elect Donald Trump attends an Festal Eucharist Christmas Eve at the church in Palm Beach, December 24 , 2016. (Yuting Jiang / The Palm Beach Post)
Members of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office block an entrance to the Church of Bethesda by the Sea as President-elect Donald Trump attends an Festal Eucharist Christmas Eve at the church in Palm Beach, December 24 , 2016. (Yuting Jiang / The Palm Beach Post)

Members had been on watch throughout Christmas Eve for a possible visit from Trump, but church officials had declined to say throughout the week to confirm if Trump was planning to attend a service, and if so, which one.

» PHOTOS: Trump in Palm Beach through the years

“Out of respect for each person’s faith, we will not comment on any individual and their participation in the life this parish—even public figures,” Bethesda-by-the-Sea’s rector, the Rev. James R. Harlan, said in a statement earlier in the week. “Should we be asked to do so, we will work with the secret service to accommodate their needs for security, but we will not discuss those arrangements or plans, not even to confirm or deny that there are plans for any particular service. We are confident that any possible security arrangements will not make attending our beautiful Christmas worship any more challenging for those attending.”

Bethesda-by-the-Sea is the oldest Protestant church in South Florida. It opened more than 125 years ago in Palm Beach. Its location has made it popular with celebrities, politicians and athletes. Michael Jordan was married there in 2013, and singer Rod Stewart was spotted at a service earlier Christmas Eve.