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.
“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.
More than 100 protesters and supporters lined the route as Trump’s motorcade passed.
4:15 p.m. UPDATE: Southern Boulevard and adjoining roads have reopened after President Donald Trump’s motorcade passed through on the way to Palm Beach International Airport from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club.
Some users of the Waze traffic app are reporting tie-ups at southbound Dixie Highway and southbound Interstate 95 approaching Southern.
A few people have gathered along the eastern edge of PBIA to watch Air Force One take off.
EARLIER STORY:President Donald Trump is slated to leave Palm Beach today, so residents should expect slowdowns at some point as his motorcade travels from Mar-a-Lago to Palm Beach International Airport. Stay with The Palm Beach Post for updates.
As the presidential motorcade travels along Southern Boulevard, that road and adjoining north-south streets will be closed until all vehicles in the motorcade have passed. That includes Interstate 95, Australian Avenue and Dixie Highway.
Though traffic shouldn’t be as heavy as a typical weekday — it’s Presidents Day, so many businesses are closed and schools are off — drivers should still be on the lookout for temporary road closures that pop up as Trump prepares to leave.
Here’s a map to help you plan your travel today:
Alternate routes: Use Belvedere Road or Forest Hill Boulevard for east-west travel, and Military Trail or Florida’s Turnpike for north-south travel.
FINAL UPDATE: Traffic continues to clear from the area between Palm Beach International Airport and President Donald Trump’sMar-a-Lago Club, after the presidential motorcade passed through during rush hour, backing up Interstate 95, Dixie Highway and Australian Avenue for about an hour.
Stay with The Palm Beach Post throughout the weekend for more updates on Trump’s visit.
6:43 p.m. UPDATE: While Tri-Rail says a pair of its northbound trains are behind schedule because of President Donald Trump’s motorcade, vehicle traffic in the area is clearing out. Motorists can expect the usual Friday evening traffic through the area, with slowdown along Belvedere Road and on Interstate 95 near Southern Boulevard.
6:37 p.m. UPDATE: Tri-Rail just sent alerts reporting a northbound train is stopped at the Lake Worth station and running about 20 minutes late because of President Trump’s motorcade, and another northbound train is stopped at the Boynton Beach station and running about 10 minutes late getting to Lake Worth.
6:20 p.m. UPDATE: With President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Southern Boulevard and adjoining north-south roads have reopened. Traffic remains slow through the area, with backups on Interstate 95, Dixie Highway and Australian Avenue.
Alternate routes: Use Belvedere Road or Forest Hill Boulevard to travel east or west, and Military Trail for north-south travel. Instead of Interstate 95, you may want to take Florida’s Turnpike.
The motorcade came, people cheered, and we're done folks. President Trump's weekend in Palm Beach has begun. pic.twitter.com/ju8APvCLpy
6:10 p.m. UPDATE:President Trump’s motorcade has made its way down Southern Boulevard to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. Roads are slowly beginning to open. Interstate 95 near Southern should open soon.
Southern Boulevard and adjoining north-south roads are closed for the presidential motorcade.
5:30 p.m. UPDATE: Drivers along Southern Boulevard are reporting slowdowns ahead of President Donald Trump’s arrival at Palm Beach International Airport. Both Google Maps and Waze are showing delays along Southern, Australian and Interstate 95.
5:10 p.m. UPDATE: Law enforcement officers are getting into position along the route President Donald Trump’s motorcade will take from Palm Beach International Airport to his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach.
.@waze users are reporting law enforcement already getting into position along Trump motorcade route along Southern Blvd.
The presidential motorcade typically drives down Southern Boulevard to the estate, with the Secret Service ordering adjacent north-south roads closed until all vehicles in the motorcade have passed. That means Dixie Highway, Interstate 95 and Australian Avenue will be blocked for anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.
Trump is slated to arrive with the next 30 to 45 minutes.
In the town of Palm Beach, the Secret Service and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office already have blocked off South Ocean Boulevard next to Mar-a-Lago. The security zone, which stretches from South County Road in the north to Southern Boulevard, is closed to all vehicles except those residents who live in that area and are carrying valid ID.
Already, commuters may see traffic tie-ups at the Royal Park and Flagler Memorial bridges between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach, as many drivers are choosing to avoid the Southern Boulevard bridge next to Mar-a-Lago.
When Trump arrived aboard Air Force One last Friday, his motorcade tied up traffic during rush hour as it made its way down Southern Boulevard. Unlike the motorcades when Trump was president-elect, Interstate 95 to the north and south of Southern now must be shut down until Trump passes. Other north-south roads, including Australian Avenue and Dixie Highway, also are temporarily closed.
In addition to roads, trains also feel the effects of a presidential motorcade, with Tri-Rail reporting two trains — one northbound and one southbound — were halted for about 25 minutes Friday afternoon.
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.
• $4.1 billion for construction of highway projects
• $178.2 million in seaport infrastructure improvements
• $257.8 million for aviation improvements
• $300.8 million for scheduled repair of 61 bridges and replacement of 16 bridges
• $978.2 million for maintenance and operation
• $618 million for public transit development grants
• $175.6 million for safety initiatives
• $82.7 million for bike and pedestrian trails
“Gov. Scott’s transportation budget provides the record funding necessary to maintain and repair existing infrastructure and prepare for future growth,” said outgoing state Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold. “Florida’s roads, seaports, airports, railways and trails will continue to meet the growing needs of Florida’s families.”
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.
There are two exceptions: if a dog is being transportation by a farmer or farm employee while working with the dog, and if a dog is part of a hunting event and being moved from one site to another. Violating the law would be a noncriminal traffic infraction.
If the bill — sponsored by state Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota — passes Florida’s legislative session, which kicks off March 7, it would take effect July 1.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.