Bill targets websites that don’t remove mug shots

Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Legislature is pushing through a bill that targets websites that charge individuals a fee to remove their mug shot.The bill targets companies that obtain booking photos from law enforcement agencies and put them online along with the person’s name.

The companies then charge arrestees up to hundreds of dollars to remove them or face continued embarrassment.

Under the proposed law, an individual could obtain a court order for removal, and the website would be subject to a $1,000-a-day fine if it doesn’t comply.

Florida is trailing several states in addressing the practice by such websites as

Mug shot companies, as well as media outlets, use Florida’s strong open records laws to obtain content for their sites.

Online voter registration bill gets brief ‘day in court,’ but is not passing this session

Matt Dixon, (@Mdixon55)

Legislation that would create a process for registering to vote online got its “day in court” Monday, but is not going anywhere this Legislative session.

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, would require the Department of State setup a website that would allow for online registration, which is in 13 states, by July 2015.

Because the House has said it will not pass any voting-related legislation this session, it means the bill does not have a companion in that chamber or a chance of passing.

“This bill is not moving in the house, which is no big surprise to anyone,” said State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, chairman of the Ethics and Elections Committee.

Clemens acknowledges his bill is likely not going anywhere this session, but did try to address concerns over safety and potential voter fraud by stressing the registrations are cross-checked with existing state records.

“One of the things this system does that increases security, it auto checks these registrations with the DMV…files,” he said. “By doing that we are taking the extra step to make sure those registrations are accurate.”

The Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections is set to release a report by the end of the year making its recommendations for how, and if, the state should move forward with an online system.

“We believe generally it can be done….in a relatively cost effective manner,” said Escambia County Supervisor of Election David Stafford, who was representing the association.

State Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said he did not support the bill because he did not want it to appear the committee supported one format without first getting input from local election officials.

“I do have concern that we would be going on the record with an outline that could be totally different than what the supervisors want,” said Gardiner, who will be Senate President next year when online voter registration legislation could again be considered.

Clemens did end up pulling his bill, SB 784, before a vote was taken. He said he just wanted to start a discussion.

The future of voting: Lee supervisor of elections seeks E-poll books to cut wait times

Maryann Batlle, (@MaryannBatlle)

The 2008 general election was a very good one for Sharon Harrington. A little more than 85 percent of Lee County’s registered voters cast a ballot, which the supervisor of elections counts as a triumph.

“I’m proud of that,” said Harrington, Lee’s supervisor of elections.

Four years later, Harrington had a “very bad one.” The night of the 2012 general election, Harrington sat in her office watching everything “go down the toilet” at her precincts. Voters got caught in long lines; turnout dropped to just below 69 percent.

“There was nothing I could do about it,” Harrington said.

To avoid the last scenario in future elections, Harrington is seeking $749,846 from the county to purchase 785 electronic poll books, known as e-poll books, and other equipment. She said the new technology will streamline her operations and cut voter wait times.

E-poll books have the ability to perform a lot of the work traditionally done on paper. Harrington’s e-poll books would be Apple iPads stocked with software that would, among other things, allow poll workers to check in voters at precincts with just the scan of a driver’s license.

“That’s going to alleviate having to juggle the big paper book,” Harrington said.

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Bills would create license plate sticker instead of hang tag to park in handicapped spaces

James L. Rosica (@jlrosicaTBO) in Tallahassee

A license plate sticker would replace the familiar hang tag needed to park in handicapped parking spaces under legislation filed in the Capitol.

The bills (HB 1325, SB 1558) would require the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to design a sticker with the “international symbol of accessibility” – a stick figure of a person sitting in a wheelchair – to be used instead of a placard that hangs on a rear-view window.

There had been confusion that those with Purple Heart specialty plates had to exchange them for disabled veteran tags to use handicapped parking spaces. Department spokesman John Lucas says that’s not the case.

Steve Surface, who represents the Dunedin chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, says Purple Heart plates are a point of pride.

“It means something,” said Surface, a U.S. Army sergeant first class. “It distinguishes us for the sacrifice we made.”

The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who are injured or killed in combat.

By forgoing a hang tag for a plate sticker, the proposal would make it easier for wounded warriors who may forget to hang the placards or have had theirs stolen from their vehicles, said Surface, of Clearwater.

The department has not taken a position on the proposal, Lucas said.

The House bill has cleared one committee unanimously this session, while its Senate companion hasn’t yet been heard in committee, records show.

Rick Scott signs Florida GI Bill


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PANAMA CITY, Fla., March 31, 2014……Flanked by military veterans, members of the Florida National Guard and lawmakers, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law on Monday the “Florida GI Bill,” modeled after the World War II-era program and intended to make Florida the most military-friendly state in the nation.

The wide-ranging measure (HB 7015), rushed through the Legislature the first week of session as a priority of House and Senate leadership, provides university tuition waivers for veterans, pays for military and guard base improvements, is expected to help increase employment opportunities for veterans and allocates $1 million a year to sell the state to veterans.

Andrew Sloan, a Georgia native who spent six years in the U.S. Air Force and has been lobbying lawmakers since September on behalf of student veterans, said the bill will draw other veterans to Florida’s universities.

“We served our nation and we only ask for that which we earned, by virtue of our service, (to) be there when we get home,” said Sloan, who is now a political science and German double-major attending Florida State University.

Scott tied his own experiences when leaving the U.S. Navy to wanting to support veterans and active duty service members.

“I remember when I got out of the Navy back in the early ’70s, it was not a good time to get out of the service in this country,” Scott said after the signing ceremony at the National Guard Armory in Panama City. “Our veterans were not respected; it was a tough time. We’re going to make sure that is this is the most military-friendly state for active-duty members, but also for all the veterans.”

According to the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the state currently houses 1.5 million veterans, of which nearly one-third are from the Vietnam era and 231,000 served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Florida’s nursing home population includes nearly 114,000 World War II-era veterans and more than 178,000 veterans of the Korean conflict.

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz crafted the package during a statewide “listening” tour last summer.

Weatherford called the legislation “the most important bill that we’ll pass this legislative session.”

The package, expected to cost more than $30 million in its first year, includes an anticipated $12.5 million for ongoing upgrades of the state’s National Guard facilities and $7.5 million to purchase a total of 45 acres of buffer lands around MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville and Naval Support Activity Panama City.

The proposal also requires Visit Florida to spend $1 million a year on marketing aimed at veterans, and allocate another $300,000 to a new nonprofit corporation, Florida Is For Veterans, Inc. The nonprofit, to be housed within the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, would be used to encourage veterans to move to Florida, and promote the hiring of veterans.

Meanwhile, state universities and colleges are expected to take an $11.7 million hit in waivers for out-of-state tuition charges for all honorably discharged veterans, a proposal named the “Congressman C.W. Bill Young Veteran Tuition Waiver Act” after the late Pinellas County lawmaker who served more than four decades in Congress before his death last year.

Because in-state tuition, covered by the federal GI Bill, is thousands of dollars cheaper than out-of-state rates, lawmakers hope the new waivers encourage veterans from outside of the state to apply to Florida schools.

To assist families of active-duty service members, the bill also waives the requirement for spouses and dependents to get a Florida driver license if they get a job or enroll in a public school.