STATE CAPITAL BRIEFS (EVENING EDITION): MONDAY, AUGUST 21, 2017
STATE CAPITAL BRIEFS (EVENING EDITION): MONDAY, AUGUST 21, 2017
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

©2017 The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved. Posting or forwarding this material without permission is prohibited.

PRISON SYSTEM LOCKDOWN LIFTED
The Florida Department of Corrections said Monday that operations at state prisons had returned to normal after a partial lockdown because of safety and security concerns. The department, which pointed last week to “credible intelligence indicating that small groups of inmates at several institutions may attempt to disrupt” operations, also canceled weekend visitation at prisons. But in a news release issued shortly after noon Monday the department said the lockdown had been lifted. “We made a planned, strategic decision to take proactive action to uphold our mission to protect public safety and keep our staff and inmates safe,” Corrections Secretary Julie Jones said in a prepared statement. “I am confident the measures taken were not only necessary but effective.”

FLORIDA ADDS 14 ZIKA CASES IN WEEK
The number of Zika cases reported in 2017 in Florida jumped about 10 percent during the past week, with the total reaching 151, according to information posted Monday on the state Department of Health website. Florida added 14 cases during the week after reporting a total of 137 infections on Aug. 14. The department said it has not identified any areas where mosquitoes are transmitting the disease, which can be particularly dangerous to pregnant women because of potential birth defects. Most cases this year --- 112, as of Monday --- are classified as “travel related,” which means people were infected elsewhere and brought the virus into Florida. The remainder of the cases involve people who were exposed to the virus in 2016 and tested this year, according to the Department of Health numbers.

BILL WOULD LET CODING COUNT AS FOREIGN LANGUAGE
A Senate Republican filed a proposal Monday that could lead to some high-school students taking computer coding courses to get foreign-language credits. The bill (SB 180), filed by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would allow --- but not require --- high schools to offer two credits in computer coding. Students who take the coding courses and earn related industry certifications would be able to satisfy two credits of foreign-language instruction. Florida College System schools and state universities would have to recognize the coding courses as foreign-language credits. But parents and students also would have to sign statements acknowledging that out-of-state colleges and universities might not recognize the coding courses. The bill, which is filed for the 2018 legislative session, would make the changes effective with the 2020-2021 school year.

PROPOSAL COULD MAKE IT HARDER TO AMEND CONSTITUTION
State Rep. Rick Roth, R-Loxahatchee, reintroduced a measure Monday that would make it harder for voters to change the Florida Constitution. The proposal (HJR 65), which Roth seeks to place on the 2018 ballot, would require ballot measures to receive the support of two-thirds of voters for approval. That would be tougher than the current requirement that 60 percent of voters need to sign off on constitutional amendments. If the higher standard had been used in the past, a 2016 measure to broadly legal medical marijuana still would have been approved. That measure received 71.3 percent of the vote. However, a 2012 amendment giving a homestead property-tax exemption to the surviving spouses of military veterans and first responders would have failed. That measure received 62 percent support. Roth's proposal is filed for the 2018 legislative session, which starts in January. He filed a similar proposal for the 2017 session, but it was only approved by one House subcommittee. The Senate version, proposed by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, never got heard in committee. Florida voters in 2006 approved requiring 60 percent approval for constitutional amendments, up from the previous majority approval.


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8/21/2017

© 2017 The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved. Posting or forwarding this material without permission is prohibited.