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Kristen M. Clark, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Kristen M. Clark

Kristen Clark covers the Florida Legislature and state government in the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau. A Michigan State graduate, Kristen previously covered community news for the Palm Beach Post, Michigan state government for the Lansing State Journal and local and federal politics for the Forum in Fargo, N.D. She is married to Ryan S. Clark, a sports journalist who covers Florida State athletics for Warchant.com.

Email: kclark@miamiherald.com

Twitter: @ByKristenMClark

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  1. Florida taxpayers will shoulder $1.1M in legal fees in state's defense of 'Docs vs. Glocks'

    Blog

    From Jim Saunders at the News Service of Florida:

    Florida will pay $1.1 million in legal fees to attorneys who challenged a controversial state law that sought to prevent doctors from asking patients about guns, a group representing opponents said Monday.

    The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence announced the legal-fees agreement more than five months after a federal appeals court sided with doctors and medical groups in striking down key parts of the 2011 law --- which became known as the “docs vs. glocks” law. The state did not appeal the Feb. 16decision by the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    A copy of the legal-fees agreement had not been posted in an online court file Monday morning. But documents indicate the state and the law's opponents had been in mediation on the fees.

    The law, which was backed by groups such as the National Rifle Association, included a series of restrictions on doctors and health providers. For example, it sought to prevent physicians from entering information about gun ownership into medical records if the physicians knew the information was not "relevant" to patients' medical care or safety or to the safety of other people.

    Also, the law said doctors should refrain from asking about gun ownership by patients or family members unless the doctors believed in "good faith" that the information was relevant to medical care or safety. Also, the law sought to prevent doctors from discriminating against patients or "harassing" them because of owning firearms.

    Opponents argued, in part, that the law violated free-speech rights. The full appeals court found that the record-keeping, inquiry and anti-harassment parts of the law were unconstitutional, but upheld the portion of the law that bars doctors from discriminating against patients who have guns.

    “Legislators across the country should learn from Florida's example that if you side with the corporate gun lobby instead of your constituents, you endanger the safety of children and families, impinge upon First Amendment rights of doctors, and force taxpayers to pay millions to unsuccessfully defend unconstitutional laws,” Jonathan Lowy, director of the Brady Center's Legal Action Project and an attorney in the case, said in a prepared statement Monday. “Thankfully, in this case justice prevailed and the court recognized that doctors have a First Amendment right to tell the truth about guns, and the risks they can pose to children and families.”

    When asked for comment Monday about the legal fees, John Tupps, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott, said in an email that Scott signed the 2011 law after it “was approved by a large, bipartisan majority in the Florida Legislature.”

    “Governor Scott is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment,” Tupps said. “Much of this law was either never challenged or upheld in court. This (legal fees) settlement is in accordance with Florida law and a recommendation from the Department of Financial Services.”

    The challenge to the law was filed in June 2011 and played out over nearly six years. A U.S. District Court judge blocked the law from taking effect, but a three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld the law in three rulings before the full appeals court agreed to take up the case.

    Supporters of the law said it was necessary to prevent doctors, such as pediatricians, from harassing and discriminating against patients and parents about gun ownership. The also described the law, formally known as the Firearm Owners' Privacy Act, as a Second Amendment issue.

    But Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, an attorney with the firm Ropes & Gray, who argued the case for the plaintiffs, said in a prepared statement Monday that the case allows doctors to “go back to giving their best advice to patients when it comes to gun safety.”

    “From day one in bringing this case, our commitment has been to protect doctors' First Amendment rights to ensure the safety of individuals, families and communities in Florida,” Hallward-Driemeier said. “The successful resolution of the litigation and subsequent fees and costs award are both critical to furthering that goal.”...

  2. Lacking key DOE guidance, Florida schools try to adopt statewide reforms in HB 7069

    Blog

    Every year, new state laws hit the books that have to be implemented once they take effect. But House Bill 7069 isn’t your average new law.

    The sweeping, 274-page, $419 million measure that reforms Florida’s public K-12 schools spans dozens of changes in statute — some of which are complex and take effect at different times over the course of the next few years....

  3. Gov. Scott vetoed a higher ed bill. Now he wants universities to spend their money wisely.

    Blog

    When Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a major higher education reform bill last month, it didn’t strip away millions of dollars for Florida’s public universities that was already approved separately in the state budget but linked to that proposed policy....

    Gov. Rick Scott
  4. FLDOE releases guidance on 'Schools of Hope,' new school improvement rules

    Blog

    More than two dozen low-performing traditional public schools in Tampa Bay -- and nine in Miami-Dade and Broward counties  -- can apply for extra funding this school year under the controversial new “Schools of Hope” program that lawmakers narrowly approved this spring....

  5. Florida gets another 60 days to prove why an abortion waiting period is needed

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Attorney General Pam Bondi's Office has 60 more days to gather evidence and testimony to defend a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for abortions, which lawmakers enacted in 2015 but blocked from taking effect amid a two-year legal battle.

    In granting the state extra time, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Wednesday also chided Deputy Solicitor General Denise Harle for not already being prepared to make her case....

    Florida Circuit Judge Terry Lewis.
  6. Judge: State gets 60 more days to prove need for 24-hour abortion waiting period

    Blog

    Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office has 60 more days to gather evidence and testimony to defend a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for abortions, which lawmakers enacted in 2015 but which has been blocked from taking effect amid a two-year legal battle.

    In granting the state extra time, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis on Wednesday also chided Deputy Solicitor General Denise Harle for not already being prepared to make her case....

    Julia Kaye, attorney for the ACLU.
  7. As run for governor looms, Putnam pushes for guns on campus, open carry in public

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a top Republican contender for governor next year, said he would support proposed changes in Florida law to let "law-abiding gun owners" carry firearms on college and university campuses and openly in public places.

    Conservative lawmakers in the Florida Legislature have pushed for both proposals, but in the past two years, the measures died in the Senate where moderate Miami-Dade Republicans used their influence to halt the bills. The pieces of legislation — strongly supported by the National Rifle Association — are likely to return in the 2018 session, and Putnam told reporters Tuesday the concepts have his endorsement....

    Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor, speaks at a press conference Tuesday at the Florida National Guard Armory in Tallahassee. [Kristen M. Clark | Miami Herald]
  8. Appeals court considers lawsuit over Florida's public education system

    Blog

    The Florida Constitution requires the state to provide “a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools” — but is that general standard something that can be measured?

    That’s what an appeals court in Tallahassee will decide in the latest round of a long-standing battle over whether the Legislature, state Board of Education and the Florida Department of Education are fulfilling their constitutional obligations for 2.8 million children in the state’s public schools....

    First District Court of Appeal
  9. Putnam: 'There is absolutely a pathway for Florida to get to a form of open carry'

    Blog

    Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a top Republican contender for governor next year, said he would support proposed changes in Florida law to let "law-abiding gun owners" carry firearms on college and university campuses and openly in public places.

    Conservative lawmakers in the Florida Legislature have pushed for both proposals, but in the past two years, the measures died in the Senate where moderate Miami-Dade Republicans used their influence to halt the bills. The pieces of legislation -- strongly supported by the National Rifle Association -- are likely to return in the 2018 session, and Putnam told reporters Tuesday the concepts have his endorsement....

    Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor, speaks at a press conference Tuesday at the Florida National Guard Armory in Tallahassee.
  10. Patrick Murphy named chairman of new Future Forum Foundation

    Blog

    Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat from Palm Beach County who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio last year, will serve as chairman of a new political non-profit group aimed at “better identifying solutions to the challenges facing millennials in our economy, across society and in government.”

    The Future Forum Foundation formally announced its debut on Wednesday — however, the group is an off-shoot of the U.S. House Future Forum caucus, which was founded two years ago and is comprised of 26 of the youngest Democratic members of Congress....

    Former U.S. Senate candidate and former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democrat from Palm Beach County
  11. Florida House responds to Broward Schools' threat of lawsuit with promotional video

    Blog

    Two days after the Broward County School Board decided to sue over newly enacted and controversial statewide education reforms, Florida House Republicans countered by debuting a promotional video that touts their hotly debated “Schools of Hope” plan.

    The “Hope” program — a top session priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes — is one of several provisions within House Bill 7069 that attorneys for the Broward school district plan to argue is unconstitutional....

    The Florida House, under Republican Speaker Richard Corcoran, released a video Friday advertising the controversial “Schools of Hope” program enacted under House Bill 7069, which Broward County Public Schools plans to sue over.
  12. Andrew Gillum's gubernatorial campaign leaderless after split with top staff

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The top two people in charge of Democrat Andrew Gillum's gubernatorial campaign are out, barely four months into Gillum's run and following weeks of relatively low fundraising totals.

    With both campaign manager Phillip Thompson and deputy campaign manager and finance director Brice Barnes leaving, it's unclear who's now in charge of the campaign for Gillum, who is mayor of Tallahassee....

    Gillum
  13. UPDATED: Andrew Gillum parts with his campaign manager, finance director

    Blog

    The top two people in charge of Democrat Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign are out, barely four months into Gillum’s run and following weeks of relatively low fundraising totals.

    With both campaign manager Phillip Thompson and deputy campaign manager and finance director Brice Barnes leaving, it’s unclear who’s now in charge of Gillum’s campaign....

  14. Lawsuit against HB 7069 looms in Broward; Corcoran calls it 'clueless, arguably heartless'

    Blog

    The bitter fight over new K-12 public school reforms that the Republican-led Legislature approved this spring entered a new stage on Wednesday when the Broward County School Board voted unanimously to challenge the law’s constitutionality in court.

    Broward is the first school district to vote to sue over the passage of House Bill 7069, which became law Saturday above passionate objections from school administrators, teachers’ unions and parent groups statewide for its many provisions friendly to charter schools, in some cases, at the expense of traditional public schools....

  15. Talk of fixing HB 7069 'way too premature,' Hialeah lawmaker says

    Blog

    Although a major school reform bill was signed into law last month amid heavy criticism and calls that it be fixed immediately, an influential lawmaker from Miami-Dade County indicates that issue won’t be a priority on the Legislature’s agenda for 2018....

    Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, right, talks with Rep. Jayer Williamson, R-Pace, on the floor of the House during a special session of the Florida legislature Thursday June 8, 2017, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla.