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Mary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Mary Ellen Klas

Mary Ellen Klas is capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald and co-bureau chief of the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a graduate of the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn. Before she became bureau chief for the Herald in 2004, Mary Ellen was Tallahassee bureau chief for Florida Trend magazine and also served as a senior writer for the Palm Beach Post. She was bureau chief for the Palm Beach Post from 1990-94, after which she worked part time for 10 years while her daughters were young. She is married to John Kennedy, senior writer for the Palm Beach Post's Tallahassee bureau. They have two daughters.

Phone: 850-222-3095

Email: meklas@miamiherald.com

Twitter: @MaryEllenKlas

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  1. Conservatives tell legislature: reform sentencing like neighboring states

    Blog

    More than a dozen conservative groups sent an appeal to House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate President Joe Negron and the chairs of several legislative committees Friday, urging them to get behind legislation reforming the state's minimum mandatory sentencing law, which they have concluded are "costly to taxpayers" and "harm families and communities."

    "In the last 15 years, more than 30 states around the country – Florida among them – have reconsidered the wisdom of disproportional mandatory minimum sentencing laws.'' the coalition wrote. "These centralized, one-size-fits-all laws undermine individualized consideration in the American justice system. They also waste taxpayer dollars locking up for far too long some people who pose little to no threat to public safety."  Download 2017 Florida Sentencing Reform Support Letter (Corcoran)...

    Conservative groups are lining up behind sentencing reform
  2. Lawmaker to Rick Scott: Restore order in privately run women's prison

    News

    TALLAHASSEE — Warning that inmate health and safety is at risk at the state's largest privately run women's prison, Rep. David Richardson asked Gov. Rick Scott this week to use his emergency powers to replace the top officers and take state control of Gadsden Correctional Facility.

    In a letter delivered late Thursday, Richardson asked Scott "to direct the Florida Department of Corrections to install a temporary warden, chief of security, and other resources you deem necessary to restore order and reverse what I can only describe as a loss of institutional control."...

    Rep. David Richardson, D- Miami Beach, is asking Gov. Rick Scott to declare an emergency about the conditions at Gadsden Correctional Facility, the state's largest women's prison. [Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Lawmaker asks governor have state take over private prison

    Blog

    Warning that inmate health and safety is at risk at the state’s largest privately run women’s prison, Rep. David Richardson on Thursday asked Gov. Rick Scott to use his emergency powers to replace the top officers and take state control of Gadsden Correctional Facility.

    In a letter delivered late Thursday, Richardson asked Scott “to direct the Florida Department of Corrections to install a temporary warden, chief of security, and other resources you deem necessary to restore order and reverse what I can only describe as a loss of institutional control.”...

    Rep. David Richardson at Gadsden Correctional Facility
  4. Corcoran criticizes Constitution Revision schedule

    Blog

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Thursday criticized Constitution Revision Commission chair Carlos Beruff for scheduling four public hearings in the middle of the legislative session, when five of his nine appointees, all legislators, are unavailable to attend.

     "When you have such a once-in-20-year august body, dealing with something of the highest impact -- which is our Constitution -- and you only have a limited number of members, 37, and immediately the first action is to disenfranchise one sixth, I don't think that is a good start,'' Corcoran told reporters on Thursday....

  5. Senate advances bill aimed at 'gotcha' public records requests

    Blog

    The Florida Senate on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a compromise proposal aimed at cracking down on “gotcha” public records requests while preserving the attorney fees leverage the public has against public officials who violate Florida’s Sunshine laws.

    The bill, SB 80, by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, is intended to crack down on what he says is are a small group of serial records abusers who attempt to snag unsuspecting public officials into violating public records laws in an effort to coerce a financial settlement....

    Sen. Greg Steube
  6. Florida Senate advances bill that tries to limit 'gotcha' public records lawsuits

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a compromise proposal aimed at cracking down on "gotcha" public records requests while preserving the attorney fees leverage the public has against public officials who violate Florida's Sunshine laws.

    The bill, SB 80, by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, is intended to crack down on what he says is are a small group of serial records abusers who attempt to snag unsuspecting public officials into violating public records laws in an effort to coerce a financial settlement....

    Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation said that this year her group plans to grade Florida legislators to guage their support for the state's open government laws. [Steven Cannon    |  AP]
  7. Miami officials urge legislature to halt FPL transmission bill being 'bulldozed' through

    Blog

    Officials from several Miami-Dade communities impacted by an 88-mile transmission line sought by Florida Power & Light through the county’s most affluent and environmentally sensitive areas pleaded with a Senate committee Wednesday not to approve legislation to allow the company to build the line without considering local development rules.

    The bill, SB 1048 by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, would overturn an April 2016 ruling by a three-judge panel of the Third District Court of Appeal that said the governor and Cabinet failed to consider Miami-Dade County’s environmental rules when they signed off on allowing FPL to string a transmission line through Everglades marshes and fragile wetlands....

  8. Constitution Commission announces hearings in Orlando and South Florida

    Blog

    From a release:

    Constitution Commission Chairman Carlos Beruff today announced the first four scheduled stops on the statewide “Floridians Speak, We Listen” tour being hosted by the 2017-2018 Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).  The Commission will be at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orange County on Wednesday, March 29 from 5-8 p.m.; Florida International University (FIU) in Miami-Dade County on Thursday, April 6 from 5-8 p.m.; Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Palm Beach County on Friday, April 7 from 9 a.m.-noon; and the University of West Florida (UWF) in Escambia County on Wednesday, April 12 from 4-7 p.m. (central time)....

  9. Bill that attempts to freeze gambling in Florida advances in House

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — A bill that attempts to lock Florida's gambling footprint in place for 20 years — and ice out any casino expansion — passed a key House committee along a party line vote Tuesday leaving the Legislature miles apart over how to resolve the lucrative gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe.

    The House bill, HB 7037, authorizes Gov. Rick Scott to renew the existing compact with the tribe, which runs two Hard Rock Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa and four other casinos in Florida. But instead of leaving the revenue sharing where it is, the House increases the minimum guarantee from about $250 million a year to at least $325 million in exchange for exclusive operation of blackjack in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and slot machines at its casinos outside of South Florida....

     Pictured is the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa's new state-of-the-art poker room on Thursday, January 12, 2017. The non-smoking poker room features 46 tables, 40 TV sets, and a drinks and snacks bar.
  10. Are Florida voters getting burned by lawmakers on last year's solar amendment?

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — A bill moving through the Florida House to implement the August ballot initiative by giving tax breaks to businesses that install solar energy panels is under fire for doing what the utility industry could not do in the last election cycle — impose impediments to rooftop solar installation.

    Several legislators of a committee expressed reservations and members of the solar industry warned that a long list of "consumer protections" in the bill will actually serve to keep legitimate companies from doing business in Florida....

    Senate Bill 104, filed last week by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would add computer coding as another option for the current foreign language requirement in Florida high schools. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  11. Redistricting wars continue: Senate passes bill targeting court in future fights

    Blog

    After four years of bitter legal battles over Florida redistricting, Republicans in the Florida Senate Tuesday passed a bill that makes new demands on the court in future map wars, and sets new standards about which maps take effect and when.

    The bill, SB 352 by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, passed the Senate 24-14, on a party line vote. It locks maps in place on qualifying day and requires that if a map is challenged 71 days before the primary election, the existing map in force will be the one that applies for the election. If the court orders revised the boundaries after that, the new boundaries will take effect in the next election cycle....

  12. Constitution Revision Commission convenes but delays adoption of rules

    Blog

    The state panel assigned to review the state Constitution got off to a rocky start Monday as the 37-member commission met for an organizational session in the Florida Senate chambers but delayed adopting rules after several members privately raised questions about whether the proposals diluted the public’s input in the process.

    The Constitution Revision Committee, which is convened every 20 years and given the power to put proposals directly on the 2018 November ballot, met for just over an hour and reviewed the state ethics laws that apply. But a proposal to have the commission adopt rules drafted by the commission staff in advance of the meeting was indefinitely postponed until after public hearings begin next week in Orange County....

  13. Rules conflict snags opening of Constitution review commission

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — The state panel assigned to review the state Constitution got off to a rocky start Monday as the 37-member commission met for an organizational session in the Florida Senate chambers but delayed adopting rules after several members privately raised questions about whether the proposals diluted the public's input in the process.

    The Constitution Revision Committee, which is convened every 20 years and given the power to put proposals directly on the 2018 November ballot, met for just over an hour and reviewed the state ethics laws that apply. But a proposal to have the commission adopt rules drafted by the commission staff in advance of the meeting was indefinitely postponed until after public hearings begin next week in Orange County. ...

    Gov. Rick Scott selected Republican businessman Carlos Beruff, a former U.S. Senate, to chair the Constitution Revision Commission. [Lara Cerri | Tampa Bay Times]
  14. FAF asks Constitution commission to revise rules to follow Sunshine laws

    Blog

    Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, is asking the the Constitution Revision Commission to amend its proposed rules to bring the commission into line with existing law regarding open meetings and public records.

    The 37-member commission, which meets today for the first time in an organizational session, has drafted rules that depart from the existing Sunshine law, which is intended to apply to public officials -- including appointed boards and commissions....

  15. Constitution panel meets today with rules that steer more power to chair Beruff

    Blog

    Florida's unique quest to update its state Constitution begins today as the 37-member commission meets for an organizational session the Florida Senate chambers.

    The group, dominated by Republicans, will meet briefly for two hours, review its proposed rules and go over the state's ethics and Sunshine laws.

    The draft rules, however, are already stoking some debate. They allow Carlos Beruff, the Manatee County businessman who was selected to be chairman of the commission by Gov. Rick Scott, to consolidate his power over the group by giving him sole discretion of what expenses will be reimbursed and to use his committee referrals to kill proposals that have been amended by members....