Two Bills Filed to Legalize Uber in Florida

Categories: News

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via Uber
Ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft have been trying to find a way to operate legally in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, while amassing penalty fees for doing so. But now two companion bills have been filed to establish guidelines for each service, though both differ in some of the details.

Earlier this week, Sen. Jeff Brandes filed SB 1326, while Rep. Matt Gaetz filed companion bill, HB 817. The bills propose statewide requirements for Uber and Lyft across the board, including background checks, minimum insurance coverage and a ban on drivers with three or more moving violations or a reckless driving conviction in the past three years. The bill would also have drivers with felony convictions, DUI conviction within the past seven years to be banned from driving for these and any other Transportation Network Companies.

See also: Palm Beach Cabbie Wants to Launch Ride App to Rival Uber

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Gunman Kills Prospective Home Buyer During Showing (UPDATED)

Categories: News

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Photo by Tony Webster via Wikipedia Commons
Update: Broward Sheriff's Office homicide detectives have released the name of the victim as Kenol Jean, 51, of Pompano Beach.

A married couple were looking at a home in Washington Park they were interested in buying with their real estate agent when a gunman walked in and fired his gun, killing the husband.

According to BSO, the real estate agent was showing the newly renovated home located at 2729 N.W. 6 Ct. in Fort Lauderdale when an assailant described as a bearded man in his mid-to-late 50s with salt-and-pepper hair walked in and fired at them.

The shooter is still on the loose and is considered armed and dangerous.

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Florida's Biggest Corporations Avoid State Taxes, Study Says

Categories: Economy, News

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Ken Teegardin via Flickr cc
The biggest companies in Florida -- including Fort Lauderdale-based AutoNation -- pay less in state taxes than the 5.5 percent rate they should. So says a new study released by the nonpartisan government watchdog group Integrity Florida. The study says that 13 of Florida's Fortune 500 corporations paid an average 2.7 percent rate in corporate taxes between 2011 and 2013.

This could be because Florida has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the nation. But Integrity Florida says this is something the public should know about and calls for disclosure of state and local tax revenue paid in certain situations.

In all, the 13 companies made $35.1 billion in estimated corporate profits during the period while paying $945.7 million in total estimated corporate profits taxes. In contrast, taxpayers paid more than $2.4 billion to ten of Florida's 17 top Fortune 500 corporations for state government contracts between those years.

Basically, therefore, taxpayers gave the largest, most profitable companies in Florida more public money through government contracts and subsidies than those companies paid back in state taxes.

See also: Florida Has the Second Least Fair Taxes in the U.S.

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Homeless Advocates to Call for Fort Lauderdale Officer Victor Ramirez to Be Fired

Categories: News

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via YouTube
Tensions in Fort Lauderdale have been on the rise since the city's commissioners implemented the homeless feeding ordinance back in November. Since then, we've seen a 90-year-old war veteran cited several times for feeding the homeless, advocate arrests, protests at the mayor's house, and national ridicule fall upon the city of Fort Lauderdale. And then things seem to have come to a head this week when a Fort Lauderdale Police officer was caught on video slapping a homeless man who wanted to use a public restroom. New Times reported on the video of officer Victor Ramirez, who has been suspended with pay for slapping 58-year-old homeless man Bruce Laclair on Monday, and the video has since gone viral.

Advocates have been warning the commission for some time that the public feeding ordinance would bring about tension throughout the community, and now there's a plan to not only protest the Fort Lauderdale Police Department but also to call for Ramirez's job.

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Broward Deputy Under Investigation for Dragging Mentally Ill Woman

Categories: News

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YouTube
The Broward sheriff's deputy who was caught on video dragging a mentally challenged woman across the floor of the Broward County Courthouse on Monday is under investigation.

Attorney Bill Gelin, who runs the JAABlog, caught Deputy Christopher Johnson dragging Dasyl Jeanette Rios by the chains binding her feet across the hall on the third floor of the building as she cried out for him to stop.

Before the incident, a judge had declared Rios mentally incompetent during a trespassing and criminal mischief case.

See also: Video Shows Fort Lauderdale Cop Slapping Homeless Man Who Wanted to Use Restroom: "You're Not Going to Pee!"

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Man Accused of Plot to Join ISIS Arrested in Florida

Categories: News

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A Brooklyn man has been arrested in Florida and accused of wanting to join the terrorist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Federal prosecutors say Abror Habibov, who operated mall kiosks in Jacksonville, and two other men were arrested early Wednesday on charges that they plotted to travel overseas to join the terrorist group.

According to the criminal complaint, one of the men posted on an Uzbek-language website that serves as propaganda for ISIL that they wanted to pledge themselves to the terrorist group by shooting President Obama and then committing suicide.

"We too [sic] wanted to pledge our allegiance and commit ourselves while present there," a message written in August 2014 says, according to the complaint. "I am in USA now but we don't have any arms. But is it possible to commit ourselves as dedicated martyrs anyway while here? What I'm saying is, too shoot Obama and then shoot ourselves, will it do? That will strike fear in the hearts of infidels."

See also: Surfer From West Palm Beach Travels to Syria to Fight ISIS

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Bahama Mama Cruise Ferry From Fort Lauderdale to Grand Bahamas Set to Launch

Categories: News

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courtesy Balearia
Off we go, mon.
Bahama Mama, a cruise ferry that will offer three-hour tours between Fort Lauderdale and Freeport Harbour, Grand Bahama Island, is set to launch her maiden voyage on Thursday.

The Bahama Mama, owned and operated by Spanish company Balearia Ferry Express, will feature economy and first-class seating, private suites, a swimming pool, lounges, a casino, entertainment, a restaurant, bars and caf├ęs, duty-free shopping, and cargo capacity.


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Mark Levinson Remembered as Jeweler and Philanthropist -- and for His Ties to Scott Rothstein

Categories: News

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via Twitter
Mark Levinson

Mark Levinson, the prominent South Florida jeweler and founder of Levinson Jewelers, was found dead Tuesday morning, apparently of a suicide.

Levinson, 60, and his wife, Robin, founded their jewelry store in the 1989, and the store at 888 E. Las Olas Blvd. has become a fixture in Fort Lauderdale.

According to Fort Lauderdale Police, Levinson was found around 3:15 a.m. at his home in the 1100 block of SE Fourth Street on Tuesday. The Broward County Medical Examiner's Office revealed that Levinson had left behind a suicide note.

Levinson had been in the headlines in recent years for selling jewelry to convicted Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein.


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Florida Fish And Wildlife Wants to Give You Prizes for Catching Invasive Fish

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Photo by Jens Petersen via Wikipedia Commons
Come at me, bro.

Invasive species is something of an issue in Florida. From lion fish, to giant African land snails, to the Burmese Python -- animals that are not native to our state have managed to ensconce themselves into the ecosystem, and effectively start screwing things up.

But the Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission has come up with a plan to encourage people to help them get a sense of what non-Floridians creatures may be out there, wreaking havoc in our waters. As part of National Invasive Species Awareness Week later this month, the FWC has announced a special contest that'll get people involved in helping them with this ongoing problem.

See also: Florida's Seven Most Invasive Species


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Debbie Wasserman Schultz Gets Rebuke from Medical Marijuana Donor John Morgan

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Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
Wasserman Schultz celebrating at Charlie Crist's primary victory celebration.
Last year, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz took a decidedly un-progressive stance against Florida's medical marijuana amendment. In a statement she said that Amendment 2 was "too broad" and borrowed talking-points from noted anti-medical marijuana voices such as Attorney General Pam Bondi, comparing the legalization of medical cannabis to the pill-mill epidemic.

This drew criticism from within her own part as well as John Morgan, the Orland-based lawyer that has donated big money to the cause of medical marijuana and has been United for Care's biggest benefactor.

But earlier this week, Wasserman Schultz reportedly sent Morgan an email, telling him she would change her mind about medical marijuana if he publicly took back the criticism he's lobbed her way. Morgan not only said no, he leaked the email to Politico. And he's calling her out on Twitter.

See also: Debbie Wasserman Schultz Calls Medical Marijuana Initiative "Too Broad"

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