Norman bill would make farm photography a first-degree felony; animal-rights groups outraged

A bill filed by state Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, would make photographing farms without the written consent of the owner a first-degree felony in Florida. Senate Bill 1246, simply titled Farms, has caused a stir among animal-advocacy groups for comparing a potential whistleblower who might expose the realities of factory farming — or even a tourist snapping a photograph of cows grazing in a field — with those who commit murder or armed robbery.

Group asks FBI to investigate Buchanan

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed an FBI complaint against Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, asking that the Bureau investigate Buchanan on charges of witness tampering, obstruction of justice and bribery, based largely on a deposition of one of his former business partners, Sam Kazran.

What unemployment numbers mean for minorities, women

The situation of women, blacks and Hispanic workers who are employed, unemployed or looking for jobs in the U.S. merits a closer look. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report for June, released last Friday, shows that whites have an 8.1 percent unemployment rate, while that same rate reached 16.2 percent for blacks and 11.6 percent for Hispanics.

Egg producer requested Norman’s farm-photo felony bill; similar legislation pending in Iowa

According to the Florida Farm Bureau, state Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, drafted his controversial Farms bill at the behest of Wilton Simpson of Pasco County, whose Simpson Farms produces 21 million eggs annually for Florida's second-largest egg seller, Tampa Farm Service, Inc. As currently written, Senate Bill 1246 would make photography at or of a farm a first-degree felony.

Immigration, civil rights groups “skeptical” of ICE fingerprinting program used in Florida

Subhash Kateel, of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, calls Florida a testing ground for Immigration and Customs Enforcement programs. For evidence, he points to the state's embrace of Section 287(g) — a provision in federal law that allows state and local law enforcement agencies to perform immigration law enforcement functions — and to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's implementation of ICE's Secure Communities program — a fingerprint-sharing system that grants local law enforcement agencies access to FBI criminal history records and Department of Homeland Security immigration records as part of the effort to identify and remove criminal aliens from the United States. Secure Communities is controversial, though. Not all of Florida's law enforcement agencies are enthusiastic about enforcing immigration law, statistics provided by ICE raise questions about how effective the Secure Communities system is at identifying and removing major criminals, and immigration and civil rights activists say they're skeptical of the program.

Lawmakers resurrect proposal to tax bottled water

In an attempt to make the business of bottled water a more mutually beneficial relationship between the corporations who withdraw millions of gallons of public water per day and the Floridians who currently see nothing in return beyond a $230 permitting fee, state Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, has proposed legislation that will place a 6 percent tax on the product.