Local Government Law

Duplicate Exams in Hillsborough County

By | Education Law, Local Government Law | No Comments

Testing is an extremely difficult and stressful process for all students. It is a necessary part of the education practice, and although some disagree with its accuracy, it certainly has is merits. However, do schools put too much pressure on its pupils with their constant examination, especially when students are made to take duplicate exams? In Hillsborough County, a recent decision has been made to respond to this issue head-on, by attempting to remove duplicate testing across all of its high schools.

The elimination of these duplicate exams, which is to be implemented this spring, was created in order to lessen the amount of stress on both students and teachers. Its objectives are to streamline the testing process for all high schools in the area. This was backed by previous feedback from students, teachers, principals and assessment professionals, and comes after a similar restructuring of Elementary examination process. The movement is supported by the governments ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) which has been researching and implementing methods that “reduce redundant testing”.

The restructure also follows a recent statute passed in the state of Florida that stated a school district should have a maximum of five percent of the total amount of school hours spent on examination; whether these are statewide or local assessments. This in turn gave the schools and organizations even more of a motivation to consolidate testing.


It was found that many AP (Advanced Placement) and IB (International Baccalaureate) tests were in fact being duplicated. This meant that these courses had their own standardized tests, but the students were also made to take additional exams that covered exactly the same material – a headache for students and teachers alike. These were required by the school district, and were mainly used as a way to evaluate the teachers. It then transpired that the AP and IB tests, in combination with the SATs, ACT and end-of-course exams, were easily a sufficient indicator of student’s progress and were equally as proficient at evaluating the staff.

The same method for the calculation of final grades is currently used by certain senior students who have gained exemptions from district examinations. These students avoid having to take duplicate exams by earning respectable grades and having a high attendance – with only two grades being used to create their final mark. This exact technique will be used by all those AP and IB students in the future, making their – and their teacher’s – workload and stress lightened.

Disability Rights for Florida Students

By | Education Law, Local Government Law | No Comments

Students with disabilities are welcomed at all schools and educational communities within Florida, and the department of education has created a system to provide any assistance students need to guarantee they get the best out of the their schooling. Since 2013, there have been extra measures put in place to ensure their rights are protected; this was named the Exceptional Student Education Law.

The Exceptional Student Education law was brought in four years ago to build on the already existing structure that safeguarded and promoted rights for all students with disabilities. It carried in it five tenants were designed to assist both families and students.

The Choice to Bring Support to Meetings

This section of the law allows the parent to bring another adult of their choosing to meetings at school about their child. It is completely their choice whom they decide to bring for support, and the school should not pressure the parents into coming alone. If the parent feels at all discouraged, they are asked to fill out a document stating this.

Decisions about your Child’s IEP

IEP stands for Individual Educational Plan; it is a unique document that every child with disabilities has to have and is reviewed regularly. It basically denotes how best a student learns and what areas they may need more assistance in. It informs decisions about the pupil’s education, the most important two being the following:

  • Whether the student will be taught a curriculum which is not a part of the regular diploma/testing system
  • Whether the student should be attending an ESE school that specializes in and is only attended by individuals with disabilities.

With the new law in place, these important decisions can only be made with the parent’s approval. The IEP team must provide the parent with information regarding the advantages/disadvantages of the above two options. If a parent contests the decision of the IEP team, a hearing will take place. This is an annual process, as the IEP has to be reviewed regularly.

A Right to Information

At the primary IEP meeting at the start of the year, parents will be informed of the amount of money each level of the ESE is receiving for their district.

Professional Collaboration

This means parents have the right to have their private professionals collaborate, work with and observe the child in a school setting. This could be a behavior analyst, social worker, speech therapist etc. The school and parents must agree upon the times beforehand, and this does not prevent the school in question from providing these services also. This law was put in place to ensure ease of collaboration between different parties, as it is best for the student’s development.

Exemption From Testing

A request may be put in to allow students to be exempt from certain testing.  This is if the testing is believed not to test ability, but assess disability. If a parent contests the decision, they may appeal at a hearing.

These five items are in addition to a larger system that is designed to ensure all disabled students have sufficient rights and opportunity based on their own individual needs.

The Florida Sunshine Law

By | Local Government Law | No Comments

The Florida Sunshine Law was first enacted in 1967, and today the details regarding open government can be found in Chapter 286 of the Florida Statues. The law states that the Attorney General’s Office will compile a comprehensive guide annually called the Government-in-the-Sunshine manual for the residents of the state. This law ensures that any records that were made or received by any sort of public agency in the course of its legitimate business are open for inspection, unless explicitly released by the Florida Legislature.

The Florida government has been consistently open and supportive of the public’s right to access governmental meetings and records at their leisure. Throughout the years there have been discrepancies as to what exactly qualifies as public records and information and the Attorney General’s Office has been working throughout to protect the citizens’ rights and stop public records violations. One of the major ways that they were able to secure the aforementioned right is through explicit language in the Florida Constitution via constitutional amendment. The amendment guaranteed the ongoing openness of the state’s government within the legislative branch and even extended to the judiciary as well in 1992.

These amendments and laws safeguard the public’s right to inspect public records. This will keep them abreast to different conversations and decisions that otherwise wouldn’t be publicized. Whether the records refer to corporate law, environmental law, local regulations, or foreign affairs, all of it is available to the Florida public. With having such close neighbors south of Florida, keeping the public in the know when it comes to interactions with domestic companies infiltrating the southern markets, the Sunshine Law is a huge asset.

The law also requires that meetings that occur involving boards or commissions must be open for the public to attend, there must be a reasonable notice of said meetings and when they will occur, and the minutes of the meetings must be recorded as well. With these laws in place, it ensures that the Florida public are able to get as involved in the local government, boards, and commissions as they would like. It is important that this is the case because often times the decisions that are being made at these meetings will affect a great deal of people and making them more accessible for the public and keeping things in constant discussion will benefit the area and state as a whole. With the public able to be present, their needs and desires will always be considered.

Amendment 2: Medical Marijuana in Florida

By | Local Government Law | No Comments

The legalization of marijuana in Florida has been a long road. When legislation about Amendment 2: Medical Marijuana in Florida first was brought to the ballot in 2014, it was defeated. Even though there was an overwhelming support with a 57.62 percent majority voting in favor of the amendment, due to the Florida state constitution which requires a 60 percent supermajority vote for an amendment to pass, the amendment was a failure.

However, this didn’t stop John Morgan, the central advocate as well as one of the largest donors to the cause. He instead began planning a “re-run” for 2016 in regards to Amendment 2. The new initiative would include specific language that would clarify different issues that were rather foggy the first time around which caused some opponents of Amendment 2 to be concerned about.

Instead, in 2016 the measure made it clear that in regards to minors using medical marijuana, they would absolutely need to have parental consent to do so. It also went further to explicitly define what was meant by “debilitating” illness that would cause someone to qualify for the usage of medical marijuana. The measure was sure to explain and address the concerns when it came to caregivers and doctors. Under this Amendment, they would not be immune from potential malpractice claims or for negligence claims in regards to prescribing marijuana and would also in turn, place a limit on how many patients a doctor or caregiver is allowed to treat with the drug.

The Department of Health would be able to register and regulate all centers that yield and distribute medical marijuana as well as ensure that all recipients and caregivers are issued identification cards. Financially, there would need to be additional costs in terms of regulation and enforcement of the regulations that are associated with the sale, production, possession, and usage of medical marijuana. There would more than likely be some sort of sales tax applied to the majority of the purchases which would as a result, cause a generous increase in state and local government annual revenues.

For many who opposed the Amendment in 2014, a great fear was that the use of the medical marijuana wouldn’t be regulated enough and the usage could get out of control. With the introduction of explicit language in the re-run of the Amendment in 2016, much of these concerns were put to rest and with the projected economic benefits, the legalization of medical marijuana could serve to benefit the entire state.

Florida’s Quota Beverage License Drawing

By | Local Government Law | No Comments

While the right to sell beer, wine, and liquor, is not an exclusive one, it is a highly regulated one. Each county is limited in the number of licenses permitted to be issued, hence the development of Florida’s Quota Beverage License Drawing. The drawing allows establishments to enter to win the right to apply for a quota license each year. Entry forms are accepted for 45 days beginning on the third Monday in August of each year.

For any establishment that sells less than 51 percent of food that wants to serve alcohol as well, they must obtain one of these licenses. When it comes to the quota aspect, for every 7,500 increase in an area’s population, one new quota license is created, thus any establishment that would like to obtain one must either buy a preexisting one or enter in the quota drawing lottery in order to win the right to one.

The lottery is a double random computer drawing that pulls from the group of applicants who qualify for the license in the different available counties. The goal of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco organization is to keep the alcohol and tobacco out range to anyone who is under aged, to ensure that the establishments that are licensed are also following the laws and rules that are regulating the industry in Florida, and to continue to collect fees and taxes that pertain to the aforementioned industries.

The drawing represents an opportunity that new businesses in Florida have to obtain a license, thus bringing in more customers and boosting the economy in the area of privatized companies. The hope is that the drawing will encourage businesses to stay within the code of laws that are already in place as well as inspire other businesses to work hard and enter for the chance to win the annual drawing in the future.

License for this drawing were available in the following counties: Bay, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Clay, Collier, Dade, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Polk, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seminole, Sumter, Volusia, Wakulla and Walton.

Through a double random computer drawing, it ensures fairness and non-bias influence when choosing the winner of the drawing, making it all the more appealing for business owners to enter. With everyone on a level playing field, the Department can license competently and regulate objectively.

Tampa Uber Rules (Hillsborough County PTC)

By | Local Government Law | No Comments

When it comes to transportation in Florida, the Tampa Uber rules made by the Hillsborough County PTC seem to be less than solidified. As of right now the rules regarding Uber and Lyft as transportation services state that the vehicle must not be more than ten years old, drivers must undergo a mandatory level two background check (by way of using fingerprints in order to identify an individual’s criminal history), the vehicles must be inspected every year, and the drivers and companies must hold the state minimum levels of insurance.

While these may be the rules for now, there’s no guarantee that they won’t be changing in the future. While the rules seem detailed, they leave out the controversial debate of what the minimum fare and wait times for each customer should be (the issue is over a $7 minimum fare and a seven-minute wait time as of right now). This being said, the PTC plans to hold a public hearing to address the issues of executing a governing framework for the industry on October 13th. Both Uber and Lyft plan to request a public hearing on the issue at hand.

Due to this, the general framework that was laid out by the previous meeting establishing the aforementioned rules, is still a fluid entity. During this hearing, the rules can again be changed. The decision and vote on the different rules occurred after a zealous debate that clearly set the Uber and Lyft industries against the taxi and limousine industries. Over 50 people signed up to speak on the issue at hand and while almost 30 were unable to attend, there were 12 who expressed views against the projected rules while there were nine who were in favor.

PTC board chair, Victor Crist, ended up asking people to stand either in favor of or against the proposed rules in order to settle the issue until further debate. The difficult aspects of this is that the number of hearings that could be requested down the line could leave these issues tabled and processing for months. Should the Uber and Lyft companies choose to continue to operate as they were before the rules, they could face multiple fines, however if an injunction (a judicial order that restrains a person from beginning or continuing an action threatening or invading the legal right of another) is reached, the Uber officials have agreed to leave the county in compliance.

“School Choice” Florida Law

By | Local Government Law | No Comments

Governor Rick Scott is making history for Florida youth. Due to the “School Choice” Florida law, students of Florida will now be able to attend any public school that has space, beginning in 2017-18. This law took effect under a massive education bill and was on the table with many other pieces of legislation that the Governor will be addressing throughout the upcoming months.

Not only will this allow students to attend any number of public schools in the state, but it also will grant athletes immediate eligibility when it comes to transferring schools as well. This aspect is a game changer for the youth of Florida. Not only will they be able to choose academically a school that is best fit for them, but they will also be ensured that their athletic careers won’t be in jeopardy should they choose to transfer.

This law allows parents to forgo the previous boundaries that used to contain the limited number of schools for each district. Instead they will be open to single-gender programs, lab schools, virtual instruction programs, charter schools, and charter technical career centers all as viable options for their children to attend. The previous metaphorical rope that barred certain schools off from families depending on their location in the state will no longer be present and instead a transparent number of options for education will take its place.

Parts of this change in law was inspired by the educational reform of Colorado which opened up the public school system by way of providing families with open enrollment opportunities for the last ten years. While not all may agree with this change, it will open up the ability for students whose families may not have been able to uproot and switch districts or couldn’t afford the out of district fees to attend a school that they felt best fit their children’s needs. This opens education up to a more level playing field for the youth of Florida and affords many people more opportunities to receive a higher quality education than previously possible.

The law will however give preference to students who live in the district first as well as students who are moving due to their parents active-duty status in the military, foster care placement, or court-ordered custody arrangements to ensure fairness. The schools must have room to admit outside of district students as well as the parents needing to be able to provide transportation and the student not be under some sort of expulsion or suspension order.

Local Government Law Attorney

By | Local Government Law | No Comments

What is a Local Government Law Attorney?

A Local Government Law Attorney focuses mainly on the issues in regards to state governments and state laws. They represent the local government and ethically their obligations lie with the local government’s governing board because that is the group of people who have the highest level of authority and control on behalf of the organization that the attorney is representing.

Who needs a Local Government Law Attorney in Florida?

Since Local Government Law Attorneys need to represent multiple people, they need to establish the fact that their professional fidelities need to lie with the organization in general, not with each specific employee underneath that organization. This also includes individual board members. The duty of the attorney lies with the board as an entire unit, not with each individual member. Ethically speaking, this is the most important distinguishing factor for the Local Government Law Attorney’s job.

These lawyers would typically handle issues surrounding telecommunications, general offenses, regulations, budgeting, taxation, emergency services, public utilities, and franchising. These lawyers know the local legislation inside and out and it is their job to adequately represent the organizations that are thus affected by the local government’s laws and policies.

When hiring one, you will gain the benefit of having a longstanding relationship with one firm or lawyer that will be familiarized with your organization down to the letter. This venerable relationship will allow your organization to rest easy with the knowledge that your representation not only knows exactly what you’re all about, but also knows about your group on a personal level. While they must stay impartial to the needs of the individual and serve the entity as a whole, their legal counsel will be there for the long hull, earning the respect of agencies that only prolonged demonstrations of loyalty, astuteness, and integrity can produce.

When seeking a Local Government Law Attorney, be sure to consider the fact that they will not be representing you as an individual, but the entity as a whole. You’ll want someone who can counsel many at once and consider all options, opinions, and facts before advising you legally.