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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. Senators endorse harsher penalties for criminal undocumented migrants

    Blog

    A controversial plan to impose more prison time on undocumented immigrants who commit severe violent crimes in Florida narrowly passed its second Senate committee on Wednesday, but it’s unlikely to advance much farther without buy-in from the House.

    The measure (SB 120) has drawn a litany of criticism and questions about its constitutionality from Democratic lawmakers and immigrant advocate groups, because it would impose harsher penalties on undocumented immigrants than U.S. citizens or legal residents would otherwise face for the same offenses....

  2. The Florida House stopped changes to Stand Your Ground last session. Not so this year.

    Blog

    An NRA-backed proposal to shift the burden of proof in Stand Your Ground cases appears to be on the fast-track for approval in the Florida House, echoing similar recent endorsements in the Senate — and with the same vehement opposition from state prosecutors and gun-control advocates.

    After the proposal abruptly failed on a deadlocked vote in the same Florida House committee last session, members of the Republican-heavy Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted 9-4, along party lines, on Wednesday to advance the legislation (HB 245). It faces only one more committee hearing before it could reach the floor....

    NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer shakes hands with Palatka Republican Rep. Bobby Payne after a House Criminal Justice Subcommittee hearing about proposed changes to Stand Your Ground on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. Payne is sponsoring the House bill.
  3. Daily recess requirement advances in Florida Senate

    Blog

    Parent-driven efforts to require daily recess in Florida’s public elementary schools cleared a key milestone on Tuesday: An actual hearing — plus a favorable vote — in a state Senate committee.

    Although similar legislation last year earned near-unanimous approval in the House, senators never had the chance to formally consider the issue, because one committee chairman refused to take up the bill....

    Omari Accius 6, enjoys recess at Citrus Grove Elementary School on Thursday, February 9, 2017. Florida lawmakers are again considering a statewide mandate for daily recess in public elementary schools.
  4. Advocates for gun safety set to take on Republican-led Florida Legislature today

    Blog

    Steve Frappier was one of the lucky ones in baggage claim at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Jan. 6.

    As a gunman abruptly opened fire that afternoon, killing five and wounding six, Frappier escaped injury when a bullet miraculously struck the laptop in his backpack instead of him....

  5. Parents say some kids get school recess and others don't. The numbers back them up.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — For more than a year, whenever a "recess mom" has come to the Florida Capitol and pleaded with lawmakers, they have told stories of their child's lack of access to daily recess — offering anecdotes from their child's school or school district to showcase the inequities of unstructured playtime offered in Florida's public schools.

    Informal surveys of parents in some counties, like Pinellas or Miami-Dade, have seemed to support their assertions....

    The Florida Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA) last fall surveyed all 67 county school districts about their recess policies and also sought responses from 2,900 public elementary and middle schools. The results revealed broad inconsistencies in whether school districts and specific schools actually offer daily recess, and if they do, how frequently and for how long.  [Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times]
  6. Senate Democratic leader to Gov. Rick Scott: Treat opioid crisis as a public health emergency

    Blog

    Florida Senate Democrats are urging Gov. Rick Scott to declare a public health emergency over the growing opioid epidemic in the state.

    “No longer confined to small urban enclaves, heroin and fentanyl have become the scourge of communities throughout Florida, wreaking widespread devastation not only from the ravages of addiction, but the resurgence of deadly diseases associated with drug abuse,” Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, wrote in a letter to Scott on Monday....

    Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, speaks to reporters during the annual AP Florida Legislative Planning Session at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee on Jan. 31, 2017.
  7. Disparities in school recess revealed by Legislature's research survey

    Blog

    For more than a year, whenever a “recess mom” has come to the Florida Capitol and pleaded with lawmakers, they have told stories of their child’s lack of access to daily recess — offering anecdotes from their child’s school or school district to showcase the inequities of unstructured playtime offered in Florida’s public schools....

    Kindergarten students head out to the playground for recess at Citrus Grove Elementary School on Thursday, February 9, 2017. Florida lawmakers are again considering a statewide mandate for daily recess in public elementary schools.
  8. Lawmaker wants mental health check for conceal-carry applicants

    Blog

    Individuals who want a state-issued permit to carry a concealed gun in Florida would first have to pass a mental health evaluation under a new proposal from a Miami-Dade County senator.

    The measure (SB 956) comes six weeks after a gunman who had shown signs of mental illness shot and killed five people and injured six others in a baggage claim area of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport....

    Miami Shores Democratic state Sen. Daphne Campbell, shown here in the Florida House in 2015, has proposed a bill that would require people applying for a concealed weapons permit in Florida to undergo and clear a mental health evaluation.
  9. Florida teachers union leaders: We want better pay for all, not a new legislative 'gimmick'

    Blog

    Leaders of local and state teachers unions tell the Times/Herald that they are eager for more details on the Florida Legislature's planned expansion of teacher incentives. But -- with lingering criticism of the two-year-old "Best & Brightest" bonuses -- they aren't very optimistic that lawmakers will come up with a true solution to poor teacher compensation....

  10. Senate will seek to 'take some of the edges off' controversial teacher bonuses

    Blog

    David Simmons, the Senate's pre-K-12 education budget chairman, elaborated slightly on Thursday about the Legislature's intent to expand the controversial "Best & Brightest" teachers bonuses into a potentially quarter-of-a-billion-dollar program next year aimed at incentivizing more teachers to join and stay in the profession....

    The Florida Capitol in Tallahassee
  11. Senator says Florida Legislature crafting plan for $200M+ in teacher incentives

    Blog

    The amount of money Florida spends to recruit and keep good teachers for its K-12 public schools could potentially quadruple next year, under tentative plans being crafted in private by Republican House and Senate leaders ahead of the 2017 session.

    Gov. Rick Scott last month recommended $58 million be spent in 2017-18 to fund a variety of teacher incentives, which would replace the controversial “Best & Brightest” teacher bonuses that reward top teachers based on their SAT/ACT scores in high school....

    Altamonte Springs Republican David Simmons oversees the Senate pre-K-12 education budget committee on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, where he said House and Senate leaders are discussing potentially more than $200 million in funding for teacher incentives in 2017-18.
  12. $200M for teacher incentives? Florida lawmakers crafting plan to do it

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — How much Florida spends to recruit and keep quality teachers for its K-12 public schools could potentially quadruple next year — and maybe even reach as high as a quarter of a billion dollars — under tentative plans being crafted in private by Republican House and Senate leaders ahead of the 2017 session.

    Gov. Rick Scott last month recommended $58 million be spent in 2017-18 to fund a variety of teacher incentives aimed at replacing the controversial "Best & Brightest" bonuses that reward top teachers based on their high school SAT/ACT scores....

    Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, is proposing that the state spend $200 million or more on incentives for K-12 teachers, far surpassing the $58 million proposed by Gov. Rick Scott.  [Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times]
  13. Florida officials propose pushing state testing to final three weeks of the school year

    K12

    In just a couple of weeks, Florida K-12 schools will begin the grueling three-month stretch of administering mandatory statewide student assessments.

    But next year, those tests might not happen until the end of the school year, if lawmakers pass a proposal this spring to reform Florida's lengthy testing schedule.

    Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores said lawmakers have "heard loud and clear from parents, from teachers, from students" about "overtesting and the overemphasis of testing," so that's why she and Republican Reps. Manny Diaz Jr. of Hialeah and Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor want to shift all assessment tests to the final three weeks of the school year, starting in 2017-18....

    Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, is pushing legislation that would cluster assessment testing for K-12 in three weeks, rather than the throughout the entire school year. [SKIP O'ROURKE  | Times]
  14. VIDEO: 'We have heard loud & clear,' say lawmakers who want to reform testing schedule

    Blog

    Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores says lawmakers "have heard loud and clear from parents, from teachers, from students” about Florida schools' "over-testing and the over-emphasis of testing" -- which is why she and Republican Reps. Manny Diaz Jr., of Hialeah, and Chris Sprowls, of Palm Harbor, want to shift all student assessment tests to the final three weeks of the school year, starting in 2017-18....

  15. Florida senators question Gov. Rick Scott's teacher recruitment, retention plan

    Blog

    Florida senators in charge of crafting the K-12 education budget for next year aren’t sold on Gov. Rick Scott’s ideas to incentivize future teachers so they enter and stay in the profession.

    Scott proposes the state spend $58 million on a variety of new initiatives — including $10 million for a “one-time hiring bonus” for new teachers who score in the top 10 percent in their subject-area exam for the subject they’ll teach....