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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


Twitter: @ByKristenMClark

  1. Reload your SunPass account. Roadway tolls return Thursday.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida residents will no longer get a free pass traversing most stretches of the Florida Turnpike or certain local expressways across the state.

    The Florida Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that starting at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, tolls on a vast majority of Florida's Turnpike system, all state roads and bridges, and all regional toll facilities will be re-instated. ...

    With a push by the Florida Turpike to encourage more drivers traveling the Veterans and Suncoast Parkway to buy a Sunpass, motorists will begin to see more lanes converted to handle Sunpass. [Tampa Bay Times]
  2. I-75 will remain open as flood waters recede

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Floridians still trying to drive home after Hurricane Irma were met with welcome news Thursday morning: Interstate 75 through north-central Florida would not close after all.

    A 36-mile stretch of the north-south thoroughfare was under threat of being shut down because of the flooded Sante Fe River, which rose rapidly after historic-level flooding struck Jacksonville on Monday. The river's rise to unprecedented levels was concerning enough that the Florida Department of Transportation had alerted residents Wednesday morning of the potential interstate closure....

     The Santa Fe River spills onto the roadway of I 75 near O'Leno State Park in High Springs, FL just north of the CR 236 exit on Wednesday. [CHERIE DIEZ | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. Irma traffic: Flooding could close I-75


    TALLAHASSEE — A rapidly rising river — caused by the historic flooding that Jacksonville saw Monday — threatens to force 36 miles of Interstate 75 to completely shut down in north-central Florida, from Interstate 10 in Lake City south to U.S. 441 in Alachua.

    The swelling Santa Fe River, which closed two nearby highways late Wednesday, was the latest headache for motorists traveling back south after evacuating because of Hurricane Irma....

    On Wednesday, southbound traffic on Interstate 75 continued to crawl along as those who had fled north in anticipation of Hurricane Irma set out to return to their homes.
  4. Coming home after evacuating Irma? Here's what to expect on the roads.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — If you chose to drive back home Tuesday after evacuating from Irma, you were among thousands of others who faced a frustrating and long trip.

    Traffic jams had already formed by mid-morning and continued throughout the day in Florida and southern Georgia, as millions of evacuated residents flooded back into and through the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

    Many drivers confronted gridlock, lengthy delays and uncertainty in knowing where the next gas station with fuel might be....

    Heavy westbound traffic comes to a stop on Interstate 4 near the Celebration exit Monday in Lake Buena Vista as Florida residents make their way back home after evacuating from Hurricane Irma.
  5. Irma forces largest evacuation of prisoners in Florida history

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The biggest storm on record has forced Florida prison officials to conduct the largest evacuation of prisoners in state history.

    More than 7,000 inmates from work camps and community release centers in south and central Florida are begin evacuated from wind and flood-prone areas to more secure facilities across the state, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones told reporters Thursday....

    Corrections Secretary Julie Jones explained arrangements to keep thousands of state inmates and prison staff safe.
  6. Roads jammed as Hurricane Irma evacuation continues

    State Roundup

    The Florida Turnpike, Interstate 95 and Interstate 75 became increasingly clogged with traffic — with tens of thousands of Miami-Dade and Monroe County residents under evacuation orders and thousands more people across the state fleeing in anticipation of the category 5 storm's arrival this weekend.

    Traffic woes escalated into central and northern Florida, as the crowds moved northward and as the day wore on....

    Scene on Thursday just south of Valdosta, Ga. Traffic flow 0-25 mph. [JEN JANECEK | Special to the Times]
  7. Florida schools compete for $51.5 million in Schools of Hope money

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Call it the "Schools of Hope" Sweepstakes.

    When state lawmakers passed House Bill 7069 this spring, they enacted a program allowing failing traditional schools to apply for up to $2,000 per student.

    Across the state, 57 of 93 failing schools applied for the money. But lawmakers capped the aid so that only 25 schools can get it at any given time.

    As a result, the maximum amount that can be distributed this fall to the schools is $51.5 million, about 37 percent of the $140 million allocated for "Schools of Hope." (At most around 26,000 students statewide could benefit from the money, although tens of thousands more remain in failing schools.)...

    Chamberlain High School is one of  three Hillsborough County schools applying for "Schools of Hope" money, a controversial program that state lawmakers passed this spring. [OCTAVIO JONES | Tampa Bay Times]
  8. Betsy Devos will be in Tallahassee today


    U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a controversial champion of school choice, is making another trip to the Sunshine State with plans to visit two schools in the state capital on Tuesday, one public and one private.

    DeVos will spend the morning at Holy Comforter Episcopal School, a private Christian school that opened in 1955, before visiting Florida State University High School, an “A”-rated public charter school that’s known as “Florida High” and is affiliated with FSU’s College of Education....

  9. Latvala asks Scott for $20M more to fight opioid crisis


    The budget chairman of the Florida Senate is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to allocate another $20 million from state reserves toward the ongoing opioid crisis.

    Calling the health emergency an “existential threat to the people of our state,” Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala wrote in a letter to Scott on Monday that Floridians cannot wait until the Legislature passes the next state budget in March before more state resources are funneled to address the crisis....

    Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater
  10. Should Capitol's Confederate monument be removed? Scott won't say.


    Florida’s Republican governor won’t take a position on what should be done with a monument that honors slain Confederate soldiers on the state Capitol grounds, even as a growing number of elected leaders around the country take steps to remove such monuments after last weekend’s violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va.

    Rather than lead on the issue, Rick Scott is deferring to state lawmakers and has remained silent on whether such monuments in Florida — and particularly the one at the Capitol — should be taken down....

    Gov. Rick Scott won't offer an opinion on whether a Confederate monument should be moved from the state Capitol Complex in Tallahassee.
  11. Dem lawmaker also wants special session on Confederate statue. (Scott already rejected idea)


    Echoing a request from U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz two days ago, a Democratic lawmaker in Palm Beach County sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday asking for a special session so the Legislature can select a replacement for the statue of a Confederate general that represents Florida in the U.S. Capitol....

    State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana
  12. Florida debates: Should a Confederate monument at the state Capitol be removed?


    A monument honoring slain Confederate soldiers in front of Florida’s Old Capitol is the latest subject of debate by politicians seeking to act against racism in response to a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.

    Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Florida’s capital city and a Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, called on Gov. Rick Scott to remove the monument from the Capitol grounds, where similar memorials honor Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., veterans and firefighters, among others....

    A monument honoring slain Confederate soldiers stands on the grounds of the state Capitol Complex in Tallahassee. Some politicians want the monument removed in the wake of the violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, on Aug. 11-12.
  13. Worried about vandalism, police are watching a Confederate monument at Florida's Capitol


    After violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend prompted a national conversation about public symbols of the Confederacy, law enforcement in charge of the Florida Capitol took preventative steps to watch over one very prominent symbol right in downtown Tallahassee.

    A monument honoring slain Confederate soldiers — described as a “Civil War marble obelisk” by the state Department of Management Services, which oversees the Capitol Complex — sits in a lawn in front of the Old Capitol along Monroe Street, a main thoroughfare in Florida's capital city....

    An unmanned patrol car from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sits parked near a monument honoring slain Confederate soldiers at the state Capitol Complex in Tallahassee on Wednesday afternoon.
  14. Wasserman Schultz wants special legislative session to remove Confederate statue


    Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants the Florida Legislature to convene a special session to vote on removing a confederate statue from the U.S. Capitol.

    “While the events in Charlottesville represent our nation’s original sin, we know these hateful acts do not define who we are as a country," the South Florida Democrat said in statement Tuesday. "We must denounce white supremacy and domestic terrorism and stand up for love and compassion – not just with our words, but with our deeds....

    The statue of Edmund Kirby Smith was given to the National Statuary Hall Collection by Florida in 1922
  15. State: Each school district must review teachers' eligibility for 'Best & Brightest' bonuses


    The Florida Department of Education says it will be up to each of the state's 67 county school districts to determine which of their local teachers is eligible for the state "Best and Brightest" bonus program that lawmakers revamped as part of a massive education law that took effect this summer.

    Hershel Lyons, Florida's chancellor of public schools, issued guidance to school district superintendents through a two-page memo last week that details how the revised and expanded program should be implemented. It's the latest in a trickle of memos from the DOE that explain how school districts should make sure they comply with the plethora of new education policy in House Bill 7069....

    By Dec. 1, each school district must tell the state Department of Education how many classroom teachers they have eligible for the "Best and Brightest" bonuses.