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Mary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Mary Ellen Klas

Mary Ellen Klas is capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald and co-bureau chief of the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a graduate of the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn. Before she became bureau chief for the Herald in 2004, Mary Ellen was Tallahassee bureau chief for Florida Trend magazine and also served as a senior writer for the Palm Beach Post. She was bureau chief for the Palm Beach Post from 1990-94, after which she worked part time for 10 years while her daughters were young. She is married to John Kennedy, senior writer for the Palm Beach Post's Tallahassee bureau. They have two daughters.

Phone: 850-222-3095

Email: meklas@miamiherald.com

Twitter: @MaryEllenKlas

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  1. State Supreme Court rejects massive expansion of slot machines

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — In a major defeat for counties that wanted to authorize slot machines by referendum, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ruled that Florida counties have no legal authority to ask voters to approve slot machines at existing pari-mutuel race tracks or jai-alai frontons without constitutional or legislative approval.

    In a case brought by the owners of Gretna Racing in rural Gadsden County, the court upheld the decision by the Florida Division of Parimutuel Wagering to deny a slots license, arguing that state law does not authorize counties to conduct referendums to enable slot machines gaming....

    In 2008 about 800 Vegas-style slot machines were installed in the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and Hotel in Hollywood Florida. The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday against expanding the use of slot machines in parimutuels throughout Florida. [Willie J. Allen Jr. | Times]
  2. Legislature's budget includes restrictions on Constitution Commission

    Blog

    Members of the Constitution Revision Commission Wednesday agreed to follow a new directive from the Florida Legislature that the panel adopt a detailed budget, get approval of two-thirds of the membership for the budget, and require commission Chair Carlos Beruff to get approval before hiring employees. 

    The Legislature allocated $2 million to pay expenses of the 37-member board which is expected to meet for the next year in its quest to propose constitutional amendments to the November 2018 ballot and included in the allocation proviso language that set some guidelines. ...

    Former Sen. Don Gaetz and Constitution Revision Commission workshop Wednesday.
  3. Scott wants former aide, Noah Valenstein, to head DEP

    Blog

    Gov. Rick Scott's pick for his next secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection will be Noah Valenstein, the executive director of the Suwannee Water Management District and a former environmental policy aide in the governor's office, staff announced at a meeting of the Cabinet aides on Wednesday.

    Valenstein will be the only candidate interviewed by the governor and Cabient at the May 23 meeting and, if approved by the governor and Cabinet at the May 23 meeting, Valenstein will replace interim secretary Ryan Matthews, who was given the temporary promotion upon the resignation of Jon Steverson in January. Steverson left to join the law firm of Foley & Lardner. ...

    Eckerd College marine science professor David Hastings, left, speaks to Gov. Scott, right, and his aide, Noah Valenstein, during an Aug. 20, 2014, meeting about why Florida should act to offset the impact of climate change.
  4. Senate Democrats are ready to block override - under right circumstances

    Blog

    Senate Democrats are prepared to work with Gov. Rick Scott to block an override of a veto if he rejects the sweeping education reform bill pushed by House leaders in the final days of session and sold as a take-it or leave-it budget deal, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon told the Herald/Times.

    Pressure is mounting for the governor to veto HB 7069, and potentially the entire K-12 budget, and the 15-member Senate Democratic caucus will play a key role in making sure the Republican-controlled Legislature doesn't override that veto....

    Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon
  5. Miami-Dade hosts 'thank you' reception for Richard Corcoran

    Blog

    As pressure is mounting for Gov. Rick Scott to veto a sweeping education bill pushed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran that was sold to legislators as a take-it or leave-it budget deal last week, Corcoran will be honored at breakfast reception at Florida International University. ...

    Miami-Dade delegation invitation to Corcoran reception.
  6. Compromise yields gift for the Everglades: 78 billion gallons of cleaner water

    State Roundup

    Months of negotiation and compromise over whether to build a deep-water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee ended in victory Tuesday for Senate President Joe Negron as the Florida House agreed to the Senate plan and sent the measure to Gov. Rick Scott for his approval.

    The proposal, SB 10, will cost the state and federal government $1.5 billion and will accelerate the state's 20-year goal of storing water from the lake by using land the state owns, known as the A-2 parcel, as well as land swaps and purchases....

    Boats docked at Central Marine in Stuart, Fla., are surrounded by blue green algae in June 2016. The Senate approved a new water reservoir on Tuesday that should hold excess water that will help prevent future algae blooms. [The Palm Beach Post]
  7. Corcoran snuffs out FPL fracking bill for session

    Blog

    Senate President Joe Negron put his clout behind Florida Power & Light’s quest to have Florida customers pay for natural gas fracking projects in other states. But while his hometown company's top priority, SB 1238, is scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor, House Speaker Richard Corcoran has decided that's as far as it will go....

  8. Property tax proposal: Middle class cut or massive tax shift?

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Property owners vote, and most homeowners will vote for a tax cut.

    That is the conclusion of a carefully crafted constitutional amendment before the Florida Legislature that will put an additional $25,000 homestead exemption for properties valued at more than $100,000 on the 2018 ballot.

    The measure appears headed for approval Monday by the Florida Senate, and later in the week by the House. If 60 percent of voters support it, it would be the broadest middle-class tax cut since 2008, when Florida voters approved a series of property tax breaks that capped increases in non-homestead property tax assessments at 10 percent a year and expanded the homestead exemptions from $25,000 to $50,000. ...

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran (left), R-Land O'Lakes, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, are working behind the scenes on the final details of the proposed budget. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  9. Middle-class tax cut with long-term tail: Is homestead exemption election year ploy?

    Blog

    Property owners vote, and most homeowners will vote for a tax cut.

    That is the conclusion of a carefully crafted constitutional amendment before the Florida Legislature that will put an additional $25,000 homestead exemption for properties valued at more than $100,000 on the 2018 ballot.

    The measure appears headed for approval Monday by the Florida Senate, and later in the week by the House. If 60 percent of voters support it, it would be the broadest middle-class tax cut since 2008, when Florida voters approved a series of property tax breaks that capped increases in non-homestead property tax assessments at 10 percent a year and expanded the homestead exemptions from $25,000 to $50,000. ...

    Home sales file photo
  10. Enviromental budget talks blow up as Senate declares exercise 'fool's errand'

    Blog

    Negotiations blew up Saturday over the Legislature's $3.6 billion environmental budget after the Florida House returned with a new offer that rescinded agreements forged the previous two days, forcing the entire budget silo to be bumped up to leadership to resolve.

    "We've now spent two days on what, in essence, is a fool's errand,'' said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, the chair of the Conference Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources....

    Florida's Everglades National Park
  11. Did fracking create cracks in the Democratic Party?

    Blog

    A crack has emerged over fracking in Florida Democratic Party.

    As the Florida Senate gave preliminary approval Friday to a bill sought by Florida Power & Light to allow the company to expand its rate base by charging customers for investments in natural gas fracking operations in other states, the Florida Democratic Party was blasting the measure on its website and urging people to sign up “and tell the Florida Legislature to OPPOSE SB 1238.”...

    Fracking
  12. This tax cut would cost Florida's local governments $644 million. And it just advanced in the Senate.

    Legislature

    TALLAHASSEE — An election-year tax break for Florida home­owners that cities and counties say would hurt basic services emerged Friday as the key to a budget deal in the Legislature.

    As the session heads into its final days, the Senate urgently moved forward with a dormant proposal to increase the homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000, subject to what's viewed as certain voter approval in 2018....

    Rep. Richard Corcoran and Sen. Joe Negron (SCOTT KEELER | TIMES)
  13. It's Camp Tallahassee 'superlatives' time for Florida House

    Blog

    As the Florida House was engaged in deep discussion Friday over things like whether to give more power to law enforcement to crack down illegal immigration, two freshmen House members were circulating a little survey in search of a colleagues "most likely to fall asleep," or the "best dressed" or the "life of the party."

    Patterned after the popular summer camp and high school practice, Rep. Alex Miller, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, circulated the "2017 member superlatives" aimed at deciding which of the 120 members of the House should be given important designations....

    Clip art
  14. Will Senate Democrats flex muscle on homestead exemption?

    Blog

    With the absence of Sen. Dorothy Hukill and the resignation of Sen. Frank Artiles, the 15 Democrats in the Florida Senate now have the power to block any vote that requires a three-fifths vote of the 40-member chamber. Enter the debate over putting an expanded homestead exemption on the November 2018 ballot. 

    Will Democrats hold? "We're evaluating whether or not to do that or not,'' said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, the Senate's incoming Democratic leader....

  15. Mike Feranandez adds his voice to Miami leaders blasting casino plan

    Blog

    In an email drafted last night from his I-phone, Miami health care company founder Mike Fernandez sent a strongly-worded letter to Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz Wednesday night blasting their decision to "dump casino expansion efforts on the South Florida community." He loaded it with a warning.

    "The arrogance of those in public office and who set their priorities ahead of the needs and desires of their constituents, will not be ignored,'' he wrote. "Be assured that the efforts to be led by South Florida's leading social and business leaders will make their weight be felt.'' ...

    Mike Fernandez