BC-FL--Florida News Digest,1st Ld-Writethru, FL

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Associated Press

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 3:00 PM

The news editor is Terry Spencer. The supervisor in Miami is David Fischer. If there are questions about stories, photos or photo contributions please call the Miami bureau at 1-800-824-5498 or 305-594-5825. If you have other statewide stories or breaking news of interest to AP members in Florida, send them via e-mail to Miami(at)ap.org; or fax to (305) 594-9265. The AP's general website is http://www.ap.org. The Florida AP's website is http://www.ap.org/Florida/. AP stories, along with the photos that accompany them, can also be obtained from http://www.apexchange.com. Reruns are also available from the Service Desk (800-838-4616) or from the Miami bureau.

DEVELOPING:

ADDS: GRIDLOCK and PENSION STORIES.

NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH

SANFORD — The former neighborhood watch leader charged with fatally shooting Trayvon Martin told a judge Tuesday that he agrees with his defense attorneys' decision not to seek an immunity hearing under the state's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law. Under questioning from Circuit Judge Debra Nelson, Zimmerman repeatedly said "yes" to a series of questions asking if he was aware he was giving up the right to a hearing before his second-degree murder trial in June. A judge would have sole discretion in an immunity hearing to decide if Zimmerman is exempt from culpability in the shooting. A jury would make the determination in the murder trial. "After consultation with my counsel, yes, your honor," Zimmerman said. The judge had set aside two weeks at the end of April for an immunity hearing should Zimmerman want one. Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda had filed a motion asking that Zimmerman make clear his intentions on whether he wanted the hearing. By Kyle Hightower. With AP Photos.

    XGR--SESSION GRIDLOCK

TALLAHASSEE — Florida House Democrats, angry that the Republican leadership won't vote on a measure to expand Medicaid, used a procedural move that requires that all bills be read aloud before a vote to stall the session. By Gary Fineout.

XGR--PENSIONS

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate on Tuesday dealt a crippling setback to efforts to revamp Florida's retirement system this year, a top goal of House Speaker Will Weatherford. Senators defeated a proposal similar to a House-passed plan that would do away with guaranteed pensions for future state and county employees and teachers. By Bruce Schreiner.

XGR-TEXTING BAN

TALLAHASSEE — With less than a week in the legislative session, the House Tuesday amended the texting-while-driving bill and sent it back to the Senate, putting into doubt whether it will be passed this year. The Senate had unanimously approved the bill (SB 52) that would make texting while driving a secondary offense. That means police have to first stop drivers for an offense like speeding. A first violation would be a $30 fine plus court costs. A second or subsequent violation within five years would add three points to the driver's license and a $60 fine. Republican Sen. Nancy Detert said this is the fourth year she has sponsored a texting ban bill and that Florida is now one of only five states without a ban. Detert said the amendment — allowing a user's mobile phone billing records to be used against him only when texting results in death or personal injury — further waters down the bill. By James L. Rosica.

XGR-PARENTAL TRIGGER

TALLAHASSEE — A hotly contested bill to give parents a vote on turning around failing public schools has been defeated in the Florida Senate. The "parent trigger" bill (HB 867) failed on a 20-20 vote Tuesday after a long debate. Opponents said it was an effort to allow private companies to take over public schools. Supporters said it would give parents a needed voice in charting a turnaround for failing schools. It's the second straight year that the Senate has defeated the contentious proposal. Senators revised the bill this year to make local school boards the final decision makers on turnaround plans. Local boards would have to consider options preferred by parents. The actual voting by parents would be done through a petition drive, and options could include turning the failing school into a charter school. By Bruce Schreiner.

XGR-MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Legislature has approved a $200 million settlement that the state received as part of a national agreement reached between major banks and 49 states. The House Tuesday voted 117-0 for the bill (SB 1852). The Senate had previously approved the measure. The deal sets aside money for everything from domestic violence shelters to affordable housing programs and Habitat for Humanity. The money comes from a $25 billion settlement involving attorneys general across the nation. It ends investigations over foreclosure abuses. The settlement was with the country's five largest mortgage servicers: Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo. MOVED.

GUNS-MENTALLY ILL

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Senate has passed a bill aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people with mental illness. Gun-rights advocates endorsed the bill, which heads to Gov. Rick Scott after clearing the Senate on a 38-0 vote Tuesday. The measure easily cleared the House earlier. The bill (HB 1355) has emerged as the most prominent gun-related bill to come up during the 60-day legislative session that wraps up Friday.

With:

XGR-HEALTH OVERHAUL-FLORIDA — The Florida House has set up a bill for a vote that authorizes the state's Department of Environmental Protection to enforce rules reducing water pollution.

XGR-ABORTION — Florida lawmakers have sent to Gov. Rick Scott a bill that would require medical care for newborns who survive botched abortions.

XGR-WATER RULES — The Florida House has set up a bill for a vote that authorizes the state's Department of Environmental Protection to enforce rules reducing water pollution.

XGR-CHILDREN OF RAPE — Florida lawmakers have passed a bill prohibiting a convicted rapist from having any custody rights if the rape results in a child.

XGR-INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES — The Florida Legislature has unanimously passed a bill that removes the term "mental retardation" from state law and replaces it with "intellectual disability."

JET ART

WEST PALM BEACH — Princess Tarinan von Anhalt's creative process may be a bit more powerful than the average artist these days. The painter will strap herself to a hydraulic platform 50-feet in the air on Tuesday and hurl paint into a Learjet engine, splattering the colors onto a canvas to create the abstract designs she has become known for. The jet engine will hurl the paint into a force several times greater than hurricane winds, creating an intense power and heat. Tuesday's demonstration is part of an event by a private jet services company and an art group to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Learjet. By Suzette Laboy. With AP Photos. AP Video.

Also:

BANK ROBBERY PLEA — A South Carolina man has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison for robbing more than a dozen banks in multiple states. Court records show 43-year-old Wesley Todd McCracken of Myrtle Beach was sentenced in federal court in Charleston last week. Over the next three months, prosecutors say McCracken robbed 13 banks in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

TALIBAN-TERROR CHARGES — Federal prosecutors say an interview by The Associated Press with an FBI informant and other legal claims are insufficient to warrant a new terrorism support trial for an elderly South Florida imam.

ARMED ROBBERY-SHOOTING — Authorities say a man returning to his Pompano Beach townhome somehow got a gun away from a would-be robber and fatally shot him.

OFFICE SURGERY — Sarasota County Sheriff's officials say an office manager is accused of performing a surgical procedure on a patient's face at her brother's cosmetic surgery office.

FESTIVAL SHOOTING — A 19-year-old man is accused of shooting five people during the annual Crab Festival in Williston.

ATTEMPTED MURDER-CRASH — A St. Petersburg woman faces attempted murder charges after telling police she caused a car crash to try to kill herself and a 2-year-old boy.

DANGEROUS RIP CURRENTS __ Florida's Division of Emergency Management says dangerous rip currents are expected to continue this week along the state's Atlantic coast.

SPORTS:

BBA--RAYS-ROYALS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — James Shields gets a chance to face his former team when the Kansas City Royals face the Tampa Bay Rays in the opener of a three-game series. Shields and fellow right-hander Wade Davis were traded from the Rays to the Royals during the off season. By Dave Skretta.

___

The AP, Miami

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