John Davis

John Davis has been a full-time Reporter/Producer for WGCU since 2009. He is the local host for NPRââââ

This week marks the 30th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference in Key Largo. The four-day event brings together environmental advocates, scientists, elected officials and a broad spectrum of other stakeholders for a closer look at the health of Florida’s River of Grass, and restoration efforts and opportunities for the future. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Send it South: Water for America’s Everglades” and will focus on the need to store and redirect excess water away from coastal estuaries and toward Everglades National Park.

Other topics will include issues related to nutrient pollution, energy production and sea level rise. This year’s conference comes on the heels of a 10 year plan to clean up Lake Okeechobee announced in December by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as well as a the adoption of Amendment One by Florida voters in November which establishes a dedicated source of state funding for land and water conservation efforts. We’ll hear from conference organizers and speakers for a look at the current health of the Everglades and what restoration efforts are needed going into 2015. 

This week, Florida became the 36th state in the U.S. to recognize marriage between same-sex couples. Clerk of Court offices in all of Florida’s 67 counties began offering marriage licenses to gay couples on Jan. 6, following a ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle that found that the state’s marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process requirements. The challenge came in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of eight same-sex couples and a Fort Myers widow and another lawsuit filed on behalf of two couples by attorneys in Jacksonville. A temporary stay on that ruling expired Jan. 5, opening the door to legalized same-sex marriage.

Initially, clerk of court offices faced confusion over the scope of the federal court ruling until Jan. 1, when Judge Hinkle issued an order clarifying that his ruling was intended to apply to the entire state.

As gay couples have now begun lining up at clerk of court offices around the state to apply for marriage licenses, supporters are celebrating the move as a step toward equality for members of Florida’s LGBT community. Meanwhile, opponents of same-sex marriage say the ruling contradicts the will of Florida voters who approved a state constitutional amendment in 2008 defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Opponents vow to continue their fight until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling on gay marriage. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed an appeal in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, although no date has yet been set for a hearing. We explore the legal and political history of how same-sex marriage became legal in Florida, the potential impacts of same-sex marriage in Florida, and what’s next in the legal battle.

The term ‘elder abuse’ typically brings to mind victimization by family members or abuse and neglect on the part of nursing home staff.  However, a new first of its kind study from Cornell University finds elder-to-elder mistreatment is a growing and significant problem in long term care facilities throughout the U.S. 

The Lee County Homeless Coalition will observe Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day this Sunday evening with its annual candlelight vigil recognizing those who lost their lives in 2014 while living on the streets or in shelters in Lee County. 

According to the latest data from the research firm RealtyTrac, Florida still leads the nation in home foreclosures with foreclosure filings on one out of 462 housing units in the state. However, foreclosures are trending downward significantly and experts predict home prices in Southwest Florida will continue rising. Meanwhile, the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey identifies Lee County as among the strongest markets in the nation for hiring demand going into 2015. We’ll explore the region’s current economic and employment conditions and predictions as we prepare to enter 2015. 

Florida Gun Legislation

Dec 16, 2014

This month, a Southwest Florida state lawmaker has reintroduced a bill that would permit conceal carry licensees to carry firearms on public college and university campuses. The measure, from State Rep. Greg Steube R-Sarasota, comes in the wake of last month’s shooting at Florida State University that resulted in the wounding of three students and the death of the lone gunman. Florida leads the nation in the number of concealed weapon permit holders with more than one million licensees. Gun control advocates oppose the bill citing a recent study from the group Every Town For Our Safety which found Florida has had the highest number of school shootings since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook two years ago.

Supporters of the measure point to last month’s FSU shooting incident as a reason why conceal carry licensees should be allowed to carry guns on campus. Some members of the group Students for Concealed Carry at FSU say the shooter in that incident could have been subdued more quickly if they’d been permitted to carry their firearms on campus. Supporters also argue it’s unconstitutional to prevent people licensed to carry guns from defending themselves in the face of danger. We’ll hear from both sides as we also explore another bill proposed by Rep. Steube that would allow public school districts in Florida to allow specifically designated staff to carry guns on school property. 

The legal battle over the drawing of Florida’s congressional and legislative district boundaries continues this week with the release of additional documents in the ongoing lawsuits challenging how lawmakers came up with the new maps. The Associated Press reports the Florida Supreme Court is unsealing documents of a two year old e-mail exchange between Republican political consultants indicating changes to state Senate maps were intended to limit Democratic gains in the 2012 election.

This follows the release in November of more than 500 pages of e-mails from GOP consultants related to redistricting that had been kept secret during a 12 day trial this past summer. Those e-mails were from the Gainesville-based Republican consulting firm Data Targeting. The League of Women Voters of Florida is leading a consortium of plaintiffs alleging that district boundaries were drawn to favor Republican candidates in political contests, which goes against anti-gerrymandering amendments Florida voters add to the state constitution in 2010. We explore what the unsealed documents reveal about the redistricting process and what’s next for plaintiff’s challenging the state’s political boundaries.

The holidays are a time that prompt many residents to open their hearts and pocketbooks in a season that sparks a lot of charitable giving. We’ll explore how to make sure your charitable donations are really going to organizations and efforts that use your dollars responsibly. We’ll also explore other ways scammers can use the holiday season to target new victims and how to protect your personal information when making purchases. 

The term ‘elder abuse’ typically brings to mind victimization by family members or neglect on the part of nursing home staff. However, a new study from Weill Cornell Medical College finds that hostile and aggressive behavior between nursing home residents is a growing problem throughout the U.S. that tends to go under reported.

Nearly one in five nursing home residents involved in the study reported experiencing some form of elder-to-elder mistreatment ranging from invasion of privacy to verbal and physical abuse to inappropriate sexual behavior. We’ll talk with the study’s lead author for a closer look at the findings and recommendations on how nursing homes can better identify and address the problem. 

In the wake of President Obama’s announcement last week of executive action to temporarily shield some four million undocumented immigrants from deportation, Redlands Christian Migrant Association is planning to begin offering an Immigration Assistance Program. Immigrant advocates applaud the President’s action, but say they’re worried con artists have already begun using the newly announced national immigration policy to target Florida’s 632,000 undocumented immigrants.

As November marks both National Adoption month and Florida Adoption month, the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida is holding a series of mass adoption finalizations throughout the region. Yet, despite the agency’s success in finding permanent homes for kids, the need for foster and adoptive parents is on the rise throughout the state and particularly in Southwest Florida where there are currently about 500 children living with licensed foster parents. We’ll take a closer look at efforts to find permanent, stable and loving homes for children in need, how to go about fostering or adopting a child, and how recent changes to state adoption laws by the Florida legislature are impacting kids in foster care.