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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. Private prison deprived inmates of heat and hot water for months, lawmaker finds

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The 284 women housed in C-dorm at Gadsden Correctional Institution lived for months without hot water or heat, faced flooded bathrooms daily and endured water rations when the septic tanks were jammed with food waste.

    After Rep. David Richardson demanded action following a series of surprise visits over the last 18 months, the private prison operator that runs the facility — Management Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah — received approval from the state to replace and repair the water heater, at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $10,000. But Warden Shelly Sonberg never authorized the work....

    Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, has been on a one-man mission to force change in Florida's troubled prison system.  [SCOTT KEELER    |    Times]
  2. David Richardson's crusade finds more prison woes, this time private women's facility

    Blog

    The 284 women housed in C-dorm at Gadsden Correctional Facility lived for months without hot water or heat, faced flooded bathrooms daily and endured water rations when the septic tanks were jammed with food waste.

    After state Rep. David Richardson demanded action following a series of surprise visits over the past 18 months, the private prison operator that runs the facility — Management Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah — received approval from the state to repair and replace the water heater, at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $10,000. But Warden Shelly Sonberg never authorized the work....

  3. Attempt to delay and deny production of records leads to mega fine for Martin County

    Blog

    A company that sued Martin County for allegedly reneging on a contract to use land to clean polluted water from Lake Okeechobee has won a major public records lawsuit accusing county commissioners of denying they conducted public business on private email accounts, delaying producing the accounts once they were discovered and, in one case, destroying the record trail.

    Maggy Hurchalla...

  4. House and Senate prepare for negotiations

    Blog

    Florida House and Senate committees on Thursday gave approval to vastly different approaches to the future of gambling in Florida, with the Senate opening the door to massive expansion of slot machines and Indian gaming, while the House attempts to retract gaming and preserve protected markets for horse and dog racing and tribal gaming for another 20 years.

    The House bill, PCB TGC 17-01, "reaffirms our commitment to a limited gaming footprint," said Rep. Michael LaRosa, R-St. Cloud, chair of the Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee which passed its bill 10-5....

  5. Corcoran concedes 'we'll get there' on a joint rule with Senate over budget

    Blog

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran said Wednesday that he is open to compromise with the state Senate on his hardline new rules aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the budget process. 

     Senate President Joe Negron has resisted Corcoran's rules, last week even threatening to sue the House over what he considers an unconstitution...

  6. New college $1 million scholarship program proposed for 50 children of farm workers

    Blog

    The children of farm workers would be eligible for 50 full-tuition scholarships to Florida colleges and universities under a bill being proposed by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami.

    The amendment to SB 2, the Senate's higher education reform bill which will be up for a vote Thursday in the Senate Appropriations Committee, authorizes children of migrant workers who meet the criteria of the award, including meeting the state's residency requirements, to receive the scholarship annually....

  7. In major Tallahassee reversal, mandatory sentences called a waste of taxpayer money

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Cynthia Powell is serving a 25-year sentence for selling 35 pills for $300 in 2002. Her incarceration at Homestead Correctional Institution costs taxpayers an average of $18,064 per year — or $451,600 by the time she is released in 2023.

    The Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee concluded this week that that's money poorly spent. It voted unanimously for SB 290, which would end minimum mandatory sentences for nonviolent offenses like Powell's. It's a massive shift in the tough-on-crime bills of the past two decades that filled prisons and created what both liberals and conservatives now believe has been a subclass of lifers in jail and a waste of tax money....

    The “prison diversion bill” is sponsored by Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.
  8. One county does not elect its sheriff and bill would make sure that stops

    Blog

    Voters across Florida would be asked to decide if Miami Dade County should have an elected sheriff under a proposed 2018 constitutional amendment that passed the Senate Community Affairs on Tuesday.

    The bill, SJR 134 by Sen. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, would ask voters to require Miami-Dade to convert the county's appointed sheriff to an elected post....

  9. Negron's DC firm and the Florida House fight

    Blog

    Why would Florida's Senate president spend $71,600 on a Washington D.C.-based legal firm with no offices in Florida to represent them in legal battles over the Florida Constitution, and with the Florida House?

    That's the obvious question for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who has signed two contracts, and assumed a third, from former Senate President Andy Gardiner, with Sidley Austin, a mega-firm in D.C. with offices across the globe -- except Florida....

  10. Negron names 'advocates for school choice' to serve on constitutional panel

    Blog

    Senate President Joe Negron named eight Republicans and one Democrat to the powerful Constitution Revision Commission Wednesday that he said each have a "tireless work ethic" and a commitment to revising the state constitution to reform state education laws.

    "The appointees are strong advocates for school choice opportunities that celebrate the power of the parents to determine what form of education is best for their child,'' Negron said in a statement....

  11. Thousands of Florida mortgages could be at risk because of insurance abuse

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — An Ohio insurance-rating company has warned that recent court rulings and skyrocketing losses from water-damage claims have created an "uncertain operating environment" for Florida's property insurers and that it will downgrade the financial stability of 10 to 15 Florida-based companies, potentially threatening the solvency of thousands of homeowners policies.

    Demotech Inc., which rates the financial strength of 400 companies nationwide, including 57 in Florida, said Tuesday that it will likely reduce the financial stability rating of the Florida-based companies from A to B, below the level needed for federally backed mortgages....

    Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is fighting to reform “assignment of benefits.”
  12. Company to downgrade 10-15 Florida insurers because of AOB claims losses

    Blog

    An Ohio insurance-rating company has warned that recent court rulings and skyrocketing losses from water-damage claims have created an “uncertain operating environment” for Florida’s property insurers and that it will downgrade the financial stability of 10 to 15 Florida-based companies, potentially threatening the solvency of thousands of homeowners policies.

    Demotech, Inc., a company which rates the financial strength of 400 companies nationwide including 57 in Florida, said Tuesday that the company is likely to reduce the financial stability rating of the Florida-based companies from A to B, below the level needed for federally backed mortgages, beginning in March....

  13. After $98 million on lawyers, Florida losing water war with Georgia

    Blog

    A special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Florida Tuesday and in favor of Georgia in the 16-year water war over water rights to the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint River Basin.

    The ruling by Ralph Lancaster , Jr., a civil attorney from Portland, Maine, concluded that Florida failed to prove that new limits on Georgia’s water consumption were needed. He made the ruling after five weeks of hearings last summer and more than $98 million in attorneys fees spent on the case by the state of Florida....

    Oyster fisherman on the Appalachicola River.
  14. Florida CFO Jeff Atwater resigning for 'expanded' CFO role at FAU

    Blog

    Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater announced Friday he’s resigning from his Cabinet position to return to Palm Beach County and take a job as the CFO of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

    Atwater, who is from North Palm Beach, will be the university’s vice president of strategic initiatives and CFO — where he’ll “lead strategic initiatives and economic development opportunities for FAU as well as manage the university’s finances and budget.”...

    Florida CFO Jeff Atwater
  15. Should Florida be first state to impose term limits on justices?

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Despite a torrent of criticism from both conservatives and liberal lawyers, a House committee on Thursday advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose a 12-year term limit on Florida Supreme Court justices and appeal court judges who now can serve until retirement age.

    The idea is a top priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, who accuses the Florida Supreme Court of repeatedly "writing whole cloth law" in violation of the separation of powers. If the measure is placed on the November 2018 ballot, it would need 60 percent of the vote to become law. No other state has such steep limits on its highest courts, although Colorado, Mississippi and Nevada have proposed judicial term limits at the appellate level and voters have rejected it . ...

    A House committee approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose a 12-year-term limit on appeal court judges and Florida Supreme Court justices. [Scott Keeler | Tampa Bay Times]