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PolitiFact Florida’s Top 5 for March
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman April 9, 2015

In March, readers flocked to our coverage of a gun battle in the state Legislature, a claim by former Gov. Jeb Bush about affirmative action and claims about immigration, SeaWorld and solar energy.

Here’s a summary of our most popular reports posted this month, counting down to the most popular.

Americans for Prosperity: Recent solar energy policies in Georgia "have resulted in rate hikes and did not result in solar becoming any more economically viable."

Americans for Prosperity admitted it meant to say Louisiana, which is having its own debate on the issue. But the program in Georgia is thriving. Part of Georgia's implementation plan was that using solar power wouldn’t affect rates, and it hasn’t, Georgia’s largest utility said. Louisiana did see a rate increase, but it doesn't seem to be specifically related to a solar initiative. The statement is completely wrong. We rated it Pants on Fire.

SeaWorld: "Whales live as long at SeaWorld" as they do in the wild.

At its core, this claim is an oversimplification of a much more complex issue. Recent independent data suggests that survival rates for captive and wild orcas are about equal, but that by itself isn't all that significant, experts told us. The data is limited and comparisons between orcas in captivity and in the wild are tenuous. Experts also noted that logic suggests captive whales should live longer because they don't face predators and receive medical care. Lastly, experts said that a simple measurement of survival rates (or lifespan) doesn’t address the more fundamental question of the conditions for whales in captivity. The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details, so we rate it Half True.

U.S. Rep. David Jolly: A federal judge said President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration is "unconstitutional."

Obama announced Nov. 20, 2014, that immigration officials would delay deportation of unauthorized immigrants for the parents of children who are citizens or have green cards, as long as the parents have been in the country for more than five years and met other criteria.

A federal judge in Texas said the government was acting outside its authority by issuing the order. But the actual ruling said the state of Texas had a chance to win a case based on a procedural misstep, not the action’s constitutionality. Another federal judge in Pennsylvania really did call the action unconstitutional, but that was an opinion in a ruling on a deportation case in which the action didn’t apply. We rated Jolly’s claim Mostly True.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush: Eliminating affirmative action in admissions in Florida led to "more African American and Hispanic kids attending our university system" than before.

Bush signed an executive order implementing the One Florida plan in 1999, which banned racial preferences in state school admissions.

The raw numbers of black and Hispanic students are up, but the percentage of black students in the state university system is down slightly since Bush’s 1999 executive order. The number of Hispanic students has gone up considerably, but that is partly because of a recent change in how students report ethnicity during the admissions process.

There’s no hard evidence Bush’s One Florida program had much to do with the enrollment changes. Experts say demographics, graduation rates and state-sponsored scholarship money have had more influence. We rated Bush’s statement Mostly False.

Florida Students for Concealed Carry: "According to the state of Florida, you are almost twice as likely to be attacked by an alligator than by someone who happens to carry a conceal-and-carry permit."

House and Senate panels have voted in favor of a proposal that would let concealed weapon license holders -- who must be 21 -- have their guns on college campuses.

That brought up an interesting comparison: What are students at greater risk for? Being shot or attacked by alligators?

"According to the state of Florida, you are almost twice as likely to be attacked by an alligator than by someone who happens to carry a conceal-and-carry permit, and that was a study over the first 10 years of the conceal-carry law in Florida," said Erek Culbreath, president of Florida Students for Concealed Carry, speaking at a Senate Higher Education Committee hearing on March 16.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has documented the number of alligator bites on people between 1948 and November 2013 for a total of 357 bites.

The gun data is based on an approximation using permit revocations based on misuse of a firearm that may or may not accurately reflect the number of "attacks." Between October 1987 and February 2015, the state revoked 9,636 concealed weapon or firearm license permits, according to state. Of that group, 168 were revoked for misuse of a firearm. However, in 2011 the state stopped providing a breakdown for the reasons that permits have been revoked.

These statistics, imperfect as they are, do support the notion that both kinds of attacks are uncommon. But it’s a stretch to say the evidence confirms you’re at twice the risk for a gator attack. We find the statement has an element of truth but ignores other information that would give a different impression. So we rated it Mostly False.

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PolitiFact Florida’s Top 5 for March