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The Florida delegation to the Republican National Convention will be staying... in Palm Harbor.

That's 30 miles from the site of the convention, The Tampa Bay Times Forum in downtown Tampa.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that there is no other delegation located farther from downtown than Florida -- and their bunkmates at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor -- the South Carolina delegation.

Photo courtesy of FLGOVSCOTT

The state will likely appeal Thursday's ruling by a Miami federal judge that blanket drug testing of Florida state workers is unconstitutional -- saying it violates the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure.

Gov. Rick Scott, during a visit to WUSF's studios, said the court ruling makes no sense because random drug testing is common practice in the private sector.

MyFloridaHouse.gov

A Miami federal judge has declared that Gov. Rick Scott's order requiring drug testing for state workers is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ruled today that blanket testing of some 85,000 workers violates the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. The ruling could eventually have an impact on a new state law also permitting random worker drug testing.

Most of us Americans find it hard to watch any sort of a competition without a scoreboard. And when the prize is the White House, the desire to know who's winning gets overwhelming.

That's why, now that Mitt Romney has all but wrapped up the Republican nomination for president, nearly every day brings a new national poll predicting the popular vote results in November.

Or purporting to do so.

President Obama stopped at the Port of Tampa to talk up his goal of doubling U.S. exports. He said the country's 46 percent increase in exports to Latin America during his term signals the country is heading in the right direction.

Here is the transcript of his speech, provided by the White House.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Tampa!  (Applause.)

Steve Newborn/WUSF

The Port of Tampa is key to increasing exports of U.S. goods – that’s the message that President Barack Obama delivered during a brief visit Friday on his way to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia.

Surrounded by stacked shipping containers with an American flag flying above, President Obama delivered a 10-minute speech to an enthusiastic, invited crowd of about 100 people at the port. He also took a quick tour of port facilities.

President Barack Obama is visiting the Port of Tampa on Friday to talk about trade with Latin America on his way to Colombia. Maritime folks hope he's bringing good news with him.

Dwayne Keith is president the Tampa Chapter of the Propeller Club, which promotes the maritime industry. He says the federal government has a role to play in supporting the shipping business.

"We'd certainly like to see the federal government do its part and keep this vital industry going," Keith said.

It was a statement so outrageous, a lot of people thought Congressman Allen West was joking.

At a recent town hall meeting, West said, "I believe its about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party are members of the Communist Party."

A little later, he said he was referring to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of representatives that focuses on civil rights, social justice other liberal causes.

President Obama is making his case for the "Buffett Rule" in Florida today. 

He'll also beef up his campaign war chest with fundraisers at stops in Boca Raton and in Tampa on Friday. 

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn signaled that he’s flexible regarding some elements of his proposed “Clean Zone” ordinance. It sets up strict rules about protests in and around Tampa the week of the Republican National Convention.

Buckhorn said that he’s willing to negotiate with Tampa City Council which delayed its vote on his Clean Zone ordinance after raising concerns about its scope.

After losing a county-wide vote in 2010 to fund light rail in Hillsborough County, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has come up with a new idea to bring mass transit options to his city.

Buckhorn wants Florida lawmakers to give municipalities the right to go to the voters for a sales tax referendum. Right now, all such votes must be countywide.

"If we had the ability to do that, I think you could see Mayor Foster and I get together to run referendums in our respective jurisdictions that would pass," Buckhorn said.

Tampa City Council delayed their vote Thursday on the Clean Zone ordinance because council members brought up what they saw as some problems. Council members plan to pick up the issue again April 19th.

Some council members like council woman Lisa Montelione wanted clearer language. Others, like council woman Mary Mulhern, didn't agree with the size of the Clean Zone.

"Davis Islands, Harbor Island, Downtown... those are residential neighborhoods," Mulhern said, "So to think that you need to encompass that with these kind of restrictions is completely unworkable."

About a half-dozen people showed up wearing face-masks and carrying neon colored squirt guns Thursday morning in the shadow of Tampa City Hall.

They used their “visual aids” to demonstrate everyday items that would be banned inside a five mile radius of downtown Tampa if the mayor’s proposed “Clean Zone” ordinance is passed.

Security for the Republican National Convention is a top priority of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. So, he’s proposing the sweeping ban of items and strict rules like time limits on public demonstrations.

USF Students Rally for Trayvon Martin

Apr 4, 2012

The Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at USF held a rally calling for justice for Trayvon Martin. Students held the rally today in honor of the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death.

Master's student in criminology, Markia Jennings understood the link between MLK Jr. and Trayvon. "They're doing it on Martin Luther King Jr.'s death anniversary because what he fought for is what we're still fighting for today," Jennings said.

Is the city of Tampa "unromantic and sullen"?

That's what Garance Franke-Ruta, senior editor at The Atlantic, said about Tampa in a blog post.

It's the latest in a series of slights, put-downs and disses Tampa is receiving as it prepares to host the Republican National Convention in August.

City of Tampa

With the Hillsborough River at his back, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the “State of the City” is “good” but its future is even “brighter.” The first-term mayor delivered his address outdoors at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to emphasize his vision of expanding downtown so that the Hillsborough River, now its western boundary, will eventually become its central core.

“This is a catalyst for change in this city,” Buckhorn said. “What you are looking at right now, this river, is going to change this downtown as we know it.”

Florida Grade for Public Access to Information is a D

Mar 31, 2012

Florida ranks as a C-minus for its susceptibility to corruption, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and WLRN in Miami. WLRN reporter Kenny Malone reports on why Florida's Public Access to Information is a D.

A few months back,  Senator Mike Fasano (R) who represents parts of Central Florida's counties,  had a pretty simple public records request about some investments that were made by the state board of administration.

The state Ethics Commission today sent state Sen. Jim Norman's financial disclosure case to the Florida Senate - where his lawyer said he will argue against any penalites. The Tampa Republican faces charges that he failed to disclose a half-a-million-dollar gift to his wife when he ran for the Senate in 2010.

Norman’s lawyer says a Hillsborough County attorney advised Norman, who was a county
commissioner at the time, that he didn’t have to disclose that the money was used to renovate a lakefront home in Arkansas.

Florida ranks as a C- for its susceptibility to corruption, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and WLRN in Miami. The state did much better in its sub-grade for redistricting. But as WLRN reporter Rick Stone reports, some question how that can be possible.

When Republican Senator Paula Dockery got her first look at her newly redrawn Polk County district, she was horrified.

"You could tell some areas  that looked very squirrelly," she said.

The unemployment rate for both Tampa Bay and Florida fell to 9.4 percent in February, the lowest level in three years.

That's down from 9.6 percent for all of Florida in January.

The good news for Tampa Bay: our region is creating more jobs than other regions of Florida -- up 20,000 in the last year, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have even lower unemployment rates, a 9 percent.

Florida ranks as a C-minus for its susceptibility to corruption, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and WLRN in Miami. WLRN reporter Kenny Malone reports on a loophole in Florida's lobbyist gift ban.

Florida has one of the strictest rules in the country for lobbyist gift-giving: an absolute ban. And the state has one of toughest laws for campaign contributions: a $500 limit.

With the ongoing Occupy movement, you can bet that thousands of protestors will show up in Tampa for the  Republican National Convention in August.

And now, they may find it a little bit harder to protest anywhere close to the action.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is proposing a "Clean Zone" in a large area surrounding the convention center and Tampa Bay Times Forum.

What, you ask, is a Clean Zone? It seems to have several components:

- Parks will close at 3 a.m. No overnight camping allowed.

The Florida Senate's 'Mapquest' Continues

Mar 27, 2012

The  Florida Legislature is sending a revised Senate redistricting map back to the state Supreme Court. The House on Tuesday gave the map final approval on a 61-47 vote that went largely along party lines.

The Florida Supreme court rejected the first Senate map, saying it "was rife with objective indicators of improper intent" that violated the new Fair Districts standards approved by voters.

Just in time for the fall election, Sen. Marco Rubio and other Republicans are reportedly working on their own version of the DREAM Act.

Polls show Republicans are having trouble getting Hispanic votes, largely because of rhetoric coming from the Republican primary race.

A circus atmosphere pervades the space outside of the U.S. Supreme Court today, where justices started hearing a record six hours of testimony as they weigh in on The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the centerpiece of the Obama Administration. 

But what does this mean for Florida, which has lead the way in challenging the constitutionality of the law?

The police chief of Sanford has "temporarily resigned," pending an investigation into his department's handing of the slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Bill Lee offered to step down this afternoon in a press conference outside Sanford City Hall.

Activists Want Zimmerman to Hand Over His Gun

Mar 21, 2012
Photo Courtesy of Bay News 9

Activists were to gather Wednesday at the Florida Division of Licensing to ask for the suspension of George Zimmerman's concealed weapons permit.

After hearing Zimmerman's phone calls to authorities about a suspicious black man in his neighborhood, protestors are calling him a "threat to society."

Zimmerman was legally carrying his registered gun the night he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman is claiming "stand-your-ground" self-defense.

Bobbie O'Brien

On Florida Matters this week, WUSF brings you exclusive interview with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Host Carson Cooper traveled to Tampa City Hall to talk with the first-term mayor.

1- On Being the ‘Pool Guy’

Mayor Buckhorn has often said he won’t be the “boyfriend” who breaks up the marriage between the Tampa Bay Rays and the City of St. Petersburg. He told WUSF, “I may be the pool guy though.”

2- Knowing Tampa’s ‘Options’ with the Rays

Tampa City Council voted unanimously Thursday to establish a Domestic Partners Registry. Whether same sex or heterosexual, domestic partners living in Tampa will soon be protected and treated like family when it comes to things like hospital visitations and medical decisions.

There's a rising discussion on whether Tampa Bay residents should stay in the region or head out on vacation the last week of August when the area hosts the Republican National Convention that could attract as many as 50,000 people.

Members of the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee equate hosting the political convention as second only to hosting the Olympics when it comes to gaining national and international exposure with long-lasting economic impact.

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