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The Associated Press

After a bumpy summer, there are signs that the state's economic recovery is picking up once again.

Florida released new jobless numbers Friday that showed that the state's unemployment rate had dropped to 6.7 percent in October. It was 7 percent in August.

This is the lowest the state's unemployment rate has been since August 2008 - right before the height of the financial crisis. The state's rate is also below the national average of 7.3 percent.

Florida Republican Rep. Henry "Trey" Radel, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of cocaine possession and received a year's probation, said Thursday he has checked himself into a rehabilitation center.

The freshman lawmaker said in a statement that he is seeking treatment and counseling in a Florida center for his drug and alcohol abuse.

The estranged wife of George Zimmerman said Thursday she thinks her husband has unraveled since he was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.

"I don't know who George is anymore," Shellie Zimmerman said on Katie Couric's show "Katie." After his murder trial, he became unpredictable and "a pacing lion."

Streeter Lecka / Getty Images for the NY Times

The sexual assault case involving Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has devolved into a series of conflicting claims, first with a statement Wednesday from the alleged victim's family strongly criticizing how Tallahassee police have handled the investigation.

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Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist is leading Republican Gov. Rick Scott by 7 points in a poll released Thursday, but the lead is much closer than it was seven months ago.

Crist announced earlier this month that he would seek his old job with his new party. The announcement, though, doesn't seem to have given him a boost with voters. He leads Scott 47-40 in the Quinnipiac University poll, but led Scott by 16 percentage polls in Quinnipiac poll in March, when his entry in the race was still speculative.

Florida Rep. Henry "Trey" Radel is apologizing to his constituents after being busted on a cocaine possession charge, acknowledging he also struggles with alcoholism and intends to seek treatment and counseling.

The 37-year-old freshman Republican was charged with cocaine possession Tuesday after what a federal law enforcement official described as a "buy and bust" operation. Radel was scheduled to appear Wednesday in District of Columbia Superior Court.

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that eight of 10 people will be able to use the government's health care website to sign up for insurance by the end of the month.

The Obama administration's top health care official was at Florida Technical College in Orlando Tuesday morning making her first of two stops in the state to talk up the Affordable Care Act as fallout of the new law grows. She was visiting Miami's North Shore Medical Center later in the day.

A class action lawsuit against the Polk County Sheriff and the agency's treatment of juvenile detainees is underway in federal court in Tampa.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit against Polk Sheriff Grady Judd and Corizon, a company the sheriff contracts with to provide inmates with medical care.

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A man convicted of killing two Tampa Police officers will find out whether he will be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Sentencing for Dontae Morris will be held today in Hillsborough County Court.

On Friday, a jury found Morris guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.

The Florida Supreme Court won't hear a challenge by acupuncturists and massage therapists who sought to overturn a 2012 law that supporters said would cut fraud from the state's no-fault auto insurance system.

Monday's decision effectively ends the case, which focused during appeals on whether unnamed plaintiffs had legal "standing" to pursue the challenge. But Adam Levine, an attorney for the challengers, has said in the past he could re-file the case with named plaintiffs.

Former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was arrested Monday in Florida after deputies responded to a disturbance call at a house, authorities said.

Zimmerman will be transported and booked into jail, a Seminole County Sheriff's Office statement said. Authorities provided few other details, and it was not immediately known what charges he faced. Messages for comment left by The Associated Press with the sheriff's office were not immediately returned.

A public hunt for Burmese pythons in Florida's Everglades won't be repeated next year, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman said Monday.

Instead, the state is beefing up established programs that train licensed hunters and people who regularly work in areas known to contain pythons to kill or report exotic snakes.

"Certainly our work is not done with pythons," said wildlife commission spokeswoman Carli Segelson.

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A man already serving a life sentence for murder has been convicted fatally shooting Tampa police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab during a routine traffic stop in East Tampa.

A Hillsborough County jury found Dontae Morris guilty Friday of two counts of first-degree murder. The same panel will reconvene next week to recommend either a life sentence or the death penalty.

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Residents of several  Dunedin homes have been evacuated due to a possible sinkhole that opened in a backyard early Thursday.

Dunedin Deputy Fire Chief Trip Barrs said the hole appeared to be about 12-feet wide when officials arrived on the scene. Residents of the neighboring houses also were evacuated as a precaution.

Television footage showed that part of a patio has caved in and a boat is on the edge of the hole. Tampa area television stations report that a neighboring pool appears to have cracks.

A  Pasco County man is facing charges that he impersonated a law enforcement officer during an attempt to get discounted doughnuts.

Pasco County sheriff's deputies say 48-year-old Charles T. "Chuck" Barry tried to use the ploy twice recently at a Tampa-area Dunkin' Donuts.

They say the first time he showed the clerk a badge and a holstered gun, telling him, "See, I am a cop!"

When he returned the next day, the manager wrote down his license plate number.

You might soon be able to go 75 on I-75.

Two Florida state senators want to let motorists drive faster on the state's highways.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, are filing a bill that would allow the state to raise the speed limit up to 75 miles per hour on some highways.

Brandes said his bill would allow the state to raise the limit if traffic engineers believe is it safe. He noted that the state has not reviewed its speed limit since 1996.

St. Petersburg police arrested a 15-year-old girl on Thursday for cyberbullying after she allegedly sent hundreds of threatening text messages to three other 15-year-old girls who are students at her high school.

Officials said the girl was charged with three counts of aggravated stalking. The Associated Press is not naming her because she is a minor.

Detectives said the girl sent several hundred threatening texts to three victims over the course of about 8 days. Many of the messages were death threats, police said, and many contained expletives.

A panel of Florida legislators on Thursday easily defeated an effort to repeal the state's controversial "stand your ground law" Thursday following hours of passionate testimony.

The vote by a committee of the Republican-controlled House, which seemed unlikely just a few months ago, comes after the trial of George Zimmerman renewed scrutiny of the self-defense law that was first passed in 2005.

Former Republican governor-turned Democrat Charlie Crist took the first step Friday toward attempting to reclaim his old job with a new party, paving the way for a bitter contest that will be one of the most watched in the nation.

Crist filed paperwork to get in the race and is now the front-runner to represent Democrats against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most unpopular chief executives in the country. Scott, though, will be well-financed and is expected to spend as much as $25 million in attack ads against Crist.

Florida's top legislative leaders are coming out against a push to allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons.

House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz announced Wednesday that they will ask the Florida Supreme Court to block the proposed amendment.

In a memo Gaetz said after consulting with senate staff he had concluded that the medical marijuana amendment would mislead voters.

The Republican legislators are joining Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in their opposition to the amendment. Bondi last week asked the court to block the measure.

John Sajo

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is challenging a proposal to allow the use of medical marijuana in the state. 

Bondi criticized the proposed amendment in a filing she made Thursday to the Florida Supreme Court. By law, the attorney general asks the court to review proposed amendments.

The Supreme Court could throw out the amendment if it agrees with Bondi.

The Republican attorney general called the amendment misleading. Bondi told the court that if passed by voters the measure would allow marijuana use in limitless situations.

The mother of a 12-year-old Florida girl who jumped to her death after being bullied for months is exploring her legal options, her attorneys said Thursday.

Attorneys for Rebecca Sedwick's mother have taken no legal action yet, but they haven't ruled out suing Polk County schools or the parents of two middle school girls who were arrested in connection with Sedwick's death, they said.

"It's a difficult process," said David Henry, lead attorney for Tricia Norman. "There are a number of other children who also participated."

At least seven inmates in Florida have used forged documents in attempts to escape from prison, including two killers who were mistakenly freed because of the paperwork, authorities said Tuesday.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement planned a news conference Tuesday to provide details about the phony paperwork. Agency spokeswoman Gretel Plessinger said so far they have discovered seven prisoners tried to escape with forged documents.

The heirs of a well-known figure in the Florida citrus industry are giving up control of a company that remains one of the state's largest private landowners.

Two New York-based agricultural companies are spending $137.8 million to purchase shares of Alico Inc. now held by the heirs of Ben Hill Griffin Jr.

Alico owns nearly 131,000 acres of land spread across five Florida counties — including Alachua, Collier, Lee and Polk — that are used for citrus groves, sugar cane and cattle ranching.

With two convicted killers back in custody, authorities say they are seeking to find out who made the phony court documents that led to their mistaken release and rocked Florida's judicial system.

Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, were captured Saturday night without incident in Panama City Beach. Hours earlier, their families had held a news conference, urging them to surrender.

"Now that we have them in custody, we're hoping to get something from the interviews with them," Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey said.

Two convicted killers serving life in a Florida prison were mistakenly freed in the last three weeks after forged court documents reduced their sentences, authorities said. Relatives picked up one inmate while the other was given a bus ticket and dropped off at a bus station.

Now a manhunt is on for Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, who were released separately from the Carrabelle prison in the Panhandle. Jenkins was let out Sept. 27; Walker was freed Oct. 8.

The Associated Press

Senate leaders announced a last-minute agreement Wednesday to avert a threatened Treasury default and reopen the government after a partial, 16-day shutdown. Congress raced to pass the measure by day’s end.

The Dow Jones industrial average soared on the news that the threat of default was fading, flirting with a 200-point gain in morning trading.

“This is a time for reconciliation,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of the agreement he had forged with the GOP leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Florida is ending this year's storm season with some good news.

The state-created fund that backs up private insurers in Florida remains in the best financial shape it has been since it was created 20 years ago.

New estimates drawn by financial consultants and Wall Street firms suggest the fund can borrow enough money to cover its obligations for the hurricane season that ends next month. Insurers are required to purchase coverage from the fund.

After 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick committed suicide last month, one of her tormenters continued to make comments about her online, even bragging about the bullying, a sheriff said Tuesday.

The especially callous remark hastened the arrest of a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl who were primarily responsible for bullying Rebecca, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. They were charged with stalking and released to their parents.

The federal government shutdown that has already led to furloughed employees, closed national parks and commissaries could soon start to ripple through Florida's schools and state government.

The administration of Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday ordered all agencies to refrain from using any state money to cover expenses that are supposed to be picked up by the federal government.

The state has a $74 billion budget, but more than 35 percent of the money comes from federal funds.

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