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Tampa Bay's Top News Stories In 2018

The year 2018 is almost over, and Florida Matters is looking back at the stories that made headlines in our region this year.


Much has happened in our state this year. We elected a new governor, U.S. Senator and a number of other political positions. We lost 17 lives in a mass shooting that led to new laws on school safety.

This week on Florida Matters we revisit some of the major events and news stories that affected Tampa Bay and our state in 2018.

Hockey Fans And Pirates Flock To Tampa

We hear a story about whether sunny Tampa Bay is a “hockey town,” produced for our show back in January ahead of the 2018 National Hockey League All-Star Game. Thousands of fans flocked to Tampa for the game, which was the same weekend as one of the city's busiest events, the annual Gasparilla Pirate Festival.

St. Pete Mayor Talks Amazon And BRT

Also in January, St. Petersburg inaugurated Mayor Rick Kriseman for his second term in office. Florida Matters sat down with him one-on-one interview for an episode in our "Newsmaker" series. We listen back to some of that conversation, which touches on two other hot topics from 2018: the Bus Rapid Transit proposal and the Tampa Bay area's bids to host the next Amazon headquarters.

Tragedy Strikes Parkland

We remember February 14, which made history in Florida and the nation when 17 people, mostly teenagers, were killed in the Parkland School Shooting. The tragedy re-ignited national debate about gun control and dominated the Florida legislative session. 

The shooting and its aftermath came up on Florida Matters several times. In one show, we met 18-year-old Leonor Muñoz, a recent graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. She was one of thousands of students and staff who fled to safety while shooter Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 to kill his victims that day.

Health News Florida reporter Sammy Mack in Miami helped Munoz record her experiences in the weeks after the shooting, leading up to her graduation. Florida Matters aired that audio diary this spring, and we hear a portion of it on this week’s show.

Parkland Shooting Shapes School Safety Laws

The Parkland Shooting had a major influence on Florida's legislative session. One result was a new law that required all schools have armed security guards. Many districts across the state were concerned they would not be able to implement the requirements in time for the school year to start in August.

We talked with school officials across the Tampa Bay area on Florida Matters this summer about how they planned to comply with the law. We listen to Polk County Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd and Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning talk about the changes families could expect to see when the school year began in August.

More Medical Marijuana Patients & More Lawsuits 

Medical marijuana has regularly made headlines in the state ever since Florida voted to expand its program in 2016. There have been ongoing court battles over state regulations for the young industry. And back in April, Florida hit a milestone of having over 100,000 patients in its medical marijuana registry.

Earlier this year we talked with people who work in the industry about its obstacles and opportunities. This week we hear a portion of that show. Darrin Potter, Chief Horticulture Officer with GrowHealthy and Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve talk about the lawsuit Trulieve filed against the state this year. The company wants to lift a cap that limits the amount of dispensaries a licensed grower can open.

2018 Primary Election Surprises

The mid-term elections made national news after three major races in Florida led to recounts. But even the state's August primary had some big surprises. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum beat Democratic frontrunner Gwen Graham and became the first African American nominated for governor in state history. And Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whom establishment Republicans had initially thought would be a shoe-in for Florida governor, lost to Ron DeSantis.

WUSF's Steve Newborn reported from Putnam's watch party on primary election night during our special live episode of Florida Matters. We hear his story on the Polk County native's long political career in Florida.

All Eyes On Florida For 2018 Midterms

Florida Matters brought you another night of live coverage during the General Election in November.

The nation's eyes were on Florida as people wondered whether a "blue wave" would change the state's pre-dominantly Republican government. The race between the progressive Andrew Gillum and President Trump-endorsed Ron DeSantis was considered an especially negative campaign.

As the polls were closing we invited listeners to call in and share their thoughts about the election on the air. We hear one of those calls, followed by commentary from political reporter William March.

No matter what the news is next year, WUSF and Florida Matters will be there to help keep you informed.