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Flooding in Pasco Prompts Evacuation Orders

Jul 27, 2015
Pasco County

 A weekend of unrelenting rain has left large portions of Tampa Bay flooded. Areas of Pasco County received the brunt of the impact, where an evacuation order still stands in Elfers in Southwest Pasco. Officials at the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) expect flood waters will remain in the Elfers and Trinity Oaks areas for the next few days.

For those seeking refuge from the rising tides, the American Red Cross Shelter at First Presbyterian Church in Port Richey is open; seven people have already made use of this resource in the last 24 hours. 

Fl Civil War Battle Conflict on 'Back Burner'

Jul 24, 2015
Wikipedia Commons

The Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park was the center of an outcry in late 2013, when the state held a hearing on a plan to place a Union memorial there. But now, the site of Florida's largest Civil War battle --- a Confederate victory --- might have a peaceful solution in the works.

"We have to tell both sides of the story," said Jeff Grzelak, a Civil War historian and re-enactor for more than 40 years.

As the Florida Department of Citrus turns 80 years old, the industry it represents is fighting for its survival. The insect-borne disease of citrus greening is devastating groves statewide.

David Steele, the Director of Public Relations for the Department of Citrus, spoke with WUSF's Robin Sussingham about the challenges that citrus greening poses to the state's iconic crop. Steele says that every aspect of the citrus industry is under attack because of greening, resulting in the lowest production levels in his lifetime. But there's always reason to hope, he says:

A high number of leprosy cases have been appearing in Florida. The possible culprit: armadillos. 

This year, nine cases have been reported in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health. The state usually gets about two to 12 cases a year. 

A state health care official has criticized a proposed rate increase by private health plans that cover Florida's poorest residents.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the plans, which work with Medicaid, say they need to raise rates by 12 percent to offset the rising cost of prescription drugs and an uptick in doctor's visits.

Authorities say a birdhouse prompted a bomb scare outside a Sarasota hospital.

Police say a “suspicious package” was reported Wednesday morning outside Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Traffic in the area was blocked off, and the building was placed on a “diversion” lockdown, meaning no patients were allowed in and out.

State Medical Pot Office Gets New Chief

Jul 23, 2015

State health officials on Wednesday announced that Christian Bax will replace Patricia Nelson as the new head of the Office of Compassionate Use, the agency charged with overseeing Florida's medical marijuana law.

Nelson's abrupt departure Friday sent ripples throughout the medical marijuana industry.

WUSF News Getting New Look

Jul 22, 2015

We’ve got a whole new look coming your way.

Starting at 2 p.m. EDT on Thursday, July 23, you might notice a few changes on the WUSF News website.

We’re launching a revamped web experience that is fully responsive, meaning pages will be easier to view across a range of mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones.

You can find the same news more you’ve come to rely on more easily and quickly.

For more information or to ask questions, email WebMaster@wusf.org.

LAMEcon Staff

The Pasco County Library System is hosting its seventh annual "Library, Anime and Manga Enthusiasts Convention" this weekend. LAMEcon is a free convention that aims to make pop culture accessible to everyone, no matter how much money they have.

Paul Stonebridge, the teen services manager for the Pasco County Library System, said the Tampa Bay area hosts a number of great conventions, like Metrocon, but not everyone can afford to attend them.

Court Backs Medical Malpractice Change

Jul 21, 2015

A state appeals court Tuesday upheld the constitutionality of a controversial change in Florida's medical-malpractice laws, ruling in part that some privacy rights are "waived" when people pursue malpractice lawsuits.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal stemmed from a 2013 law, which the Republican-controlled Legislature passed after a lobbying battle between groups such as doctors and plaintiffs' attorneys. A federal appeals court last year also upheld the change in a separate case.

Update 7/24/15:   More information on Florida rates under the Affordable Care Act. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation hasn't released information on more than 12 other health insurers. According to its website, "displayed rate changes may not fully reflect increases and decreases due to claims of trade secret." There are several companies that have posted requests but they are blocked. OIR handles all proposals, but those over 10 percent are posted to CMS. The state has blocked the requests from insurers who have requested rate increases under 10 percent of which several are pending.

Tobacco Co. Wins Appeal In Smoker Death

Jul 17, 2015

Rejecting arguments that a jury improperly reached a "compromise" verdict, a federal appeals court Wednesday cleared Philip Morris USA from potential damages in the smoking-related death of a Florida man.

A Jacksonville jury last year found the tobacco company was 5 percent liable in the death of Robert Reider but did not award damages to Reider's widow, Barbara.

Court Limits Fees on Birth-Injury Case

Jul 17, 2015

An appeals court Wednesday upheld the constitutionality of a 2012 move by state lawmakers to limit fees paid to attorneys who represented a child severely injured at birth in a Southwest Florida hospital.

Scott Seeks Disability Job Training Money

Jul 16, 2015

Amid a controversy about cuts to the state's Adults with Disabilities program, which provides job training to more than 13,000 Floridians, Gov. Rick Scott will recommend restoring at least part of the money in next year's budget, a spokesman said Wednesday.

"We still have more work to do, and that is why I look forward to once again recommend investments into vocational rehabilitation services to help provide job training to adults with disabilities in my proposed budget later this year,” Scott said in a statement.

Streamsong photo

In remote central Florida, land turned inside out by phosphate mining has been transformed yet again -- this time as an upscale golf resort that's getting a lot of attention in the golfing world. The thousands of acres of Mosaic land that makes up Streamsong may be depleted of phosphate -- but it's rich in something  invaluable in the golf business. Sand.

Everglades Bike Path: Yea Or Nay?

Jul 15, 2015

The window for public comment on the latest Everglades tourism project is closing soon. The controversial River of Grass Greenway (ROGGwould be a 75-mile bike path running along U.S. 41 from Naples to Miami.

Florida drivers with Takata air bag inflators are still at risk on the roads, according to the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency urges drivers to check their cars after eight Takata air-bag related deaths, including one in Orlando last year.

Morgan Pours Money Into Medical Pot Effort

Jul 14, 2015

A political committee leading a renewed effort to pass a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana raised nearly $293,000 in June, with about $233,000 of the money coming from an Orlando law firm headed by prominent trial attorney John Morgan, according to a newly filed report.

The committee, People United for Medical Marijuana, is spearheading an effort to pass a medical-marijuana ballot initiative in November 2016, after narrowly failing to pass a similar constitutional amendment in 2014.

Rules Focus On Gay, Trans Foster Youth

Jul 14, 2015

As the state Department of Children and Families considers a new rule governing group homes for foster kids, advocates are pushing to include provisions requiring better treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths who live in such facilities.

The agency is updating its rules for group homes for the first time in almost 30 years to try to bring more uniformity to the facilities, which are supposed to be short-term solutions for children in state care.

Appeal Filed In Major Workers Comp Case

Jul 13, 2015

The Florida Supreme Court could wade into a case that potentially has major implications for the state's workers-compensation insurance system.

The legal group Florida Workers Advocates last week asked justices to take up the case, according to an online docket.

Ebyabe / Wikimedia

St. Petersburg City Council is moving on with the Pier Park. The City Council approved $5.2 billion in contracts for the new pier today.

Pier Park will replace the decade’s old inverted pyramid.

The contract was approved with a seven to one vote, with only Councilman Wengay Newton voting against it.

“It is absolutely a terrible idea to tear down their pier before you get all the permits on something you're going to put out there. I don't care what process you want to spin it with,” he said at the council meeting.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state's congressional maps don't meet the requirements of a voter-approved constitutional amendment that prohibits political lines from being drawn to favor incumbents or a political party. The court ordered the Legislature to try drawing the maps again.

Florida Asks to Resume Executions

Jun 30, 2015

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is asking the state Supreme Court to allow officials to execute a man convicted of murdering four people in Orlando.

Bondi asked the court Monday to lift the stay on the execution of Jerry Correll now that the U.S Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a sedative that is used in lethal injections in Florida.

Daylina Miller/WUSF News

When Port Richey resident Dawn Cain and her girlfriend, Randi Jackson, first heard the news of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last Friday that legalized gay marriage nationally, they cried.

While they had already planned to get married next May- Florida legalized gay marriage Jan. 6- the couple said they’re exhilarated their friends and family in other states now have the same right.

Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States.

Gay and lesbian couples already can marry in Florida and 35 other states and the District of Columbia. The court's 5-4 ruling means the remaining 14 states, in the South and Midwest, will have to stop enforcing their bans on same-sex marriage.

The outcome is the culmination of two decades of Supreme Court litigation over marriage, and gay rights generally.

While the state has made new strides in efforts to combat human trafficking, a statewide panel convened by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says there are still areas that need some work.

Children's Program Boost Makes Budget

Jun 26, 2015

After worries about cuts earlier in the year, $13 million is being added to the state’s Early Steps program, which serves babies and toddlers with developmental disabilities or delays.

House and Senate budget negotiators initially agreed on $3 million for Early Steps -- and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, added $10 million to the program as legislative leaders finished hammering out a $78.7 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Gov. Rick Scott included the program in his final budget, signed Tuesday.

The Obama administration and the state have reached an agreement to continue funding the hospital Low-Income Pool for two more years but at a much lower cost.

Citizens Proposes Rate Hikes for Coastal Customers

Jun 23, 2015
National Weather Service

More than half of Citizens Property Insurance customers will face rate increases next year, under a proposal going before the insurer's Board of Governors on Wednesday.

The biggest increases are expected to hit coastal policyholders.

"The overall increase is being fueled by a continued spike in water loss claims in Southeast Florida and the fact that most coastal policies with nearly adequate rates have found coverage with private market insurance companies," a release from the state-backed insurer said Monday.

Humane Society Asks Scott To Stop Bear Hunt Vote

Jun 23, 2015
TBO.com

The Humane Society of the United States on Monday delivered more than 90,000 names of people who, the group says, want Gov. Rick Scott to halt anticipated approval of the state's first bear hunt in more than two decades.

Scott, however, is deferring to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on the proposed hunt, which has the backing of the powerful National Rifle Association and Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

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