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Florida's political landscape could undergo a dramatic shift under a proposed new map for Congress released Wednesday by the state Legislature.

The new map could help resurrect the political career of former Gov. Charlie Crist who will likely mount a run for a reconfigured House seat in Pinellas County.

Associated Press

SeaWorld says its theme park attendance is still falling as animal activists protest the company's treatment of whales, but the company says some of its parks – including Busch Gardens Tampa -- are doing better as it prepares to launch a pair of new roller coasters.

The company also maintained its annual outlook, and its shares rose more than 4 percent.

Associated Press

After a circus tent collapse that killed two spectators, questions have arisen about how the Sarasota-based circus operator could have prepared for and put on a show at the town's fairgrounds without getting a permit or having the giant canopy inspected.

Police in southwest Florida say vandals spray painted the words "lion killer" on the garage door of the vacation home owned by a Minnesota dentist who has been identified as the hunter who killed Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

Marco Island police Capt. David Baer says the vandals also left at least seven pickled pigs' feet on the driveway of Walter Palmer's $1.1 million home. Baer says police have opened an investigation.

A hand-made sign criticizing Palmer was left in the yard last week. A security company has been hired to protect the property.

St. Petersburg Free Clinic

Monica Smith came to the St. Petersburg Free Clinic's women's program in 2012, after drug addiction and a felony record led to her losing custody of her three children. The program helps homeless women gain independence through job training and mentoring

Construction, which started earlier  has started on a new building that will house up to 50 women. Smith, who currently works at the Clinic, will be working as an intake coordinator--helping to determine which women are best suited for the women's program.

Salvation Army On Standby For Flood Victims

Aug 4, 2015
Daylina Miller/WUSF

In the wake of heavy rains in the Tampa Bay area, the Salvation Army has called in reinforcements to assist in providing aid to first responders and victims.

The Salvation Army has stationed volunteers throughout Pinellas and Pasco counties with canteens, or moving kitchens, to supply those in flooded areas with a hot meal.

In addition to the canteens, they have also deployed their eight-unit shower truck and about two dozen volunteers to the Red Cross, which previously set up an evacuation shelter at the First Presbyterian Church in Port Richey. 

Daylina Miller/WUSF News

While two residents in the flooded Port Richey neighborhood of Gulf Highlands chose to evacuate their homes, others, like Craig Caley, stayed behind.

Caley's house is one of several on Ashwood Drive boxed in by water that is waist deep at its worst. Caley said residents could slowly drive to work or for groceries through the flooding last week, but by Sunday night, they were stuck. 

Scott Seeks Hospital, Insurer Audits

Aug 4, 2015

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday directed the state Agency for Health Care Administration to audit at least some contracts between hospitals and health insurers to determine if they comply with a state Medicaid law.

Scott contends that contracts could exceed a legal limit on Medicaid payment rates.

AHCA Secretary Liz Dudek on July 17 requested that hospitals and insurers certify that they did not exceed the limit, which is 120 percent of a Medicaid fee schedule. The letter listed an Aug. 1 deadline to respond.

Rubio: Planned Parenthood Should Not Get Taxpayer Money

Aug 4, 2015

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said Planned Parenthood should have its federal funding cut.

In an op-ed published Monday, the Republican Senator and presidential candidate says, “Planned Parenthood should never receive another dime from American taxpayers.”

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (d-Florida) voted Monday evenbing to not to take federal money away from Planned Parenthood.

Sebastian Fuentes / AP Photo

A circus tent collapsed when a severe storm raked a northern New Hampshire fairground Monday, killing two people and injuring 15 others, authorities said.

WMUR-TV reported that state Department of Safety spokesman Michael Todd confirmed the fatalities.

Don Becker / U.S. Geological Survey

Residents living in flood prone areas of Polk County are encouraged to be proactive and fill up some free sandbags now.

Polk County Fire Rescue stations at 14 locations are offering free sandbags.  Each household can fill a maximum of 25-30 sandbags beginning at 2 p.m.

Be sure to bring your own shovel.

Floridians Continue To Hang Up Traditional Phones

Aug 2, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

As more evidence of the transformation of the telephone industry, the Florida Public Service Commission released a report Friday that said the number of residential wirelines in the state has dropped by about 6 million during the past decade.

Meanwhile, the report said Florida had about 19 million wireless-phone subscribers as of the end of 2013 --- nearly one wireless device for every resident of the state. The Public Service Commission sends a report to the Legislature by Aug. 1 each year about the status of competition in the telecommunications industry.

Associated Press

The largest Florida corporate donor to a super political action committee backing former Gov. Jeb Bush's presidential run is NextEra Energy Inc., the company that owns electric utility giant Florida Power & Light.

Bush, a leading Republican contender, knows the company well. In 2009, more than two years after leaving office, he penned an opinion piece in the state capital's newspaper urging regulators to approve the utility's proposed rate increase for Florida customers.

Injunction Overturned In Consumer Loan Fight

Aug 2, 2015

An appeals court Friday tossed out a temporary injunction that Attorney General Pam Bondi and the state Office of Financial Regulation sought amid a legal fight about high-interest consumer loans.

Defendants in the case have contended that the loans are not subject to Florida law because they were made by Western Sky Financial LLC, which is owned by a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and does business from within the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota, said the ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

Lawsuit Seeks To Halt Return Of Bear Hunting

Aug 2, 2015
Southwest Florida Water Management District

Conservation groups want a judge to shoot down the return of bear hunting in Florida and to halt the pending sale of bear-hunting permits.

With permits for this fall's hunt going on sale Monday, the Seminole County-based group Speak Up Wekiva filed a lawsuit in Leon County circuit court Friday challenging the constitutionality of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission-approved bear hunt.

"There is no evidence to support the supposition that hunting bears in remote wildlife management areas will reduce conflicts in suburbia," the lawsuit contends.

Emergency Management Services of Pasco County

Pasco County Commissioners today rescinded the evacuation order for residents affected by flooding in the Elfers area. They also lifted a Flood Watch on the Anclote River. Officials say Elfers residents are now safe to return to their homes.

Commissioners also declared a Local State of Emergency to help recovery efforts from this week's heavy rains. They met during a special session Friday afternoon.

Associated Press

 The Coast Guard says it's suspending its search at sunset for two teenage fishermen who've been missing for a week.

Capt. Mark Fedor says the search continues for the  two 14-year-olds from Tequesta in the meantime. He said the search has been a `true all hands on deck effort'.

Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos went missing last Friday and their capsized boat was found Sunday. The Coast Guard has searched waters from South Florida up through South Carolina without success.

Families hoped for a miracle even as science nagged that one was improbable and rescue crews went into a seventh day of searches Thursday for two teens missing at sea.

Though it seemed unlikely a medley of agencies would continue their hunts much longer, the Coast Guard, which is leading the effort, insisted it remained an “active and open” case now focused off the South Carolina coastline.

“We’re still searching,” Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss said Wednesday evening, with no immediate end in sight.

The Florida Department of Health confirmed a case of the West Nile Virus, a mosquito-borne disease, in Volusia County Wednesday.

  Health officials are expecting more cases, and warn residents to get rid of standing water and wear protective clothing.

Most West Nile Virus infections are mild, but about one percent of cases can cause permanent neurological damage, paralysis and even death. There is no treatment or vaccine for the virus.

Coast Guard photo

Coast Guard and state officials visited the Florida home of one of two missing teenage boaters Wednesday, and a spokesman told news reporters the search for the boys is still “active and open.”

Capt. Mark Fedor of the Coast Guard said, “There’s been a lot of rumors that the search has been suspended. I just want to refute that. The search has not been suspended.”

The Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife officers were at the home of 14-year-old Perry Cohen for almost an hour Wednesday afternoon.

Tamara Lush/AP

As the search for two missing teen boaters from Florida entered its sixth day, Coast Guard crews on Wednesday extended the search area northward off the South Carolina coast, urging vessels in the wide expanse of the Atlantic to report any potential clues they might spot.

Beach Blame Bingo

Jul 29, 2015
Marc Haze / WUSF News

The vegetation is growing  on the beaches of Treasure Island. Researchers from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium have been told they can no longer use a vehicle to monitor turtle nests.   And the concessionaires that work on the beach, many of whom were previously allowed to use a vehicle, now have to carry their gear and clean their areas on foot.  It's what the Treasure Island City Manager calls "unintended consequences" of a judge's ruling in a lawsuit. Some of the people affected by the new policies say the city is misinterpreting the ruling.

Rays, Y Team Up For Water Safety

Jul 28, 2015

  

Nationally, Florida tops the charts for drowning deaths for children under five.  That's why the Tampa Bay Rays and the YMCA partnered again this summer to teach children in the Tampa Bay area how to swim.

There was no need for water wings at the Northeast High School Pool in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, where 75 kids received medals for learning how to swim this summer. The event was part of an initiative called "Be Water Smart From the Start," a collaboration between the Rays and the YMCA to combat the ever-rising tide of drowning deaths in Florida.  

Associated Press

Two teens missing at sea had strayed from the agreed-upon boundaries for their fishing trip, the stepfather of one of the boys said Tuesday, as the Coast Guard continued a massive search off Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Auto Insurer Pushes For Hospital Contracts

Jul 28, 2015

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance is asking the Florida Supreme Court to take up a dispute about whether a Jacksonville hospital needs to turn over information about contracts with health insurers.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal last month ruled in favor of Shands Jacksonville Medical Center, which now is known as UF Health Jacksonville, in the dispute stemming from personal-injury protection auto-insurance claims.

Execution Cocktail Arguments Continue

Jul 28, 2015

Lawyers for Death Row inmate Jerry Correll on Monday backed a decision by the Florida Supreme Court to send his case back to a circuit judge, after Attorney General Pam Bondi's office asked justices to reconsider the decision.

Daylina Miller/WUSF

At the First Presbyterian Church of New Port Richey, 5-year-old George Blowers IV snaps together pieces of a toy pirate ship with the help of a Red Cross volunteer.

A Red Cross volunteer plays with George Blowers IV in the toy room at the First Presbyterian Church of Port Richey after his parent's kitchen and his bedroom flooded in their New Port Richey home.Credit Daylina Miller/WUSFEdit | Remove

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:

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