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The top stories near you
• In the two weeks since Alachua County commissioners voted to raise the tobacco buying age to 21, one of our reporters hit the streets to find out what those between 18 and 21 think about the change. She also wanted to hear reactions from business owners and get a sense of whether any of the county’s nine municipalities planned to opt out of the ordinance. (WUFT News)
• President Donald Trump during this week’s State of the Union address singled out a World War II veteran now living in The Villages. Irving Locker has had a good week; he and his wife recently celebrated their 70th anniversary. (The Villages Daily Sun)
• The Gainesville City Commission tonight will discuss whether to raise the pay of some of city government’s top-paid employees. (Gainesville Sun)
• A key part of Marion County’s growing economy is the trucking and transportation industry. (Ocala Star-Banner)
• HaLeigh Cummings, who would today be 15, disappeared from her Putnam County home 10 years ago this week. News4Jax has put together an impressive five-part series on the case. Here is today’s portion, with links to the others within.
• The Gainesville chapter of Days for Girls International is using a $2,000 grant to make reusable menstrual pads for women in developing countries. (WUFT News)
• Changeville — one of Gainesville’s downtown music festivals — begins tonight. Gainesville Downtown offers this wide-ranging preview.
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Around the state today
• With a nickname like “Alligator Ron,” the chance to write about the newest board member of the South Florida Water Management District was too good to pass up for our Fresh Take Florida team. (WUFT News)
• Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried picked a Nashville-based consultant as Florida’s first cannabis director. Not everyone loves her selection, but she’s touting the big opportunity for hemp production in the state. (WFSU, Miami Herald, News Service of Florida)
• Does the Constitution Revision Commission have a future? State senators including Rob Bradley want changes — if not complete elimination. (Florida Phoenix)
• A single person has to make at least $27,000 a year in The Keys just to survive, according to a new report. (FLKeysNews)
• Trump’s promise this week to wipe out the U.S. HIV epidemic in a decade could greatly help seven counties in Florida. (Tampa Bay Times)
• The power of journalism: The Department of Justice is going to take another look at the case of Jeffrey Epstein and his iffy plea deal recently scrutinized in a series from the Miami Herald.
• Current and former University of Central Florida officials are being subpoenaed to testify in front of a Florida House committee. It’s all related to the funding of a new academic building. (Orlando Sentinel)
• A Bay County city — Callaway — is having to turn to GoFundMe in an effort to recover from Hurricane Michael. (Panama City News Herald)
• There is a competition each year in Miami to see who can skateboard the most miles around a racetrack in 24 hours. Joe Mazzone became the champion this year by racking up 302 miles. (WUFT News)
• This is maybe the most significant question of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s term so far: Will he ride the huge slide at the Florida State Fair? Rick Scott skipped it throughout his two terms. (Tampa Bay Times)