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Today’s top stories
• At least two dozen vacancies at the Gainesville Police Department are hampering its fight against crimes involving guns, leaders from the agency said last night. Earlier in the day, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement released its Annual Uniform Crime Report. It showed an increase in the number of crimes committed in Alachua County in 2018. (WUFT News)
• Health insurance for Marion County School District teachers and other employees is increasing by nearly 20%. The school board wants to help pay for it. (Ocala Star-Banner)
• Scott Rivkees is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine, and he’s going to keep that job while also serving as the state’s Department of Health secretary. (News Service of Florida)
• An Ocala jury is considering the death sentence for convicted killer Jose Manuel Martinez, and some of his family members testified in an effort to sway them away from that decision. (Ocala Star-Banner)
• The Appeal, a website focused on the criminal justice system, published a story highlighting disagreement over the (lack of) prosecution of sexual battery cases between the Alachua County Sheriff and the State Attorney’s Office for the Eighth Judicial Circuit.
• Some people who live in Micanopy say the only solution to deadly crashes at an intersection of U.S. Highway 441 is a red light. “Nobody obeys the speed limit,” longtime resident Carl Haskins says. (WUFT News)
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Around the state today
• Commissioner Nikki Fried and other state agriculture officials wrapped up the last of their workshops on Florida hemp industry regulation. There could be hemp plants growing on a large scale in Florida by the end of the year. (WFSU)
• Some 900 unhappy teachers in Brevard County were on hand for a school board vote there regarding pay raises. “This is a battle and we are in a war,” a teachers’ union leader said in stating their case. (Florida Today)
• The Miami Herald spoke with leaders and residents of one of its city’s largest African-American communities about the issues that matter there. Why now? The Democratic presidential contender debates this week are happening nearby.
• The Jacksonville Transportation Authority fired a bus driver for violating “Operator Work Rules.” The driver, police say, ran over a passenger on Saturday — reportedly as she was exiting the bus — and she died. (Florida Times-Union)
• Walt Disney World workers will soon have more representation in their local union. (AP)
• The Florida Department of Health is reminding you that Hepatitis A can be prevented through vaccination and good hygiene. There’s been a surge of cases statewide this year. (Florida Politics)
• Orlando Weekly reports on the University of Central Florida’s intended usage of license plate readers on campus, a technology UF has also announced it will begin using.
• Three years from now, Virgin Trains expects to be able to carry passengers from Miami to Orlando. The company yesterday broke ground on a new piece of the route. (AP/WKMG)