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The top stories near you
• From our Fresh Take Florida team: Gov. Ron DeSantis yesterday gained a major win with the Florida Supreme Court’s decision on felon voting rights. The court issued an opinion affirming DeSantis’ and other Republicans’ view that felons must pay all court-ordered fines and fees before regaining their voting rights, even if they have completed their prison sentence. There’s still a pending federal case over the same issue. (WUFT News)
• Ocala Star-Banner ($): Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn announces run for U.S. Congress. “Guinn announced his intentions to run on Thursday, and like Ted Yoho, the current occupant of the seat, vowed to limit his stay in Congress to no more than eight years.”
• Gainesville Sun ($): City delays GRU power plan decision. “Ed Bielarski, general manager of Gainesville Regional Utilities, wants to reduce reliance on electrical power generated in Gainesville by gaining a beefier link to the nation’s grid through Florida Power & Light. He asked commissioners Thursday to allow him to complete a deal to accomplish that.”
• Ocala Star-Banner ($): East Marion Elementary School has a new principal. “Deborah Borge-Shaffer, a 23-year veteran of the local school district, served as assistant principal since 2017 before replacing Kendra Hamby in the school’s top position. Borge-Shaffer was named principal just before winter break and started on Jan. 6.”
• Florida Phoenix: FL Surgeon General defends past “reports about sexual harassment and some impropriety,” as senators weigh his confirmation. “(Scott) Rivkees, who also heads the Florida Department of Health, was appointed nine months ago by Gov. Ron DeSantis. But after mounting scrutiny last year, he had not been confirmed by the end of the 2019 legislative session.”
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Around the state today
• Washington Post ($): Dogs are helping save Florida’s citrus groves from a devastating disease. “Bello, a springer spaniel, and her handler, Tyler Meck, work for F1 K9, a Florida firm that trains and provides dogs for an array of purposes, including the detection of Huanglongbing, or HLB, a bacterium that prevents fruit from ripening.”
• Florida Phoenix: Florida is projected to gain two seats in Congress. Here’s why that’s a huge deal. “The Sunshine State is one of seven “gaining states” on a list compiled by Election Data Services, a political consulting firm. It is based on projected population shifts through April 1, the date by which all people in U.S. households will be counted.”
• Sarasota Herald-Tribune ($): Amazon building Sarasota County distribution center. “The company plans to build the warehouse on a parcel east of Commerce Drive and parallel to Jacaranda Boulevard. Construction is expected to cost $16 million.”
• Tallahassee Democrat ($): Live from Tallahassee, Black News Channel plans national launch next month. “Black News Channel has a projected audience reach of 23 million satellite TV households and 10 million cable TV households, to new projections of 75 million with smartphone viewers.”
• WFSU: Florida’s Disability Agency Is In Budget Trouble, But Senate Fix Draws Worry. “The program’s in for an overhaul this year, and Senator Aaron Bean’s plan to fix the issues requires the people who do work directly with families to be contracted out and hired by at least two or more vendors in each region of the state.”
• WJCT: Feds Hiring Thousands In Jacksonville For Census Count. “The pay ranges from $16 to $17.50 an hour… Responses to the 2020 Census will determine billions of dollars of funding every year for public services like hospitals, schools, first responders, and roads.”
• Palm Beach Post ($): Progressive group aims to turn Florida House blue; GOP says ‘no chance.’ “If Swing Left is successful, it would mark a generational change in Florida government, and a crucial one for post-2020 Census redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts.“
• WTSP: Florida Aquarium celebrates 25 years with new exhibit, projects and enhancements. “…the aquarium is investing $5.6 million this year in improvements, part of a $14 million capital campaign.”
• New York Times ($): F.B.I. Vows to Notify State Officials of Any Election Systems Breaches. “The F.B.I. has long only informed local election officials who run voting systems of breaches and expected them to keep quiet. Now the bureau will notify state officials responsible for certifying elections so they avoid doing so in cases where votes may have been knowingly tampered with.”