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• WUFT News: Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission Tightens Restrictions On Non-Native Reptiles. “This rule moves 16 different non-native reptile species, including tegus and green iguanas, to the prohibited list, tightening restrictions on the importation, breeding, and possession of such animals. Some revisions were made to the draft that was proposed in July. Commercial breeding of tegus and green iguanas will not be immediately banned but phased out until June 30, 2024.”
• WUFT News: Decision On Former St. Michael’s Episcopal Church Property Heads To Gainesville City Commission. “The Gainesville City Plan Board was split in its decision on Thursday to deny or approve petitions to change the land use and rezone the property that once featured St. Michael’s Episcopal Church. After four and a half hours of discussion, board members ended with a tie vote, 3-3, on both decisions to either approve or deny the proposed plans for land use change and to rezone the property. The vote for the approval or denial of this development will now go to the Gainesville City Commission for a first reading of the plan in the coming months.”
• WUFT News: Gainesville Urban Management Plan Aims To Set Forest Regulation And To Represent The Entire Community. “Over the course of four years, community leaders and city directors designed an extensive plan to help protect the collection of trees and plants that grow within the city. Developers recently finalized the Gainesville Urban Management Plan and presented it to the Gainesville City Commission in January.”
• The Alligator: Fighting food insecurity: Community grocery store may be built in East Gainesville following City Commission vote. “Some East Gainesville residents may no longer have to travel across the city to shop at a grocery store thanks to a newly approved city initiative. On Thursday, Commissioner Gail Johnson, policy experts and community activists proposed a plan for the city to look into creating a community grocery store in East Gainesville, where several neighborhoods qualify as food deserts. The commission unanimously passed the plan.”
• News Service of Florida: Suncoast Parkway Extension Would Shift Closer To US 19 Under Proposal. “(Senate President Wilton) Simpson said it doesn’t make sense to have the Suncoast Parkway end in Citrus County as it comes north out of the Tampa area. Under a plan approved by the Legislature in 2019, the parkway would be extended north to Jefferson County. Simpson represents Citrus County, along with Hernando and Pasco counties, which have parts of the Suncoast Parkway.”
• News4Jax: Crescent City Council votes to permanently disband police department. “Back in December, the entire department was placed on administrative leave amid an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into training records and irregularities. The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office took over jurisdiction.”
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Around the state today
• Spectrum News: Publix Opens Up All Its In-Store Pharmacies in Florida for COVID Shots. “Vaccinations are being provided to individuals ages 65 and older, while supplies last. Appointments are required and can be scheduled through Publix’s online reservation system. Appointments cannot be made by calling Publix or the Publix Pharmacy.”
• WUSF: Statewide Positivity Rate For COVID-19 Lowest Since October. “Two items worth noting: the positivity rate for people tested Wednesday was 5.23%, which is the lowest daily rate since late October — and the number of hospitalizations with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 statewide fell below 4,000 for the first time since late November.”
• Tampa Bay Times ($): Florida governor plans to take Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine. “At 42, DeSantis said he will be ‘closer to the back of the line’ for vaccination in Florida, which has prioritized people 65 and older for shots without opening up access to other groups of the general public.”
• WUFT News: Florida Board Of Governors Plan For The Post-Pandemic World At State Universities. “The leaders of the State University System of Florida want to be better prepared if another pandemic hits.”
• Politico: Florida universities planning for in-person graduations this spring. “Florida State University leaders on Thursday announced the school will host numerous ‘smaller’ commencement events this spring, joining the University of Florida in planning for the first in-person ceremonies since 2019. In a letter to graduates, FSU President John Thrasher said he was impressed by the ‘resilience and flexibility’ of students studying throughout the pandemic.”
• WTSP-Tampa: Florida Supreme Court finds Hillsborough County’s transportation tax charter amendment unconstitutional. “In November 2018, Hillsborough voters approved the 30-year, one-cent increase in the county’s sales tax to specifically pay for transportation improvement. Then, in December of that year, Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White filed a lawsuit challenging that tax.”
• News Service of Florida: Florida School Safety App Swamped By Spam. “The Fortify Florida app, also called FortifyFL, was created by the state in 2018, as part of a response to the Parkland school shooting in which 17 students and staff members were killed. Meeting for the first time this year on Wednesday, the commission was presented with data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on the types of tips coming to the app, as well as the number of tips that are ‘actionable.'”
• WLRN: A Year Since The Spills: Fort Lauderdale Sewage Problems A Sign Of Infrastructure Woes For Other Coastal Cities. “The city is now under a state legal order to fix its aging system. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection also fined the city $2.1 million — the largest penalty for a sewage spill in state history. Rather than pay the fine, state regulators agreed to let Fort Lauderdale spend that money on projects to help ‘restore or enhance’ the environment.”
• WJCT: Jacksonville Resiliency Committee Unanimously Approves Final Report. “The Resiliency Committee has been meeting for more than a year now with the objective of proposing policy solutions to help protect Jacksonville from flooding, sea level rise and other effects of climate change.”
• Miami Herald ($): Nearly 3 years after bridge collapse, FIU transfers money to FDOT to build a new pedestrian bridge. “Last spring, Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light for the university to access the money again, the Herald reported. DeSantis also authorized the FDOT to ‘accept responsibility for completing the new bridge and administering the design and construction contracts,’ according to the FIU board of trustee’s resolution approved Tuesday.”
• New York Times ($): Manatees May Carry Half a Million Microscopic Hitchhikers. “A study published last month in Scientific Reports presents the native Florida manatee and its skin as the latest evidence of this wormy universe.”
From NPR News
About today’s curator
I’m Ethan Magoc, a news editor at WUFT. Originally from Pennsylvania, I’ve found a home telling Florida stories. I’m part of a team searching each morning for local and state stories that are important to you; please send feedback about today’s edition or ideas for stories we may have missed to firstname.lastname@example.org.