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The stories near you
• WUFT News: Alachua County and Gainesville move on from mask mandates as COVID-19 numbers drop. “Two days after Alachua County and Gainesville began moving away from coronavirus mask mandates amid declining COVID-19 numbers in their jurisdictions, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday made it clear once again that he has no patience for anyone wearing a mask. DeSantis, a Republican, grew visibly annoyed and admonished a group of students for wearing face masks at a news conference at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The governor approached the students and asked them to remove their masks as they stood behind him, just as he was about to discuss cybersecurity.”
• Gainesville Sun ($): Gainesville commissioner renews debate over sports complex in east Gainesville. “In 2019, East Gainesville missed out on the sports complex when Alachua County decided that Celebration Pointe was the best location after much debate. A consultant noted that site’s proximity to hotels, shopping and I-75. That $30 million project is under construction and expected to open in about a year.”
• Ocala Gazette: City council takes out a $60 million loan to pay back illegal tax. “At their March 1 meeting, city council approved taking out a $60 million dollar loan from lender Truist in order to pay back the $80 million they collected in illegal taxes from residents.”
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Around the state
• USA Today Network ($): Despite attempts to block it, Florida Senate prepares abortion ban for final vote this week. “Florida Senate Democrats couldn’t stop a proposed ban on abortions in Florida after 15 weeks, but they could make the Republican majority who want one to listen to hours of arguments on why they think it’s a bad idea. On Wednesday, as the Senate prepared the bill (HB 5) for its final legislative vote, Democrats submitted 13 amendments and then spent 4 hours and 25 minutes to explain each one in an exchange that sometimes got personal and testy. All failed.”
• Fresh Take Florida: First students outside Florida to save thousands with in-state tuition under new grandparents law. “For the first time, out-of-state applicants to universities across Florida are finding out whether they will be among 350 students who will save tens of thousands of dollars with in-state tuition under a new law rewarding them as grandchildren of residents here. The tuition discounts are the result of a law Gov. Ron DeSantis signed last summer. Waiving out-of-state tuition at some universities for grandchildren could save families tens of thousands of dollars over four years. At the University of Florida, the difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition is $22,278 each year.”
• Fresh Take Florida: ‘Forgotten people’: Florida lawmakers aim to recognize, protect abandoned African-American cemeteries. “Last year, Gov. Ron Desantis approved the creation of the Task Force for Abandoned Florida Cemeteries, which held public meetings around the state during the summer and fall to produce a 200-page report earlier this year. Sen. Janet Cruz said last year that there are nearly 3,000 abandoned African-American cemeteries in Florida that have not yet been identified, according to estimates by state archaeologists.”
• WFSU: COVID separated families from loved ones in care facilities. Lawmakers don’t want it to happen again. “Under the measure, a patient can designate a caregiver or family member who must be allowed to visit for a minimum of two hours daily. (Rep. Jason) Shoaf said during the pandemic the coronavirus proved it can be deadly, but he said loneliness also poses a real threat.”
• News Service of Florida: Florida legislators are still trying to bridge differences in these areas of the state budget. “House and Senate negotiators Wednesday continued trying to hammer out high-profile spending issues in what likely will result in a record state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.”
• Florida Politics: House passes ‘free kill’ bill that revamps state’s wrongful death laws. “In a show of bipartisan support, the Florida House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow, for the first time in 30 years, the parents of single, childless adult children to recover noneconomic damages in medical malpractice claims.”
• Fresh Take Florida: ‘Rape loophole’: Florida bill raising penalty for sexual assault against intoxicated victims dying in Legislature. “The measure would have raised the penalty for raping a woman who had become drunk at a bar while celebrating with friends, for example, to the same level as the punishment for someone who secretly slipped a drug into a victim’s drink and then attacked her: a first-degree felony with up to a 30-year prison sentence.”
• Fresh Take Florida: Bill permitting development on manatees’ food source stalls in Legislature. “Environmental advocates are encouraged that a bill to open Florida’s seagrass beds to development – which could be devastating for the dwindling manatee population – has only a slim chance of passing the Legislature this session.”
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.