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Today’s Florida stories
• Fresh Take Florida: Florida’s own version of ‘Tinder Swindler’ to plead guilty in US court; accused of impersonating surgeon, scamming 21 women in 8 states. “(Brian) Wedgeworth, who prosecutors said is known by at least 13 aliases and has remained in federal custody, is expected to plead guilty Thursday morning in federal court in Tallahassee. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and mail fraud as well as 10 years for money laundering. Prosecutors believe that he scammed at least 21 women across eight states and amassed over $750,000 through years of schemes.”
• Florida Politics: Citizens Property Insurance looks to buy reinsurance amid ‘collapsing’ market. “Citizens Property Insurance board members voted unanimously Wednesday to buy $4.3 billion worth of reinsurance coverage for $400 million. At least, that’s what they’re going to try to do. The “collapsing” nature of the reinsurance market, which staffers said is partially fleeing Florida, means the state-run company could get less coverage as reinsurance becomes more expensive.”
• News Service of Florida: Property insurers are seeking hefty rate hikes in Florida. “Roof-damage claims. Lawsuits. Reinsurance costs. For tens of thousands of homeowners, those issues could add up to large property-insurance rate increases if state regulators sign off on proposals presented Tuesday.”
• WFSU: Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady says the state’s judiciary still faces a massive COVID-caused case backlog. “Now, with the pandemic receding, Canady said the state’s circuit and county courts have shifted into high gear to clear the remaining caseloads.”
• Tallahassee Democrat ($): Our Florida rental assistance program abruptly ends; housing advocates worry what’s next. “Housing advocates are wondering what’s next after they were given short notice that the state’s rental assistance program would be ending in a little over two days. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), which runs the Our Florida program, confirmed to the Tallahassee Democrat that the agency notified housing and nonprofit partners that residents would no longer be able to apply for rent relief and utilities last week.”
• Politico: Biden’s Cuba and Venezuela policy shifts leave Florida Democrats dismayed. “President Joe Biden hemorrhaged South Florida Hispanic voters in 2020 — one reason he lost the state to Donald Trump during the last election. Two moves by his administration this week — easing sanctions on Venezuela and loosening restrictions on Cuba — signal he’s likely not interested in improving his standing with the key demographic. And Florida Democrats, already reeling from a tough electoral environment for the party, are disheartened.”
• FOX35 Orlando: First Brightline train arrives at Orlando International Airport station. “Brightline’s $2.7B rail project is nearly 80% complete and will begin carrying passengers from Orlando to Miami in 2023.”
• WJCT Jacksonville: Eagles nest stops St. Johns County developments. “While the two projects initially cleared environmental inspections, local birders discovered a bald eagle’s nest nearby in December. It’s the first nest to be recorded in the area, according to county environmental officials.”
• WUFT News: Alachua County Fire Rescue unveils pediatric tool kits. “The rescue trucks now include tool kits to facilitate more effective communication and provide a healthy distraction for patients who receive treatment. The kits come with communication cards in English and Spanish to help explain procedures younger patients may not understand to ease their ambulance visits.”
• Bradenton Herald ($): Florida company is bringing back Ringling, Barnum & Bailey circus — without animals. “The return of The Greatest Show On Earth — a reimagined Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus show without animals — is set for fall 2023. Ellenton, Florida-based Feld Entertainment shut down the iconic show in 2017. Among factors cited were declining ticket sales, high operating costs, the public’s changing tastes in entertainment and costly fights with animal rights groups.”
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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.