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The Point, Feb. 20, 2024: Voter registrations dip ahead of presidential primary

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• WUFT News: Fewer active voter registrations in north central Florida follows statewide trend. "Florida has seen a decrease of 1.1 million active registered voters since January 2023, according to the Florida Division of Elections. The largest counties in north central Florida — Alachua, Columbia, Marion and Suwanee — saw a combined decrease of active voter registration of 61,321."

• Mainstreet Daily News: Surgeons: HCA North Florida Hospital ‘dirty instruments’ issue dates back a year. "For at least a year, surgeons at HCA Florida North Florida Hospital in Gainesville battled the problem of 'dirty' instruments being delivered to operating rooms and pleaded with administrators to fix it."

• WUFT News: Sinking ground at Ocala Wetland Recharge Park proves difficult to solve. "The Ocala Wetland Recharge Park was set up six years ago to help refill Florida’s aquifer system and to encourage visitors to observe wildlife. It has achieved both, but because of porous, sinking earth, water is flowing back to nearby Silver Springs faster than those who built it thought it would."

• Mainstreet Daily News: Superintendent responds to viral book hearing clip. "The account posted the video of Terwilliger Elementary School’s assistant principal Garrett Jones answering questions from parent Crystal Marull about the book 'Melissa.' The questions pertain to mentions of 'porn' and 'dirty magazines' in a book available in Terwilliger’s library."

• WCJB: Parents, teachers to vote on converting Newberry public schools to charter. "Parents and teachers at each school will vote to decide if the schools will be converted into charter schools. If approved, Newberry Education First would take over the schools in the fall of 2025."

• WUFT News: Alzheimer's Association’s Brain Bus comes to North Central Florida. "Rob Harris drives the bus up and down the entire state of Florida giving out information on Alzheimer’s and dementia to people looking for help."

• The Alligator: Gainesville to begin $2.5 million-plus venue project for larger outdoor events. "The project would primarily be funded through the Wild Spaces and Public Places surtax, with an initial $2.5 million already allocated to begin the project."

• WUFT News: Golf course gator faces uncertain future. "The fate of the not-so-little pond dweller hovers in the air: she has finally reached an age - or length - of uncertainty. For gators over 4 feet in length, they’re among the hunted."

• WUFT News: Row by row, Grace Grows is trying to create a better version of southeast Gainesville. "Abigail Perret-Gentil, founder and executive director of Grace Grows, took notice of the lack of progression in southeast Gainesville and is now working to create a micro food hub to fill in the food desserts across the community."

• The Point Podcast: Will one climate plan be enough? Tuesday's host, Serra Sowers, speaks with Stephen Mulkey, a climate change ecologist and UF professor, about Gainesville's Climate Action Plan.

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Around the state

• Miami Herald: Big blow to Florida reef recovery: First survey after record heat finds coral graveyards. "The first survey of Florida’s reefs after an ‘apocalyptic’ marine heat wave offers a bleak picture of the future of the state’s renowned corals — and the restoration efforts to save them."

• News4Jax: Florida House passes bill to crack down on left-lane drivers. "House Bill 317 prohibits drivers from driving in the left-hand lane on roads with two or more lanes that have a posted speed limit of 65 miles per hour or higher."

• News Service of Florida: Florida lawmakers agree to use gambling money to pay for environmental projects. "Legislative leaders have agreed to use hundreds of millions of dollars in gambling money to help pay for further expansion of a state wildlife corridor and other environmental projects."

• WFSU-Tallahassee: Democrats believe DeSantis' grip on legislature has loosened. "Democratic legislative leadership during a Monday press conference pointed to DeSantis backtracking his policy allowing books bans in schools and Republican leadership refusing to pursue certain culture war bills as evidence that his influence has slipped after his failed presidential run."

• Politifact FL: Did a Florida school district send permission slips to teach kids Black history? "Miami-Dade County school officials are facing backlash over its so-called permission slip policy. But teaching African American history is required by state statute and Miami-Dade schools comply with that throughout the year, the district’s chief academic officer said."

• WGCU-Fort Myers: FEMA extends Direct Housing Program for Ian; Monthly rent payments start after March 29. "Since Hurricane Ian, FEMA has provided temporary housing units for over 1,300 displaced families in the state. Working with the Florida Division of Emergency Management and local partners, more than 650 families have found a more permanent home."

• WUSF-Tampa: Florida kids speak out against proposed social media restrictions. "Supporters of the measure argue that it’s needed to protect children from the harms of social media. Some critics highlight the benefits of using the platforms, while others say the bill would erode constitutional freedoms and parents’ rights to make choices for their children."

• WMFE-Orlando: Deadline to register to vote for Florida Presidential Preference Primary: Tuesday Feb. 20. "People who miss the deadline for registration or party change won’t be able to pick their party’s general election nominee. By law, the deadline to register to voter or change party affiliations is 29 days before an election."

From NPR News

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• National: Maui fire survivors struggle to find long-term housing, half a year after the blazes

• World: Wife of assassinated Haitian president is indicted in his killing

• Politics: In historians' Presidents Day survey, Biden vs. Trump is not a close call

• Health: Bayer makes a deal on popular contraceptive with Mark Cuban's online pharmacy

• Politics: What to know about the debut of Trump's $399 golden, high-top sneakers

• Science: By accident, scientists found an underwater 'megastructure' from the Stone Age

• Race: The first Black 'Peanuts' character finally gets his origin story in animated special

Kristin Moorehead curated today's edition of The Point.