State News

Three school districts in the greater Tampa Bay region are pushing to move their start dates back amid the coronavirus pandemic and concern from teachers.

Disability Rights Florida is suing Gov. Ron DeSantis and his executive office for not having a sign language interpreter during coronavirus press conferences. Disability Rights Florida is filing the lawsuit. Its lead attorney says DeSantis is breaking the law.

When viewers tune in to watch the governor, someone is missing. It's the person responsible for translating the governor's words into American Sign Language (ASL). Disability Rights Florida's lead attorney Ann Siegel says some Floridians who are deaf and hard of hearing depend on that interpreter.

Florida Prisons Grapple With COVID-19 Hitting Workers

20 hours ago

TALLAHASSEE --- The number of Florida corrections workers known to be infected with COVID-19 has more than doubled during the past month, prompting state officials to launch emergency plans at two prisons where there are significant staffing shortages.

The emergency plans, a copy of which was read to The News Service of Florida, said workers at Dade Correctional Institution and Jefferson Correctional Institution will need to work 12-hour shifts up to six days a week to ensure “adequate staffing levels” are maintained at the prisons.

Picture of school custodian in mask and protective cover
Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press file photo

The head of a union that represents thousands of school employees says that Florida’s push to reopen schools in August is rushed and “putting lives in danger.”

The Pensacola City Council on Tuesday could vote to remove the Confederate monument. The monument, which rests on Lee Square in Pensacola, was erected in 1891, 26 years after the end of the Civil War.

The monument features three Confederate leaders: Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy who died in 1890; Stephen Mallory, secretary of the Confederate Navy who lived in Pensacola after the war; and Edward Aynesworth Perry, a relatively unknown Confederate general and governor of Florida in the 1880s. Perry was the driving force behind the monument's creation.

Gov. Ron DeSantis provided an update on Florida’s coronavirus siege in Miami on Monday, and did not escape the wrath of an in-person protester. And, Pensacola-area residents now have a new source for local COVID-19 numbers.

The governor had just begun his remarks, when a protester confronted him from where the media was positioned.

“You are doing nothing; you are misleading the public,” said the unidentified man talking over the governor. “Over 4,000 people have died, and you guys have no plan and you are doing nothing.”

Officials with Florida blood donation center OneBlood are calling for individuals who are eligible to donate convalescent plasma.

As coronavirus cases surge, the group says the need for plasma is extraordinarily high.

Officials Look To Bolster Supply Of COVID-19 Drug

Jul 14, 2020

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Monday he had received reports from several Florida hospitals in the previous 24 hours about a potential shortage of a key drug that has been used to help patients battling COVID-19.

“I am in contact with federal officials in hopes of addressing this matter immediately,” Rubio, R-Fla., said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.

Florida’s road network depends heavily on per-gallon taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. Those taxes are used to fund road construction and maintenance.

In the coming two decades, Florida’s gas tax may need to be doubled over the current average of 36.7 cents per gallon in order to offset the decline in revenue caused by more fuel-efficient cars.

A new report by the James Madison Institute explains that’s why taxes should be charged per mile instead of per gallon.

Sarasota Memorial is the first hospital in Florida to begin a scientific trial using an experimental antibody treatment to attack coronavirus. Doctors hope the treatment, called REGN-COV2 and made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, will offer a new way to treat and possibly prevent COVID-19.

Florida Leaders Weigh In On Back To School Order

Jul 13, 2020

Florida Senate President Bill Galvano says local school districts must follow an order from the state Department of Education to offer in-person classes five days a week starting in August. Some school districts are pushing back on the order. During a press briefing with the governor in Bradenton a reporter said Manatee County is one example. The district claims it’s up to the school board to decide when kids should be back in the classroom. Galvano disagrees. He says the order from Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran must be followed.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing for more coronavirus antibody testing in Florida. He says the tests will help health officials have a better understanding of how the virus has spread throughout the state. But some experts have raised concerns about the accuracy of the tests.

DeSantis says he thinks Florida’s coronavirus numbers don’t fully reflect the number of people in the state who have gotten the virus.

Rain Chances are on the Rise This Week

Jul 13, 2020

Rain chances will be on the rise again across the northern third of Florida to start the week, followed by an uptick in showers and thunderstorms across Central and South Florida by the end of the week.
Sightly drier air kept most locations near the I-10 corridor rain-free over the weekend, but an approaching front will help to pull in tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean by Tuesday.

In Highlands County, poverty was an issue long-before the coronavirus says Mary Foy, board member of the Heartland Food Bank:

"So I was acutely aware of the food insecurity issues that we have, and now that, of course, has been further compounded by the COVID situation that we are in."

While the state has entered phase two of reopening, some restaurants and bars are closing due to rising coronavirus cases. According to the Florida Unemployment Benefits Watch, more than one million Floridians are still waiting for relief.

In an updated release Thursday evening, Escambia County Corrections is now reporting more than 5 dozen recently confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the county jail.  Also, Escambia county road crew operations have been suspended after its first reported case.

Elsewhere, there’s also an outbreak of more than three dozen coronavirus cases at the Walton County Jail , with some of those cases involving Escambia inmates. 

In response to multiple demands for reform, including flyers posted downtown during fourth of July weekend by the St. Pete Peace Protest movement, St. Petersburg is "re-imagining" the city’s police force and its role in responding to social service calls.

Updated July 10, 6 p.m. with additional comments from the St. Pete Peace Protest movement.

Tropical Storm Fay, the sixth named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, is poised to move through the mid-Atlantic before drenching the Northeast this weekend.

At a Sarasota City commission meeting this week, two people called for the police department to be defunded.

Their demands came after the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that more than 80% of the department's 138 active officers had filed over 1,200 use-of-force reports since January 2018.

This week, St. Petersburg is celebrating the opening of the new Pier District on the city’s waterfront.

Felons Voting Arguments Slated In August

Jul 9, 2020

A federal appeals court has scheduled oral arguments in a Florida voting-rights case that could open the door for hundreds of thousands of felons to cast ballots in this year’s elections.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is slated to hear the case on Aug. 18, the same day as Florida's primary elections, according to an order posted on the court’s website this week.

A mural stating “Black Lives Matter” is painted in bold black and yellow at the intersection of Gaines and Railroad.

The words are meant to signal solidary with the movement, says City Commissioner Diane Williams-Cox. She views it not as the end of the conversation, but the continuation of one that started during the Civil Rights movement.

A story with its origins in nearby Thomasville, Georgia is being shown nationwide all this month. It focuses on a heroic woman who was determined to make medical care available to those who might otherwise never see a doctor.

Valerie Scoon has been a professor at Florida State University's College of Motion Picture Arts for the past fifteen years. But even before that, she was a filmaker at Warner Brothers and Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films. As such, she's always on alert for real-life stories that might make a crackling good movie.

What if charging an electric vehicle was as quick and easy as filling up with a tank of gas? 

On Monday, Florida's Education Commissioner issued an emergency order for brick and mortar schools to reopen for the fall, with the full array of services schools provide.

It said "school openings must be consistent with safety precautions as defined by the Florida Department of Health, local health officials and supportive of Floridians, young and adult, with underlying conditions that make them medically vulnerable."

More people are being tested for coronavirus in Florida as cases spike across the state. This is causing a logjam, not only in getting tested, but also in receiving results.

Florida’s education commissioner issued a mandate Monday, requiring schools to open five days a week in the Fall. Statewide teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, is questioning the move.

Colorado State University (CSU) has updated their hurricane season forecast Tuesday morning, raising the number of tropical storms and hurricanes from their previous forecast updates released in April and June.

Four months after Florida Power & Light received approval for a similar program, Duke Energy Florida is asking regulators to sign off on a $1 billion plan that would add 10 solar-power plants in the state.

Duke filed a proposal last week at the state Public Service Commission for what it has dubbed the “Clean Energy Connection” program, which would start operating two of the proposed plants in January 2022, four in January 2023 and four in January 2024.

Multiple advocacy groups say Florida State University's new task force on racial inequality isn't enough to make real change. The groups say the school has a history of making decisions, then walking them back.

Congressional Candidate Reports Break-In At Florida Campaign Headquarters

Jul 6, 2020

Political intrigue overshadowed a congressional election in Florida on Monday, after a leading Republican candidate reported a mysterious, late-night break-in to her campaign headquarters.