State News

The Supreme Court of Florida has denied a petition to block officials from counting votes cast on proposed Amendment 3. If approved the ballot initiative will change the state’s primary-election system to a top-two primary. The lawsuit was backed by Florida lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, including incoming House Speaker Chris Sprowls who says the amendment could disenfranchise minority voters.

Amid a lively hurricane season, the state trust fund that subsidizes reinsurance for property insurers in the private sector is performing adequately.

Financial services firm Raymond James serves as the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund’s advisor. The company’s Kapil Bhatia gave an update Tuesday on the fund’s estimated claims-paying capacity for the next two years.

Florida A & M University President Larry Robinson says the college is considering how many online courses it should continue offering once the coronavirus pandemic clears up. The school's previous plan was to teach 15% of its classes online by 2022. But the pandemic is accelerating that plan. Now 75% of FAMU's courses are online.

As election night draws near, rallies raising support for President Donald Trump have become increasingly frequent across the state, including in Bay County - a GOP stronghold.

In Panama City Beach, three of the president’s family members have held campaign events over the last several weeks. On Tuesday afternoon, his daughter-in-law Lara Trump held a rally. Donald Trump Jr. visited town earlier this month, and Eric Trump spoke at an event in September.

September Tax Revenues in Florida Offer A Mixed Picture

15 hours ago

Florida had a second consecutive month of better-than-expected revenue numbers in September, but tax collections continue to reflect the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

State economists released a report Tuesday that said general revenue for September was $230.2 million above a revised estimate issued in August.

However, the report highlighted the continued struggles of the state’s vital leisure and hospitality industries, as the September total marked a 6.8 percent decline in tax collections from the same month in 2019.

Florida Governor Backs Lifting Travel Rules For England & Brazil

15 hours ago

Gov. Ron DeSantis supports lifting federal COVID-19 restrictions on travelers from the United Kingdom and Brazil to help Florida’s struggling tourism industry.

With advances in rapid testing and airline cleaning protocols, DeSantis said relaxing rules about travelers would help Central Florida, particularly entertainment venues that have also stepped up efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19.

UPDATE 4 PM CDT WEDNESDAY

#Zeta is nearing the SE LA coast as a strong category 2 storm with winds up to 110 mph. It has strengthened right up until landfall, similar to what Hurricane #Michael did in 2018.


UPDATE 1 PM CDT WEDNESDAY

Zeta is on course to be the season’s eighth landfalling tropical storm or hurricane this season along the U.S. Gulf coast Wednesday. It made landfall as a category 1 hurricane late Monday evening on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and is emerging in the southern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday morning as a tropical storm.

A Tropical Storm Watch and Storm Surge Watch have been issued for portions of the Florida Panhandle ahead of Hurricane Zeta.

Zeta become a Category 1 hurricane Monday afternoon with maximum sustained wind speed of 80 mph. As of 4 pm CDT Monday, Hurricane Zeta was located 90 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico and it was moving northwest at 10 mph. The season's 11th hurricane is forecast to cross the Yucatan Peninsula Monday night, where hurricane warnings are in effect.

3pm ET / 2pm CT Update:

Huricane hunters found winds up to 80 mph on their most recent pass through Zeta's center, making it the eleventh hurricane of the 2020 season. There were no other changes from the National Hurricane Center at that time, but Hurricane Watches are expected to be issued for portions of the northern Gulf Coast states in their next full advisory Monday evening.


11am ET / 10am CT Update:

Tropical Storm Zeta formed early Sunday morning in the northwestern Caribbean, 400 miles to the south-southeast of western Cuba. While it is too soon to know if Zeta will pose a direct threat to the Sunshine State it is expected to continue to bring heavy rainfall and flooding to southern areas. 

The historic 2020 hurricane season continues, as yet another tropical cyclone formed in the northwest Caribbean Saturday. Tropical Depression Twenty-Eight (TD28) is forecast to strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico, possibly briefly becoming a hurricane before making yet another landfall across the north-central Gulf Coast next week.

Visit Florida forecasts big trouble for the global tourism industry. The group wants the sunshine state to get ahead of that, and local tourism agencies are catering to those itching to travel.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the market share of overseas travelers was decreasing. Visit Florida's Staci Mellman says the drop started in 2015. It had started climbing again in 2019, right before the pandemic.

"But, as you might have noticed, that was 2019, and everything has changed," Mellman says.

An area of disturbed weather between Cuba and Jamaica has an increasing chance of developing into the season’s next tropical depression some time this weekend, increasing the flood risk across parts of South Florida.

After a summer that saw a surge in coronavirus cases, a spike in hospitalizations and an increase in deaths, cases in Florida declined and then seemed to plateau.

But recent numbers from the Florida Department of Health are showing a 30% increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the state, now totaling more than 768,000 cases statewide and more than 16,000 deaths.

One thing that's changed: three weeks ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis moved the state into Phase 3 and lifted capacity restraints on businesses.

Florida Expands Nursing Home Visitation

Oct 23, 2020

Despite a steadily growing number of COVID-19 cases in Florida communities, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday announced the state will begin allowing outdoor visitation at long-term care facilities, regardless of whether the facilities have COVID-19 infections.

Indoor visitation at nursing homes and other facilities will still be tied to COVID-19 infection rates of facility residents and staff members.

The rivalry between Florida State University and University of Florida is fierce across many endeavors – and it also exists in the arena of performing arts.

A cappella teams from the two universities are facing off against each other in a 64-team, tournament-style competition along with colleges across the U.S.

Florida State University’s a cappella team, All Night Yahtzee, has 17 members who are looking to advance from the second round.

President Trump's Friday return to America’s largest retirement community, The Villages, signals one of the most important keys to his hopes for another Florida victory. But there are growing signs of an anti-Trump resistance, as many seniors on both sides are very fired up about this election.

“We just got here last Friday from Eugene, Oregon. We drove cross-country!” said retired teacher Jerry Ragan and his wife Patty, speaking in unison. They moved to The Villages just last week and are among the newest residents of what's called "Florida's friendliest hometown.

A full federal appeals court has rejected a request by prominent National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer to take up a case about graphic emails she received after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Hammer asked last month for the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear her case against California attorney Lawrence Sorensen, who emailed photos to Hammer that included photos of gunshot wounds, including fatal wounds suffered by President John F. Kennedy.

Amendment One may seem like a trivial ballot question. It changes one word of the Florida constitution, from "every" citizen can vote, to "only" citizens can vote.

Micah Kubic, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida, says that should ring some alarm bells.

"I learned a long time ago from my grandmother that when something looks that innocent and innocuous, it usually isn't. And that is certainly the case here where this amendment could have sweeping implications," Kubic tells WGCU.

Florida Couple Shares Experience Of Voting From Overseas

Oct 22, 2020

Voting in America remains a right, even for citizens who don’t live in the country any more. A pair of young voters from Florida says it’s not as hard to do as it seems.

Maia Doughtie is from St. Petersburg, but is registered to vote in Washington state; her boyfriend, Dustin Holmes, is from Nassau County, near Jacksonville. They both now live in Vietnam, where they’ve cast ballots in elections back home a few times.

Visit Florida is expanding its marketing efforts after the coronavirus severely impacted the state’s tourism industry. The agency is hoping to convince tourists within driving distance of Florida to vacation in the Sunshine State. Visit Florida’s Staci Mellman says it’s the third phase of the campaign.

“We did launch phase two, which promoted travel to in-state residents just in advance of Labor Day, right around the end of August, and we expanded to nearby domestic drive markets for phase three on October 5,” Mellman says.

Bowden Endorses President Trump For Second Term

Oct 22, 2020

Florida State University’s legendary football coach, Bobby Bowden, is once again backing President Donald Trump’s re-election bid. Bowden initially endorsed Trump four years ago, even appearing alongside him at a rally in Tallahassee.

The Hillsborough County Public School District announced a tentative plan Tuesday to raise starting pay for new teachers, just a week after saying that hundreds of teacher jobs would be cut.

Under the district’s proposal, 4,478 new teachers in traditional schools will be paid an annual salary of $46,900, up from $40,000 previously.

Last week, Hillsborough School Superintendent Addison Davis said the district would eliminate some teachers' jobs.

More than 750,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Florida since March. Health News Florida talked to some of the survivors about what it was like to have the illness and how it's changed their lives.

Today we hear from Roberta Shelor of Tampa.

She's a flight attendant and suspects she got the virus on a trip in July. Her employer informed her that a passenger on the flight tested positive and Shelor remembers having problems with one who refused to wear a mask. Her coworker also got sick but her family didn't.

Bermuda is under a tropical storm watch as Hurricane Epsilon – which formed late Tuesday night – makes its way toward the island.

Epsilon became the 10th hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and could continue to gain strength as it works its way through the Atlantic, according to the National Hurricane Center.

As of Wednesday morning, Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds had grown to 85 mph, with higher gusts, and was located about 425 miles east-southeast of Bermuda. It is moving west-northwest at 14 mph.

As early voting began in Leon County, long lines at polling sites followed. Many of those participating say they decided against voting by mail because of negative news they’d heard.

Near the entrance of the Northeast Branch Library Tuesday, a large flag in support of President Trump waves. Holding that flag is Georgia Smith, a retiree, who says she plans to be there throughout the election. While she doesn’t work directly for the President’s campaign, she says she is working for him.

"Trump is working so hard for us; I’m working hard for him just because," said Smith.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is joining other state attorneys general and the U.S. Department of Justice in a lawsuit against Google. The complaint alleges Google has monopolized the search engine market through anticompetitive and exclusionary tactics. To make that argument, the lawsuit points to contracts Google has made with manufacturers like Apple, LG, Motorola, and Samsung. These contracts allow Google to be the preset default search engine for devices like smartphones.

Here Are Seven Takeaways From Florida's Voter Registration Numbers

Oct 20, 2020

Florida elections officials last week released voter-registration numbers for the Nov. 3 general election. Here are seven takeaways as Florida is again a key state in the battle for the White House:

The Tampa Bay Rays will be playing against the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2020 World Series championship starting Tuesday — the first time in 12 years the Rays have played for Major League Baseball’s biggest prize.

But Tropicana Field, the home of the Rays, will not be used. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the entire series will be played in Arlington, Texas.

Sports bars in St. Petersburg that surround Tropicana Field are making plans that will allow fans to come and watch together.

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