Democrats unveil billboard of Trump tossing paper towels
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Democrats have paid for a billboard showing an image of President Donald Trump tossing paper towels at a Puerto Rican church after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria. The Florida Democratic Party on Monday unveiled the billboard in Kissimmee, where Vice President Mike Pence is the featured speaker at a Latinos for Trump rally. Kissimmee is outside Orlando and has a large Puerto Rican population, including many who came to central Florida after the 2017 hurricane. Critics at the time said the president's tossing of the paper towels showed a lack of sensitivity to the devastation on the island.
Florida Legislature sets sights on education, health care
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — As the Florida Legislature began its election-year work, lawmakers signaled that they would likely tackle education spending and health care costs. However, they might seek to avoid a battle over forcing employers to verify the immigration status of workers. During the session that started Tuesday morning, legislators will consider outlaying the billions of dollars required to keep the country's third-most populous state operating. Gov. Ron DeSantis is hoping the congeniality and applause that greeted his State of the State address will extend into the session as lawmakers delve into his proposals.
4 UF faculty leave as officials investigate foreign meddling
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Four faculty members have left the University of Florida as the school and federal government investigate foreign exploitation of American-funded medical research. The Tampa Bay Times reports that three researchers resigned and the fourth was terminated after the university received a letter from the National Institutes of Health regarding questionable foreign meddling in grant research and funding. NIH gives out $30 billion a year to American scientists and universities for biomedical research and awarded UF more than $190 million in grants last year. The agency has launched 180 individual inquiries into 70 institutions related to foreign attempts to take advantage of U.S.-backed medical research.
Census Bureau plans hundreds of ads in 13 languages for 2020
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The U.S. Census Bureau is spending tens of millions of dollars on hundreds of digital ads, TV commercials, radio spots, billboards and prints ads in 13 languages. The goal is to make sure every household responds to the 2020 census. Census Bureau officials said Tuesday they expect the media campaign to reach 99.9% of households. The once-a-decade head count will help determine how $1.5 trillion in federal spending gets distributed and how many congressional seats each state gets. The count starts next week in rural Alaska, but the rest of the country won't be able to start answering the questionnaire until mid-March.
'Unifying' art replaces mural that featured Confederate flag
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A gleaming new piece of art now greets visitors to the public gallery of the Florida Senate. The artwork replaces the “Five Flags” mural that had featured a Confederate flag. The old mural is now on display at a Florida bank after lawmakers said the art was too divisive. The main feature of the new installation is a huge block of wood cut into the shape of the state. It is backlit in blue. The new artwork also includes the Senate's revamped seal, which also no longer includes a symbol of the Confederacy, which has come under increased scrutiny in recent years.
STATE OF THE STATE
Florida governor calls for teacher raises, new abortion law
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is calling for teacher raises, the eradication of Burmese pythons in the Everglades and a new law to force girls to get their parents' permission to get an abortion. The Republican governor delivered his State of the State speech Tuesday, laying out his goals for his second year in office. DeSantis said he wants lawmakers to pass legislation to help prevent the blue-green algae blooms that have plagued the state. He also wants $600 million to raise teacher salaries to a minimum of $47,500.
SCHOOL SHOOTING-FLORIDA-SUPER BOWL
Parkland football team to run plays on Super Bowl field
MIAMI (AP) — The football team at a Florida high school where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting will get a taste of what it's like to play in the Super Bowl. Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football team will be stand-ins as the network tests camera angles for the live broadcast ahead of the Feb. 2 championship in Miami. The team will experience the excitement of running out of the tunnel onto the game field and running plays to determine which camera angles need to be adjusted three days before the Super Bowl. Assistant football coach Aaron Feis and athletic director Chris Hixon were killed in the February 2018 shooting.
Sheriff: 4 dead in Florida home, 1 person in custody
CELEBRATION, Fla. (AP) — Sheriff's officials say they have one person in custody after four people were found dead inside a central Florida home. The bodies were found Monday in Celebration. Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson said all parties involved in the investigation are accounted for. He offered few details about the case during a brief news conference. Deputies were called to the home earlier Monday. The sheriff didn't say how the people were killed or what charges the person in custody will face. A spokesman said their identities won't be released until autopsies are completed.
Maryland man pleads guilty to threatening Florida Hispanics
MIAMI (AP) — A Maryland man has pleaded guilty to posting threats on Facebook that he planned to kill Hispanics in Florida and elsewhere. Court records show 35-year-old Eric Lin of Clarksburg, Maryland, admitted Tuesday in Miami federal court that he sent threatening communications in interstate commerce between May and August 2019. Lin faces up to five years in federal prison at his March 30 sentencing. Evidence shows Lin made several threatening Facebook posts, including plans to kill a Florida resident and to “kill all Hispanics” in Miami and other places. Prosecutors said Lin posted messages about his idolization of Adolf Hitler.
Police: Woman tried to light explosive device in Walmart