Florida legislators begin gambling talks
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — Florida legislators are starting negotiations over a new gambling deal.
House and Senate members met Monday and the two sides have about three weeks left in this year’s session to reach an agreement.
The Senate has passed a bill that would allow slot machines at dog and horse tracks in eight counties outside of South Florida. It would also allow the Seminole Tribe to offer craps and roulette at its casinos.
The House measure would allow the tribe to keep its slot machines and blackjack tables for 20 years, but would not let them offer additional games. The legislation also confines slot machines to South Florida.
Legislators have tried for several years to pass a gambling bill, but the deals fell apart amid heavy lobbying from the gambling industry.
Surgeon General confirmation passes first Senate committee
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — Dr. Celeste Philip’s confirmation process to remain Florida’s Surgeon General has completed its first step.
The Senate’s Health Policy Committee voted 5-0 on Monday in support of Philip’s confirmation. She still must be confirmed by the Ethics and Election committees before the vote goes to the full Senate.
Philip replaced Dr. John Armstrong last March. Armstrong resigned after not being confirmed for a second term by the Senate.
Unlike Armstrong, Philip’s confirmation process is expected to proceed smoothly.
Philip has held various positions within the Department of Health since 2008. She was interim director in three county health departments and interim bureau chief for the DOH Bureau of Communicable Diseases.
The Health Policy Committee also voted in support of Justin Senior’s confirmation as Secretary of Health Care Administration.
Florida small plane crash kills 4; wasn’t noticed for a day
WILLISTON (AP) — A vintage private plane that crashed in north Florida killing all four people aboard went unnoticed for nearly a day.
The Gainesville Sun reports that the 1948 Cessna 170 crashed Saturday afternoon at the Williston Municipal Airport, but wasn’t noticed until Sunday. None of the victims have been identified.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the scene on Monday.
Williston Deputy Police Chief Clay Connolly told the newspaper that the plane attempted to take off Saturday afternoon and crashed.
Between 20 and 30 other aircraft took off from the airport after the crash, but no one noticed the wreckage for 21 hours.
Connolly says the Cessna was equipped with an emergency locator transmitter that should have been noticed by other pilots.
8-year-old swimmer missing off Florida’s Atlantic Coast
NEW SMYRNA BEACH (AP) — An 8-year-old boy is missing after swimming in rough surf off Florida’s Atlantic Coast.
Volusia County Ocean Rescue Capt. Aaron Jenkins tells local news outlets that the search for Hezekiah Whyte is continuing Monday afternoon. Investigators were interviewing his mother Charlie Bonite Hill on Monday.
Jenkins says the disappearance has been “very traumatic for the family.”
Hezekiah was playing in the surf off New Smyrna Beachon Saturday when the strong currents pulled him out into deeper water. The boy’s 11-year-old sister tried to rescue him, but was pulled under and had to be rescued by lifeguards. She was held overnight at a hospital but is OK.
Officials say rip currents were strong over the holiday weekend and people are being asked to swim in front of the lifeguard towers.
Florida House backs governor in battle with prosecutor
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — Florida’s House is backing Gov. Rick Scott in his legal battle against an Orlando prosecutor who refuses to seek the death penalty in cases handled by her office.
The state Supreme Court said Monday it would allow attorneys working for House Speaker Richard Corcoran to file legal briefs in the case between the governor and State Attorney Aramis Ayala.
Ayala is challenging Scott’s authority to transfer murder cases from her office to another prosecutor.
The Republican-controlled House in a legal filing to the high court said it wants to address “the ill effects that flow from” Ayala’s opposition to seeking the death penalty. The House may also argue whether Scott has the authority to suspend Ayala.
Ayala is a Democrat and Florida’s first African-American state attorney.
Authorities: Pedestrians hit with eggs in Wilton Manors
WILTON MANORS (AP) — Authorities say they’re on a different kind of egg hunt following a series of egg-tossing incidents in Wilton Manors.
News outlets report that there have been five incidents of egg-tossing at pedestrians since April 2. Officials say people walking down the arts and entertainment district have been targeted by passing vehicles.
Wilton Manors Police Operations Commander Gary Blocker said on Friday that there have been no serious injuries, but the department wants to find the person or people who’ve been throwing eggs.
Blocker says the Wilton Manors is known as an LGBT community and they are committed to determining the intent behind the incidents and whether or not they’re motivated by dislike of the LGBT community.
Water shortage warning issued for South Florida
MIAMI (AP) — South Florida water managers issued a water shortage warning that asked more than 8 million residents to conserve water and follow lawn-watering rules.
News outlets report water managers issued the warning for residents from Orlando to Key West on Thursday. Officials say if the shortage persists, they may consider mandatory restrictions.
Board chairman Dan O’Keefe said in a statement that the purpose of the warning is to urge Florida families to voluntarily conserve more water so it can last through the remainder of the dry season.
This winter, the region received 44 percent of its average rainfall. Forecasters are predicting a 40 to 50 percent chance of above normal temperatures over the next three months. The rainy season is still more than a month away.
Government: Florida man led FEMA contract bidding scam
PALM HARBOR (AP) — Federal authorities say 1,200 companies were scammed by a Florida man who charged them $500 fees to register them with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for preferred treatment on contract bidding.
The Tampa Bay Business Journal reports that 48-year-old Michael Pirolo of Palm Harbor pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.
Authorities said Pirolo’s company, Government Contract Registry Inc., pocketed $600,000 in the scheme. FEMA offers no preferential treatment on contract bidding.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said about 1,200 companies were misled by Pirolo’s scam, which ran from June 2014 to October 2016.
Under the plea agreement, Pirolo agreed to cooperate with investigators. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of at least $250,000. He’ll be sentenced in Tampa federal court later this year.
Keys officials say US customs office helped screwworm fight
MARATHON (AP) — A new customs office at a Florida Keys airport helped efforts to stop a parasite infestation threatening endangered deer.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at Florida Keys Marathon International Airport opened shortly before wildlife officials confirmed in September that flesh-eating screwworms were killing Key deer.
The airport became a command base for efforts to stop the infestation from spreading to livestock on the mainland. Those efforts included releasing millions of male screwworm flies sterilized with radiation, which helped suppress the pest’s population.
Monroe County officials said Wednesday that two flights each week brought irradiated flies from Panama through the customs office at the airport. Sterile flies also were stored in refrigerated units at the airport.
Airport Director Thomas Henderson said the customs facility could be used for other emergencies.