Friday's Afternoon Update
What you need to know about Florida today
Is hemp solution for downed timber Industry?
North Florida’s timber industry suffered a more than $1-billion loss as a result of Hurricane Michael. To replace the loss, many have proposed hemp farming. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has been an advocate of hemp but understands getting North Florida ready to accept it is a process.
“We certainly will have an opportunity to get hemp in that area if they so choose to," said Fried. "But reforestation in that area and the ecosystem in there and that quality of life can’t be replaced. So our first goal is to get the timber off the ground and to give these individuals an opportunity to reforest, and to have an opportunity to have an opportunity to have prosperity again in that area.”
Read more from WGCU.
The Florida Senate passed a repeal of the state's medical marijuana smoking ban Thursday rather than face the prospects of seeing patients get access to smokable pot with no regulations at all.
The 34-4 vote came after nearly two hours of discussion. Some senators said they don't approve of letting patients smoke marijuana, but voted for the bill anyway because letting courts decide the issue would be worse.
"I don't like the position that we're in today," said Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel. "Now we're in a situation where if we do nothing, the situation's worse." [Source: Naples Daily News]
It seems the FPL scam is still targeting businesses in Vero Beach. At one business, the victim called the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office and said he received a late notice from Florida Power & Light (FPL) in the mail for the amount of $798.33. That same day, a person claiming they were from FPL called their business stating that their account was overdue for $798.33. “They told him he was past due on his account and needed to pay or his power would be shut off,” the deputy said. The person on the phone instructed the victim to purchase two Green Dot gift cards at CVS. One gift card was for $500.00 and the other for $298.33. They told him to wait for FPL to call back to retrieve the gift card numbers for payment. [Source: Sebastian Daily]
The Republican-led Florida legislature is considering education legislation that could alter the school landscape in the state. SB 7070 is an omnibus bill that is loaded with ideas that advocates of public education oppose, including:
- A new voucher program that would spend millions of taxpayer dollars for tens of thousands of students to use at private, mostly religious schools
- Seeks to boost funding for bonuses for teachers in the state — which ranks near the bottom among states for educator pay — rather than give salary hikes.
- Makes it easier for teachers to get certified, a move to help stem a huge educator shortage but one that critics say could lead to unqualified people entering the classroom.
(There are other controversial bills that have been introduced in the legislature as well, including one that was just approved by a House education subcommittee and that would require public high schools to offer elective Bible-study courses. Though its backers say it would not be religious, the sponsor is state Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a Democrat who runs a Christian ministry and who last year led an effort to require public schools to post “In God We Trust” signs.) [Source: Washington Post]
On Thursday, more than 912,000 Walmart U.S. associates will receive a share of nearly $207 million in cash bonuses, as the company experienced a strong 4.2 percent fourth quarter comp sales growth. Associates are receiving their bonuses in paychecks received March 7. In Florida, associates will be awarded approximately $16.3 million for fourth quarter performance.
"Walmart continues to make every day easier not just for our customers but also for our associates – providing them with the tools they need to succeed," said Elise Vasquez-Warner, vice president and regional general manager for Walmart in Central Florida. "Our associates play an important role in our success, and today's announcement is just one way we are celebrating their hard work and dedication to serving customers throughout Florida." [Source: WLNS]
SpaceX crew capsule ends test flight with ocean splashdown
SpaceX’s swanky new crew capsule returned from the International Space Station to an old-fashioned splashdown in the Atlantic on Friday, successfully ending a test flight that could lead to astronaut rides later this year. The Dragon capsule undocked from the orbiting lab early Friday. Six hours later, the capsule carrying a test dummy parachuted into the ocean, a couple hundred miles off the Florida coast. It was the final hurdle for the six-day demo, a critical prelude to SpaceX’s first flight with astronauts as early as summer. While improvements still need to be made, the company aims to fly NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the next test flight.
» More from the Associated Press.
On the Wild Side
Rejected by mother, Jacksonville Zoo’s baby gorilla bonds with surrogate
On Feb. 27, the 30-year-old gorilla at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens was introduced as a potential surrogate mother to 5-month-old Gandai, whose biological mother Kumbuka had not shown sufficient care or interest in her baby. Bulera readily accepted the role.
She was holding the baby within minutes and comforting her with soft vocal rumbles,” said JJ Vitale, zoo spokeswoman. “She carried her around the enclosure, cuddled with her, brought her into her nest to sleep and responded quickly to any cries. Even better, Gandai is smitten with her adoptive mother... The pairing with Gandai and Bulera is a joyful occasion and the two gorillas are bonding well.”
» More from the Florida Times-Union
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