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Floridian of the year: The Florida teacher

This year, FLORIDA TREND recognizes the foot soldiers — Florida’s 177,000 teachers — as the collective Floridian of the Year. As the past year shows, Florida schools have improved. Credit goes everywhere. Jeb Bush, in his time as governor, instituted the accountability system that forced districts and schools to improve service to students, a system improved by subsequent governors and legislatures. Forward thinkers and adroit executives such as former Superintendent Don Gaetz in Oklaoosa County and Miami-Dade’s current superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, showed how top district leaders can effect change. [Source: Florida Trend]

Rise in toll lanes across Florida irks lawmakers

Across Florida there is growing disenchantment with what critics complain is a hidden — and growing — form of taxation: Highway tolls. State motorists are digging deeper into their pockets to travel on roads that were once free. [Source: Lakeland Ledger]

Flu season off to a faster, ‘unusual’ start in Florida

This year’s flu season has had its fastest start in Florida, and among other southern states and Puerto Rico, in 15 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Seasonal influenza activity in the United States has been elevated for four weeks and continues to increase,” the CDC reported on Nov. 30 at the end of week 48 of the year. [Source: Miami Herald]

Opinion: Florida lawmakers, local governments need to fix state’s dilapidated wastewater treatment systems

The third largest coral reef on the planet, the Florida Reef Tract, spanning from the Dry Tortugas to Stuart, has succumbed to death by sewage pollution. Every day, nearly 300 million gallons of wastewater are still dumped from a half dozen sewage outfalls onto the reef tract from Miami-Dade to Broward counties. Until recently in the Keys, fecal pathogens and nutrients from roughly 30,000 homes and businesses using septic tanks and cesspits seeped onto the reef tract resulting in lethal coral diseases and reef-smothering algal blooms. [Source: Palm Beach Post]

Florida among least healthiest states, report finds

Florida is the thirty-third healthiest state in the country this year, dropping four spots from its 2018, according to a new report published by the United Health Foundation. For the America's Health Ranking's 2019 Annual Report, researchers assessed several factors that fell under the categories of behaviors, policy, community and environment, clinical care and outcomes. [Source: Biz Journals]

ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:

› Why so few craft distilleries in Palm Beach County? Rum maker knows the answer
Like much of the nation, Palm Beach County is experiencing a beer boom. In industrial districts and downtowns from Boca Raton to Tequesta, independent microbreweries have sprung up to serve ales, lagers and porters made on the premises. Craft distillers of liquors remain a rare breed, however — and Ben Etheridge, the co-founder of Steel Tie Spirits, has been getting a crash course in why few entrepreneurs are trying their hand at selling small-batch liquor directly to consumers.

› Florida’s Turkey Point nuclear reactors get unprecedented approval to run until 2053
The Turkey Point nuclear power plant has won final federal approval to continue to operate through at least 2053 — an unprecedented decision by regulators to extend the operating lifespan of nuclear reactors to 80 years. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday announced that it had signed off on Florida Power and Light’s latest application for a 20-year extension for its two reactors located along the mangrove-lined coast of south Biscayne Bay.

› Bill targets city-owned utility spending
Gainesville Regional Utilities and other locally-owned power providers could no longer subsidize some city services should a new bill filed in the Florida House of Representatives pass. House Bill 653, filed by freshman Rep. Mike Caruso (R-Palm Beach), would prohibit city-owned electric utilities from giving sums of money — raised from bill-paying customers — to finance general local government functions.

› DeSantis wary of taking major steps against vaping in political battleground Florida
Weeks after President Donald Trump pulled back from his demand for a crackdown on vaping by teenagers, his political protégé in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, is following a similar path. While DeSantis didn’t embrace Trump’s initial demand for a ban, he now says that he’s also wary of Florida making any major changes.

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› Ban On Anaconda Sales In Florida Will Remain In Place, Judge Rules
A Leon County circuit judge has rejected a request for a preliminary injunction against a state rule that largely bans anacondas in Florida. Judge Angela Dempsey issued a two-page order Wednesday that denied the request from owners and dealers of anacondas.

› JEA moves sales talks to Atlanta, draft document shows sales pitch given to interested buyers
Top leaders of JEA will head to Atlanta in the coming week for a series of meetings that JEA says will be its final presentation to bidders vying for a shot at buying all or part of the city-owned utility in a deal that would total billions of dollars. JEA has been tight-lipped about its closed-door negotiations with bidders, but a draft document titled “Management Presentation” sheds some light on the selling points JEA is making to investor-owned utilities and other firms.

› Art Center Sarasota hosts first national juried show
Art Center Sarasota has been around since 1926, but it is trying something new and trying to increase local and national awareness about its programs with a creative and social kickoff for its first national juried exhibition. “Open Season,” which will take over all four galleries in the center’s building on North Tamiami Trail, will begin with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, followed by a garden party in the sculpture garden, featuring wine, craft beer, food trucks and music.

› Tampa airport to add amenities for nursing moms and service dogs
Passengers at Tampa International Airport, take heart. Three things you ask for most are on the way: Nursing rooms for breastfeeding moms, outdoor pet-relief areas near departure and arrival gates for service animals, and water-bottle refill stations. Compared with larger projects in the airport’s $2 billion expansion program, these additions are small. Still, they are expected to resonate with passengers.