The Daystarter: Governor signs bill that merges all USF campuses; where uprooted West Tampa residents landed; Tiger, Bourdais top busy sports weekend; St. Patrick’s Day parties

OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
Crowds fill the grandstands during the IndyCar Firestone Grand Prix on Sunday, March 11, 2018.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times Crowds fill the grandstands during the IndyCar Firestone Grand Prix on Sunday, March 11, 2018.
Published March 12 2018
Updated March 12 2018

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

• As you head out for your morning commute, check out our live blog for the latest traffic updates and road conditions across Tampa Bay.

• Plan your week! Here are the top things to do this week in Tampa Bay including lots of St. Patrick’s Day parties, Jason Mraz and Saturday Night Live’s Ana Gasteyer on local stages.

• In a rare Sunday overtime session, the Florida Legislature passed a budget of nearly $89 billion for next year to end a session that was overshadowed by the mass shootings in Parkland.

• On Sunday, Gov. Rick Scott signed the Legislature’s two sweeping education bills reforming K-12 and higher education that included a provision to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its accreditation.

• A 2-year-old girl drowned Sunday, hours after she was pulled from a lake behind her home. The death appears to be accidental. Stay with for updates.

• Patients have a lot of choices when it comes to selecting their health care providers these days. Some some doctors and institutions in the Tampa Bay area are offering new "perks" to patients in an effort to draw more business. Inspiration Place, which opened late last year, allows women to get a massage and a pedicure in between routine clinical appointments, like a pap smear or mammogram. They are separating themselves from the pack with what has come to be known as "concierge medicine," offering perks to women, often the heads of households, who are looking for some comfort and more of an "experience" at the doctor’s office.

• Until the bulldozers moved in, more than 2,000 people lived in North Boulevard Homes, an aging West Tampa public housing complex of about 820 military-barrack style apartments. Over an 18-month period, they were all relocated one way or another. Seven tenants died and 25 were evicted. The rest are now scattered across Tampa Bay and as far away as Brooklyn, N.Y., Philadelphia, and Gulfport, Miss. Find out where they went.

• The wheels have been set in motion for Duke Energy Florida to build a solar photo-voltaic car canopy in a section of a pier parking lot whose users will include patrons of a proposed Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille and nearby public boat slips. The facility will provide shade, light and charging stations for electric cars. Base rent for Duke will be $12,000 a year, but the lease must be renewed every 10 years per city charter. Read more about a facility the city says fits in with the pier’s sustainability efforts.

• During a key vote in the Florida Senate to reject an assault weapons ban, Republican Sen. David Simmons argued that the original reason for the Second Amendment was so people could protect themselves from a tyrannical government. Simmons invoked the Nazis to drive home his point. "Adolf Hitler confiscated all the weapons — took all the weapons, had a registry of everybody — and then on the night of June 30, 1934, sent out his secret police and murdered all of his political opponents," Simmons said March 3. "You think it doesn’t happen in a free society? It does." PolitiFact Florida reports that Simmons’ statement misses several historical facts.

• The sixth-graders kept bickering, but it was the older boy’s final retort that set the 11-year-old off. "Black people should live in the street!" the 12-year-old said, according to a police report. "That’s it!" the younger boy said before charging the 12-year-old and shoving him out of his seat to the floor. His desk fell with him, a corner of it slicing the first knuckle of his left middle finger. More than a year after the January 2017 incident at Safety Harbor Middle, the classroom confrontation is the subject of a lawsuit against the younger boy, his mother and the Pinellas County School Board. Colleen Wright has the details.

• For the second year in a row, St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais won Sunday’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, this time despite cutting a tire on the race’s opening lap. The 39-year-old native Frenchman earned his 37th career win.

• At the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook, a birdie putt by Tiger Woods to force a playoff came up just short, giving Paul Casey his first PGA Tour victory since 2009. Columnist Tom Jones writes that, despite finishing second, Woods delivered a weekend that Tampa Bay golf fans won’t soon forget.

• It was a big weekend for music fans and our pop music critic Jay Cridlin has lots to report on this year’s Gasparilla Music Festival on our Soundcheck music blog. You can also catch up on Tampa Bay’s own American Idol hopeful.

• Zach D’Onofrio came bearing socks. He left with a golden ticket to Hollywood. The Wesley Chapel 17-year-old charmed his way past the judges during Sunday’s premiere of the ABC reboot of American Idol, crooning Frank Sinatra’s The Way You Look Tonight. He’ll move on to the Hollywood rounds airing later this spring.

• We’ve had so many people ask us we thought everyone could use this guide to how to get Hamilton tickets when the blockbuster show comes to the Straz Center next year