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News at Noon: Akins resigns GOP spot; lawmakers consider gun bill; Pinellas board and ethics; Florida school testing reforms

U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis encourages William Akins of Hudson to let another audience member speak as Akins stands up and objects to her statements on his previous comments regarding "death panels" at the West Pasco Government Center on Feb. 11, 2017, as part of his series of public listening sessions on health care reform.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Special to the Times

U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis encourages William Akins of Hudson to let another audience member speak as Akins stands up and objects to her statements on his previous comments regarding "death panels" at the West Pasco Government Center on Feb. 11, 2017, as part of his series of public listening sessions on health care reform.

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.

PASCO GOP OFFICIAL QUITS AFTER FACEBOOK, 'DEATH PANEL' UPROAR

Bill Akins resigned Tuesday evening as secretary of the Pasco Republican Executive Committee after learning that a loyalty oath he signed with the committee did not allow him to make statements without the party's blessing. Akins has been in the news recently after falsely claiming "death panels" were part of the Affordable Care Act at a town hall meeting and the Washington Post revealed his Facebook posts contained racist and fake news stories and memes.

FLORIDA LAWMAKERS CONSIDER GUNS AT BARS, POLLS, EVENTS, CAMPUSES

With the recent, tragic history of the Pulse nightclub massacre last June in Orlando and the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting last month, two conservative Republican lawmakers want to do away with all of Florida's "gun-free zones" — 15 locations in state law where concealed weapons are currently prohibited.

TROUBLED PINELLAS BOARD WOULD FACE ETHICS TRAINING IN HOUSE BILL

The Florida House is moving ahead with a plan to impose higher ethics laws on most city elected officials and thousands of political appointees to local boards, including the Pinellas construction licensing board, which has been the target of a criminal grand jury investigation.

FLORIDA LAWMAKERS UNVEIL PROPOSED SCHOOL TESTING REFORMS

Instead of scattering K-12 assessment tests throughout the spring months and disrupting teaching time, Florida schools would be required to give all such exams only in the final three weeks of the school year, according to a proposal being unveiled in the Legislature.

MATTIS GIVES NATO MEMBERS ULTIMATUM TO BOOST DEFENSE SPENDING

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has issued a sharp ultimatum to NATO, telling allies they must start increasing defense spending by year's end or the Trump administration will "moderate its commitment" to them. He did not detail what the United States might do if NATO members failed to fall in line.

AMERICANS ARE SERIOUSLY STRESSED OUT ABOUT THEIR COUNTRY, SURVEY FINDS

The American Psychological Association polls Americans about their stress every year, and it's common for many of those polled to report anxiety around work and money. This time, however, people are also citing politics as a serious stressor in their lives.

KATE UPTON MAKES THIRD APPEARANCE ON SI SWIMSUIT EDITION COVER

Kate Upton is once again gracing the cover of the annual issue, becoming only the fourth woman to do so three times. This year, she's making the splash with three different covers.

MLS HOLDS A VERSION OF SPRING TRAINING IN AREA

Ah, spring training is near. But not just for baseball. For the second straight year, Major League Soccer is bringing some of its teams to Tampa Bay for two weeks to play in the Suncoast Invitational in St. Petersburg. One team is training at Al Lang Stadium, two in Bradenton and another in Clearwater.

News at noon is a weekday feature from tampabay.com. Check in Monday through Friday for updates and information on the biggest stories of the day.

News at Noon: Akins resigns GOP spot; lawmakers consider gun bill; Pinellas board and ethics; Florida school testing reforms 02/15/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 15, 2017 12:02pm]
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