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News at noon: Viral Facebook post; Florida Legislature; ferry service talk; MLB Hall of Fame ballot, circus comes to town

On the day he died, Matthew DeRemer was ready to move forward. At 10:06 a.m. on New Year's Eve, he typed a message to friends on Facebook. The last year had been challenging, but he was ready for 2016.

Ten hours later, he was dead, killed by an alleged drunken driver. Now that Facebook post has gone viral.

The Florida Legislature made history in 2015 for all the wrong reasons. They start fresh Tuesday in an unusually early election-year session. We'll soon find out if the debacle of 2015 was an aberration or the new normal in Tallahassee. In our For a Better Florida coverage, we look at five areas of concern.

Meanwhile, the state Senate today is renumbering all 40 of its districts to comply with a judge's order, and in doing so keeps alive the goal of a Pasco senator, Republican Wilton Simpson, to be Senate president in 2020.

Mayors Bob Buckhorn of Tampa and Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg are set to meet today at Tampa City Hall to talk about a proposal to create a ferry service between the two cities' waterfronts.

A transportation hub for rail and buses near the West Shore area is one step closer to becoming a reality now that the Florida Department of Transportation has purchased the land. FDOT announced Tuesday that it closed on the Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Airport and Charley's Steakhouse property.

Inspired by a stronger-than-ever RV market and interstate expansion dreams, Seffner-based Lazydays — one of the top RV dealers in the country — raised $56 million in a recent land sale to help fund future growth.

As Marc Topkin shares his baseball Hall of Fame ballot, he says putting the X in the box next to Ken Griffey Jr.'s name was one of the simplest and most obvious decisions in his 10-plus years of voting on candidates.

Jonathan Drouin reported to AHL Syracuse Tuesday morning for practice. And, as expected, Drouin, 20, said very little on his November trade request, which became the talk of the hockey world after agent Allan Walsh made it public Sunday.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus made it to town today, with the parade of animals. Before heading to the show, here are five things to know.

Steve Persall writes in his review: The Revenant is what 3-D and IMAX promise without either surcharge, a movie immersing viewers in its brutal beauty, making the screen seem uncommonly larger. The popular term is "pure cinema" and this, my friends, is it.

COMING THURSDAY

A year ago, John Jonchuck drove to the top of a bridge, held his 5-year-old daughter Phoebe over the side and let go. He must have been crazy. It was the only thing that made sense. He loved his daughter. And yet, for years, police had documented violence between the girl's parents, and child protection workers had visited their home five times. Seven times, people called the abuse hotline, fearing for her safety. And still, no one stopped it. Watch the trailer video here.

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.

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News at noon: Viral Facebook post; Florida Legislature; ferry service talk; MLB Hall of Fame ballot, circus comes to town 01/05/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2016 1:48pm]
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    Testing

    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
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[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  4. Mariners lose lefty Drew Smyly to Tommy John surgery

    Ml

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    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times