OBAMAS TO ATTEND SHUTTLE LAUNCH
President Barack Obama and his family will attend the space shuttle launch April 29 at Kennedy Space Center, the White House said. Obama is already scheduled to be in the state to deliver a commencement address at Miami-Dade College. The two-fer gives Obama added exposure in a state key to his re-election. The launch of Endeavour is NASA's next-to-last shuttle flight. The mission will be led by Mark Kelly, husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who may attend as well, her first public appearance since being shot in January.
Highway renaming passes House
The House passed a measure to honor five St. Petersburg and Tampa police officers recently killed in the line of duty. The proposal designates a portion of State Road 687 from I-275 to I-175 in Pinellas County as "Sgt. Thomas J. Baitinger, Officer Jeffrey A. Yaslowitz and Officer David. S. Crawford Memorial Highway." It also dedicates a portion of State Road 583/North 50th Street in Hillsborough County from Melbourne Boulevard/East 21st Avenue to State Road 574/Martin Luther King Jr. as "Officer Jeffrey A. Kocab and Officer David I. Curtis Memorial Highway." "Each day, the brave men and women of the law enforcement community risk their safety and too often lose their lives in the pursuit of protecting and defending Florida's communities," said Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, House sponsor of the bill, in a statement. "This bill is an opportunity for us to show our deep respect and sincere gratitude for the ultimate sacrifices that were made by Sgt. Thomas Baitinger and Officers Jeffrey Yaslowitz, David Crawford, Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis."
Panel dislikes red-light cameras
A House budget panel voted Wednesday to keep alive an effort to outlaw red-light traffic cameras. The Legislature passed a law last year regulating the cameras. But Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, cited a slew of examples from cities and states across the country where he said the cameras were not preventing accidents. "This isn't exactly what we thought it was," Corcoran said. Courts have thrown out many red-light camera tickets, he added, saying the problems with implementing last year's bill are "overwhelming." After about an hour and a half of discussion, the committee sided with Corcoran — even though law enforcement and other advocates cautioned that getting rid of the cameras would put drivers' lives in danger and cost Florida municipalities $71 million in revenue from camera tickets. "Our sheriff tells us that these red-light cameras are saving lives," concluded Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City. A House staff analysis on HB 4087 estimated repealing the red lights would cost the state $86 million next year and local municipalities more than $71 million. The bill now heads to the House floor. Its companion in the Senate, SB 672, has stalled.
Times/Herald staff writers Alex Leary, Patricia Mazzei and Jodie Tillman contributed to this report.