Friday, December 15, 2017
News Roundup

The DayStarter: More nice weather; Romney takes on Trump, Tallahassee hits the home stretch, and the Strawberry Fest kicks off

It'll be another postcard-perfect Florida day, according to 10Weather WTSP, with 70-degree temperatures and blue skies.

• Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, will speak about this year's Republican presidential race at 11:30 a.m. Romney has been critical of 2016 front-runner Donald Trump on Twitter in recent weeks and has yet to endorse any of the other candidates.

• Robert Valdez, 71 and mentally ill, was sentenced to more than four years in prison. Then the judge looked for an alternative. The cover story for Floridian magazine is another installment in the Tampa Bay Times' and Sarasota Herald-Tribune's investigation chronicling life in Florida's mental health system. Catch up on the series right now at tampabay.com/mentalhospitals.

• Will sales tax holidays be trimmed back by Florida senators? Will the House pass sweeping new abortion restrictions while the Senate signs off on granting pastors immunity from lawsuits if they don't want to take part in same-sex weddings? Tune in to tampabay.com/politics for answers to these questions and more as the state Legislature hits the home stretch of its annual session.

• The remaining Republican presidential rivals face off tonight in a debate on Fox News at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. PolitiFact will be live fact-checking the debate. Follow @PolitiFact on Twitter while you watch.

• House flipping is back in style, and Tampa Bay once again is near the top nationwide. Read real estate reporter Susan Taylor Martin's full report this morning.

• Follow business reporter Justine Griffin on Twitter (@SunBizGriffin) for updates from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority meeting. Board members are discussing the current state of the $953 million master plan starting at 9 a.m.

• Check out beat writer Joe Smith's latest Lightning Strikes podcast this afternoon at tampabay.com/lightning.

• As the Florida Strawberry Festival kicks off its 81st year of shortcake and country music today in Plant City, it again features a stellar concert lineup, including the Band Perry, Martina McBride and Trace Adkins. Pop music writer and culture critic Jay Cridlin takes a closer look at how the festival has evolved with the times. If you thinking of going, here are the highlights and deal days coming up for the berry blast.

• Deal alert! Busch Gardens has extended its deal that gets you a free Adventure Island water park pass with the purchase of a Fun Card, a savings of nearly $50 and just in time for spring break. Here's what you need to know.

• Here are the top things to do today, including four top-ranked women's soccer teams here for the SheBelieves Cup and the three-night, 21-and-older sensual art event called Nude Nite.

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Hillsborough school district and its teachers are at a bargaining impasse, but still talking

Hillsborough school district and its teachers are at a bargaining impasse, but still talking

TAMPA — A months-long conflict over planned pay raises has moved to a new phase with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association declaring a bargaining impasse with the public school district.The two sides, which began negotiations in late spring...
Updated: 4 minutes ago

AOL Instant Messenger is no more, and it’s okay your inner 13-year-old is crying

Saying goodbye to an old friend stings.On the morning of Dec. 15, 2017, AOL Instant Messenger died.Take a moment to allow the 13-year-old inside of you let out a deep sob; think about the bulletin you wish you could post to your MySpace page about ho...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

LARGO — Eight months after paying $10.15 million for the office building that houses IT services company Vology, a New York company is suing the Pinellas County Property Appraiser and Florida Department of Revenue contending its $5.5 million tax asse...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Pinellas schools sheltered thousands during Irma. Here’s what it cost

Pinellas schools sheltered thousands during Irma. Here’s what it cost

Three months later, the Pinellas County school district has totaled up the costs of operating 16 schools as shelters for 25,000 evacuees during Hurricane Irma.The district is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for a reimbursemen...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Being your own lawyer: bad idea. People in Tampa Bay do it anyway.

Being your own lawyer: bad idea. People in Tampa Bay do it anyway.

LARGO — Daniel Richards walked into the courtroom in his orange jail scrubs. Carrying a stack of papers, he stood in front of Pinellas Circuit judge Chris Helinger as she glanced at the handwritten documents he filed days earlier."I foresee foul play...
Updated: 1 hour ago
New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

The Miami Beach-based Animal Recovery Mission has released a video from its undercover abuse investigation at a Central Florida dairy farmThe graphic video, with disturbing images of cows cruelly being beaten, speared, stabbed and burned, was shot by...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Pinellas jury: Clearwater man representing himself is guilty of killing his mother

LARGO — A jury found Daniel Richards guilty of second-degree murder on Friday for the fatal beating of his 83-year-old mother.Richards, a 61-year-old who represented himself during his trial, was sentenced to life in prison.On the night of July 17, 2...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

DOVER — Two Plant City men who ran from deputies and shot a dog were captured after a brief pursuit Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.They ditched the stolen car, ran away on foot, crossed through several yards and then ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

FHP: Overturned vehicle reported on northbound Howard Frankland

ST. PETERSBURG — Drivers should avoid the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge for a while: The Florida Highway Patrol is responding to a report of an overturned vehicle there.The incident was reported on northbound Interstate 275, near mile marker 32,...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay girls swim teams

Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay girls swim teams

Hillsborough County Swimmer of the Year: Morgan Tankersley, Sr., PlantTankersley defended her state title in the 500 free (4:44.75) and placed second in one of the country’s fastest 200 free races in 1:46.75, 2.07 seconds behind Buchholz junior Isa...
Updated: 1 hour ago