Daystarter: Bobby Joe Long’s execution set for tonight; Mexico Beach still broken from Michael; Amendment 4 bill requires fees and restitution

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and developments.
Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and developments.
Published May 23
Updated May 23

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

• Another hot day with highs in the low 90s, according to the National Weather Service. No rain forecst but it will be partly cloudy, so that helps.

• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay. And don’t forget to start planning your Memorial Day now.

• It costs money to produce quality journalism. Please support the Tampa Bay Times by buying a digital subscription to Florida’s best newspaper and its redesigned website tampabay.com.

• The family of Kim Swann has waited 34 years for justice. Tonight, the state of Florida may give it to them. The man who killed her, Bobby Joe Long, is set to be executed at 6 p.m. at Florida State Prison outside Starke. He killed at least eight women in the Tampa Bay region in the 1980s, but likely had many more victims. Kathryn Varn writes about the Swann family’s memories of Kim, who died in 1984 at the age of 21, and their long wait for this day.

ALSO READ: Tampa serial killer Bobby Joe Long’s death warrant was just signed. We remember the victims.

• A new report shows Florida has one of the highest uninsured rates for women of child-bearing age and continues to lag behind states that have expanded Medicaid, writes Justine Griffin.

All southbound lanes on Interstate 75 are blocked near E Fletcher Avenue after a semi-trailer caught fire. The lanes were closed around 4:30 a.m., according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

• It’s been three days since congregants leaving a late-night prayer service at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay’s flagship mosque heard gunshots ring out in the darkened parking lot. An off-duty deputy quickly apprehended the shooter, who is a member of the mosque, early Monday. But no new information has been released in the death of 36-year-old Rafat Saeed. Tony Marrero reports that the lack of answers and information is starting to divide the mosque.

• In Tampa, many have registered to vote after voters approved Amendment 4, restoring the right to vote to felons in Florida. But then the legislature passed a bill that will require felons to pay off court fines, fees and restitution — or have them waived by a judge — before registering to vote. Langston Taylor explains why those who thought they were Florida’s newest voters are so upset.

• She isn’t retired just yet: Departing University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft is giving the school $20 million to build a new honors college that will bear her name, reports Megan Reeves.

• For the latest education coverage, make sure to read The Gradebook. And check out the Gradebook podcast as education reporter Jeffrey Solochek leads a weekly discussion about Florida education.

• There’s nothing like a free lunch to bring people — and politicians — together. Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Les Miller paid for a modest lunch on Wednesday to bring Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and four new city council members and the commission together to improve relations, reports Charlie Frago.

• Do you want to read more about the raccoon that was shooed off a boat 20 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico and the Clearwater lawyer in trouble for sending the raccoon off to its supposed doom? Well Craig Pittman has a story for you: Turns out, experts say the lawyer had a lot more options than just forcing the stowaway overboard.

• Hernando County voters could decide next year whether to raise their property taxes to help fund local schools. The rate is largely set by the state, but school districts can ask voters to approve increases for operating expenses, as long as the local school board rate doesn’t top 10 mills.

• Henk Ovink of the Netherlands, an expert on climate change, realized about 30 seconds into his climate change talk that he was probably preaching to the choir. “We’re in the same boat,” Ovink said after alluding to studies that have listed the Tampa Bay region as among the most vulnerable in the world to climate change. “We better learn from each other.”

• Several weeks ago, Main Street executive director Ryan Malloy left his job, and now those who support the program — and Brooksville — are hoping for a better coordinated effort to promote the city. “A successful Main Street Program can help a city with economic development and in revitalizing downtown areas”, City Manager Mark Kutney said.

• Mexico Beach remains a shell, even as the next hurricane season looms a week away. Life has slowed in the desolate town, where the Wood family is ready to move on but stuck in a lonely interlude.

• Politics never stops in Florida, and neither does the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau. For the latest and greatest political coverage in the Sunshine State check out the The Buzz.

• The Yuengling brewery has long offered tours to the public. But now ‘America’s Oldest Brewery’ has plans to turn its Florida plant into a tourism hub that could include a beer garden and 150-room hotel, reports Sara DiNatale.

• Check out the Times online Business page for the latest on the economy, jobs, real estate, retail and workplace culture.

• A partnership between a University of Florida professor and a Gainesville brewery leads to Frosted Elfin pale ale. A tiny brown butterfly from Florida provided a key ingredient for a new conservation-minded beer from Gainesville’s First Magnitude Brewing. A portion of the proceeds from every can is going directly to butterfly research.

•A real estate developer created the world’s healthiest workspace. About $2.5 million later — including $600,000 from the city of Clearwater — The Ring Workspaces LLC, 18,000 square feet of office and coworking space, is the result. How is it doing?

•Someone’s been having fun with beer-can copywriting. In one of the latest canned releases from 7venth Sun, a brewery with locations in both Dunedin and Tampa, flavoring ingredients are likened to attributes of a black hole: oranges form the outer perimeter of the event horizon, with raspberry on its inner edge. Coffee? The singularity, of course.

• The Times online Arts and Entertainment page tells you everything you need to know about what to do, see, eat and experience around town.

• Marie Skelton is stepping down after 22 years helping to lead the Richey Suncoast Theatre, seven as executive director. “It’s bittersweet,” said Skelton. “I’ve had a lifetime full of wonderful memories with the theater, working with the kids, the adults, knowing my patrons and how they supported me through the roughest time of my life, when I lost Charlie,” Skelton said. Stories of transformation bookend the recently announced 2019-2020 Broadway lineup at the theatre.

• Check out the Times photo and video channels for the most compelling visuals.

• Read the Tampa Bay Times online Sports page with the latest news about the Lightning, Bucs, Rays, Bulls, Gators, Noles and high school sports. Times sportswriter Rick Stroud has the latest reaction and analysis from the whole team via our Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast.

• Welcome to Tampa Bay, new Bucs defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Here’s your 10 dirtiest plays.

• The player Suh is replacing, now ex-Buccaneer Gerald McCoy, took to Instagram to tell fans he “will be back” in a video with the theme from Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” film playing (now you know McCoy’s favorite move Batman) but also thanked fans and the Glazers for their support.

• The Rays have started this season strong, but can they keep it up? Rays beat writer Marc Topkin will be there every step of the way. Follow him at @TBTimes_Rays.

• One day after committing a baserunning blunder that killed the Rays’ late-inning momentum, Kevin Kiermaier made plays in the field and at the plate that led to a Tampa Bay win in the Rays’ 8-1 victory over the Dodgers Wednesday night.

• The Florida Gators’ upcoming home-and-home football series with Texas will be the first meeting between the power programs since 1940. Times college football writer Matt Baker asks which got him thinking: What was that 1940 game like?

• Get the latest Bucs news as coach Bruce Arians gets ready for the 2019 season and follow Rick Stroud at @NFLSTROUD on Twitter and fellow beat writer Eduardo A. Encina at @EddieInTheYard.

• The Lightning face a long, painful offseason. Follow beat writers Diana C. Nearhos at @dianacnearhos and Mari Faiello at @faiello_mari to see how Tampa Bay puts the pieces back together.

• All the Bulls news you can use is right here from Times beat writer Joey Knight. Follow him on Twitter for the latest at @TBTimes_Bulls.

• Get the latest on the Gators and Seminoles this spring from Times college football beat writer Matt Baker and follow him on Twitter at @MBakerTBTimes.

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