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Daystarter: Florida again ranked top state for higher education; protestors urged Ron DeSantis to veto toll road bill; Avisail Garcian lead the Rays to win over the Marlins

Check for the latest breaking news and developments.
Published May 15

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

• I'll be hot once again, with highs reaching the upper 80s and partly cloudy skies, according to the National Weather Service. But when we're not sweating we might get wet anyway: There's a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms throughout the day. Enjoy the cool evening, though, as lows drop to the upper 60s.

• 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

• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay including hilarious author David Sedaris reading from his latest book and alt-rockers Toad the Wet Sprocket hit Clearwater.

• Citizens, politicians and environmentalists urged Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto one bill that would build a toll road to Georgiaand another that they say would make it more difficult for people to challenge development decisions in court.

• For the third year in a row, U.S. News and World report named Florida's higher education system the best in the nation. Gov. Ron DeSantis shared the news Tuesday, calling it "no surprise." An overall look at states based on education and seven other key metrics: health care, the economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and corrections, and natural environment.

• A group of local scientists has been working on and off for months to come up with Tampa Bay-area projections for sea level rise. Their verdict: the problem is getting worse. Kirby Wilson explains exactly what that means, which projections should actually concern residents and what the reaction is from Tampa Bay's elected officials.

A mother and two of her children died in a Town 'N Country apartment fire early Wednesday. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue crews and sheriff's deputies responding to a call at 3:23 a.m. about a fire at the Captiva Club Apartments arrived within minutes to find flames rapidly spreading through Building 3, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said at a news conference.

• For three years, a Florida man named Ryan Davis has run a Florida website called "" that features stories he's aggregated from various publications about the bumbling antics of the Sunshine State's ubiquitous superhero, Florida Man. But competition for the Florida Man brand is hot, what with Twitter accounts and now an Oxygen TV series coming out, so Davis says he wants to try to trademark the term "Florida Man" before someone else does, reports Craig Pittman.

• Gov. Ron DeSantis met with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last week and on Tuesday revealed that two — not one —but two Florida counties had election information accessed by Russian hackers. So which two? The governor said he wasn't allowed to name them because federal agents made the governor of Florida sign a nondisclosure agreement. Emily Mahoney untangles the latest revelation that Russian hackers penetrated Florida election system during the 2016 election.

• One thing was clear at a City Council work session Tuesday: The person now charge of Imagine Clearwater brings a new style. Since the City Council fast-tracked the project in 2017, Imagine Clearwater has been delayed by political and logistical indecision. Michael Delk, the interim assistant city manager who recently assumed responsibility for the $50 million project, is looking to change that.

Pasco County school district teachers should begin seeing raises in their paychecks beginning May 17. The increases are permanent and separate from the state-supported Best and Brightest bonus program. Teachers should get retroactive pay as the new rates are applied back to the start of the school year, in checks due in mid-June.

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

• The granddaughter of George Steinbrenner, Broadway performer Haley Swindal returns home to Tampa on Sunday to star alongside fellow Broadway vet Jana Robbins in We Just Move On: The Songs of Kander and Ebb, It's a cabaret featuring the music of the duo behind Chicago, Cabaret and other musicals. "I can go out and perform for 5,000 people, no problem, every single night. But when it's a room full of people that know me and what I've done, that's nerve-wracking and exciting." Read our interview with her here.

• Fans of Abstract Expressionism will want to get to the Tampa Museum of Art. A new exhibit, culled from a private collection includes Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Hans Hoffman and Mark Rothko. There's also work by some of the women in the male-dominated movement, Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell.

Big Bird is coming to the Tampa Bay Comic Convention. Or rather, Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who played Big Bird on Sesame Street from 1969 to 2018, will appear at this year's convention Aug. 2-4 at the Tampa Convention Center. Others slated to join the fan convention are Ron Perlman(Hellboy), Harry Potter film series' Ginny Weasley actress Bonnie Wright, and The Office's Creed Bratton.

Five ideas for recipes that use fresh mint: Mint Chimichurri, Mint Cucumber Water, Smashed Cucumbers With Mint, Mint and Feta Spread, Beet Salad With Mint and Almonds.

• Lane DeGregory podcast: Episode 74 - People in the shadows. ournalists spend a lot of time writing about politicians, athletes and others who live in the spotlight, but people who don't generally make headlines sometimes are the most fascinating stories.

• The Florida Legislature has finished the 2019 session. But what exactly did lawmakers do? The Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau has coverage of all the fallout coverage from the state capital at the The Buzz.

• The Seminole Tribe notified the state on Tuesday that it will stop its $350 million annual casino payments to Florida effective immediately until it settles a years-long dispute with Florida over multiplayer games, reports Samantha J. Gross and Emily L. Mahoney.

• 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.

• An Allegiant Air flight hit a bird within five minutes of taking off from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport Monday evening, prompting the pilots to turn around and return to the airport, reports Richard Danielson.

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

• 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.

• 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.

• Lavonte David knows he could be next. A year from now, the Bucs linebacker will be 30. He will be entering his ninth season. He will have a $10.75 million contract for 2020, none of it guaranteed. Rick Stroud asks, could David be the next Gerald McCoy, a popular but expensive veteran who the Bucs decide may no longer fit into their plans?

• 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.

Dan Girardi is one of the Lightning's top defenseman — but he's also the oldest player on the roster, after turning 35 last month. He is the second longest-tenured player on the team but suffered a month-long lower-body injury that led to his shortest season since 2012-13, logging only 62 games this year. He also makes $3 million a year. So Mari Faiello tries to answer the question, was this Girardi's last season playing for the Lightning?

• We asked Tampa's NASCAR driver about the coolest perk his job has allowed him to do. Aric Almirola got to experience one of the perks of being a NASCAR driver this week when he and his son visited the Lions' facility in advance of the series' stop at Michigan next month.

• Region softball: Sickles outlasts Plant City in 19 innings. Sophomore second baseman Annalise Santiago was only 7 in 2010 when that happened, and it was her bloop single over the Plant City third baseman's head with two outs in the 19th that scored pinch-runner Ally Hulme from third with the winning run.

• At this moment, USF's foreseeable non-conference schedule looks appealing, sturdy, perhaps even rugged. Currently, it has 14 non-conference games scheduled against Power Five opposition over the next 10 seasons. But that's only skimming the surface. Just how strong is the collective Power Five opposition these teams are scheduling?

• 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.


  1. Check for the latest breaking news and developments.
    The shooting happened on the 5100 block of Matanzas Avenue, police said.
  2. Check for the latest breaking news and updates.
    Charges in the incident are pending, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
  3. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks to reporters in Tampa on Aug. 21. Delays in his filling vacancies on the state's five water management district boards have twice led to those agencies canceling meetings to levy taxes and set budgets, which one expert said was unprecedented. OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES  |  Times
    Vacancies lead to canceling two agencies’ budget meetings.
  4. Jessica Stoneking, Seven Springs Elementary School art teacher, and a group of kindergarten children enjoy a colorful floor rug during instruction time.  The rug is one of the many flexible seating options art students have in Stoneking's class. Gail Diederich
  5. President Donald Trump listens to music by military musicians during a State Dinner in the Rose Garden at the White House, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) AP
    Allies of Joe Biden, the early front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary, seized on the developments to portray him as the candidate Trump least wants to face next fall.
  6. Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil says religious leaders must be empathetic to the needs of families members of those who die by suicide. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Attitudes have evolved with understanding about mental illness
  7. Rabbi Reb Tuviah (Paul Schreiber) is rarely seen without his guitar. He will sing at the upcoming Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at Temple Beth David in Spring Hill. Paul Schreiber
  8. Joshua Michael Nichols, 21, was arrested by Pasco County Sheriff's deputies on Saturday in connection to the early morning shooting death of an unidentified man during an argument outside a Spring Hill home. [Pasco County Sheriff's Office] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    One person is in custody. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
  9. Yesterday• Pasco
    Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, received his third “Paul Harris Award.” the highest recognition from the Rotary Club, on Aug. 15. The pin was presented to Dr. Musunuru, a nationally-recognized cardiologist, by Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins in recognition of his humanitarian and philanthropic services to the people of Pasco County and the State of Florida for nearly 40 years. Pictured: Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, (left) and Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins. Jemith Rosa/Hudson Rotary Club
    News and notes about your neighbors
  10. A Lancaster County Sheriff's deputy walks around the Old Skool Sports Bar and Grill, the scene of a shooting early in the morning, north of Lancaster, S.C. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  Lancaster County Sherriff's Office said in a statement that the agency was investigating a fatal shooting that also injured several people.  (Jessica Holdman/The Post And Courier via AP) JESSICA HOLDMAN  |  AP
    Two adult males were shot and killed.