Daystarter: Elections in Pinellas; new zombie campaign draws complaint; why don’t Florida nursing homes allow medical pot?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
Everything you need to know to start your day is at
Everything you need to know to start your day is at
Published March 13
Updated March 13

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

• Expect a mostly sunny day with a high near 81, according to the National Weather Service. Afternoon clouds should roll in.

• Last year, the Tampa Bay Times and WTSP did an investigation into zombie campaigns — politicians who were hoarding unspent campaign money for years or even decades, then it to boost their personal lives. Monday, a watchdog group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission saying it had found a new one — a Florida congressman who turned his money into a political action committee, which then spent thousands on Apple products, fancy meals and a trip to Disney.

• After his 88-year-old mother fell and broke her neck six years ago, Bill Crouse knew he needed to do something. For four months his mother was “off the planet” on opiates in a Plantation nursing home. She was depressed, anxious, constipated and “meaner than snot.” Why don’t Florida nursing homes allow medical pot?

• Hundreds of former felons celebrated on the steps of the state Capitol on Tuesday, more than four months after Florida voters passed Amendment 4, a ballot measure that is estimated to restore voting rights to more than 1.2 million residents. Yet inside the Capitol, lawmakers may soon spark another fight over who gets to vote — this time over the definition of “murder.” Since November, Republican lawmakers have talked about bringing legislation to clarify the law. Now, that clarification is coming in the form of a soon-to-be-filed bill. And one of the key senators on the committee drafting that bill says he wants to make attempted murder a disqualifying offense.

• Residents of six Pinellas cities and the Pinellas Suncoast Fire District went to the polls Tuesday to decide a slew of elected offices, referendums and charter amendments. Tarpon Springs Mayor Chris Alahouzos won a second term. We have a roundup of results.

• Peter Sebastian Cimino was a young man from Tampa who loved fishing, God and serving in the U.S. Army. Sunday, March 3, his mother and father received a visit no parent ever wants. The soldiers came to say that Cimino, 19, a private with the 173d Airborne Brigade Combat team, stationed at Caserma Ederle, in Vicenza, Italy, was found dead on base.

• The Clearwater company OnMed has unveiled the first station that links patients with a doctor or nurse via teleconferencing and then provides the medication. The medical kiosk is set to open in Mississippi next month, and the company hopes to see two in Florida later this year.

• The battle over the former house of Doc Webb, founder of the “World’s Most Unusual Drug Store,’’ has escalated as the current owners say a neighbor is trying to force them to sell it to her.

• John Trevena, one of three lawyers representing Clearwater parking lot shooter Michael Drejka, is accused of shoving his ex-wife while picking up belongings he said were his. The arrest is the latest controversy for a legal team mired in it.

• A Super PAC that spent more than $100 million in support of Jeb Bush’s failed 2016 presidential campaign has been hit with a massive fine by the Federal Elections Commission for soliciting more than $1 million in political contributions from Chinese nationals.

• After heated back-and-forth with committee Democrats, Sen. Joe Gruters’ controversial anti-sanctuary city bill cleared its second of three hurdles Tuesday. After the vote advocates for the immigrant communities erupted into shouts of “shame on you,” and many were escorted out of the committee room by security. The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee voted 5-3 along party lines in the final minute of the meeting, approving the much-contested Senate Bill 168, which died in the Senate last year.

• Achievement program off to good start in bringing equity to Hillsborough district, school board says. Filling teacher positions and keeping scores up remain question marks in first year. McManus and Superintendent Jeff Eakins are pleased with steps taken to reshape larger systems, including human resources and teacher training. But challenges remain.

• An incendiary Facebook post has once again created controversy for the Hillsborough County Republican Party — this time, one comparing Democrats to Nazis.The Facebook post was later deleted after a social media storm, including outrage from prominent local Republicans.

• Two incumbent Port Richey City Council members won re-election Tuesday when their only challenger was kicked off the ballot. Payment error ends Port Richey Council elections four weeks before Election Day.

• Airline pilots on at least two U.S. flights have reported that an automated system seemed to cause their Boeing 737 Max planes to tilt down suddenly.

• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay including a cult film screening at the Epicurean Hotel, the Heights Night Market and LGBTQ+ women showcase their art.

• Here’s a first for Tampa: Saturday brings a Slime Rodeo — a fan convention for people like to buy, make and play with the goo that has become a social media sensation. The mastermind behind this sold-out event at the Tampa Convention Center is a 13 year old girl from Texas.

• Thousands of beer fans raised a glass as brewers remember Greg Rapp, a godfather of the Tampa Bay craft beer scene.

• Attention Harry Potter fans! We have more details on the Hagrid-themed coaster coming to Universal in June wehre riders will encounter some of the wizarding world’s magical creatures in a Forbidden Forest now being constructed with more than 1,200 trees.

• We’ve got news of restaurant openings in Tampa Bay including the Brass Bowl and Lucy’s in St. Pete; Oak and Ola at Armature Works in Tampa and more.

’No-name storm’ wrought havoc on Florida 26 years ago. The unexpected storm caught Floridians by surprise, causing major damage and taking lives.

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• For the latest in Florida politics, make sure to check The Buzz.

• 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.

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

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

• 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.

• Federal indictments unsealed in Boston on Tuesday outlined a sweeping college admissions bribery scandal that ensnared coaches and officials at several top schools. The latest scandal to taint college athletics hit sports far from the spotlight and exposed a seamy side door into some of the nation’s elite universities: coaches taking bribes to recruit non-athletes and help them ease past tough admissions policies.

• The Bucs can thank the Browns' trade for Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., for their latest addition as Tampa Bay signed receiver Breshad Perriman, along with kicker Cairo Santos.

• The Lightning has literally banked on such loyalty in the midst of its landmark season. As Tampa Bay bids for a record-setting 62 wins during its Stanley Cup or bust march, team officials quietly sent out renewal notices and playoff ticket sales for season ticket holders last month with a 10 percent increase — the same year after year price hike it’s had before — and not much fanfare.

• Only the Bucs can be bad and broke at same time. Sports columnist Martin Fennelly says Tampa Bay’s delusional 2018 laid the seeds for being a spectator during free agency and beyond.

Like the rest of hometown, NASCAR driver Aric Almirola has a strong Cuban influence. His grandparents gave up almost everything to flee Fidel Castro’s government more than 50 years ago. Eventually, his family settled in Tampa, where Almirola grew up and went to Hillsborough High.

• Spring training is here. Plan your spring training trips by using the Times’ handy 2019 spring training guide for Grapefruit League schedules, maps and daily planners.

• For the latest on the Lightning’s quest for the Stanley Cup, click here throughout the season and follow beat writers Diana C. Nearhos at @dianacnearhos and Mari Faiello at @faiello_mari.

• Get the latest Rays’ spring training news from Marc Topkin and follow him throughout baseball season on @Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays .

• The Bucs have a new head coach and the NFL draft is just weeks away. Keep up with the latest offseason changes by following the Times’ Bucs page which is just a click away at For the latest team news on @Twitter, follow Rick Stroud at @NFLSTROUD and fellow beat writer Eduardo A. Encina at @EddieInTheYard.

• 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 sports news, reaction and analysis from Times sportswriter Rick Stroud and the rest of the crew on the Bucs, Bulls, Lightning, Gators, ‘Noles and Rays via our Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast.