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Daystarter: State to ramp up work on West Shore interchange; Sen. Rouson lands $1 million for wife's project; near-record high temperatures all week

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
Everything you need to know to start your day is at tampabay.com
Published Feb. 18

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

• In the weather on this President's Day, look out for areas of patchy fog before 9 a.m. and a 20 percent chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service. Otherwise, high pressure remains in firm control across the region, meaning enough sunshine, minimal rain chances, and temperatures that will be well above average — and even flirting with record highs.

• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay, including Fleetwood Mac at Amalie Arena, the last day of the Florida State Fair, and getting serious about your training for this weekend's big Gasparilla Distance Classic.

• After the only winless season of his full-time NASCAR Cup Series career, Tampa-born Denny Hamlin drove his way back into Victory Lane in the 2019 opener. He outlasted Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch and withstood a wreck-filled final 30 laps to win Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

• The state Department of Transportation has decided to go full steam ahead on a $1.1 billion project to revamp the Interstate 275 interchange at West Shore Boulevard. It's a shift for the state — moving forward with both West Shore and expansion of the interstate footprint in the urban zone through downtown Tampa. But with the public still pushing back against the Tampa portion, the state is hoping to score a win at West Shore while buying time to get community consensus on the rest.

• Florida Sen. Darryl Rouson sought $1.7 million in the 2017-2018 state budget for a daycare center tied to his church. He eventually got the center $1 million. But the St. Petersburg Democrat didn't disclose that his wife, Angela Rouson, held positions in both organizations, according to Florida Senate records. Read how Rouson justifies the overlap.

• Florida Democrat Rep. Alcee Hastings criticized President Donald Trump for ignoring the topic of gun violence during his State of the Union address.

• More and more workplaces are offering pet insurance as an optional benefit for its workers. Florida is one a leading market for one of the country's biggest pet insurance companies. Take a closer look at workplaces that build their culture around pets.

• Florida school districts are trying to figure out what to do about approving and buying new textbooks after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he wants to get rid of the Common Core state standards. All the books are based on the standards.

• Pitch clocks in baseball? MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Sunday that they're coming to exhibition games to get players and umpires used to them for the regular season. This "soft phase in" will include no penalties for violations and may be the easiest to implement of several "pace of play" adjustments under consideration.

• The comic strip Non Sequitur leaves the pages of the Tampa Bay Times today after creator Wiley Miller slipped in a slur aimed at President Donald Trump without telling anyone. The Times joins a number of newspapers nationwide in taking the action. Read what's behind the decision and look for a reboot of the classic comic strip Nancy as a replacement for now.

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• Some not-so-sweet emotions are probably swirling through Plant City right about now. Aerosmith's Steven Tyler cancels Strawberry Festival concert.

• Going to Hamilton? Here are some tips on where to park.

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

• Names fly around Twitter, Reddit and everywhere else people talk hockey when the NHL trade deadline approaches. Here are five questions about the Lightning and Simmonds.

• Read the Tampa Bay Times online Sports page with the latest news about the Lightning, Bucs, Rays, Bulls, Gators, Noles and high school sports.

• 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 tampabay.com. 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.

• 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.

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