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Daystarter: Florida lawmakers agree on a budget; ex-USF St. Petersburg leader sues university, Judy Genshaft; it's inauguration day for Jane Castor

Check for the latest breaking news and developments.
Check for the latest breaking news and developments.
Published May 1, 2019

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

• Another hot day as highs reach into the 90s, according to the National Weather Service. It'll still be humid, too, with just a 10 percent chance of rain.

• 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.

• Today is the day Jane Castor, the 59-year-old former police chief, will become the city's 59th mayor in a 10 a.m. ceremony highlighting women's voices. Castor will be sworn in to office by U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven during a morning ceremony. She succeeds term-limited Bob Buckhorn, who has served as mayor since 2011. Stay with for updates.

• David Straz lost the Tampa mayoral election to former police chief Jane Castor by a 73-27 percentage point margin and he spent nearly $6 million in doing so. Charlie Frago and Christopher O'Donnell talk to campaign members about the role of the man in charge of the campaign, Nashville political consultant Bill Fletcher, who controlled everything and whose firm was paid $2.8 million — nearly half the campaign war chest.

• Sue Carlton: Where was David Straz, Tampa man of principle? Before he ran a disastrous campaign to be Tampa's next mayor, David Straz made news as a man of principle. Back in 2016, the generous philanthropist whose name graces the performing arts center everyone calls "the Straz" was one of 15 citizens — many of them prominent and wealthy — to serve on the governing board of Tampa General Hospital.

• State attorney stands by plea deal with former chiefs of Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department. The saga of former chiefs David Freda, David Murdock and Travis Morris lasted more than five years and included felony charges of organized fraud. But none of them was convicted.

• Pasco County's budget office charts three things to help keep track of the local economy: building permits, sales tax receipts and trash. The county issued 3,537 permits for new single-family homes in 2018, triple the amount from six years earlier. Just in March of this year, builders obtained nearly 500 permits, a monthly pace that hasn't been seen since before the Great Recession.

• The bills are flying fast and furious as the Florida Legislature races to the end of another session. The Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau has the latest coverage from the state capital at the The Buzz.

• A far-reaching education bill that creates a new private school voucher and restructures the state's teacher bonus program is on its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk, after the Florida House passed it on Tuesday. Emily Mahoney explains how Senate Bill 7070 achieves a goal that has been sought by Republicans since Jeb Bush was governor two decades ago: funding a voucher for low-income families to send their children to private schools by using the state pot of per-student funding for public schools.

• The race to achieve what is one of the governor's most hardline Republican campaign promises is far from reaching the finish line. Samantha Gross reports that the House and Senate are still battling over competing bills relating to federal immigration enforcement by prohibiting "sanctuary" policies and requiring state and local law enforcement to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

• A bill that would make texting while driving a primary offense has reached its last hurdle, but what does that actually mean for motorists in Florida? Allison Graves explains how the bill changes texting while driving from a secondary offense, to something that officers can now pull drivers over for.

•House Speaker José Oliva told the chamber they'd be taking up SB 168, or the Senate's version of a bill to ban so-called "sanctuary cities" in Florida. "I hope that we can get through this before it's time to be back in here tomorrow morning," the Miami Lakes Republican said. Because the bill was taken up before midnight, the Democrats said they fell 10 minutes short of killing the contentious bill, as House rules maintain that a bill cannot be heard twice in one day.

•The Florida Legislature has a budget. How much, exactly? We don't yet know. But lawmakers Tuesday night came to an agreement on all the major issues, and as of midnight, they were still working to get the budget finalized and printed.

• The ex-leader of the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg has sued the USF system and its president Judy Genshaft over a forced resignation nearly two years ago. Megan Reeves reports that Sophia Wisniewska is suing Genshaft, accusing her of releasing defamatory information about her to the Tampa Bay Times in September 2017 (that information being that Wisniewska left the St. Petersburg campus while Hurricane Irma approached, which is why Genshaft fired her.)

• A READING RIDDLE: Students are struggling to read everywhere, but why does Hillsborough County have so many of them? Read the Tampa Bay Times special report by education reporter Marlene Sokol on why Hillsborough school children are struggling to read. For more coverage click below:

• Hillsborough students say their love for reading waned over time. 'I'd rather go outside.'

• Listen to a special edition of the Gradebook podcast: When reading becomes a requirement, can kids love doing it?

• 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.

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

• Disney officials let reporters go behind the walls of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Tuesday, for a rare sneak preview of an attraction under construction. Sharon Kennedy Wynne writes about the brief tour just a few yards of the new 14-acre attraction set to open Aug. 29.

• If you've been paying attention to the cyclical tides of pop culture over the past couple years, it feels like GenX Tavern in downtown is opening right on time. Christopher Spata takes you through a tour of the new Generation X-themd bar at at 103 E Jackson St. for those who grew up in the 80s and 90s.

• In late April, Live Nation announced a weeklong ticket deal for National Concert Week, featuring tickets to some of this summer's best concert tours for just $20, all-in, no fees. That deal, which includes several Tampa and Orlando shows, launches today and runs through May 7.

Kentucky Derby party: Here's the food, dessert and mint julep recipes you need. Set out a menu of barbecue favorites, have a cold cocktail in hand and a nutty chocolate pie. Also, hats.

A new episode of Lane DeGregory podcast: This week, we have a conversation about where to write, how to find your cave.

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

Times sportswriter Rick Stroud has the latest reaction and analysis from the whole team via our Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast.

• Check out the online Sports page to find stories about the Rays, Gators and Bucs.

• The Rays and Royals play an old-fashioned doubleheader today. Click here to get all the details.

• With the rainout, Rays beat writer Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) took some time to assess the Rays' first month. He also chronicled opener Ryne Stanek's emotions about pitching in his hometown. Visit the Times' Rays' page to get the details.

• The latest Bucs news will revolve around a media session with its defensive coaches. We'll update throughout the day.

2019 NFL odds: Playoffs for the Buccaneers? As for Super Bowl LIV (hey, it's possible), the odds of confetti falling on the Bucs on Feb. 2 in Miami are 100-1. Those are the third-worst odds and are higher than they were three months ago, when their odds were 80-1.

Annual post-spring AAC rankings prognostication season, that glorious interlude between spring practice and summer camp, has dawned. A new power could rise in the East Division in 2019.

• Matt Baker (@MBakerTBTimes) says one of the Gators bluechip quarterbacks has decided to transfer.