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News at noon: The most-lobbied bills of the Florida House session; Oldsmar temporarily shuts down its nationally known BMX track; and more

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Florida House: These were the 9 most-lobbied bills of the session

Amid dozens of bills passed in the last few days of the legislative session, some inevitably steal the spotlight. Partisan, emotional measures like the bills to allow arming teachers and a ban on so-called "sanctuary cities" draw media attention and inspire protests. But Florida's most powerful industries spent most of their time on other bills. Corporations, industry groups and cities paid lobbyists this year in droves to fight or push wonky and far-reaching legislation — especially if it has to do with healthcare or local government. The following bills had the highest total numbers of lobbyists and clients in 2019.

Oldsmar temporarily shuts down its nationally known BMX track

One of the sporting jewels of the Tampa Bay area closed last month with little warning, and no one knows when it might reopen. Oldsmar's state-of-the-art BMX track in Canal Park has hosted national competitions and Olympic hopefuls. The city has invested millions maintaining and renovating the track, which opened in 2002. But on April 11, the city announced in a Facebook post that a "routine inspection" showed "areas of concern" in the track. The course would have to close indefinitely.

Zero waste in St. Pete? New retailers take root

Within the last few months, the three St. Pete entrepreneurs have set up shops that are anti-packaging and pro all-natural ingredients: Kenwood's Organic Produce, Sans Market and the Refillery. Embracing what is often called the zero-waste movement, these new stores cater to those trying to cut down on their plastic consumption. Even the big retailers are paying attention, pledging their own measures to cut down on package waste over the next five to 10 years. But this latest wave of small retailers would like to see most packaging gone altogether.

We want more arts reporting. Here's what we plan to do about it.

Here at the Tampa Bay Times, we do our best to cover all of the arts. In the glory days of print journalism, we had a robust staff of arts and entertainment writers dedicated to dispatching context and criticism from each and every niche. But today, as we have sustained the wild fluctuations of our industry, our arts staff is much smaller. When budgets get tight, arts writers are often the first thing to go. Here's how we're going to start the conversation around the arts and move forward.

Sports Illustrated: Rays are 'the most interesting team in baseball'

The Rays haven't often gotten national media attention, and when they have it's usually centered around their low attendance figures or the controversy surrounding one of their innovations. Emma Baccellieri's story in the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated is nothing of the sort. "Tampa Bay is, yes, the most interesting team in baseball," Baccellieri writes. It's not just that the Rays' 20-11 record is tied for second-best in all of baseball. It's how they are winning. Because they are constantly having to adapt, they are, in effect, changing the way the game is played.

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