Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
• The wet is set to give way to the cold. After 1-2 inches of rainfall fell across the region this past weekend, cold fronts are expected to roll into the Tampa Bay region one after the other, according to the National Weather Service. Wake-up weather will be in the 40s today, and it’ll warm up to the mid to upper 60s. But there will also be a 20 percent chance of rain. The cold will stay for Wednesday and Thursday but at least those partly-cloudy days will also be dry days. Friday will see the first 70-degree temps of the week, but a 20-percent rain of rain will also return.
• Evolution and climate change are well-established fact in the scientific community — but not in the Florida Legislature. A new bill that would allow school districts to teach Florida students alternatives to concepts deemed “controversial theories” — such as human-caused climate change and evolution — has been filed in the state Legislature.
Emily Mahoney reports that the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said that schools need to teach “different worldviews” on issues like evolution and climate change. He asserts that textbooks now skew toward “uniformity” of thought. But Ben Kirtman, a professor of Atmospheric Sciences the University of Miami, said the science is resolved: “I find this a way to create artificial doubt about the science to control policy conversation, which is antithetical to the way we do things in this country … The danger is you’re going to have people who don’t have a fundamental understanding of the way science works.”
• Twenty-four credits. A grade-point average of 2.0 or better. Passing scores on the state’s Algebra I and 10th grade reading tests, or their alternatives. Most Florida teenagers know that list: They’re the requirements to earn a standard diploma from a public high school. But Jeffrey Solochek reports on legislators trying to create “alternate pathways” to get that diploma.
• Tampa Bay’s oldest farmers’ market and community supported agriculture business is shutting down after 26 years in business. Sweetwater Organic Community Farm is no longer running its weekly Sunday market nor providing shares of produce to members. Laura Reiley reports on the farm’s closure and the resulting fallout.
• Argosy University, with an enrollment of 450 and an iconic cigar-factory campus off Interstate 275 in Tampa, has been ordered to explain whether it can stay afloat financially or face the loss of its accreditation. Students still are attending classes at the Tampa campus of the California-based school, which has operations coast to coast, but Argosy officials must meet in the next 90 days with their accrediting agency, WASC Senior College and University Commission, according to a letter from the commission.
• Not too long ago in Winter Park — the hometown of attorney and medical marijuana champion John Morgan — Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the Legislature an ultimatum: either it changes Florida law to allow smoking medical marijuana or he will do so with litigation. Less than two weeks later, two bills have already been filed. The most recent is by a Republican state senator who appears to have found a receptive ear in the governor. Samantha Gross explains how St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes is getting the governor’s attention.
• DeSantis has tapped Hillsborough Circuit Judge Laurel Lee to be Florida’s next Secretary of State, following the abrupt resignation of her predecessor last week after photos surfaced of him in blackface. Lee, a former federal prosecutor, is the wife of state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa. She has no experience in elections, as Lawrence Mower reports, but she has deep ties to Florida’s attorney general and was being considered as a running mate to DeSantis last year. She will take control of an office that could help shape the outcome of the 2020 presidential election in the nation’s largest swing state.
• For the latest in Florida politics, make sure to check The Buzz.
• It’s a fundraising practice you may not have heard about. Nonprofit hospitals around the country are digging into patient records to look for possible big-money donors. They’re called “grateful patient programs,” and they’re legal. But some experts question whether such practices are ethical.
• Airbnb collected nearly $90 million in tax dollars from Florida visitors last year, roughly double what the room-sharing and renting platform paid to the Sunshine State and its counties the year before. As Sara DiNatale explains, one of the primary reasons for the spike is the growth of tourism in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties as well as the state overall.
• There have been no audiences at the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park mermaid show since November, when much of the park closed for renovations. When it reopens in March, the finished interior will feel familiar to longtime visitors.
• Unlike teenagers running for their lives in a slasher flick, St. Petersburg-based iHorror.com came through 2018 without a stumble. In fact, the online publication covering all things horror even dipped into the making of movies for the first time, signing production deals with Dan Myrick, director of The Blair Witch Project, and Pinstripe Productions, run by George Steinbrenner's grandson Robert Molloy. Now, 2019 is starting with two more film-related announcements from iHorror as it ventures into new territory again with streaming content. Read more from Paul Guzzo.
• Pasco County home prices are so far below those in Hillsborough and Pinellas that even huge estates seem relatively affordable. That combination of lower prices and bigger lots is drawing luxury-home buyers. We look at Pasco's five most expensive homes sold last year (actually six, because two tied at $1.1 million) and the buyers.
• Check out the Times online Business page for the latest on the economy, jobs, real estate, retail and workplace culture.
• It’s the 10th anniversary of that time Bruce Springsteen performed at halftime of Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa and then, uh, slid into a camera groin-first. Jay Cridlin recounts that famous halftime show put on by Springsteen and the E Street Band and how the performance lives on to this day.
• The Times online Arts and Entertainment page tells you everything you need to know about what to do, see, eat and experience around town.
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Read the Tampa Bay Times online Sports page with the latest news about the Lightning, Bucs, Rays, Bulls, Gators, Noles and high school sports.
• Jim McKean spent 30 years as a Major League Baseball umpire, displaying a quick mind and affable nature that made him so well-liked throughout the game. The St. Petersburg resident died Thursday at the age of 73. His funeral was Monday, and Marc Topkin was there where those who remembered McKean best shared stories about the big games he worked and the big calls he made.
• NHL All-Star weekend is over, and it’s time for the Lightning to get back to work. Their next foe, the Penguins, already had a game set for Monday. But the Lightning have two practices before Wednesday’s matchup in Pittsburgh. As Mari Faiello reports, Lightning coach Jon Cooper figures getting those couple of extra days of practice in before playing right away is very beneficial for his players.
• The Times can keep you up-to-date on the Lightning’s quest for the Stanley Cup: Click here for the latest news throughout the season and get the updates on @Twitter from beat writer Diana C. Nearhos at @dianacnearhos and Mari Faiello at @faiello_mari.
• Once, it was the perfect argument for bars and schoolyards alike. Did you prefer Unitas or Starr? Montana or Marino? Elway or Manning? But sports columnist John Romano writes that Tom Brady has settled all those debates about the game’s greatest quarterbacks once and for all.
• “We’re still here!” Tom Brady chanted at a pep rally this weekend before the Patriots’ flight to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII. Well, yeah. They’re always here. Sunday will mark the Patriots’ ninth Super Bowl appearance in 18 seasons. They’ve won five times and are favorites to win again. But if Brady is already the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) then what other Super Bowl quarterbacks measure up? Thomas Bassinger has a statistical analysis of the greatest Super Bowl quarterback performances ever.
• The Bucs have a new head coach. Keep up with all the offseason changes and get ready for the NFL draft 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.