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ICYMI: Change may be on the way for Florida medical marijuana industry, SeaWorld raises employees’ starting pay to $11 an hour, and more

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Change on the horizon for medical marijuana industry: The DeSantis administration could bring a sharp turnaround in how state officials approach the highly regulated medical marijuana industry. DeSantis, a Republican, is unwilling to continue some of the court battles now being waged by the outgoing administration, according to Lt. Gov.-elect Jeanette Nuñez. When asked where the DeSantis administration stands on the caps on medical marijuana licenses imposed by the state Legislature and whether the new governor plans to continue the appeals launched by Scott, Nuñez told the News Service of Florida that DeSantis "has said he's not interested in continuing that fight."

Scientists discover new species of giant salamander living in Florida: Researchers dubbed the new species a "reticulated siren" (or Siren reticulata), according to a paper published in the biology journal PLOS ONE. David Steen, a wildlife biologist at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, and Sean Graham, a vertebrate zoologist at Sul Ross State University of Texas, were the researchers behind the discovery and co-authored the paper. The scientists said they first stumbled across the creature in 2009, though it took five years to gather similar samples. Per their research, the unusual creature can grow up to two feet in length, and is completely aquatic, preferring to live in swamps or mud.

State Sen. Linda Stewart files bill to remove statute of limitations on youth rape prosecutions: Last week, state Sen. Linda Stewart filed legislation that seeks to remove the statute of limitations for prosecution of rape cases involving young victims, which would allow a victim who is younger than 18 years when the offense is committed to pursue prosecution of their attacker at any time in the future, versus being forced to report the alleged crime within the parameters of a legal time frame. "Many young sexual battery victims do not come forward when they are first assaulted" due to fear or shame, says Stewart. "Justice for these children should not be tied to a clock."

Florida's concealed-weapon permit process lacked oversight: A report on the state's concealed-carry permitting process found a lack of oversight by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, but the agency claims it is addressing the issues. The examination of the department's handling of the permitting program, issued by a state auditor, found the agency needs more controls over employees that review applications for several positions. Issues with the background-check process were first highlighted over the summer, as Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was running for governor in the Republican primary against Ron DeSantis.

SeaWorld raises employee starting pay to $11 an hour: Starting Monday, SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove employees in Orlando saw their pay bumped to $11 an hour, making the company the latest to ante up, a spokesperson confirmed. SeaWorld joins Disney and Universal in introducing recent pay increases. "We are continually evaluating our pay rates and make adjustments when necessary to remain competitive in the industry," a statement from SeaWorld says. Asked to comment on the company's previous minimum wage and whether there will be future adjustments for employees at other pay levels, the spokesperson declined.

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