Lakeland's Confederate statue is finally coming down: It only took a years-long debate and a federal lawsuit, but the 108-year-old Confederate monument in Lakeland's downtown Munn Park is finally coming down. The process of moving the statue about a mile down the road to Veterans Memorial Park began last week, says a spokesperson for the City of Lakeland. The project will cost roughly $225,000. It's expected to be completed by mid-April, once the statue has been reassembled in its new location.
Thad Seymour will continue as UCF interim president until 2020: University of Central Florida trustees voted last week to keep Thad Seymour Jr. in the role of interim president. Seymour, previously UCF's vice president for partnerships and chief innovation officer, was tapped last month to serve in the short-term role. That came after President Dale Whittaker resigned amid a financial scandal stemming from the misuse of money for a campus building project. With the trustees' decision, Seymour would continue as interim president during a months-long process to choose a replacement for Whittaker. The decision to keep Seymour in the interim role is expected to go before the state university system's Board of Governors this week for approval.
Orlando will launch a new rideshare hub program in downtown this spring: The two rideshare hubs will be located at Magnolia Avenue near Heritage Square and Gertrude Avenue near Jefferson and Washington Streets. There will be designated pick-up lanes for cabs and rideshare drivers working with Uber and Lyft, as well as public restrooms, enhanced lighting and dedicated security. The hubs are part of a six-month pilot program, open Friday and Saturday nights from midnight to 3 a.m., the city's busiest hours.
Florida's largest medical marijuana provider has already started selling smokable cannabis: Trulieve announced last week that it's already selling smokable cannabis, with its first sale of the product to a patient at a Tallahassee dispensary. The move comes days after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that repealed the state's ban on smoking. Trulieve says it will offer a rotating selection of popular whole-flower strains at all 26 of its dispensaries statewide. The company also plans to roll out smokable medical marijuana in a variety of forms, including pre-rolled.
Critics blast Florida GOP effort to make ex-felons pay fees before restoring rights as 'modern poll tax': Felons would have to clear up court costs, fees and fines before having their voting rights restored under a House proposal castigated by critics as a modern take on poll taxes designed to keep black voters from participating in elections. In a party-line vote following heated testimony, a House subcommittee signed off on the measure aimed at clarifying parts of a constitutional amendment approved by voters in November. Amendment 4 granted "automatic" restoration of voting rights to felons "who have completed all terms of their sentence, including parole or probation." The amendment excluded people "convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense."