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State hires workers to combat hepatitis A emergency, the most obese metro area in Florida, and other news you may have missed



Florida seeking new SunPass contractor after Conduent loses $50 million: Florida's Turnpike Enterprise is seeking to replace its back-office structure, after criticism for more than a year about a troubled project to upgrade the SunPass collection system. The Department of Transportation last week announced it's looking for vendors with experience in processing complex transactions and account management systems. The announcement came after Nicola Liquori, executive director of the Turnpike Enterprise, advised lawmakers that losses in toll collections could exceed $50 million since the upgrade project was undertaken by Conduent, a company still under contract. In July, Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault announced that Conduent's $343 million SunPass contract wouldn't be renewed when it expires in three years.

Florida is hiring part-time workers to combat its record hepatitis outbreak: The state has hired part-time workers to help abate the growing hepatitis A public health emergency, Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees said last week. Rivkees told the House Health Quality Subcommittee that his department has used $3 million in funds from county health departments to hire additional help. Hepatitis A is most prevalent in portions of Central Florida, including along the Interstate 4 corridor, which Rivkees pointed out is a heavily traveled area of the state. As of Sept. 14, Florida has had 2,540 reported cases of hepatitis A.

Florida's minimum-wage amendment tops 700,000 signatures: A campaign for a constitutional amendment that would increase Florida's minimum wage has collected more than 700,000 petition signatures. Florida for a Fair Wage, an initiative chaired and bankrolled by Orlando-based attorney John Morgan, has submitted 705,920 valid signatures to the state of Florida as of last week. If passed, the amendment will increase the state's minimum wage to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021 and increase it by $1 every year until Sept. 30, 2026. The petition must reach 766,200 valid signatures by a February deadline in order to be eligible for the November 2020 ballot. The state's current minimum wage is set at $8.46 an hour.

Orange County commission candidate accused of violating campaign laws: Anjali Vaya, whose Orange County Commission District 5 campaign has barely gotten off the ground, is being accused of violating as many as eight state and federal laws. Orange County Democratic Party chair Wes Hodge filed a complaint last week with the Internal Revenue Service and the Florida Elections Commission to investigate. In an email response to the Orange County Democratic Party Chair's claims, Vaya said that Hodge and District 5 Commissioner Emily Bonilla have collaborated to spread false accusations about her campaign. Hodge has denied those claims.

Study shows the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area is the most obese in Florida: According to a new study, the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area has an adult obesity rate of 35.3 percent, which is the highest in the state of Florida and significantly higher than the national average of 30 percent. The report also found that 27.2 percent of Lakeland-Winter Haven adults don't exercise, 20.3 percent reported feeling that they are in fair or poor health, and 14.1 percent live with diabetes. The report looked at 382 metro areas in the country, and was based on data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program's 2019 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report.

This story is from the Sept. 25, 2019, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.


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