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Florida in focus: Hillsborough leaders move forward with toll lanes, Tampa Bay next

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Tampa Bay Times: Hillsborough leaders move forward with toll lanes, Tampa Bay next

Hillsborough County leaders voted Tuesday to move forward with a plan to add 90 miles of toll lanes to Tampa Bay’s interstates despite continued opposition from people who would live near them.

The Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization — a 16-person board which approves transportation projects — listened to more than three-and-a-half hours of public comment on its Transportation Improvement Program, which lists the county’s priorities for the next five years. Though the TIP includes dozens of projects, from road maintenance to bike paths, the evening’s debate centered around only one of those: Tampa Bay Next, the interstate expansion plan formerly known as Tampa Bay Express.

The vast majority of speakers urged the board to remove Tampa Bay Next from the TIP, but the board voted 12-3 to approve the five-year plan as is. County Commissioner Ken Hagan was not present for the final vote.

“There’s no construction for the most contentious parts of this project until years and years and years from now,” said Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen, who expressed concerns over Tampa Bay Next but voted to approve the plan. “I believe we’re in a better place today than we were a year ago. I’m just not willing to pull the plug on that.”

Panama City News Herald: Gov. Rick Scott weighs controversial schools bill

With a controversial and wide-ranging education bill now on his desk, Gov. Rick Scott faces intense pressure from both sides as he weighs whether to sign or veto the legislation.

Rumors have begun floating that Scott will sign HB 7069 later this week, but the governor maintains he hasn’t made a final decision. Scott received the bill late Monday; he has until June 27 to sign the proposal, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.

The 278-page bill, which emerged in the closing days of the regular legislative session, deals with everything from charter schools and standardized tests to sunscreen and school uniforms.

The legislation was a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, and opponents fear Scott agreed to sign the bill in exchange for having his priorities approved during a special session last week.

Orlando Sentinel: Rather than disclose salaries, Experience Kissimmee could quit Visit Florida

Experience Kissimmee CEO DT Minich vowed Tuesday against releasing private information — including the salaries for his board of directors — in the wake of lawmakers pushing for more transparency at the Visit Florida tourism agency.

Minich gave an update to officials during Tuesday’s Osceola County Tourist Development Council in Kissimmee.

After the meeting, Experience Kissimmee spokeswoman Jodi DiSalle said the agency could decide later this summer to pull out of Visit Florida if the state’s new requirements pushing for more disclosure of financial information are enacted.

She said leaving Visit Florida wouldn’t change Experience Kissimmee’s status as a public-private agency or its mission, although they would miss out on some advantages such as communications.

Naples Daily News: Tourist Development Council remains undecided on tourism tax allocations

After Collier County commissioners voted unanimously to raise the county bed tax Tuesday, the Tourist Development Council did not come to an agreement over its allocation and will postpone its decision until the next meeting on June 26.

The joint meeting between the council and the Board of County Commissioners ended in a unanimous vote in support of a new sports facility to be built in East Naples.

The allocation proposal, which set aside $3.75 million for amateur sports, mainly to fund the new facility, also increased funding for beach renourishment and maintenance but decreased the percentage of funding allocated to museums and marketing.

Local hoteliers, hotel managers and sports team coaches largely spoke in favor of the proposed budget, arguing that sports events would help bring new groups of visitors to the area and provide opportunities for children and young adults.