Axios Tampa Bay

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Today's newsletter is 903 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Abortion ban sets stakes for ballot effort

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Advocates are confident that Florida's Supreme Court decision to allow the state's near-total abortion ban to take effect could boost their effort to enshrine reproductive rights in the state's constitution.

Why it matters: Republicans hold a supermajority in Florida's legislature and have leveraged that to chip away at abortion access — first to 15 weeks, then to six weeks. Now, voters will have a chance to weigh in.

  • Abortion opponents called the high court's decision to greenlight the ballot effort "disappointing," adding that if it succeeds, Florida will become "the most pro-abortion state in the southern U.S."

Catch up quick: Abortion rights supporters began collecting signatures for the ballot effort nearly a year ago, a month after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a six-week ban into law.

  • They hit the signature threshold needed to trigger a state Supreme Court review of the ballot question in September, and gathered enough to make the ballot this January.
  • Yesterday, the high court approved the ballot question — but also upheld the 15-week ban, a ruling that triggers the six-week ban in 30 days.
  • The amendment would protect access to abortion until fetal viability, which is generally around 24–28 weeks of pregnancy.

What they're saying: "Today's rulings prove exactly what is at stake at the ballot box," Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried said. "Florida is now home to one of the strictest abortion bans in the country."

  • "Floridians value their freedom from government interference," Lauren Brenzel, director for the Yes on 4 campaign, which sponsored the amendment, said in a statement. "They will make that known loud and clear with their votes in November."

The other side: "Today's victory for unborn children who have a heartbeat and can feel pain is in line with the views of the majority of Floridians," Katie Daniel of SBA Pro-Life America said.

  • "We are very disappointed that a deceptively worded pro-abortion amendment is allowed to appear on Florida's ballot in November," Republican Party of Florida Chairman Evan Power said.

What's next: The ballot measure to alter the constitution needs support from 60% of voters to succeed.

2. 💨 Recreational marijuana also heads to ballot

Cannabis plants in a greenhouse at a Cresco Labs Inc. facility in Indiantown, near Jupiter. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida voters will have their say this November on whether to legalize recreational marijuana.

Why it matters: A majority of Florida voters support adult-use marijuana, polls show.

State of play: State Supreme Court justices yesterday approved the language of a proposed constitutional amendment seeking to make the policy change.

  • Their ruling comes five months after justices heard from lawyers representing the group backing the amendment and the office of Attorney General Ashley Moody, who asked the court to disqualify the initiative.

Between the lines: Whether it will be enough of a majority is still in question. The ballot initiative needs at least 60% approval from voters.

  • Two-thirds of respondents to a University of North Florida poll conducted in November said they would vote in favor.

Go deeper: Medical marijuana giant funded group behind amendment

3. The Pulp: Kids go without health care coverage

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

💊 Metro Inclusive Health, an LGBTQ health care non-profit, is adding a "copay it forward" pharmacy next to its health center on Central Avenue in downtown St. Pete. (ilovetheburg)

💸 USF St. Petersburg secured a $1 million donation for scholarships supporting single parents. (Tampa Bay Business Journal)

🧩 A Tampa father is speaking out about struggling to get services for his 5-year-old son. Chaz, who has autism, is one of 34,000 kids in Hillsborough County and 460,000 in Florida to lose Medicaid coverage in the past year. (WFLA)

4. 🏟️ Readers back Rays stadium plans

More of you support than oppose the redevelopment plan for the new Rays stadium and Historic Gas Plant District.

By the numbers: Of the 1,475 Axios Tampa Bay readers who voted in our poll last week, 55% favor the plan.

  • St. Petersburg City Council members in November voted against pursuing a straw poll to gauge public opinion, per the Times.

Why it matters: Hundreds of millions of public dollars will be spent on the project and surrounding infrastructure.

What you're saying: Reader Dave Morganthall, who works in construction consulting, said increasing jobs and parking will be worth the investment.

  • "With proper coordination and management," he said, "the stadium can be utilized for more than just entertainment, providing a landmark that our community looks fondly upon as this small town continues to grow!"
  • Jill Treadway, a property owner near the stadium, is for it. "I'm a local and tired of newbies telling us how things should be done. So keep your mitts off our team, please."

The other side: Opposing readers said the Rays should pay for more or all of the stadium, and that more money should be invested in public transportation.

  • "I'm strongly opposed to a plan that includes such low support for affordable housing and does not require significant participation from the Rays when it comes to sharing the risk," reader Janice Barret said.
  • Steve Terp and other readers said a new stadium likely wouldn't fix the Rays' low attendance record. "Same spot, same demographics, worsening traffic. See definition of insanity."
  • Several readers said they still wanted to see the stadium be built in Tampa.

What's ahead: City Council votes on the plan next month.

Editor's note: Reader responses were edited for grammar and brevity.

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5. 👀 $3.3M manatee hangout

Photo: Courtesy of Admired Images LLC of Brooksville, Forida

A bed and breakfast for sale in Crystal River has seen some high-profile guests, but they've never come inside.

The intrigue: The five-bed, five-bath home turned B&B comes with its own freshwater spring protected by FWC as a manatee refuge.

manatees in a spring next to the house
Manatees in a spring on the property. Photo: Courtesy of Admired Images LLC of Brooksville, Florida
a manatee themed bedroom
Lounge like a sea cow. Photo: Courtesy of Admired Images LLC of Brooksville, Florida

Check it out

🥹 Selene is proud of Kathryn and Yacob's hard work on these Supreme Court stories.

🧬 Yacob is decompressing from the news cycle by watching "X-Men."

🏊‍♀️ Kathryn is hoping to decompress with a swim at the Y later.

This newsletter was edited by Jeff Weiner and copy edited by Azi Najafi.