Axios Tampa Bay

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Thursday, hi!

🌀️ ​​Mostly sunny. 75Β°/58Β°.

  • Sounds like: "1950," King Princess.

Today's newsletter is 921 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Electric bill rollercoaster ahead

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Your electric bill is about to go through some ups and downs.

Why it matters: A recent drop in natural gas prices will save residential customers money in the short term, but infrastructure improvements and solar projects will drive bills back up next year.

Driving the news: Duke Energy and Tampa Electric Co. (TECO), Tampa Bay's two largest power providers, both announced on Tuesday that they'd pass on natural gas savings to residential customers this year β€” and that they filed to increase base rates starting in 2025.

  • Duke customers will be paying for grid improvements and solar farms, while TECO customers will cover infrastructure improvements, increased solar capacity and population growth costs.

Duke customers should save about $5 on their bills starting in June or July once the Florida Public Service Commission approves the company's filing.

  • In 2025, customers will pay about $16.48 more per month, then $2.73 more in 2026 and $2.93 more in 2027.

TECO customers are expected to save about $7 starting in June.

  • They'll pay an estimated $5 more next January. The company didn't provide estimates for 2026 and 2027.

The big picture: The spike in natural gas prices in 2022 and 2023 have pushed electric bills up over the last few years.

What's ahead: Floridians around the state can share their thoughts on rate hike proposals at Public Service Commission hearings to be scheduled in the coming months.

  • TECO expects a hearing in June in Hillsborough County.

Spread the word.

Go deeper: If you want smart, quick intel on energy and climate policy, get Axios Pro.

2. πŸ‘€ Florida-round and find out

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

An NBC News story making the rounds this week made us wonder if a come-to-Jesus moment about Florida is in order β€” if Jesus is termites and swamp a**.

The big picture: Among Florida's massive influx of new residents were at least a few who gave up on their Sunshine State dreams, per the report, pointing to issues including hurricanes, polarizing politics and high insurance costs.

  • Longtime residents who've departed cited similar struggles, plus discomfort over Florida's increasingly conservative policies, such as the six-week abortion ban going into effect next month.

Yes, but: Some of the critiques were less … urgent.

Case in point: "One of the first signs Barb Carter's move to Florida wasn't the postcard life she'd envisioned was the armadillo infestation in her home that caused $9,000 in damages," the piece begins.

Yes, and: "I thought the pace would be a little bit quieter, I thought it would be warmer," a Connecticut transplant told NBC. "I didn't expect it to be literally 100 degrees at night."

  • Florida has a winter: It's summer. Temperatures don't climb to desert levels, but the humidity brings a knife-twist that makes going outside from May through much of October a regrettable decision β€” yes, even at night.
  • Here in Tampa Bay, even the Gulf becomes a hot tub, and those white sandy beaches y'all love so much become moot.

A few more issues to note: Sinkholes, sinking land and that time St. Petersburg had to clean up literal tons of dead fish killed by red tide.

The bottom line: Everyone has their reasons to leave (and reasons to stay!), but let's be clear-eyed about it. Leave your visions of utopia in Connecticut.

Tell a transplant

3. The Pulp: Campaign fueled by contractor cash

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

πŸ₯ BayCare Health System released plans for its first hospital in Manatee County β€” with a $548 million price tag. It will include an emergency room, facilities for urology, cardiology and more. (Tampa Bay Times)

Florida's "pay-to-stay" law, which charges the formerly incarcerated for their prison stay, presents a financial obstacle for those trying to move on after their release. Critics call it a "life sentence." (WFTS)

πŸ’° Gov. Ron DeSantis relied on state contractors to bankroll his failed presidential campaign after Republican donors largely soured on him when his popularity waned last summer. (The Washington Post)

4. πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ Flashback: St. Pete's gay beach bar

"Beach Scene at Jack's Place" circa 1950. Photo: Courtesy of Digital Commons at University of South Florida

You may know Sunset as the Tampa Bay LGBTQ community's adopted "gay beach." But did you know the area's queer beach scene dates back to the 1950s?

Queer Love in History recently highlighted scenes from Jack's Place, a gay bar in Madeira Beach. The photos shot by LGBTQ activist Bobby Smith show queer people out and proud in Madeira and the John's Pass area.

Why it matters: Smith captured scenes of queer joy around Tampa Bay during a time when gay bars were often targeted by police raids and queer people were investigated by the state.

  • Some queer women later alleged harassment and sexual abuse at the hands of police.

Flash forward: Jack's Place and the areas Smith captured in these photos are now condos.

Go deeper: Hundreds of Smith's photographs documenting Tampa Bay's LGBTQ+ communities from the 1950s to the 1970s are archived online.

a black and white photo of a group of people, some with shirts off and some not, smiling and looking at the camera. they're at the beach
Bobby Smith (top far right) with his friends at Jack's Place, circa 1950. Photo: Courtesy of Digital Commons at University of South Florida
a black and white photo of a couple at the beach smiling
"Couple Near the Water at Jack's Place," circa 1950. Photo: Courtesy of Digital Commons at University of South Florida

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5. πŸ₯Ί 1 tearjerker to go

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Our first poem of National Poetry Month comes from reader George Manos.

  • Want to share your poetry? Hit reply or email [email protected] and your work could appear in a future newsletter!
To Heaven Awaken    When in the twilight of my day I live  And soon the sun on this mortal frame will set I will ask was there anything more to give Before this Earth my spirit to Heaven send?   Was there one more way to help humanity  Was the love I knew and shared enough to know  Before I sleep did I follow my better destiny  So I can look, one day, approvingly below.    I  can say one love I knew was indeed the best  And while she was here this place was divine  So when that time comes for my final rest This Earth was good because this woman was mine.    I can say that I lived my life with a heart that was true  And evil in my soul could never find a place That through all my trials my faith pulled me through  Not succumbing to evil hope to find a final grace.    And, in the end, can believe my faith in man did hold  Despite the times I felt it was truly shaken  So, that when the time comes and my story told This is why I believe that to Heaven will awaken.
Screenshot: Selene San Felice/Axios

πŸ‘€ Selene is checking her insurance policies for armadillo invasion coverage.

πŸ‘ Yacob thinks "Swamp A**" might be a good title for his memoir.

πŸ™ Kathryn is grateful her pest control company came this week.

This newsletter was edited by Jeff Weiner (whose dogs protect the house from lizard invaders) and copy edited by Azi Najafi.