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Alimony legislation dead for 2017, sponsor says

Good news for opponents of this year’s alimony overhaul, and bad news for its supporters: The bills are dead for the year.

Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, the Naples Republican who’s carrying the Senate version (SB 412), on Wednesday said the chair of its first committee of reference has refused to hear the bill. Rene Garcia chairs the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs.

“Chairman Garcia determined that he was not interested in hearing it and I respect that decision,”  Passidomo said. “I don’t think leadership weighed in on it.”

Garcia was not immediately available for comment after Wednesday’s floor session.

Passidomo also noted the House bill (HB 283), sponsored by Lakeland Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton, also has not gotten a hearing. And with House subcommittees wrapping up work this week, that virtually dooms the legislation there.

Burton was unavailable; the House was still in session Wednesday afternoon.

As filed, the bills would have toughened the standards by which alimony is granted and modified. That’s despite unsuccessful tries in the last few years.

In a nutshell: Former spouses who wrote the checks have said permanent alimony in particular, or “forever alimony,” wasn’t fair to them. Their exes have shot back that they shouldn’t be penalized, for example, after staying home to raise the children and then having trouble re-entering the workplace.

Passidomo, an attorney, said this year’s bills were hobbled by a misunderstanding of their effect.

“That was, that you couldn’t get ‘permanent’ alimony (under the bill) but that’s not really true,” she said. “Someone in a longstanding marriage is still going to get alimony permanently if the court awards it.”

Among other things, the current legislation contains a guideline that says judges should consider an ex-spouse’s “services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party” when calculating an alimony award.

A judge can go outside the suggested alimony amount under the bill “only if the court considers all of the factors … and makes specific written findings concerning the relevant factors that justify” the deviation.

“This bill would have gone a long way in curtailing some of the gamesmanship” in fighting for and against alimony in court, Passidomo said. “Somebody who is entitled to alimony should get it and the person who needs to pay it should pay it. I’ve never believed in changing that.”

Passidomo said she plans to file the bill again next year.

Gator quarterbacks go through growing pains in first scrimmage

And now, for your latest report on the progress of the Florida Gators‘ quarterbacks:

Eh.

Freshman Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask both sputtered a bit during the Gators’ first scrimmage, leaving fans to wonder if either will be able to beat out incumbent Luke Del Rio when fall practices begin. An interception in the end zone particularly bothered coach Jim McElwain.

The Gators have been searching for a solid quarterback after being 79th and 86th in the country the last two seasons.

“Both quarterbacks had some real explosive throws, and yet, I think our sense of urgency needs to pick up a little bit at that position,” McElwain said. “We got sloppy with the ball in the read area a couple of times. We’ve got to learn from those things and understand the importance of what we need to do down there.”

McElwain said Franks and Trask were efficient with their deep throws, but had problems hitting open receivers over the middle.

“They did a great job throwing the deep balls, and we missed some intermediate seam throws,” he said. “I thought that was good by the defense in their disguise and what they rolled to. Our pre-snap was good. We missed some seams, inside seams that we should have been able to hit.

“Then we came back and corrected on Saturday. It was good to see. I was disappointed we threw an interception in the red area. That can’t happen, absolutely not, so we’ve got to learn from that. Good play from the defense, but obviously we can’t do that — take away points. We have to do better at that.”

McElwain said he was happy with how well the offense moved the ball with both quarterbacks.

“Our production was actually pretty good in comparison to the past.” he said. “Had some drops. Uncharacteristic. I thought the receivers had drops in big situations, some third-down deals that we needed to execute down in the red area. We’ve got to pick that piece up a little bit.”

Overall, McElwain seemed satisfied with the Gators’ scrimmage.

“There were some really, really good performances and things that stood out, both good and bad,” he said. “Yet, it was the first time I’ve kind of seen them fight through. They played hard throughout the scrimmage.

The Florida spring game is April 7.

Play it back: rematches to decide last two spots in Final Four

The most entertaining college basketball game of the regular season came in December.

Malik Monk set a record for a Kentucky freshman with 47 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer taken against his coach’s wishes, to lift the Wildcats to a 103-100 win over North Carolina.

Are these two ready for an encore?

Of course they are – though it’s a valid argument to say this rematch might be better suited for next weekend in the Final Four than Sunday in the Elite Eight.

“I remember watching them play and I’m thinking, ‘Please don’t put them in our bracket,'” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “And there they are in our bracket.”

Indeed, the South bracket in which Kentucky and Carolina reside was pegged as the toughest on Selection Sunday. The top four seeds made it to the Sweet 16, and the Wildcats and Tar Heels moved within a game of the Final Four with double-digit wins.

North Carolina is a 2 1/2-point favorite in Sunday’s game, which will fill out a Final Four that already includes Gonzaga and Oregon, both of which won Saturday. The first meeting between the Heels and Cats – the late half of a made-for-TV doubleheader in Las Vegas three months ago – now feels like a distant memory.

“I don’t think we’re freshmen anymore,” Monk said. “You can’t use that term anymore because it’s in the tournament now. Nobody looks at that.”

Kentucky trailed 100-98 and Calipari was imploring his young freshman to drive the ball to the hoop in transition. Instead, he pulled up and made the 3 to put the Wildcats ahead for good with 16 seconds left.

“Heck of a college basketball game if you don’t care who won,” Carolina coach Roy Williams said afterward. “But I do care who wins.”

If North Carolina turns the tables, it will give the Tar Heels a return trip to the Final Four after their heartbreaking loss to Villanova in the final last year – on a buzzer-beating 3 by Kris Jenkins. It will also mark a festive send-off for Justin Jackson, who leads Carolina with 18.2 points a game and is expected to call this, his junior year, his last in college.

Kentucky’s list of probable one-and-doners includes Monk, Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox.

“I’m not worried about that,” Fox said. “We’re still playing basketball, so I’m not thinking about leaving. If things go as planned, we still have three games left, so that’s not in my mind right now.”

SPEAKING OF REMATCHES: Sunday’s first game pits familiar foes in an unexpected setting. Florida and South Carolina of the Southeastern Conference will meet at Madison Square Garden for a trip to the Final Four.

“We’re playing a team we know,” said coach Frank Martin, who has led the Gamecocks further through the NCAA bracket than they have ever been. “We’re not playing the moment. We’re not playing a building. We’re not playing the NCAA Tournament. We’re playing the Florida Gators. And our focus should be playing a team that we have played twice.”

In many ways, it was the first meeting – a 57-53 South Carolina win on Jan. 18 – that set the stage for where both teams are today.

The Gators failed to sink a 3-pointer for the first time in 850 games – a streak that began in 1992 and lasted the entire Billy Donovan era. Another loss, three days later, prompted a two-hour team meeting that triggered a nine-game winning streak, including the rematch with the Gamecocks.

But South Carolina’s win over Florida also announced the Gamecocks as a force. It was their third win over a Top 25 team this season, and when it was over, senior Sindarius Thornwell said this: “Before the game, I was saying these are the games you prepare for in your backyard growing up.”

They certainly are. And this next one, too.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Gators’ fans continue to search for their next great quarterback

There is one question that dominates the Univesity of Florida football team. It isn’t about linebackers.

It isn’t about receivers or runners or defensive backs. It isn’t about opponents or guards or defenders.

At Florida, the question is always about quarterbacks.

This spring, with a shoulder injury to incumbent Luke Del Rio, the Gators have been turned over to redshirt freshmen Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask. The Gators haven’t had an impact quarterback since Tim Tebow in 2009.

That has led to a Franks vs. Trask discussion on campus that has not paused. It seems to be a friendly competition.

“We haven’t had any tension,” Trask told the Orlando Sentinel. “Because we both early enrolled we’ve gotten close ever since.”

“Like they say, iron sharpens iron,” Franks said. “It’s a cool opportunity, a very cool opportunity. I’m working my butt off every day for that opportunity.”

A year ago, however, Franks was still wrestling with an “overwhelming” playbook.

“I think it was a case of me just not coming in and getting comfortable with everybody,” he said. “Being here a season, redshirting, it was really good for me, getting to know the players, getting to know the offense, knowing how things operate around here at Florida.

“It’s been really good for me.”

Franks is known for his strong arm. Trask is known for his accuracy.

“I’ve made a big focus on just being more vocal at the line of scrimmage,” he said. “After one year, coming in as an early enrollee to now I feel 100 percent more confident at the line of scrimmage.

“You gotta be confident. Your energy reflects on everybody.”

Franks has the confidence part down. Too much so at times.

“He’s got great belief in his arm strength,” offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said. “At times, we’ve got to teach him that you can’t make every throw and sometimes you can’t throw it through three guys.”

For the Gators, the players give Florida two chances at their next great quarterback.

And a discussion that will not stop.

Florida running back Mark Thompson isn’t making predictions

This time, Mark Thompson will run silently.

Thompson, the senior running back for the University of Florida, entered talking last year. He was going to have 1,000 yards by the Georgia game, remember? He was going to kick the doors open in the SEC.

It didn’t quite turn out that way.

Thompson, a second-team junior college All-American at Dodge City Community College, finished the regular season with only 299 yards rushing a year ago.

“I would say last year did motivate me and humble me,” Thompson said. “I made some predictions, I said some things. I was saying a lot before even stepping on the field. Yes, it humbled me a lot. And this year I’m just looking forward to my progress from year one to year two and I will have a lot of focus.”

Thompson said he is better prepared this season.

“Hey, just get on the field, make some film for the NFL guys to look at and get some stock to my name,” he said. “I’m headed in the right direction. I’m not heading backward, I’m not taking any steps back. I’m very, very ready to see what’s in store for me these next few months.”

“I had some hiccups learning, not only football, but things off the field as well. I could have had a way better first year in all aspects of being at the University of Florida. But, you make the biggest transition from year one to year two, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Thompson said the low point last season was being suspended from the Georgia game after being cited for possession of marijuana the Thursday before the game.

“Definitely, missing that Georgia game. It hurt,” he said. “Growing up, that was the main game. I was always like, ‘Florida-Georgia, I got to watch this’. So not being able to play in that game really hurt, and it really made me realize, ‘Hey, I’m not doing the right thing, let me step back and really re-evaluate everything I’m doing, and stay on the right track’.”

Eight more spots open Sunday for Sweet 16

A look at some interesting things as we head into Sunday, when the NCAA Tournament will finalize its Sweet 16:

SOMETIMES …

Southern Cal‘s De’Anthony Melton got as philosophical as a basketball player can get. When asked about the Trojans’ second-round game with Baylor, he answered: “It doesn’t matter who’s better because sometimes the better team wins, the better team loses. So it just depends on who can play harder and who can get stops at the end of the game.”

CATCHING UP

The Trojans lead the nation in winning games in which they trailed by at least 10 points, including the Trojans’ two wins in the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Andy Enfield has started to approach big deficits differently as the season has gone along.

“Early in the season we used to get really mad at our players for falling behind, especially with teams we thought we were equally talented or had more talent than,” he said. “But now, at halftime the other night, we said, ‘Hey, this is great, we’re only down 8. We were down 15 the other night. This is great.’ And our players started laughing.”

OVERRATED SLEEP

With quick turnarounds between games and long travel, sleep becomes a rarity especially for coaches and their staff.

“Sleep is overrated this time of year and this is what you work so hard for,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “So to get to this point, college coaches, we’re all – we were all the kind of guys that probably had to cram anyway back in our college days. We probably weren’t the best, most prepared students. So cramming is something I think we probably practice.”

STRANGE COINCIDENCE?

Kentucky and Wichita State face each other Sunday for the first time since they met in the NCAA Tournament since 2014. In that game Wichita State was the unbeaten No. 1 seed while the Wildcats were a No. 8 seed, a placing many said was well under what they should have been.

On Sunday, the 10th-seeded Shockers, a team many feel is underseeded, face third-seeded Kentucky, a team with national championship consideration.

“The bottom line is the only two guys that remember that game, other than you media people, are Coach Cal and I. Everyone else is new,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said of Kentucky’s John Calipari. “What I thought was really ironic that year is we were such a polarizing team. We deserve a 1 seed. We don’t deserve a 1 seed. And you’re either on one side of the fence or the other. Then we get the 1 seed, but we get Kentucky as an 8. I think they hedged their bet a little bit.

“But in the end, it took a loss to validate our team, which I think is really ironic and sad.”

30/30

Sunday’s game will be only the second time in NCAA Tournament history that 30-win teams have played against one another in the second round. Wichita State is 31-4, Kentucky is 30-5.

In 2008, No. 2 Tennessee (30-4) beat No. 7 Butler (30-3) in overtime, 76-71.

FAN FAVORITES

Few teams receive negative reaction from fans as Duke does. The old bumper sticker says: “My favorite team is Carolina. My second-favorite team is whoever’s playing Duke.”

On Sunday, when the Blue Devils play South Carolina, not only is the arena in Greenville, South Carolina, but there will also be a strong contingent of North Carolina faithful.

“We were playing in the ACC Tournament where we were playing a game and not only are the opposing fans there but Carolina’s fans are also there waiting to boo us, too. So we’ve played in games that are supposed to be neutral where it felt like an away game. There’s not much difference,” Duke’s Grayson Allen said.

NO No. 1

It isn’t easy being the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was the latest to find out, losing 65-62 to eighth-seeded Wisconsin in the second round.

For the 11th time in the past 14 years, the No. 1 overall seed won’t win the NCAA title and yet another reigning national champion fails to get past the Sweet 16. Florida was the last to do so when it repeated in 2007.

Besides this year, the No. 1 seeds to lose in the round of 32 are Kansas in 2010, Pittsburgh in 2011, Gonzaga in 2013, Wichita State in 2014 and Villanova in 2015.

“There should be nothing negative about this tournament. This is the greatest, I think, sporting event in our country,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Just being in it … we can’t take it for granted. It’s so special to be a part of it. Every time you win and you get a chance to advance, cherish it. You’re playing the best teams in the country. You’re going to come down to games like this. We had a game like this against Kansas last year and we came out of the good side of it. We had a game like this against N.C. State two years ago, and we had a shot to win it and we missed it.”

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Florida’s economy still growing, but budget cuts loom

Florida’s economy is continuing to grow according to new preliminary estimates from state economists.

State officials are meeting Friday to draw up new forecasts to predict how much the state will collect in taxes.

The forecasts will be used by state legislators when writing this year’s budget.

Preliminary forecasts prepared by economists predict the state’s main budget account will grow by as much as 4.5 percent during the fiscal year that ends in June. Those forecasts estimate growth of around 4 percent for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

If the forecasts hold, legislators could have nearly $180 million more to spend.

But it probably won’t be enough to stop legislators from considering budget cuts. Citing a potential shortfall over the next few years, House Republicans are planning to cut $1.4 billion.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

CBS experts say Florida, Florida State ripe for first-round upsets in NCAA Tournament

When the NCAA Tournament pairings were announced on Sunday, the CBS crew of Greg Gumbel, Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis analyzed the 68 teams and picked an upset or two. Davis, as usual, was the most outspoken, calling out two teams of interest to Florida viewers.

Looking toward Thursday’s games in Orlando, Davis emphatically predicted that 14-seed Florida Gulf Coast will knock Florida State out of the West region. In one of the earlier games to be played at the Amway Center, he also feels that 13th-seeded East Tennessee State will crush the hopes of the Florida Gators in the East region.

Davis is not alone. CBS’s bracket wiz Jerry Palm and colleagues Matt Norlander and Dennis Dodd believe the Buccaneers will send the Gators back to Gainesville for good on Thursday afternoon.

In addition to Davis and Dodd, Florida Gulf Coast has fans among CBS experts Chip Patterson, Kyle Boone and Howard Megdahl. The Eagles made their mark with a captivating run to the Sweet 16 in 2013 as a 15 seed.

It is not that such an upset is impossible. Florida Gulf Coast can take comfort in the fact that a 14 seed has defeated a three seed five times over the last four years.

Gator fans can worry about the ability of the 13 seed to wreak havoc. From 2008 through 2013, a four seed lost to a 13 seed at least once each year. Last year, Hawaii knocked out California.

Florida’s other tournament team, Miami, earned much more respect. Of all the CBS experts, only Boone picked the ninth-seeded Michigan State Spartans over the eighth-seeded Hurricanes in the Midwest on Friday in Tulsa.

Despite having a higher seed, perhaps picking Miami is a daring choice. Playing Michigan State in March is always a dicey proposition. Further, Megdahl predicts Miami will dump top-seeded Kansas in the second round on Sunday.

The Gators are 10-point favorites over East Tennessee State, while the Seminoles are a 12-point choice over Florida Gulf Coast. Miami is a two-point pick over Michigan State.

The Florida vs. ETSU game is the second game of the day in Orlando starting at 3:10 p.m. while Florida State vs. FGCU is the final game of the day slated for 9:20.

 

Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio to undergo surgery on his shoulder

Did Luke Del Rio just give his competition the edge they need to take his job?

Del Rio, a quarterback for the Florida Gators, announced Tuesday that he will undergo surgery on his throwing shoulder. Del Rio had already been announced as out for spring practice.

That leaves the Gators’ job, at least temporarily, in the hands of Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask. Freshman Jake Allen is expected to join the race in the summer.

Del Rio was 5-1 for the Gators last fall.

CDC: Don’t donate sperm in 3 Florida counties due to Zika

Men from three Florida counties shouldn’t donate sperm because of a small risk of spreading Zika, U.S. health officials said Monday.

The guidance had previously applied to Miami-Dade County, the only place in Florida where there’s evidence mosquitoes spread the virus. But infections were reported in people in South Florida who couldn’t clearly be linked to Miami-Dade.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the advice should extend to two counties north of Miami — Broward and Palm Beach. The recommendation applies to men who lived or traveled in those counties since June 15.

Zika is mainly spread by mosquito bites, but it can also be spread through sex. People can be infected without getting sick, and the virus can remain in semen for months.

There is no evidence of a pregnant woman being infected by Zika through a sperm donation, and such a risk is considered low, CDC officials said. Infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects.

The Food and Drug Administration regulates sperm donations, and previously advised sperm banks they shouldn’t accept donors if they had been diagnosed with Zika or had been to an area with widespread Zika within the past six months. Sperm banks should consider the CDC’s new advice discouraging donations from men in the three counties, an FDA spokeswoman said.

There are 12 sperm donor banks in the three South Florida counties, CDC officials said. While blood donations can be tested for Zika, there’s not a good test for semen, according to the FDA.

The last case of mosquito transmission of Zika in Florida was in December. But officials think it’s possible the bugs will start spreading it again this summer. Some 221 people got Zika from mosquitoes in the continental U.S. last year, most in the Miami area. There were six cases in Texas.

There’s no evidence that mosquitoes in Broward or Palm Beach were spreading it, said Dr. Denise Jamieson, who is leading CDC’s Zika emergency efforts. She said officials suspect the local infections occurred in Miami-Dade.

“A lot of times people may not realize when they crossed the county line,” she said.

Since a large outbreak in Brazil, would-be moms and their sex partners have been told to avoid travel to Zika areas, use condoms or abstain from sex.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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