John Davis

John Davis has been a full-time Reporter/Producer for WGCU since 2009. He is the local host for NPRââââ

Governor Rick Scott declared a state of Emergency Aug. 13 for seven southwest Florida counties currently impacted by a lingering toxic red tide algae bloom crisis. The bloom, which has persisted since last fall, now stretches some 150 miles between Naples and Anna Maria Island and appears to be moving north.

May kicks off the official beginning of sea turtle nesting season in Southwest Florida.  Threatened loggerheads are the most prolific nesters on area beaches, but endangered green and even leatherback sea turtles also nest along Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast and on barrier islands.  

Experts and volunteers with a number of monitoring and protection programs will begin trolling beaches in the predawn hours looking for signs of nesting activity, marking new nests, educating beachgoers and documenting their findings.  We’ll speak with Conservancy of Southwest Florida senior biologist Dave Addison, who heads one of the longest running sea turtle monitoring and protection programs in the country.

We explore what residents and visitors can do to minimize potential impacts and to help ensure a healthy nesting season.  

Plus, a toxic red tide algae bloom that’s been lingering in the Gulf of Mexico just off of Southwest Florida’s shoreline has been impacting sea turtles and other marine life in recent weeks.  We check in with veterinarian, Dr. Heather Barron, who directs the wildlife hospital at CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) on Sanibel Island.

A Florida Senate committee, Wednesday, advanced a bill (SB 1402) which aims to place a longstanding federal program that protects wetlands through the Clean Water Act under state control. 

  

As South Florida reels from Wednesday’s mass shooting at a Broward County high school, State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, is working to secure funding for Florida school districts to better identify and address mental health concerns in students early on. 

Despite early indications that a proposal to ban fracking in Florida would not advance in the current state legislative session, the bill passed its first senate committee Monday. 


Congress missed a deadline at the end of September to reauthorize funding for the country’s community health centers, which provide access to primary care and other medical services for more than 27 million people nationwide.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott got an update from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials in Clewiston, Monday about the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.  Scott’s visit came just a day after water levels in the lake surpassed 17 ft.

The Lee County Mosquito Control District predicts that a large mosquito outbreak is coming as a result of heavy rain and continued flooding from Hurricane Irma.  Thursday night marked the district’s first aerial spraying to tackle the adult mosquito population since the storm’s passage.

A state lawmaker wants to make it illegal to leave young children unattended in a car for any length of time in Florida.  The proposal, from Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, is an effort to combat the problem of children dying from heat exposure after being left in a vehicle.

As the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center prepares to celebrate its centennial anniversary, researchers there say that they’re on the cusp of developing a cure to the most serious threat facing the citrus industry worldwide:  citrus greening. 

Scientists with Mote Marine Laboratory will begin a yearlong effort this summer to restore about 25,000 corals in the Florida Keys.  State lawmakers approved a $500,000 appropriation for the project in this year’s state legislative session.

A new adult-care clinic in Newtown opened this month.  A community-wide partnership aims to make the clinic a ‘one-stop-shop’ for a variety of needs for the community just north of the city of Sarasota, where access to medical care and other services has been a challenge. 

As residents and visitors flock to Florida beaches over the long Fourth of July holiday weekend, wildlife officials and advocates are urging beachgoers to be mindful of nesting shorebird colonies and sea turtles.

As Florida’s Bald Eagle population continues to increase, state wildlife officials are considering changes to the state’s management plan for the iconic raptors. 

A federal court judge in Fort Myers ruled against a consortium of Environmental advocacy groups Monday in a lawsuit against the National Park Service and a Texas oil company.  The lawsuit was an attempt to prevent seismic testing for oil and gas reserves in Big Cypress National Preserve

Florida lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase penalties and jail time for people unlawfully in the U.S. convicted of certain violent offenses.  The bill is progressing through the House with sponsor Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, arguing it would increase public safety and send a message to federal immigration authorities.  Opponents question the bill’s constitutionality, and say Rep. Eagle is misusing data to bolster his case. 

Florida lawmakers are tackling a proposed ban on hydraulic fracturing, and other fracking-like well stimulation treatments in the state.  The Republican-sponsored bills in the House and Senate have gained a number of co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle.  Supporters of the ban say the risks of surface water and ground water contamination from fracking make the technology too risky.

On the heels of a recent national study ranking the Fort Myers/Cape Coral area the deadliest in the country for pedestrians, one Southwest Florida lawmaker continues to fight for tougher penalties for motorists who injure pedestrians and bicyclists. 

Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio met with Southwest Florida citrus growers Friday in Immokalee to discuss challenges facing the industry and how the federal government can help.  The bacterial disease, citrus greening, has decimated the industry over the past decade, reducing crop yields by 70 percent compared to where they stood twenty years ago. 

Among the early bills already being filed for Florida’s 2017 legislative session is a measure from Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, that would increase penalties for undocumented immigrants who commit violent crimes. Supporters say the measure sends a message to federal immigration authorities and would increase public safety. Opponents question its constitutionality. 

The rate of babies born premature in Florida and around the nation increased in 2015 according to the recently released March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card

Lee Memorial Health System celebrates 100 years of serving the community’s medical needs this week.  The first Lee Memorial Hospital opened Oct. 3, 1916 in a 15-bed wood-framed building.  Since that time, it’s grown and expanded into a health system with an inpatient capacity of 1,419 beds employing more than 12,000 people.  We’ll explore LMHS’s rich history in Lee County through the Jim Crow era, the roaring 1920s, the Great Depression, two world wars and beyond.  We’ll also find out about the health system’s new look including the new name, “Lee Health” as the health system begins a new century of care.

A non-profit research center in Fort Myers is joining the rapidly developing field of genetic research. The Clinical & Translational Genome Research Institute opened this month at Florida Gulf Coast University’s newly completed Emergent Technologies Institute.  

The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Inc. found Florida ranks 49th in the country on per-capita spending on access to mental healthcare services.  A state Department of Children and Families report finds more than 330,000 children in Florida struggle with serious emotional disturbances.  

The number of babies born physically dependent on drugs is on the rise in Florida and around the nation.  The condition, called neonatal abstinence syndrome occurs in newborns who were exposed to addictive opiate drugs like heroin, methadone and oxycodone in utero.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of babies born with NAS increased five-fold from 2000 to 2012.  

A recent report from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission finds that Florida’s 12th Judicial Circuit, which includes DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota Counties, had the fourth highest number of heroin-related deaths in the state for the first half of 2015.  The issue of drug-related deaths has been particularly bad in Manatee County which established itself as the heroin capital of Florida in 2014 with 110 deaths due to heroin and or fentanyl.

Florida’s death penalty law and the fate of the state’s nearly 400 death row inmates remains in flux.  Last week a Miami-Dade judge ruled that Florida’s newly revised death penalty sentencing law is unconstitutional.  That ruling came in the case of Karon Gaiter who awaits trial for first-degree murder.  Judge Milton Hirsh ruled that the law goes against the long-time sanctity of unanimous verdicts in death penalty cases because the system only requires 10 of 12 jurors to vote in favor of imposing execution.

In April, Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Indiana, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, introduced a bill (H.R. 5003) to reauthorize child nutrition programs aimed at helping kids from low income families facing food insecurity.  Opponents say a provision of the bill places 3.4 million students nationwide at risk of losing free meals at school, including more than 200,000 children in Florida at 276 schools. 

  Lee Memorial Health System is temporarily suspending its kidney transplant program at Gulf Coast Hospital in Fort Myers while working to restructure and hire new staff.  The move comes a year after the health system stopped performing kidney transplants with living donors following the death of a donor.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an update to its Agricultural Worker Protection Standard in late September.  The updates are intended to better protect against harmful pesticide exposure.  Farmworker advocates are celebrating the victory and what it will mean form the nation’s 2 million farmworkers, including nearly 300,000 in Florida.

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