Steve Newborn

Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues, politics and transportation in the Tampa Bay area.

He’s been with WUSF since 2001, and has covered events such as President George W. Bush’s speech in Sarasota as the Sept. 11 attacks unfolded; the ongoing drama over whether the feeding tube should be removed from Terri Schiavo; the arrest and terrorism trial of USF professor Sami Al-Arian; how the BP Deepwater Horizon spill affected Florida; and he followed the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition through the state - twice.

Before joining WUSF, he covered environmental and Polk County news for the Tampa Tribune and worked for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center during the early days of the space shuttle.

The swirl of controversy after the decision by Orange County State Attorney Aramis Ayala not to apply the death penalty in cases assigned to her has filtered down to a discussion of cases on Florida's death row.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Tuesday morning because of the number of wildfires burning around Florida.

Officials say wildfires in Florida have already burned 2 1/2 times more land in the first three months of 2017 than during the same period last year. There are more than 100 active wildfires across more than 20,000 acres.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the state hasn't seen this active of a wildfire season since 2011.

You wouldn't think that a region that prides itself on outdoor activities and sunshine would have problems with air pollution. But Tampa Bay had some of the dirtiest air in the state in 2015.

The report came from the advocacy group Environment Florida. It says in 2015, Tampa Bay experienced 56 dirty air pollution days. The region - which is swept with sea breezes from the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay - was the worst area in the state in 2015 for both soot and smog.

There are no national or state statistics that track police shootings.  But a Tampa Bay Times investigation has collected records from Florida's four hundred law enforcement agencies... counting every time someone was shot or killed by an officer between 2009 and 2014.

One of the symbols of Florida is no longer an endangered species. That's according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which announced Thursday they're downlisting the manatee from endangered to threatened. Manatees have been classified as endangered since the first federal endangered species list was issued in 1967.

More manatees than ever - 6,300 - were counted during the winter, when they congregate around springs and warm power plant outfalls. But last year, more than one hundred manatees were killed, mostly by boaters.

Even though violent crime has been steadily decreasing, can that be attributed to Florida's decade-old Stand Your Ground Law? WUSF's Steve Newborn poses that question - and another - if nearly half of all gun sales aren't registered - to Katie Sanders of PolitiFact Florida.

A rally to drum up support for a bill that would ban fracking for oil and gas in Florida is expected to draw people from around the state Wednesday morning on the steps of the state capitol. Hundreds are expected to attend from throughout the state.

The rally will feature appearances by State Senators Jack Latvala of Pinellas County and Gary Farmer of Fort Lauderdale. They're backing a bill to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that has been introduced by Sen. Dana Young of Tampa.

A 515-mile pipeline is being placed through northern and central Florida. When it's completed, it will supply natural gas from the North and Midwest to power plants throughout the state. And the construction has attracted protesters and fired up neighbors affected by the project.

Loosening regulations on who can own guns - and where they can be carried - is a hot topic in the run-up to this spring's legislative session in Tallahassee. The Florida Speaker of the House claims that most mass shootings happen in places where guns aren't allowed. WUSF's Steve Newborn checks out the claim with Amy Hollyfield of PolitiFact Florida.

Is Florida really at the bottom of the pack of states when it comes to paying for mental health care? And was Miami-Dade the first place to declare itself free of the Zika virus? WUSF's gets to the bottom of those claims with Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida.

UPDATED: 1/31:

Manatee County Commissioners extended a public hearing on the proposed rezoning of the Wingate East phosphate mine until Wednesday.

Commissioners Monday finished a two-day public hearing, where most of the speakers opposed the mine expansion. On Wednesday, Feb. 15, they'll question Mosaic engineers and county staffers, beginning at 9 a.m. The board is expected to vote on the rezoning request at the end of that meeting.

Monday, dozens of people told commissioners what they think about the mine expansion.

The first hint that Mosaic's Wingate Mine is no ordinary phosphate mine comes when you drive down a dirt road and see a large dredge boat listing in a pond that can barely contain it. Drive a few more minutes, and prepare to board a tugboat in a huge artificial lake.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is saying the federal government is shortchanging the state when it comes to doling out money to fight the transmission of the Zika virus. WUSF's Steve Newborn talks with Katie Sanders of PolitiFact Florida to see if it's true.

Is Obamacare really a creation of the "liberal elite?"  And have things gotten worse in Cuba for dissidents since Fidel Castro stepped down from office? WUSF's Steve Newborn digs into those claims with Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida.

The Pinellas County legislative delegation met Wednesday to prevent another massive spill of sewage into the county's waterways because of overloaded - and outdated - sewage treatment systems.

But one thing is becoming clear after hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage overflowed into Tampa Bay and Boca Ciega Bay after heavy rains this summer - a solution won't be cheap.

Incoming President Donald Trump has been on the stump attacking Obamacare, vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act. One of the claims he's made is that Floridians will see a double-digit increase in their premiums next year. To dissect that claim, WUSF's Steve Newborn talks with Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.

Battling claims about the upcoming referendum on medical marijuana are creating a cloud of confusion. So WUSF's Steve Newborn attempts to clear the air on Amendment 2 with Josh Gillin of PolitiFact Florida.

Mosaic

One of the world's largest fertilizer makers is settling a massive hazardous waste lawsuit for nearly $2 billion to help clean up pollution and upgrade leaky facilities in Florida and Louisiana, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The quagmire in Tallahassee over health care spending forced an early end to the spring legislative session. At the heart of it is a federal program known as the Low Income Pool, or LIP. It reimburses Florida hospitals more than two billion dollars a year for providing care to low-income or indigent patients. The federal government is phasing the program out as it shifts to new programs provided by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. 

Now, Gov. Scott is making the rounds in Washington D.C., trying to prod the feds to keep funding LIP. Now, Scott has backtracked from his previous position on supporting expansion of Medicaid in the state to serve low-income residents.

Scott recently spoke to reporters in the nation's capitol.

"The families that are covered through the Low Income Pool is a different group of individuals than are covered by Obamacare," Scott said.

Click on the video below to hear what he had to say about LIP and Medicaid:

PolitiFact Florida rated his statement "Mostly False," saying:

This makes it sound as if the people who would qualify for Medicaid under an expansion are completely different than patients who leave hospitals with unpaid bills the LIP fund helps pay to providers. Health policy experts said that while there would still be uninsured people not paying their bills under an expansion, plenty of overlap exists between the two, especially at lower incomes.

University of South Florida

Officials at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg have canceled a five-day visit by 14 African journalists that was to begin Oct. 31, because of fears of the Ebola virus.

In a letter today written by Han Reichgelt, regional vice president for academic affairs (see below), he says they're doing so out of an abundance of caution.

Orlando attorney John Morgan -- famous for his TV commercials and for his backing of the medical marijuana amendment in Florida -- stopped by the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida today.

It's part of a campus bus tour he's on this week to get out the youth vote for Amendment 2.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Reporter Justine Griffin recently wrote a series in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune about her experience selling her eggs to an infertile couple living thousands of miles away. She became an egg donor after seeing a childhood friend die young, and witnessing that girl's mother trying to conceive again.

Griffin tells WUSF it wasn't just the nausea, migraines, and high levels of hormones coursing through her body that makes her say she'd never do it again.

Florida has rejected an offer of more than $50 billion over 10 years from the federal government to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. So the question remains: how will health care be funded for more than a million low-income Floridians? This week on Florida Matters,  a panel discussion that was held last week at Stetson University College of Law to discuss the options. It was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative. 

Both of Florida's U.S. Senators - Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio - are filing legislation in the Senate to rename the VA Medical Center at Bay Pines after the late U.S. Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young. 

Their legislation will be a companion to a House bill introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller that may be voted on as early as Wednesday. Young, who died Friday, is credited with bringing an expansion of  the VA center in his home district in Pinellas County. 

Here's a statement from Rubio:

George Sheldon, the former head of the state Department of Children and Families, has announced he's running for Florida Attorney General.

He'll be up against incumbent Pam Bondi, a Republican from Tampa. In his Facebook post, Sheldon said the race is about "character," and pledged to be above partisan politics. 

Pinellas Sheriff's officials say a Brandon mother was killed by an apparent lightning strike on Belleair Beach Tuesday. Phyllis Kalinowski is the fifth person killed by a lightning strike across the country this year, and the first in Florida.

According to the National Weather Service, there have been just four other deaths caused by lightning strikes so far this year across the country — none in Florida, until Tuesday.

More than two years after Jeffrey Lill was sickened by liquid that leaked from a package at an Orlando U.S. Postal Service facility, his health continues to deteriorate.

He’s no closer to knowing the name of any chemicals he may have been exposed to.