A day of protests in Florida as Legislature begins 2011 session; most of official Tampa excited about getting direct flights to Cuba, and Rose Ferlita hosts tele-town hall: Mitch Perry Report 3.8.11

Happy Fat Tuesday to you all.  Also happy International Women's Day.  And yes, for better or for worse, the two months that the virtually completely Republican Florida Legislature meets in session begin today, with Governor Rick Scott giving his first State of the State address at 6 p.m. (which will be shown live by Bay News 9).

The beginning of the session means there will protests by activists disturbed by what they've seen in Scott's proposed budget. Public employees, like schoolteachers and their unions, are behind many of the Awake The State rallies that will take place all across the state today, with the biggest one in the Tampa Bay area scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at Lykes Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa.

Yesterday, officials with the FEA (Florida Education Association) hosted a conference call to discuss their concerns about all types of legislation in the hopper this year that could have a deleterious affect on their lives.

Tonight is also the biggest night so far of the Tampa mayoral campaign season.  That's because the only live televised debate of the runoff takes place this evening at 7 p.m., also on Bay News 9. (There will be another televised debate hosted by the League of Women Voters for which yours truly will be a panelist, but that event will be tape-recorded on Friday and then shown over the last 10 days of the election).  There were developments yesterday in the race, as Ed Turanchik, the favorite among progressives in Tampa, endorsed Bob Buckhorn in the runoff against Rose Ferlita. Ferlita, meanwhile, hosted a telephone town-hall meeting last night, during which she got lots of softball questions, and others that were just sort of unusual.

Although both Buckhorn and Ferlita haven't expressed much interest in drumming up business with Cuba (as opposed to Tom Scott & Turanchik), one presumes they're happy today after it was reported yesterday that Tampa International Airport will be able to have direct flights to Cuba beginning later this year, making TIA only the fourth airport in the country to be able to do so.

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the report here.

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