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Child drowning spike in Hillsborough; Adding beaches to state’s no-smoking list; Voter-approved transit tax stuck in neutral

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.

• After a cool start to the morning, we’ll have a mostly sunny day with no chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service. High temperatures will be in the mid to upper 60s.

• Those who knew Shelby Svensen from his Ohio days remember him as an “oddball” and a “loner” who sponged off others and could turn violent. Authorities say he’s confessed to killing his wife and three in-laws found dead on New Year’s Day.

•Every year, Florida’s treasure of coastlines, rivers, natural springs and backyard swimming pools prove lethal to children. Nowhere was that more true than in Hillsborough County last year, where the number of drownings spiked to 11, the highest in the state and more than the previous two years combined.

• Smokers in Florida can’t light up in restaurants, stores, offices and government buildings. Now one Florida state senator wants to add another location to the no-smoking list: the state’s beaches. As Craig Pittman notes, the dispute is about litter, not second-hand smoke.

• A voter-approved plan to remake Hillsborough County’s transportation systems with millions in new sales tax revenue has been mired in uncertainty and effectively halted by a lawsuit challenging the tax. While the court weighs the case, local government leaders have shown a reticence to spend revenue that the state started collecting on Jan. 1. No injunctions have been ordered, but the fear that a judge could overturn the tax has provided enough doubt to stymie some plans.

• Meanwhile, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Agency board is interviewing candidates this month to replace Katharine Eagan, who left for Pittsburgh a year ago. Politicians and community members agree it is a pivotal time for the agency as it prepares to receive more than 130 million in new sales tax revenue each year on the heels of a November referendum. The agency’s current budget is about $80 million. But some are concerned that board members are narrowing the candidate field too quickly.

• As the new Pier project has grown, so has its budget. The project was originally budgeted at $50 million with tax increment financing (TIF) funds, but the budget has since twice been bolstered by additional TIF funds, bringing it to $76 million. And sections of the new Pier apparently will not be “substantially” complete until late December. Read Waveney Ann Moore’s story this morning.

• Many people call Adam Brown “The Bayshore Walker,” but he’s open to other nicknames, too. Like “Half Brown,” for cutting his weight from over 300 pounds to 155 pounds. If your New Year’s resolve to get in shape already is flagging, stop by the corner of Rome Avenue and Bayshore Boulevard between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. You’ll find 42-year-old Adam Brown beginning his walk, as he has — according to the journal he keeps — for nearly 3,200 days in a row.

• For the latest in Florida politics, make sure to check The Buzz.

• For the latest education coverage, make sure to read The Gradebook. And check out the Gradebook podcast as education reporter Jeffrey Solochek leads a weekly discussion about Florida education.

• Check out the Times photo and video channels for the most compelling visuals.

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Read the Tampa Bay Times new online Sports page with the latest news about the Lightning, Bucs, Rays, Bulls, Gators, Noles and high school sports.

• The Times can keep you up-to-date on the Lightning’s quest for the Stanley Cup: Click here for the latest news throughout the season. For the latest updates on @Twitter, follow Nearhos at @dianacnearhos and fellow Lightning beat writer Nick Kelly at @_NickKelly.

• The Bucs have a new head coach. What other changes are coming? The Times coverage of the Bucs is just a click away at tampabay.com. For the latest team news on @Twitter, follow Rick Stroud at @NFLSTROUD and fellow beat writer Eduardo A. Encina at @EddieInTheYard.

• Tampa Bay’s bid to lure Bruce Arians out of retirement and back to the NFL included a pitch from baseball manager Joe Maddon. The 66-year-old coach grew up in York, Pa., not far from Maddon’s hometown of Hazelton. He and the Chicago Cubs skipper have grown close since Buccaneers general Jason Licht introduced them several years ago.

• Former Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong saw Bryant make 88.7 percent of his field goal attempts the past decade. Can he find a kicker for the Bucs?

Fifty years ago this weekend, the Jets, Joe Namath and Earl Christy shocked the world. On Jan. 12, 1969, Earl Christy played a bit part in one of the greatest moments in NFL history. But Broadway Joe says the Tarpon Springs man occupies a special place in the hearts of those old New York Jets.

• To get the latest Rays’ news from the Times this offseason, click here and follow baseball writer Marc Topkin on @Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

• Check out the Times coverage of Gator football all season long and keep up with college football beat writer Matt Baker on Twitter at @MBakerTBTimes.

• All the Bulls news you can use is right here from Times beat writer Joey Knight. Follow him on Twitter for the latest at @TBTimes_Bulls.

USF senior cornerback Mazzi Wilkins has been assaulted on social media since his tackle on UCF’s McKenzie Milton resulted in a horrific injury. In the form of incendiary bombs tossed his way on social media. Mazzi Wilkins has been assaulted with threats, profanities and labels such as “thug,” “punk” and worse.

• Check out the latest episode of the Times sports podcast Sports Day Tampa Bay led by veteran sportswriter Rick Stroud.

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The Times online Arts and Entertainment page tells you everything you need to know about what to do, see, eat and experience around town.

• Listen to our new podcast, Life of the Party, that keeps you caught up just enough to get by in small talk. Times staffers Stephanie Hayes and Brittany Volk will discuss what’s going on, from celebrity news to movies and music, plus offbeat info that will make you the most interesting person in the room.

• Don’t just write the right way — write the Lane way. Keep up with Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Lane DeGregory’s podcast, WriteLane, and learn about her approach to the craft of storytelling.

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Check out the Times online Business page for the latest on the economy, jobs, real estate, retail and workplace culture.



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