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Trayvon Martin death is Fla.'s story of the year

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 28, 2012 at 6:30 am •  Published: December 28, 2012
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4. Tampa hosted the 2012 Republican National Convention, but unlike in other host cities, Tampa's streets stayed eerily quiet during the weeklong convocation. Tampa had been gearing up for years to host the convention where Mitt Romney formally received his party's nomination. Law enforcement made plans to manage tens of thousands of protesters and local businesses added staffers to handle the influx of conventioneers. But the threat of Hurricane Isaac kept protesters away, and local business owners complained that tight security resulted in blocked off streets and fenced-off sidewalks that discouraged delegates from patronizing their restaurants and shops.

5. It took four days of counting before the winner was declared, but President Obama won Florida's 29 electoral votes after a hard fought campaign in the nation's most populous swing state. Obama beat Republican challenger Mitt Romney 50 percent to 49.1 percent, a difference of about 74,000 votes. That was over the half-percent margin where a computer recount would have been automatically ordered unless Romney had waived it. As it turned out, Florida wasn't even needed for Obama's re-election win after Sunshine State voters had been told for month that their votes would make the difference in the race.

6. Wildfire smoke mixed with fog blanketed six-lane Interstate 75 near Gainesville in an early January morning, resulting in a massive pileup that killed 11 people. Highway officials had closed the highway after the initial blanketing from smoke, but it was then reopened shortly afterward. Within a half hour, the first of six separate fatal crashes began, involving at least a dozen cars, pickup trucks and a van, six semitrailer trucks and a motorhome. Eleven people died, and 18 others were hospitalized. An investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found errors but no criminal violations in the decisions that were made to reopen the highway. The Florida Highway Patrol defended its actions.

7. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld key parts of Obama's health care overhaul, rejecting an appeal by Florida and other states. Florida officials must decide whether to expand its Medicaid rolls to offer coverage to more residents and whether to set up a state-run health exchange or allow the federal government to run the program. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a former hospital chain executive, has been a vocal critic of the health care law. He softened his stance after Obama's re-election, signaling he wants to work together with federal officials, but is worried about the cost to taxpayers.

8. Florida voters rejected eight of 11 constitutional amendments on November's ballot. The rejected amendments included proposals pushed by conservatives to restrict abortion, allow taxpayer funding of religious schools, cap state revenue and put the state on record as opposed to Obama's health care overhaul. The three amendments that won 60 percent approval, which all amendments must get to pass, were simple and easy to understand. They offered property tax breaks targeted to groups difficult to oppose: disabled veterans, low-income seniors and spouses of military personnel and first responders who have died while on duty.

9. Hunting Deutsch, the executive director of Florida's jobs agency, abruptly resigned in December after eight months on the job when questions were raised about jobless benefits he received before he was hired. Gov. Rick Scott named his general counsel to take over the job, becoming the third person to lead the Department of Economic Opportunity which was created a year ago. Questions were raised about unemployment compensation Deutsch received from September 2009 through May 2011. That period included a time he was traveling in Europe and presumably unavailable to work in Florida as required.

10. An obscure legislative panel approved a plan to privatize medical care at Florida's prisons. The plans were challenged by three unions representing some 2,600 state employees who stand to lose their jobs, and a judge in Tallahassee blocked plans in three of Florida's four prison system regions. State officials say they will appeal.

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Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP .