Dateline Florida

Published March 21, 2007


Call it Florida Idol. Rather than just decide on a new state song, lawmakers plan to solicit material from schools across the state in coming months. The current song, Old Folks at Home (a.k.a. Way Down Upon the Swanee River) dates to 1851. It is written in the voice of a black slave and includes references to "darkeys," prompting Sen. Tony Hill and others members of the black caucus to push for a new song. Hill said the nonprofit Florida Music Association will gather entries and cull them down to a few, with the final songs to be performed on television and voted on by Floridians. "We're going to let the people of Florida change the song," Hill said.

Florida may yet buy flu drugs

Despite the Legislature's unwillingness to buy discounted flu medicine from the federal government, Gov. Charlie Crist isn't worried. "I hope that further consideration will be given to it and I'm sure that it will," Crist said in reaction to a House leader's public skepticism over federal flu help. Florida is the only state considering not accepting federal help to prepare for a flu pandemic. Florida faces a Friday deadline to buy nearly $37-million worth of discounted drugs.

Toothy neighbors are on the rebound

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it's ready to reclassify the American crocodile from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act. "In the past 30 years, we have made great strides in protecting this species and conserving its habitat," said Sam D. Hamilton, the agency's Southeast regional director. The animal is being reclassified in Southern Florida, its only habitat within the United States.