State Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, chairs the Florida House’s Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee. Hudson is criticizing the Affordable Care Act for not being flexible to allow states to alter the requirements of the mandate. The Republican-led Legislature is in the process of implementing the federal mandates, which some believe, will be an effort to water down its requirements.

The number of influenza (flu) deaths is mounting up and health officials are urging those who have yet to get flu vaccinations to do so. The flu risks are particularly high for the elderly and those with existing health issues.

Palm Beach County

Michael Paul Belanger, 49, of Boynton Beach crashed an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and refused to leave. Instead, he offered attendees some of the beer he took along with him. Police were called but he still refused to leave, so he was arrested and booked into the Palm Beach County Jail.

Reginald Johnson, 37, of West Palm Beach is facing animal cruelty charges. Palm Beach County sheriff deputies were called after a woman reported seeing him allegedly attempting to hang her neighbor’s pit bull from a tree in his backyard to punish the dog. Several people reportedly heard the dog howling in agony.

Randolph Alexander and his wife Mary, both 44 and from Lake Worth, are facing multiple counts of insurance-related fraud charges. Alexander is a garbage truck driver with the city of Boynton Beach. Authorities allege that between 2009 and 2011 he falsely claimed 14 injuries and collected more than $20,000 in compensation from AFLAC Insurance. Police said an investigation revealed that all of the claims had medical validation papers from the Arthritis and Rheumatology Associates of the Palm Beaches medical facility. It was also discovered that his wife worked at the facility and that she had allegedly forged the medical records. The couple confessed, police said. Both were booked into the Palm Beach County Jail.

Broward County

A woman whose identity has yet to be released was stabbed in the neck while waiting for a ride at a Hollywood gas station in the 2700 block of north State Road 7. The 60-year-old woman was not seriously injured and is expected to survive. Hollywood police said the assailant is believed to be a mentally disturbed woman in her 30s, who was taken into custody.

Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley said an intensive crime crackdown along Sistrunk Boulevard has been so successful it will continue indefinitely. There have been dozens of arrests for prostitution and hundreds of traffic tickets were issued in an effort to combat crime in the area which is undergoing redevelopment.

Former Fort Lauderdale city commissioners Charlotte Rodstrom and Dean Trantalis are in a March 12 run off to fill the seat Rodtrom vacated for a bid for the Broward County Commission. The race has a lot of politicos scratching their heads and wondering whom to support. Both candidates are popular and many are publicly vowing to remain neutral in this contest.

Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade police are continuing the search for the persons who set 44-year-old Darrell Brackett on fire on Christmas night at a Miami gas station. Brackett ran out of gas after taking friends home and then walked to a gas station with can in hand, when he was attacked. Police have questioned several people and are looking for a man and a woman but have not said if they are suspects. Police are asking anyone with information to call Miami-Dade Crimestoppers at 305-471-8477.

Richard Blanco, 44, son of Cuban exiles who was raised in Miami, made his parents and the entire nation proud when he delivered the inauguration poem for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration this week. Blanco now lives in Maine and his life will never be the same after delivering his poem before the world.

County Commissioner Dennis Moss, whose district includes parts of south Miami-Dade, is once again pushing hard for development of a theme park on 120 acres of vacant land next to Zoo Miami. The invitation to bid has gone out and must be returned by April 30. County officials want to construct an animal theme park on the site similar to those located in Orlando.

The Esserman dealerships in Miami have been sold to businessman Roger (Rogelio) Tovar. Esserman Nissan and Esserman Volkswagen located off the Palmetto Expressway and Northwest 57th Avenue have been renamed Palmetto57 Nissan and Palmetto57 Volkswagen. Ronald Esserman, who started the dealerships, still owns other Acura, Kia, Volkswagen and Honda dealerships in the Miami-Dade County area.

Monroe County

Key West stunt airplane pilot Fred Cabanas has died. In addition to his work thrilling thousands at air shows around the world, Cabanas owned Cabanas Aeronautics Unlimited, an aeronautical instruction and tour-guide company in Key West. He appeared in dozens of motion pictures performing airplane stunts. He died in an airplane crash in Mexico while filming a documentary on air shows. He was 60.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank is investigating subsidies paid by seven countries for frozen shrimp. Gulf of Mexico shrimp processors have formed the Coalition of Shrimp Industries and have asked for the investigation into imports of warm-water shrimp from China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. They say the survival of the warm-water shrimp industry in the southeastern United States is at stake.

South Florida Times has once again extended its distribution area. The paper’s Circulation Director Robert Beatty II began securing distribution outlets in the Florida Keys. Plans to begin sales in the paper’s major retail partner outlet in Monroe County are also in the works.