5 things you need to know happening in Florida on Thursday, February 20, 2014

TAMPA - Here are five things you need to know happening in Florida on Thursday, February 20, 2014.

(1) Rep. Rooney discusses citrus greening

Congressman Tom Rooney will visit Polk and Highlands Counties on Thursday to discuss citrus greening.

Rep. Rooney is a member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. He helped pass the Farm Bill which includes guarantees $125 million in funding to research the citrus disease over the next five years

Citrus greening threatens Florida's $9 billion dollar citrus industry. The disease has already wiped out thousands of acres of citrus trees which have cost the state thousands of jobs.

The Farm Bill grants $25 million in annual funding to research a cure to the greening disease.

Today Rep. Room will tour the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred and speak at the Highlands County Citrus Growers Annual Meeting in Sebring.

(2) RPOS Statesman of the Year

Texas Senator Ted Cruz will be honored by the Republican Party of Sarasota on Thursday night.

Cruz will receive the party's annual Statesman of the Year award at events at the Hyatt Regency and Sarasota Yacht Club.

Sen. Cruz was elected to Congress two years ago. The Washington Post called his election "the upset of 2010."

He first earned national acclaim as the Solicitor General of Texas, the state's chief lawyer who argues cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Cruz was the first Hispanic ever to serve as a law clerk for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

For more on tonight's Statesman of the Year Event, visit www.statesmanoftheyear.com .

(3) Benjamin Todd Jealous at Eckerd College

Former NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous will speak at Eckerd College on Thursday night.

Jealous became the youngest president of the NAACP when he was took the position at age 35 in 2008. He stepped down as president at the end of 2013.

Prior to leading the NAACP, he spent 15 years serving as a journalist and community organizer.

The topic of Jealous' speech is "That One Big Thing." It will identify the simple steps that can accelerate anyone toward achieving feats of great social transformation and service.

Tonight's event is open to the public. It will start at 7:30 p.m. in Fox Hall on the Eckerd College campus.

(4) Budweiser Duel at Daytona

Thirty NASCAR drivers will try to qualify for this weekend's 57th annual Dayton 500 at the Daytona International Speedway on Thursday night.

The top fifteen drivers in today's two Budweiser Duel races will qualify for the Dayton 500. The number will increase to sixteen if Austin Dillon or Martin Truex Jr., who qualified last weekend, are among the top fifteen.

The Budweiser Duel races are each 150 miles long. This year both races are being held at night. The first Duel race is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m.

The 57th annual Daytona 500 is scheduled to start at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.

For more Daytona Speedweek information, call (800) PIT-STOP or visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com .

(5) Tampa Bay Rays first full-squad workout

The Tampa Bay Rays will hold their first 2014 full-squad spring training workout at Charlotte Sports Park in Charlotte County on Thursday.

All nine players who started for the Rays in their final game of the 2013 postseason are back in camp this season. That has not occurred since 2002.

The Rays have the only major league roster with three Rookie of the Year award winners: Evan Longoria (2008), Jeremy Hellickson (2011) and Wil Myers (2013).

Today's workout is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. following physical examinations. All spring training workouts are free and open to the public.

The 2014 Rays Fan Fest will take place this Saturday at Tropicana Field. All players and coaches are expected to attend.

The Rays open up Grapefruit League play against the Baltimore Orioles in Charlotte County on Friday, February 28.

To learn more about Rays spring training, visit raysbaseball.com .

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