Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray and Jim Rosica.
DEBATE TAKEAWAYS: HILLARY, BERNIE SHOW THEIR FIGHTING SIDE — Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders let loose with a series of combative accusations on Wall Street, the minimum wage and guns in a rough-and-tumble debate Thursday at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The contentious, fast-paced back-and-forth between the two Democratic presidential candidates was proof of how much is at stake entering Tuesday’s New York primary. For Sanders, a loss in New York would narrow his already difficult path to the nomination. For Clinton, anything less than victory in the state she represented in the Senate would be an embarrassment and would make nervous Democrats even more anxious. Here are the top takeaways from Thursday’s debate:
Tough tone — Clinton and Sanders did little to hide their annoyance with each other. Sanders was often caustic as he questioned Clinton’s credibility on super PACs, the Iraq War and Wall Street. “My goodness! They must have been really crushed by this,” Sanders said in a mocking manner about Clinton’s response to financial executives after the 2008 financial crisis. Clinton suggested Sanders didn’t have the judgment to be both president and commander in chief and implied he had cut a deal with the National Rifle Association to get elected to Congress in 1990. “He kept his word to the NRA,” she said. Both talked over each other at times, their voices rising. At one point, CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer said if they continued “screaming at each other,” no one would be able to hear either of them.
Wall Street — Sanders hoped to use the debate just miles from Wall Street to portray his opponent as insufficiently tough on corporate greed. When Sanders played the Wall Street card, Clinton tried to turn it around as an attack on President Barack Obama — among the party’s most popular figures. Clinton said Obama and the groups that supported his candidacy received “tens of millions of dollars” from the financial industry, but he still steered the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul through Congress. “This is a phony attack,” she said. Sanders pointed to the Wall Street-backed donations filling the coffers of a pro-Clinton super PAC. And he dismissed Clinton’s contention that she had told Wall Street firms to reform their ways before the financial crisis in 2008. “They must have been very, very upset by what you did,” he said sarcastically.
Minimum wage — Sanders tried to paint Clinton as a johnny-come-lately on hourly wages, expressing surprise when he thought Clinton said she was supportive of a $15 an hour federal minimum wage. Clinton has supported the “Fight for $15” push by labor unions, but backed a more incremental approach in a Senate bill that calls for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour. Cities and states, Clinton argues, should be free to go further. But Sanders said he was surprised to hear that Clinton might support the $15 threshold, telling the audience, “I think the secretary has confused a lot of people.” Clinton said she was being consistent and in the eight previous encounters, “I have said the exact same thing.”
Sanders’ take on Middle East peace — In standing by his past criticism of Israel, Sanders delivered some straight talk that might cost him some voters in New York — but highlighted Clinton’s rigid orthodoxy on the issue of Middle East peace. Sanders wasn’t fazed when asked whether he believes Israel has acted disproportionately in responding to attacks from Hamas. He said the devastation to schools, hospitals and infrastructure in Gaza has not matched the threat. “That does not make me anti-Israel,” Sanders said. Clinton stuck to the pro-Israel hard line. In war, leaders must take “appropriate precautions,” she said — but Israelis “did not seek this kind of attack, they do not invite rockets raining down on their towns and villages.” Sanders, she said, was again describing a problem without proposing a solution. Sanders came back by accusing Clinton of evading the question. “We are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all the time,” he said, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Long-term, there will never be peace in that region unless the United States plays a role — an even-handed role.”
Transcripts or tax returns — Clinton was pressed again to release the transcripts of her paid private speeches to Wall Street executives after she departed the State Department in 2013. The ex-secretary of state again demurred, saying Republican candidates should also be forced to comply. But this time she pointed out that Sanders hadn’t released his recent tax returns, which she said was a basic standard for any presidential hopeful. Sanders announced that he would release his 2014 tax return on Friday and he would release others in due time. The senator said his wife, Jane Sanders, handled the family’s taxes but offered this excuse: “We’ve been a little bit busy lately.”
TWEET OF THE NIGHT: @JohnDingell: Old Guy Who Yells A Lot Sick Of Listening To Old Guy Who Yells A Lot
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PATRICK MURPHY’S SENATE BID BOOSTED BY NETWORK OF FUNDRAISING AGREEMENTS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Murphy has established a network of committees, including one with the Florida Democratic Party, that has given a slight bump to fundraising efforts for his U.S. Senate campaign and could provide a big boost moving forward. They are called joint fundraising agreements, and they allow committees and members of Congress to join forces to raise campaign cash. Murphy’s campaign committee has agreements with seven different committees, two of which have transferred a total of $57,741 to his campaign, according to campaign finance records.
HOW MUCH DID ALAN GRAYSON COOPERATE WITH ETHICS INVESTIGATION? via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Those who actually read the recently released Office of Congressional Ethics investigative report on Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Grayson may be struck, as we were, by how much that independent body depicted Grayson as uncooperative, even though he submitted to an interview of roughly an hour. Grayson has dismissed the allegations as “utterly frivolous” and “nonsense,” and denies any stonewalling.
RIC KELLER FILES TO RUN FOR CONGRESS via Orlando Rising – Former Republican U.S. Congressman Keller filed papers to run for Florida’s 6th Congressional District. The seat is open as a result of Ron DeSantis leaving to run for the U.S. Senate. “I am running for Congress because Washington is dysfunctional, our country is headed in the wrong direction, and we’ve been betrayed by the Republican Establishment,” said Keller. Keller is considered to be a conservative Republican, and was ranked as the #1 most conservative member of Congress from Florida by National Journal magazine (2003, 2005). Keller also bucked the Republican establishment by voting against the $700 billion Wall Street bailout in 2008, and by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants.
MATT GAETZ ANNOUNCES ‘FIGHT WASHINGTON’ BUS TOUR via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and Congressional District 1 candidate … plans to embark on a bus tour across the congressional district April 23. “I am excited to travel across the 1st Congressional District and talk to voters about this pivotal election,” said Gaetz in a statement. “I encourage interested voters to join us at any or all stops on the tour and be part of our growing campaign to fight Washington and restore America.” Gaetz is expected to make four stops during his bus tour. He’ll start the day at Grand Dunes Condominium in Miramar Beach, before heading to KC’s Sandbar and Grille in Fort Walton Beach. Gaetz will then head to Helen Back Again in Navarre, before ending the day at The Fish House in Pensacola.
ACCUSATIONS MARK OPENING SALVOS OF SECOND DISTRICT RACE via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – Mary Thomas and Neal Dunn exchanged personal insults this week as they compete for the opportunity to recapture the newly redrawn seat for the GOP. Thomas started the exchange with the release of a video calling Dunn a liar. The Dunn campaign fired back with the charge that Thomas was a political insider disingenuously distorting Dunn’s record. The Thomas video pulls a four-second clip from a Panama City television interview to build a 52-second attack ad. In a live interview on WPEC-TV, Dunn is asked to “set the record straight” on whether he was a lobbyist with the Florida Medical Association. Dunn responded he was not. The Thomas video shows Dunn registered with the state in 2014 as an FMA lobbyist. “That is the typical disingenuous distortions you expect from political insiders,” said Sarah Bascom, spokeswoman for the Dunn campaign. Bascom explained that Dunn served on the FMA board. Since he would testify before legislative committees as a physician, he was required to file the same paperwork that a professional lobbyist files, “even though he was not a professional lobbyist … It is unfortunate that Mary Thomas continues to so blatantly misrepresent Neal Dunn’s record … Her underhanded tactics are not the way we do things in North Florida and the voters will respond accordingly.”
NO VOTER FRAUD BY ERIC LYNN, SAYS STATE via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times – The complaint, filed in July by Nestor Ojeda-Penaloza, alleged that Lynn violated Florida law by voting in state elections while holding a homestead exemption for property in the District of Columbia and Maryland … the Department of State announced that Lynn didn’t break state law. “The facts at hand are at least indicative of Mr. Lynn’s intention to make Pinellas County his legal residence,” wrote assistant general counsel David A. Fugett in a letter … Lynn is involved in the community, owns a home in Pinellas County, receives mail and has a Florida driver’s license, among other evidence of his residency, Fugett wrote. “His claim of homestead exemption outside of the county, alone, is not dispositive in the other direction.”
TOM LEE IS CONSIDERING A RUN IN HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY THIS YEAR – BUT FOR WHAT SEAT? via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “I’m thinking about my family and my professional interests and trying to get a sense of how those might play into me continuing to spend my life 270 miles away from home,” Lee said. “My passion really is my community … It’s what motivated me to serve to begin with and the thought of coming home and serving here somewhere locally, whether it be as an appointed official or an elected official is something that’s very appealing to me.” His comment that he is taking a good look at his possibilities of serving locally translate into a couple of potential opportunities. One obvious one would be the Hillsborough County Commission District 6 seat, an open countywide race. There are currently two Republicans running there – former County Commissioner and state Senator Jim Norman, and South Tampa small-business man Tim Schock.
JOE REDNER FOR STATE SENATE? via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – Redner says he’s considering running for the state Senate from District 18, including South Tampa, Westchase and Town ‘N Country, as an independent or no-party candidate. Redner said he’s thinking about it in part because of a report from The Children’s Campaign, a child welfare advocacy group, about state funding for prekindergarten in Florida. Redner, who heads a prosperous business complex including real estate and adult entertainment, has plenty of money to self-fund a campaign. He’s run for local offices before both as a Democrat and no-party-affiliate, and has strong liberal-libertarian opinions. He’s in remission from lung cancer diagnosed in 2011.
FLORIDA STRONG GOES AFTER MIAMI ANITERE FLORES WITH MAILERS via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – The mailers from Florida Strong are part of an ongoing “Got Ethics?” campaign that the group launched earlier this year to call for ethics reform and to highlight lawmakers’ ties to special interests … The group declined to say how much it spent for the mailers, which accuse Flores of being “part of the problem” of lawmakers accepting money from special interest groups. From 2011 until July, Flores was president of Doral College, which is run by Academica — a for-profit company that’s believed to be Florida’s largest charter school operator. A few Miami-Dade Republican lawmakers, such as Flores, who have voted in support of charter schools have connections to Academica. Florida has broad voting conflict laws for state officers. Legislators are only required to abstain from voting in narrow situations where they will be directly affected by new law or regulations. If a proposal could affect a them indirectly — through a family member or an employer — they can still vote. Flores has defended her work with the college, which is still seeking accreditation.
ANOTHER DEMOCRAT FILES FOR RANDOLPH BRACY’S VACATED HD 45 SEAT via Florida Politics – Kamia Brown, a one-time legislative assistant to Orlando Democratic Rep. Victor Torres, filed for the seat, joining fellow Democrats Kelvin Cobaris and Gregory Jackson in the race to succeed Bracy. Neither Cobaris nor Jackson have brought in much in the way of campaign contributions, with Jackson currently atop the heap with $4,125 on hand after seven months. Cobaris, who filed for the seat in late October, has just shy of $2,500 on hand, including $2,745 raised in March. Brown, an alumna of Florida A&M University, may have to move into the district if she gains traction in the race.
— “Patrick Murphy endorses Crystal Lucas in HD 83” via Florida Politics
MUST-READ – PANAMA CITY BEACH MAYORAL CANDIDATE ACKNOWLEDGES PAST ARRESTS, BUT DENIES WRONGDOING via Florida Politics – A Panama City Beach mayoral election took a bizarre turn … when 30-year-old candidate Calvin Finnegan Chester released a video via Facebook responding to what he Called “campaign slander” related to two past arrests. Chester said rumors circulating about his arrests misrepresent his actions on two occasions — one involving an obscene gesture at a pair of men who assailed him, and another involving a fist fight on the beach — which he characterized as appropriate and defensible. “While it’s true I have been arrested, all the charges were dropped and I have never committed any crime,” said a bow-tie clad Chester, who is seeking to replace term-limited Mayor Gayle Oberst … he got into an altercation in 2010 after two intoxicated men attempted to humiliate his girlfriend by pulling down her bathing suit. One of the men, it turned out, was an off-duty officer, who pressed assault charges against Chester after the mayoral candidate punched him in retaliation. “You know, I gotta tell you, if you ever pull a woman’s bikini down in front of me, I’m gonna punch you in the mouth all day long,” said Chester.
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RALLY SUPPORTING RICK SCOTT’S STARBUCKS HECKLER DRAWS TWO SUPPORTERS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The plan was for people fed up with Scott and inspired by the coffee-fueled viral spectacle at Starbucks last week to rally at the Capitol and let the governor know how they feel. But only two people showed up. Frank Day, who owns a home repair business and lives in Point Washington, up in the Florida Panhandle, tried to gather supporters on Facebook for a “March to Support Cara Jennings,” the woman featured in a viral video from a Gainesville Starbucks where she called Scott an “a——.” Fred Williams of Jefferson County, a 31-year state worker who retired from the Florida Department of Health about 10 years ago came, as did six reporters. Though small in number, they stood on the steps of the Historic Old Capitol in Tallahassee Thursday, holding signs supporting Jennings and demanding the state raise the minimum wage.
SCOTT SIGNS THE FLORIDA KEYS STEWARDSHIP ACT via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Scott signed The Florida Keys Stewardship Act into law Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Wilton Simpson and Anitere Flores, and Rep. Holly Raschein, was one of 20 bills Scott signed into law. The new law revises policies relating to local government environmental financing. Among other things, the Florida Keys Stewardship Act invests in water quality, restoration and protection; water supply protection; and land for critical habitat protection. It lays the groundwork for future increased funding for the area’s environmental needs.
SCOTT SIGNS FIVE EDUCATION BILLS INTO FLORIDA LAW via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – The most far-reaching measure was an education omnibus that pulled several pieces of legislation into one that district officials are still trying to pull apart. At 160 pages, HB 7029 addresses school choice, charter schools, athletics eligibility and a host of other issues. HB 7053 revises the laws relating to early education and school readiness. HB 585 streamlines the rules for school districts to provide instruction to hospitalized and homebound students. HB 287 creates a pilot program giving certain principals more autonomy in operating their public schools. HB 7019 aims to make college and university tuition more affordable.
CLEAR PRICING FOR HOSPITALS AMONG BATCH OF BILLS SIGNED BY GOV. RICK SCOTT via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Hospitals throughout the state will be required to post average prices for standard procedures on their websites and alert patients to possible out-of-network charges under a pair of bills signed by Scott. Under HB 1175, health care providers must post prices and health insurers will submit claims data to the state to review price claims. Scott pushed heavily for greater price transparency at hospitals, but scolded lawmakers early in the legislative session for not including criminal penalties for health care providers that did not comply with the law. Upon signing the bill, however, he applauded their efforts. Under HB 211, hospitals must provide notices on their websites about out-of-network charges that could be incurred by procedures.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce March job numbers at 10 a.m. at Beneficial Blends, 5505 Johns Road in Tampa.
JEFF ATWATER, INSURANCE COMMISSIONER KEVIN MCCARTY FEATURED ON CBS ‘60 MINUTES’ – Atwater and McCarty will appear on a 60 Minutes segment Sunday that focuses on disturbing and long-standing practices discovered within the life insurance industry, which drastically reduce the number of life insurance policies that are properly—and timely—paid out. The segment profiles several states, including Florida, that have played a significant role in correcting this issue. During the 2016 Legislative Session, Atwater championed legislation to in this practice in Florida. Senate Bill 966 was signed into law by Scott and this new law ensures requires life insurance companies take steps to determine when policyholders pass away and make an attempt to contact the listed beneficiary.
TOP TALKER: HOW WILL SCOTT’S INSURANCE PICK JEFFREY BRAGG SURVIVE SCRUTINY? via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – The Capitol is buzzing over the validity, or lack of it, of Bragg’s qualifications to serve as insurance commissioner at all. The basics are this … In the past 10 years, the applicant must have five years of private or public insurance experience. Bragg, executive director of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program (TRIP) from 2003 to 2014, hasn’t been in the private sector for 13 years … In the public sector, the applicant must be a senior official at the state or federal level regulating companies or agents. Bragg was a senior official in Washington at the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program (TRIP). But, despite Bragg’s assurance before the Cabinet (“I regulated the program,” he said) TRIP itself doesn’t regulate anybody. Insurance executives have told me TRIP operates basically as the Florida CAT fund does. Apart from qualifications, Bragg struck the applicant gong when Bondi asked him, “What about the navigators in the Affordable Health Care Act?” He had no idea. “I’m not familiar with what you’re asking,” he responded.
TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: Fascinating to watch the insurance lobbyists do their best to kill off each other’s favorite candidates for insurance commissioner
FLORIDA SUPREME COURT: BOARD MUST PAY IN PUBLIC RECORDS CASE via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – Florida government agencies that lose lawsuits filed by people seeking access to public records will have to pay plaintiffs’ attorney fees, the state Supreme Court ruled in a Jacksonville-based case. And it doesn’t matter if the agency didn’t know it was breaking Florida’s public records laws when it denied or limited access to records, the court ruled. “This is really important,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the open government watchdog group First Amendment Foundation. “It’s not a penalty. They don’t pay damages or anything. They simply have to pay our attorneys’ fees if we have to sue them and take them to court for violating our rights.” In this case, the board of trustees that manages the Jacksonville police and fire pension funds will have to pay $75,000 to Curtis Lee‘s lawyer after losing a case that originated over a $320 dispute. And that doesn’t include more than $300,000 the board paid outside lawyers to defend it. Lee sued after the board said he would have to pay for someone to watch him read public records in its office.
WORRIED IT’S LOSING TO FLORIDA’S TURNPIKE ENTERPRISE THOUGH COOPERATION, CENTRAL FLORIDA EXPRESSWAY AUTHORITY SEEKS TO COMPETE MORE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The expressway authority’s board of directors authorized a plan that would seek to convince drivers to sign up for and use the local E-PASS electronic tolling transponders rather than the state’s SunPass system, including providing deeper discounts for using the local system. In doing so, the Central Florida board essentially said that it was tired of Florida’s Turnpike dominating the electronic tolling market in Orlando. More to the point, the expressway authority decided it did not want to lose millions of dollars a year to the state system because most local drivers using transponders have signed up for Turnpike Enterprise SunPasses. “Competition is good,” said expressway authority board chairman Welton Caldwell, a Lake County Commissioner. Competition generally has not been the name of the relationship for 14-years, coordination and cooperation have been.
FLORIDA ZIKA VIRUS UPDATE via FloridaHealth.gov – As of Thursday, two new travel -related cases were reported in Miami-Dade County, with six cases still exhibiting symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms associated with the Zika virus last between seven to 10 days. There are now 87 total cases in Florida; by county (number of cases): Miami-Dade (35), Broward (13), Orange (5), Alachua (4), Lee (4), Osceola (4), Palm Beach (4), Hillsborough (3), Polk (3), Brevard (2) and a single case each in Clay, Collier, Santa Rosa, Seminole and St. John’s and five cases involving pregnant women. The number for the Zika Virus Information Hotline is 1-855-622-6735. Women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant are strongly suggested to postpone travel to Zika affected areas. The CDC also recommends that if you have traveled to a country with local transmission of Zika, you should abstain from unprotected sex. The DOH urges Floridians to drain standing water weekly, no matter how seemingly small. A couple drops of water in a bottle cap can be a breeding location for mosquitoes. Residents and visitors also need to use repellent when participating in any outdoor activity. Florida currently has the capacity to test 6,754 people for active Zika virus and 1,551 for Zika antibodies.
PERSONNEL NOTE: Rich Reidy, former aide to Sen. John Legg, has joined Sen. Jack Latvala‘s office as District Chief Legislative Assistant.
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APPOINTED: Ronald Mitchell and Craig Broeker to the Board of Respiratory Care.
APPOINTED: John “Skip” Forsyth, Samantha Wass de Czege, Erin Hough, Dr. Judith Levin, Betty Jo Pate, Dr. Sara Evans, Lilli Copp, Elizabeth Cayson and Misty Porter to the Florida Interagency Coordinating Council for Infants and Toddlers.
HAPPENING TONIGHT — Quorum — Tampa Bay’s not-too-political happy hour — is tonight. Quorum features candidates, operatives, media and political enthusiasts of all stripes. The get-together will start with 5 p.m. hors d’oeuvres at its customary location: Cassis American Brasserie on Beach Drive. Sponsors of the first Quorum of 2016 – co-hosted by Michelle Todd and Peter Schorsch – are Alan Suskey, Laura Boehmer, Seth McKeel, David Shepp, Franco Ripple, Anthony Pedicini and Amanda Taylor. RSVP here.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Laura Boehmer, Southern Strategy Group: International Insulation Products
Cynthia Henderson, Lauren Claire Henderson, Cynergy Consulting: Benevis
Rena Langely: Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Douglas McAlarney, Liberty Partners: HomeAway; Humana
Brandon Peck, Flywheel Government Solutions: Big Ass Solutions
David Rancourt, Champion Consultants: Dominion Voting Systems
SPOTTED At the Pearl Jam concert Wednesday at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena (for a fundraiser for Sen. Rob Bradley): Richard Reeves, Alan Suskey, Jorge Chamizo, J.C. Flores, Trevor Mask, and Joe Mobley.
Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Dr. Diana Green on the Manatee County School District’s recent positive turnaround.
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS Miami: Miami Mayor Carlos Jimenez and political consultant Roger Stone.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Prof. Susan MacManus of Univ. of South Florida, Tampa Bay Times columnist and former Sen. Paula Dockery, NPR TV/Media critic Eric Deggans, and La Gaceta publisher Patrick Mantiega.
On Point with Shannon Ogden on WFCN in Jacksonville: A discussion of recent Federal Communications Commission activity with University of North Florida Professor David Deeley, an interview with Jacksonville Suns owner Ken Babby, and a highlight of Fair Housing Month with Shannon Nazworth, head of Ability Housing of Northeast Florida.
Political Connections on Bay News 9 in Tampa Bay: A look at the upcoming GOP and Democratic New York primaries, plus Ybeth Bruzual sits down for a one-on-one with Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga about the court and its role in the Sunshine State. Plus, PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim made by U.S. Rep. David Jolly on Common Core and federal funding.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: Julie Gargotta sits down with former Democratic Rep. Mike Clelland, running to replace termed out Senate President Andy Gardiner. Pollster and political analyst Frank Luntz on polls and the presidential race. Plus PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim about Reach for the Top and Common Core standards, and Alex Sink and Chris Ingram try to find Common Ground when it comes to ride sharing services like Uber.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon, Sean Pittman, and Gary Fineout of the Associated Press discuss the proposed alimony reform law.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Political analyst and former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, Chris Hand, former City of Jacksonville Chief of Staff to Mayor Alvin Brown, and Duval Republican Chairman Rep. Lake Ray and Democratic Chairman Neil Henrichsen on upcoming changes to Northeast Florida’s congressional delegation.
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DISNEY ANNOUNCES STAR WARS GROUNDBREAKING WITH 360° VIEW via Richard Bilbao of the Orlando Business Journal – The Walt Disney Co. has been well underway on making the room needed for its future Star Wars expansions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, but the company has shared a look at the groundbreaking … Disney Parks Blog revealed a 360-degree photo peek into the construction of the new Star Wars land going on at Disneyland — Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando is set to get much of the same treatment. “In these all-new lands, guests will be transported to a never-before-seen planet inhabited by humanoids, droids and many others. Star Wars-themed lands will be the largest-ever single-themed land expansions at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort,” said the blog.
DISNEY SPRINGS’ TOWN CENTER TO DEBUT MAY 15 via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel – The new Town Center area of Walt Disney World’s remodeled retail center … will open in phases … The majority of the new stores will be operating by July 1. Town Center is the latest step in the Disney Springs project, which re-imagined the Downtown Disney area as a small, turn-of-the-century Florida town. This retail district is being constructed in what was a portion of the Downtown Disney parking lot, near the entrance to the old Mannequins nightclub, which is now Morimoto Asia restaurant. Among the retailers coming to Town Center are Kate Spade, Lilly Pulitzer, Pandora, Tommy Bahama, Under Armour, Coca-Cola Store, Trophy Room, Edward Beiner, Lacoste, Sperry, Zara, Sephora, UGG, Vera Bradley, Volcom and others.
SUMMER GAS PRICES WILL BE THE CHEAPEST IN 12 YEARS, U.S. AGENCY PREDICTS via Rob Nikolewski of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – “It looks like, optimistically, we may get the lowest prices since 2005 … but it’s probably more likely the average will be similar to what we had in 2009,” said Marie Montgomery Nordhues, spokeswoman for the Automobile Club of Southern California. Nationally, the story is similar. With the U.S. starting the spring and summer driving season with gasoline inventories nearly 15 million barrels higher than last year, the agency estimated that for all of 2016, the average household will save about $350 on gasoline compared with last year. The national average for regular grade gasoline is $2.06 a gallon, the lowest for this time of year since 2009.
UNIVERSAL’S HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS REVEALS FIRST 2016 HOUSE via Richard Bilbao of the Orlando Business Journal – If you’re a fan of Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights, then we have some good, gory news for you: The first haunted house was announced. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is set to come to Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights in 2016. The theme park revealed The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the 1974 horror film, will be one of the houses Horror Nights fans will brave this coming fall. Universal’s website for the event said the house will have fans “experience every scene, every kill, every bone-chilling rev of the chain saw from the original masterpiece.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to John Burr, who is now contributing to our Jacksonville Bold email. Celebrating this weekend is Donna Arduin and Shannon Sheep.