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News at noon: Republicans like what they see in Trump (who's in Orlando tonight); Hillsborough legislators favor abolishing PTC; region's economy is thriving; and who Bucs fans should root for this week

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Giant Center, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, in Hershey, Pa. [Associated Press]

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Giant Center, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, in Hershey, Pa. [Associated Press]

Billionaire, populist, outsider Donald Trump has drawn heavily from Washington and Wall Street insiders in filling out his administration, and even Republicans once aghast or wary of the prospect of a President Trump are cheering pick after pick, Adam C. Smith writes.

TRUMP RETURNS TO FLORIDA ON 'THANK YOU' TOUR

President-elect Donald Trump returns to Florida today for his first pubic event in the state since it helped him win the presidency last month. Trump is set to speak at a campaign-style rally at the Central Florida Fairgrounds in Orlando at 7 p.m. as part of his USA Thank You Tour. Vice president-elect Mike Pence will be on hand as well.

WHILE MUCH OF THE COUNTRY IS STUCK IN A BLIZZARD, TAMPA BAY BASKS IN POSSIBLY RECORD-SETTING WARMTH

[Todd Berkey | The Tribune-Democrat via AP]

These two snow covered plastic flamingo's stand near a pond outside of Johnstown, Pa., Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016.

Denise Travers is a native of western New York, which was hit by its first real snowstorm of the season this week. But for 20 blissful years, Travers has lived in Florida. On Thursday afternoon, she was dreaming of Tampa Bay's mid-70s forecast while she was under several layers. Buffalo was 16 degrees with 30 mph winds. While most of the country is dealing with blizzard conditions, Tampa Bay could experience record heat this weekend.

HILLSBOROUGH LEGISLATORS SUPPORT LOCAL BILL TO ABOLISH COUNTY PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION

With no fuss, Hillsborough County's delegation of state representatives and senators on Friday supported a local bill to abolish the county's beleaguered Public Transportation Commission and turn its mission over to the County Commission effective Dec. 31, 2017. "The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently," said state Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, who is sponsoring the bill.

COMPETING METROS: TAMPA BAY REBOUNDS TO BEST PERFORMANCE IN DECADE IN MILKEN INSTITUTE RANKINGS

Business columnist Robert Trigaux has a feel-good column to unwrap this holiday season that will reveal the Tampa Bay metro area is rebounding as one of the better performing, larger metro areas in the United States. That's great news after a decade of rough times in the bay area economy, hitting a low ranking among the nation's top 200 metros at No. 169 in 2009. That's when the recession cut deepest in Tampa Bay and Florida, and the housing market bust was most intense.

TBX PUSHED TO BACK OF AGENDA AS OPPONENTS LINE UP

The Hillsborough Legislative Delegation was poised to spend much of its meeting Friday on controversial toll road project Tampa Bay Express, but that changed with a couple of early announcements from Chairman Sen. Tom Lee. Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold was scrapped from the agenda. He previously had an 11 a.m. presentation scheduled but did not make the final lineup. Lee, R-Brandon, said the decision was made to save time during the six-hour meeting.

BUCS FAN PRIMER: WHO TO ROOT FOR IN WEEK 15

Welcome back for another week of Greg Auman's Advanced Scoreboard Watching, now in its fourth week of helping Bucs fans figure out who they should pull for to optimize the Bucs' playoff chances.

COVETED BASKETBALL RECRUIT KEVIN KNOX IN NO HURRY TO DECIDE FUTURE

[Scott Purks, Times]

Tampa Catholic senior Kevin Knox rises above the competition time after time after time, often with thunderous dunks. Knox is a top-10 national recruit and one of the top small forwards in the county.

Tournament directors in Raleigh, N.C., did everything they could to land Tampa Catholic for the three-day event (Dec. 27-30), taking care of airfare, nine hotel rooms and all meals. The red-carpet treatment will continue once Tampa Catholic (4-1 entering the weekend) arrives. The Crusaders are holding practices in two iconic college arenas — North Carolina's Dean Smith Center and Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. The directors even tweaked the Crusaders' tournament schedule so they could attend the Tar Heels' home game against Monmouth on Dec. 28. This courtship has everything to do with Kevin Knox, a Tampa Catholic senior who is one of the most coveted recruits in the country.

POLITIFACT: TAKING STOCK OF A BRUISED ELECTION

Faith in elections goes to the core of the American idea of democracy. That faith has been challenged before, but this year, the attacks came from many directions. With the election that close, PolitiFact has been fact-checking claims about the integrity of the vote. We found that claims about voter fraud are for the most part overblown or unfounded.

ST. PETERSBURG'S JABIL SEEKS TO STRENGTHEN ITS BRAND AMID BRUTAL GLOBAL COMPETITION AND TRUMP'S JOB PROMISES

So, how is St. Petersburg global electronics manufacturer Jabil doing these days? It's not an easy answer, business columnist Robert Trigaux writes — despite Jabil reporting quarterly results and its shares soaring by double digits Friday morning to hit their highest price in more than a year.

FLORIDA'S UNEMPLOYMENT RATE CLIMBS TO 4.9 PERCENT

Florida's unemployment rate continued to tick upward in November, reaching 4.9 percent, according to figures released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). In a rare instance, the national rate outpaced the sunshine state at 4.6 percent.

MOVIE PLANNER: 'COLLATERAL BEAUTY' OPENS, TOP MOVIES

Collateral Beauty (PG-13) draws the short straw this weekend, opening head-to-space- helmet with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. See what else is opening and make your plans to hit the theatres.

News at noon: Republicans like what they see in Trump (who's in Orlando tonight); Hillsborough legislators favor abolishing PTC; region's economy is thriving; and who Bucs fans should root for this week 12/16/16 [Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2016 1:02pm]
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