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Daystarter: Mueller report release spirals into political battle; NFL schedule makers made the Bucs' road hardest; why are so many children struggling to read in Hillsborough school?

Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and developments.
Published Apr. 18

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.

• Enjoy the nice weather while it lasts. It'll be in the mid 60s when everyone wakes up to mostly sunny skies, according to the National Weather Service. Highs will reach the upper 80s. But the winds will pick up and the clouds will start to appear in the evening, when it cools back down to the 60s. After midnight the first of many rain systems start to roll into the bay area, setting the stage for a very wet Friday.

• It costs money to produce quality journalism. Please support the Tampa Bay Times by buying a digital subscription to Florida's best newspaper and its redesigned website tampabay.com.

• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay including shows by Santana and Leon Bridges and the St. Petersburg Shakespeare Festival gets under way.

• Attorney General William Barr will hold a 9:30 a.m. news conference to present his interpretation of the Mueller report's findings about Russian election interference and Trump's campaign, before providing redacted copies to Congress and the public. After nearly two years of waiting, America will get some answers straight from Robert Mueller— but not before President Donald Trump's attorney general has his say.

• Still recovering from the stunning end to the Lightning's season? This sure won't help: Rick Stroud reports that the NFL has handed the Bucs another cruel twist of fate. New coach Bruce Arians' team will go seven weeks without playing a home game this upcoming season. That's right. The Bucs will play the Giants on Sept. 22 at Raymond James Stadium. But Tampa Bay won't return home for seven weeks, not until the Nov. 10 home against visiting Arizona. And no, that Oct. 13 "home" game against the Panthers in London doesn't count.

Here's a breakdown of the Bucs' 2019 schedule.

• Tens of thousands of Hillsborough school kids struggle to read, according to state testing data. Despite mountains of research and years of trial and error. Despite well-intentioned programs and millions of dollars spent. Only half the Hillsborough students who took the state's reading test last spring passed it. Nearly a fourth scored in the lowest possible range, Level 1. It's a problem that every school district in Florida has, but education reporter Marlene Sokol writes that no district has more schools on Florida's "persistently low-performing" list than Hillsborough.

• Who gets to decide if teachers in a school can be armed? Emily Mahoney reports that the Florida Senate adopted a major amendment that could settle one of the biggest lingering questions of this debate in Tallahassee.

• The University of South Florida's Tampa campus is the least safe college campus in Florida, according to a recent ranking. But Elizabeth Djinis reports that USF's police chief is pushing back against the study's methodology and raising questions about its accuracy.

• A proposal to ask Florida voters whether they want to impose term limits on school board members lost some momentum Wednesday. Jeffrey Solochek reports that the state Senate Rules Committee postponed its vote on the measure just moments before its sponsor was set to make closing remarks seeking support.

• For the latest education coverage, make sure to read The Gradebook. And check out the Gradebook podcast as education reporter Jeffrey Solochek leads a weekly discussion about Florida education.

• A set of bills that would ban some forms of fracking in Florida have likely stalled out in the Legislature. Samantha J. Gross reports that this development has left environmentalists discouraged and petroleum industry representatives hopeful.

• It still has a long way to go, but lawmakers in both the House and Senate are negotiating sweeping changes to Florida's criminal justice system. Emily Mahoney reports that negotiations might be a possible sign of an impending breakthrough on the issue that has struggled to pass in prior years, which may signal the end of Florida's "tough on crime" era.

• Though it faced a near death in the Senate Rules Committee, a contentious bill aimed at banning so-called "sanctuary cities" is headed to the Senate floor. Samantha J. Gross reports that it was a Thonotosassa Republican, state Sen. Tom Lee, who voted to save the bill Wednesday after meeting immigrant advocates that morning.

• The Florida Legislature is in session. The Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau has the latest coverage from the state capital at the The Buzz.

• In just days, all the mailers and TV ads in an increasingly fact-free mayoral race will end in Tampa. In the meantime, David Straz launched a new line of attack Wednesday against frontrunner Jane Castor saying she "can't be trusted" because of corporate and establishment donations to her campaign. But Charlie Frago reports that another claim in that ad, that Straz will not accept any contributions over $500, just isn't true. In reality, Straz has collected at least 12 pledges over $500, breaking his own campaign promise.

• The Tampa mayor's race is headed down the stretch. Click here for full coverage of the race and follow Tampa city hall reporter Charlie Frago on Twitter for the latest developments.

• Seven years ago, Florida lawmakers gave the state transportation department a mission: hire a company to take over tolls and customer service calls for the four turnpike authorities. But the company the state hired — Conduent State & Local Solutions — got too lucky, competitors alleged. Now, how and why Florida decided to hire Conduent is now the subject of an investigation by the state's chief inspector general and questioning by lawmakers, who were barraged with angry calls last summer about Conduent.

• A group of property owners and developers in St. Petersburg say a plan that includes promoting independently owned businesses and preservation of historic buildings along parts of Beach Drive and Central Avenue still needs work. The plan, which encompasses Beach Drive from Fifth Avenue N to First Avenue S and Central Avenue to 31st Street, also includes maintaining pedestrian-friendly streetscapes.

• The heartache of the devastating fire that roared through centuries-old Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has inspired a widespread outpouring of support in the form of money and prayers offered during Christianity's holiest week to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral and comfort the people of France.

• The 7-story hotel Midtown Tampa developers will start to build this summer will be a dual-branded Aloft and Element property. Richard Danielson reports that it will have 226 rooms and a rooftop terrace, pool and lounge designed to appeal to locals as much as to out-of-towners.

• Check out the Times online Business page for the latest on the economy, jobs, real estate, retail and workplace culture.

• The Times online Arts and Entertainment page tells you everything you need to know about what to do, see, eat and experience around town.

• Before he takes the stage in Clearwater on Saturday, we talked to comedian and actor Ken Jeong about returning to stand-up after becoming known for scene-stealing roles in the Hangover movies and Crazy Rich Asians.

• Ready for Easter? We have a lot to choose from here from fun family events and parties to services and plays to mark the holiest week of the year for Christians. And from our food editor, try these classic Italian cookies for Easter. It is a good recipe for children to help with, and they store well.

• Read the Tampa Bay Times online Sports page with the latest news about the Lightning, Bucs, Rays, Bulls, Gators, Noles and high school sports. Times sportswriter Rick Stroud has the latest reaction and analysis from the whole team via our Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast.

• There were no helpful answers, no thoughtful explanations, and really not a lot of words after the Lightning dropped Game 4 of its first-round NHL series on Tuesday night. Diana C. Nearhos reports that Tampa Bay's players and coaches were just as stunned and at a loss over what happened as anybody else was.

• What a rip-off. Columnist Martin Fennelly writes that after winning a record-tying 62 wins, after producing a season that Tampa Bay fans couldn't take their eyes off of, now those same fans will never be able to trust this Lightning team again. This will stay with fans for a long time, and it will be a long time before those same fans can trust this team again.

• If the pain isn't quite bad enough already, Mari Faiello put together a list of the five worst moments in Lightning playoff history. Guess which series was No. 1?

• What's the national media saying about the team that tied a regular-season record with 62 wins and then got swept out of the first-round of the playoffs in one of the greatest crash-and-burns in professional sports history? Click here if you want to keep torturing yourself.

• Where does Tampa Bay go from here? Find out how the team will pick up the piece and follow beat writers Diana C. Nearhos at @dianacnearhos and Mari Faiello at @faiello_mari.

• Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Lightning's historic season ends without a playoff victory.

• The Rays entered Wednesday with a majors' best 13-4 record. Last year, they opened the season 4-13. Eduardo A. Encina writes about how Tampa Bay flipped the script from last year's early-season stumble. T

• Get the latest Rays' news from Marc Topkin and follow him throughout baseball season on @Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

Pinellas County's all-time leading passer set receiving records at Auburn and is projected to be a late-round pick. Lakewood High has never been extremely dominant outside of Pinellas County in football. Since the school opened in 1966, the Spartans have played in a state semifinal just once.

• The Bucs have a new head coach and the NFL draft is almost here. Keep up with the latest offseason changes by following the Times' Bucs page which is just a click away at tampabay.com. For the latest team news on @Twitter, follow Rick Stroud at @NFLSTROUD and fellow beat writer Eduardo A. Encina at @EddieInTheYard.

• All the Bulls news you can use is right here from Times beat writer Joey Knight. Follow him on Twitter for the latest at @TBTimes_Bulls.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Amber Carr, center, wipes a tear as her sister, Ashley Carr, left, and attorney Lee Merritt, right, listen to their brother Adarius Carr talk about their sister, Atatiana Jefferson during a news conference Monday, Oct. 14, 2019 in downtown Dallas. The family of the 28-year-old black woman who was shot and killed by a white police officer in her Fort Worth home as she played video games with her 8-year-old nephew expressed outrage that the officer has not been arrested or fired. (Irwin Thompson/The Dallas Morning News via AP) AP
    The white, former Fort Worth police officer has been booked in jail on a murder charge for the shooting of a black woman through a window in her home.
  2. Tikerria Nashay Bell, 21, was arrested on a charge of attempted murder. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
    She fled with their 18-month-old daughter, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
  3. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    Police say it appears the girl was accidentally left inside the Jeep on Monday morning.
  4. The Tampa Bay Times' annual Medicare Guide explains how the program is set up, helps you compare options available in the Tampa Bay area, and points the way toward help, including free, one-on-one assistance. This illustration will grace the cover of LifeTimes on Oct. 23, when the guide will be published in print. RON BORRESEN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    As the open enrollment period begins, it’s time to review your coverage.
  5. The Medicare Handbook for 2020 is a good resource to have as the annual open enrollment period gets under way. The government usually mails beneficiaries a copy. Find a PDF version to print at medicare.gov/pub/medicare-you-handbook, or call 1-800-633-4227 (1-800-MEDICARE) to order a copy. THOMAS TOBIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The open enrollment period, which lasts into December, is a time for millions of beneficiaries to review, and possibly change, their coverage.
  6. Medicare's online Plan Finder has been redesigned and is available at medicare.gov/find-a-plan. THOMAS TOBIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The most-used tool on Medicare.gov will look different this year.
  7. Jim Tolbert, left, staffs a booth at a senior expo for Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders, or SHINE, a state program that answers Medicare and other insurance questions. The program has scheduled a number of events around the Tampa Bay area during Medicare's open enrollment period, Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Times (2015)
    About 500 volunteers statewide are at the ready. They work for Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders, or SHINE, now in its 28th year.
  8. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    The Fort Myers woman stepped in front of the plane and was struck.
  9. James Dailey, 73, is set to be executed on Nov. 7 for the 1985 murder of 14-year-old Shelly Boggio. Left: Dailey at his 1987 trial, where he was convicted and sentenced to death. Middle: Dailey in 1993, when he was again sentenced to die. Right: The most current photo of Dailey on Florida's Death Row. Tampa Bay Times
    James Dailey’s execution remains set for Nov. 7. On Monday, a judge denied efforts to overturn his death sentence after a former prosecutor testified.
  10. Investigators are collecting evidence at the scene of a fatal stabbing on the 4000 block of 68th Street N. The victim was trying to break into a house, the Sheriff's Office said. KATHRYN VARN   |   TIMES  |  Kathryn Varn
    The dead man had sneaked out of a group home a block away. It’s unlikely charges will be filed, the Sheriff’s Office said.
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