The hepatitis A outbreak is officially an emergency in Florida. State Surgeon General Scott Rivkees announced the outbreak is a public health emergency following more than 2,000 reported cases in the Sunshine state. Rivkees urged people to be vaccinated against the liver disease, which can be spread through food, water or contact with someone who has it. The Florida Department of Health is calling for help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stop the spread. There were 2,034 cases of hepatitis A between Jan. 1 and July 29, already more than the number of cases for all of last year, according to the department.
Universal Orlando just announced there's a new park in the works. "Epic Universe" will be the first major new Central Florida theme park in 20 years. Islands of Adventure, which opened in 1999, was the last project at Universal. This 750-acre park, set south of Sand Lake Road and east of Universal Boulevard, will most likely have Nintendo-themed rides as well as How to Train Your Dragon, Kung-Fu Panda, Madagascar and Shrek. The new park will add to Universal's two theme parks, water park, six hotels and shopping area. Universal currently has 25,000 employees, and the new park is set to produce 14,000 more jobs. And they're offering a $15 an hour base wage.
Attorney General Ashley Moody wants to block a constitutional amendment to prevent assault weapon ownership. As the political committee Ban Assault Weapons Now tries to get their measure on the 2020 election ballot, it appears Moody wants to argue before the state Supreme Court that the language of the bill doesn't work. The constitutional amendment will have the following definition of assault weapons: "any semiautomatic rifle or shotgun capable of holding more than ten (10) rounds of ammunition at once, either in a fixed or detachable magazine, or any other ammunition feeding device." Moody is arguing such wording would "ban the possession of virtually every semi-automatic long-gun."
In other gun news, a judge in Leon County struck down a barrier to municipal gun regulations. A law on the books since 1987 has banned cities and counties from passing gun laws stricter than the ones in place by the state. Then in 2011 lawmakers approved a series of penalties that local governments would incur if they violated the '87 law. The old law was challenged after the Parkland shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, and Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson found the penalties unconstitutional. The '80s ban is still in effect, but the penalties for local officials (fines up to $5,000 and potential removal from office) have been struck down. The three suits involved in the ruling involved more than 70 elected officials, three counties and 30 cities. Surprise surprise, lawyers for Gov. DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and the National Rifle Association had argued for the penalties to stay in place.
The Feds might set up another migrant child detention facility in Central Florida. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, an arm of U.S. Health and Human Services, sent out an email to Florida lawmakers last week that they were exploring the possibility of setting up a facility in either Central Florida, Virginia or Los Angeles. Lawmakers are already recoiling at the idea, and state Senator Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, recently sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis asking him to somehow remove Florida from the shortlist of sites.
This story is from the Aug. 7, 2019, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.