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Tampa Bay is experiencing a tourism boom, with a 13 percent increase in outside visitors. New figures show the industry brought in $329 million in taxes during the last year alone.  With $30 million being brought in from outside profits during the last fiscal year, the city is reaping the benefits of its many facelift projects.

Pointing to what it described as "significant risk" for the public, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday called for cracking down on lawyer-referral services that cater to accident victims.

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Florida's unemployment rate continues to drop slightly.

The August unemployment rate was 5.3 percent, compared to 5.5 percent in July. The state added 19,600 jobs last month, according to figures released Friday by the Department of Economic Opportunity.

The jobless rate remains higher than the national rate of 5.1 percent with approximately 507,000 unemployed Floridians.

Gov. Rick Scott made the announcement at the headquarters of a Boca Raton electronic security company. He's made job creation the main focus during his time in office.

TECO Energy, the parent company of Tampa Electric and Peoples Gas System, will be sold to Canada-based Emera Inc. in a deal estimated at $10.4 billion, the companies announced Friday.

The deal, which has been approved by the boards of both companies, is expected to close in mid-2016.

Even when picking up "just a few items," between the drive, parking and checking out, grocery shopping can be a tedious and time-consuming effort. Seeing the need, Bill Smith created Shipt.

Shipt is based in Birmingham, Ala., and recently made its Florida debut with a celebration in Tampa. Shipt users download the Shipt application onto their smartphones or tablets. Using their marketplace, customers select their items and pay for the items from the app.

Steve Newborn / WUSF News

Tampa Electric announced Tuesday the utility will build the largest solar project in the Tampa Bay area.

It is planned to be 25 megawatts, with the capacity to power more than 3,500 homes. It would include more than 70,000 solar panels on 125 acres of company-owned land at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach.

Company officials say it should be completed in 2016.

Seminole Hard Rock Casino

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is refusing to fold on its push to continue hosting blackjack and baccarat at most of its casinos, but Gov. Rick Scott's administration is trying to shut down the lucrative "banked" card games.

Letters swapped Monday between the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the tribe indicate that the two sides may be heading toward a showdown later this year over the card games, part of a 20-year gambling "compact" inked in 2010.

Florida officials are asking the Seminole Tribe when it plans to end card games at its casinos and the tribe has responded—with a request for mediation.

Fl Dept. of Citrus

The Florida Citrus Commission unanimously appointed Shannon Shepp as interim executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus on Wednesday. Shepp replaces Doug Ackerman, who resigned Monday following his arrest last week on a misdemeanor drunken-driving charge.

Shepp has served as the Department’s deputy executive director since August 2013, where she has been responsible for overseeing administrative operations as well as nutrition, quality and economic research.

Florida's unemployment is dropping slightly.

The June unemployment rate was 5.5 percent, compared to 5.7 percent the month before. The state added 7,000 jobs last month, according to figures released Friday by the Department of Economic Opportunity.

The state's jobless rate remains higher than the national rate of 5.3 percent. There are approximately 529,000 unemployed Floridians, out of a labor force of nearly 9.6 million people.

June's rate was a 0.6 percentage point drop from a year ago.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released bleak numbers on Florida's citrus crop for the 2014-2015 season, reporting a decline in the orange harvest of more than 60 percent since the peak of production.

The report, which is the final one of the season, was released Friday. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the statistics are a "new low" for Florida citrus.

AP Photo/Carnival Corporation

The world's largest cruise company could be heading to Cuba.

Starting in May, Carnival Corp. plans to offer trips from Miami to the Caribbean island nation, the company announced Tuesday. Carnival says it would become the first American cruise company to visit Cuba since the 1960 trade embargo. The trips will be through its new brand, fathom, which focuses on trips where passengers sail to a destination in order to volunteer there.

CEO Arnold Donald called the Cuba plans "an important first step" for his company and for the cruise industry.

In states like Nebraska and Florida, which get funding from a variety of different taxes revenues have increased steadily. Nebraska and Florida try to keep stable ratios of debt and spending to personal income, according to Norcross' research. New York, on the other hand, relies heavily on capital gains tax revenue and has seen large fluctuations in that income source due to federal legislative changes in recent years.

A new law that goes into effect Wednesday, July 1st, will loosen state regulations on alcohol.

Under the new law, breweries can sell 64-ounce "growlers," while distillers can sell two bottles of each branded product, per person, per year. Prior to this, craft distillers could only sell two bottles to each customer per year.

Troy Roberts is head distiller at Siesta Key Rum. He said this is good news, not just for his business, but for the state as a whole.

Solar Ballot Measure Faces Powerful Opposition

Jun 11, 2015

The state's largest electric utilities, Attorney General Pam Bondi and a number of influential business groups want the Florida Supreme Court to block a proposed solar-energy ballot initiative.

Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric Co. and Gulf Power filed a joint brief Wednesday arguing the proposed ballot language by a coalition known as Floridians for Solar Choice would be "misleading" to voters.

Visit Florida is teaming up with a popular television show for an advertising campaign and pet photo contest. The winner walks away with a $10,000 trip to Florida. But, state officials are banking on the program creating a return on investment in the form of tourism.

Quincy J. Walters / WUSF News

It sounds like something bad is about to happen as I step into Dysfunctional Grace. As I walk into the store during it's grand opening, I'm surrounded by ominous music, skulls, artistically modified taxidermy, religious relics, vintage medical equipment, a coffin and a table of food.

Robert Wilkes, of Tampa, is a curious spectator. He's walking around with a piece of chicken on a stick. 

"Nothing's better than eating dead animals, surrounded by dead animals," he said. "It's good to be human." 

Channelside Benefits from Lightning's Success

Jun 3, 2015
Photo Courtesy of Channelside Bay Plaza, Tampa Facebook

Businesses along Tampa's Channelside District are crediting the Tampa Bay Lightning's success this season for an increase in business.

Shops and restaurants have seen an uptick in the number of visitors, which business owners said is unusual for this time of year.

Film Industry Leaders Push For Incentives

May 26, 2015

Film industry leaders are making another push to get an incentives deal through the Florida legislature. They’re banking on its inclusion in a tax package when lawmakers return to Tallahassee for a special session next week.

Film incentives bills - designed to lure production to Florida - died in the House and Senate when the regular session ended early. But Representative Mike Miller, who sponsored the House Bill, says there’s still hope.

“What is still alive is the incentives program through the tax package that has been presented in the call by the speaker of the house and the senate president”, said Miller.

Miller says the current incentives program - which ran out of money - would be extended by one year. He says lawmakers first have to settle major issues like healthcare.

Opponents of tax incentives for the film industry scored a de-facto victory in the 2015 legislative session’s surprise ending. But Americans for Prosperity is bracing for the sequel.

The conservative government watchdog group released a letter Monday urging Governor Rick Scott to keep the film credits off the agenda when a special session convenes June 1.

Since 2010, the state has spent $295 million to attract films, TV shows and commercials. The program expired and some lawmakers are fighting to revive it.