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Fl. Legislators Divided Over Tax Holidays

Apr 11, 2014

Florida legislators are divided over what type of additional tax breaks to offer residents this year.

The Florida House has already passed a bill that calls for four sales tax holidays, including a three day back-to-school holiday. The House also wants a tax holiday on energy efficient appliances, gym memberships and hurricane preparation supplies.

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This year's Florida orange crop is approaching the fruit's lowest harvest in 24 years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday released its citrus production forecast.

The 2013-2014 orange forecast is 110.0 million boxes, down 4 percent from last month, and 18 percent less than last season's final production figure.

Orange harvesting ends in June, and if the crop doesn't decline further, it will barely exceed the 110.2 million orange boxes harvested in 1989-90 following the worst freeze in Florida citrus history.

The culprit is citrus greening.

Babcock Ranch Developers Planning a Solar City

Apr 4, 2014

The Babcock Ranch Community Independent Special District filed a document last week with the Florida Public Service Commission, outlining plans for a new municipal utility in Charlotte County. Officials from the Palm Beach development firm behind Babcock Ranch said Thursday that the proposed utility would give them more control of the development, provide lower electric bills for customers and jibe ideally with the 75-megawatt solar farm slated to be the lifeblood of Babcock Ranch.

The study, “Better Business: How Hispanic Entrepreneurs Are Beating Expectations and Bolstering the U.S. Economy,” released in Miami during a panel discussion and press conference, showed that between 2010-2012 the entrepreneurial rate declined overall in the U.S., but among Hispanics the rate shot up, said Jeremy Robbins, executive director of the partnership, an organization of 500 government and business leaders who support immigration reform. “The thing we need more than anything else is young entrepreneurs. This is where the new energy and growth comes from,” he said.

Belleview Biltmore Partners LLC, led by restoration architect Richard Heisenbottle, wants to buy the declining hotel as well as the Town of Belleair-owned golf club. It has secured a funding commitment from a private equity source, Managing Member Gary Rosenberg told TBBJ on Monday. Rosenberg declined to disclose the name, but he said he has signed documents. The current estimate of the cost to buy and renovate the hotel is $190 million, Rosenberg said.

Florida’s unemployment rate is no longer dropping like it once did.

The state’s jobless rate in February was 6.2 percent, which is the same rate it was the two previous months.

The unemployment rate held steady even though the state gained an estimated 33,400 jobs last month. Only California and Texas gained more jobs in February.

WUSF Public Broadcasting took home seven awards at the Florida Associated Press Broadcasters awards banquet Saturday night in Orlando. WUSF took home two first place awards, and five second place awards.

This is a reflection of the great work our staff has done during the past year. At WUSF, we strive to bring you balanced, informative reports every day. Please click on the links below to get a sample of some of these works. Congratulations to our reporters!

-Steve Newborn, Interim News Director.

FIRST PLACE: Sports Feature

This post is being updated.

Satellite images showing objects floating in the Indian Ocean have focused the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the 239 people who were on board to an area about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.

The state's unemployment rates continues to drop - while job creation in the Tampa Bay area is lagging behind the rest of the state.

That's according to the numbers released today by state economists. The state's unemployment rate in January was 6.1 percent. That's the lowest the rate has been since June 2008.

There are an estimated 581,000 Floridians out of work. Florida's unemployment rate remains below the national average of 6.6 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott has contended the state's unemployment rate is dropping due to his policies.

Yoselis Ramos / WUSF

Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday that the state will give Tampa International Airport $194 million to help pay for the largest expansion since the facility's opening in 1971.

Scott was at the airport to make the announcement, along with dozens of local officials, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

"I couldn't think of any greater investment in our future," said Buckhorn.

Fantasy of Flight

An aviation-themed attraction that's famous for its collection of aircraft and for a plane next to Interstate 4 in between Tampa and Orlando is closing.

Fantasy of Flight will close to the public on April 6.

Owner Kermit Weeks says the attraction will refocus its emphasis on its private event business and the design and development of a new future destination attraction. Weeks is a former aerobatics champion and aircraft designer who built Fantasy of Flight in part to house his collection.

The company — which planned to focus on intra-Florida flights — said on Feb. 10 that it would launch service from Orlando to both Fort Lauderadale and Tallahassee starting March 20. The carrier already had begun selling tickets on its website. However, those plans are now on hold.

Preliminary plans mentioned last week at a Central Florida Rail Commission meeting call for free service between April 15 and 18, and then again from April 21 to 25 to help introduce riders to the rail line, said Steve Olson, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation. SunRail is a $1.3 billion commuter train with hours that will cater to workers from Monday through Friday.

Robin Sussingham

The United States Department of Agriculture recently announced it was putting $21 million toward saving the citrus industry. They're trying to rescue it from what's widely seen as its biggest threat ever -- a disease called citrus greening.

Today in Lakeland, the USDA official who's coordinating how that money will be spent, Dr. Mary Palm,  spoke to dozens of growers and others that work in citrus. But the growers  stressed that they can't wait for long term solutions, and said that the industry needs immediate help to survive.

The Lakelander

You often hear that print media is out -- or going digital.  So when an upmarket, city magazine  with big  production values suddenly appears in a mid-sized town like Lakeland, can it succeed? Publishers of the new magazine, The Lakelander, are banking on it.

The Seminole Compact includes a provision allowing blackjack and other card games at locations including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. The card game provision expires in mid-2015 unless it’s renewed. The deal guarantees the state a minimum $1 billion from the tribe’s gambling income over five years. But under certain scenarios, if the tribe loses its exclusive rights to offer Las Vegas-style games through expanded gambling, it can stop paying. “We don’t know how to draw a bill that does anything with regards to gaming that doesn’t affect the compact we have with the tribe,” Weatherford said. “And so for us to go down that road and start a big process and have a bunch of hearings on a bill that theoretically isn’t going anywhere … is a waste of everyone’s time.”

David Beckham's career in American soccer isn't over, despite his recent retirement from the field. Beckham confirmed Wednesday that he will create a Major League Soccer expansion team in Miami. Details about the team's stadium and start date are still being worked out.

On Tuesday, after years of delays and contentious negotiations over the farm bill, the Senate voted 68-32 for the $500 billion package that will end direct payments to farmers, expand the popular crop insurance program and cut spending on food stamps by 1 percent. Now it heads to the White House where President Obama is expected to sign it into law. Florida’s two senators split, with Democrat Bill Nelson voting for the bill and Republican Marco Rubio voting against it.

Just as Janet L. Yellen was sworn in as the first woman to head the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke announced his next move on Monday.

The former fed chief, who saw the country through a recovery from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, will join Brookings' Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy.

On the Southeast coast of the U.S., jellyfish have earned a lengthy rap sheet for stinging beachgoers and getting tangled in shrimpers' nets. But lately, the tides have turned for shrimping, and some fishermen in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida are reaping profits from their local pests, the cannonball jellyfish, or "jellyballs."

"The shrimp season [of 2013] was the worst ever in history here," says Howell Boone, a shrimp trawler in Darien, Ga."The jellyfish industry has been about the best thing that's happened to us."

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