What you need to know about Florida today.
New Census estimates show Florida seeing population gains following several years of flat or negative numbers. In a state that relies on construction and sales tax for much of its revenue, the return is expected to have an impact on state and local coffers. "To us, population is the strongest driver in our economy," said Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature's Bureau of Economic and Demographic Research. "For us to get well into recovery, we needed to see population growth to come back." Read more from the News Service of Florida and Sarasota Herald-Tribune and the Fort Myers News-Press.
Job security continues to improve in South Florida. New numbers show first-time unemployment claims hit their lowest levels since 2008, as the recession was gaining steam nationally. Roughly 13,400 people in Broward and Miami-Dade filed their initial unemployment claims in March. That’s down 5 percent from a year ago. Using a trailing three-month average to smooth out quirks in the numbers from month to month, claims are off 22 percent from 2011 levels. [Source: Miami Herald]
The Florida Supreme Court has set April 20 for oral arguments on the revised Florida Senate districts that Attorney General Pam Bondi submitted to the court Thursday. Three nonpartisan groups also released an alternative map of the 40 Senate districts because they say the lawmakers' do-over still violates new anti-gerrymandering standards that voters added to the Florida Constitution in 2010 through a citizen initiative known as the "Fair Districts" amendment. [Source: Palm Beach Post]
Just as South Florida is starting to pull out of its doldrums, President Barack Obama is coming to Florida Atlantic University on Tuesday to take part in “an economic event,” the White House said. Details will come later, but you can bet he will talk up any signs of recovery while taking some shots at Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Obama this week has begun to focus on his likely opponent in the November election. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
With the worldwide press, citizens and celebrities scrutinizing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, criminal defense lawyers statewide fear that the widespread publicity will hamper their efforts in front of judges and juries in upcoming self-defense cases. [Source: Miami Herald]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Darden hires 177 to qualify for tax incentives
Darden Restaurants created enough jobs at its Orlando headquarters by the end of 2011 to qualify for state and Orange County tax incentives, though not the full amount it had hoped for, the company said Thursday. Darden, which owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other chains, said it created 177 jobs — 14 short of the 191 it originally projected.
› South Florida awash in sub sightings
They pop up mysteriously, without warning, just a few hundred yards offshore, sleek, gun-metal gray and menacing. And for those who spot them for the first time while strolling on the sand or gazing from a beachfront balcony, the sight can be alarming. What people are seeing are U.S. Navy submarines going through surface and underwater exercises in an Atlantic Ocean training ground south of Port Everglades that has been used by the military for at least 20 years.
› Tampa International Airport is looking for volunteers to greet travelers
Tampa International Airport is looking for 100 volunteers to greet travelers as they arrive in Tampa Bay. The volunteers will help hand out maps, brochures and tourism information. Four tourism information kiosks are being built near the baggage claims as part of the airport's $30 million modernization of the main terminal.
› No raises for Seminole teachers this year
Teachers in Seminole County public schools won't be getting pay raises or bonuses this year, the School Board has decided. Teachers wanted a 3 percent raise to cover what they are being forced to contribute to the state retirement system for the first time this year. But school district officials say they do not have the money.
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