Wednesday's Top Stories
What You Need to Know About Florida Today
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 28, 2009
The state’s largest private insurer will drop 1.2 million policies over the next two years, likely pushing many into the already bloated state-run insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. More than 800 State Farm agents can expect to see their income slashed by an average of 37%. State Farm Florida president Jim Thompson said the Florida operation has been losing $20 million a month. Losing a recent legal battle to hike its property insurance rates by an average of 47% was the last straw, he said. Sen. Mike Fasano plans to push hard to pass a law that would prevent private property insurers from dropping more than 2% of their policyholders in a given year. "That would stop them dead in their tracks," Fasano said. [Source: St. Petersburg Times] » Q&A: What you need to know
Arthur G. Nadel surrendered Tuesday in Tampa to face federal charges that he stole millions of dollars through a Sarasota hedge fund operation. Nadel was charged with two counts of securities fraud and wire fraud, accused of launching a scheme at least five years ago that bilked up to 600 investors from here and across the nation. Nadel, 76, boasted of running hedge funds that were worth $342 million. But in fact, the funds were valued at less than $1 million when Nadel fled Sarasota on Jan. 14, unable to come up with $50 million investors had demanded. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa is hoping the lure of permanent U.S. residency will eventually persuade well-heeled foreign investors to help it expand near Walt Disney World.
The condo-hotel resort received government approval several months ago to serve as a "regional center" for foreign investment. Under federal immigration policy, an approved foreigner whose investment is supposed to create 10 full-time jobs in the U.S. can get a conditional visa to live here -- and can ultimately secure a regular "green card" good for permanent residency.
[Source: Orlando Sentinel]
Crist Vetoes $364 Million in Spending Cuts
Gov. Charlie Crist signed the state's latest stopgap budget and issued $364 million in budget vetoes Tuesday. He eliminated more than a fourth of the $1.2 billion in spending cuts lawmakers made two weeks ago during its special budget-cutting session.
- Education -- $28.9 million for teachers, autism education and the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.
- Social services -- $22.8 million cut from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, including assistance for medicaid waivers for 31,000 people, mental health and substance abuse treatment for adults and children, and food stamp assistance.
- Public safety -- $16.2 million to avoid 118 layoffs of probation officers, substance abuse, guardian ad litem and review of restoration of civil rights cases.
- Environment -- Fully fund the Florida Forever land conservation program.
- Economic development -- $22 million in tourism, Visit Florida marketing, the quick action closing funds and other economic development grants. [Source: Times/Herald]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Unpaid Reservists Help Guard Jacksonville Streets
Reserve officers have duties ranging from traffic control to riding patrol with sworn officers. They are provided gear by the Sheriff’s Office, including firearms and Tasers.
› Wave of Hope for FAU's Ocean Turbines
Florida Atlantic's ocean energy research center envisions creating energy via underwater turbines but is having trouble getting a permit.
› Palm Coast Data Promises 700 New Jobs
Economic development officials went all out when they learned that the parent company of magazine fulfillment firm Palm Coast Data, which operates a 1,000-employee facility in Palm Coast, wanted to consolidate its nationwide operations in one location. Also: Health First in Melbourne to add 150 jobs
› Brevard Home Builders React to Mercedes Filing
A day after Mercedes Homes Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, subcontractors emerged Tuesday to voice concerns about unpaid work and other Brevard-area builders assessed their own finances amid the troubled economy. Also: School sub-contractors struggling to get paid
› Tampa Mayor Is Considering a Bid for U.S. Senate Seat
Pam Iorio: "I am analyzing it, and that's where I am right now. I have not ruled it out."
› Times Announces Plans to Sell Congressional Quarterly
The Times Publishing Co. of St. Petersburg, Fla., announced today it is exploring the sale of Congressional Quarterly, Inc. Based in Washington, D.C., CQ is the nation's leading publisher of news and information on politics, public policy and legislative activity at the federal, state and local levels.
› FPL Group Profit Surges in Late '08
Juno Beach-based FPL Group reported Tuesday that net income for the three months ended Dec. 31 increased 82% percent to $408 million. Executives heralded the record earnings, even as Florida Power & Light Co., the state's largest utility, struggled with diminished demand for power.
› Vote Set on Marlins Stadium; Final Sketches Released
Two World Series titles aside, the most pivotal day in the Florida Marlins' history may be Feb. 13 -- when commissioners are finally scheduled to vote on the remaining contracts that would give the team the permanent home it has craved for a decade.
› Report Shows How Piper Spent $8.95M in Public Money
The first installment of Piper Aircraft Inc.'s $32 million incentive package has been spent on renovations, equipment and strengthening structures at the Vero Beach facility.
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› Biomass Plant Removed from FSU Plan
Florida State University has revised its master plan so that it no longer includes a $150 million biomass power plant and a related $4 million research facility.
› Data: State's Startups Have Off Year
Florida companies received less than $240 million from professional venture capital firms in 2008, the lowest since 1995.
› Urban Farms Catch On in Lee County
Ivory-striped purple eggplants. Hydroponically grown strawberries and golden pear-shaped tomatoes. Frilly yellow popcorn shoots tossed on plates in upscale restaurants.
› Wellington OKs Cameras to Nab Red-Light Runners
Palm Beach County also has enacted a red-light ordinance, along with Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Royal Palm Beach and West Palm Beach. Riviera Beach is considering red-light cameras, while Lake Worth has rejected the idea.
› Norwegian's Latest Ship: The 4,200-Seat 'Epic'
The 4,200-passenger Epic is set to sail to the Caribbean from Miami starting in summer 2010. It is the Miami company's largest ''freestyle cruising'' ship, which offers passengers more flexibility in dining options and other benefits.
› BankUnited Expecting Bigger Losses
Coral Gables-based BankUnited Financial expects to report a fourth-quarter loss of $607 million and a fiscal 2008 loss of $816 million -- far wider than previously estimated..
› Florida Republicans Resist Obama's Stimulus Plan
While Gov. Charlie Crist and Florida's Republican-led Legislature see a massive economic recovery package as a way to rebuild the state's slumping economy, their peers on Capitol Hill are far more skeptical.
› Progress Energy, Union Agree to Three-Year Contract
The union agreed to a 3% raise, retroactive to early December, to be followed by 3% raises for the next two years.
› Grouper Fishermen Take a Hit
The reef fish committee of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted Tuesday to banish longliners from their traditional fishing grounds for five months this year to protect loggerhead turtles that are drowning on their lines.
› Sansom Inquiry Targets College Trustees
The college trustees who hired House Speaker Ray Sansom have become part of an investigation into his dealings with the school, over whether they violated the state’s Sunshine Law, officials said Tuesday.