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Tuesday's Daily Pulse

Farming state lands could get easier

A proposed state law would make it easier for Florida cattle ranchers and other owners of property next to state-owned land to acquire or lease that public land, in exchange for a conservation easement on their property. Environmentalists fear land grabs or harm to sensitive areas that Florida bought to protect. [Source: Florida Today]


Floridians get average $75,949 from mortgage settlement

The historic settlement involving the nation's five largest mortgage lenders has so far helped nearly 102,000 struggling Florida homeowners for an average $75,949 in relief, according to a new report. Short sales accounted for almost $3.3 billion in relief — or most of the financial help to Floridians -- based information supplied by the five banks and outlined the report prepared by the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]


Poll: 7 in 10 back Florida medical-marijuana plan

As many as seven in 10 Florida voters support a state constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana — more than enough to ensure passage and possibly affect the governor’s race — according to a new poll from a group trying to put the measure on the 2104 ballot. Medical pot’s sky-high approval cuts across party and demographic lines, with Republican support the lowest at a still-strong 56 percent. [Source: Miami Herald]


High-stakes trial begins for 2010 Gulf oil spill

With billions of dollars at stake, the trial to figure out how much more BP and other companies should pay for the nation's worst offshore oil spill began Monday with the federal government saying the oil giant was mostly to blame for a disaster caused by putting profits ahead of safety. [Source: AP]


Investigation sought into Crystal River nuclear plant deal

Consumer advocates want Duke Energy to refund its Florida customers hundreds of millions of dollars for "woefully inadequate" handling of the now shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant. The state Public Counsel's Office, which represents consumers before the Public Service Commission, filed a petition Monday, asking the regulatory body to open an investigation into Duke's decisions about the 36-year-old nuclear plant. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]


ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:

› Pay-to-play could have wide impact in Brevard
Today, the Brevard school board is expected to discuss a proposed list of cuts and new fees amounting to $30 million. Included is a Pay-to-Participate proposal of a $100 fee for high school students to play one sport and $150 to play two or more.

› Orlando's $4M Parramore land buy could host soccer stadium
There's no agreement to build a Major League Soccer stadium in Orlando, but city officials don't seem to be waiting. On Monday, the City Council approved the $4 million purchase of four parcels of land in Parramore, a block west of the Amway Center, home court of the Orlando Magic.

› Gov. Scott names 3 to Florida Women's Hall of Fame
Gov. Rick Scott has named a black hospital founder, a pioneer who was taught to hunt and fish by Seminole Indians and a national safety leader to the Florida Women's Hall of Fame.

› Univision bumps NBC into fifth place
The latest ratings from the February “sweeps” race — a milestone moment for network ratings in the television business — had NBC fall behind its Spanish-language rival. The Doral-based network finished the sweeps period with a viewership that amounted to 1.5 percent of all adults between 18 and 49.


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› Riviera Beach council to vote on spending $29 million to attract waterfront redevelopment
Saying they want to build “the downtown Riviera Beach does not have,” supporters of a $250 million plan to revitalize the city’s waterfront will bring their proposal Wednesday to the city council and community redevelopment agency for approval.

› FCAT writing: Are students ready for tougher scoring?
This year, students need to write well by the new, tougher standards, which include more focus on spelling and grammar and more attention to logical arguments and relevant details.
» Related: 1,700 Florida schools net $135M for performance

› Hialeah sugar firm Banah files for bankruptcy
A sugar processing company that brought hype to Hialeah after it moved into a 300,000-square-foot space last July — promising to hire up to 300 workers — has filed for bankruptcy protection. The company’s move to its new headquarters even prompted Miami-Dade County to rename a stretch of Southeast 10th Avenue “Banah Sweet Way” in honor of the company.

› Insurer settles lawsuit against West Palm Beach surgery center
An insurance giant’s fight against a local orthopedic surgery center, its doctors and administrators over accusations that they wrongly drove up their costs has ended with a settlement in the tens of millions, according to sources close to the case.