From health care and insurance to teacher raises and election reform, the 60-day session starting Tuesday could be a political do-over for a Florida Legislature looking to rewrite some of its controversial recent history. More from the Orlando Sentinel and the Times/Herald.
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Vero Beach Mayor Craig Fletcher argues that selling “Big Blue” will allow the city to plug a $30-million pension hole.
» Go to story: "A surge in interest"
For the first time since 1992, a Florida municipal utility may go into private hands. And it's not the only municipal in the state that has explored a sale. Read the full story here and see also:
The cost of buying items on Amazon could rise if the Florida Legislature passes a bill that would require out-of-state online retailers to collect sales tax. For more than a decade, Florida retail leaders have tried unsuccessfully to level the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers who struggle to compete on price. As this year's Legislative session opens Tuesday, they believe they have more support. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]
Airfares will go up. Lines at airports will extend "out the door." Foreign travelers will turn to other destinations outside this country. And irritated, price-conscious Americans will stay home or climb into their cars rather than fly to vacation spots like Florida. That's the bleak picture envisioned by alarmed and disgusted tourism leaders, who predict that the federal budget cuts known as "sequestration" will dampen the summer vacation season and potentially damage Florida's leading industry. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
Casual dining is in the throes of a midlife crisis. A quarter-century ago, consumers feasted on fried appetizers, unlimited breadsticks and big desserts at Applebee's, Olive Garden and Chili's. Today, many Americans are trading those restaurants in for cheaper, faster fare or splurging a bit for a trendier experience. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Jabil's outgoing CEO tackles a new challenge: self-discovery [Tampa Bay Times]
After a quarter century devoted to building up a global manufacturing giant — and a dozen years as its top dog — outgoing Jabil Circuit CEO Tim Main is looking forward to a monthslong sabbatical of sorts. A period of self-discovery.
› Central Floridians shedding their subprime credit [Orlando Sentinel]
Like someone escaping quicksand, a small but growing number of Central Floridians are pulling themselves out of the subprime-credit trap and beginning to put their troubled credit histories behind them, according to the latest industry data.
› Plans for downtown Sarasota, and means to bring them to life [Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
Jesse Biter, the entrepreneur who made a multimillion-dollar fortune developing software for the auto industry, is focusing energy and time on downtown real estate.
› Polaroid opens its first branded store in Florida [AP]
The first in a chain of Polaroid-branded photo shops opened in Delray Beach Friday, with its backers hoping to reinvigorate the digital world’s interest in printed images by capitalizing on an iconic name.
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› Tropicana Field: The next big urban mixed use development? [Tampa Bay Times]
Thirty years ago, St. Petersburg took a leap of civic faith when it leveled a low-income neighborhood to attract a baseball team. Now Tropicana Field's 85 asphalt acres offer another chance for neighborhood rehabilitation — this time without baseball.
› Palm Beach County's economic recovery trails neighbors [Palm Beach Post]
With an economy based on retirees and tourists, Palm Beach lost significant wealth with the housing bust, as did all of Florida. But without substantial international business and tourism to keep it afloat, as Miami had, or a major draw like the cruise ship industry in Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach has limped back from the recession.
› South Florida fuels sales of hybrid cars [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
Sales of hybrid vehicles took off in 2012 and continue to rise this year, thanks in part to higher gas prices. At Southeast Toyota Distributors, which supplies new Toyotas to Florida and four nearby states, gas-electric hybrids accounted for 14 percent of sales last year, up from 8 percent in 2011.
› Was stimulus a boon or bust for Brevard? [Florida Today]
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act pumped $41 million into Brevard County construction projects from the widening of Interstate 95 to new bike and pedestrian trails. To gauge their relative worth, FLORIDA TODAY looked into each of the projects, including the taxpayer money spent, the jobs created and the final results.