With three college basketball teams from Florida in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16, a new wave of basketball fans are flooding restaurants and sports bars and snatching up merchandise at record paces. Florida Gulf Coast University, the biggest surprise in this year's NCAA tournament, is suddenly the hottest school in terms of new fan interest too. More from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and CNNMoney.
Floridians are buying more food grown locally or regionally and retail sales are higher here than in other states, according to a University of Florida study. It showed local food represents about 20 percent of all Florida food purchased for at-home consumption, except restaurant take-out food. [Source: UF News]
A clash is building between the GOP-controlled Florida Senate and the state’s insurance and business lobbyists over the fate of a more than two-decade old tax exemption for insurance companies. The plan would pay for the fee reduction by eliminating an insurance premium tax credit insurance companies receive based on the aggregate salaries of their employees. [Source: Jacksonville Business Journal]
House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, said that House leaders believe the tuition hike is appropriate given the financial needs of the schools as well as the fact that Florida’s tuition remains low compared to other universities and colleges nationally. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
A majority of working Americans haven't noticed the higher payroll taxes -- with the lowest income households the least likely to have been affected, Bankrate.com reported Monday. Some 48 percent said they hadn't noticed the 2 percent increase in Social Security tax that began to be taken out of paychecks at the first of the year, the North Palm Beach-based website reported. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Gas prices expected to slide into Easter [Gainesville Sun]
Retail gas prices fell last week nationwide about 2 cents a gallon, and drivers likely will see pump prices decrease another 3 to 5 cents before Easter. "March is expected to end with falling gas prices in time for those who plan to travel during the Easter holiday,” said Jessica Brady, AAA spokeswoman, The Auto Club Group.
RELATED: Check current gas prices in Florida by zip code here.
› Deerfield suspends sign code to help local businesses [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
Stephen Brewer of Brew Dogs finds that a human sign makes all the difference. On days worked by Brewer's "sign girl," an employee who waves a big rectangular sign advertising cold beer and hot dogs, Brew Dogs makes a profit. On days when she isn't out there waving a sign, Brew Dogs takes a loss, Brewer said.
› Sarasota, Florida: where the circus comes to town [Daily Telegraph]
In its heyday at the turn of the 20th century, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus toured America in a 100-car train carrying hundreds of animals. In winter the self-billed “Greatest Show on Earth” headed south to Sarasota, where the mild climate and grassy savannahs suited the performers and their (mainly) African menagerie equally well.
› Is Miami really a sports town? [Miami Herald]
Michael Lipman runs a ticket brokerage in Miami. By his math, he’s enjoying the country’s most lucrative market for basketball and perhaps the worst for baseball. But he knows those dynamics won’t last forever.
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› Venice MainStreet creates a 'destination' [Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
Twenty-five years ago, downtown Venice desperately needed help and its merchants and property owners knew it. Seeing the plight that other downtowns across the nation faced as well, determined that downtown Venice would not become a retail ghost town, about 25 business men and women banded together and formed Venice MainStreet under the auspices of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's MainStreet program.
› Florida Poly Leaders Select School's First Degree Programs [Lakeland Ledger]
Days before facing legislators to justify a need for $22 million in operating funds, Florida Polytechnic University leaders finalized a plan for initial degree programs and recruitment tactics.
› Students help Florida Lottery celebrate milestones at UNF [Florida Times-Union]
600,000 scholarships have been paid for through the Florida Lottery, which celebrated its quarter-century anniversary at UNF by announcing its $25 billion in transfers to Florida’s public schools, state colleges and universities and Bright Futures scholarships.
› New way to screen for disease markers [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter said this week that they have developed cutting-edge technology that can successfully screen human blood for disease markers. Scripps Florida, the state’s $600 million investment to create an biotech industry anchor, employs about 60 scientists and a total staff of 495.