Attempts by Florida's seaports to dramatically expand their multi-billion-dollar traffic in cargo and cruiseships will get a powerful boost Friday when President Barack Obama swoops into PortMiami to hail it as a national model for creating jobs and stoking the economy. The president will focus on a Miami port tunnel project — which he will call a great example of a public-private partnership — but the reverberations will be felt at Port Everglades, the Port of Palm Beach, Port Canaveral and 11 other deep-water ports in Florida. More from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the AP.
A Florida House panel has approved a measure to offer health insurance to the state's part-time employees and their family members as part of the federal health overhaul. The panel could have decided Thursday to cap part-time employees to working 30 hours per week or chosen not to provide any health coverage. [Source: AP]
The financial fallout due to the recent outbreak of equine herpes virus (EHV-1) at the HITS showgrounds in February continues, though most of the quarantines are over. Not only was the HITS showgrounds at Post Time Farm in Blitchton quarantined, nine other farms in Marion County got caught up in the outbreak. [Source: Ocala Star Banner]
The head of NASA says federal spending cuts could eventually slow progress on commercial efforts to fly to space. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden sounded the warning Thursday two days after SpaceX's Dragon capsule returned from a supply run to the International Space Station with a splashdown in the Pacific. [Source: AP]
Senate budget chief Joe Negron's push to end a 25-year-old tax break for insurers is drawing the ire of business groups and major political contributors put in the unusual position of defending their tax advantages before a Republican-controlled Legislature. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Orange tax collector offers health stipend to gay workers [Orlando Sentinel]
Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph said today he would offer up to a $1,300 stipend to any of his employees with a same-sex partner who suffers a tax hit on health benefits because they can't legally marry.
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› Florida led the nation in foreclosures in 2012 [Miami Herald]
For the year ended in February, 95,177 foreclosures were completed in Florida – more than in any other state, according to CoreLogic. And there are a lot more to come: 9.9 percent of the mortgaged homes in Florida are in some stage of the foreclosure process, marking the highest foreclosure inventory of any state.
› Venice Performing Arts Center expected to have major impact [Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
The Performing Arts Center costs $15 million, with the city of Venice paying half the costs through sales taxes. It is one of the final pieces in the $91 million reconstruction of Venice High School. Because of the school location, the symphony hopes to expand its appeal to teenage musicians and audiences.
› Magic want to buy property for entertainment district [Orlando Sentinel]
The Orlando Magic notified Orlando officials Thursday of its intent to buy city-owned property across the street from the Amway Center to build a $100 million sports-and-entertainment complex.
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› It’s no dunk tank, but doughnut lovers should like it [Palm Beach Post]
Visitors stopping in to Steve Rubiano’s Dunkin’ Donuts store for coffee and a cruller Thursday were greeted by the cast and crew of a national television reality show.
› Director bows out Friday after overseeing 8 years of construction at MIA [Miami Herald]
José Abreu is retiring Friday after nearly eight years as chief of the county-owned Miami International Airport. Unlike his predecessor, who was pressured to leave, the county has repeatedly asked Abreu to stay.
› Algae bloom kills record number of Florida manatees [NPR]
More than 200 manatees have died in Florida's waterways since January from an algae bloom called red tide, just as wildlife officials try to remove the marine mammal from the endangered species list.
› Knight Foundation names Carol Coletta vice president [Miami Herald]
Coletta, former president and CEO of CEOs for Cities and current director of ArtPlace, will start the new job at the Miami-based foundation on May 6. She has also worked as executive director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and host and producer of the radio show “Smart City.”