Federal officials on Wednesday renewed calls for Florida lawmakers to accept an estimated $50 billion over the next 10 years to expand Medicaid, the joint state and federal health insurance program for the poor, to cover an additional one million Floridians who would otherwise remain uninsured even after Jan. 1 when healthcare reform begins in earnest. More from the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times.
As schools and students replace ink and paper with pixels, some states are expanding their holidays to cover sales taxes on low-cost computers and tablets. These electronics are eligible for the tax breaks in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Read more from McClatchy and see also:
Family-run Publix is both the largest employee-owned company and the most profitable grocer in America. Those two facts are linked, and they might be the formula for fending off Bentonville’s retail behemoth. [Source: Forbes]
Big defense contractors are weathering the federal budget sequester far more easily than they projected, in part because they have gradually eliminated jobs over the past few years in anticipation of spending cuts. Read more from the Washington Post and see also:
Mortgage Investors Corp., the beleaguered home lender run by prominent civic activist Bill Edwards, is laying off about 325 employees at its St. Petersburg headquarters, roughly a third of its workforce. Edwards blames the layoffs on a poor bond market. The news comes less than a month after the Federal Trade Commission levied a civil penalty of $7.5 million on the home lender, the largest fine ever for a violation of the "Do Not Call" telemarketing rule. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Florida taxpayers pay for increased security at state Capitol [WTSP]
The continuing sit-in at the state Capitol is increasing security costs for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The department says it has been forced to bring in extra officers and pay more overtime during the first week of the protest, so the total bill is $116,000.
› Florida court orders state to pay former pig farmer [AP]
A Florida appeals court is siding with a former pig farmer who says voters put him out of business. The 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday that the state owes a Panhandle farmer $505,000 plus interest because he had to shut down his pig farm.
› June hotel performance shows continued improvement [Miami Herald]
Hotels throughout South Florida posted strong results for June as occupancy and rates climbed compared to a year ago. In Miami-Dade, hotels were about 74 percent full in June, a year-over-year increase of 2 percentage points.
» Related: Orange hoteliers' top tourist tax priorities: convention center, marketing
› Orlando rents on the rise [Orlando Sentinel]
Renters in the Orlando area have seen their monthly rents increase twice as much from a year ago than renters nationally, a new report shows. In June, landlords in the four-county Orlando area asked a median of $1,238 for monthly rental rates in apartments and single-family homes — an increase of 3.3 percent from a year earlier.
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› South Florida real estate fares poorly in ranking [Miami Herald]
South Florida ranks near the bottom in a new listing of real estate recoveries across the country. Homes.com calculated metropolitan areas’ rebound in home prices when compared to past peaks, before the housing bubble popped and values crashed.
› Spirit profit climbs 22 percent in second quarter [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
Spirit Airlines' net income in the second quarter rose 22 percent to $42.1 million or 58 cents per share, the Miramar-based low-cost carrier reported Wednesday. That's up from $34.6 million or 48 cents in the year-ago period.
› Worker shortage? Jobless vets? Why not let one solve the other? [Sarasota Herald-Tribune]
Southwest Florida homebuilders believe they have found an answer to a local worker shortage that is threatening the region's construction recovery: Military veterans.
› Busch Gardens in Tampa to close two popular restaurants [Tampa Bay Times]
Citing slow business, Busch Gardens is closing its popular Crown Colony and Garden Gate restaurants during a traditionally busy time of year for theme parks. Busch Gardens officials confirmed the closures today but didn't give an exact closing date.