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Thursday's Daily Pulse

Report: Florida government is the leanest in nation

Florida's state government remains the leanest in the country. Taxpayers spent just $37 per resident on state government during in 2012, according to the latest state Workforce Report released by the Department of Management Services. That's nearly half the 2012 national average of $75. Florida also employs fewer state workers per resident than any other state. But critics say the efficiency has consequences such as shedding state jobs. Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said the report shows that "our state workers are underpaid." [Source: Tallahassee Democrat]

Richard Chwatt, CEO of Miami Subs Grill has revamped the menu, adding Latin-themed foods but keeping the gyros, chicken wings and Dom Perignon. » Story

Florida Trend Exclusive
Tall order: Miami Subs and Pitbull team up to revive the restaurant chain

Miami Subs had 200 stores before things blew up. It now has 40 and a high-profile investor as it tries to make a comeback. That investor is home-grown Miami superstar entertainer Armando Christian Pérez, AKA Pitbull. Pitbull’s investment -- the size of which hasn’t been disclosed -- may pay off with publicity, but Miami Subs will need all the help it can get as it tries to restart a chain down to 40 stores from 200 at its peak. Full story.

Florida has 2nd highest rate of underwater properties

A new report says Florida has the nation's second-highest rates of residential properties that were deeply underwater last month. The research firm RealtyTrac said Thursday that just over a third of Florida's residential properties were deeply underwater. Only Nevada had a higher rate. [Source: AP]

Legislation is fast-tracked to encourage private flood insurance in Florida

The Florida Legislature took the first step toward creating a private alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program on Wednesday, as a Senate committee approved a bill to create a framework for a regulated Florida product. The proposal wants to jump-start the private market by allowing companies to offer homeowners alternatives -- such as having the option of covering either the outstanding balance of their mortgage, the replacement cost of their property, or the actual cash value of their property -- rather than a single policy now available under the national program. [Source: Bradenton Herald]

» Column: Flood insurance bill is a good start, but it's not enough

Florida researchers developing football helmets to reduce concussions

Researchers in Florida believe they have come up with a way to improve football helmets and better protect players against blows that cause concussions. Protective sports helmets on the market today are largely designed to absorb shock from direct linear hits, like head butts, which force the head straight back, says University of Florida engineering professor Ghatu Subhash. But Subhash's new strategy makes use of fluid-filled pouches that, his tests show, also protect the brain from the rotational or shearing force of off-center hits on helmets. [Source: Reuters]


› Sen. Marco Rubio pushing reform agenda to tackle poverty
Sen. Marco Rubio says the nation needs a new reform agenda to help the poorest Americans find work and boost their families out of poverty. The Florida Republican said that money from the federal government to address poverty should be shifted to the states to give workers a better chance of climbing out of poverty. Congress, meanwhile, should reform the tax code to give people in low-wage jobs an incentive to stay in the workforce and not collect unemployment insurance.

› Ex-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist swipes at rivals, explains party change in new memoir
A memoir by former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist defends his evolution from a Republican to Democrat, while taking swipes at political opponents. His book, titled "The Party's Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became A Democrat," is scheduled for early February release. The book comes out as Crist, who was governor from 2007 to 2011, begins mounting a campaign to oppose Gov. Rick Scott in the 2014 race. Crist was elected as a Republican, but switched to an independent in his final year in office. He became a Democrat at the end of 2012.

› Florida turns to new contractor to fix unemployment claims mess
Florida officials are looking for help to fix the state’s balky, new unemployment claims system. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said Wednesday it is negotiating with a new contractor -- Paris-based Capgemini -- to examine the glitch-plagued CONNECT system and make recommendations on how to improve it.

› Florida Democrats' push for minimum wage increase makes Gov. Scott 'cringe'
Increasing Florida's minimum wage would not only help families rise out of poverty but boost the overall economy, Democratic lawmakers said. The Democrat's proposals -- Senate Bill 456 and House Bill 385 -- would increase Florida's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for all workers. The minimum wage in Florida is currently $7.93 an hour. But it's unlikely their proposals will get past the Republican-controlled Legislature. Count Gov. Rick Scott among those who are dubious about the Democrats' proposal. "When I hear a politician say that we have to raise the minimum wage so working families can make ends meet, I cringe, because I know that statement is a lie," Scott said.

Go to page 2 for more stories ...

› Top official under Florida Attorney General joining law firm
The chief of staff for Attorney General Pam Bondi is leaving state government and taking a new job. Carlos Muniz, who was also deputy state attorney general, joined McGuireWoods Consulting as a senior vice president on Dec. 31. He is also going to be a partner for the McGuireWoods law firm. He will be based in the Jacksonville office.

› Florida fishery managers grapple with rules, regulations during conference
A meeting among federal and state fishery managers on Tuesday proved the only thing harder than catching fish is coming up with rules and regulations for fishing that are acceptable to all anglers. Representatives of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico fishery management councils grappled with issues during a two-day conference in Key Largo. The group seemed divided about whether to create a regional South Florida management council, develop regional rules, or have the FWC take over rulemaking for species commonly found off South Florida, which would include yellowtail and mutton snapper, black grouper and possibly hogfish.

› Florida law to legalize warning shots passes Senate panel
A bill that would grant immunity to Floridians who show guns or fire warning shots in self-defense could be poised to pass this year after failing to get a hearing in 2013. The so-called warning-shot bill (SB 448), which would amend the state's controversial "stand your ground" self-defense law, cleared its first Senate committee on Wednesday.

› Fast growth in ‘fast-casual’ food
Somewhere between McDonald’s and Applebee’s, Americans have found a new favorite way to eat. "Fast-casual" restaurants, a mashup of fast food and casual dining, have taken off in the last decade, and the trend is no different in Bay County, where chains like Panera Bread, Newk’s and Five Guys stay busy. “It’s not just about the cheapest place anymore,” said Bonnie Riggs, a restaurant industry analyst.