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Friday's Afternoon Update

Florida TaxWatch identifies $120 million in 'budget turkeys' for 2014

Florida taxpayers are set to pay $120 million for projects inserted into the budget and not publicly vetted by lawmakers next year, according to the 2014 Budget Turkey Report from Florida TaxWatch. Turkeys are defined as projects funded without transparency. Hillsborough County had 12 projects flagged as turkeys including $12 million on the Port of Tampa Bay’s Gantry Crane. Miami-Dade had 11 projects on the list, including $3.4 million for the Ludlam Trail Corridor and $5 million for a gymnasium at Miami-Dade College; Read more about the report, or download the full PDF here. More also at the Tampa Bay Times.

State releases first round of FCAT results

About 20 percent of the state's third-graders could be heading to summer school this year, while 43 percent of the state's third-graders scored below grade level. The Florida Department of Education released third-grade reading and math scores this morning, in addition to FCAT writing scores. Third-grade reading scores are of special interest because of the high stakes attached. Students must score at a level 2 on a five-level scoring tier or higher on the reading FCAT or risk not being promoted to the fourth grade.

Southeast Florida roundup

Blimp exchange

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The days are numbered for Broward County's two moored Goodyear blimps. Goodyear is building next-generation replacements (pictured) in cooperation wtih Germany's Zeppelin company.

This story is part of a regional news roundup. At the roundup, see a time-lapse video of the next-gen blimp being built. » Access story and video here.

More at TCPalm , the Orlando Sentinel and the Tampa Bay Times.

Florida tops nation in watercraft thefts

According to a report released this month by the National Insurance Crime Bureau, more than twice as many watercraft were reported stolen from Florida in 2013 than in any other state. That was also true of 2012. The report comes as the Sunshine State's summer boating season is set to ramp up, with the Memorial Day weekend marking its unofficial start. More from the Orlando Sentinel.

Small businesses coping with a tight credit market

The ongoing tight credit environment continues to impede growth among small businesses. And with the threat of possible inflation and rising prices, available credit will be more and more difficult to secure. [Source: Gainesville Business Report]

Memorial weekend meteor shower could be spectacular

Early Saturday morning, "Comet Linear" will make its closest pass ever. It should produce at least one shooting star every minute. These new meteors -- the Camelopardalids -- are dusty remnants of a comet discovered in 2004. With clear skies, sky gazers may see meteor activity beginning at 10:30 p.m. Friday.More from the Tampa Bay Times.

Natural Resources
Dr. Beach names 4 Florida beaches to his top 10 list

Best beachesThe Sunshine State dominated the list of Top 10 Beaches for 2014, compiled by Dr. Beach, aka Stephen Leatherman of Florida International University. Those Florida beaches, and their rankings, are:

2. Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park, in North Naples
3. St. George Island State Park, near Apalachicola
6. Cape Florida State Park, at the southern tip of Key Biscayne
10. Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, also in Naples
» More at Visit Florida