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What You Need To Know About Florida Today

| 7/11/2008

FRIDAY, JULY 11, 2008

Managers: U.S. Sugar Buyout Won't Hike Tax Rates

Water managers vowed Thursday to close the $1.75 billion deal for the U.S. Sugar Corp without hiking taxes on South Florida homeowners, but the big buyout will come at the cost of delay for other Everglades projects. The South Florida Water Management District's proposed budget would scale down, postpone or shift construction work to the federal government -- diverting the savings to buy a swath of sugar fields long coveted by environmentalists. District board member Charles Duaray sounded skeptical that the district, which only two months ago had been worried about the impact of statewide budget cuts, could easily take on the largest conservation land buy in state history. ''Right now, these are hard numbers to swallow by us and the public,'' he said. [Source: Miami Herald]

Ethanol: Miracle or Mistake?

Florida is sinking millions into ethanol research and grants. But nobody is even close to making it profitable. [Source: Florida Trend]

More on this topic from Florida Trend:

Small Businesses Squeezed Out of Loans

Buckling under the subprime crisis and a limping economy, many banks are turning off the money taps to local entrepreneurs, forcing some to put their dreams on ice or scale back plans to expand. The Small Business Administration, which provides banks with guarantees to encourage them to lend to entrepreneurs that might not otherwise qualify, reported Wednesday it had backed 2,337 loans worth $571.2 million in the South Florida District, which covers 24 counties south of Orlando, from October through June. That's down 31% in volume and 9% in dollar terms versus the same period last year. One entrepreneur who's losing out is Mario Agudelo, who at 67 says he is still young enough to turn Del Sur Trading, the company he runs out of his Kendall home, into a thriving enterprise. But first, he needs a loan. [Source: Herald]

More on this topic from Florida Trend:

FPL Taps Calif. Company to Build 2 Solar Plants

SunPower Corp., a manufacturer of solar panels and systems, will install a 25-megawatt photovoltaic power plant north of Arcadia to be completed next year. It will also build a 10-megawatt photovoltaic plant at the Kennedy Space Center, completing it in 2010. Currently, the largest photovoltaic solar power system in the United States is a 14-megawatt plant built by SunPower at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. "This is a new chapter for the solar industry," said Julie Blunden, vice president of public policy and corporate communications at SunPower. Eric Silagy, Florida Power & Light Co. vice president and chief development officer, said adding the plants is a "natural extension" of the company's work with renewable energy and that solar power has a "very bright" future in Florida. "The technology is getting better, and prices are going down," he said. [Source: Palm Beach Post]


›Owner Weaver Insists Jaguars Are Not for Sale
"I'm not selling the Jaguars," Wayne Weaver said. "The team is not moving to LA. I don't know how I can say it any more clearly than that. At some point, maybe I will sell the team. But not now." Reports surfaced Thursday that he was in negotiations with billionaire C. Dean Metropoulos to sell the club.

Tomato Growers Seek Restitution
Saying sales of their crops are still down 30 to 40%, Florida tomato growers are lining up congressional support to seek restitution for millions of dollars in losses linked to the nation's salmonella outbreak. "We believe it is maybe $100 million or more in Florida," said J. Luis Rodriguez, trade adviser for Florida Farmers Inc. in Lake Worth.

›State Parks Are Free Sunday
Florida is waiving admission to all state parks on July 13. Find a park here.
Also from Trend: Florida's Favorite Boating Places

›Is Allstate the Worst Insurer in America?

That's what a trade group for trial lawyers, the American Association for Justice, said in a study released Thursday. The designation is not surprising, given the ongoing war between the insurer and trial lawyers over auto insurance accident claims.

›Disney's Gun Stance Draws Fire
Although a new and controversial National Rifle Association-backed law sought to give Floridians like her the peace of mind to carry a piece almost anywhere in their cars, Disney World has found what it says is an out tucked in the law.
From Trend: Icon Marion P. Hammer

›Column: Florida Taxes Bad? Not Compared With New York's

James Thorner: The Empire State shows no mercy to people uppity enough to build new homes. Two owners of new houses similar in size to mine in Florida confessed to paying 21/2 times my property taxes. We're talking middle-class families with $12,000 tax bills.

›Al-Arian Granted Bail, But Not Yet His Freedom
Former USF professor Sami Al-Arian has been held in prison since February 2003, when he was charged with multiple terrorism-related counts.

›Campbell Cites Hip Surgery in Dropping Bid for Senate

Skip Campbell will officially drop out of the race against Republican Senate President-designate Jeff Atwater today, the former senator said Thursday.
Also: Honesty in doubt, Jim King drops out of race

›Orlando-Area Home Sales Post Gains
The June sales total -- 1,443 -- was the best single month for local Realtors since last August, when 1,467 houses, town homes and condos changed hands.

›Crist Has Busy Agenda on Trade Mission to Europe
Gov. Charlie Crist is preparing for a 10-day trip to Europe to talk up the state's aerospace and alternative-energy industries.

›Floridians Are Going Easier on the Gas

The per capita use of fuel has reached a 35-year low, according to the state.

›Medicare Fix Delays the Pain

Doctors usually are no fans of liberal politicians, but on Thursday the Sarasota County Medical Society sent a thank-you note to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. The Massachusetts senator's vote broke a logjam on a Senate bill and likely canceled a 10.6% cut in what Medicare pays doctors.

›Social Networking Could Haunt Doctors
There's just something unsettling about knowing that your doctor was a hero at "keg stands" or a member of "Physicians looking for trophy wives in training." A University of Florida study published this week in the Journal of General Internal Medicine examined the Facebook pages of 362 medical students and found information that some faculty members believe is inappropriate for future doctors.

›Make a Deal on Miami Megaplan, Judge Orders

A Circuit Court judge told parties to seek an out-of-court solution to a suit seeking to block Miami's plans to finance a baseball stadium and other projects.

›Lake Okeechobee Water Rises, Slowly
Rainfall is up slightly and so is the lake - to 9.99 feet, a foot higher than a year ago, when a record low of 8.8 feet was set. But the water is 4 feet below average.

›VA Vote Push Has New Allies

Florida's top elections official and several U.S. senators have joined the mounting criticism over a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs policy that bans voter registration on VA property. Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning said he disagrees with the VA ban and finds it "somewhat troubling.''

›Golfer Greg Norman's Ex-Wife Gets $103 Million in Divorce Signing
The Martin County resident, nicknamed the "Great White Shark," is reportedly the 11th richest Australian, with a net worth of about $500 million. Norman, 53, married tennis great Chris Evert last month in the Bahamas.

Florida Business News

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Florida Trend Video Pick

Clearwater Beach restaurant serves up free food to people with autism and Down's Syndrome
Clearwater Beach restaurant serves up free food to people with autism and Down's Syndrome

At Chihuas Tacos in Clearwater, the sound of food cooking, a spatula scraping the grill and Mexican music will greet you at the door.

Video Picks | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

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