THURSDAY, APRIL 10, 2008
2008, a Time to Diversify
Florida business leaders face
a tough economy — will the R-word
be "Recession" or "Revenue"?
The 2008 Economic Yearbook explores population, job and income trends for each of Florida's 10 regions.
How Valuable Are Hurricane Predictions?
With much fanfare from a weather conference in the Bahamas, William Gray on Wednesday predicted 15 named storms would develop during the six-month season beginning June 1. But if National Hurricane Center officials have any sway, their forecasts will debut with far less hype than in years past.
The reason: The center's specialists so question the value of seasonal outlooks that its new director, Bill Read, has asked their parent agency to de-emphasize its forecast, especially on the number of storms expected. They are concerned that hurricane-vulnerable residents rely on the long-range predictions of above- or below-average activity when preparing for an upcoming season.
[Source: Orlando Sentinel]
Legislature: It's Okay to Bring a Gun to Work
The National Rifle Association finally won its three-year fight Wednesday to allow Floridians to bring guns to work.
But powerful business groups, which lost a riveting battle for the loyalty of Republican lawmakers on the issue, said they will sue to prevent the measure from becoming law.
The Florida Senate, on a 26-13 vote that mirrored the earlier party-line vote in the House, sent to the governor a bill that prohibits businesses from barring employees or customers from bringing firearms with them and leaving them in locked vehicles.
Only employees with concealed weapons permits would be protected. Schools are exempt, as are power plants and other secure locations.
Gov. Charlie Crist said he anticipates signing the bill.
[Source: St. Petersburg Times]
Piling On Debt
The credit crunch has made it harder for Americans to indulge in their love affair with debt. So what are they doing?
While tighter lending standards have cut off all but the most credit-worthy borrowers from auto loans and home loans, many people are turning to credit cards and tapping more of their home-equity lines of credit to dig themselves in deeper. And lenders, once eager to lend to those with even spotty credit records, are trying to rein in borrowing by cutting consumers' available credit lines. Average balances on credit cards and home-equity lines of credit are growing rapidly, rising 9.5% and 8.1%, respectively, in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to new data from Equifax Inc. and Moody's Economy.com.
[Source: Wall Street Journal]
Can State Legally Outlaw Baggy Pants?
Opa-Locka approved a law barring saggy pants in city parks and other city properties. Following its lead, Baldwin, a town of 1,600 near Jacksonville, adopted an even stricter ordinance in January. And now, state lawmakers are considering a similar act.
[Source: Florida Trend]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
›American Airlines Strands 110,000
The specter of broader flight cancellations will hang over the airline industry through this spring.
›Lawmakers Struggle to Save Springs
As studies continue to show the decline of Florida's natural springs, state lawmakers again this year appear to be reluctant to take any dramatic steps to help the state's unique resource.
›Property Insurers Post Near-Record Profits in 2007
The industry made a near-record $61.9-billion profit last year, according to a report from the industry-backed Insurance Information Institute.
Related: State gets 'F' for insurance climate, reports says
›Race Is Too Close for Obama to Give in On Florida Delegates
Why Barack Obama won't do that — because it could cost him the nomination — underscores how volatile the marathon Democratic race remains and how resolving Florida's Democratic delegate debacle remains a major challenge.
›Beekeepers Stung By Disappearing Bees
With a third of the nation's honeybees disappearing because of a mysterious malady, Florida's beekeepers are working to restore their hives and nurse their bee colonies back to health. Bees create Florida's $11.3 million annual honey crop.
›Senate Passes $66B Budget
The Republican-led chamber rejected Democratic pushes to close tax ''loopholes'' for interstate corporations, hike cigarette taxes or shift up to $70 million in commuter-rail transportation spending to beef up the relatively meager health, education and criminal-justice budgets.
›Bald Eagle No Longer 'Imperiled'
Florida wildlife officials have removed the bald eagle from the state's imperiled species list.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the bird from its endangered list last summer.
›Jacksonville Builder Closes Sales Office
Watson Custom Home Builder still expects to finish building homes already under way, but it has temporarily stopped taking new orders for homes.
›Bored with Pizza?
Delivery services now offer customers a world of options.
›Reservoir May Solve Water Needs
This flooded pasture-turned-reservoir just off State Route 520 could be the only option -- except for the ocean -- to water Brevard's next growth spurt and much of east Central Florida's growth for the next 20 years.
›Quay in Quagmire
It has been a wild, undulating four years since the Sarasota Quay was snapped up by an Irish investment group led by developer Patrick Kelly. There have been $1 billion worth of plans drawn and redrawn, players in and players out, a spectacular collapse of the area's condominium market, an attempt by a single condo owner to block the entire project, and truckloads of scrap from a noisy metal-on-concrete demolition.
›Legislators May Suspend Tax Subsidies for Pro Sports Teams
The sports-franchise measure, offered by the Democratic minority, prohibits state allocations to pro sports franchises, a move that would save the state $20 million in the 2008-09 budget year.
›Hillsborough Elections Chief Let Property Tax Bills Pile Up
Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson has not paid the taxes due on land and two homes he bought for $1.27-million, and he also owes back taxes on a third home and another lot he sold last year.
›Beleaguered City Megaplan Faces New Challenges
Miami's police union may join a lawsuit against the city, while city commissioners are weighing a revote over the multibillion-dollar megaplan for downtown.
›Opinion: More Curbs On Cuba Travel Not Needed
Memo to lawmakers: Leave foreign policy to the federal government. Two years ago legislators banned state-university travel to Cuba, and it has done Florida more harm than good. A Cuba bill under consideration promises more of the same. Other bills are symbolic at best.
›WaMu to Close 17 Loan Offices in Florida
Washington Mutual announced this week that it is receiving $7-billion in new capital from a private investment group and eliminating 3,000 jobs.
›Activists Press Office Depot
Writing again to shareholders, an investor group, citing Office Depot's slipping performance, urged them to vote for its board nominees.
›Disney's VIP Passes for Bigwigs Raise Ethical Questions
Walt Disney World is offering politicians and other VIPs special passes that let them cut in line at popular rides such as Soarin' in Epcot and Expedition Everest in Disney's Animal Kingdom. While, Universal and Busch theme parks don't.
›Analysts: Darden, Other Chains to Benefit From Stimulus Spending
The checks -- expected to start hitting mailboxes in May -- could increase sales by as much as 4 percentage points in May and June, said UBS Securities restaurant analyst David Palmer in a research report.
›Boca Wants FAU to Stall Stadium
During early meetings, the city and the university agreed that an interchange on Interstate 95 needed to be built before the stadium. The money for the interchange has not been secured yet, but the university is hiring an architect and engineer to design the 30,000-seat, $62 million stadium.
›South Fla. Water District to Lessen its Investment Risk
Water managers tentatively agreed Wednesday to make some changes in the handling of their $775 million investment portfolio, but they said they've avoided the meltdowns that have caused so much turmoil in the world's financial markets.
Related: Water officials to ease limits
›OSI Seeks Buyers for Roy's, Cheeseburger in Paradise
The Tampa-based owner of the Outback Steakhouse chain, which sold most of its stake in the Lee Roy Selmon's barbecue chain last year, is looking to sell two more brands.