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Wednesday's Daily Pulse

If budget cuts continue, UCF may limit enrollment

In a mostly upbeat speech about the state of the University of Central Florida, President John Hitt warned Tuesday that any future state-funding cuts could force him to limit students' access to the nation's second-largest public university. UCF, which has lost $144 million in state funding over the past five years, has not been able to afford to hire enough faculty to keep up with growing enrollment. The school is also running out of space for classrooms. This fall, the university passed the 60,000-student mark. "We are being frugal," Hitt said. "However, if the state continues to reduce funding for UCF, we will have to limit access for the first time next year." [Source: Sentinel]

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Business Florida, a website of Florida Trend and Enterprise Florida, takes you from Pensacola down to Miami and from Naples up to Jacksonville. Along these imaginary diagonal lines are eight regions and 67 counties, companies of every size have found the right business climate to compete in challenging economic times.

Lennar's third-quarter profit jumps as orders increase

A rise in new orders and the number of homes delivered gave Lennar a boost as its net income more than quadrupled in the third quarter in part because of a tax benefit. The Miami-based homebuilder also reported a significant increase in backlog, a sign of potential future housing revenue.

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Echoing sentiments similar to those expressed by KB Home on Friday, Lennar CEO Stuart Miller said the housing recovery is underway. Lennar shares fell 63 cents. or 1.7 percent, to $36.88 in Tuesday morning trading after rising as high as $38.27 earlier in the session, their highest level since June 2007. They are still about triple their low of $12.14 set in early October 2011. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]

Digital Domain ruling protects West Palm ‘tent site,’ for now

The city argued Tuesday in court filings that it should get back its $10 million downtown parcel from Digital Domain Media Group because the land has no value to creditors and forcing West Palm Beach to be thrown into a bankruptcy court fight “would be a significant waste of taxpayer money.” The visual effects firm founded by director James Cameron received promises of $135 million in government incentives, and closed the Port St. Lucie facility, laying off at least 250 workers, on Sept. 7. It canceled plans for its West Palm Beach animation school, but a branch of Florida State University’s film school, lured by Digital Domain, remains. [Source: Palm Beach Post]

Related: » Digital Domain sold for $30M

Justice warns of assault on courts 'through partisan politics'

As the secretive campaign against the three Florida Supreme Court justices up for merit retention took shape Monday, one of the targeted justices warned that the future of the state's independent judiciary was under threat. "This is the most stressful time I've ever experienced in my life," said Justice R. Fred Lewis at a meeting of the Hillsborough County Bar Association. "There is an entire branch of government to protect and defend. We cannot sacrifice fairness and impartiality and the court system to political whims." Lewis' remarks came three days after the Republican Party of Florida announced it will oppose him and Justices Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince because of their "activist" and liberal views. [Source: Times/Herald]

Related: » TV spots blasting Florida Supreme Court started Tuesday


› Publix expands online ordering
Pre-ordering sandwiches and deli items online at Publix is popular enough with customers that the grocery giant is expanding the test project to more stores. Publix this week quietly turned on the system in a half-dozen stores in Tampa and St. Petersburg, and likely will add more stores to the system in the coming months.

› JaxPort board tables possible pay raise and bonus for CEO
A 5 percent pay raise and $50,000 bonus for JaxPort’s top executive went from a done deal last week to indefinitely postponed Tuesday after CEO Paul Anderson asked the board to delay voting on his compensation.

› Duval health chief quits
Robert Harmon, the director of the Duval County Health Department, has “retired” two days after a Times-Union story detailed the agency’s pattern of concealing information about a years-long tuberculosis outbreak.

› Nopetro to open more natural gas fueling stations
Company plans to open 15 more natural gas fueling stations across the state over the next three years. From Trend: Nopetro to launch natural gas fueling stations in Florida

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› Rivera ran secret campaign, Sternad tells FBI
Justin Lamar Sternad, whose failed congressional campaign became the subject of a federal grand-jury investigation, has told the FBI that U.S. Rep. David Rivera was secretly behind his run for office.

› Scott's education stance is nice, but advocates want specifics
It will take more than a listening tour to convince education advocates across Florida that Gov. Rick Scott is on their side. They are wary, skeptical even, of the man they've mostly seen as an adversary for the past two years. Now, they wait to see what kind of policies Scott proposes for the 2013 legislative session and budget and whether his decisions reflect their advice.

› Audit: Volunteer fire units may cost more than they are worth
The six volunteer fire departments cost Hillsborough County a total of about $1.5 million each year. That includes $49,950 paid to each company as well as equipment and the cost of sending in career firefighters when the companies don't have enough volunteers

› State pushes for safe houses for child-prostitution victims
Amid growing concern from Florida's capital to the White House over human trafficking, the head of the state's social-services agency outlined plans Tuesday to create a network of "safe houses" and long-term-treatment facilities where underage sexual workers and other children held against their will could seek refuge and protection.

› Astronauts, robots may team up to reach Mars goal

Despite severe budget cuts, an expert panel said NASA still could achieve the National Research Council’s top goal for planetary science — returning rock and soil samples from the red planet.