Will Florida become a hemp ‘pioneer?’ Lawmakers getting behind hemp industry
Looking at a potentially lucrative new industry, lawmakers are working on rules for farmers and businesses to grow and sell industrial hemp in Florida. The Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday approved a bill (SB 1020) that would create a regulatory framework for the industry, which is emerging after a federal law last year legalized industrial hemp as an agricultural product. More from the Gainesville Sun, the Tampa Bay Times, and the AP.
The Florida Keys are getting their first ever all-inclusive resort
The Florida Keys just got a lot more luxurious. Located 63 miles south of Miami, the Bungalows Key Largo resort, which opened in January, is the first-ever all-inclusive property in the Florida Keys. The hotel is on one of the northernmost islands of the subtropical archipelago and features 135 private villas [Source: People]
E-Verify is failing to pass again this year. Here’s why Florida lawmakers are backing down.
Legislators have cut a secret deal, trading a set of bills that would require Florida businesses to check the immigration status of new hires via “e-Verify,” for bills to ban so-called “sanctuary cities,” which have been fast-tracked through committee stops. The agriculture industry and a state senator from each party agreed behind the scenes last week to block one proposal and advance the other, said Mike Fernandez, a billionaire healthcare magnate and prominent political booster in Miami with firsthand knowledge of the deal. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]
America's tennis factory is in Florida
Florida is where the United States manufactures its élite tennis players. Other countries have their national-federation training centers, of course; America’s is in Orlando. The state has year-round tennis weather, and it has become the home of the big-name coaches, the camps and academies, and all the best young players for an aspiring phenom to compete against. [Source: New Yorker]
Could more powerful hurricanes threaten South Florida’s disappearing forests?
When Hurricane Maria sacked Puerto Rico, it did more than take thousands of lives, pulverize houses and dismantle infrastructure. It shredded the island’s tropical forests at an unprecedented rate. For South Florida, where development has already wiped out much of the pine rocklands and hardwood hammocks that once covered high ground, that could be a death knell. [Source: Miami Herald]
ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:
› Southwest Florida International Airport sets new monthly record [Business Observer]
Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) set a new February record for passenger traffic as more travelers filled fewer flights. During the month, RSW reports 1,117,409 traveled through the terminal, an increase of 6% over February 2018 despite a 1.2% decrease in aircraft operations. Passenger count is also up 7.3% year-to-date over the prior year at 2,167,502 through February .
› Where the next Brightline stations may one day open in South Florida [Orlando Sentinel]
Brightline, the South Florida commuter train line being rebranded as Virgin Trains USA, may add a pair of stations at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and PortMiami. Launched last year as Brightline, the line’s trains now operate daily service under the Virgin Trains moniker among the downtowns of West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
› Florida lawmakers call for defective drywall makers to pay up [WPLG]
South Florida families affected by defective Chinese drywall were joined Monday by Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Federica Wilson in urging action against the responsible companies, which have thus far avoided legal consequences.
› In Tampa and St. Pete, new riders flock to free downtown transit lines [Tampa Bay Times]
Convincing people to take a streetcar or bus to work can be difficult. But downtown transit routes on both sides of Tampa Bay have seen substantial increases in ridership after tweaking stops, hours, frequency — and making their services free.
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› Smokable medical marijuana goes on sale in Orlando [Orlando Sentinel]
The Florida Department of Health has given the go-ahead to two companies — Trulieve and Curaleaf — to sell smokable medical marijuana after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill legalizing it last week. Previously, patients could use several forms of medical marijuana but not flower buds intended to be smoked.
› 5th earthquake strikes near Alabama-Florida state line [AP]
Another weak earthquake has struck near the Alabama-Florida state line. News outlets report it’s the fifth small quake in the area this month. There has been no damage or injuries. The U.S. Geological Survey said a 2.7 magnitude quake hit an early about 2 miles (3 kilometers) east of Century, Florida, on Sunday.
› What does the mogul who owns half of Flagler Street have up his sleeve? [Miami Herald]
Four years ago, Moishe Mana, the arts mogul and entrepreneur, began acquiring big chunks of downtown Miami’s Flagler Street, raising hopes that the city’s original but bedraggled main drag would finally mount a long-postponed comeback.
› A behind-the-scenes look at the opening of 4 Central Florida restaurants [Orlando Sentinel]
Restaurants open every day in Central Florida, but rarely within the timeframe their owners — or expectant diners — think those ovens will fire up. From finding the perfect location to identifying a concept, local restaurant owners say there are a lot of unknown considerations and struggles that come with opening a new eatery.