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Thursday's Daily Pulse

Florida Senate passes $95B budget proposal, changes to come

The Florida Senate unanimously passed a $95 billion budget Wednesday and will now have to work out differences with the House, which will vote on its $97 billion spending proposal on Thursday. The Senate proposal is almost $3 billion more than the state's current budget, a reflection of an economy that's bounced back from the coronavirus pandemic quicker than expect. And while there are program cuts, there might be more wiggle room to increase spending. [Source: AP]

Johnson & Johnson vaccine shortage cuts Florida supply next week, down nearly 270k doses

Florida’s weekly allotment of vaccines for COVID-19 from the federal government will take a big hit from this week’s record numbers after a major reduction in the one-dose Johnson & Johnson supply, but the state will still be getting more than 500,000 initial doses from either Moderna and Pfizer. After getting more than 300,000 doses of the J&J vaccine this week, Florida is only in line to receive 37,000 the week of April 12, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]

Car rental shortage affecting summer travel plans and budgets

As more Americans make plans to travel this summer, the usually cheaper option of driving may actually turn out to be more expensive because of a car rental shortage, especially in leisure destinations like Florida. "So, the current situation is pretty unprecedented," said Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of the website autoslash.com, which is dedicated to helping consumers get the best deals on car rentals. He explains that many of the major car rental companies quickly sold off a large portion of their fleet due to the drop in business during the pandemic. For some, the move was made to keep their companies afloat during the hard financial times of last year. [Source: WWSB]

Florida’s property insurance market is ailing. There is no quick fix

Florida’s property insurance market posted one of its worst financial performances in 2020, even without a hurricane making landfall in the Sunshine State, and policyholders are starting to pay the price. Experts say there is no quick fix to the challenges buffeting the industry. Fifty-six Florida insurers reported a combined $1.57 billion in underwriting losses, according to financial data obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, spending more on claims and expenses than they brought in through premiums. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

Florida occupational licensing ‘deregathon’ continues as ‘journeyman’ bill advances

The three-year Florida "deregathon" continues during the 2021 legislative session with companion Senate-House bills preempting local governments from regulating journeyman trades licenses on the cusp of adoption. Senate Bill 268, sponsored by Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, passed through the Senate Rules Committee Tuesday, securing its third public hearing endorsement and advancing to the Senate floor. SB 268’s House companion, House Bill 735, sponsored by Rep Joe Harding, R-Ocala, was approved by the House Thursday in an 82-32 mostly-partisan vote, but has not yet been officially transmitted to the Senate for review. [Source: The Center Square]


› Visit Orlando president says ‘it’s time to be optimistic’ about tourism in Central Florida
One year after the incredible economic fall out to Orlando’s $75 billion tourism industry caused by the global pandemic, Visit Orlando’s new president Casandra Matej hosted a “State of Recovery” address to tourism leaders on Tuesday. “We are so glad you can join us today as we take a deep dive on how our destination is rebounding from the economic fall out of COVID-19,” Matej said opening the virtual address.

› South Beach nightclub at center of FBI bribery sting loses lawsuit against city
A judge has again dismissed a lawsuit filed against the city of Miami Beach by the owner of a failed nightclub at the center of a 2012 FBI extortion sting that led to the arrest of seven city employees. The 2013 lawsuit by former Ocean Drive nightclub owner and FBI informant Haim Turgman sought $15 million in damages from the city and claimed that a pattern of harassment by crooked city inspectors led to the closure of his club, known as Chakra 5 and, later, Club Dolce.

› SpaceX rocket successfully sends Starlink satellites sky high
Another batch of 60 Starlink satellites were launched into the atmosphere Wednesday afternoon. The 24th batch of satellites blasted off at 12:34 p.m. from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. SpaceX’s 10th mission of the year used its Falcon 9 first stage rocket booster, which was previously used in past missions such as transporting NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station.

› Universal will open Jurassic World VelociCoaster in June
Big news for coaster fans, Universal announced June 10 as the opening date for its anticipated new attraction, the Jurassic World VelociCoaster, an adrenaline rush that will be Florida’s fastest and tallest launch coaster, catapulting riders up to 155 feet in the air. The original cast from the movies — Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard and B.D. Wong — will make appearances at the attraction, which sends guests through the paddock with the films’ velociraptor pack: Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo, a news release from Universal said.

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› Environmental groups say Piney Point wastewater has 10 times more nitrogen than raw sewage
A pair of environmental groups accused the state Department of Environmental Protection of oversight failures involving the old Piney Point fertilizer plant that contributed to the facility's recent dumping of polluted wastewater, which the groups say has 10 times more algae-feeding nitrogen than raw sewage. The joint statement by Suncoast Waterkeeper and Tampa Bay Waterkeeper says "the current failure at the Piney Point facility owned by HRK was preventable" and alleges that DEP "knew of the failures of the liner not only at Piney Point but other phosphogypsum stacks."

› Hurricane protection firm, after passing $70M in sales, finds buyer
Maryland private equity firm Rotunda Capital Partners has acquired a controlling interest in Storm Smart, one of the largest hurricane, storm and home protection companies in Florida. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Storm Smart, according to a statement, has worked with more than 80,000 homeowners since it was founded in 1996.

› Disney says it’s okay to take a mask-free selfie again
Walt Disney World has been one of the most strict businesses when it comes to masks and distancing, but a new change in policy starting Thursday will allow guests to temporarily remove face masks for outdoor photos. When Disney World reopened last July, it soon after amended its face mask policy to ban neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas and face coverings with valves. Soon after that, it also made clear that face masks can only be removed when actively eating and drinking.

› Sugars Gallery opens at Kissimmee’s Old Town
A shop offering cupcakes, cakes and sweets has joined Kissimmee’s Old Town entertainment district. Sugars Gallery opened inside a 1,000-square-foot space at 5770 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway. “In my new location I can run my shop with custom cakes, desserts, and more or offer to order online with delivery service,” owner Sully Castro said in a news release. Old Town was built in 1986 and features shops, restaurants, bars and rides.