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Federal judge blows up Florida's law limiting contributions for ballot initiatives

A federal judge has rejected an attempt by Florida lawmakers to limit contributions to political committees supporting ballot initiatives, saying it violates the First Amendment. U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor issued an 18-page ruling Wednesday that included a permanent injunction against the $3,000 contribution limit, which passed in 2021 and was revised this year. The limit was part of long-running efforts by Republican leaders to make it harder to pass ballot initiatives to amend the state Constitution. [Source: News Service of Florida]

Business BeatBusiness Beat - Week of June 17th

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As staghorn coral declines along Florida coast, planting project tests restoration plan

Just 150 fragments of staghorn coral planted off Florida’s shore might give new hope to the state’s endangered reefs. A boat carrying those fragments set off Tuesday afternoon in Jupiter, marking the beginning of a study on the temperature tolerance of coral on Florida’s northern reef tract. “This is the farthest north that this species has been out-planted,” said Shelby Thomas, the founder and CEO of the Ocean Rescue Alliance. “This will really help give us more insight in the future if it’s a suitable site to expand doing coral restoration efforts in Florida, and seeing if the species can survive further north.” [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

Senators introduce bill to protect Florida orange industry  

Florida’s U.S. Senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, introduced legislation aimed at changing how the orange juice industry produces its juice. The bill, titled the “Defending Domestic Orange Juice Production Act,” would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to change standards for sugar content in juice and prioritize using American-produced fruit to make juice products. The bill has received bipartisan support from the Florida Congressional delegation, with U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) introducing the version of the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. [Source: WFLA]

Nation’s lifeguard shortage arrives on South Florida’s beaches

A nationwide lifeguard shortage is acute in South Florida, where lifeguards work year-round, not just in summer. This year, beachside cities have failed to garner the kind of interest they once relied on, many with more vacancies on their hands than they can fill, their lifeguards working overtime. Meanwhile, alongside the deluge of new residents, more tourists are expected to visit South Florida this summer than in previous years, adding to the strain. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]


› Longtime NRA Florida lobbyist Marion Hammer retiring
Marion Hammer, who became a nationally recognized institution of gun politics in Florida, is retiring after four decades working as a state lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. Instead, Hammer will serve as an adviser to the NRA, focused on gun advocacy beyond just Florida, according to a Thursday statement from the NRA.

› In wake of COVID, Orange comptroller urges caution with hotel-tax money
Despite recent record-setting hauls from its hotel tax, Orange County should use caution with making plans to spend the surging revenues, Comptroller Phil Diamond recommended in a three-page memo this week to Mayor Jerry Demings and the board of county commissioners. He suggested they first allow depleted financial reserves to rebuild to $300 million and wait until revenues from the 6% surcharge on hotel rooms and other short-term lodgings top $300 million over a year’s time before committing the cash stream to new projects.

› Tower by tower, Edgewater skyline soars higher
Transformative high-rise towers are changing the Edgewater neighborhood, with more to come as demand for luxury residences continues to grow. Residential real estate developer Melo Group, which built Edgewater projects like 22 Biscayne, 22 Skyview, Bayhouse, 25 Biscayne, Second Plaza, 25 Mirage and Urban 22 – all luxury condos and rentals – is beginning work for Aria Reserve, 62-story dual residential towers designed by Bernardo Fort-Brescia of Arquitectonica and Morada Haute Furniture Boutique.

› VyStar and Georgia bank call off merger deal
After waiting nearly 15 months for regulators to act on their merger agreement, VyStar Credit Union’s deal to buy a Georgia commercial bank is off. Jacksonville-based VyStar and Jonesboro, Georgia-based Heritage Southeast Bancorporation Inc. announced June 15 they reached a mutual agreement to terminate the deal. The two companies said in a joint news release they lacked “a clear path forward to obtaining the regulatory approvals for closing.”

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› Tiger Woods’ PopStroke Orlando a present-day putt-putt rooted in golfer’s past
Tiger Woods’ late father Earl encouraged his son to putt to the picture, a visual cue the boy would use to win quarters from his “pops” long before becoming a golfing legend. Woods recalls those days fondly and aims to provide a similar experience for the masses as a partner with Greg Bartoli, founder of PopStroke. A fourth location opened this week in Orlando to offer a sophisticated, present-day spin on traditional putt-putt and an entertainment option accessible to people of all ages and degrees of golf interest.

› Miami International Airport near cargo ceiling, expansion plans take off
As Miami International Airport became the leading airport in the US for international cargo in 2021, at least five of the 42 cargo airlines have ambitious plans for expansion that would increase cargo capacity in the next five years. The airport currently has 2.8 million square feet of cargo warehouse and storage. Staff is working with major international cargo carriers to continue to attract service to the airport, Emir Pineda, trade & logistics manager for the Marketing Division of the airport, confirmed.

› Melbourne awards $32 million construction contract for new police HQ
The second time is the charm for the construction of Melbourne's new police headquarters. After a prior round of bids was tossed out earlier this year, city leaders on Tuesday awarded a $32.2 million construction contract for the planned two-story, 76,390 square-foot facility to Hedrick Brothers Construction of West Palm Beach.

› Mayor Curry and CFO Patronis market Jacksonville to Elon Musk for future business
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Florida’s Chief Financial Officer have called on Elon Musk to bring his business ventures to the River City. Curry joined Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis in a shared video posted to Twitter. The two say they want to give Musk a tour of Jacksonville in hopes he brings one of his three businesses to town.