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New-look Florida Legislature tackles old problem — homeowners insurance

The new-look Florida Legislature is coming back to the Capitol to take on an old problem — homeowners insurance — which has worsened since Hurricane Ian tore through the state in September. It was just six months ago that lawmakers attempted to stabilize an overpriced and unreliable insurance market during a special session called by Gov. Ron DeSantis. This time, new Republican leaders elected to the House and Senate in November will tackle what continues to be a statewide crisis. House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, now face an even tougher task. [Source: Gainesville Sun]

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Renters displaced by Hurricane Ian left with nowhere to go

Thousands of tenants across Southwest Florida were displaced after Hurricane Ian. Advocates say the storm has exacerbated an existing affordable housing crisis and is driving low and middle income families out of the region. Nearly 14,000 Southwest Florida renters are receiving assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to agency officials. More than 1,120 households are being housed in hotels under the agency’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance program. FEMA estimates that 357 rental homes were totally destroyed in the hurricane. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

DeSantis urged to release plan for Florida’s looming Medicaid crisis

Hundreds of thousands of Florida’s poorest children could lose health insurance next year when the federal government is expected to end expanded Medicaid coverage put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The looming crisis has prompted a coalition of 40 Florida nonprofits, health organizations and child advocacy groups to sign a letter sent Wednesday to Gov. Ron DeSantis, urging the state to release its plans for managing the transition. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

What happened to monkeypox in Florida?

Over the summer, Florida faced a growing viral outbreak that was causing thousands of infections and alarming public health experts. It wasn’t COVID-19 (although the pandemic pathogen was still spreading at the time). It was monkeypox, now known as mpox. The virus, which is endemic in parts of Africa, started to circulate around the world earlier in the year. The U.S. began to see infections in May, and cases spiked in July as it spread primarily via sexual contact. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

Caring for those in need

When the Chen Family Endowed Chair to Advance Primary Care and Health Equity Research was established at the University of Miami’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine this summer, it was more than a reflection of the members of the Chen family who are alumni of the school. The $3 million donation reflected a long-standing commitment to Florida and a broader passion for serving others and improving the health of communities in need. University of Miami President Julio Frenk said the partnership would propel the “pursuit of health equity.”[Sponsored Report]

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› Florida Hilton, Marriott, Sheraton workers were shorted almost $500,000 on pay, feds say
A Panama City Beach company that provides hotel workers to various chain hotels paid $503,053 in back pay and liquidated damages after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation, the agency announced Tuesday. That money went to 227 workers placed by Touch of Grace Services, an average of $2,216.09 per employee. Touch of Grace provides workers to Beachside Resort, Hilton’s Hampton Inn, Marriott’s Springhill Suites and Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf & Spa Resort in Panama City, Florida.

› Respiratory problems from Red Tide possible at some Pinellas beaches, officials warn
As Red Tide has exploded across Southwest Florida in recent weeks — particularly near the counties hardest hit by Hurricane Ian — many in the Tampa Bay area who keep track of the harmful algal blooms have watched as they ebbed and flowed northward. It’s not like last year, when crews cleared thousands of pounds of dead fish from Pinellas County shorelines, but as the scenes here in recent days have suggested, Red Tide is back.

› Downtown business group asks West Palm Beach to impose moratorium on marijuana dispensaries
An influential business group has asked West Palm Beach to impose a six-month moratorium on the approval of more medical marijuana dispensaries in the downtown area. The Downtown Development Authority, a 55-year-old independent taxing group that represents downtown business owners, said in a letter to city officials that "the proliferation of this type of business has a deleterious effect on the area by sending the wrong message about our community, creates a negative perception of our place, and prevents other, more beneficial types of businesses from opening."

› Race is on to scoop up build-to-rent sites in Orlando
Build-to-rent seems to be having a moment. It's certainly happening nationally, with the National Association of Home Builders reporting that construction of single-family build-to-rent surged in the second quarter of 2022 — with its 21,000 construction starts during the quarter a 91% increase year-over-year. It's happening locally, too, as developers and real estate professionals are on the hunt for sites in metro Orlando.

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› St. Petersburg sales consulting firm acquired for $7.5 million
Harte Hanks Inc. (NASDAQ: HHS), a global customer experience company based in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, has acquired InsideOut Solutions LLC, a St. Petersburg-based sales consulting and optimization firm, for $7.5 million. Founded in 2015 by Chad Nuss, a serial entrepreneur, and his business partner, Christina Cherry, who served as the company’s CEO, InsideOut specializes in inbound and outbound sales outsourcing and experimentation services for clients around the world, including Google, IBM, Paychex, T-Mobile and Autodesk.

› Jacksonville hospital grades: 7 A's, 6 B's and a C
Half of the 14 full-service hospitals in the Jacksonville area received top marks in a national health care watchdog organization’s latest patient-safety survey. Ascension St. Vincent's Southside, Baptist Medical Center, Baptist Medical Center South, Baptist Medical Center Beaches, Baptist Medical Center Nassau, Flagler Hospital and Mayo Clinic each received "A" grades from The Leapfrog Group for fall 2022.

› Scandinavian discount airline starts direct flights from Fort Lauderdale to Berlin
Norwegian discount airline Norse Atlantic Airways took off on Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport’s first direct flight to Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday. The new service will connect South Florida to the German capital three times a week, with flights on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. The Berlin flight adds to Norse’s twice weekly flights from Fort Lauderdale to Oslo, Norway, which began in June.

› Senate votes to ban cub petting with bill pushed by Tampa’s Carole Baskin
In their years of animal welfare work, Carole and Howard Baskin of Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue found that most customers who paid to cuddle with tiger cubs at zoos never knew the misery they were creating. Owners of pay-to-play businesses pulled cubs from their mothers after birth, forced them to interact with the public and often confined them to tiny concrete cages when they got too large to handle.