5 surprising facts the fact-checkers learned about Florida

St. Petersburg Beach looking north after the passing of Hurricane Irma on Nov. 9, 2017.
JIM DAMASKE | St. Petersburg Beach looking north after the passing of Hurricane Irma on Nov. 9, 2017.

Every day, PolitiFact Florida researches claims by candidates and elected officials to sort fact from fiction for voters.

In fact-checking the 2018 governor’s race and Gov. Rick Scott, we’ve collected heaps of information about Florida and the rest of the country. There’s some good news, and some not-so-great news.

(If you know of a trivia night where these facts would earn us the top prize, please let us know.)

1. Florida has a nursing shortage.

Our need for nurses might not come as a surprise considering Florida’s aging population. But data from the Department of Economic Opportunity shows registered nurses have consistently topped the lists of monthly online job advertisements and annual job openings in Florida since 2007. In recent years, the shortage has been exacerbated by a lack of students studying to become nurses, a shortage of faculty teaching future students, and an aging workforce and state population.

2. Florida’s stormwater infrastructure is in bad shape.

Every four years since 2008, the Florida Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers has issued a report card outlining the condition of Florida’s infrastructure.In 2016, Florida’s coastal and stormwater infrastructure received D-plus and D ratings.

What does that mean? The infrastructure is in poor to fair condition, below standards and not prepared to handle climate change.

"It might be too late for the next hurricane but the sooner we start the more we could prevent damage in the future," said Dave Randle, University of South Florida director of sustainable tourism.

3. The rate of insured children has jumped substantially in recent years.

The rate of uninsured children in Florida dropped from 14.8 percent in 2009 to 6.2 percent in 2016, according to a September 2017 Georgetown Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families study. That’s a reduction from 601,000 uninsured children to 257,000.

The report says Florida’s progress is a result of improvements for children through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and gives credit to the Affordable Care Act signed by President Barack Obama.

Still, Florida lags behind the national rate of uninsured children, which was 4.5 percent in 2016.

4. Florida is the only place to tax commercial leases.

And Republican Gov. Rick Scott is none too happy about it.

Other states and municipalities have similar taxes, but none of them are comprehensive sales taxes like Florida’s 6 percent sales tax on the total rent paid for any commercial property, including storefronts, offices and warehouses.

Scott has tried unsuccessfully for years to phase out this tax. But the Legislature has not gone along with a complete cut, settling this year for a .02 percent reduction that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2018.

5. Hispanic entrepreneurs are opening a lot of businesses.

Whether looking at just Hispanic immigrants or Hispanic entrepreneurs, Hispanic-owned businesses are popping up faster than white non-Hispanic demographics in Florida and across the country.

By using data from the Census Bureau’s 2015 American Survey of Entrepreneurs, PolitiFact Florida the Hispanic growth rate for businesses from 2014 to 2015 was more than three times the growth rate for non-Hispanic white businesses opened by men and women.