GOV. SCOTT TO VISIT PANAMA ON TRADE MISSION
Gov. Rick Scott will leave Thursday for his first foreign trade mission since being elected, a two-day trip to Panama. A delegation of port officials, businessmen and Florida Chamber of Commerce representatives will head to Panama today and Scott will join them a day later. The trip is expected to cost about $27,000, Scott spokesman Brian Hughes said. Taxpayers will pay for about $5,000 while the remaining expenses will be covered by private donations to Enterprise Florida, the spokesman said. The two-day trip comes as Scott attempts to focus the state's attention on ports as a major jobs creator. When he derailed the $3 billion, shovel-ready high-speed rail project, Scott asked the federal government to instead spend the money on digging deeper ports. Panama comes into play because of its canal. A widening of the Panama Canal will give the world's largest container ships easier access to the East Coast. Among the delegation joining the governor is Tampa Port director Richard Wainio.
Senate okays cap on tax collections
A constitutional amendment that would stop state tax collections from growing faster than a combination of inflation and population growth was approved on a largely party-line vote, 27-13, Tuesday in the Senate. Republican Sens. Nancy Detert, Paula Dockery and Democratic Sen. Bill Montford crossed party lines. The amendment (SJR 958) now moves to the House, where no similar proposal exists. If it is passed there, it would be placed on the 2012 statewide ballot and need support from 60 percent of the voters. Democrats argued the proposal would prevent state programs from recovering from the recession and put the state's bond rating at risk. "I won't say I told you so, but wait a couple months after the election and see what happens to Florida bonds," said Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-North Miami Beach.
CEO for light rail leaving for Qatar
Nazih Haddad, chief operating officer of the Florida Rail Enterprise, is leaving his job at the state Department of Transportation. Haddad's announcement comes just a month after Gov. Scott rejected $2.4 billion in federal money to build a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. The bullet train was the enterprise's largest responsibility. In an e-mail to family and friends with the subject line "Time to Move on," Haddad said he is taking a job working for the Qatar Railways Co. He will be responsible for development of a $26 billion light rail, high-speed rail and freight rail system set to be completed before Qatar hosts the World Cup in 2022. Haddad, who has worked at the state Transportation Department for more than 30 years, said the job has been in the works for months, but he was reluctant to accept the position when high-speed rail was on the horizon for Florida.
Obama to address Miami-Dade grads
President Barack Obama will speak at Miami Dade College's graduation on April 29. Obama has been stepping up his visibility on college campuses as he readies for the 2012 campaign. He will address students at the North Campus graduation.
Times/Herald staff writers Michael C. Bender, Alex Leary and Janet Zink contributed to this report.