03/27/15 State Roundup
The hallmarks of Florida's economic recovery are nothing if not consistent: slow, steady and still elusive for some.
Slow: The state's jobs report for February, released Friday, showed the unemployment rate improving to 5.6 percent, down from 5.7 percent, with 19,700 jobs added in the month.
Florida's dip into double-digit unemployment seems a distant memory but — going on six years this summer since the official end of the Great Recession — days of 3 percent unemployment have fallen even further past recollection. ...
For the second year in a row, The Villages in central Florida is the fastest growing metro area in the country, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday.
The popular retirement mecca grew at a 5.4 percent clip between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014 to reach a population of about 114,000.
Six Florida metros were in the top 20 among the fastest-growing. Joining The Villages were Cape Coral-Fort Myers (sixth); Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island (10th); Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (16th); North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton (18th); and Panama City (19th)....
03/23/15 Personal Finance
Many Americans entering their sunset years may still be flocking to the Sunshine State. But they may want to think twice, based on one analysis released Monday.
Florida ranks in the bottom half of the pack as the 28th-best state for retirement, according to a new report from financial services firm Bankrate.com based on issues such as cost of living, taxes, health care, crime and climate....
State-run Citizens Property Insurance's policy count has shrunk to its lowest level since its creation 10 years ago.
CEO Barry Gilway told his board Wednesday that his company, which insures property owners who cannot find coverage on the open market, had fallen to 598,408 policies as of March 13. Barring a major storm, Citizens could see its footprint dwindle to 450,000 Florida policies, he predicted....
State-run Citizens Property Insurance has shrunk to the fewest number of policies since its creation 10 years ago.
CEO Barry Gilway told his board today that his company, which insures property owners who cannot find coverage on the open market, has fallen to 598,408 policies as of March 13.
Barring a major storm, Citizens could see its footprint dwindle to as few as 450,000 Florida policies, he predicted....
Today, Gov. Rick Scott announced four appointments to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.
-- Robert “Pete” Edwards, 63, of Tampa, is a retired drug court counselor with DACCO. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning today and ending Oct. 1, 2015.
-- Jacob Cremer, 30, of Tampa, is an attorney with Smolker, Bartlett, Loeb, Hinds & Sheppard, P.A. He succeeds Kim Vance and is appointed for a term beginning today and ending Oct. 1, 2015.
-- Frank Rygiel, 40, of Wesley Chapel, is the vice president of business development for Florida for Batson-Cook Company. He succeeds Earl Young and is appointed for a term beginning today and ending Oct. 1, 2015.
-- David Dunbar, 62, of Ozona, is the chairman of the board of People’s Bank. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning today and ending at the pleasure of the governor.
The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate....
03/17/15 Working Life
Florida's unemployment rate stood at 5.7 percent in January, unchanged from December, according to figures released Tuesday.
The state added 13,900 jobs over the month and is now up nearly 275,000 jobs from January 2014.
Gov. Rick Scott, as customary, focused on private-sector job creation rather than overall jobs, noting that Florida has added more than 800,000 nongovernment jobs since he took office in December 2010. Florida saw a huge drop in government jobs during the recession and during a government-shrinking push by Scott in the initial years of his first term. But the state has since been adding government jobs, including 5,400 over the past year....
Trying to help a damaged real estate market, the Florida Legislature in 2007 made it easier to convert condos to apartments.Bulk buyers who acquired 80 percent of the units in a complex could vote to convert to rentals and force the remaining individual owners to sell and leave.
That means some condo owners have no choice but to sell, in some cases at a financial loss.
With condo-to-apartment conversions increasingly common, Florida lawmakers this session are considering bills that would provide compensation and better protect some individual owners. But there is concern the bills contain a big loophole that, unless removed, could wipe out the protections....
03/13/15 State Roundup
Pharmaceutical manufacturer Xcelience is expanding its Tampa headquarters, creating 100 jobs while pledging to keep 100 current ones.
Xcelience committed to invest $9 million as it expands both its manufacturing operations and pharmaceutical development labs in the area. New positions will include staff for drug development, manufacturing, quality assurance and packaging.
Gov. Rick Scott, who revealed the company's plans Friday, has made adding jobs the focal point of his administration. "It is announcements like this that are helping our state become the global destination for jobs," he said....
From the Tampa Bay Times' Dan DeWitt:
The winners of the Great Sinkhole Lottery could be in line to win again. And this round of payouts would be, at least in part, on you.
Some of your tax money could also go to those bottom-feeding investors who picked up sinkhole homes for pennies on the dollar. And the repair companies, the ones that earned millions fixing holes that may not have really needed fixing? You might end up paying them, too....
03/11/15 Personal Finance
Fed up with figuring out your taxes? On hold too long with the IRS? Frustrated to discover they can't answer your question anyway?
Here's your chance to stand up for like-minded taxpayers across the country.
The Internal Revenue Services is seeking "civic-minded volunteers" in Florida and 17 other states (plus the District of Columbia) to serve on its 75-person Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP). The federal advisory committee is charged with identifying major taxpayer concerns and making recommendations for improving IRS service....
The latest from Tampa Bay Times' columnist John Romano:
Some might call it censorship. Or perhaps whitewashing.
I prefer to think of it as interpretive governing.
It's the process of ignoring, twisting or otherwise manipulating facts that do not match a politician's particular narrative.
Sort of like what has been going on at the Department of Environmental Protection since Rick Scott was elected governor. It seems former employees and others associated with the department say they were instructed to never use terms such as "global warming'' or "climate change" around the office....
03/09/15 State Roundup
A new report asserts that states like Florida that have dramatically tightened eligibility for unemployment insurance are seeing the biggest drops in the jobless receiving any benefits at all.
The conclusion in a report co-released by Florida International University: Cutting the duration of unemployment benefits has been "especially detrimental" to the unemployed.
Florida now ranks fourth lowest in the country in jobless workers getting unemployment benefits. Less than 19 percent of Florida's jobless receive benefits, about half the rate of jobless benefits recipients at the national level (34.7 percent). ...
03/06/15 Economic Development
Information technology company ReliaQuest is creating up to 55 new jobs in an expansion of its corporate headquarters in Tampa, state officials said Friday.
"Every new job puts us closer to our goal of becoming the No. 1 state for job creation," Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. "While ReliaQuest considered other states, they ultimately chose Florida as the best place to expand their business and create new jobs."...
Gov. Rick Scott visited St. Petersburg's Jagged Peak Thursday morning as part of an ongoing, statewide campaign to highlight job creators.
Afterward, in a brief, five-minute Q&A with the media, Scott addressed a few questions in the news, including a brewing disagreement with the Florida Cabinet about next week's process to review and possibly get rid of certain agency heads. Among those targeted by Scott: Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty:...