Consumer sentiment among Floridians in January ticked up another one-half point to 97.8 — the highest reading since March 2002 — from December’s record-breaking revised figure of 97.3, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey.
Florida’s upward trend also tracks the national figures released last week by the University of Michigan, with the national consumer sentiment index at the highest level since February 2004.
Of the five components that make up the Florida index, three increased and two decreased.
Perceptions of one’s personal financial situation now compared with a year ago showed the greatest increase, rising 5.4 points from 82.8 to 88.2. With the exception of those 60 and older, this view is shared by all Floridians.
Opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket household item such as an appliance increased slightly from 101.2 to 102.3.
“Perceptions of current conditions improved among Floridians in the last month as a result of the positive economic picture that prevailed in the state during the last year,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “Floridians are optimistic about their own finances. The recent surge in the level of confidence comes from perceptions and expectations about Floridians’ individual financial situations.”
Expectations of personal finances a year from now rose 2.5 points, from 103.9 to 106.4. However, views on the future of the national economy were gloomier: Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year dropped 3.3 points, from 99.9 to 96.6, while anticipated U.S. economic conditions over the next five years decreased 2.7 points from 98.5 to 95.8.
Economic data in Florida continue to be generally positive. Although the December unemployment rate in Florida remained at 4.9 percent, the number of jobs added last year statewide was 251,400—a 3.1 percent increase compared with a year ago. The industry sector gaining most jobs was leisure and hospitality, followed by education and health services, then professional and business services.
“There is no doubt that the state’s economy is in better shape than it was several years ago,” Sandoval said. “However, both short- and long-run expectations about the national economic situation are pessimistic, particularly over the next year. These negative expectations are shared by most Floridians but are strongest among those with income under $50,000. These expectations may reflect uncertainty associated with the upcoming economic policy changes by the new U.S. administration. The next few months will be key to understanding these changes and assessing their potential impact on the economy.”
Conducted Jan. 1-26, the UF study reflects the responses of 449 individuals who were reached on cellphones, representing a demographic cross section of Florida.
The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.
Details of this month’s survey can be found at http://www.bebr.ufl.edu/csi-data.
Writer: Colleen Porter, [email protected]
Soup Du Jour
Bill Establishes Meaningful Regulations to Protect Consumers
State Senator Dana Young (R-Tampa) today announced that she has filed Senate Bill 592, which clarifies the law to make clear that fantasy sports are legal in the State of Florida, while also establishing commonsense regulations and consumer protection measures for the industry. Ten states have recently passed laws regulating fantasy sports and these regulations have proven to be successful. SB 592 is based on the best components of fantasy sports laws from across the county, with the appropriate Florida-specific adjustments to serve the Sunshine State.
“Today, more than 3 million Floridians participate in fantasy sports. This bill ensures the games they love will continue to be legal in the State of Florida, while adding several consumer protection measures,” said Senator Young. “The relevant laws on the books were written a long, long time ago in a different era, and they need to be updated to reflect current technology and to ensure that our friends and neighbors who enjoy fantasy sports can do so without any legal ambiguity.”
Key consumer protection measures in the legislation include:
- Instituting restrictions on who may compete in fantasy games, including barring the operator, employees of the operator, and family members of the operator from play, as well as preventing employees of the game operator from sharing confidential information that could affect fantasy game play;
- Verifying fantasy contest participants are 18 years of age or older;
- Restricting any individual who is a player, game official, or other participant in a real-world competition from participating in any related fantasy contest;
- Disclosing the number of fantasy contests a single participant may enter and prevent contest participants from entering more than the allowable number of fantasy games;
- Segregating contest participants’ funds from operational funds and maintaining a reserve to ensure fantasy players will have access to their funds at all times;
- Requiring all fantasy sports companies offering fantasy games in the State of Florida to annually contract with a third party to perform an independent audit, consistent with the standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, to ensure compliance with all of the requirements of the new law; and,
- Clarification that NCAA sports will not be included in fantasy contests.
“On behalf of the millions of Floridians for whom fantasy sports is a fun and engaging pastime, I look forward to working with my colleagues during the 2017 Legislative Session to pass this needed law clarifying the legality of fantasy sports,” concluded Senator Young.
Governor Rick Scott announced today his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget which proposes $618 million in tax cuts to help Florida families and small businesses. The Governor’s recommended budget also invests record funding in Florida’s education system, strengthens environmental protection efforts, supports law enforcement and fights for Florida’s growing job market.
Governor Scott said, “Florida businesses have added more than 1.2 million jobs over the last six years and our economy is booming because of our continued focus on cutting taxes, reducing burdensome regulations and fostering an environment where job creators can grow and succeed in Florida. Our ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ budget continues our hard work and cuts taxes by $618 million while making strategic investments in areas that are important to families. Because our economy continues to grow, we are able to make these investments while also paying down debt and setting aside $5 billion in reserves. I look forward to working with the Legislature this session to make Florida the best place in the world for our future generations.”
Cuts Taxes and Fees
The “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget proposes to cut taxes by more than $618 million including decreasing the tax on business rents,providing a one-year sales tax exemption on college textbooks, cutting the business tax, exempting school book fairs from the sales tax and implementing a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday, nine-day disaster preparedness sales tax holiday, three-day veteran’s sales tax holiday and one-day camping and fishing sales tax holiday.
Governor Scott’s “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget also includes $8.1 million in additional annual fee cuts for Florida’s seniors, teachers, veterans and businesses, all while maintaining the quality of services provided.
Grows the Economy
Florida has created more than 1.25 million jobs in just six years and Governor Scott will keep fighting for jobs until his last day in office. The “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget recommends $85 million for economic incentives for the sole purpose of bringing more jobs to Florida and supporting small businesses.
Invests in Education
The “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget invests historic funding in Florida’s education system to ensure every student has the opportunity to succeed in the Sunshine State. Historic investments include:
- Nearly $21 billion in state and local funding through the Florida Educational Finance Program (FEFP) for Florida’s K-12 public schools which equates to $7,421 per student. This is the highest total funding, state funding and per-student funding for K-12 in Florida’s history.
- Governor Scott is also recommending a historic $6.6 billion in total funding for higher education in Florida which includes increased funding for the Bright Futures Scholarship program. There are also NO tuition increases included in the budget.
Protects the Environment
The “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget invests nearly $4 billion in Florida’s environment which includes:
- $360 million for water quality projects which includes record funding once again for Florida’s springs of $65 million and $60 million for the new Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee Clean-Up Initiative; and
- $225 million for Everglades restoration.
Keeps Families Healthy
The “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget makes important investments which include:
- More than $1 billion in mental health and substance abuse funding, including $18.7 million for community-based behavioral health services;
- A record $632 million to provide core services to children who depend on Florida’s child welfare system; and
- More than $7.4 million to remove everyone off of the critical needs waiting list at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) for the fourth consecutive year.
Builds Strong Communities
The “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget invests more than $5.1 billion in public safety and makes important investments to support Florida’s dedicated law enforcement officers. Key public safety investments include:
- $14.6 million to award Florida’s nearly 4,800 sworn state law enforcement officers with a five percent pay raise;
- $5.8 million to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to hire 46 new employees dedicated to counterterrorism; and
- More than $45 million to increase the pay of Florida’s correctional and correctional probation officers.
Invests in Florida’s Veterans Community
The “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget recommends $102 million to support active military, veterans and their families.
Click here to view the Fighting for Florida’s Future Budget highlights.
Click here to view the Fighting for Florida’s Future Budget FAQ.
Click here to view the Fighting for Florida’s Future Budget complete budget.
The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) invites customers of Utilities Inc. of Florida (Utilities, Inc.) to participate in customer service hearings in Altamonte Springs and Lakeland on the utility’s petition for a water and wastewater rate increase. The hearings will allow customers to provide public comment on Utilities Inc.’s rate request. Customer input will be taken into consideration when the Commission considers this request.
The service hearings are scheduled for the following times and locations:
Thursday, February 2, 2017
Eastmonte Civic Center
830 Magnolia Drive
Altamonte Springs, FL 32701
Cypress Lakes Clubhouse
10000 US Hwy 98 N
Lakeland, FL 32820
In August 2016, Utilities Inc. filed a petition with the PSC to increase its water and wastewater rates. Utilities Inc. provides service to 27 systems in Charlotte, Highlands, Lake, Lee, Marion, Orange, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Seminole Counties.
For additional information, visit www.floridapsc.com.
Follow the PSC on Twitter, @floridapsc.
Tomorrow, January 31st, Governor Rick Scott will attend the Florida Sheriff’s Association Winter Conference in Jacksonville.
WHAT: Florida Sheriff’s Association Conference
WHEN: 12:00 PM
WHERE: Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront
225 E Coastline Dr.
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Please find below a statement from Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., regarding the recent executive order affecting foreign travel and immigration.
“Florida A&M University has a strong and vibrant academic and research community, which includes diverse students, staff, and faculty representing various countries. The University remains committed to providing its faculty, staff, and students with a safe, positive, and fruitful working and learning environment regardless of their nation of origin.
As the University works to attain more information about the application and enforcement of the executive order, we encourage all faculty, staff, and students from the seven listed countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – to refrain from travel to these areas for the next 90 days. We also encourage those planning to travel abroad during this period and thereafter, including spring break excursions, to consult with the FAMU Office of International Education and Development before departing the country.
There are currently approximately 200 international students within our campus community, and we are working to determine how they, as well as international faculty and staff, have been impacted by the executive order.
The FAMU community encourages careful consideration of the effects the executive order will have on the U.S. higher education and research community, as FAMU students, faculty and staff are often involved in ongoing education, research, and service projects in the international arena.
We stand ready to assist in offering solutions to support and strengthen the higher education and research community in light of the recent changes to U.S. foreign travel and immigration policy.”
Tomorrow, January 31st, Governor Rick Scott will unveil his 2017-2018 “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget at the AP Legislative Planning Session.
WHAT: Press Conference
WHEN: 9:00 AM
WHERE: 22nd Floor
400 South Monroe Street
NOTE: The Florida Channel will be carrying the Governor’s announcement live.
Following the announcement, the Governor’s budget staff will host a pen and pad background briefing with credentialed press. No visual or audio recording equipment will be permitted. This will be an in-person meeting ONLY. No call-in information will be provided.
WHAT: Pen and Pad with OPB Staff
WHEN: 12:00 PM
WHERE: The Governor’s Large Conference Room
400 South Monroe Street
Exceptional Student Education has always been a popular program at Flagler College, and now it is ranked number one in the state. The program — at both St. Augustine and Tallahassee campuses — achieved the state’s highest ranking for teacher preparation at the elementary level, alongside Lynn University and Rollins College.
Dr. Michele Gregoire, professor and chair of the college’s Education Department, said that the school’s top ranking can be attributed to the program’s core components.
“I believe our emphasis on practicum in each methods course and the amount of experience our students gain in the classroom has always been one of our strengths,” she said. “Also, our dual programs in Elementary/Exceptional Student Education and Elementary/Deaf Education have long been a model for other colleges and have provided extremely well-prepared and competent teachers for all children.”
The state of Florida has implemented numerous policies aimed at ensuring that all students have effective teachers. It measures program performance through data that includes: how many completers of a program were placed into teaching or instructional positions in Florida public schools; the rate of retention in those positions; the performance of students assigned to those teachers using statewide assessments; and the results of annual evaluations. The “Florida Teacher Preparation Programs” report provides findings from this data, which will help programs improve their design and outcomes.
There are 100 providers of teacher preparation programs in Florida. Thirty-four are public colleges or universities, and 23 are private. The additional 43 are school districts that run Professional Development Certification Programs. There is a total of 348 programs offered at these providers.
To read the full report, visit here.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) sent a letter today to President Trump to express his concern that the president’s executive order on immigration could undermine our national security.
Below is the full text of Nelson’s letter:
January 30, 2017
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I write to express my concern with your recent Executive Order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Regardless of the constitutionality or legality of this Executive Order, I am deeply concerned that it may do more harm than good in our fight to keep America safe.
Defeating the diabolical threat of terrorism is imperative to our national security. Our military and intelligence professionals are engaged around the world in the fight against terrorist groups like ISIS. Our success in this fight, both at home and abroad, depends on the cooperation and assistance of Muslims who reject radicalism and violence. Whether intended or not, this Executive Order risks alienating the very people we rely upon in the fight against terror.
Over the weekend, numerous people were detained at U.S. ports of entry, including an Iraqi interpreter who served alongside our troops. When we promise sanctuary to individuals who risk their lives assisting U.S. forces in the fight against terrorism, it is both unfair and counterproductive to turn them away at our shores.
While we must do everything in our power to protect the United States, I am concerned this Executive Order will only undermine our counterterrorism efforts. I urge you to develop policy that keeps America safe, builds trust with our partners, and demonstrates compassion to those who need our help.
cc: Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly
Secretary of Defense James Mattis
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Michael Pompeo
Acting Director of National Intelligence Michael Dempsey
Governor Rick Scott announced today that he will cut over $8 million in additional annual fees for Florida’s veterans, seniors and businesses during the upcoming legislative session. Governor Scott has been fighting to eliminate fees and unnecessary regulations since he first took office.
Governor Rick Scott said, “When we cut fees and taxes, it helps businesses create jobs, and reduces costs for families across our state. This session I look forward to working with the Legislature to cut more than $8 million in unnecessary fees. We have to continue to do all we can to return more money back to families and job creators.”
Some of the fee cuts include:
Fee Cuts for Seniors
- Free Vehicle Title Transfers for Surviving Spouses. Currently, surviving spouses are required to pay the $70 fee to retitle deceased spouses’ vehicles. This will exempt spouses from paying the fee and save $1.6 million for Floridians annually.
- Free Replacement and Renewal ID Cards for Citizens 80 and over. This will exempt seniors 80 and over from paying the $25 fee on new or replacement ID cards. This will save over $700,000 for Florida’s seniors.
- Free Original ID Cards for Citizens 80 and Over Who Surrender Their Driver License. Many senior citizens decide to no longer hold a driver license to operate a vehicle, yet still need an ID card. The Fighting for Florida’s Future Budget exempts citizens over the age of 80 from paying the $25 fee who surrender their license. This is expected to save $2.3 million for Florida’s seniors.
Fee Cuts for Veterans
- Free Veteran Designation on New Identification, Licenses, and Renewals. Florida is the most military friendly state in the nation, and having a veteran’s designation on an id makes accessing some of these advantages easier. The Fighting for Florida’s Future Budget recommends eliminating the $1 or $2 fee required to get this designation on ID or drivers licenses when either renewing or replacing a license. This will save $58,000 for Florida veterans.
- Free Commercial Driver’s Licenses for Veterans. This will save veterans who obtain an original commercial driver’s license the $75 fee and will save Florida’s veterans about $141,000 annually.
Fee Cuts for Businesses
- Reducing All Fees Associated with Commercial Driving Schools by 50%. This will cut the new application fee from $50 to $25, the new issuance fee from $200 to $100, and the annual renewal fee from $100 to $50. This is expected to save Floridian’s $25,000 annually.
- Reducing Delinquency Fees. Individuals who are late renewing their license must currently pay a separate “delinquency fee” in addition to their renewal fee ranging from $25 to $260. The Fighting for Florida’s Future Budget recommends reducing delinquency fees to a flat rate of $25, saving licensees $680,000 annually.
- Reducing Building Permit Surcharge. Currently, to help fund the enforcement of the Florida Building Code, local builders are required to pay a 1.5% surcharge on building permits. The current surcharge amount creates increased construction costs for consumers. The Fighting for Florida’s Future Budget will reduce the surcharge amount from 1.5% to 1%. Resulting in nearly $2.6 million in annual savings for consumers while still maintain sufficient funds for code enforcement activities.
- Eliminating Sales and Use Tax Registration Fees Using Paper Applications. Many businesses are required to pay sales and use taxes each year. Currently, businesses are not required to pay any fee if filed online, however, if filed using paper application they are charged a $5 fee. The Fighting for Florida’s Future Budget will eliminate this $5 fee, saving Florida businesses more than $130,000 annually.
Senator Doug Broxson said, “I am proud to make lowering fees for Florida families and businesses a priority this session. Governor Scott has been a leader on eliminating fees and regulations for Floridians and I thank him for championing these fee reductions today.”
Representative Brad Drake said, “Economic development is one of the most important issues our residents face, not only in North Florida, but across the state. By cutting state fees we will allow hard earned dollars to remain with Floridians where they belong.”
In addition to fee cuts, Governor Scott proposed the “Fighting for Florida’s Future” Tax Cut Package that includes four sales tax holidays which will save Florida families an estimated $98 million in the upcoming fiscal year. These sales tax holidays include $18.4 million in savings from a three-day veteran’s sales tax holiday. Florida would be the first state to provide a sales tax holiday for veterans and active duty service members.