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Monday's Daily Pulse

Florida jobless rate dips to 3.2 percent

Florida’s unemployment rate dipped to 3.2 percent in March, as workers shift away from gigs at hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues for higher-paying jobs in manufacturing, warehousing and logistics. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity released a report Friday that said the March jobless rate was down from 3.3 percent in February. Continued decreases in the rate come despite employers reportedly struggling to retain workers. [Source: News Service of Florida]

Florida adds 15,678 COVID cases in past week as infections rise

Florida’s COVID-19 infections and positivity rate are on the rise again across the state, and the highly contagious omicron BA.2 variant may be to blame. The variant now accounts for 80 percent of cases in the southeast, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts don’t expect another omicron wave, but the immunocompromised and unvaccinated are still vulnerable to severe illness and death. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

Here’s what Florida’s lawmakers didn’t do: notable failed bills

In the House and Senate, lawmakers proposed 3,685 pieces of legislation, but only about 285 passed in both chambers, slightly higher than the number since at least 2016, according to legislative records. Lawmakers passed a $112 billion state budget, as the session ended after votes on controversial legislation aimed at cultural issues unsettled between conservatives and progressives. [Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

Sarasota researcher predicts 22 named storms, 5 major hurricanes in 2022

Warm water acts as “rocket fuel” for hurricanes and water off the Florida coast is as much as four degrees warmer than average this April. Off Florida’s east coast, water temperatures are already warm enough to sustain tropical systems — a month and a half before the season’s official June 1 start date. [Source: Tampa Bay Times]

NASA to roll Artemis I moon rocket back from launch pad as it delays test

NASA tried three times to get through its launch pad dress rehearsal for the Artemis I moon rocket at Kennedy Space Center, but it’s not hanging around for the fourth. Instead, mission managers announced that they were rolling the massive Space Launch System rocket topped with the Orion capsule on its mobile launcher back to the Vehicle Assembly Building. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]

ALSO AROUND FLORIDA:

› Florida Keys celebrate 40th anniversary of Conch Republic
The 40th anniversary celebration of the Florida Keys’ symbolic secession from the United States, motivated by a 1982 U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint established on the only road connecting the Keys with mainland Florida, has begun in Key West. The 10-day Conch Republic Independence Celebration kicked off Friday with a waterfront ceremony at the island city’s Mallory Square.

› Orlando-area small businesses brace for rent surge
As inflation numbers hit a 40-year high across the nation, rental rates for industrial and warehouse spaces were climbing faster in the Orlando metro area than other parts of the country. Tom Whisner, who owns Apogee Productions in Longwood, said the pandemic crippled his concert and event business. “We had ramped up to where our big thing was doing touring and arena shows. That is what they just totally cut,” he said.

› Florida targets school math textbooks over critical race theory objections
The Florida Department of Education on Friday said the state will not include dozens of math textbooks in a list used by school districts to buy books for classrooms because their content included references to critical race theory and other “prohibited topics” and “unsolicited strategies.” The announcement was made in a press release titled “Florida Rejects Publishers’ Attempts to Indoctrinate Students.” It did not include the names of any of the books or provide specific examples of the content that prompted their objections.

› Miami business, community leaders plan celebration of life for Beacon Council’s Finney
The life and career of Michael A. Finney, who served five years as CEO of Miami-Dade County’s Beacon Council, will be celebrated in an invitation-only three-hour event later this month at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus. Finney, 65, died at Mercy Hospital after having a heart attack at his Coconut Grove home on April 3.

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› Tampa Bay has dodged Florida’s catastrophic hurricanes, but for how much longer?
It’s been over a century since a major hurricane (category 3 or greater) has made landfall in the Tampa Bay Area. That was the 1921 Tampa Bay Hurricane. And while the area has been hit by multiple damaging storms since then, Tampa Bay has somehow avoided the big one. But the Director of the National Hurricane Center, Ken Graham, said that our luck is bound to run out at some point and we need to be prepared for that eventuality.

› Manatee County water taxi plan hits a snag, but effort to create ferry system continues
An effort to create a water taxi system to ferry tourists and workers from Bradenton and Palmetto to Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key hit a speed bump when Manatee County's request for proposals from potential operators came back unanswered. The water taxi is envisioned as a way to address heavy traffic between Anna Maria Island and the mainland by creating an alternative mode of transportation for the many service workers employed on the island and for tourists who are staying in Bradenton or Palmetto hotels.

› FPL Continues to Face High Fuel Costs
Florida Power & Light on Friday became the second utility to notify state regulators that it continues to face higher-than-expected costs for natural gas. But FPL, in a filing at the state Public Service Commission, said it would not seek what is known as a “mid-course correction,” which could have led to passing along the increased costs to customers in the coming months.

› Popular Florida sea turtle center losing entire medical staff as water quality issues continue
Problems continue to plague the popular Loggerhead Marinelife Center in South Florida with reports its entire medical staff will be gone by May. After water quality issues remain a concern for the rehabilitation center and attraction in Juno Beach, the center once again has no sea turtles on site, according to a report from WPTV. The center has been a working hospital that takes in all species of sea turtles for more than 30 years.