Governmental action from around the Gulf Coast.
County surveys business owners
SARASOTA COUNTY — In a move to “better understand the need of businesses within Sarasota County,” the county wants business owners to fill out a survey on its website, www.scgov.net. The one-page survey includes seven questions, with one asking: “What are three things that County Government could do to improve your business?”
Pier design finalists picked
ST. PETERSBURG — A five-member public jury narrowed the list of teams vying to design the new $50 million St. Petersburg Pier from nine to a final three. The three finalists are: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), lead designer Bjarke Ingels of New York; Michael Maltzan Architecture Inc., lead designer Michael Maltzan of Los Angeles; and West 8 with Allied Works Architecture, lead designer Adriaan Geuze of New York. The three finalists will submit design concepts by Nov. 29 and make presentations Dec. 15 and 16. In January, the jury will submit its final recommendation to the city council for approval on Feb. 2.
Workers' comp rates may rise
TALLAHASSEE — In a move that will negatively affect Florida businesses, the National Council on Compensation Insurance has proposed an 8.9% increase in workers' compensation insurance rates to regulators, reports the News Service of Florida. The NCCI, an organization that tracks workers' compensation information, defended the proposed 2012 increase, saying insurers have seen more claims during the past two years. The NCCI says costs have also increased for insurers because of doctors' ability to dispense drugs to patients receiving workers' compensation.
However, some question the NCCI's justification for the proposed rate hike. Peter Lohrengel, executive director of the Florida Society of Ambulatory Services Center, says he has not seen an increase in claims for ambulatory care of injured workers. In addition, Paul Anderson, a Tallahassee attorney who represents injured workers, says he has seen a decrease in claims in the North Florida area. “I would be surprised if claims have grown enough — if at all — to justify increasing the rates,” Anderson says.
Workers' compensation rates increased in 2011 by 7.8% overall, after dropping 64.7% since 2003, when the system was overhauled by lawmakers, the News Service of Florida reports.
Scott appoints two to Tampa Port Authority
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott reappointed Carl W. Lindell and the appointed Patrick H. Allman to the Tampa Port Authority. Lindell, 67, of Tampa, is chairman of Lindell Properties, which he founded in 1995. He will serve until Nov. 14, 2014. Until 2004, Lindell was the owner and president of Lindell Motors Inc. in Tampa, as well as majority owner of Lindell Mazda in St. Petersburg.
Allman, 51, of Tampa, has been the general manager of Odyssey Manufacturing Company since 1999. He succeeds Brian M. Dolan, and will serve until Feb. 6, 2014. Allman served in the U.S. Navy from 1983 to 1990 and has served in the U.S. Navy Reserve since 1990.
S&P downgrades water district
NEW YORK CITY — Less tax revenue to spend translated into a credit downgrade by ratings agency Standard and Poor's for the South Florida Water Management District recently.
S&P lowered the credit rating for the district from AAA to AA+ following a review taking into account the $120 million reduction imposed by the Florida Legislature. The legislation cut $210 million from the budgets of four of the five water management districts. South Florida, the biggest of the five, took the biggest hit.
In a statement, S&P credit analyst John Sugden-Castillo, says: “The downgrade reflects legislative changes that we believe have significantly reduced the district's financial flexibility.” But district spokesman Randy Smith responded with a statement, saying, “The district has no plans to issue further debt in the foreseeable future and continues to place its credit worthiness and payment of existing debt as one of the agency's highest priorities.”
Gov. Rick Scott says he stands behind the decision to the districts' funding. “We're making sure that all of the water management districts go back to their core missions,” Scott told the News Service of Florida. “That was $210 million that will go back to taxpayers.”