HURRICANE MICHAEL UPDATE Residents in the Florida Panhandle are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Michael, which struck as a powerful Category 4 storm last October. It is being referred to as “The Forgotten Hurricane”, as it hit the area known as The Forgotten Coast. Insured losses from Michael have topped $5.8 billion and claims are still being made. The State has spent well over one billion assisting Northwest Florida communities, particularly with debris removal. That figure could well exceed $2 billion when all is complete. Our Congressional delegation and the Governor have asked the federal government to be more generous with their aid. VISIT FLORIDA announced they have given nearly $860,000 in hurricane recovery grants to aid the communities hit by Michael. Volunteer Florida also awarded grants from its Florida Disaster Fund to organizations engaged in Michael response and recovery.
TRIUMPH GULF COAST Florida State University received $8 million in funding from Triumph Gulf Coast for a 10-year project to restore Apalachicola Bay. With an additional $1.5 million coming from FSU, the researchers hope to improve the health of the Bay by restoring the oyster ecosystem which in turn will help the area’s economy recover.
GAMING With the current gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida ending in May, President Galvano is focused on crafting a new deal with the Tribe and addressing sports betting. The state currently collects $343 million in casino revenues from the Tribe.
HIGHEST TOURISM RECORD In 2018, Florida welcomed 126.1 million domestic and international visitors, setting a record for the eighth straight year.
ORLANDO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT A record-breaking 47 million people passed through Orlando International Airport in 2018. Domestic travelers accounted for 41 million people with 6.6 million being international travelers. This is an 11 percent increase over the previous year.
HIGHWAY EXPANSIONS Senate President Galvano is interested in expanding the state highway network in three areas – adding 150 miles to the Suncoast Parkway north of Citrus County to the Georgia/Florida border; expanding the Heartland Parkway, which the Polk County Commission supports; and extending the Turnpike by 30 miles from Wildwood to the northern sections of the Suncoast Parkway.