Issues of Interest

PRICE GOUGING  In December, three hotels in the Tampa Bay area were accused by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office of price gouging during the states of emergency declared for Hurricanes Matthew and Hermine. One of the hotels charged 400 percent more than the average nightly rate. All three complaints seek civil penalties, disgorgement, injunctive relief, restitution and other statutory relief against the defendants for violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and section 501.160, Florida Statutes.

INSPECTIONS Following up from a series of articles by the Tampa Bay Times, the Attorney General’s office is investigating restaurants who claim to serve locally sourced food to their customers. The articles highlighted the fact that many restaurants claim to serve fresh produce and meat from local farms, but are not doing so. Additionally, restaurants are advertising to customers they are getting a particular item yet serving another, such as restaurants substituting escolar for white tuna or farmed fish for wild caught.

TAX SCAM With tax season upon us, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater’s office is warning consumers about new phone scams. Callers claim to be IRS agents, stranded grandchildren or debt collectors asking for help or for money. Please be vigilant, and remind our elders to be careful when answering the phone.  Here are more information tips.

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FUNDING REQUESTS During the Joint Legislative Budget Commission meeting on January 24th, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services requested an additional $2.61 million to cover the costs associated with licensing and background checks for concealed-weapon permits. The Department is on track to process as many as 316,738 applications during this fiscal year, an increase from 244,726 during the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

Additionally, they requested $730,674 from the Federal Grants Trust Fund within the Agricultural Law Enforcement and Agricultural Economic Development budget to provide emergency response to eradicate the New World Screwworm in Monroe County.

ZIKA FUNDING On February 1st, Governor Scott announced 34 grants being awarded for Zika virus research. This follows his authorization last fall of $25 million in state funds for research and vaccine development for the virus. To see a list of those who received funding, go here.

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