J.C. Newman Cigar Company dates back 119 years to the second Cleveland administration, yet new proposed regulations by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could threaten its continued existence. The family business based out of Tampa, Florida, is known for relying on vintage, hand-operated equipment from the 1930s to produce relatively inexpensive cigars. But the FDA wants to limit youth access to tobacco, so it aims to make cigars more expensive. The new rules would require the company to obtain federal approval before offering new products, submit its cigars for “rigorous scientific review,” and comply with new manufacturing methods. Additionally, the company would be forced to pay the FDA a user fee to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. From Watchdog.org:
“‘Cigars are to Tampa what wine is to Napa Valley and what automobiles are to Michigan,’ [the company's president, Eric Newman,] said … Many of J.C. Newman’s employees come from one-time competitors that are no longer in business. If the facility goes under, there is no other factory in Tampa where cigar makers will be able to apply their skills.”
If you want to live “off-the-grid” Cape Coral, Florida is not the place for you. In a recent ruling it was decided that Robin Speronis, who outfitted her home with solar panels and its own water supply is required to connect her home to the city’s utilities and her alternative power sources must be approved by the city. The city ridiculously acknowledges that she does not have to use the utilities, but she does have to connect to them. The fight will continue in the courts.
“Speronis disconnected all the utilities from her modest home in Cape Coral for an experiment in off-the-grid living some time ago. City officials ignored her activities until she went public and discussed them with Liza Fernandez, a reporter for a local TV station. A code enforcement officer designated Speronis’s home as uninhabitable and gave her an eviction notice a day after the piece aired.”
No, it’s not deja vu, it’s simply another professional sports franchise asking for taxpayer money to help fund its private operations. In this Sun-Sentinel report, it’s revealed that the team hasn’t delivered on almost all of its original promises to the taxpayers, and now they’re asking for even more money:
The Florida Panthers professional hockey team says it’s losing more than $20 million a year and needs more public funds to survive.
Melissa Sanchez and Brenda Medina of the Miami Herald write about a blatant case of cronyism occurring in Sweetwater, Florida.
…Sweetwater police officers knew what was expected of them when they patrolled the streets of this small city in west Miami-Dade.
They were to arrest the highest number possible of suspects in order to tow their vehicles, even if the towing had no connection to the alleged crime.
Towing represented a lucrative business for the city.
Sweetwater depended on the $500 administrative fine it collected from people recovering their vehicles. In fact, the city had set a yearly goal of $168,000 of these fines under the category of “miscellaneous revenue” in its police budget.
And the company, Southland The Towing Company, was partly owned by former Mayor Manuel “Manny” Maroño for quite awhile — although many officers apparently had no knowledge of that.
Arresting, then towing became the norm in Sweetwater, according to several officers who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Figures show 37 percent of all arrests in Sweetwater last year resulted in towing.
David Damron, a senior reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, covers a unique group of people who are fighting taxpayer money going to another Central Florida stadium. Concerned citizens from across the political spectrum gathered to denounce what they see as corporate welfare:
A group ranging from Democrats to tea party faithful rallied Tuesday to oppose tens of millions in public tax dollars going toward a new soccer stadium plan backed by sports and business boosters.
In this Watchdog Wire editorial, Karen Schoen questions the wisdom of Florida’s much-maligned Enterprise Florida economic development initiative. Is this corporate welfare? Is this even working? Ms. Schoen answers these questions head-on:
Today, Florida uses the “government vision” of pumping taxpayer dollars into businesses. The instrument of that “vision” is Enterprise Florida.
Tampa Bay’s News 10 reports that Florida’s traffic regulations were quietly changed to permit shorter yellow lights, likely leading to millions of dollars worth of tickets.
The 10 News Investigators found a number of communities shortened their already-safe intervals to the new minimums. In some cases, FDOT mandated longer yellow lights, but seemingly only at intersections that hadn’t been in compliance for years. Around Greater Tampa Bay, the yellow interval reductions typically took place at RLC intersections and corridors filled with RLC cameras.
FDOT’s change in language may have been subtle, but the effects were quite significant. The removal of three little words meant the reduction of yellow light intervals of up to a second, meaning drastically more citations for drivers. A 10 News analysis indicates the rule change is likely costing Florida drivers millions of dollars a year.
Dr. Richard Swier writes at the Watchdog Wire about a report released by the Florida Inspector General’s Office that shows the state’s corporate welfare program is in bad shape, and highlighted one case specifically.
“There needs to be more oversight and accountability of the public’s money,” said Dan Krassner, executive director of the independent government watchdog group Integrity Florida.
Krassner states, “The report makes it clear that Enterprise Florida offered Digital Domain more than $6 million from the closing fund. Unfortunately, Enterprise Florida still appears to be utilizing an insufficient vetting process. Enterprise Florida made several incentive deals with companies just in the last year that have gone bankrupt, including one headed by a convicted cocaine trafficker.”
The News Herald in Florida published an editorial arguing against subsidies for sports stadiums:
If Northwest Florida residents are putting money in the pockets of South Florida professional sports teams, it should be because they voluntarily bought a ticket to the game, not because they were forced to subsidize wealthy owners with their tax dollars…
The problem with [the theory that sports subsidies help the economy] is that there is scant evidence that such economic benefits actually occur. Numerous studies done over the last 25 years have found that professional sport teams have little, if any, positive effect on a city’s economy. Usually, a new team or a new stadium location doesn’t increase the amount of consumer spending, it merely shifts it away from other, already existing sources. Entertainment dollars will be spent one way or another whether a stadium exists or not. Plus, the increase in jobs is often modest at best — nowhere near enough to offset the millions invested in the projects.
Chris Edwards from Cato at Liberty has recently posted this article, in which he analyzes the current crisis with the sugar subsidies. In the article he exposes the current level of greed and corruption that is imbedded in the lobbyist and sugar producers alike to keep the government’s sugar programs wasting taxpayer’s money.
I described the basic features of federal sugar subsidies in this study. Essentially, the government confers monopoly power on U.S. sugar growers, which comes at the expense of food manufacturing companies and consumers. […] The ASA ad claims that there are 142,000 jobs in the sugar-growing industry, but there are roughly 1,000,000 jobs in the food manufacturing firms that are hurt by current sugar policies.
A policy wonk quoted in this piece summarized the sad reality of sugar growers: “They are unlike any other industry in Florida in that they aren’t in the agricultural business; they are in the corporate welfare business.”