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School choice, budget, tax cuts among new Florida laws

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Florida legislators passed 279 bills during this year’s session three months ago, and 161 of them take effect on Friday with the start of the state’s fiscal year, affecting school choice, rape kit testing, tax cuts and many more aspects of life in the Sunshine State.

  • 161 new laws take effect Friday in Florida
  • Tax cuts, gay marriage and school choice among the measures
  • Rape kit testing must be done within 30 days of start of investigation

A law redefining when abortions can be performed and preventing state funds from going to an organization that also provides abortions will not take effect as scheduled, after a federal judge issued a temporary injunction late Thursday. The move comes after a Texas law restricting abortions was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Monday.

Here’s a roundup of some of the measures taking effect:

BUDGET: The $ 82.3 billion budget was passed by a combined vote of 159-1. It includes more than $ 700 million for school construction and $ 203.8 million for Everglades restoration.

TAX CUTS: Two will benefit most Floridians. Property taxes should drop along with a reduction in in local millage rates, and a three-day sales tax holiday Aug. 5-7 should help back-to-school shoppers. Other highlights include a permanent sales tax exemption for manufacturing equipment and machinery, beverage tax-reductions on pear cider, and a drop in the tax rate on aviation fuel.

MARRIAGE: Clergy with religious objections don’t have to marry same-sex couples.

SCHOOL CHOICE: Children can transfer to any state school with available space, and student athletes are immediately eligible to play if they haven’t joined practices in the same sport at their previous school. Children of military parents or those who transfer due to economic or legal reasons are immediately eligible in season if they haven’t been suspended or expelled from their prior school.

BULLYING: School districts must review their anti-bullying and harassment policies every three years, and integrate rules on dating violence and abuse into discipline policies.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: Persons convicted of aggravated assault or attempted aggravated assault are no longer subject to "10-20-Life" mandatory minimum sentences.

DIGITAL ASSETS: Guardians or trustees of estates gain legal authority to manage digital assets and electronic communications as they would tangible assets and financial accounts. Digital companies are provided legal authority to interact with these representatives, revealing such things as passwords to accounts.

FESTIVALS: Any food contests or cook-offs lasting no more than three days and hosted by a school, church, religious organization or nonprofit will not be defined as "public food service establishments." That means they don’t have to pay licensing fees or are subject to an inspection by the Division of Hotels and Restaurants.

JURY DUTY: Individuals permanently incapable of caring for themselves may request a permanent exemption from jury duty by submitting a written statement from a doctor verifying the disability.

OUTDOORS: Fines for illegally killing, taking or selling game or fur-bearing animals while committing burglary or trespass increase from $ 250 to $ 500. It becomes a third-degree felony to knowingly possess marine turtles or their eggs or nests.

PUBLIC RECORDS: Recorded matches regulated by the Florida Boxing Commission may be kept private until they are aired in an exemption requested by Ultimate Fighting Championship for its "Ultimate Fighter" reality show when it is taped in South Florida.

RAPE KITS: Law enforcement agencies must submit rape kits within 30 days of the start of their investigations to a state crime lab, which must test them within 120 days.

SAFETY: Elevators installed in private residences must have clearing requirements and be equipped with a sensor device that prevents their operation if certain objects are detected.

Bay News 9 – local-news

July 1, 2016 |

Halliburton cuts 6,000 jobs amid slowdown in drilling

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(AP) Halliburton Co. said Friday that it cut more than 6,000 jobs in the first quarter, continuing a purge at the oilfield-services company that has reduced its workforce by one-third since late 2014.

The company revenue in the first quarter fell to $ 4.2 billion, a 40 percent decline from the first quarter of 2015. That’s in line with the average analyst estimate of $ 4.2 billion, according to FactSet.

Halliburton has been slammed by the slowdown in drilling since oil prices began falling in mid-2014. It is more concentrated in North America than rival Schlumberger Ltd., and that has hurt it.

Houston-based Halliburton expects industry spending on drilling and production in North America to drop 50 percent this year after a 40 percent decline last year.

The CEO said he was bracing for a lag before drilling activity picks up. And even then, his company will be under pressure to control costs.

“Even when operators feel better about the markets, they will still face issues of balance sheet repair and we believe they will be cautious in adding rigs back” and at lower production costs, Dave Lesar said.

Halliburton said that it will take a $ 2.1 billion after-tax restructuring charge in the first quarter for severance costs and writing down the value of assets.

The company also delayed its conference call with Wall Street analysts until May 3. It had been scheduled for Monday.

Halliburton faces a key deadline on April 30. That’s when either side can walk away from Halliburton’s proposed $ 35 billion acquisition of Houston rival Baker Hughes Inc.

The Justice Department sued this month to block the deal, saying it would hurt competition and drive up prices for consumers. Halliburton could owe Baker Hughes a $ 3.5 billion breakup fee if the deal falls through.

Bay News 9 – business

April 22, 2016 |

South Korea’s central bank cuts growth forecast

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(AP) South Korea’s central bank lowered its growth forecast for Asia’s fourth-largest economy on Tuesday, citing the country’s weak first-quarter economic performance and a downgrade in the global economic outlook. But it kept its policy rate steady for this month.

The Bank of Korea said that South Korea’s economy will likely expand 2.8 percent this year over a year earlier, down from the 3.0 percent expansion predicted in January, but an improvement from 2015 when South Korea’s economy eked out 2.6 percent growth.

The forecast reinforces worries the economy is on the cusp of a low-growth period.

The bank revised its inflation outlook to 1.2 percent from 1.4 percent.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund revised its forecasts for global growth in 2016 to 3.2 percent from the 3.4 percent predicted in January. It also downgraded its outlook for major economies including the United States, Japan and Europe.

South Korea’s exports have suffered thanks to softening demand from China, its top trading partner. Steelmakers and shipbuilders posted losses last year while the fall in crude oil prices reduced the value of exports by South Korea’s oil refining companies.

The central bank governor, Lee Ju-yeol Lee said South Korea should see a modest recovery during the rest of the year, thanks to signs of improvement in the Chinese economy and a modest recovery in crude oil prices.

But, “While those uncertainties have lessened, it is difficult to say that they are fundamentally resolved,” Lee told reporters.

The central bank expects exports to improve thanks to the recovery in advanced economies. But the improvement would not be strong enough to support a full recovery , so South Korea’s economy must rely mostly on domestic demand.

Sectors that suffer from overcapacity and weak global demand, such as shipping, are due for an overhaul.

Though the bank kept its monthly policy rate at a record low 1.5 percent, expectations are growing of another rate cut, following two cuts last year.

Bay News 9 – business

April 19, 2016 |
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