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Biden Team Readies Wider Economic Package After Virus Relief

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FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2021, file photo President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with lawmakers on investments in infrastructure, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. From left, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Vice President Kamala Harris, Biden, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. Looking beyond the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, Biden and lawmakers are laying the groundwork for another of his top legislative priorities — a long-sought boost to the nation's roads, bridges and other infrastructure that could meet GOP resistance to a hefty price tag. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Looking beyond the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, President Joe Biden and lawmakers are laying the groundwork for another top legislative priority — a long-sought boost to the nation’s roads, bridges and other infrastructure that could run into Republican resistance to a hefty price tag.

Biden and his team have begun discussions on the possible outlines of an infrastructure package with members of Congress, particularly mindful that Texas’ recent struggles with power outages and water shortages after a brutal winter storm present an opportunity for agreement on sustained spending on infrastructure.

Republicans say if the White House approach on the COVID relief bill — which passed the House Saturday on a near party-line vote and now heads to the Senate — is a sign of things to come for Biden’s plan on infrastructure and other initiatives, it could be a difficult road ahead in Congress.

A White House proposal could come out in March.

“Now is the time to be aggressive,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a former South Bend, Indiana, mayor who knows potholes.

At a conference with state and local highway officials Thursday, he referred to the often-promised, never-achieved mega-initiative on roads, bridges and the like from the Trump administration.

“I know you are among those who are working and waiting most patiently, or maybe impatiently, for the moment when Infrastructure Week will no longer be a kind of Groundhog’s Day promise — but actually be something that delivers generational investments,” he said.

Much of America’s infrastructure — roads, bridges, public drinking and water systems, dams, airports, mass transit systems and more — is in need of major restoration after years of underfunding, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. In its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, it gave the national infrastructure an overall grade of D+.

Both chambers of Congress will use as starting points their unsuccessful efforts to get infrastructure bills through the last session.

Democrats passed a $1.5 trillion package in the House last year, but it went nowhere with the Trump administration and the Republican-led Senate. A Senate panel approved narrower bipartisan legislation in 2019 focused on reauthorizing federal transportation programs. It, too, flamed out as the U.S. turned its focus to elections and COVID-19.

Biden has talked bigger numbers, and some Democrats are now urging him to bypass Republicans in the closely divided Congress to address a broader range of priorities urged by interest groups.

During the presidential campaign, Biden pledged to deploy $2 trillion on infrastructure and clean energy, but the White House has not ruled out an even higher price tag.

Pointing to the storm in Texas as a “wake-up call” for the need to improve energy systems and other infrastructure, Gina McCarthy, Biden’s national climate adviser, told The Associated Press that Biden’s plan will specifically aim at green and other initiatives that promote job creation. She cited as an example federal investments to boost “workers that have been left behind” by closed coal mines or power plants, as well as communities located near polluting refineries and other hazards.

“He’s been a long fan of investing in infrastructure — long outdated — long overdue, I should say,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. “But he also wants to do more on caregiving, help our manufacturing sector, do more to strengthen access to affordable health care. So the size — the package — the components of it, the order, that has not yet been determined.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, recently told the White House that he’s ready to use the budget maneuver known as reconciliation to pass a broad economic recovery package with only Democratic votes. That drew stern warnings from Republicans, who have already closed ranks against Democrats’ COVID-19 relief bill.

“They made a conscious decision not to include us,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., on Sunday, calling the White House’s assertion that the views of Republicans were taken into account with the COVID bill a “joke.”

Cassidy, one of 10 centrist Republicans who met with Biden in early February about getting bipartisan support on that bill, said Biden “so far has been about rhetoric” when it comes to his pledge of seeking unity and bipartisanship. He called it worrisome for other legislative initiatives.

“Republicans remain willing and are working on issues that require bipartisan cooperation,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican who will be helping to craft legislation on the Senate side, said there’s bipartisan support for ambitious steps on infrastructure. But that “should not extend to a multitrillion-dollar package that is stocked full with other ideologically driven, one-size-fits-all policies that tie the hands of our states and our communities,” said Capito, the ranking member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told the AP that he foresees a comprehensive House package that will go beyond roads, bridges and public transit. He also expects it to have money for water systems, broadband and the power grid — addressing a weak infrastructure laid bare after the crippling blackouts in Texas.

He’s not ready to talk overall costs yet. DeFazio, D-Ore., said it will be up to the Biden administration and the House Ways and Means Committee to figure out how to pay for it.

DeFazio said General Motors’ recently announced goal of going largely electric by 2035 demonstrates the need for massive spending on charging stations across the country. Biden campaigned on a plan to install 500,000 charging stations by the end of 2030.

“I’m totally willing to work with (Republicans) if they’re willing to recognize climate change,” DeFazio said, “or if they don’t want to recognize climate change, they can just recognize that electric semis and electric vehicles are a flood on the horizon and we’ve got to get ahead of it.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D-Mich., expressed a similar sentiment, urging strong action on carbon emissions and the vehicle charging stations to help achieve a “full transition to electric.” She also wants states to have more federal grants for infrastructure repairs after natural disasters and extreme weather.

At the Senate hearing where she spoke, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said there’s bipartisan support among governors for relieving congestion, cutting red tape, leveraging private sector investment and ensuring projects can better withstand cyber attacks and natural disasters.

Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the new chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said his goal is for his committee to pass an infrastructure bill by Memorial Day.

In the House, Rep. Sam Graves, the top Republican on the transportation panel, said Republicans would be open to a larger package as long as it didn’t greatly add to the national debt.

But many lawmakers oppose an increase in the federal gas tax, one way to help pay for the spending, while groups such as the Chamber of Commerce argue against increasing taxes on companies during a pandemic.

White House aide Cedric Richmond, a former congressman from Louisiana, told state transportation officials the president intends for most of the spending to be paid for, not added to the debt. In part, this would be by reversing some of the Trump administration tax cuts.

Ed Mortimer, a vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said removing items in last year’s infrastructure bill for renovating schools and low-income housing could lower the price tag, because the COVID relief measure passed by the House already has hundreds of billions of dollars for those purposes.

“Affordable housing, school construction, very meritorious, but we’re not sure that that’s a key focus that’s going to get a bill signed into law,” Mortimer said.

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GoDaddy Founder Reveals Untold Story of Traumatic Upbringing, Military Service and Entrepreneurial Journey

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GoDaddy Founder Bob Parsons talks with Florida National News. Photo by J Willie David, III / Florida National News

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Everybody has heard of GoDaddy, but how many people know the real-life story of the highly successful, philanthropic, and colorful man behind the company? For the first time, GoDaddy and PXG founder Bob Parsons, in a highly confessional account, shares the story of his life, from his humble upbringing to his meteoric rise as one of early tech’s pioneers.

Fire in the Hole! The Untold Story of My Traumatic Life and Explosive Success (Forefront Books, May 7, 2024) by Bob Parsons is an unflinching, yet inspirational, account of his path to success, from a hardscrabble childhood to his combat service as a U.S. Marine during the Vietnam War — and beyond.

A descendant of coal miners, Parsons grew up in the 1950s in a blue-collar, working-class neighborhood in East Baltimore. Money was tight, given his parents shared a mutual fondness for gambling and were not particularly good at it. In his book, Parsons talks about the financial struggles his family faced, as well as the emotional neglect he experienced as a boy.

He writes: “We were just getting by when Pop’s business failed … my dad racked up so much debt from gambling and credit cards that everything came tumbling down. In the end, he practically gave the business away. And, when he did, we went from not having much to having nothing. I mean absolutely nothing.”

An admittedly so-so student, he recalls the struggles he faced in learning, as well as the corporal punishment dished out by Catholic school nuns. But his early experiences reveal an innate resiliency that got him through a harrowing tour of duty in Vietnam, his early years at his first company, Parsons Technology, as well as his bold business decisions that would eventually make him one of the wealthiest people in the world. With a net worth of $3.6 billion, Parsons is No. 314 on the Forbes 400 2023 list of the richest people in America.

He’s an everyman who has made it. He’s authentic. And his reflections on life, business, and giving back are heartbreaking, heartwarming, humorous, and inspiring.

In the book, Parsons:

• Shares how he survived his grueling tour of duty in Vietnam with the U.S. Marines infantry.

• Reveals the struggles he has faced throughout his lifetime because of PTSD, as well as the efforts he has made to treat it, including novel therapeutic uses of psychedelics.

• Offers the lessons he has learned during his career, from the launch of his first business, Parsons Technology, to the creation of his present-day business empire, which includes YAM Worldwide and Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG).

Since 2012, Parsons and his wife, Renee, have donated nearly $300 million to more than 96 charities and organizations worldwide. Having suffered from PTSD, he works to find new and effective treatments for himself and others. He strongly believes in paying it forward. And he is always moving forward, creating new companies, and re-creating himself. Fire in the Hole! encourages readers to dream big and imagine all that’s possible — even if the cards seem stacked against them.

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Orlando Area Residential Real Estate Snapshot for March 2024

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State of the Market

  • Overall sales rose 17.7% from February to March. There were 2,559 sales in March, up from 2,174 sales in February.
  • The median home price for March was recorded at $386,500, up from $377,000 in February. The highest monthly median home price on record in the Orlando area was $387,000 in June 2022.
  • Pending sales increased by 9.4%, with 3,891 in February and 4,257 in March.
  • New listings rose 8.6% from February to March, with 4,124 new homes on the market in March, compared to 3,799 in February.
  • Inventory for March was recorded at 8,971, up 4.4% from February when inventory was recorded at 8,589.
  • March’s interest rate was recorded at 6.7%, up slightly from 6.6% in February.
  • Homes spent an average of 58 days on the market (DOM) in March – up slightly from February.
  • “The busy spring season for the real estate market is in full swing,” said Rose Kemp, Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association President. “We’ve seen a steady increase in sales, median home price and inventory every month this year. Our median home price in March was very close to our peak from June 2022, so it will be interesting to see how these high prices affect the market in the coming months.”

Market Snapshot

  • Interest rates rose from 6.6% in February to 6.7% in March.
  • Pending sales rose 9.4%, with 3,891 in February and 4,257 in March.
  • 23 distressed homes (bank-owned properties and short sales) accounted for 0.9% of all home sales in March. That represents an 8.0% decrease from February when 25 distressed homes sold.

Inventory

  • Orlando area inventory increased 4.4% from February to March. Inventory in February was 8,589, and inventory in March was 8,971.
  • The supply of homes fell to 3.51 months in March, down 11.3% from 3.95 months in February. A balanced market is six months of supply.
  • The number of new listings increased from February to March by 8.6% – from 3,799 homes to 4,124 homes.

ORRA’s full State of the Market Report for March can be found here.

This representation is based in whole or in part on data supplied by the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association and the Stellar Multiple Listing Service. Neither the association nor StellarMLS guarantees or is in any way responsible for its accuracy. Data maintained by the association or by StellarMLS does not reflect all real estate activity in the market. Due to late closings, an adjustment is necessary to record those closings posted after our reporting date.

ORRA REALTOR® sales represent sales involving Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association members, who are primarily – but not exclusively – located in Orange and Seminole counties. Note that statistics released each month may be revised in the future as new data is received.

Orlando MSA numbers reflect sales of homes located in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Lake counties by members of any REALTOR® association, not just members of ORRA.

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Mobil 1 Marks 50th Anniversary with Celebratory Racing Liveries Throughout 2024 Motorsports Season

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SPRING, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mobil 1™ motor oil, this year the brand will showcase more than 40 iconic, specially-designed liveries and paint schemes on the track throughout the 2024 motorsports season.

These liveries – which will be seen within IMSA, WEC, Formula 1, NASCAR, NHRA, MotoGP and more – use distinct design elements, including anniversary gold, both signifying 50 years of the Mobil 1 brand and embodying the dynamic relationships between Mobil 1 and its collaborators. Each paint scheme reflects the spirit of the Mobil 1 brand and an ongoing commitment to growing and maintaining meaningful track-to-road relationships, which is at the heart and soul of the brand.

Mobil 1 motor oils have long been the choice for preeminent race teams competing in the most demanding and popular motorsports series around the globe. Today, Mobil 1 synthetic motor oil continues to be relied upon for its ability to deliver exceptional engine performance and protection under some of the most extreme conditions. Automotive technicians, race car drivers, team owners, and some of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers can speak to the advanced technology of Mobil 1 lubricants.

“We are thrilled to bring these special paint schemes to life for such a historic anniversary of the Mobil 1 brand,” said Robert Shearer, Director of Global Sponsorships on behalf of Mobil 1. “These liveries exemplify our collaborations in lubricant innovation in the world of motorsports. Together, we’ve crafted livery designs that not only pay homage to the 50-year legacy of the Mobil 1 brand, but also capture the essence of speed, performance and teamwork. We can’t wait for fans to join us in the love of racing and witness the culmination of our collaborative efforts on the racetrack throughout the rest of the year.”

At Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac, golden liveries will hit the track for teams and OEMs, including Vasser Sullivan Racing (Lexus Racing), Cadillac Racing, Corvette Racing by Pratt Miller Motorsports, Kellymoss with Riley (Porsche Motorsport North America), and Porsche Penske Motorsport.

With more added throughout the season, initial 50th anniversary liveries and iconography will be seen at the following upcoming race series on sponsored teams:

  • Oracle Red Bull Racing (Formula 1)
  • Stewart-Haas Racing (NASCAR Cup Series)
  • 23XI Racing (NASCAR Cup Series)
  • Tony Stewart Racing (NHRA)
  • Red Bull KTM (MotoGP)
  • Porsche Penske Motorsport (WEC and IMSA)
  • TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team (Formula E)
  • Mobil 1 Porsche SuperCup
  • At the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with BBI Autosport

In continuing to commemorate the 50th anniversary, fans should also look for a short film featuring former Formula 1 racer & Oracle Red Bull Racing ambassador, David Coulthard, who guides the audience through the Mobil 1 brand’s evolution, collaborations, and achievements. The video is available for viewing here.

Additional initiatives across partnerships, motorsports, and events will be shared through the year as the brand continues to celebrate its legacy and what’s next. For coverage of Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac as well as upcoming gold liveries and paint schemes, visit @mobil1racing on Instagram and X all year-long.

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