Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

U.S. Senate includes Marco Rubio’s child care amendment in budget bill

The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment pushed by Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to provide a tax credit for child care in its budget resolution.

Rubio has made the child care tax credit amendment a hallmark of his efforts, vowing it would provide meaningful tax relief to middle income families.

The proposal essentially deducts $2,000 per child tax credits not just from income used to calculate income tax, but also from the income amounts calculated for social security and medicare, lowering the payroll tax deductions as well.

The amendment was cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, an Arizona Republican.

“Today’s passage of the Rubio-Lee child tax credit amendment is another step toward meaningful tax relief for working American families,” Rubio stated in a news release. “It has become increasingly expensive to raise children in the 21st century, and this bipartisan measure ensures that we are on track to invest in our families and future American taxpayers.

“Tax reform will not pass unless we significantly expand the child tax credit, and I’m glad to see that Congress took this important first step by showing unanimous support for the child tax credit in today’s budget resolution,” he added.

Bill Nelson to Donald Trump: You want your nominee? Give us citrus money

Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has placed a hold on a nominee from President Donald Trump for the Office of Management and Budget and said straight out that he’s doing so to force the president’s hand on delivering Hurricane Irma relief money for Florida’s citrus industry.

Nelson’s office announced Thursday that he has placed a U.S. Senate hold on Russell Vought, Trump’s nominee to be OMB deputy director.

A hold is one of those arcane U.S. Senate procedures; it allows a senator to prevent something or someone from going to the floor for consideration, a demand essentially backed by the threat of a filibuster.

Nelson’s office said in a press release that the hold on Vought’s confirmation is a direct response to Trump’s denial of attempts by Nelson and others to add additional money to Florida’s disaster relief package being considered in the U.S. Senate today for the state’s devastated citrus industry.

Reports Thursday indicated that Trump called key senators telling them to pass the bill without the amendment Nelson was working on to provide money for the citrus industry.

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio also has requested more relief package money for the citrus industry.

Reports have indicated that as much as 75 percent of Florida’s citrus crops were damaged by Hurricane Irma.

“I’m disappointed that the president has nixed the disaster money for Florida’s citrus growers. He said it will be included in a November supplemental instead. So I just put a hold on one of his nominees to make sure we get this money, as promised,” Nelson stated in the news release.

Bill Nelson asks for senate panel investigation of Niger ambush

Florida’s U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is asking the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee to investigate the ambush of American soldiers in Niger, wondering if they were adequately supported.

Nelson, a Democrat, sent a letter Thursday to Committee Chair John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Ranking Member Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Republican, stating that too little has been disclosed about the circumstances yet for the Oct. 4 battle in the Niger desert that left four American soldiers dead.

“According to published reports, when U.S. and partner forces were ambushed by ISIS-linked militants they were insufficiently equipped to respond to the attack and air assets were not readily available to provide rapid and necessary support,” Nelson wrote.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has a responsibility to ask critical questions about our mission in Niger and ensure our troops have the resources they need,” Nelson continued. “I appreciate your attention to this request and I look forward to working with you to get a better understanding of the circumstances surrounding the October 4th incident.”

Chris King on Richard Spencer: ‘We’re better than this’

Saying he believes that “If we ignore it we allow it to grow,” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King said Thursday that protests of white supremacist Richard Spencer‘s speech in Gainesville are important.

King, a Winter Park developer of affordable and senior housing, said he is attending a protest rally at the University of Florida Thursday in the company of Central Florida faith leaders, seeking to promote the message that Floridians are ready to rise above any message that Spencer may give

“It’s a real opportunity for Floridians to say, ‘We’re better than this,'” King told FloridaPolitics.com.

He said he plans to watch and observe what is going on, “So I can better speak out to the people I’m trying to serve on these issues.”

At the same time King stressed that any messages of hatred and bigotry that Spencer may espouse at the University of Florida must be met, challenged, and disputed as wrong.

He said he respected those who say it would be better to ignore Spencer and not give his appearance attention, but said he believes that’s not a good option in today’s social climate.

“In a different cultural context we might be able to ignore, and it wouldn’t get much publicity and it wouldn’t get much attention,” King said. “But unfortunately, because of what is going on nationally, and because of the language often that has been used or tolerated by the president of the United States, this stuff gets an enormous amount of attention and energy.

“I feel if we just simply ignore it we allow it to grow,” he added.

King also stressed his visit to the Gainesville opposition protests is a part of his campaign as governor, and his desire to be consistent in his message opposing discrimination and hatred, and said that candidates need to speak out. In a statement he posted on his website and Facebook page, King called such a message an obligation of candidates, and declared that there are times it goes beyond just talk. “Sometimes actions speak louder than words,” he wrote. “This is one of those times.”

“Whether we’re talking about communities of color, the Jewish community, or the LGBTQ community, all of which have been vilified by the neo-Nazis and white supremacists, if I just ignore it [the supremacist rhetoric] I feel I really let a lot of people down whom I’m trying to serve.”

 

 

Teresa Jacobs to Gainesville: stay away from Richard Spencer’s appearance

In the aftermath of Orlando’s tragic massacre at the Pulse nightclub last year Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs was central in a community effort to socially unite in opposition to hatred and extremism, and on Thursday she urged the people of Gainesville to not give a visiting white supremacist’s platform a boost by going anywhere near him.

Jacobs and Gov. Rick Scott spoke out against the hatred and white supremacy Richard Spencer represents while the mayor and governor were surrounded by young children at the Roth Family Jewish Community Center in Maitland Thursday morning.

In discussing Spencer, Scott briefly outlined the preparations he and Alachua County and Gainesville officials were taking to prepare to prevent violence, and both Scott and Jacobs condemned in advance any violence that might spark from Spencer’s speech.

Jacobs began by declaring that Orange County does not tolerate white supremacy or white supremacists, and said she is confident most people in Gainesville feel the same way.

“I would just urge everyone to protest and who wants to be heard to do it by just staying at home and walking away from that opportunity to respond,” Jacobs said. “Sometimes the best response is no response.

“Don’t give this man the dignity of your time and your attention this evening. Keep our community safe and remember really what we’re all about as a community and don’t let one person distract us from that,” Jacobs added.

 

Rick Scott touts $1M proposal to secure Jewish centers

Immediately surrounded by 50 shades of cuteness but more broadly surrounded by deep worries about anti-Semitic violence and growing anti-Semitic sentiment, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday pushed his proposal to include $1 million in his 2018 budget proposal to help Florida’s Jewish community centers, schools and day care centers further secure against attacks.

Scott’s visit to the Roth Family Jewish Community Center in Maitland Thursday, surrounded by 50 young children from the center’s school and day care center, came on the morning of reputed neo-Nazi, white-supremacist Richard Spencer‘s planned speech in Gainesville 120 miles away, and the  pall of that afternoon event hung over the visit.

His visit also came in a year in which the Roth Family Center, as well as numerous other Jewish centers throughout Florida and nationally, were hit with multiple bomb threats, forcing the centers, the families, the communities, and the state to re-assess the prospects of violence, especially in an era where supremacists and discriminatory hatred appear to be on the rise.

This year’s Florida budget included $654,000 to help Jewish centers shore up security.

For next year Scott said he is proposing an additional $1 million, a plan he first introduced earlier at Boca Raton. He was joined Wednesday by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Maitland Mayor Dale McDonald.

“This state is a friend of Israel. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Israel and you look what they go through over there, with the amount of security they have to do. Unfortunately, we’re sort of having to do the same thing to make sure everybody in our state stays safe, especially all the young people,” Scott said.

“As horrified as we were last year to hear about the threats to our Jewish centers and our Jewish communities, in our state we have zero tolerance for hatred, zero tolerance for anti-Semitism, we want everybody to have the chance to live their dream in this state, in our country,” he said.

The Roth Family Jewish Center is an example of where last year’s money helped. The center installed bullet-proof glass on classrooms, double-entrance entryways, high fences, and security cameras, and has hired armed security guards. Yet Keith Dvorchik, chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando, said more is needed.

U.S. Senate panel to investigate Hollywood Hills tragedy, at Bill Nelson’s request

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee announced today that it is launching an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of 14 residents at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills nursing home in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

The investigation comes following a request from Florida’s U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a senior member of the committee.

The residents of the nursing home were left without power and no air conditioning in the days following the Sept. 10-11 devastation by Hurricane Irma. Two days after the storm left, two residents were found dead in their beds and others were rushed to the hospital, where 12 more would die after apparently being baked in the sweltering facility.

Florida is investigating, and has revoked the home’s license, and the owners of the home are suing the state over that revocation.

“It is my understanding that it is the state’s responsibility to certify a nursing home’s compliance with all federal emergency preparedness regulations in order to receive federal payments under the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” Nelson wrote on Sept. 29 to U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, and Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, who serve as the panel’s Chairman and Ranking Member respectively.

“Because the certification for a skilled nursing facility is subject to CMS approval, and the Senate Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over the Medicare and Medicaid programs, I urge the Committee to use its authority to conduct a complete investigation into the State of Florida’s certification of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills to determine what led to the deaths of 12 seniors there in the wake of Hurricane Irma,” Nelson’s letter continued.

Responding to Nelson’s request, Hatch and Wyden sent letters Tuesday to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, requesting information about its new nursing home emergency preparedness requirements, and to the state of Florida seeking answers to questions regarding the state’s emergency preparedness plans and response to Hurricane Irma.

The committee also requested similar information from Texas, regarding nursing homes affected there by Hurricane Harvey.

“Similar reports after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma raise concerns about the adequacy of emergency preparedness and response at nursing homes and other facilities,” they wrote. “Our committee would like information about the federal requirements that were applicable during these events and the actions CMS has taken since.”

“We are writing to request information from Florida about its preparations for and responses to Hurricane Irma as it relates to nursing homes and other similar facilities,” the senators wrote in a letter to Florida’s Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, Justin Senior. “The Senate Committee on Finance has jurisdiction over both the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs. As part of our oversight responsibilities, we want to ensure the safety of residents and patients in nursing homes and other similar facilities during natural and manmade disasters.”

In 2016, CMS finalized new national emergency preparedness requirements for Medicare- and Medicaid-participating providers and suppliers. This new rule requires long-term care facilities to develop emergency preparedness plans to ensure that staff’s and residents’ basic needs are met in the event of natural or man-made disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding. It also explicitly requires facilities to have policies and procedures in place to address alternate sources of energy to maintain temperatures during these emergencies.

According to federal regulations, it is the state’s responsibility to certify that a nursing home is in compliance with all applicable federal rules and regulations, including the new rules put in place 2016.

Despite receiving state certification, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills did not have an alternate source of energy powering its air conditioning unit and, as a result, was unable to maintain temperatures after the facility lost power.

At a hearing last week of the Florida Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Health and Human Services, Molly McKinstry, deputy secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration said her agency and other state agencies were in constant contact before, during and after Hurricane Irma with all the state’s nursing homes.

McKinstry said that many nursing homes and assisted living facilities lost power and quite a few visited by state officials had interior temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s, despite meeting all the current state requirements. She said loss of power and heating issues were a “prevalent” problem.

Sarasota attorney David Shapiro files to run against Vern Buchanan in CD 16

Sarasota attorney David Shapiro has filed to run for Congress against Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in Florida’s 16th Congressional District.

Shapiro, a Democrat, is a longtime Tampa Bay-area resident who has practiced law in Sarasota for 32 years He previously ran for the Florida House of Representatives in 2006, losing a tight election, 51-49, to Republican Doug Holder in Florida House District 70.

In a news release issued by his new campaign, Shapiro said he was motivated to run for Congress “for our need for representatives in Congress who will stand up for the people, not be afraid to work across the aisle, and do what is in the best interests of the hardworking families they were elected to serve.”

CD 16 covers all or parts of Sarasota, Manatee, and Hillsborough counties. Buchanan, of Longboat Key, is in his sixth term representing the district.

“For 32 years I have been fighting to protect my clients,” Shapiro stated in the release. “And as I’ve watched Washington become more dysfunctional and divisive, it’s become clear no one is looking out for our interests. We can’t afford partisan gridlock driven by career politicians like Vern Buchanan. We need new leaders who will listen to our needs, fight for us, and be willing to work across the aisle to do what is best for our community.”

Shapiro, 58, and his wife of 28 years Robin live on Siesta Key and have three grown children.

“No one who puts in a full day’s work should have to hold a second job just to earn enough money to feed their family and save for retirement,” Shapiro stated. Republicans and Vern Buchanan have spent months trying to rip health care away from millions of Americans and roll back vital protections for people with pre-existing conditions. We need to stop using health care as a potential weapon and make it affordable. Lives are at stake. Finally, we need to protect our children, our grandchildren, and our way of life by making sure climate change does not devastate our Florida coastlines. That takes decisive action. We can no longer ignore the urgency of the problem in order to protect special interests who put their own profits over our safety.”

AFP ad: Bill Nelson is standing in the way of a simple, fair tax system

Americans for Prosperity is upping attention on Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for the congressional budget fight Wednesday by launching an internet commercial declaring that he is standing in the way of a “simple, fair tax system.”

The conservative organization is including Nelson, through its Americans for Prosperity-Florida affiliate, as a target in a nationwide, multi-million dollar advertising buy that targets a handful of U.S. Senators, including Republicans, who’ve shown some interest in tax reform but appear unlikely to support the Republican budget plan that includes language-making sweeping tax reform possible.

Among others being targeted: U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat; Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat; and John McCain, an Arizona Republican. On Tuesday Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group founded and heavily funded by David H. Koch and Charles Koch, released a letter sent to Nelson and the other senators urging them to vote yes on the Republican proposal.

The new ad features a woman talking into the camera, saying, “People are sick of politics. I am too. But fixing our broken tax system isn’t about politics – it’s about helping people. It means the powerful, the well-connected, the politicians — they’ll stop benefiting from a rigged system. It means everyday Americans will have more to spend on what’s important to them. That’s what tax reform will do. So, what’s stopping us?”

The answer comes next, with a picture of Nelson, and the statement, “Senator Nelson is standing in the way of a simple, fair tax system.”

“Nelson has hinted at being willing to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to reform the tax code to make it more fair and efficient,” AFP-FL State Director Chris Hudson stated in a news release issued by his organization. “This is a once in a generation opportunity that deserves his full endorsement immediately. It’s time for him to help pass tax reform and not obstruct the process any further. Our activists are ready to make sure that Senator Nelson does not get in the way.”

Though decrying gridlock, David Jolly would like to see Democrats stop Donald Trump

Republican former U.S. Rep. David Jolly doubled down Tuesday evening on his expressed wish that Democrats win the 2018 mid-term elections as a check on President Donald Trump, saying he hoped that so that “we may be safer as a nation.”

Jolly appeared Wednesday evening at the University of Central Florida in Orlando with Democratic former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy on their college-campus tour to talk about their concerns about how hyper-partisanship has caused gridlock, and forced both parties to kowtow to extremes within their ranks.

Yet Jolly, the St. Petersburg politician who served two terms and then chose to run an eventually-aborted campaign for the U.S. Senate Republican nomination last year instead of for re-election, expressed great frustration Monday night on MSNBC with his party’s unwillingness to stand up to Trump.

After the UCF forum Tuesday evening, he repeated that contention and his desire to see Democrats take over the U.S. House of Representatives for the last two years of Trump’s term. He told FloridaPolitics.com that he views Trump as unsteady and a national security concern, and is worried that his party cannot check him.

“I’ve struggled with it as we continue to hear stories around the national security implications around the president’s irascibility and volatility,” Jolly said. “Certainly we know some of the Constitutional issues that have been raised from ethics to Russia. We also know that he is an unsteady hand as commander in chief.

“And we’ve seen Republicans largely unwilling to stand up to him,” Jolly continued. “Listen, I’m a Republican, who hopes we see a Republican Congress pass Republican policies. But it may be for the greater good that there is a stronger check on Capitol Hill on this president than the Republicans are currently providing. So if it meant Democrats take control of the House for two years, and the president not being in office come January 2021, then we may be safer as a nation in my opinion.

“This may be bigger than the party,” Jolly concluded.

The matter did not come up during the 75-minute forum, in which Murphy and Jolly expressed their concerns about how gerrymandering had created too many safe seats, and how the party leadership in Congress was valuing power over any bipartisan relationships, discouraging members in any contested seats from building relationships with those across the aisle.

Murphy said gerrymandering was the biggest single problem. Yet he also decried the closed-primary system in Florida and other states that use it, noting that voter turnout in a primary average is 15 percent. That 15 percent, he argued, likely represents the most extreme wing of the party; and becomes the deciding force in any district predetermined to be a safe seat for one party or the other. And he contended 90 percent of seats are so predetermined.

“So imagine you’re a member of Congress. Imagine your a candidate. Are you going to appeal to that 85 percent [who don’t vote in the primary] or that 15 percent? Murphy said. “You’re going to tailor a message to them. You’re going to make sure they see ads.And you’re going to get to office. And then you’re going to say the same thing, even if it’s against your own self interest.

“We both know friends on both sides of the aisle that are standing for things they don’t truly believe in,” Murphy said.

Both Murphy and Jolly talked about how leaderships punish members who work across the aisle. Murphy said it starts from the very first week a freshman member of Congress arrives, and is segregated from freshmen from the other party, and then is told to not get chummy with those in the other party, because the goal is to see them defeated in the next election. Murphy and Jolly said both sides do it, threatening to not provide re-election money, or threatening to take away valuable committee seats.

“We can’t can’t take human nature out of this,” Jolly said. “It requires a certain amount of political courage to step forward to say I’m going to be one of those people who decide to change it.”

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