Headlines Archives - Page 5 of 948 - Florida Politics

60.7 million tourists came to Florida during first six months of 2017

The number of tourists visiting Florida continues to grow.

Gov. Rick Scott will announce Tuesday that an estimated 60.7 million tourists came to the state during the first six months of the year. That’s a 4.1 percent increase over the same time period in 2016.

Scott plans to highlight the new numbers during a visit to the Florida Aquarium.

A breakdown shows that the increase is due primarily to a growing number of visitors coming from other states. But the number of tourists coming from overseas countries and Canada has dipped slightly.

Scott has backed budget increases for Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency. Earlier this year GOP legislators had threatened to cut funding by two-thirds but reached a deal with Scott to keep the agency budget intact.

President Trump privately raged against media coverage of first Virginia statement, was reluctant to amend

Bowing to pressure from right and left, President Donald Trump condemned white supremacist groups by name on Monday, declaring “racism is evil” after two days of public equivocation and internal White House debate over the deadly race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In a hastily arranged statement at the White House, Trump branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs.”

The groups are “repugnant to everything that we hold dear as Americans,” he said.

In his initial remarks on the violence Saturday, Trump did not single out the groups and instead bemoaned violence on “many sides.” Those remarks prompted stern criticism from fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, who urged him to seize the moral authority of his office to condemn hate groups.

Trump’s softer statement on Saturday had come as graphic images of a car plowing into a crowd in Charlottesville were playing continually on television. White nationalists had assembled in the city to protest plans to take down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and counter-protesters gathered in opposition. Fights broke out, and then a man drove into the opponents of the white supremacists. One woman was killed and many more badly hurt. Twenty-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio is charged with second-degree murder and other counts.

Loath to appear to be admitting a mistake, Trump was reluctant to adjust his remarks.

The president had indicated to advisers before his initial statement Saturday that he wanted to stress a need for law and order, which he did. He later expressed anger to those close to him about what he perceived as the media’s unfair assessment of his remarks, believing he had effectively denounced all forms of bigotry, according to outside advisers and White House officials.

Several of Trump’s senior advisers, including new chief of staff John Kelly, had urged him to make a more specific condemnation, warning that the negative story would not go away and that the rising tide of criticism from fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill could endanger his legislative agenda, according to two White House officials.

The outside advisers and officials demanded anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Aides were dispatched to Sunday talk shows but struggled to explain the president’s position. A stronger statement was released — but attributed only to an unnamed spokesperson.

Tougher condemnations began Sunday night with Vice President Mike Pence, traveling in South America, declaring that “these dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life.”

On Monday, Trump had planned to interrupt his 17-day working vacation at his New Jersey golf club to travel to Washington for an announcement he hoped would showcase some tough talk on China’s trade practices.

But by the time he arrived at midmorning, it was clear all other messages would be drowned out until he said more about Charlottesville.

Trump returned to a White House undergoing a major renovation. With the Oval Office unavailable, he worked from the Treaty Room as aides drafted his remarks.

Reading from a teleprompter, he made a point of beginning with an unrelated plug for the strength of the economy under his leadership. Then, taking pains to insist “as I said on Saturday,” Trump denounced the hate groups and called for unity.

“We must love each other, show affection for each other and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence,” he said.

Trump for the first time mentioned Heather Heyer by name as he paid tribute to the woman killed by the car.

At the trade event later in the day, he was asked why it took two days for him to offer an explicit denunciation of the hate groups.

“They have been condemned,” Trump responded before offering a fresh criticism of some media as “fake news.”

He followed with a tweet declaring “the #fakenews will never be satisfied.”

Trump noted the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation.

His attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said earlier Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” ″You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation toward the most serious charges that can be brought, because this is an unequivocally unacceptable and evil attack that cannot be accepted in America.”

In the hours after the incident on Saturday, Trump addressed the violence in broad strokes, saying he condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

That was met with swift bipartisan criticism. There were far fewer responses to Trump’s statement Monday, though Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a frequent Trump critic, tweeted “Well done Mr. President.”

Trump’s initial comments had drawn praise from the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, which wrote: “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. … No condemnation at all.”

Though the Daily Stormer did not criticize Trump’s new statement, the Occidental Dissent, a white nationalist website, published a message saying whites had been “deserted by their president.”

Trump, as a presidential candidate, frequently came under scrutiny for being slow to offer condemnation of white supremacists. His strongest denunciations of the movement have not come only when asked, and he occasionally trafficked in retweets of racist social media posts during his campaign. His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, once declared that his former news site, Breitbart, was “the platform for the alt-right.”

Only late in last year’s campaign did Trump move away from his long-held questioning that Barack Obama was born in the United States, and even then he falsely blamed the origins of “birtherism” on Hillary Clinton.

Early Monday, the CEO of the nation’s third largest pharmaceutical company said he was resigning from the President’s American Manufacturing Council, citing “a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

Trump lashed back at Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier on Twitter, saying Frazier “will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Florida Supreme Court says yes to first execution in months

The Florida Supreme Court is refusing to block the state’s first execution after a hiatus of more than 18 months.

The court on Monday ruled 6-1 that the state can go ahead with the scheduled Aug. 24 execution of Mark Asay.

Asay, 53, was originally scheduled to be executed in March 2016, for the 1987 murders of Robert Lee Booker and Robert McDowell in Jacksonville.

The execution was put on hold after the U.S. Supreme Court found the state’s death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional.

The Legislature has since twice changed the law, most recently this year when it required a unanimous jury recommendation for the death penalty.

Justices rejected several arguments that Asay made to block his execution, including his questioning of a new drug the state plans to use for lethal injection.

Flags at half-staff for Marine Sgt. Joseph J. Murray of Jacksonville

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday ordered flags at half-staff for Marine Sgt. Joseph J. Murray of Jacksonville, who died last month with 15 others in a military plane crash in Mississippi.

“As a mark of respect for Sgt. Murray, I hereby direct the flags of the United States and the State of Florida to be flown at half-staff at the City Hall in Jacksonville, the County Courthouse in Duval County, and at the State Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Tuesday, August 15,” Scott said in a statement.

Murray was on a Marine Corps refueling plane that crashed and burned in a soybean field in the Mississippi Delta, killing all 16 military members aboard. The wreck scattered debris for miles and sent a pillar of black smoke rising over the countryside. It was the deadliest Marine crash — in the U.S. or abroad — since 2005.

In a statement last month, Scott said, “Ann and I join Americans across the nation in praying for the families and loved ones of the sixteen U.S. service members who lost their lives in this week’s tragic plane crash, including Marine Sgt. Joe Murray from Jacksonville.

“Sgt. Murray was well known as a beloved husband, father, son, and man of faith and service. We are heartbroken by this loss. Sgt. Murray and his fellow fallen service members will now be honored and remembered across our country as heroes. We pray that this legacy of heroism will bring Sgt. Murray’s family some comfort during this unimaginably difficult time.

“This tragedy is a stark reminder of the dangers our service members face each day as they selflessly protect our families and our freedom. The State of Florida is proud to be the home of brave heroes of like Sgt. Murray and we will continue to pray for the safety of all our service members at home and abroad.”

 

(The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission.)

Second Democrat files for Ag Commissioner race

Another Democrat has thrown his hat in the ring for Agriculture Commissioner, according to papers filed with the Florida Division of Elections. 

Broward County resident David Walker filed for the seat Friday and joins Michael Christine in the Democratic Primary to take over for term-limited Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is running for governor.

Though Walker shares his name with the Sunshine State’s eighth governor, he appears to be a political newcomer.

He doesn’t have a lot of catching up to do with Christine as far as fundraising goes, though he’ll need a sizable campaign fund to compete with the Republican candidates in the race, especially current leader Sen. Denise Grimsley.

The Sebring Republican announced Thursday that she had added another $152,000 between her campaign and committee accounts last month, and has so far raised about $1.1 million for her quest to replace Putnam.

Fort Myers Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell isn’t far behind with more than $1 million raised since January, including $108,000 last month. Between his campaign and committee accounts, he has $878,000 on hand.

The third major GOP candidate in the race is citrus grower and former four-term Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman.

Businessman Paul Paulson, a homebuilder who mounted an unsuccessful bid to be Orlando mayor in 2015, is also running.

Christine, who entered the race in April, reported no contributions for both June and July.

1 Florida Confederate memorial removed, another vandalized

Crews on Monday were removing one Confederate statue in a Florida city and authorities said someone had splashed red paint around a Confederate memorial park in another city.

Sounds of a jackhammer echoed in downtown Gainesville as workers tore out the foundation of the statue known as “Old Joe” after local authorities decided to move it from outside the Alachua County Administration Building.

The statue’s removal had been in the works for months after protests and several failed attempts to relocate it. It was unclear if the work was hastened by violent protests surrounding the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.

The statue is being returned to the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which erected it in 1904. The county said it did not know where the statue would go, the Gainesville Sun reported.

In Tampa, a passer-by called 911 after seeing that paint had been tossed on and around the Confederate memorial’s columns and derogatory comments were scrawled in paint, Hillsborough County sheriff’s officials said in a news release. The site is on private property near Tampa on Florida’s west coast.

Other Confederate memorials in the area have been targeted as well.

Hillsborough County commissioners voted on July 19 to remove a different monument in the county, this one in downtown Tampa and on county property, after several heated meetings filled with public discussion.

On Wednesday, the commission is scheduled to discuss the monument again with an update on the relocation.

The attention focused on Florida’s Confederate monuments comes as similar debates heat up in other states. Tension flared into violence this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a white nationalist rally that was tied to protest against the removal of a Confederate statue there.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

Committee backing felon voting rights amendment adds $500K in July

The political committee backing a ballot initiative to automatically restore voting rights to nonviolent felons brought in over $500,000 last month.

Floridians for a Fair Democracy” received $250,000 of the July haul from the American Civil Liberties Union, with another $150,000 coming from the The Advocacy Fund, a San Francisco-based group that funds a variety of progressive causes across the country.

The remaining $100,000 in contributions came in from Robert Wolthius, a San Francisco software engineer

Spending clocked in at about $662,000 last month, with the vast majority of the money going toward collecting and verifying petition signatures.

The bulk of expenses were paid out by the Clearwater-based committee went to Calabasas, Calif.-based petition management firm PCI Consultants, which took in $583,183.

Also on the payroll was Miami-based Accurate Business Systems, which received $36,429, and Columbus, OH-based EMC Research, which was paid $23,318.

In all, Floridians for a Fair Democracy has raised just shy of $1.1 million and had about $93,000 of that money on hand on Aug. 1.

In order to make the ballot, initiatives need signatures equal to 8 percent of the voter turnout in the most recent presidential election. That equals 766,200 signatures for initiatives aiming for the 2018 ballot, which is a significant jump from the 683,149 needed to make the cut in 2016.

As of Monday, the voting rights amendment had 54,700 confirmed signatures. Initiatives must get 76,632 signatures before they are reviewed by the state Attorney General.

Rick Scott, Richard Corcoran renew rebukes of white supremacists

While avoiding comment on what President Donald Trump had to say in the wake of the Charlottesville events, Gov. Rick Scott renewed his condemnations Monday of the KKK, white supremacist and neo-Nazis.

So did Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a potential 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate. The two made their comments speaking with the press Monday morning in Lake Mary following their announcement of plans for a Constitutional Amendment proposal to restrict tax and fee increase.

After white supremacists’ marches in Charlottesville resulted in one of the white supremacist driving his car into a crowd of anti-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other people, Trump’s response that violence came “from all sides” has drawn heavy criticism that he would not blame the white supremacists specifically

“I’m not going to parse the president’s words, but here’s what I’ll say,” Scott said. “It’s evil. It’s horrible. I don’t believe in racism. I don’t believe in bigotry. I believe the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis they don’t belong in our society.”

“It’s evil. I don’t believe in it. It’s disgusting that this would ever go on in our society,” Scott added. “I don’t ever want it happening in our country. I don’t ever want it happening in our state.”

Corcoran noted the efforts by the Florida Legislature last spring to recognize and condemn the 1940s and 50s racism and murders behind the case of the “Groveland Four,” four young black men and teen boys who were falsely accused of rape and then either killed or wrongly imprisoned. The House and the Senate both unanimously passed resolutions apologizing to their families.

“Where ever evil presents itself, I don’t care if it’s neo-Naziism, I don’t care if it’s white supremacy, if it’s any of the incidents we saw, they need to be stamped out, and they have no business being in a free and open Democratic society,” Corcoran said. “We’re going to fight that wherever we can.”

However, Scott stopped short of addressing what has been at the root of the Charlottesville march and clashes elsewhere, including Orlando and Tampa Bay, between white supremacists and others: what to do with Confederate monuments.

Scott said that conversation would come, but he didn’t take sides.

“Today is a day to mourn. We lost a young lady. We lost two law enforcement officers [killed in a helicopter crash in Charlottesville,]” Scott said. “There is going to be an opportunity to have that conversation.  It’s disgusting that this happened. It’s hateful. It’s evil. But I know there will be an opportunity to have that conversation.”

Rick Scott, Richard Corcoran launch push for tax supermajority

Pledging to make it harder for future lawmakers to raise taxes, and surrounded by a bevy of Republican Florida lawmakers, Gov. Rick Scott pledged to push a Constitutional amendment to require a supermajority for such increases.

At an announcement at the Verizon Florida headquarters in Lake Mary, Scott said the amendment to require 60 percent votes on tax increases could come from either the Florida Legislature or the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, to be placed on the 2018 ballot.

He’ll likely have full support of the Florida Legislature’s Republican leadership. He was joined in his call Monday by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, House Ways and Means Committee chair Paul Renner and seven other Republican members of the Florida House, most from Central Florida.

Scott also said he called Senate President Joe Negron, but that the Palm City Republican was unable to attend his announcement.

“My goal is to make it harder for elected politicians to raise taxes on Florida families and businesses,” Scott said. “And that can be achieved with an amendment to the state constitution. This Legislature has shown they are absolutely committed to tax and fee decreases.

“I want to make sure to get this on the ballot so you’ll never see your taxes go up again without people taking the time to make sure that it’s something well thought out,” Scott added.

Corcoran expressed confidence that if the measure reaches the ballot Florida voters will approve it.

“All too often as we see it sometimes on the national level, it’s easier to raise taxes or fees than it is to make tough decisions on what is right and best for the people,” Corcoran said.

“This proposal says we’re going to make it really, really difficult to go back to the time when we had high unemployment and no jobs and people were struggling, and we’re going to recognize that what’s at stake, who’s really at the heart of this, is when you’ve got single moms out there who are working two jobs, trying to make ends meet, put food on the table for their kids, and trying to give them a world-class education, you can’t just go willy-nilly and raise those people’s taxes and not think it’s not going to have a dramatic affect on them,” Corcoran said.

Left uncertain is whether the amendment would apply only to the Florida Legislature or might apply to all Florida governments, including cities and counties. A governor’s staffer suggested it most likely would apply only to the Legislature, but others weren’t so certain.

Since the amendment is not drafted – by either the CRC or the Legislature – the prospect may remain one to be decided later.

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes of Longwood suggested it might cover local governments. He said that likely would receive pushback from local governments that express frequent frustration at Tallahassee’s restrictions on the Home Rule paradigm but would be needed.

Senate Republicans’ Spanish ad says Bill Nelson ‘supports murderers’

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is being targeted in a new Spanish-language radio commercial accusing him of being soft on Cuba and for expressing admiration for former Venezuela dictator Hugo Chávez, and charging he supports murderers.

The 30-second spot from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, playing in the Miami market, also contends that Nelson’s actions offer encouragement to current Venezuelan Dictator Nicolas Maduro, who took over after Chavez’ death in 2013.

As Maduro oversaw an election marked by violence and deaths of protesters while international and opposition observers decried the vote as a sham in recent weeks, Nelson has issued several strong statements condemning Maduro.

Nelson’s campaign spokesman Ryan Brown called the ads “untrue” and “thinly-veiled attempt to distract from Gov. Rick Scott‘s record. Scott is raising money for a presumed challenge of Nelson in the 2018 election.

“These ads are untrue. Sen. Nelson is one of the strongest opponents of the Maduro and Castro regimes. In fact, the Miami Herald has called Nelson one of Chavez’s fiercest critics. And earlier this month Nelson called on President Trump to ban at least some imports of Venezuelan oil until constitutional order has been restored in Venezuela,” Brown said in a written statement. “These attacks against Nelson’s anti-Castro, anti-Maduro record are false and nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to try to distract people from Rick Scott’s decision to flip-flop on doing business with Goldman Sachs, which is currently doing business with an arm of the Maduro regime.”

Yet the radio ad, which plays like a radio news report, notes that Florida’s senior senator has taken other steps that suggest support.

“In the past, he has aligned himself with communists and dictators. Look at him with Cuba. He supported [President Barack] Obama when he negotiated with the other terrorists, the Castro brothers,” the narrator states in Spanish, with a sound effect that sounds like him flipping pages of notes on a desk.

“When Nelson supports the Castros, that only reinforces and encourages others, like it did with Chavez and now with Maduro. In 2005, Bill Nelson even visited Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. Here it says Nelson went to Venezuela to admire Chavez’s revolution,” the narrator continues.

“If Bill Nelson supports murderers, I can’t support Bill Nelson,” the ad concludes.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons