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Dr. Nicole Fanarjian, Sarah Lipton-Lubet: Florida lawmakers are subsidizing anti-abortion lies

Wouldn’t you want to know if your taxpayer dollars were being used to lie to women about their health?

That’s exactly what is happening here in Florida. Each year, the Florida Legislature funnels taxpayer dollars to “crisis pregnancy centers,” (CPCs) anti-abortion organizations posing as legitimate health care clinics. Under the guise of providing reproductive health services and pregnancy-related information, these fake clinics shame women and lie to them to prevent them from accessing the care they want and need.

Often camouflaged as health care facilities and purposely located near real clinics that provide the full range of reproductive health services, CPCs try to lure women away from facilities that can actually meet their reproductive health care needs.

When a woman enters a CPC for any type of service, she is given biased counseling, misinformation and, at many “clinics,” religious seminars. Often, she hears false claims about fetal development and the health effects and safety of abortion care (in reality, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the United States).

To be clear, CPCs peddle falsehoods that have been repeatedly discredited by extensive scientific research and the country’s most prominent medical associations.

Florida women describe being harassed, bullied and given blatantly false information at CPCs. Janessa from the Tampa Bay area had been so ill from her high-risk pregnancy that she was hospitalized, unable to work and struggling to make ends meet.

Given her compromised health, she decided an abortion was her best option. Hoping to save money on the ultrasound she needed before her appointment, Janessa went to a nearby clinic that advertised free ultrasound services.

Unfortunately, the clinic was an anti-abortion CPC, and instead of providing Janessa with a reliable ultrasound, they shamed her for deciding to have an abortion.

Staff repeatedly forced her to view ultrasound images and told her they would call her after she left to discuss her pregnancy. Janessa was sure of her decision to obtain abortion care, but she was shaken by her experience at the CPC and intimidated by the staff’s threats to repeatedly contact her against her wishes.

Unfortunately, there are many similar stories of deception and harassment directed toward Florida women by CPCs.

CPCs are deceptive. They undermine a woman’s right to access abortion care. They undermine the trust at the foundation of the patient-provider relationship by posing as health care providers and peddling inaccurate medical information. And they undermine a woman’s dignity by attempting to shame and pressure her and take away her ability to make her own decisions.

Yet none of this has slowed the push by extremists in the Florida legislature to legitimize and fund CPCs with taxpayer dollars.

Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville) has introduced SB 444, which would permanently fund CPCs with taxpayer dollars. His bill intentionally restricts women’s access to the full range of health care services by funneling public funds to entities that exclusively “promote and support childbirth,” while cutting out qualified medical providers who offer the full range of reproductive health services including birth control and abortion care.

By sending tax dollars to CPCs, anti-abortion lawmakers in Florida are demonstrating a total disregard for the truth, undermining a woman’s right to make her own informed medical decisions and denying her the respect and dignity she deserves.

Florida lawmakers need to know that taxpayers are watching. We will not stand idly by as hard-earned tax dollars in the form of public funding go to fake clinics that harm Florida women.

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Dr. Nicole Fanarjian is a Florida obstetrician and gynecologist. Sarah Lipton-Lubet is V.P. for Reproductive Health and Rights with the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Darren Soto under fire for having urged Puerto Ricans to declare they intend to stay

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando has come under fire for statements he made last Friday at a Puerto Rico town hall meeting in Kissimmee, when he urged evacuees to declare they intend to stay in Florida.

Soto’s comments had come during a question-and-answer period after he, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, and others including Florida Gov. Rick Scott had addressed more than 500 people gathered at the Kissimmee Civic Center about issues surrounding Puerto Rico, evacuees who have fled to Florida following Hurricane Maria, and federal, state, and local assistance and recovery efforts.

Responding to a question about federal assistance, Soto noted inequities and legal quirks in the federal Medicaid and Medicare programs. He noted that when evacuees go home to the island they lose coverage, and that he and others are working on legislation to try to make benefits more seamless as people move back and forth. But that’s not the case yet, he said.

“One thing for those who recently arrived need to know is, you’re going to be asked the question, ‘Do you intend to stay?’ I urge you to say ‘yes, for now,'” Soto told the town hall. “Because otherwise you’re going to get rejected, and then you’re going to find yourself without health care. So I urge you to watch for that pitch-fall question.”

A report on WFTV-News in Orlando and posts on Facebook other social media, raised the question of whether Soto was encouraging people to make false claims about their intentions to stay in Florida or not.

In a written statement provided by his office Wednesday morning, Soto denied he made any such overture.

“I do not encourage anyone who is planning to leave our state to falsely claim otherwise. Many recently arrived Puerto Ricans have a high probability of staying in Florida. The intent of my statement was to encourage them to err on the side of caution and declare their intent to stay if they are in doubt about their future plans,” Soto said. “If they eventually leave, their Medicaid or Medicare will automatically be terminated and they will have to reapply back in Puerto Rico. Healthcare could mean the difference between life and death for eligible seniors, disabled and children evacuees, many of whom have been without healthcare for months.”

One of Soto’s Republican opponents seeking to take him on in the 2018 election, Wayne Liebnitzky of St. Cloud, said he did not think Soto said anything that would raise legal problems, but he questioned the ethics of the statement.

“There is an ethics problem here,” Liebnitzky said. “Is it a big problem? Probably not. It is an ethical problem. He shouldn’t have done it.”

Economic Opportunity surveying Central Florida housing needs

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has sent out letters to county, city and housing authority officials throughout Central Florida seeking information on affordable housing shortages.

The letter, from DEO Director of Community Development Julie Dennis, is exploring available resources and unmet needs that are being tested as a result of both the damages caused by Hurricane Irma, which struck the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida, and then Hurricane Maria, which hit the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, sending tens of thousands of people looking for available housing.

Dennis wrote to city and county mayors and chairs, housing authority directors, and others throughout Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk and Seminole counties  announcing the DOE Division of Community Development is analyzing statewide data to determine remaining unmet needs in communities after all other resources have been exhausted. To do so, it is seeking housing information from the local authorities, especially “on any needs for which there are no current resurfaces available.

“The information will be included in an unmet needs assessment required by the federal government to receive additional funding for long-term recovery,” she wrote in letters that went out late last week.

The Central Florida area is being cited for having a particularly critical affordable housing shortage exacerbated by the migration of tens of thousand of people from the islands since the hurricanes wiped out communities and shut off power and water for millions. The Florida Division of Emergency Management has reported more than 300,000 people have flown from Puerto Rico to Florida since the start of October. While it is unknown how many are staying, many of them are believed to have settled, principally in Central Florida, and unknown thousands are living in friends’ and relatives’ homes or in motels, looking for longer-term housing.

“The Florida Division of Economic Opportunity appreciates the support your community has extended to evacuees from Puerto Rico who are seeking refuge in your community due to Hurricane Maria,” Dennis wrote. “We are working hard to provide resources to help these families find job opportunities, temporary housing, and other forms of assistance in our state.”

Mike Miller defends tax reform benefits from Democrats’ ‘crumbs’ claim

Republican state Rep. Mike Miller, a candidate for Congress in Central Florida, denounced comments from U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and declared that the Republican Tax Reform Bill approved last month is welcomed by “hard-working families” in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

Miller said in a news release issued by his congressional campaign Tuesday that he was responding to Pelosi’s dismissal as “crumbs,” of reports of higher wages, employee bonuses, extended maternity leaves, and 401K contributions extended to over 2 million American workers.

“I don’t know about Congresswoman Pelosi’s district, but here in Central Florida, hard-working families welcome the higher wages and cash bonuses their employers are giving them as a result of the recent tax reform,” Miller stated.

Miller, a two-term member of the Florida House from Winter Park, representing House District 47, hopes to upend Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, who voted against the bill and said she concluded it did not do enough to help middle-class Americans. First, however, Miller faces a Republican primary fight, chiefly with conservative Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill.

Miller’s criticism of Murphy in the release was limited to trying to tie her to Pelosi, who did come to Central Florida to campaign for her in 2016.

“I find it appalling that during Obama’s administration, Pelosi applauded the president’s leadership for passing a $40 payroll tax cut and called it “a victory for all Americans,” but scoffs at the substantial money going back into our pockets under President [Donald] Trump,” Miller stated. “It just goes to show you the Pelosi Democrats, like Stephanie Murphy, will do anything for partisan gain and do not care to work together for the better of the American people.”

Bob Cortes calls for Rick Scott to take murder-for-hire case from Aramis Ayala

Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes called on Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday to reassign a “heinous” murder-for-hire prosecution case away from State Attorney Aramis Ayala of Orlando – but her office basically shrugged off the lawmaker’s demand, contending that Scott no longer has any reason to remove cases from her review.

“The author of the letter may not be aware this issue has been resolved,” a statement from Ayala’s case declared, dismissing Cortes — who had been perhaps the Legislature’s harshest critic of Ayala and her death penalty policies last year — as if he might be just some misinformed letter writer.

Cortes, Ayala, and Scott had engaged in hostile rhetoric and landmark legislative, executive, judicial, and legal wrangling throughout much of 2017, after she declared her opposition last March to prosecuting Florida’s death penalty. Cortes then, and repeatedly since, called for Scott to remove her from office. Scott removed more than 30 of her murder cases. She sued. The Florida Supreme Court sided with Scott. In September Ayala relinquished, conceded she had been wrong and vowed to turn all potential capital punishment cases over to a panel in her office that she promised would make prosecutorial decisions independent of her views or input.

Aside from a rhetorical skirmish and litigation threats in November and December involving a dispute over whether that panel and Ayala had botched one particular capital punishment case filing, Ayala’s office has been left largely alone since. It now is pursuing the death penalty in three cases in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties.

Cortes, whose House District 30 includes a portion of north-central Orange County, has remained adamant in his criticism of Ayala, continuing to express doubts about her resolve.

On Tuesday he wrote to Scott advising him a particularly notorious murder case that emerged from Osceola County this past week, that of Janice Zengotita-Torres, allegedly kidnapped as a mistaken identity in a botched murder-for-hire scheme, and then allegedly murdered anyway. Cortes called on Scott to reassign the case away from Ayala, as he had done with murder cases in mid-2017.

“I write to ask you not to allow State Attorney Aramis Ayala to handle this case,” Cortes wrote to Scott. “She has proven her lack of objectivity in seeking appropriate justice in capital cases. For the sake of Mrs. Zengotita-Torres’s family, please reassign this case to  a state attorney willing to pursue the death penalty.”

“All murders are tragedies, but this one seems even more so because it involves the cold-blooded killing of a victim of mistaken identity,” Cortes stated in a news release issued by his office. “While we pray for Ms. Zengotita-Torres’s family, we must also pursue justice for her and make it crystal clear that the safety of Florida’s residents and visitors is our highest priority.”

Ayala’s office replied: “State Attorney Ayala will continue to seek justice, fight for victims and follow the law.”

David Santiago raises $30K for HD 27 campaign, leading all Central Florida candidates

With two big fundraising dates in December, Republican state Rep. David Santiago of Deltona raised $30,000 in December, leading all house candidates throughout Central Florida, according to the latest campaign finance reports posted by the state.

Santiago, of House District 27 serving western and southern Volusia County, had his third month in a row of at least $10,000 raised, and finished December with a total of $104,845 raised, and about $72,000 in the bank.

Santiago’s December haul was highlighted by 26 $1,000 checks that came in on either Dec. 7 or Dec. 28, none of which came from within his district.

That’s without a significant opponent. Democrat Tyran Basil of Deltona filed to run against Santiago last April, but as with most months, in December he reported no campaign finance activity. He finished the year with about $600 in the bank.

The one district in Central Florida that saw both an incumbent and a challenger have competitively solid fundraising months in December was in House District 42, covering southern and eastern Osceola and southern Polk counties. Republican state Rep. Mike La Rosa of St. Cloud reported raising $12,750, the second-highest December haul of any incumbent in Central Florida after Santiago. Meanwhile, Democrat Barbara Cady of Kissimmee reported raising $8,106, the highest haul of any challenger in Central Florida.

La Rosa has now raised $88,907, and finished 2017 with just over $50,000 in the bank. Cady’s December was her first serious fundraising month. She now has brought in about $10,400, and finished the year with about $6,400 in the bank.

In other Florida House races set in Central Florida:

– Republican David Smith of Winter Springs raised $4,898 and Democrat Lee Mangold of Casselberry raised $900 in the House District 28 contest. Smith finished the year with $115,000 in the bank, while Mangold entered 2018 with $11,000 in cash.

– Republican incumbent state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood raised $6,850 and Democratic challenger Patrick Brandt of Longwood reported raising only $25 in House District 29. Plakon entered 2018 with about $44,000 in cash, while Brandt had about $1,100.

– Republican incumbent state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs reported raising $6,800 in December and finishing the year with almost $68,000 in the bank while seeking re-election in House District 30. Democrat Clark Anderson of Winter Park has not reported any campaign finance activity yet.

– Republican incumbent state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora reported raising $5,500 in December and entering 2018 with about $17,000 in the bank while seeking re-election in House District 31. Challenger Debra Kaplan of Eustis reported raising $1,365 in December and entering 2018 with about $4,000 in the bank.

– Democratic incumbent state Rep. John Cortes, who has no competition yet in House District 43, reported raising $3,745 in December and entered 2018 with about $21,000 in cash.

– Republican incumbent state Rep. Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden reported raising $5,550 in December, giving him about $19,000 toward his re-election campaign for House District 44. He has three Democratic challengers. Matthew Matin of Winter Garden reported raising his first $1,515 in December, and has it all left heading into 2018. Dawn Antonis of Winter Garden reported no campaign finance activity and entered 2018 with $1,355. Eddy Dominguez has not yet reported any campaign finance activity.

– Democratic incumbent state Rep. Kamia Brown of Ocoee reported raising $6,000 in December and finishing the year with $10,300, with no challenge yet in her re-election bid in House District 45.

– Democratic state Rep. Rep. Bruce Antone of Ocoee has no opponent yet in his re-election bid in House District 46. He reported no financial activity in December and entered the new year with about $9,700 in the bank.

– Democrat Anna Eskamani of Orlando reported raising $11,570 in her bid to flip the likely open seat in House District 47. She finished the year with about $115,000 in cash. In his bid to keep the seat in Republican hands, Stockton Reeves of Winter Park reported raising just $250 in December, and entered 2018 with about $90,000.

– Republican incumbent state Rep. Rene Plasencia of Orlando reported raising $8,000 in December, allowing him to enter 2018 with about $62,000 in the bank for his re-election campaign in House District 50. Democratic challenger Pamela Dirschka of Titusville raised her first $683, and spent none of it.

– In the contest for the open seat in House District 51 in central Brevard County, three Republicans each reported modest months, while Democratic newcomer Michael Blake of Cocoa jumpstarted his new campaign with a $2,100 loan. Republican Tyler Sirois of Merit Island reported bringing in just $150 in December, but enters 2018 with almost $37,000 in the bank. Jeffrey Ramsey of Merritt Island reported raising just $1,000 in December, giving him about $17,600 in his campaign. Thomas O’Neill of Rockledge reported no campaign finance activity in December, and entered 2018 with about $6,300 in the bank.

– In House District 52 in eastern Brevard County, Republican state Rep. Thad Altman of Indalantic reported raising $4,000 in December, and finished the year with about $17,000 in the bank for his re-election bid. Republican challenger Matt Nye of of Melbourne report draining $1,950 in December and entered 2018 with $3,400.

– In House District 53 in southern Brevard County, Republican state Rep. Randy Fine of Palm Bay reported raising $4,650 in December, finishing the month with about $81,000 in the bank. His opponent Democrat Phil Moore has not reported any campaign finance activity yet.

Val Demings picks up Democratic primary challenger in CD 10

Orlando businessman Wade Darius is seeking to challenge U.S. Rep. Val Demings in a Democratic primary this year for Florida’s 10th Congressional District.

Darius, 36, chief executive officer of TD Homes Marketing of Orlando, said Monday he is challenging Demings primarily out of his belief that she has not been aggressive enough in opposing the immigration and economic policies of President Donald Trump or to bring home enough grant money for the people of the 10th Congressional District. Darius filed last week with the Florida Division of Elections to seek to qualify for the ballot.

Demings is a former Orlando police chief and freshman member of Congress representing western Orange County.

Darius also said he is concerned about criminal justice issues, notably prison reform, which he said is needed, and police brutality, which he alleged Demings did not address when she was police chief.

A Haitian immigrant to Miami as a child, Darius said immigration policy was his primary concern, especially considering the very large Haitian and El Salvadoran communities in CD 10, two communities facing mass deportations under Trump’s policies.

“We know our district is vastly populated by immigrants,” he said. “You must be on the side of the people.”

Married and the father of five, Darius’s background has been in banking and real estate before he founded TD Homes Marketing, which he said last year helped 200 people arrange to get at least $15,000 in down-payment assistance toward the purchases of homes.

He said his campaign will refuse to raise any money from corporations because he believes there is a required quid pro quo response to all such donations. He said his campaign will be funded by himself and his family. He started that off by donating $500 to start a Go-Fund-Me account for his campaign.

Jason Brodeur continues to lead Central Florida state Senate candidates in fundraising

Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur continued to lead all Central Florida state candidates in campaign fundraising in December, bringing in more than $21,000 for his official, 2020 campaign for the Florida Senate, and another $59,000 for his unofficial Friends of Jason Brodeur political committee.

Brodeur’s hauls bring his official fund to about $217,000 raised, with $141,000 left in the bank at the end of December; and Friends of Jason Brodeur to nearly $1.20 million raised and approximately $353,500 in the bank.

Brodeur, who is finishing a final term representing Florida’s House District 28, isn’t running for anything until 2020 when Senate District 9 becomes available. He does have an opponent, Frederick Ashby, an Oviedo Democrat who did not report any campaign finance activity in December. Ashby’s state senate campaign had about $300 in it at the end of the year.

Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala raised $16,000 in December, bringing his re-election bid’s fundraising total to $87,850 for Florida Senate District 12. His campaign also spent about $9,100 in December, so he finished the year with nearly $62,404 in his campaign fund.

Baxley has two opponents. Republican primary challenger Kaesha Gray of Ocala lent her campaign $1,000 in December. Democrat Gary McKechnie of Mount Dora raised $850 in December. Both finished the year with around $1,000 left.

Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland reported raising $8,000 in December toward her re-election bid in Senate District 22. That brought her total raised to about $132,000 and left her with about $105,000 in the bank at the end of December.

Her opponent Democratic challenger Bob Doyel of Winter Garden reported raising $1,722 in December. He’s raised $12,262 total and finished the year with about $7,000 in the bank.

In Senate District 14, Republican state Sen. Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange reported raising $7,100, putting the total raised for her re-election effort to $106,200. She finished December with about $74,000 in the bank.

Her opponent Democrat Melissa Martin of Cocoa reported raising $1,464 in December. She has raised $12,673 total and finished the year with just over $11,000 left in the bank.

Among races that, like Brodeur’s still are more than two years away, Democratic state Sen. Randolph Bracy of Ocoee, reported raising $7,500 in December, leaving him with about $13,000 in the bank for his re-election bid in Senate District 11. Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando reported raising $2,060 in December, leaving her with about $2,000 in the bank in her bid for re-election in Senate District 13. Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando reported raising $5,250 in December, leaving him with about $26,700 in his re-election bid in Senate District 15. None of them has an opponent yet.

Anna Eskamani crosses $150K-raised mark for HD 47 race

Orlando Democrat Anna Eskamani raised $11,570 for her House District 47 campaign last month, putting her to-date fundraising total over $150,000.

Helping her achieve the milestone were more than 80 small-dollar donors who chipped in $100 or less. She also took in four checks for $1,000, the maximum contribution for legislative campaigns.

Top donors included Orlando Professional Firefighters, Ruth’s List, and retirees Dennis Rees and Marsh Laufer.

The December numbers make for $150,916 raised in six months. After spending $6,703 in December she closed out 2017 with $115,227 in her campaign account.

Eskamani, a first-time candidate, is up against Winter Park Republican businessman Stockton Reeves for the seat currently held by incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Miller, who is running for Congress.

Reeves added $250 last month and spent $1,230.

He has $90,077 on hand, thanks to a $90,000 loan he made to his campaign in August. Without the loan, Reeves’s total fundraising is just $6,170, and with expenditures measuring in at $6,092 to date, he may be looking to not spending his personal money on the race.

HD 47 covers much of north and central Orange County including downtown Orlando. The district has a near even split between registered Republicans and Democrats.

The seat was held by now-Sen. Linda Stewart, a Democrat, before Miller flipped it in 2014. He hung on to the seat with a 53-47 win over Democrat Beth Tuura in 2016. The same cycle saw Democrat Hillary Clinton carry the district over President Donald Trump’s 53-40.

Ricardo Rosselló accuses Washington of turning its back on Puerto Rico

A sometimes angry, defiant and determined Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló accused Washington D.C. Friday of “turning its back on” Americans on the island since Hurricane Maria

Rosselló called on Puerto Ricans in Florida and others to respond in elections.

Speaking to a packed room of about 500 people at the Kissimmee Civic Center, Rosselló unleashed a torrent of frustration over a nation that made promises to help the island (and its residents) and has failed to do so since.

The Puerto Rican Governor was in Florida for the first time since Hurricane Maria devastated the island on Sept. 20-21, and since hundreds of thousands of his constituents fled to Florida because so much of the island remains without power, potable water, and much of a functioning economy.

Rosselló was joined at the podium by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, and Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez, who all also spoke to a crowd that was so much larger than expected that the room had to be expanded twice before the program started.

The gathering also included more than a dozen other elected officials and candidates, including Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, state Sen. Victor Torres, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.

While Rosselló’s New Progressive Party is generally aligned with the stateside Republican Party of Scott, Jacobs, and President Donald Trump, and while in the early weeks after the storm he and Trump appeared to be united, he struck a strongly different tone Friday.

Rosselló said the island government and Congress and Washington struck a deal through the PROMESA act passed in 2016 to address Puerto Rico’s economy and debt, and that the island government lived up to its end with massive cuts and changes in labor laws. But after Hurricane Maria, many of those in Washington who had made promises “turned their back on Puerto Rico, and not only forgot about us, but made things increasingly worse.”

“This is where we have to draw the line in the sand,” he said. “This is where we need to be outraged, outraged, by the inadequate response for U.S. citizens who live in Puerto Rico.”

“A storm that, as evaluated by third parties, was a thousand-year storm … Maria is the most devastating natural event in the modern history of the United States of America, make no mistake about it. This is why there are challenges of unprecedented nature, and this is why we needed a response of unprecedented nature,” Rossello said.

He spoke of Puerto Ricans’ love for American citizenship, but said Puerto Ricans have been treated as second-class citizens for a century, and he accused Congress and leadership in Washington of breaking promises just in the past few months.

“We fight the same wars, we have the same citizenship and we deserve that equal and fair treatment. After the storm, when the world was watching Puerto Rico, people started to say, ‘Hey? How come the response is so fast in some places in the United States yet so slow and so filled with obstacles in Puerto Rico?'”

Rosselló drew a standing ovation when he finished the 26-minute speech.

In his speech, Scott pointed out all of the things Florida has done to help both the island and the evacuees, from sending utilities experts and crews to the island to widespread waivers of state rules so that Puerto Ricans could more easily settle in to live in Florida. Rosselló also announced $1 million is being added to CareerSource to help Puerto Rico evacuees find work in Florida.

Rosselló thanked him for that and acknowledged that all the work he and his staff have done for the island, and said the channels of communication with the island’s government, “means a lot to us and the people of Puerto Rico.”

But he heaped more praise on Nelson, who likely will face Scott for the 2018 U.S. Senate race in Florida, declaring, “It’s hard to find a better friend than Sen. Nelson has been for the people of Puerto Rico.”

Rosselló then said similar things about Soto and Alvarez, and called on Puerto Ricans in Florida and across the country to remember who has been their friend, and who has not, and to send a message by registering to vote, and then voting.

He called on the six million Puerto Ricans in the United States, including more than a million in Florida, to exercise their power to “make things right, not only on the island, but to make things right for yourself as well. We have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity right now.”

Rosselló said America has “no moral standing” to preach democracy for Cuba, Venezuela, Iraq and Afghanistan until it addresses full citizenship for Puerto Ricans.

“How do we make this happen? We make this happen not just by talking, but by acting. And I am committing myself here to coming to Florida and to other states as well to organize our communities, so that we can make them know what the issues are, and make the distinctions between those have been friends to Puerto Rico, and those that have turned their back, and we can be influential in the up and coming midterm elections.”

Alvarez, Soto and Nelson all set the tone in criticism of the federal government and Congress in its Puerto Rico response.

The Democrats decried everything from slow recovery efforts — 40 percent of islanders are still without power more than 100 days after the storm — to the passage last month of a tax reform package that penalizes Puerto Rico with a new excise tax.

With immediacy, Soto said FEMA is telling evacuees in Florida that their housing vouchers are being canceled Saturday because the agency determined their homes back on the island are habitable, even though some still have no electricity, and some do not even have water.

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