Orlando Archives - Page 2 of 76 - Florida Politics

Central Florida House members call on Marco Rubio to protect illegal immigrants

In front of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s office Tuesday morning, Sen. Victor Torres and Reps. Amy Mercado and Carlos Guillermo Smith called on Rubio to protect the state’s immigrant population – especially those not here legally.

Their message was that time is of the essence – now that the Donald Trump administration is just days away from taking control of the country, it’s important that Rubio own up to his promises to stand up to Trump when he can – especially when it comes to potential threats to undocumented immigrants.

Trump has said that he intends to crack down on illegal immigration and immediately deport 2 to 3 million illegal immigrants when he takes office.

All three of the House representatives speaking Tuesday were opposed to that.

“Many undocumented immigrants are otherwise law-abiding citizens,” Torres said. “They want to make a better life for themselves. They were born in another country, but they went to school and were raised in the U.S. – it’s the only society they’ve ever known.”

Torres said attempts to deport or demonize illegal immigrants “robs us of the radiant spirit and skill and desire to make America great.”

Mercado said in calling for mass deportations of illegal immigrants, Trump had threatened a cornerstone of the American dream.

“They should be able to come to America without the threat of persecution,” she said. “We shouldn’t be deporting millions, or driving them into silence out of fear. Florida is a cultural melting pot. There’s a large array of cultures and backgrounds. There are headlines every day about members of Trump’s cabinet and racism. This is not the time for silence.”

Smith said there were up to 8,000 undocumented immigrants in the Orlando area and up to 102,000 statewide – so the stakes were “very large” and he vowed to push back and act as an opposition to Trump’s “racist, bigoted and wrong agenda.”

A Rubio spokesperson said by email that Rubio welcomed more voices and opinions from those interested in tackling the issue of immigration.

“Senator Rubio understands we need to secure our borders, stop visa overstays, modernize our legal immigration system, and enforce our immigration laws fairly and humanely,” he wrote. “He welcomes input from people who are serious about solving our immigration challenges and is hopeful we’ll be able to make real progress on these goals in this new Congress.”

Wayne Liebnitzky slams Darren Soto for boycotting inauguration

Let the 2018 campaign begin for Florida’s 9th Congressional District.

Republican Wayne Liebnitzky, who lost to U.S. Rep. Darren Soto in November and now has filed to take him on again in 2018, slapped Soto for his announcement that he is boycotting the inauguration of president-elect Donald Trump.

“I find it an absolute disgrace and should not be tolerated,” Liebnitzky stated in a Facebook post and a statement he sent to Orlando media. “I find it ironic that I gave him [Soto] the respect after our election as the winner and he does not do the same for our President, demonstrating the immature reactions that other Democrats have chosen. Central Florida needs people representing us that can promote leadership.”

Liebnitzky, of St. Cloud, won the vote in the Polk County portion of CD 9 but lost to Soto in Orange and Osceola counties. On Tuesday he said he could not let Soto’s first big partisan action stand without reacting.

Soto said Monday he was boycotting because he was deeply disappointed in Trump’s tweets about U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat who was a champion of the Civil Rights movement.

“I have a long history of working across the aisle and will continue to do so in Congress. However, I am deeply disappointed with President-Elect Donald Trump’s attacks against civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis and will not be attending the inauguration as a result,” Soto stated in a release he issued Monday.

Soto is not alone. The Washington Post is reporting that so far 44 Democratic lawmakers have announced they will not attend Trump’s inauguration. The Post’s list does not include Soto. It does include U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, the Democrat from Miami Gardens.

Orlando nightclub gunman’s wife faces charges tied to attack

The widow of the Orlando nightclub gunman has been charged with helping her husband in the months leading up to the June massacre that left 49 people dead, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday.

Noor Salman, 30, is due in federal court in Oakland on Tuesday, following her arrest a day earlier on the Florida charges.

The two-count indictment accuses her of knowingly aiding and abetting her husband, Omar Mateen, in providing material support and resources to the Islamic State group between April and June of last year. It also says she knowingly misled police and the FBI after June 12 attack at the Pulse nightclub. The charging document does not give additional details on Salman’s actions.

Salman is from the San Francisco Bay Area and in the aftermath of the Orlando attack that also left her husband dead she returned here with their son, whose name she has since sought to change. She was repeatedly questioned by FBI investigators over whether she had any knowledge of her husband’s plans.

Her attorney Linda Moreno said after her arrest that she “had no foreknowledge nor could she predict what Omar Mateen intended to do that tragic night.”

Salman told The New York Times in an interview published in November that she knew her husband had watched jihadist videos but was “unaware of everything” regarding his intent to shoot up the club. Salman also said he had physically abused her, which her attorney reiterated Monday.

“Noor has told her story of abuse at his hands,” Moreno said. “We believe it is misguided and wrong to prosecute her and that it dishonors the memories of the victims to punish an innocent person.”

The San Francisco office of the FBI said Salman was taken into custody Monday morning in Rodeo, which is the small Bay Area community where she grew up and where her family lives. Jail records, however, say she was arrested about 30 miles away in Dublin. The reason for the discrepancy wasn’t clear.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a Monday interview with MSNBC that “from the beginning, we were going to look at every aspect of this, of every aspect of this shooter’s life to determine not just why did he take these actions – but who else knew about them? Was anyone else involved?”

Salman met Mateen online and the two married in 2011.

They lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, at the time of the shooting.

Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a 911 call during the three-hour standoff that ended in his death. Forty nine patrons were killed and another 53 were hospitalized.

“Nothing can erase the pain we all feel about the senseless and brutal murders of 49 of our neighbors, friends, family members and loved ones,” Orlando Police Chief John Mina said Monday. “But today, there is some relief in knowing that someone will be held accountable for that horrific crime.”

Darren Soto to skip Donald Trump inauguration

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto will be skipping the inauguration of incoming president Donald Trump after hearing the comments Trump made recently about civil rights activist John Lewis.

“I am deeply disappointed with Trump’s attacks against civil rights hero John Lewis and will not be attending the inauguration as a result,” Soto said in a statement to Channel 9.

The statement in question came when Lewis, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., called Trump an illegitimate president who had been bolstered by Russian interference with the election.

Trump, in response, said Lewis was “all talk, no action,” and that he should instead focus on crime in his own district.

The attacks received widespread backlash over the weekend.

Soto is not the first lawmaker to back out of the Trump inauguration – others, like California Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Mark Takano and New York Rep. Yvette Clarke, have also issued statements saying they won’t be attending.

Wife of Pulse shooter arrested in California

The wife of the Orlando nightclub shooter, who was extensively questioned by federal agents in the days after the massacre, has been arrested by the FBI in connection with the attack, authorities said Monday.

Noor Salman was taken into custody Monday morning in the San Francisco Bay area and is facing charges in Florida including obstruction of justice. A Twitter post from the United States attorney’s office in Orlando said Salman will make her initial court appearance Tuesday morning in Oakland, California.

Noor Salman moved to California after her husband, Omar Mateen, was killed in a shootout with SWAT team members during the June 12 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

FBI agents repeatedly questioned Salman in the aftermath of the shooting about whether she had advance knowledge of her husband’s plans. Salman told The New York Times in an interview published last fall that she knew her husband had watched jihadist videos but that she was “unaware of everything” regarding his intent to shoot up the club. She also said he had physically abused her.

“Noor Salman had no foreknowledge nor could she predict what Omar Mateen intended to do that tragic night,” her attorney, Linda Moreno, said in a statement.

“Noor has told her story of abuse at his hands. We believe it is misguided and wrong to prosecute her and that it dishonors the memories of the victims to punish an innocent person,” Moreno said.

Mateen was the only shooter, and by the time a three-hour standoff with law enforcement had ended, 49 patrons were killed and another 53 people required hospitalization.

Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a 911 call to emergency officials during the standoff. He also made a series of Facebook posts and searches before and during the attack.

Salman, who grew up northeast of San Francisco, wed Mateen in 2011 after the two met online. They lived in Fort Pierce, Florida, at the time of the shooting. Last month, Salman filed a petition in a California court to change the name of the son she had with Mateen.

“We said from the beginning, we were going to look at every aspect of this, of every aspect of this shooter’s life to determine not just why did he take these actions — but who else knew about them? Was anyone else involved?” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in an MSNBC interview on Monday.

The Times first reported on the arrest.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in a statement that Salman was facing accusations of obstruction of justice and “aiding and abetting by providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.”

“Nothing can erase the pain we all feel about the senseless and brutal murders of 49 of our neighbors, friends, family members and loved ones,” Mina said. “But today, there is some relief in knowing that someone will be held accountable for that horrific crime.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he hoped the arrest “provides some comfort to the families who are mourning their loved ones,” he added.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Daniel Webster gets seat on Science, Space Committee

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster of Clermont has been appointed to a seat on the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee, essentially replacing former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson as Central Florida’s second member of that committee.

Webster, whose Florida’s 11th Congressional District includes parts of Lake County plus most of west-central Florida, joins fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Brevard County on the committee that reviews the NASA budget and initiatives, including programs at Kennedy Space Center. Grayson, a Democrat from Windermere, often pushed minority positions on that board, particularly pressing for NASA to be more involved in direct management of the human space programs.

“Congressman Webster is a great addition to the Science Committee. His degree in engineering and his many years of public service speak to his expertise that will be an asset to our team. I look forward to working with him, and I know he will make the 11th District of Florida proud,” committee Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, stated in a news release issued by Webster’s office.

Webster also joins the Committee on Natural Resources, and will continue to serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Continuing to serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee provides me the opportunity to advance innovative solutions for increasing connectivity of our nation’s infrastructure and transportation systems, balance transportation budgets and eliminate government waste. I’m excited to join these additional committees and look forward to working with my colleagues on policies that will improve opportunities for Floridians, protect our vital natural resources and strengthen America’s position as a world leader in space, science and technology,” Webster stated in the news release.

Darren Soto named Assistant Whip for Congressional Dems

Darren Soto has been named Assistant Whip in the upcoming 115th Congressional session. He joins fellow Florida representative Val Demings in that role.

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said Soto was “already hard at work” representing his state in the legislature.

“He will bring an important perspective to the whip operation as a new Member,” he said. “He is a rising star in Florida, and I look forward to working with him to support job creation and ensure that the diverse voices and viewpoints of the people living in Central Florida get the full attention they deserve in the next Congress.”

Soto said he was up to the task.

“As Democratic Deputy Whip in the Florida State Senate, I learned firsthand how to work with my colleagues to get things done for the people of Florida and defend our Party’s values,” he said. “Now, I am honored by the opportunity to work with Whip Hoyer to use these skills in Washington for the greater good of our country.”

As Assistant Whip, Soto will assist Democratic leadership on the House floor and keep fellow Democrats informed about upcoming votes and legislation.

More committee assignments for Val Demings, Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy

Additional congressional committee assignments are rolling out and Orlando’s new representatives are getting seats to oversee natural resources, small businesses and the oversight and government reform.

U.S. Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat, has been chosen to be on the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, a powerful panel that Congress has used to investigate and various federal agencies and officials, including last year’s email investigation of Hillary Clinton. It’s chaired by Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz.

Citing her own background in law enforcement, the retired Orlando police chief Demings declared in a press release, ““The integrity of our government is of the utmost importance. In a time when Oversight is needed more than ever in our federal government I promise to be a strong voice in the check and balance on our government, and a strong voice for the people of Central Florida.”

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District, has been selected as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Utah Rob Bishop.

The committee represents one of Soto’s strongest interests while he served as a member of both the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate, where he was active in crafting and promoting legislation to protect the state’s water resources.

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat, has been given a seat on the House Small Business Committee, chaired by Ohio Republican Steve Chabot.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy – employing more than 3.1 million people across our state. In fact, more than 40 percent of workers in Florida are employed by a small business,” said Murphy. “As someone who has worked in the private sector advising and counseling entrepreneurs and small businesses, I am eager to get to work on the Small Business Committee to reduce the regulatory burdens on small businesses, increase their access to capital, and help strengthen our region’s economy by creating more well-paying jobs. I’ll also work hard to encourage and support more women- and minority-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs as I have done in the nonprofit sector for many years.”

Last week the trio and other freshmen members of Congress received their first committee assignments. Demings was placed on the House Homeland Security Committee; Soto, the House Agriculture Committee; and Murphy, the House Armed Services Committee.

Mike Miller files bill to rename Orange County Hwy. ‘Arnold Palmer Expressway’

Central Florida Republican Rep. Mike Miller is calling for part of an Orange County highway to be renamed in honor of the late golfer Arnold Palmer.

Miller, who represents Winter Park, filed HB 225 this week, which would call a portion of State Road 408 between Kirkman Road and Clarke Road “Arnold Palmer Expressway.”

A similar proposal, approved by the Central Florida Expressway Authority in October 2016, says it “would be an appropriate section to be renamed to honor Mr. Palmer’s memory.”

Miller’s bill will be considered during the 2017 legislative session that begins March 7. If passed, it will take effect July 1.

Palmer, who died in September at age 87, had a longtime home in Orlando. Transforming the popularity of the game of golf, he was a seven-time major winner, with four Masters titles, one U.S. Open title and another Open title. In 2012, Palmer received the Congressional Gold Medal.

The golf legend was also instrumental in raising money for Orlando’s Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children.

Airbnb inks tax deal with Polk County

Airbnb, the internet-based home-sharing lodging service, announced Thursday it reached a deal with Polk County to collect tourism taxes from host clients.

The company said it is seeing rapid growth in Polk County over the past year, ending 2016 with 160 hosts — people who make their houses or apartments available through Airbnb for visitors on a night-by-night basis -and about 3,000 guest arrivals. That’s more than double the 2015 activity. Based on that, Airbnb projected it could collect more than $200,000 in new annual tax revenue for Polk County in 2017.

Airbnb said it generated $4.8 million in rent for the property owners in 2016.

“Tens of thousands of travelers are authentically experiencing Polk County’s neighborhoods and attractions through Airbnb,” Airbnb Florida Policy Director Tom Martinelli stated in a news release issued by the company. “While Polk County’s hosts and merchants are already benefiting from this economic impact, our collaboration with Tax Collector Tedder will unlock a new revenue stream for the County continue marketing itself as a preferred family-friendly tourist destination.”

Polk is now the 35th Florida county, out of 67, in which Airbnb is collecting and remitting bed taxes on behalf of its hosts, joining neighboring Hillsborough and Pasco counties as well as other large counties like Pinellas, Orange, Brevard and Lee. In the past month, Airbnb signed tax collection agreement with Hillsborough, Okaloosa and Hardee counties,

“We began negotiations with Airbnb early in 2016 and stayed focused on making sure the agreement was not confidential and available for public inspection, that it was understood our office would continue to pursue back taxes due from prior rental activities, and that there were adequate mechanisms in place for our office to conduct audits and pursue enforcement actions,” Tedder stated in the release.

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