Orlando Archives - Page 7 of 81 - Florida Politics

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.

Stephanie Murphy sets listening tour in her new district

Newly-sworn in U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy is coming back to Central Florida to ask constituents for their guidance.

The Democrat from Winter Park, who entered Congress last week after defeating the district’s 12-term incumbent U.S. Rep. John Mica in November, announced Wednesday she is setting up three town hall-style listening meetings next week, in Orlando, Sanford and Altamonte Springs.

“U.S. representative is more than just a title; it’s a job description,” she stated in a news release. “If you’re truly going to represent people, you’ve got to listen to them. I’m hosting these listening sessions so that my constituents may come share their ideas, thoughts and concerns as the new Congress begins. I’ll take the information from these sessions and use it to set my priorities and guide my work fighting for central Florida in our nation’s capital. I encourage anyone who lives in Florida’s Seventh District to join us and make their voices heard.”

Murphy represents Florida’s Seventh Congressional District, which includes all of Seminole County and much of northern Orange County, including downtown Orlando, Maitland, Winter Park, and the University of Central Florida.

The sessions will be held next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Boone High School in Orlando; Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Westside Community Center in Sanford; and Jan. 19 at the Eastmonte Civic Center in Altamonte Springs. All are open to the public, but anyone wishing to speak will be asked to fill out comment cards. Constituents who cannot attend are advised to send their thoughts to her office at StephanieMurphy.house.gov or by calling 1-888-205-5421.

Darren Soto announces home-grown senior staff

Freshman U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando announced his senior staff, heavy on local connections and including a key former staffer of his predecessor Alan Grayson.

Christine Biron, who was Soto’s campaign manager and before that his legislative assistant in both the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, was announced Wednesday as his chief of staff in Washington. Biron and Soto have worked together since Soto’s first campaign.

Alex Barrio, who served as Florida’s house district secretary and as a legislative analyst for the Florida Senate Democratic Caucus before making an unsuccessful run for a house seat himself last summer, will serve as Soto’s district director.

Mike Nichola, who served as legislative director for former former U.S. Rep. Grayson, will be Soto’s legislative director.

Iza Montalvo, a former journalist who served as communications director for Soto’s congressional campaign and also served as Grayson’s press secretary, was announced as Soto’s press secretary.

All of them are longtime Floridians with deep ties to Central Florida.

Soto, a Democrat, represents Florida’s 9th Congressional District, which covers south Orange County, Osceola County and east Polk County.

Freshmen Congress members from Orlando get top choices for committee seats

Central Florida’s three freshmen in Congress all got top-choice A-list committee assignments Tuesday, with Val Demings of Orlando serving on the Homeland Security Committee, Darren Soto of Orlando on the Agriculture Committee, and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park on the Armed Services Committee.

Congressional leaders announced their choices for freshmen and others to fill spots on the top committees Tuesday. More committee assignments are likely late this week and early next week. While “top choice” often is something like appropriations, which is rarely if ever available to freshmen, incoming members of Congress also have their top realistic choices.

For Demings, a former Orlando police chief who was part of much of the post 9-11 Homeland Security planning and implementation for Orlando, that was the Committee on Homeland Security, according to her office.

The same is true for Murphy, who spent several years as a strategy analyst in the U.S. Department of Defense.

And Soto’s top pick was agriculture according to his office, given that his district includes the huge cattle ranches of Osceola County and many of the huge citrus groves of Polk County.

Murphy’s appointment also gives her a close look at federal spending available for the military’s modeling and simulation centers in Orlando, as well as for the state’s large military presence.

“Florida is home to numerous military installations and hundreds of thousands of military personnel, veterans, and their families. I’ll use my previous experience at the Department of Defense and my position on the Armed Services Committee to support our men and women in uniform and strengthen our national security,” she stated in a news release. “From cybersecurity to terrorism, we must ensure our service members have the resources and training they need to adapt to rapidly-evolving threats, and I will work with both Democrats and Republicans to help keep our country safe.”

Val Demings, Florida members, lead moment in Congress to remember Orlando’s fallen officers

With a bipartisan gathering of other Florida congressional members, Orlando’s former police chief Val Demings, now a congresswoman from Orlando, led the House of Representatives in a moment to remember and honor Orlando’s fallen officers Monday night.

“I rise today to honor the lives of Master Sgt. Debra Clayton of the Orlando Police Department and Deputy Norm Lewis of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office,” Demings declared in the house chamber. As the former Orlando police chief I had the honor of knowing both Sgt. Clayton and Deputy Lewis. Sgt. Clayton was violently murdered while responding to a call this morning. Deputy Lewis was killed responding to the scene during a search for the suspect.

“As we recognize law enforcement appreciation day, we mourn the deaths of these two public servants. Sgt. Clayton was a fine officer, wife, mother, 42 years young, and had just celebrated her first anniversary with her husband. Deputy Lewis was deeply admired by all of his colleagues. He loved helping people and it showed in his work. He was just 35,” Demings continued. “Mr. Speaker, I respectfully ask that all members join me in honoring and remembering these heroes during this difficult time.”

A moment of silence followed. In the well of the house, Demings was surrounded by her fellow Orlando Democratic U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy; as well as U.S. Reps. John Rutherford, Ted Yoho, Matt Gaetz and Brian Mast, all Republicans; and U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Lois Frankel, Ted Deutch and Al Lawson, all Democrats.


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