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Vern Buchanan wants Donald Trump to keep U.S. in Paris climate accord

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan

Sarasota Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan wants President Donald Trump to keep the United States in the Paris Agreement, the landmark climate change document officially ratified last year by the U.S. and 194 other signatories.

Although Trump said this past weekend that he was still considering whether to remain in the pact, Axios reported this weekend that it’s already a done deal. The website said that according to three sources with direct knowledge, Trump privately told multiple people, including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, that he plans to leave the Paris agreement.

Should Trump exit the pact, the U.S. would be the first country to exit, which would also be the second time that America has signed onto a global climate deal under a Democratic president only to walk away from the same agreement under a Republican predecessor. President George W. Bush had ultimately reneged on the Kyoto Protocol agreed to by President Bill Clinton in 1997.

“I strongly encourage the president to remain in the Paris climate accord,” Buchanan said in a statement. “Climate change is a serious issue, especially for a state like Florida that has two coastlines vulnerable to rising waters. Only Syria and Nicaragua are not part of the 197-country agreement, which lays out voluntary goals for reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.”

Scientists say that U.S. withdrawal from the pact would worsen an already bad problem, and make it far more difficult to prevent crossing a dangerous global temperature threshold.

Calculations suggest it could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tonnes of additional carbon dioxide in the air a year, according to more than two dozen scientists who consulted with The Associated Press. When it adds up year after year, scientists said that is enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.

Last week 22 GOP Senators wrote to Trump calling for him to withdraw the U.S. from the international agreement. While that may sound like a lot, it’s less than half the GOP Senate caucus. No Democrats have requested withdrawal from the agreement.

“Our withdrawal would send the wrong message to the world,” Buchanan says. “Protecting the environment and growing the economy are not mutually exclusive. We should be doing everything we can to accomplish both.”

Buchanan is now in his 11th year in Congress. Last week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added his district to a list of 79 specific Republican seats in Congress they are targeting in 2018.

Navy Veteran Andrew Learned the latest Democrat to file to challenge Dennis Ross in CD 15

Hopeful of a wave election next year, Democrats are targeting several GOP-controlled congressional districts in Florida for 2018, but the 15th Congressional district seat held by Lakeland’s Dennis Ross so far is not one of them. Not yet, anyhow.

However, don’t tell that to Democrats in the district, which encompasses parts of Polk, Hillsborough and Lake Counties. They think that Ross’ vote in support of the American Health Care Act and his championing of Donald Trump’s causes make him extremely vulnerable in the next election cycle.

“A lot of people (just) think he’s a Republican, that he voted for the AHCA – no, he was the Republican Majority Whip who literally got the votes for that, ” 30-year-old former Navy veteran and Valrico-based businessman Andrew Learned said last week in Tampa’s Oxford Exchange, a day after he officially filed to run for Congress. “He’s the architect of that. That is his baby.”

Learned also notes how Ross served on Trump’s transition’s team, “the transition team that knew about (Michael) Flynn and didn’t do anything,” he says referring to the president’s first pick for National Security Advisor who resigned and is now the subject of investigations for his business dealings with foreign entities. And the Democrats charges that “Ross is “one of those guys behind the curtain on all of this stuff and perfectly content not to help his district.”

Whether Ross’ role on the transition team included being asked to evaluate high level Cabinet choices isn’t clear, nevertheless it’s indicative that Learned is prepared to go hard at the incumbent as he begins his journey to first win the Democratic nomination for Congress in CD 15, where four other Democrats have already filed to run. All believe they have a chance to knock off Ross, the Polk County based incumbent who has represented Congressional District 15 voters since 2010.

This isn’t Learned’s first rodeo when it comes to running for office. He was elected student body president at the University of Tampa back in 2008, when he ran on a platform that consisted in part on changing student’s meal plans to allow for healthier food options.

That’s when Learned still called himself a Republican (albeit one that advocated for LGBT rights and voted for Barack Obama). He said that that he changed parties back in 2011 while serving in the Navy after he deducted that the party of small government and fiscal responsibility wasn’t acting that way, specifically noting the tactics that led sequestration.

After graduating from UT, Learned enlisted with the U.S. Navy, and served from 2009 to 2013 as a surface warfare officer, “a fancy title that says I drove ships,” he notes self-deprecatatingly. That stint included occasions when he led boarding teams to contend with Somali pirates.

After his initial service time in the Navy (he currently is in the Navy Reserves), he came back to Eastern Hillsborough County in 2013 and ultimately became president of GradePower Learning, a tutoring center for kids.

Learned says if elected he wants to pass policies to help the American people, but worries that Washington has become infected with partisanship, which he labels “insane.”

“It’s been insane my entire adult life,” he says, adding that there are more veterans like himself running for office, who have shown they know how to work together.

‘I’m perfectly willing to work with people across the aisle on things that makes sense,” he says, mentioning infrastructure. “I have not heard one person say we should not have infrastructure (improvements), and yet we can’t get it done, because we’re tying it too partisanship. In fact, more than 100 veterans ran for the U.S. Senate and House last November (10 were elected).

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last week listed the congressional districts of Ron DeSantis and Vern Buchanan in a new group of 20 additional congressional districts that they are targeting for recruitment and potential investment.

That’s a total of  79 GOP-held districts that they’re targeting, but CD 15 is still not one of them.

That’s not stopping the onslaught of Democrats who believe that more than ever, Ross is vulnerable. Those Democrats include Cameron Magnuson, Greg Pilkington,  Ray Pena and Greg Williams.

Having just returned from a deployment, Learned says he’s trying to engage with as many voters of all stripes to learn what concerns them the most regarding national policies. But he’s cutting when he accuses Ross of being MIA for his constutients.

“Polk County is 2nd in the nation for hunger,” he notes. “That’s insane. It’s his district. Have you ever heard Dennis Ross talk about hunger, because I haven’t. Opioids? These things are wrecking havoc in his backyard, and he’s more concerned about offering tax cuts to Wall Street banks.”

Ross did vote last fall for the 21st Century Cures Act, which included $1 billion over 2 years for grants to states to supplement opioid abuse prevention and treatment activities.

Pinellas GOP heavyweights raising money for Rick Baker on Wednesday in Clearwater Beach

Former Mayor Rick Baker continues building momentum in his quest to return for a third term as St. Petersburg Mayor.

Coming off a successful campaign kickoff event last week, Baker, who served two terms from 2001-2010, is following with another high-profile reception Wednesday in Clearwater Beach.

Co-chairs of the event – with the tagline “Proven Leadership” – include renowned attorney Brian Aungst Jr., former Pinellas GOP Chair Jay Beyrouti and restaurateur (and one-time “Mr. Clearwater”) Frank Chivas.

According to the invite, the blockbuster bipartisan host committee includes more than four dozen prominent Pinellas County state and municipal leaders such as State Sens. Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala, state Reps. Kathleen Peters, Wengay Newton, Chris Latvala and Chris Sprowls, former state Rep. (and Senate candidate) Ed Hooper, Pinellas County Clerk Ken Burke, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty, Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters, North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen, Treasure Island Mayor Robert Minning, Oldsmar Vice Mayor Dan Saracki and more.

In last week’s kickoff at the Morean Arts Center, Baker pushed his vision of “A Seamless City,” and the slogan “I’m ready to serve.” Wednesday’s event – attended by much of the Pinellas County political elite – will sure to continue that theme. Baker is facing incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.

The reception begins 5:30 p.m. at the Island Way Grill, 20 Island Way in Clearwater. Those interested in attending can RSVP with Rick Porter at (407) 849-1112 or rick@politicalcapitalflorida.com.

Vern Buchanan honors Memorial Day by laying wreath at Tomb of Unknown Soldier

In honor of Memorial Day, Vern Buchanan laid a wreath Friday at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

Joining the Sarasota Republican, who represents Florida’s 16th Congressional District, was his wife Sandy.

“America must never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country,’’ Buchanan said. “Our nation owes a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid to the brave men and women of our armed forces.”

Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, on a hill overlooking Washington D.C., was created in 1921 as a monument to American service members whose remains were never identified.

Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” guard the tomb 24 hours a day.

“The United States stands strong today because of those who answered our nation’s call generation after generation,” Buchanan said. “We must never forget those who gave all. This Memorial Day, we honor all American veterans killed in action, from the sands of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan.”

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Tampa Bay region marked for $33M in Florida TaxWatch ‘turkeys’

Florida TaxWatch, the nonpartisan government watchdog organization, served up its annual list of “Budget Turkeys,” naming almost $178 million in line-item projects part of the $82.4 billion budget passed May 8 by the Florida House and Senate.

For the Tampa Bay region, Florida TaxWatch targeted more than $33 million in local projects as individual line items added to the spending plans—usually last minute or in committee — without a thoughtful and thorough budget process.

The largest project in the region was Pasco County’s Interstate 75 and Overpass Road Interchange, priced at $15 million.

Hillsborough County had the lowest number of turkeys with three projects totaling $1,825,000; Pasco is the highest at $16,960,000 spread out over five projects.

For the 2017-18 fiscal year, which begins July 1, TaxWatch listed 111 budgetary turkeys, suggesting around $177.8 million in savings. In total, the final budget contains more than 700 member projects, worth more than $600 million.

A “Turkey” label does not pass judgment on the project’s overall worthiness, does comment on the process. The purpose of the label is to make sure all projects using public funds are properly vetted.

“The result was that only a handful of projects made into the budget during conference. While falling short of the goal of no conference additions, this is still a very positive improvement, as projects being added in conference have become an epidemic,” the report says.

Even so, “with a few exceptions, committee hearings on member projects were pro forma, with very little discussion or debate,” the report continues.

Among the TaxWatch 111 ‘turkeys’ worth $117.8 million: An engineering building for Florida International University worth $10 million. A $500,000 rodeo facility in Arcadia. Local transportation projects valued at $81.5 million.

Individual Tampa Bay-area projects on the list include:

Pasco ($16,960,000)

– Pasco County Fair Association: $860,000

– Interstate 75 & Overpass Road Interchange: $15,000,000

– Parkland Roadway Stabilization: $250,000

– PD&E Study of Clinton Avenue Intersection Realignment at U.S. 98 and U.S. 301: $500,000

– U.S. 301/ReImagine Gall Boulevard, Zephyrhills: $350,000

Pinellas ($4,300,000)

– Great Explorations Children’s Museum: $400,000

– Education and Access to Performing Arts Program: $500,000

– Pinellas Suncoast Transit Auth – Memorial Causeway Busway Project: $1,000,000

– State Road 687 (3rd & 4th Streets) and 8th/MLK Streets downtown St. Petersburg-Preliminary Engineering Study to Convert One Way to Two-Way Street: $200,000

– Forward Pinellas Waterborne Transportation: $1,000,000

– Treasure Island Causeway Multimodal Improvements: $1,200,000

Hillsborough ($1,825,000)

– Big Brothers Big Sisters – Bigs Inspiring Student Success: $500,000

– Self Reliance Inc. – West FL Health & Safety for Seniors Pilot Project: $575,000

– Plant City Collins Street Improvements: $750,000

Polk ($10,000,000)

– Polk SC – Renovate Campus Chiller Plant System Phase I: $2,500,000

– Bartow Northern Connector, Phase II: $7,500,000

The group is calling for Scott to veto the items when he signs the budget, expected within the next week.

Among its recommendations, the report suggests making the new project vetting process permanent. It also suggests extra scrutiny for categories given to abuse, including economic development, housing and community development, workforce, and water projects.

 

For many, Tampa’s 2021 Super Bowl is unexpected ‘big win.’ Others remain skeptical.

Members of Tampa’s political, business, media and activist communities weighed in Wednesday on the surprising news that Tampa will host the Super Bowl in February 2021.

The announcement was unexpected, particularly after the NFL snubbed a local bid last year to host the big game in either 2019, 2020 and 2021.

But major rainstorms in Southern California throughout the past year delayed construction of a new stadium for the L.A. Rams and Chargers, forcing the NFL to choose a new town for the 2o21 spectacle.

“The construction delays in L.A. are not uncommon for projects of their size, so it’s kind of lucky for us,” said Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano. “But I think this is more than luck. We’ve done this before.”

Lopano was still working in Dallas when Tampa last hosted the Super Bowl in 2009.

In addition to being shut out last year, Tampa also lost out to Minneapolis, New Orleans and Indianapolis as one of three finalists in fall 2013 to bid for the following year’s Super Bowl.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said that unlike sports commissions, the Tampa Bay Sports Commission has always seen the value in bidding for major events even when it appears that other cities are going to win.

Hagan believes that philosophy allowed the city to be better positioned when the next opportunity to bid a major event occurs and that’s what led Tampa to get the chance to host the third national college football playoff championship this past January.

“We knew for sure that college football that Dallas was getting the first one,” he said, “but yet we put our best package forward, and although we didn’t get that one, we ended up getting the third, mainly because of the strong bid that we made on the initial game.”

“Most cities don’t do that,” Hagan added. “They don’t go through the effort.”

Tampa hosted four previous Super Bowls, but this is the first in 12 years. Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik said the controversial Community Investment Tax that passed in 1996 for the $169 million to finance Raymond James Stadium had proved the test of time.

“Taxpayers are getting a good return on the investment that they decided to make 20 years ago,” he said.

They are still paying for it, however.

Last month, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced details of the third phase of over $150-million renovation project to Raymond James Stadium. Enhancements include an 18,700 square-foot home locker room — three times the size of the current one — more than 60,000 square feet of total lounge space in the West Stadium Club, 178 new 4K video monitors in the West Stadium Club and a 10,000 square-foot retail team shop to sell exclusive merchandise.

While the city will look dramatically different from when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals in 2009, in 2021, it should look different from how it does now.

“You’re going to have, obviously, a lot more residential in the heart of the city,” Turanchik said. “It’ll be exciting to see what comes out of Channelside. St Petersburg is booming. We’ll have a water ferry system that connects some of these points together. It’ll be a very different place.”

Tampa attorney and 2016 County Commission candidate Brian Willis agrees that taxpayer investment, along with local leadership, is the reason Tampa is getting the game.

“With another big event, transit and bike and pedestrian safety will be keys for visitors and locals,” he says. “That’s why we should work right now to make sure all of our neighborhoods get a permanent boost by preparing for 2020 with leadership and real taxpayer investment focused on our neighborhoods.  This is another win for Tampa Bay. It will have a lasting impact if we use it as a catalyst to work together on the bigger picture.”

For East Tampa community activist Dianne Hart, the first thing going through her mind after reading Wednesday of the Super Bowl return to Tampa is how the African-American population will get an opportunity to take advantage of the economic impact coming to the region.

“I’m out in the community, and the community was not that happy the last time that we had a Super Bowl in our city,” she says of what happened in 2009. “A lot of people did not know how to get involved early enough. There’s opportunities for everybody to make money, so I just want to try to follow it a little closer this time to ensure that we have people in the right places.”

City Councilman Frank Reddick agrees with Hart, saying that while the jobs will only be short-term, he hopes that “this is an invitation for minorities to participate in the process and be rewarded with some jobs and opportunities that will bring in millions of dollars into this economy.”

La Gaceta editor and publisher Patrick Manteiga pointed out that there were definitely winners and losers economically who emerged from the 2012 Republican National Convention.

“There was a party atmosphere with the attendees of the RNC, but some parts of the city didn’t share in that partying,” he said.

Security concerns will undoubtedly be a primary concern, as they are at all major events held in the U.S.

Referring to this week’s terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena in England, Manteiga said: “You hope that things don’t devolve over the next few years to where hosting these things start to look like the RNC, where you’ve got empty blocks that surround the stadium because of security concerns.”

Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez remembers the security that permeated Tampa during the second Super Bowl held here in January of 1991, shortly after the Gulf War had begun, America’s first serious military intervention since the Vietnam War. “Sometimes I think these big events are the safest places you can be at, ” he said.

Tampa International Airport will look different in 2021. The current interior construction that has been going on over the past year will be done, with new restaurants and shops up and running. And the new rental car facility will be up and running (the entire master plan for the airport won’t be completed until 2026).

Food Not Bombs activist Dezeray Lyn was detained by Tampa Police for attempting to feed the homeless the weekend before last January’s NCAA college football championship.

Lyn called the event another “priority crisis for the city.”

“One being that in advance of these high-profile events, the city launches into erasure mode and enacts processes of city beautification which mean the issues of houselessness and hunger are invisibilized by displacement,” she said. “The second being that the city then profits multimillions and fund appropriation doesn’t divert in any meaningful way typically to programs that change or better the circumstances of those most struggling in our community. In short, the red carpet will roll out for tourists, while the impoverished community will either remain the same or be worse off for it.”

Former County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said: “The direct economic value is probably a wash — but the branding & opportunity to promote our economic hubs — from Vinikville to Innovation Place & Westshore is invaluable. “

USF journalism professor Wayne Garcia called the Super Bowl an event for the “one percent,” but conceded that it’s fun and will bring the community together. But Garcia doesn’t want to hear about what an economic boom it will bring to the Tampa Bay area.

“True economic development comes from real investment: in targeted and supported public education, in infrastructure and in focusing on new industries to develop. A Super Bowl doesn’t help any of those things. This state and its lawmakers have consistently turned solely to tourism and real estate as the engines of our Florida economy,” he said.

Unconventional Green Party candidate Shawn Mathis Gilliam files for HD 58 race

As a member of an alternative third party, Shawn Gilliam’s worldview and ideology are not easily explained; it could make it hard to break through with voters in House District 58.

The 32-year-old Plant City resident recently filed to run for the seat currently held by Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson.

A recent convert to the Green Party, he does not agree with their stance in support of medical marijuana, saying its effects are too negative for the body.

While raised as a Christian, Gilliam converted to Islam “about three Ramadans ago.”

He says in some respects he’s quite conservative. He’s pro-life and anti-same-sex marriage.

“I would like to present a bill making the Islamic Nikah (marriage contract) a legally binding contract for marriage and any other religious marriage contract that is legally binding between the husband and wife if it pertains to religious affiliation,” he said in a follow-up email.

He is a passionate environmentalist and supports the need for more green energy.

He’s also anti-fluoride in the water, and in an email statement, said that he favors polygamy. ‘Islam recognizes Poligomy [sic], and I would like to get that legal in our state as well,” he writes.

Raulerson defeated Democrat Jose Vasquez by 16 points, 58 to 42 percent, in November.

HD 58 covers most Hillsborough County’s eastern suburbs.

 

Joe Henderson: When NFL suddenly needed a Super host, it knew who to call

It wasn’t luck that Tampa was selected Tuesday to host its fifth Super Bowl.

When the National Football League learned the new stadium being built in Los Angeles won’t be ready in time for the game in 2021, it had to find a city not only ready to step in on short notice, but one with a proven record of excellence.

Tampa checks all the boxes, and that’s because the team Rob Higgins has assembled at the Tampa Bay Sports Commission is as fine as any in the country and better than most.

Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer deserves applause. Tampa’s battle-tested political leaders, especially County Commissioner Ken Hagan and Mayor Bob Buckhorn, should take a bow. Higgins is the guy who really makes it happen though.

Smart, well-connected and experienced, Higgins understands better than anyone what has to be done in the trenches to successfully pull off a Super Bowl. NFL owners and leaders know that, which is why I have to believe the decision about what to do took about 10 seconds.

“Hey guys, that new stadium in Los Angeles won’t be ready for the 2021 Super Bowl. What should we do?”

“Um, let’s move it Tampa.”

“All in favor?”

“Aye!”

“Opposed? Anyone? No, great. Let’s go eat.”

I would imagine Higgins’ No. 1 obstacle in the coming months will be keeping his cellphone charged. The man is going to be busy. He will have to get renewed pledges from business, civic and political leaders that were part of Tampa’s bid package for the 2019 and 2020 games, but I can’t imagine that will be much of a problem. I am certain he will have cooperation from all the major players in the area: the convention and visitors bureau, Tampa International Airport, local and state security agencies, and so on.

The Super Bowl occupies an outsized place in Americana. By the time 2021 rolls around, it will be 37 years since Tampa hosted its first Super Bowl.

That game represented important psychological validation to people here that Tampa Bay had a place among the important locations in the country. Interestingly, Tampa’s main competitor to host that game was Los Angeles. The winning team that year? The Los Angeles Raiders, who beat the Washington Redskins 38-9.

Tampa essentially turned itself over that week to the NFL, and in return team owners basked in the love. That set a standard for future bids by other cities, which meant Tampa had to keep getting better and more creative to stay among the regular sites that get to host this game.

It must have worked because with this game Tampa will rank fourth on the list of cities that have hosted the largest number of Super Bowls.

We live in a pretty cool place, huh?

“Aye!”

Opposed? Anyone?

Didn’t think so.

Bob Buckhorn apologies for military conference joke

Over the course of six years as mayor, Bob Buckhorn has said things that have offended some people, but he has rarely (if ever) been forced to apologize.

Until now.

Unless you’ve been avoiding local (now national) press over the past couple of days, you know the mayor has been (metaphorically) under fire since the Tampa Bay Times’ Howard Altman reported Friday afternoon on a number of reporters who took offense with a crack Buckhorn made at a military conference last week at the Tampa Convention Center.

As Altman originally reported, Buckhorn told the crowd about his experience as a hostage during a demonstration of special operation rescue tactics:

The highlight, he said, was when he was aboard a Navy special warfare boat, firing blanks from 50-caliber machine guns. “And so, the first place I point that gun is at the media,” he told the crowd.

“I’ve never seen grown men cry like little girls, for when that gun goes off those media folks just hit the deck like no one’s business. It’s great payback. I love it.”

Altman reported that the audience — approximately 1,000 people — mostly laughed at the remark. But some in attendance, specifically military reporters who have had live guns pointed at them for real, found nothing humorous about the comment.

Initially, Buckhorn blew off the furor.

It was “a silly reaction,” he told the Times.

But after the story got legs in the national media over the weekend, Buckhorn spokesperson Ashley Bauman responded Monday afternoon.

“This was a story that he had told for three consecutive years,” she said in a statement to FloridaPolitics.com, “and at no time was it ever construed to be serious or an accurate portrayal of what occurred.”

“It was merely a humorous tongue-in-cheek description. Clearly, that does not translate on Twitter and in light of the current rhetoric at the national level aimed at the media, inadvertently served to reinforce some of those sentiments. That was not his intention, in fact, as the son of a former wire service reporter he has nothing but the highest regard for the work of journalists and their profession and he apologizes to those he offended.”

The mayor also offended the sensibilities of some local residents when he typed, “whatever” on Twitter over the weekend in reaction to a tweet by Tampa Heights activist Rick Fernandez on his concerns with the Tampa Bay Express project.

AARP president predicts new GOP health care plan will score ‘somewhat’ worse than original

Among the loudest critics of U.S. House Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this year has been the AARP.

“That plan would repeal the expansion of Medicaid that was voluntarily adopted by 31 states, some Republican and some Democratic, so that they could cover millions of poor people with good health insurance, including children, for Pete’s sake,” said AARP’s national President  Eric Schneidewind in an interview last week at the organization’s St. Petersburg offices.

“So about 10 million of those people would ultimately lose their insurance under this AHCA (American Health Care Act).”

As an advocacy group for the rights of people 50 and older, the AARP specifically takes issue with a provision in the recently passed House bill that raises rates people above 50 would have to pay, to a level of five times what a younger person would pay for insurance.

They also oppose a part of the plan that would deleteriously affect Medicare’s solvency.

When the ACA was passed in 2010, the Medicare Part A trust fund was forecast to be unable to meet anticipated costs by 2017. But because of higher Medicare taxes and premiums on higher earners in the ACA, its solvency has been extended until 2028.

However, the AHCA would propose eliminating the Medicare payroll tax for high earners while raising Medicare spending, the Part A trust fund would be insolvent four years earlier, Scheidewind says.

After reviewing the first House Republican health care bill (ultimately pulled off the floor), the Congressional Budget Office reported that 21 million would lose insurance by 2020; 24 million by 2024. On Wednesday, the CBO expects to announce its score for the latest version of the AHCA.

“We think the score will be somewhat worse than the original version,” said Schneidewind, who is halfway through his term as AARP president (a volunteer position).

An AARP analysis found that about 454,000 Floridians age 50-64 enrolled and receiving tax credits in the ACA marketplace would see higher health coverage premiums than they were paying under the current law, more than in any other state.

While some observers note the intensity of the organization’s opposition to the AHCA, he says it’s not exactly new territory for the group, citing similar efforts to oppose President George W. Bush‘s attempt to privatize Social Security in 2005, as well as the 2009 attempt to change the COLA formula for Social Security.

“AARP was founded to make sure that older Americans had affordable good quality health care coverage,” Schneidewind said. “That was our reason for coming into being. We have always fought hard.”

For years, the organization has consistently argued that Medicare be allowed to negotiate drug prices for million of Americans.

While progressives continue to push for a “Medicare-for-all” single-payer system to supplant the current private insurance system in America, Scheidewind said that the AARP reviewed “a number of different solutions” but hasn’t singled out a single solution.

It’s obvious that the American health care system is characterized by “radically higher administrative costs” than other places in the world, Schneidewind said.

Livable communities” is another subject that the AARP has put a large number of resources into in recent years. It centers around the fact that many Americans, retirement needs to be made more affordable.

“It’s less expensive for somebody to age in their own dwelling and than to get the services than it is to go into an institution,  to a nursing home or something where the cost is typically three times what it would take to stay in your home,” Scheidewind said.

The issue is a critical one. Statistics show that, more than ever, elder Americans have less financial savings than previous generations heading into their golden years.

‘We need to find ways for them to stay in their communities and get the services they need and have the quality of life that they deserve,” Schneidewind said.

AARP lobbyists were busy in Tallahassee during the recently concluded regular Legislative Session. Although some health care related bills they supported did not pass during Session, they were exuberant over the failure of a bill allowing Florida Power & Light to charge customers for natural gas fracking activities in states outside Florida, like Oklahoma.

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