Bill Nelson – Florida Politics

Rick Scott: Decision on U.S. Senate race to wait behind stack of bills

If Republican Gov. Rick Scott hears the clock ticking on his decision of whether to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, it will have to wait until after he gets through the stack of bills the Florida Legislature put on his desk.

At least that’s what he suggested Wednesday when asked, during a stop in Orlando, about his timetable.

“I just finished Session. I just finished the budget. I have a variety of bills to go through. I’ll make a decision after that. You know, most politicians can think about their next job. I’ve got to finish the job I’ve got here,” Scott said.

Nelson and various national Democratic and Republican committees have been preparing for a Nelson-Scott showdown. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have been waging that battle for months. But as polls and special elections suggest a potential anti-President Donald Trump blue wave building on the horizon, Scott is making no overt commitments.

Meanwhile, as March wanes, anticipating a Scott run, no other credible Republican candidates have gone near the U.S. Senate race.

Bill Nelson targeted by pro tax reform ad campaign

Americans for Prosperity this week announced a national campaign extolling the benefits of the tax reform package passed by the Republican-led Congress last year, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who voted against the plan, is one of the targets.

The Nelson ad features a black and white photo of the Senator and reads “Senator Bill Nelson voted against putting more money in your pocket.”

AFP said its “American Pay Raise” campaign is designed to thank lawmakers who voted for the tax plan and hold accountable those who were against it, though the group so far has only released sample ads it’s running against lawmakers.

“After eight years of a lackluster economy, we are witnessing a new era of growth in which Americans from every walk of life are finding more money in their pockets to save or spend on things they care about most, all thanks to tax reform,” said AFP President Tim Phillips. “Higher take-home pay, more business investments at home and better worker benefits are all part of the great American Pay Raise.”

The group said it has plunked down six figures for digital ad buys, and they will run from March 19 through April 17.

In addition to the print ad, AFP put up a webform to contact Nelson to tell him “it’s not too late to do the right thing.”

The form letter asks the Florida Democrat to oppose special-interest tax breaks, oppose a 25-cents-per-gallon gas tax, eliminate “unnecessary regulations that slow economic growth” and make permanent all of the temporary cuts in the 2017 tax cut package.

“Please protect tax reform’s benefits for hardworking Americans and support policies that increase economic opportunity,” the letter reads in closing.

Nelson is up for re-election in 2018. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is termed out of his current office, is widely expected to challenge Nelson but has not yet entered the race.

“Typical politicians think about their next job. I’m focused on this job,” Scott told reporters Sunday after the Legislature’s ‘sine die’ ceremony. “I’m glad we had a very successful Session. I’ll think about my future in the next few weeks.”

A copy of the Nelson ad is below.

Nelson AFP ad

Is Florida drilling off the table?

Enterprise Florida, the state’s business-recruitment agency, expects waters off the Florida coast won’t be included in the Trump administration’s offshore drilling plans, despite U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s warning that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told members of Congress this week that “Florida is still in the process.”

“The secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, in front of the Senate Energy Committee today (Tuesday), has just said very confusingly — but bottom line — Florida is still on the table for drilling off of the coast of Florida,” Nelson said in a prepared statement. “This is exactly the opposite of what the people of Florida want.”

Zinke flew to Tallahassee on Jan. 9, meeting briefly with Scott and reporters, and announced that currently protected parts of the Atlantic Ocean and eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida would not be included in a federal five-year offshore oil and gas drilling program.

Nelson, who is expected to face a challenge this fall from Scott for his Senate seat, called Zinke’s announcement in January a “political stunt” to further the governor’s career.

On Wednesday, Amy Gowder, vice president and general manager for Lockheed Martin’s Training and Logistics Solutions and a member of the Enterprise Florida board of directors, said officials expect Zinke to keep his word.

“The department has still not revised their maps yet to reflect that agreement, but we expect a report that is due to Congress by the end of the month,” Gowder told members of an Enterprise Florida committee.

As with Nelson, Enterprise Florida views potential drilling as a threat to military installations and the state’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry.

Rick Scott leads Bill Nelson in new poll of possible U.S. Senate race

A new poll of the 2018 U.S. Senate race shows Gov. Rick Scott with a two-point lead over Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The Clearview Research poll contacted 750 likely voters by phone between March 1 and March 7 and found Scott with a 43-41 advantage with 15 percent undecided.

Where the poll differs with other recent head-to-heads is the turnout model, which estimates Republicans will make up 41 percent of the electorate, while Democrats take a 39 percent share and no-party and third-party voters make up the rest.

“A few recent polls released to the media have shown samples that seem to anticipate more Democrats voting than Republicans,” said Steve Vancore of Clearview Research. “While that could possibly be the case, we see little evidence for it at this time.”

The poll shows Scott with a 50-36 lead among white voters and a 48-41 lead among Cuban Hispanic voters, while Nelson holds a dominating 72-12 lead among black voters and leads 40-32 among non-Cuban Hispanic voters.

Scott also holds the edge among voters aged 35 and older, while Nelson wins the 18-34 age bracket by 7 percentage points. The poll estimates the under-35 age group will make up about 13 percent of the electorate in November.

Scott’s edge falls well within the margin of error for poll, which is set at plus or minus 3.58 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Still, the poll is one of a very few to show Scott with a lead over Nelson, who is running for his fourth term in the Senate.

Other polls have either shown the two in a dead heat, or shown Nelson with a slim lead.

Clearview says the two-point advantage for Republicans is consistent with the past few election cycles.

In 2016, Republicans outpaced Democrats at the polls by 0.6 points, a first in modern history for a presidential race, and in 2014 there was a four-point turnout margin on election day.

The 2014 election, also a midterm, is the most comparable to the 2018 election.

Other recent polls have given Democrats a better share of turnout.

“Historically, Republicans have enjoyed a turnout advantage in midterms, but with the current mood of the country, and a large number of Republican retirements, Democrats are optimistic about an impending blue wave,” said Michael Binder, faculty director of the Public Opinion Research Lab at UNF, in a February poll release.

Despite claims of a “blue wave” in 2018, and some evidence of its existence in special elections since 2016, Clearview also points to new voter registrations in the Sunshine State, which show more Republicans signing up to vote than Democrats.

The polls only matter if Scott files for the seat, which he’s remained coy about.

Scott said after the 2018 Legislative Session wrapped Sunday that it’ll be another few weeks before he announces his “future plans,” though most have had him penciled in for the contest for more than a year.

Count Nelson in that group. The incumbent lawmaker has been sending out campaign fundraising emails for months foretelling Scott’s candidacy, and in the post-Parkland CNN town hall, he dogged Scott’s non-appearance at every opportunity.

Here is the full polling document:

Results of Florida poll from Clearview Research by Peter Schorsch on Scribd

Bill Nelson again pushes Ryan Zinke on off-shore drilling

Saying he never got a response in the almost two months since he last asked, Florida’s U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson again wrote to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Friday requesting clarification on what the administration wants to do off Florida’s coast.

Nelson’s latest missive comes as the Department plans to close its public comment period Friday evening on its draft five-year offshore oil drilling plan. Nelson again requested Florida be dropped from the plan, something that Gov. Rick Scott said Zinke had assured in January would be done, but which apparently has not happened.

“After hearing directly from Florida residents and business owners, I’m writing again to make sure you are fully aware of the widespread and vehement opposition to drilling off of Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts,” Nelson wrote. “I absolutely oppose opening up the Atlantic to drilling, as well as any part of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico currently under moratorium. And I will keep working to extend that statutory moratorium beyond 2022.”

Following Scott’s statement, made after a Tallahassee meeting with Zinke, Nelson wrote to Zinke requesting details on any changes. Friday Nelson’s office said he had not received a response. Meanwhile, on January 19 Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Acting Director Walter Cruickshank told the House Natural Resources Committee that Florida was still on the table for offshore oil drilling.

“I wrote to you nearly two months ago to ask for clarification about those comments and have yet to receive a response. In the meantime, Interior conducted public meetings—including the meeting in Tallahassee last month—using maps that clearly showed Florida was still being analyzed for potential lease sales,” Nelson wrote on Friday.

“There is no justification for including Florida in the five-year plan,” Nelson concluded. “Once again, I strongly urge you to truly take Florida ‘off the table’ by removing the Atlantic Coast, the Straits of Florida, and the entire eastern Gulf of Mexico moratorium area from consideration for future lease sales.”

Pinellas commissioners want a ban on assault weapons

With local governments in Florida prohibited from regulating firearms, the Pinellas County Commission is making it clear where it stands on several specific gun-control issues that have emerged since the massacre at Parkland nearly three weeks ago.

The board discussed a series of proposals at its February 27 meeting, and in a letter sent to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Friday, laid out its support for these measures:

— Raising the age to 21 for the purchase of any firearm;

— Requiring a universal background check, including for transactions that occur at gun shows;

— Banning assault-style weapons, including semi-automatic rifles that have the ability to accept a high-capacity magazine, and are equipped with a pistol grip, including on all AR and AK-like models;

— Prohibiting possession of firearms from individuals who are a threat to themselves or others as deemed necessary by a judge;

— State and federal funding to provide for a minimum of one School Resource Officer at every school, without budget reductions to other critical school programs or resources;

— State and federal funding to invest in school hardening, without budget reductions to other critical school programs or resources;

Florida lawmakers enacted a statute in 1987 that gave the state the exclusive right to regulate guns and ammunition. After some local governments went ahead and passed their own gun ordinances, the Legislature passed a law in 2011 that threatened local government leaders with fines of up to $5,000 and removal from office if they dared to adopt or enforce any local gun ordinances.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller says he will propose a ban on assault weapons in Hillsborough County at this week’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, in defiance of state law.

Skip Campbell, the mayor of Coral Springs, announced last week that he will push for a constitutional amendment that would ban assault weapons.

On Saturday, the Florida state Senate rejected nearly four dozen amendments proposed by Democrats — from banning assault weapons, creating a registry for guns, allowing local governments to pass stronger gun laws and requiring background checks for gun purchases outside of the state, to prohibiting the sale and transfer of large-capacity magazines.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson push bipartisan bill to tighten reporting on gun background checks

When someone fails a background check while attempting to purchase a gun, that should be reported to state law enforcement as a possible precursor to criminal gun activity, under a bill being pushed by Florida’s U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and a bipartisan group of several other key U.S. senators.

Republican Rubio, Democrat Nelson, Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, and Delaware Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Coons announced Monday they will sponsor a bill called the “NICS Denial Notification Act” which will help alert state law enforcement agencies to allow them to enforce existing laws against individuals who attempt to purchase firearms but have no legal right to do so.

The legislation also is backed by Texas Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, South Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Illinois Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and Missouri Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

“The Parkland shooter was able to carry out this horrific attack because of multi-systematic failures,” Rubio said in a news release issued by his office. He tied the bill to the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and to reports that the alleged shooter’s intentions should have been clear to law enforcement officials.

“While we work to ensure that our background check system contains the critical information necessary to be able to conduct an effective background check, we must also ensure that federal and state authorities are successfully communicating with one another when it comes to dangerous individuals and their attempts to acquire firearms,” Rubio continued. “The NICS Denial Notification Act would not only require federal authorities to flag background check denials for state-level authorities, it would also hold these federal officials accountable. This would be a strong step forward in preventing future tragedies. I urge my colleagues to immediately support this bipartisan legislation so that the president can swiftly sign it into law.”

A similar bill, House Resolution 4471, was filed in the U.S. House of Representatives last year by Illinois Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley. It’s gone nowhere — despite a bipartisan group of 13 cosponsors.

When convinced felons, fugitives, domestic abuses and others banned from legally purchasing firearms fail a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System database, they often violate federal and state laws, the release notes.

However, the federal government rarely prosecutes any of these individuals, the release adds. What’s more, 37 states and the District of Columbia all rely on the FBI to do some or all of their background checks, and generally are not made aware when prohibited persons fail the checks.

Individuals who are willing to “lie and try” to buy a gun may be dangerous and willing to obtain guns through other means, the release notes. As a result, these states and D.C. may lack critical law enforcement intelligence that they could use to try to keep their communities safe.

“Efforts to reduce gun violence are only as good as the systems in place to prevent prohibited individuals from obtaining guns,” Nelson said in the release. “This bill is just another commonsense way to further those efforts to keep our communities safe from gun violence. I hope we can continue this conversation and continue to work together on comprehensive gun reform.”

The bill also would require the U.S. Department of Justice to publish an annual report with statistics about its prosecution of background check denial cases, so that Congress and voters might hold federal officials accountable.

The effort already has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police; Major Cities Chiefs Police Association; Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association; National District Attorneys Association; National Domestic Violence Hotline; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Everytown for Gun Safety; and the Giffords Foundation, according to the release.

Bill Nelson bemoans snub to White House gun meeting as ‘counter productive’

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was conspicuously absent from a meeting President Donald Trump convened Wednesday in the West Wing with key lawmakers and stakeholders in the gun violence debate following the Parkland massacre, and on Friday he dismissed the meeting as show, and predicted Trump will pivot from assurances he made there.

Speaking on the MSNBC show Morning Joe Friday, Nelson said his snub by White House officials who did not invite him to the meeting was “counter productive that they would want to exclude me” from efforts to seek any bipartisan reforms in the wake of the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting that left 17 dead.

Nelson is likely to face Florida Gov. Rick Scott in this year’s U.S. Senate election. Scott has been a strong supporter of Trump.

The meeting did have both Florida and Democratic representation. Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was there. So was Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Orlando, who solicited the president’s support for her House Resolution 1478, a measure with some bipartisan backing, which would lift the ban on federal research into gun violence.

Friday morning, Nelson dismissed anything that Trump did offer, embracing some gun control measures, as unreliable, especially since the president followed that meeting with one Thursday night with NRA officials. Trump tweeted last night, “Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!”

Nelson accused Trump of making promises and then rejecting them days later, and said that appears to be happening already with his interest in certain gun reforms.

“It’s symptomatic of what’s happening in our society today, where everybody is retreating to polls, they’re getting very self-interested, highly partisan, highly-ideological rigid, and we’re seeing that play into this question about what do we do in the aftermath of these massacres,” Nelson said.

Nelson expressed strong pessimism that any significant reforms will clear Congress, noting that 60 votes are needed to get passage in the U.S. Senate.

“It depends on the NRA If they go and threaten our Republican brothers and sisters, that they’re going to take them on in the next election, I think it makes it very difficult for them even on something as common sense as comprehensive universal background checks,” Nelson said. “You’re right. That’s off the charts, not only nationally, but in Florida as well.”

Darren Soto gets perfect score from Conservation Voters, tops Florida members

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando received a perfect score of 100 for his environmental issues voting record from the national League of Conservation Voters, the only member of Florida’s delegation to do so.

The league’s annual “National Environmental Scorecard” for the 2017 session of Congress, gave Soto checkmarks across the board on 35 issues the organization tracked in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, putting him the company of 84 members of the U.S. House nationally who got the league’s perfect score.

The scorecard found widespread support for the league’s positions among Democrats, and widespread opposition among Republicans. Nationally, Democrats averaged a score of 94, and Republicans, 5.

In Central Florida, Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando got a score of 97; and Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, 91; while Republican U.S. Rep. U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Lake County and Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach both received a score of 3; and Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Rockledge, 0.

Elsewhere in Florida, the next highest-scoring Democrats were U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings, who both got 94; and the lowest-scoring Democrat was U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, who got 69. The highest-scoring Republicans were U.S. Reps. Brian Mast, Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who all got 23. Several other Republicans got zero.

On the Senate side, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson got a 95 and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got a 0.

Soto has pushed for several pieces of legislation and funding relating to restoration projects for the Kissimmee River and the Everglades. His and the other members scores, however, also covered legislation and issues ranging from support for the U.S. EPA to global warming, and from California water resource management to pesticides.

“I am honored to have received a perfect score on the LCV Scorecard,” Soto stated in a news release issued by his office. “You can count on me to continue fighting to protect our environment, especially fighting offshore drilling and keeping our Florida coasts and waters pristine. Legislation I’ve recently introduced would protect the Everglades and provide resources to restore our beloved Kissimmee River.”

The league has published a National Environmental Scorecard every Congress since 1970, and states that the selected issues, positions, and scores represent a consensus of experts from about 20 respected environmental and conservation organizations. The issues include energy, climate change, public health, public lands and wildlife conservation, and spending for environmental programs.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson back FDLE request for $1 million for Parkland reimbursement

Days after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement requested $1 million in emergency funding from the U.S. Justice Department to reimburse law enforcement agencies that responded to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, Florida’s U.S. Senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, wrote in support of the request, urging quick reimbursement, along with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch.

The money, via Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Precipitous Increase in Crime emergency funds, would mitigate a “strain on state and local law enforcement resources” created by “the additional costs resulting from this traumatic event.”

If more than $1 million is requested, the letter asks for quick approval.

And it is entirely possible that more is needed in the end.

The exact amount that is needed could change in the future, Petrina Tuttle Herring, the bureau chief of FDLE’s Office of Criminal Justice Grants, said last week in a letter.

Material from Ana Ceballos was used in this post.

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