Bill Nelson Archives - Page 2 of 74 - Florida Politics

Darren Soto: Rick Scott is ‘blatantly lying’ in newest ad

Gov. Rick Scott‘s latest attack on Sen. Bill Nelson is a sham, according to one member of the Florida Congressional Delegation.

Orlando-area U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, a Democrat facing a tough primary challenge, called Scott’s Medicare-focused ad bogus and ironic just a few hours after news of the ad spread on Tuesday. The 30-second TV and digital spot accuses Nelson, who Scott hopes to unseat in November, of agreeing to cut Medicare when he voted for the Affordable Care Act.

“Rick Scott is blatantly lying to Floridians,” Soto said in a prepared statement Tuesday evening. “This ad is nothing more than a false attack aimed to divert attention from two key facts: Rick Scott has previously backed a plan to end the Medicare guarantee, and Scott himself made millions of dollars overseeing one of the largest cases of Medicare fraud in history.”

Scott’s ad, titled “Unfair,” claims Nelson’s vote led to a cut of $716 billion from Medicare, but as Scott Powers previously noted for Florida Politics, “PolitiFact sought to check the claim and rated it ‘Mostly False.'”

In alleging the governor is “distracting” voters from his record on health care, Soto references Scott’s tenure as CEO of Columbia/HCA ahead of his transition to elected office. The magnitude of the Medicare fraud mentioned has been rated as ‘Mostly True‘ by PolitiFact.

In alleging the governor “previously backed a plan to end the Medicare guarantee,” Soto cites Scott’s 2015 support of the U.S. GOP budget. A news release accompanying Soto’s statement claims the plan would have turned Medicare “into a voucher program.”

“The irony of Scott claiming ‘stealing from Medicare is unfair’ will not be lost on Floridians, who are keenly familiar of Scott’s prolific history of defrauding Medicare of hundreds of millions of dollars,” Soto said. “The reality is Senator Nelson has worked his entire career to protect Floridian’s Medicare and social security.”

Scott’s ad is below.

Rick Scott ad accuses Bill Nelson of cutting Medicare when he voted for Obamacare

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gov. Rick Scott is launching a new television commercial accusing his opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, of voting to cut Medicare when he voted for the Affordable Care Act.

The 30-second spot, “Unfair,” will be playing on television and in digital internet advertising. It charges Nelson with supporting Medicare cuts and helping put Medicare in financial straits because he voted yes on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in 2009.

The commercial doesn’t actually mention the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, only citing the bill number and vote number. The commercial contends the vote led to a cut of $716 billion from Medicare. It is an allegation that Republicans have been charging, and Democrats refuting, since the Affordable Care Act was first approved in December 2009, though the exact number of the alleged cuts has varied. By 2012 Republicans were consistently citing $716 billion.

That year PolitiFact sought to check the claim and rated it “Mostly False.” PolitiFact, a project operated by the Tampa Bay Times (then the St. Petersburg Times) wrote, “While the health care law reduces the amount of future spending growth in Medicare, the law doesn’t actually cut Medicare. Savings come from reducing money that goes to private insurers who provide Medicare Advantage programs, among other things.”

The new Scott campaign commercial contends the cuts are unfair, and Nelson is to blame.

“You pay for Medicare your entire career,” the commercial’s narrator begins. “Your parents pay into Medicare their entire lives. But Washington is letting Medicare crumble.”

The commercial then uses text to cite news reports that predicted that Medicare could face insolvency in 2026.

“Bill Nelson voted to cut $716 billion from Medicare. No wonder it’s going bankrupt,” the narrator continues. “Nelson and the politicians from Washington are stealing from Medicare to pay for other government programs. Stealing from Medicare is unfair.”

Bill Nelson: Rick Scott is ‘silly’ about debate refusal claims

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Rick Scott‘s claims that Nelson refuses to debate him are “silly.”

Nelson spoke with reporters in Tallahassee on Tuesday, before a ceremony at the Tallahassee Veterans Affairs Health Care Center to name the facility after Marine Corps Sgt. Ernest “Boots” Thomas.

“Obviously, it’s to my advantage to debate him,” the incumbent senator said of Scott, his GOP challenger and the state’s term-limited governor.

“I’m going to wait until after the primary. What he’ll do is, he’ll (suggest) a bunch of debates and then he’ll start backing out on them.” Nelson is unopposed in the Aug. 28 primary.

“We will accept debates in a format that are a real, substantive discussion,” he added, suggesting a CNN debate with the news network’s Jake Tapper or Wolf Blitzer as moderator.  “That would be good … As you know all too well, (Scott) tries to sidestep questions.”

A spokeswoman for the Scott campaign stood by its claim that Nelson is refusing to debate.

“What’s ‘silly’ is that Bill Nelson let 50 days pass before he finally addressed the debates Gov. Scott accepted,” said campaign spokeswoman Lauren Schenone.

Nelson also was asked whether the Scott campaign rhetoric about his being ‘out of touch’ and ‘confused’ was a way to telegraph he’s become too old for the job.

Nelson is 75; Scott is 65.

“Any time he wants to have a contest about push ups or pull ups, we’ll see who’s not up to it,” Nelson said.

And Nelson was questioned about a letter supposedly sent from his office to federal regulators that echoed one sent by Scott shortly after his 2010 election, protesting “onerous (environmental) regulation.”

“Not only do I not recall that, that just simply could not be true,” he said.

(Scott’s campaign later contradicted that as well, providing the text of a letter [posted at bottom] allegedly sent by Nelson in 2010.)

Nelson sponsored the legislation to have the Tallahassee clinic named after Thomas, a Florida native who “took part in the original – and now-famous – flag raising atop of Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi in 1945,” a press release said.

“Thomas was killed in action March 3, 1945, just days after the flag raising, and was posthumously presented a Purple Heart and the Navy Cross for his extraordinary heroism during World War II.”

A Periscope video of his conversation with reporters is below:

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Bill Nelson ad: Florida’s algae crisis is made by Rick Scott

A few days after seeing Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s campaign launch a TV commercial seeking to blame him for Florida’s algae crisis, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is firing back with an internet ad attempting to portray the environmental disaster as entirely Scott’s fault.

The new 30-second video, “Algae,” begins with images of putrid, green waters, dead fish and animals, and declares: “Florida’s algae bloom crisis is a man-made problem, made by this man Rick Scott.”

Last Friday, Scott’s campaign had launched its commercial, “More Waiting More Talk More Algae,” that contended the problem was one that Washington needed to address, and that Nelson had failed to do anything about it in Washington, so it was Nelson’s fault.

Scott and Nelson are heading for the Nov. 6 showdown for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat.

This time, the campaign declared that it is ridiculous for Nelson to try to blame Scott “for an issue that’s been neglected by the same federal government Nelson has been a part of for decades.”

Nelson’s new video ad includes quotes from opinion pieces published in the Miami Herald and the Orlando Sentinel, and from Florida Conservation Voters, all explicitly blaming the two-term governor for the crisis that has erupted again this summer with massive amounts of polluted water released from Lake Okeechobee feeding devastating algae blooms on Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

“This problem has a name: Gov. Rick Scott,” the Herald’s editorial is quoted.

“He’s rolled back every common-sense safeguard in the books,” quoting Florida Conservation Voters.

“Rick Scott cut environmental protections. Rick Scott gave polluters a pass,” the commercial’s text declares, with a picture of Scott in a Tuxedo, raising a glass.

“It is … fair to blame Gov. Rick Scott,” the Orlando Sentinel’s opinion piece is quoted as stating. “This governor has undermined our natural resources for eight straight years.”

“The water is murky but the facts are clear,” the commercial concludes. “Rick Scott caused this problem.”

The reply from Scott’s campaign:

“It’s ridiculous for Bill Nelson to try to blame Gov. Scott for an issue that’s been neglected by the same federal government Nelson has been a part of for decades. In fact, Bill Nelson himself pledged “to save Lake Okeechobee and make polluters pay for the cleanup” in campaign ad thirty years ago, but clearly, he failed to keep his word. No amount of misleading and negative attacks will hide the fact that Bill Nelson is -and always has been- all talk and no action.

“However, Governor Scott has invested record amounts in Florida’s environment and has stepped up time and time again when Washington politicians like Bill Nelson failed to meet their commitment to our state. It was Governor Scott who secured state funding for repairing the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee, supported legislation to accelerate the EAA reservoir, received a commitment from the president’s administration to speed up dike repairs and secured funding through the Army Corps of Engineers to complete dike repairs by the Governor’s goal of 2022.”

Rick Scott tells his rags-to-riches story in new Spanish ad

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is telling his oft-told tale of his humble upbringing in public housing and rise to success, in Spanish now, with a new TV commercial.

The 30-second spot, “Esperanza,” [“Hope,”] produced for Spanish-language television, tells his story in old photo-album snapshots and narration. And then the narrator, text, and his own comments switch to the focal point of his two terms as governor: jobs.

“As a child, Rick Scott saw his mother sacrifice to get their family out of public housing. After serving in the Armed Forces, Rick Scott studied with grants and opened his first business. Governor Rick Scott works day after day to create opportunities because he knows the importance of a job,” the narrator states.

Meanwhile, text on the screen declares, in Spanish, “A million and a half new jobs.”

Scott then sums up by saying, in Spanish, “A job creates opportunity and above all else it gives a family hope.”

Scott is taking on incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson this year.

The video also provides a bonus for all [and viewers don’t need to understand Spanish for this]: several photographs of Scott as a child and a young man with hair.

Rick Scott to attend inauguration of Colombian President Ivan Duque

Gov. Rick Scott announced late Sunday that he would travel to Colombia for the inauguration of new President Ivan Duque in Bogota. While in South America, he plans to meet with exiled leaders from Venezuela.

Scott, who right now is running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, stressed his longtime connections to South American leaders during his eight years as governor. That has included trade missions to Colombia, Panama, Brazil and Argentina, as well as seven trips to Puerto Rico since the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Scott’s press office in the release criticized Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s “brutal regime” and said he would talk with exiled leaders from that nation about what Florida can do to support freedom and democracy there.

“Governor Scott has also stood in direct opposition of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro and his efforts to rob the people of Venezuela of their liberty,” reads a statement from the press office. “Working with the Florida Legislature, Governor Scott fought for and secured legislation to prohibit any state agency from doing business that benefits the Maduro Regime.”

In his bid for U.S. Senate, the Republican governor has made particular efforts regarding outreach with leaders from South American nations. That includes winning the endorsement of Democrat William Diaz, an Orlando media personality and leader of the international Venezuelan exile network.

Nelson, the Democratic incumbent, has made his own efforts to reach out to South American leaders and met with Duque himself in July.

Scott, a close ally to U.S. President Donald Trump, also stressed that he spoke with the president a few days ago to discuss what America could do to help the people of Nicaragua, another South American nation dealing with disruption.

A number of Florida politicians have turned their efforts toward Nicaragua following deadly protests of President Daniel Ortega.

And regarding Cuba policy, Scott said he encouraged the Department of State to ensure Cuban military entities are denied any possible revenue from the United States.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — A justice talks civics

Every July Fourth, Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston reads a copy of the Declaration of Independence reprinted in the Tallahassee Democrat.

“I always sit in the morning with a cup of coffee and read back through that,” Polston told members of the Economic Club of Florida in Tallahassee this week. “I just enjoy doing that.”

The sharing of his holiday indulgence made sense. Polston, who served as chief justice 2012-14, followed it with a thoughtful explanation of the judiciary, including how the Supreme Court acts almost like a “board of directors.”

Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston enjoys talking civics.

Appointed to the bench in 2008, Polston spoke of the court having to handle cases sparked by the Great Recession. The justices encountered nuanced issues related to foreclosures and delinquent properties that stumped even Polston, a former CPA who keeps his license current.

Legal minds across the state were tasked with confronting problems with “shadow inventory” — delinquent properties that had not yet been foreclosed, and “ghost towns,” abandoned properties that attracted undesired or criminal activity, Polston explained.

“This presented a great problem,” Polston said, but eventually led to the court clearing a backlog of hundreds of thousands of foreclosed property cases between 2013 and 2017.

A father of 10 children, six of whom are adopted, Polston said he was dealing with a grueling and lengthy adoption process when he was appointed to the court by Gov. Charlie Crist.

He recalled a reporter asking him if the issue would weigh on his decision-making at the bench. The answer? Yes.

He remembered telling the reporter, “Justice delayed, to me, is justice denied.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Take 5

‘Stand your ground’ under fire — Following the fatal shooting of Markeis McGlockton during a parking lot dispute in Pinellas County and a decision not to pursue charges because of the state’s “stand your ground” law, elected officials across the state are calling for the Legislature to reconsider the statute immediately. Democratic state Sen. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg this week called for a Special Session of the Legislature to address the issue. He was later joined by Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon and House Democratic Leader-designate Kionne McGhee. Democratic candidates for office also have gone public with criticisms of the controversial law, promising to fix the issue should they be elected.

State agrees to early voting change — Secretary of State Ken Detzner has decided to go along with a federal judge’s decision last week that struck the state’s practice of keeping early voting sites off college and university campuses. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in his ruling had called the practice “facially discriminatory on account of age.” Detzner’s decision to comply, however, doesn’t automatically guarantee early voting sites will be available at college campuses for the 2018 midterms. The News Service of Florida reports that at least three counties’ supervisors of elections say they cannot open early voting sites before the Aug. 28 primary — and are unsure whether they’ll be in place by the Nov. 6 general election.

Proposed greyhound ban struck down — A circuit court judge this week struck down Amendment 13, a ballot proposal seeking to end dog racing, because the amendment title and summary were “clearly and conclusively defective.” The court decision is a small victory for the Florida Greyhound Association, which had sued to keep the amendment off the November ballot. The state, however, already has appealed the decision, asking the case be heard in the 1st District Court of Appeal. That freezes the status quo, meaning unless a higher court decides otherwise, voters will see and be able to vote for the amendment on the November ballot. Whether those votes count remains to be seen.

Economists predict changes in higher education — Economists with the state Revenue Estimating Conference released estimates for Bright Futures, a state-backed tuition scholarship program, this week that are largely in line with what the Legislature accounted for when expanding the program during the 2018 Session. The total appropriation for the program increased from a December estimate of $340.2 million for the 2018-19 fiscal year to $519.7 million, which matches what the Legislature appropriated for the changes, according to one member of the conference. The most significant changes came with the continuation of the Academic Scholars program funding of the technology fee and tuition differential as part of the 100 percent tuition scholarship and the Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS) program covering 75 percent of tuition and fees, as well FMS’ expansion into coverage of summer courses.

State estimates PECO growth dip — State economists this week predicted the funding source behind the Public Education Capital Outlay trust fund (PECO) would grow more slowly than expected over the next few years. PECO projects, used for constructing new state education facilities and maintaining, restoring and repairing existing facilities, are funded by gross receipts taxes. The Revenue Estimating Conference is reporting that actual gross receipts collections for the fiscal year 2017-2018 were almost $10 million lower than previously forecast. That estimated drop continues in the upcoming years, with FY 18-19 $15 million lower than initially anticipated; $27 million lower in FY 19-20; and $37 million lower in FY 20-21.

CORRECTION — In last week’s edition of ‘Take 5,’ we mischaracterized the results of an investigation into former Sen. Jack Latvala by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. To be clear, the agency’s report said its investigation “did not develop an indication that Latvala exerted his influence as a Florida senator to assist Ms. (Laura) McLeod in any issues she presented as a lobbyist in exchange for a continuing sexual relationship.” We regret the error.

Back-to-school tax break begins

Florida’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday begins Saturday and ends on Monday.

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and Department of Revenue Executive Director Leon Biegalski issued joint statements encouraging Floridians to take advantage of the chance to save on school supplies.

Getting ready for school: Gov. Rick Scott visited Educational Outfitters in Tampa, where he highlighted the back-to-school sales tax holiday that began Friday through Aug. 5.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for families to save money while purchasing the supplies their students will need for school,” Stewart said. “The start of a new school year is always an exciting time for Florida students, and the back-to-school sales tax holiday makes it easier for parents and students to prepare for a successful year.”

“We are pleased to partner with the Department of Education to promote the Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday. This is a great time for families to gather the supplies needed for a successful school year,” added Biegalski.

According to Revenue, “qualifying items will be exempt from tax including certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item, and clothing, footwear, and certain accessories selling for $60 or less per item.” More information is available on the agency’s website.

Anti-cancer kits heading to firefighters

Decontamination kits are on their way to Florida’s fire departments, in hopes they’ll reduce the risk firefighters face from carcinogens — cancer-causing substances — that they encounter on the job.

When many items catch fire, such as tires, the burning can produce cancer-causing compounds.

Chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis wants decontamination kits in Florida fire departments statewide.

The first kits have already reached 48 fire departments. In all, 405 departments will benefit, said Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who also serves as state fire marshal.

The Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is also contributing to the program.

“In 2016 alone cancer caused 70 percent of career firefighter line of duty deaths across the nation, and firefighters have a nearly 15 percent higher risk of dying from cancer,” Patronis said. “Cancer prevalence in firefighters is not up for debate, and we must make sure these heroes have the tools needed to stay healthy and safe.”

A $1 million grant is financing the program. The kits include 5-gallon buckets and heavy plastic bags, dish soap, duct tape, brushes, hoses, spray bottles, hoses and nozzles, and instruction materials.

Patronis pushes pool safety

Florida leads the nation in the number of children dying in pools and spas, at a rate that increased by 20 percent from 2016 to 2017. Now Chief Financial Officer Patronis has issued guidelines intended to reverse the trend.

“Over the past few months, I’ve met with firefighters across the state, listening to their top issues and concerns,” Patronis said. “One issue that continues to emerge is the concern of pool safety among residents and visitors to our state.

This week, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis spoke to the American Fire Sprinkler Association Florida Chapter and the Florida Fire Sprinkler Association in Daytona Beach.

“As our population grows, and new families move to our state where pools are very common, we must keep raising awareness about the potential dangers.”

More than 90 percent of the pools in the state were built before Florida passed a law mandating safety standards for swimming pools, including barriers and pool covers. Some 80 percent of the deaths in 2017 involved children younger than 5.

The top tip was to closely supervise kids in pools: “In the time it takes to put in a load of laundry, a child can drown,” Patronis said. He also recommended motion alarms; teaching kids how to swim; and learning how to perform CPR, even if you aren’t a parent.

Instagram of the Week

The Week in Appointments

Florida Commission on Ethics

Fellow commissioners unanimously selected Guy W. Norris as chair for the 2018-19 term. Norris was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2015 and reappointed in 2018. He is a resident of Lake City and a partner in Norris & Norris, P.A. Kim Rezanka was unanimously selected vice-chair. She too was appointed by Scott in 2015 and reappointed in 2018. A resident of Cocoa, Rezanka is an attorney with Cantwell & Goldman, P.A.

Holmes County Hospital Corporation

Gov. Scott reappointed Larry Cook, 56, to serve a term ending Aug. 22, 2020. A resident of Bonifay, Cook is the owner of Son’s Tire, Inc.

Southeast Volusia Hospital District

Gov. Scott appointed Dr. Jan McGee to serve a term ending March 31, 2022. Succeeding Harold Smothers, McGee also is the principal of Burns Science & Technology Charter School.

West Florida Regional Planning Council

Gov. Scott appointed KarenKaseyCuchens to fill a vacant seat for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. A former member of the Freeport City Council, Cuchens, 58, is now the vice president of Choctawhatchee Bay Piling and Dock, Inc.

Commercialization of Florida Technology Board of Directors

Gov. Scott appointed Jim O’Connell for a term ending Nov. 3. O’Connell, 54, of Gainesville, is the assistant vice president of technology transfer at the University of Florida. Scott also reappointed Renee Finley for a term ending Nov. 3. Finley, 51, of Jacksonville, is the founder and former president of innovation for GuideWell Mutual Holding Corporation.

State celebrates breastfeeding

The Florida Department of Health is joining partners across the state to recognize World Breastfeeding Week, which began Wednesday.

“We know that an infant’s first 1,000 days are a crucial time for ensuring the child grows up healthy and thriving, and breastfeeding can significantly improve health outcomes for both mothers and infants,” said Surgeon General and Health Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip. “Supporting mom and encouraging breastfeeding in the first days of baby’s life are essential steps.”

Wednesday begins World Breastfeeding Week.

This year’s celebration theme emphasizes how the maternal practice is the “foundation of life,” according to the department. The agency claims that choosing to breastfeed helps to improve an infant’s overall health and can lead to lifelong positive effects for both parties. Mothers who breastfeed their children have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

In addition to health, there are economic benefits associated with breastfeeding. According to the department: “Breastfeeding is a low-cost way of feeding babies and can reduce costs to the health care system and employers by decreasing costs of hospitalizations, medications and reduced absenteeism.”

The health department says it is working actively to promote breastfeeding in the state and is asking Floridians to encourage their employers and communities to support the healthy practice.

State pushes back-to-school immunizations

With Florida students gearing up to return to school in the coming weeks, the Florida Department of Health is reminding parents to double-check their child’s immunization record to ensure they have the required vaccinations.

Surgeon General and Health Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said “making sure your child is fully immunized not only protects them, but it also protects children who cannot receive immunizations for medical reasons.”

Florida Department of Health Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip is promoting school immunizations. 

According to the Health department’s website, K-12 students should have at least four shots of Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) and Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).

As well, the same students should have two doses of vaccines for Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and Hepatitis B (Hep B), one for Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) and two doses of Varicella vaccine, with some exceptions. Ask your child’s pediatrician.

The health department provides a free centralized online registry that records immunization records for children. That database can be accessed here. According to DOH, the registry is endorsed by the Florida Academy of Family Physicians, Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc., Florida Medical Association, Florida Osteopathic Medical Association, and the Florida Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics.

FDLE renews accreditation

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has once again been recognized with an “Accreditation with Excellence Award” from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). It’s the eight consecutive award for FDLE.

“Over the past 50 years since our founding, FDLE has grown into one of the nation’s premier state law enforcement agencies, and our nearly three decades of national accreditation bears that out,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen.

FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen is celebrating renewed accreditation.

“Florida’s citizens and criminal justice partners can trust that FDLE remains dedicated to providing the highest level of professional service, all while staying at the forefront of new trends and best practices for law enforcement professionals.”

After conducting an internal assessment, CALEA found FDLE to comply with 484 standards, completing what CALEA describes as the ‘Gold Standard Assessment.’

FDLE first received accreditation in 1990. Since then, “the department has undergone rigorous inspections which include on-site visits, employee interviews and an extensive review of policies, procedures and records.”

Florida Family Action ranks lawmakers

Florida Family Action, the legislative arm of the Florida Family Council, released its legislative scorecard this week, ranking state Senators and Representatives on votes recorded during the 2018 Legislative Session.

Led by John Stemberger, an Orlando attorney and longtime conservative activist, FFA lobbies the Legislature each year for policies that protect and defend life, marriage, family and religious liberty.

John Stemberger is rolling out the Florida Family Action lawmaker scorecard.

This year’s scorecard gave legislators a letter grade ranking (A-F) based on their votes of 10 issues identified by FFA. In the House, the average Democrat score is 34 percent, and the average Republican rating is 96 percent. In the Senate, the average Democrat score is 23 percent, and the average Republican is 82 percent.

Among some of the more widely known concerns of FFA during Session were bills that would have expanded religious liberty in schools, restricted abortions by banning ‘dismemberment abortions,’ and required the state Department of Health to expand its involvement in crisis pregnancy centers that encourage childbirth.

The FFA and its affiliated organizations have staunchly opposed the Competitive Workforce Act, which would expand civil rights protections to LGBTQ individuals. FFA, in an article attached to the scorecard, called the legislation “the worst bill in the world,” saying it would “punish Christians for exercising Free Speech Rights and the Free Exercise of Religion.”

League launches voter prep guide

Less than 100 days out from the 2018 elections, The League of Women Voters of Florida is out with a new website to help voters before they show up at the polls — or seal the envelope on that mail-in ballot.

BeReadyToVote.org is a one-stop where Floridians can get directed to the information they’re looking for, be it registration status or early voting dates, without having to navigate the maze-like structure of their home county’s supervisor of elections website.

The League’s website also includes a link to a nonpartisan voter guide on the candidates running for office. Those a bit cynical about the progressive organization’s ability to give info on Republicans running for office need not fret — the Vote411.org guide includes candidate responses to questions without editorial narrative.

The website also includes bullet points for the 13 amendments slated for the ballot with plain English summaries of what a vote for or against would entail, as well as a list of the political committees working for or against the measures.

While information on registering to vote is available on the site, first-time voters looking to tick a box in the Aug. 28 primary election have missed the boat if they aren’t already on the books. Eligible Floridians face an Oct. 9 registration deadline if they want to cast a ballot in November.

Anti-rail group grades candidates

Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL) is advising Floridians with similar interests on how to vote for Treasure Coast region candidates up and down the ballot in the upcoming election.

CARE FL is primarily concerned with All Aboard Florida and the Brightline trains. The high-speed rail operations travel through Treasure Coast communities. After sending a survey gauging candidates on their prospective, rail-related policy positions, CARE FL released a report card this week, doling out letter grades to each candidate.

“We are pleased so many incumbents and candidates are finally echoing the public safety concerns that have been expressed by so many members in our communities,” said Brent Hanlon, chairman of the CARE FL Steering Committee.

Bill Posey is being recognized as an anti-rail ‘champion.’

“This is more than a regional issue, and there should be nothing more important than the safety of Florida’s residents, and visitors alike. We applaud the elected officials who have steadfastly stood with us — and for that, they are recognized in this report card as Champions.”

Topping the list as recognized ‘Champions’ are Congressmen Bill Posey and Brian Mast, along with state Reps. Erin Grall, Gayle Harrell and MaryLynn Magar, Indian River County Commissioners Peter O’Bryan and Joseph Flescher, and Stuart City Commissioner Troy McDonald.

Harrell is running for state Senate District 25, and her opponents, Belinda Keiser and Robert Levy both received A grades. The only graded candidate for Governor, Democrat Philip Levine, received an A rating.

“We believe these scores will help inform voters as they cast their ballots in the upcoming election,” said Jane Feinstein, a member of the CARE FL Steering Committee who serves as the chairman of the group’s survey initiative.

“For many residents in our region, a candidate’s position on high-speed rail is a deciding factor. We need to ensure that our elected officials know that keeping our communities safe is a top priority.”

Able Trust chips in

The Able Trust, an organization that helps students with disabilities prepare and enter the workforce, also is assisting organizations who support children who have been abused, neglected or assaulted.

This week, the organization presented the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC) with a $35,000 grant to help ECCAC carry out its mission of helping children in need.

This week, the Able Trust presented the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC) with a $35,000 grant.

“This grant will help the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center continue to provide its vital services,” said Dr. Susanne Homant, president and CEO of The Able Trust. “Making sure programs are available to help and protect children is of the utmost importance.”

ECCAC, serving children in Okaloosa and Walton counties, “assists children and their families from the investigation process through healing and restoring their childhood,” according to a news release announcing the grant.

In accepting the grant, the head of ECCAC cited the importance of groups like The Able Trust: “It is through acts of generosity and kindness that we are able to continue to care for and protect the children of our community exposed to child abuse,” said Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center board president, Tammy Pierce.

FSU launching Peace Corps prep

Florida State University is rolling out a new program this fall tailor-made to help prepare students to volunteer in the Peace Corps.

Dubbed the Peace Corps Prep program, the university will partner with the federal volunteer agency to “help undergraduate students (with) the skills they need to be a competitive applicant for those positions,” according to the university. Administered by FSU’s Learning Systems Institute, the program is currently accepting applications for fall.

FSU is launching its Peace Corps prep program.

The partnership enlists the College of Education to help students understand and navigate the application process for Corps prospects.

“FSU is delighted to extend its ongoing work with the Peace Corps through this program,” said Helen Boyle, associate professor of education and program coordinator. “It will be invaluable for undergraduates who are thinking about international careers in government, development or teaching abroad.”

Since 1961, FSU has produced 856 volunteers. Thirty-eight currently serve, according to the university. The Corps established the prep program in 2007, and more than 75 other institutions have formed similar partnerships. The university anticipates the effort will help increase its ranking among all other public universities.

Get growing with Leon County

Those looking to harvest their own vegetables this fall can jump-start their garden with a little help from Leon County.

The 2018 Fall Seed Library Launch is back again this year, and will take place 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at the Woodville Branch Library, 8000 Old Woodville Road. The location offers lessons in seeding, composting, cooking, pollination and site selection as part of the one-time event.

Leon County is re-launching its Fall Seed Library.

As long as supplies last, library patrons across the county can check out three seed packets per card per month from any of the seven public library locations.

Among the seed varieties: Arugula, Di Cicco Broccoli, Danvers Carrots, Champion Collards, Tronchuda Kale, Flashy Lightning Lettuce, Mizuna Green Mustard Greens, Giant of Italy Parsley, Easter Egg Radishes and Long Standing Bloomsdale Spinach.

The seeds are made available through the Seed Library Program. Now in its third year, the initiative seeks “to promote noninvasive, heirloom vegetable seed planting in Leon County and to encourage residents to grow their own nutritious food,” according to county officials.

Tallahassee Senior Services ‘invigorates’

Tallahassee Senior Services’ Lifelong Learning Extravaganza (L3X) returns during September for its ninth year and “exemplifies lifelong learning at its finest, offering educational fare for everyone’s palette,” a news release said.

The month-long program provides adults (18 and older) with the opportunity to gain knowledge about art, music, culture, science, nature, history, literature, food, drink and more. More than 50 different activities are available, including lectures, tours and field trips from hands-on soap making to viewing stalagmites.

To preview some of the planned L3X activities, Tallahassee Senior Services is hosting launch parties, which are open to the public, on Monday, Aug. 6, 8:30-10 a.m. and Tuesday, Aug. 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Interested participants will be able to pick up a course catalog, meet instructors and sponsors and enjoy refreshments. While these launch parties provide a preview, they are not required for registration.

Members of the Tallahassee Senior Center Foundation will be able to register for L3X classes beginning Wednesday, Aug. 8. The general population can start registering on Monday, Aug. 13. To view the course catalog and register online, visit TallahasseeSeniorFoundation.org.

Registration is open until a class fills up. Early registration is encouraged; many classes fill quickly.

Capitol Directions

Rick Scott ad seeks to blame algae disaster on Bill Nelson

Rick Scott is blaming his Democratic opponent Bill Nelson for the harmful algae blooms devastating Lake Okeechobee and Florida’s coasts, according to a new TV and internet commercial from Scott’s Senate campaign.

“Experts agree: Washington controls the dike at Lake O, so they have to fix it. And so we wait for Washington,” the commercial declares, as CBS News footage of the foul green waters at Lake Okeechobee plays across the screen, followed by pictures of Nelson, the three-term Democratic Senator.

“Washington politician Bill Nelson made a pledge 30 years ago to solve this problem, but Nelson’s a talker, not a doer. With Bill Nelson, we get more waiting, more talk, and more algae.”

While the footage of fouled waters provides strong disturbing images, the commercial almost soft-sells the impact of the algae bloom compared with what many along Florida’s Treasure Coast and Southwest Florida Gulf Coast have described.

The ad raises concerns that the algae are “polluting our waterways, making them an eyesore, reducing our quality of life,” while others have labeled it as public health, environmental, and economic disasters.

Scott approval message at the end of the commercial includes the line, “I don’t wait for Washington.”

The 30-second ad, “More Waiting, More Talk, More Algae,” cites a 1990 St. Petersburg Times story including Nelson’s pledge.

Nelson’s campaign fired back quickly with its own set of newspaper citations, including numerous recent editorials, news stories, and columns from the Gainesville Sun, the Sun Sentinel of South Florida, the Ocala Star-Banner, the Orlando Sentinel and the TC Post all laying the blame at Scott’s feet as governor, for waiting for Washington. “Gov. Rick Scott is trying to cleanse a seven-year record of environmental indifference,” declared the Sun Sentinel editorial of July 10, citing previous algae catastrophes in 2013 and 2016.

“Experts and scientists agree, Rick Scott’s almost eight-year assault on the environment has exacerbated the toxic algae outbreak plaguing much of Florida,” Sebastian Kitchen, a spokesperson for the Nelson for Senate campaign, stated in a written response. “And now once again — he’s lying about Bill Nelson’s record to hide from his own record of hurting Florida’s environment. Rick Scott has done a poor job as governor because he’s slashed budgets for environmental and water management agencies, cut enforcement of environmental regulations, allowed more toxins in the waterways and stopped efforts to monitor leaking septic tanks, which altogether have helped create the algae crisis we’re facing today.

“Rick Scott’s failures are risking the health of Floridians and the state’s environment.”

A news release from Scott’s campaign lays out a record it characterizes as indifference or ineffectiveness by Nelson.

In the statement, Scott charges that Nelson did not sponsor a single bill to help the Everglades during his decade-long tenure in the U.S. House, nor has he been able to get any meaningful Everglades restoration bills he sponsored approved during his 18 years in the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, the Scott news release declares that Scott “championed” the $100 million in state funding to jump-start repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike, signed legislation to accelerate the planned reservoir to alleviate Lake Okeechobee flood levels without diverting waters to the Treasure Coast and the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast; got President Donald Trump‘s commitment to speed up repairs; and secured funding through the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the dike repairs by 2022.

Bill that would keep space station aloft until 2030 clears U.S. Senate panel

A new space bill sponsored by Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, with a key provision from Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, cleared its last committee Wednesday with stipulations to expand business options at Kennedy Space Center and keep the International Space Station operating an additional five years.

Senate Bill 3277, or the Space Frontier Act, includes a number of provisions, many of them offered by Nelson, which would streamline and clarify the roles played by NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies in promoting the commercial space business, and extend and expand NASA’s program to work with private space companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin at facilities like Kennedy Space Center.

The measure also would extend the American commitment to operate the International Space Station until 2030. President Donald Trump‘s administration had proposed retiring the station in 2025.

The bill, co-sponsored by Nelson and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, unanimously cleared the Commerce Committee Wednesday and heads to the Senate floor. There is a similar bill, House Resolution 2809, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“This bill aims to further grow U.S. commercial space ventures and the jobs they create,” Nelson, who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the nation’s space programs, stated in a news release Wednesday. “Streamlining regulations for private companies and extending the life of the space station is good for the thriving space industry at the cape.”

Among the bill’s provisions:

— It calls for the U.S. to support full use of the space station through at least 2030, and expresses support for maintaining a national lab to benefit the scientific community and promote commerce in space.

— It would extend, through December 2020, authorization for NASA to lease agency property, such as land and facilities at Kennedy Space Center, to private space entities, and put the revenue back into improving infrastructure at NASA’s various centers. Such authorization is set to expire at the end of this year.

— It would expand existing authority to allow NASA to accept contributions toward lease payments in the form of space infrastructure improvements.

— The Office of Commercial Space Transportation would be spun out from under the FAA to be a stand-alone division within the U.S. Department of Transportation.

— DOT would be required to overhaul existing regulations by February 2019, to focus on clear, high-level performance requirements for both reusable and expendable space flight systems.

— It would repeal the current legal framework for Earth observation regulations, and create a new structure that focuses on managing risk to national security and preventing harmful interference to other space activities.

Bill Nelson airs TV ad ripping Rick Scott for ‘hurricane gouging’

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a statement to Monroe County Mayor David Rice. The statement was made by his predecdessor, George Neugent, who was mayor at the time of the cleanup efforts following Hurricane Irma last year.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s reelection campaign is releasing a new television commercial Wednesday ripping Gov. Rick Scott and his administration’s response to last year’s Hurricane Irma, based on reports that contractors hired by the state overcharged on debris cleanup.

The 30-second spot, “Gouge,” cites news reports and uses TV news footage reporting that contractors overcharged, costing Florida taxpayers an additional $28 million to $30 million in storm cleanup in Monroe County.

The commercial starts  with Monroe County Mayor George Neugent declaring, “The governor was actually doing the price gouging.”

It ends with a narrator citing a Sun-Sentinel of South Florida report stating, “if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t change a thing.”

“Against the wishes of local officials, Scott gave an emergency contract to an inexperienced contractor instead of the qualified companies already in place,” Nelson’s campaign charges in a news release issued to announce the TV commercial. “Along with costing taxpayers millions, he delayed the recovery for thousands of residents in Monroe County.”

“Recent reports revealed Rick Scott wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on debris removal contracts for his donors, which is just further evidence that Rick Scott puts himself and his political agenda first, at the expense of Floridians,” Nelson for Senate spokesperson Sebastian Kitchen states in the release. “Rick Scott has been a bad governor because he’s gouged Florida taxpayers and proven time and time again, he’s only in it for himself.”

Scott’s campaign responded Wednesday morning charging Nelson was “politicizing hurricane recovery.”

“It’s disappointing to see Bill Nelson and his fellow Democrats care more about private vendors who lost their opportunity to profit off a disaster than they do about the families who were able to quickly return home thanks to the work of Gov. Scott. It’s easy for career politicians like Nelson to look back after the fact and try to score political points, but Gov. Scott was in charge of leading the state through the largest storm in recent history – his top focus was on the safety and recovery of our communities and he did that while protecting taxpayer dollars, not by helping special interests or politicizing hurricane recovery.

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