Bill Nelson Archives - Page 2 of 50 - Florida Politics

White House: Flip-flop on Florida offshore drilling not a ‘political favor’

At Thursday’s White House briefing, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders asserted that abandoned plans for drilling for oil off Florida’s coast were not a political favor to Gov. Rick Scott.

“I am not aware of any political favor that would have been part of,” Huckabee Sanders said.

Huckabee Sanders said that the “public comment” process was one in which “negotiations” would happen with state leadership.

“We’ll continue to talk to other stakeholders as we make decisions for other areas and other states,” Huckabee Sanders added.

The narrative from some media outlets and Democrats alike was that President Donald Trump cut a deal with the Governor to help him in his upcoming Senate race.

In response to questions from Florida Politics, Scott also rejected the idea that there was a prearranged capitulation on oil exploration off the Florida coast.

“This proposal came out of the Trump administration. I opposed it. I let them know before they came out with it,” Scott asserted.

The Governor made the policy change sound like a result of hard-won negotiation, not political gamesmanship.

Scott noted that he “met and talked … multiple times” with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke over the last year, and “was very clear” that he didn’t want to see offshore drilling off our coast.

“When he came out with the proposal a week and a half ago,” Scott continued, “I asked to meet with him as soon as I could … we had the opportunity to meet and he took Florida off the table.”

Senate Leadership Fund goes after Bill Nelson tax vote in new ad

A political committee controlled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put out a digital ad this week slamming Senate Democrats for voting against the Republican tax plan that made it through Congress in December.

The Senate Leadership Fund ad touts the bill as the “biggest tax overhaul in generations” that will produce “bigger paychecks for middle class families” before blasting Democrats who voted against it.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is the only Democrat with a speaking line in the YouTube version of the web ad, though Nelson is visible as one of the seven Democrats the ad displays with text in the foreground reading “It’s time they lose their jobs.”

The ad also has pull quotes from a handful of major companies that said they planned to pass at least part of their tax savings on to workers.

As first reported by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon, Senate Leadership Fund CEO Stephen Law said Nelson “made a huge mistake siding with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to obstruct middle class tax cuts. We will take it to Democrats over and over this year on tax reform and are confident it will be a winning issue for Republicans in November.”

Nelson and other Democrats voted against the bill over concerns it was lopsided in favor of top earners and business, the latter of which got a permanent tax cut from 35 percent to 21 percent in the bill.

Nelson is one five Democratic Senators who are running for re-election in a state carried by President Donald Trump in 2018, and he is expected to have to go through Gov. Rick Scott, who is sure to be well funded, in order to win a fourth term.

The Senate Leadership Fund said it has spent $550,000 pushing the ad as part of a six-state campaign.

The ad is below.

Philip Levine: Check to Marco Rubio ‘tiny’ compared with long, deep Democratic support

There’s that Sept. 30, 2009, check to the U.S. Senate campaign of former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio:

It’s the $2,400 contribution to a Republican who then was seen as the darling of Florida’s Tea Party movement, an upstart whose explosive popularity on the right chased Charlie Crist from the Grand Old Party and made Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek a third-place finisher in 2010.

It’s the bank draft from Miami Beach businessman Philip Levine, who then was the future mayor of that city and who now is one of the leading Democratic candidates for governor in the 2018 election.

Privately, some Democrats have been whispering wonder about whether Levine’s erstwhile support of Rubio in 2009 reflected at all on his commitment to the Florida Democratic Party.

“Nope. Not at all. Zero,” Levine insisted in Orlando Tuesday when asked about whether that contribution meant he harbored an interest in Rubio or for what he stands.

“I have written millions of dollars to the Democratic Party, and that was just one small, tiny donation,” Levine said. “Friends of mine called me up and asked me for it, and I said ‘yes.’

“But he’s been a disappointment, and I’m not a supporter or a believer in any way, shape or imagination,” Levine continued. “Thank God my Democratic donations outnumber it about 5,000 to one.”

Levine is in a crowded race seeking the Florida Democratic primary nomination to run for governor, with former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum; and terms such as “real Democrat,” “true Democrat,” and “lifelong Democrat” already have been tossed about in that contest, as if someone in the race is not. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach.

“Mayor Levine has raised millions of dollars for fellow Democrats, up and down the ballot,” spokesman Christian Ulvert stated. “Most importantly, his record of getting progressive policies done is crystal clear — and it’s exactly the leadership he will take to the Governor’s mansion.”

Levine tells his story often about how he left college to work as a Royal Caribbean cruise ship deckhand, later following his instinct to become an entrepreneur serving cruise ships, to starting up and then selling companies, to becoming very rich.

By the late-1990s he became an active political campaign contributor, and by early this century he was a prominent one, making him an extraordinarily unusual candidate for governor. Other wealthy candidates have run statewide in Florida before, notably Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Jeff Greene of West Palm Beach, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010; yet neither previously had been as financially generous to others’ political causes as Levine had.

Though they do not quite show the multiple millions he asserted, U.S. Federal Election Commission and the Florida Division of Elections records do show that Philip Levine — from addresses in Miami, Miami Beach and Tallahassee — has contributed more than $1 million to others over the past couple of decades. He also has donated nearly $3 million to his own campaign’s funds in the past year.

Levine donated at least $189,900 to various state campaigns and political committees in Florida, and another $893,385 to various federal campaigns and political committees in Florida and across the country.

Campaign finance activity reviewed by Florida Politics does not include any political contributions Levine may have made in local elections in Florida [he was a two-term mayor of Miami Beach,] nor any he may have made in local or state elections in other states. Those would have been recorded outside the FEC and the Florida Division of Elections.

Levine, in fact, has a clear record of donating to Democrats for many years. His donations for Democrats compared with those for Republicans do not entirely create a 5,000-1 ratio, but it is higher than a 200-1 ratio, at least in dollars.

Since 2000, he has donated $161,800 to the Florida Democratic Party [including $61,800 in 2016] and at least another $12,500 to specific Democratic candidates and committees. Another $16,600 of his state political contributions went to committees that at least on paper may be considered nonpartisan. No state-level Levine money went to Republicans, the Republican Party of Florida, or Republican committees.

On the federal side, since 1999, Levine made at least 270 donations totaling $876,791 to Democrats, Democratic parties, and committees associated with Democrats. He has made six contributions totaling about $12,000 to committees that have some claim to being nonpartisan, or have unclear partisan standing.

He’s made just four donations, adding up to $4,650, to Republicans, including the Rubio check.

Levine was a big backer of Hillary Clinton, donating $300,000 to her Hillary Victory Fund committee in 2016. He also was a significant backer of Barack Obama, donating $30,000 to his Obama Victory Fund committee in 2008.

In contrast with the $2,400 he gave to U.S. Senate Republican candidate Rubio, over the past two decades Levine contributed $31,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $25,000 to the Florida Senate Victory 2004 committee, and $15,000 to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s campaigns.

Levine also has made direct donations to campaigns of Florida Democrats Dan Gelber, Bill McBride, Janet Reno, Alex Sink, Joe Garcia, Raul Martinez, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Crist [when he ran for Congress as a Democrat,] Peter Deutsch, Betty Castor, Alex Penelas, Andrew Korge, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Elaine Bloom, Ken Gottlieb, David Richardson, Richard Steinberg, and Wilbert Holloway.

Besides Rubio, other non-Democrats who received support from Levine include Miami Republican Lincoln Díaz-Balart, who got $250 for his 1998 Congressional re-election campaign; Montana Republican Conrad Burns, who got $1,000 for his 1998 U.S. Senate re-election campaign; and New Jersey Republican Dick Zimmer, who got $1,000 for his 2008 U.S. Senate campaign. Levine also donated to the nonpartisan campaigns of Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit judges Maxine Cohen Lando and Milton Hirsch.

Rick Scott says he’s been ‘clear forever’ in opposition to offshore oil drilling

The narrative looked great for Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday.

The Donald Trump White House backed away from a proposal to permit offshore drilling off the coast of Florida, after a meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Zinke extolled the virtues of the Governor in the press release — lauding his “leadership,” calling him “straightforward.”

“I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coast is heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver. As a result of today’s discussion and Governor Scott’s leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”

Of course, questions were raised. Some Republicans had told POLITICO that the fix was in already on this. And Democrats noted that Scott backed offshore oil exploration as an “option” to becoming “energy independent” back when Barack Obama was President.

On Wednesday in Jacksonville, Scott disclaimed both the idea of a prearranged reversal from the Interior Department and dismissed allegations of a change in policy orientation on offshore drilling.

“I’ve been clear forever. I’m going to take care of this environment,” Scott said.

Scott noted that he “met and talked … multiple times” with Zinke over the last year, and “was very clear” that he didn’t want to see offshore drilling off our coast.

“When he came out with the proposal a week and a half ago,” Scott continued, “I asked to meet with him as soon as I could … we had the opportunity to meet and he took Florida off the table.”

“I’ve been very clear. I’m not going to allow anything to happen along our coast to impact our environment. I’ve said that forever,” Scott said.

“This proposal came out of the Trump administration. I opposed it. I let them know before they came out with it,” Scott reiterated.

Scott also rejected Sen. Bill Nelson‘s claim that the event was  “a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott, who has wanted to drill off Florida’s coast his entire career.”

Bill Nelson on off-shore oil drilling: ‘Not while I’m in office’

As President Donald Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced plans to allow off-shore oil drilling practically everywhere, Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson appears to have dug in for his best Clint Eastwood “Make my day” impersonation.

“The administration is planning to drill off the coast of Florida,” Nelson told reporters in Orlando Friday. “I can tell you as long as I’m in office, that’s not going to happen.”

When Zinke announced Thursday that the U.S. Department of Interior intends to start making oil drilling leases available off the coast of Florida and elsewhere when current moratoriums expire, he may have given Nelson a gift in a re-election campaign plank.

Though Gov. Rick Scott, Nelson’s likely opponent in this year’s election, also has come out in opposition to drilling off Florida’s coast – as have almost all of Florida’s congressional delegation including Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of Trump’s biggest supporters – Nelson on Friday staked out the opposition ground as his. And he made it clear that as far as he’s concerned as a candidate, opposition to off-shore drilling in Florida always has been his issue, and always will be.

On Friday Nelson reminded reporters that his opposition to off-shore drilling around Florida dates to 1985 when he was in Congress and opposed a plan by then-Interior Secretary James Watt, and continued through the present, as he pushed against Trump’s and Zinke’s proposal last year to allow seismic testing in off-shore areas.

“There are no oil rigs off Florida’s coast, and as long as I’m around there will not be,” Nelson said. “We’ve been at this battle now three decades, ever since I was congressman.”

Nelson called the current laws requiring moratoriums on drilling off Florida’s coasts “my,” citing his efforts in 2006, jointly with then-U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, to get bans into federal law stretching to 2022 and 2023.

On Friday he said he did not know what Scott thought about off-shore drilling, but said the governor had not consulted with him about federal laws involving the matter, not even last year when Trump and Zinke proposed the seismic testing. “The short answer is no,” Nelson said when asked if he and the governor had discussed off-shore drilling.

“We’ve been keeping them off Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center, because you can’t have oil rigs out there where you’re dropping the first stages of your rockets. And it’s the same thing out there in the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida. That’s why that is prohibited in law, until the year 2022,” Nelson said. “It’s not only protecting Florida’s economy, our tourism economy, which got completely shafted when the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred, because they saw oil on Pensacola Beach, and for a whole year the tourists didn’t come, but also it’s a national security issue, because that’s the largest testing and training range for the U.S. Military, the Gulf of Mexico off Florida,” he continued.

“So we’re simply not going to let this plan for drilling off Florida occur,” he concluded.

Florida pols oppose proposed offshore oil drilling; Donald Trump isn’t worried

So much for the “partner in the White House.”

Gov. Rick Scott enjoyed lunch with President Donald Trump on New Year’s Eve, but Scott is finding President Trump’s position on offshore oil drilling hard to digest.

“Based on media reports, it is likely that the Department of the Interior will consider Florida as a potential state for offshore oil drilling – which is something I oppose in Florida,” Scott said.

“I have already asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” Scott added.

“My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected, which is why I proposed $1.7 billion for the environment in this year’s budget,” Scott continued.

At Thursday’s White House briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the President wasn’t all that worried about Scott’s opposition to the proposal.

“Our goal certainly isn’t to cross Gov. Scott. We have a great relationship with him. We’re going to continue working with him on a number of issues. Just because we may differ on issues from time to time doesn’t mean we don’t have an incredibly strong relationship. We’ll continue those conversations with him,” Sanders said.

We have reached out to Gov. Scott for comments on this seeming dismissal of his position.

Scott joins his likely opponent in this year’s Senate race, Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, in opposing the expansion of offshore drilling proposed by the Trump White House.

“This plan is an assault on Florida’s economy, our national security, the will of the public and the environment. This proposal defies all common sense and I will do everything I can to defeat it.”

Sen. Marco Rubio also opposes expansion of drilling.

“I have long supported the moratorium in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is not slated to expire until 2022, and introduced legislation to extend the moratorium until 2027. As the Department of Interior works to finalize their draft plan, I urge Secretary Zinke to recognize the Florida Congressional delegation’s bipartisan efforts to maintain and extend the moratorium in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and remove this area for future planning purposes,” Rubio said.

Time is of the essence.

The Washington Examiner reports that Interior Secretary Zinke seeks to roll out a plan starting in 2019 that would allow the most ambitious offshore drilling program ever.

Florida politicians may oppose it. But does the White House care?

Bill Nelson threatens to block rollback of offshore drilling regulations

Bill Nelson is prepared to invoke a procedural rule in an attempt to block the Donald Trump administration’s latest efforts to rollback several safety standards put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster.

The Florida Democrat’s announcement on the Senate floor Wednesday was made just days after the U.S. Department of Interior released for public comment its latest proposal to reverse a series of safety regulations put in place to prevent another incident like the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

Among the provisions the agency is seeking to remove is one that requires a third-party to certify that an oil rig’s blowout preventer is functioning properly.

“Almost five million barrels of oil spilled as a result of a defective device called a blowout preventer,” Nelson said. “Now, what the Interior Department and this administration is trying to do is undo the updated standards for shear rams and blowout preventers and is trying to get rid of a required third party to certify the safety mechanisms.”

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which regulates offshore oil and natural gas drilling, says the proposed rule changes are intended to reduce “unnecessary burden” on the energy industry, saving $228 million over 10 years without compromising safety.

“By reducing the regulatory burden on industry, we are encouraging increased domestic oil and gas production while maintaining a high bar for safety and environmental sustainability,” said BSEE Director Scott A. Angelle last Thursday.

In order to stop the rollback, Nelson says he will invoke a procedural rule known as the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the power to overturn an agency’s final rule. Legislators seeking to block an agency rule from taking effect can file a so-called Resolution of Disapproval within 60 days of a final rule being sent to Congress.

If a Resolution of Disapproval is approved by a majority in both the House and Senate and signed into law by the president, the agency’s rule would be overturned.

“I hope the public understands that and starts registering some complaints, and I hope that during that time every Floridian remembers what happened to us when the beaches of Pensacola beach were blackened with tar and oil and we lost a whole season of our guests, our tourists who come to this extraordinary state of natural environment, the beautiful Florida beaches,” Nelson said.

“I hope that every Floridian will remember, whether you were a hotelier, restaurateur, whether you are the dry cleaners, whether you had the taxi services, when you got hit in your pocketbook, I hope that every American who rightly has an interest in protecting our beaches, our oceans, our marine life, decides to write in and complain to Secretary (Ryan) Zinke exactly what he’s putting at risk with this proposal.”

Over the weekend, Vern Buchanan also criticized the rollback.

In a statement, the Longboat Key Republican congressman called the proposal by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environment Enforcement “rash and reckless.”

If it is not withdrawn, Buchanan said he would urge Congress to intercede.

“Have we forgotten the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe so soon?” Buchanan added, referring to the 2010 explosion of an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people and led to one of the worst oil spills and environmental disasters in U.S. history.

“This is a recipe for disaster.”

The rule ensuring safety devices took six years to implement, and Nelson says it could go away in less than a month, as the proposal is open to public comment only until January 29.

“You’re not going to get six years this time,” he said. “You’re only going to get 30 days.”

 

Bill Nelson slams GOP response to Puerto Rico

Senator Bill Nelson met with local representatives from the Tampa Bay Puerto Rican community on Friday, blasting recent actions (and non-actions) by congressional Republicans in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s devastating impact on the island exactly 100 days ago.

“A knife was put to the neck of Puerto Rico.”

That’s the phrase the Florida Democrat employed in discussing how the island fared out of the recently passed GOP tax reform bill. He was referring to a provision of the legislation that places a 12.5 percent tax rate on intellectual property. Manufacturing accounts for nearly half of the island’s economy and a third of government revenues.

“This is not right. This is not fair,” Nelson told the group who gathered at his Tampa district office on Friday. It followed the senator’s one-day trip on the island on Wednesday with Orlando U.S. Rep Darren Soto, who announced on Thursday the formation of a regional task force to address the needs of displaced Puerto Rican evacuees who have arrived in Central Florida since Hurricane Maria’s landfall.

Over 250,000 Puerto Rican residents have left the island for Florida, half to the Orlando Metro area, according to Nelson.

Nelson also criticized Republicans for including Puerto Rico in a recently passed federal disaster relief bill, but requiring the territory to provide FEMA with a percentage of marching funds – something that he says the cash-strapped island government can’t afford.

“This is how the island – our fellow American citizens – are being treated. They are not being treated like fellow American citizens,’ the senator said.

Authorities on the island said that nearly half of power customers – 55 percent of the nearly 1.5 million customers – have electricity.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the entire nation won’t have power until May.

Nelson’s criticism of the Republican Party’s handling of the crisis also has a political dimension. The 75-year-old lawmaker is on the ballot next fall in what he hopes will be a successful bid to remain in the Senate. He he was first elected in 2000.

He said that Puerto Ricans relocating to Florida are angry about the federal government’s response to their issues, which could have an impact on next year’s election.

“Most of them would like to return to the island,” Nelson said on behalf of the more than 250,000 who now live in the Sunshine State. But he acknowledged that the “hard realities of recovery” dictate that many of them won’t be returning anytime soon.

“If they are going to stay, I think they are going to know who helped them and who didn’t help them, and I assuredly want them to register to vote and express their feelings by the way they cast their vote,” he said candidly.

In the weeks following Maria, retired U.S. Air Force Col. E.J. Otero created Course of Action PR, under the umbrella of the Course of Action Foundation to send approximately 40 containers of goods to the island from Tampa. Otero says he’ll meet with officials from the USF business school next month on conducting a study on the economic impact of the storm on Florida and Puerto Rico.

A registered Republican who ran against Kathy Castor for Congress in 2012, Otero initially declined to comment specifically on Nelson’s anti-GOP remarks, saying that “both parties’ emergency response leave a lot to be desired.”

He later added however, that he wished the meeting had been solely about Puerto Rico and “inclusion into the economy” rather than talk of partisan issues.

(Photo credit: Kim DeFalco).

Poll finds an independent John Morgan as spoiler, even contender, in Governor’s race

A new poll from Gravis Marketing finds that if Orlando lawyer John Morgan gets into the Florida Governor’s race as an independent candidate, he could spoil the chances of Democrats, and might present the strongest independent challenge in memory.

The poll finds that, in head-to-head matchups, leading Republican candidate Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam runs dead-even against either of the top Democratic candidates, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham or Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

Gravis Marketing, of Winter Springs, then introduced the third candidate, Morgan, who declared earlier this month he would not run for governor as a Democrat but left the door open, slightly, for an independent challenge. The poll found Morgan would take far more votes away from either of the top two Democrats and Putnam wins handily.

Yet the poll also shows that without campaigning, Morgan already appears as an independent with contender-caliber support against the two major parties’ candidates.

The Gravis poll finds that nine months out from the primaries, 18 percent of Democrats prefer Graham and 12 percent favor Gillum, while former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine gets 6 percent, Winter Park businessman Chris King receives 3, and noncandidate Jeff Greene, a South Florida businessman, 2 percent.

On the Republican side, Putnam draws 23 percent while U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, who has not announced his intentions to run, would get 12 percent. The only other major declared candidate, state Sen. Jack Latvala, who submitted his resignation from the Senate last week amid allegations and investigation of sexual misconduct, would get 3 percent.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who, like DeSantis, has made no move yet, would get 2 percent. Maverick Republican candidate Bob White drew 1 percent.

The poll also finds Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson leading Republican Gov. Rick Scott 44-39 in a potential contest for the U.S. Senate election next November.

The poll, conducted Dec. 19-24 of 5,778 registered voters across Florida, has a 1.3 percent margin of error, according to Gravis.

In head-to-head Republican-Democratic contests for the governor’s office, Putnam and Graham tie at 32 percent, while Putnam and Gillum tie at 31 percent.

With Morgan in the race, Putnam draws 27 percent, Graham 23, and Morgan 17. With Gillum representing the Democrats instead of Graham, Putnam draws 26 percent, Gillum 22; and Morgan 18.

In head-to-head matchups with Corcoran as the Republican, Graham leads 33 percent to 24 percent, while Gillum leads Corcoran 33 to 22 percent.

With Morgan in those races, Graham and Gillum still lead, but by only 3 or 4 points, while Morgan enters right behind, essentially creating tight three-way packs, 24 to 20 to 18 in the Graham question, and 23 to 20 to 19 in the Gillum scenario.

Gravis did not test DeSantis in head-to-head or three-way general election contests.

Returning from Puerto Rico, Darren Soto organizing advisory task force

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto announced Wednesday he is forming a Central Florida task force to advise on matters involving the the tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans who have fled the island for Central Florida to escape the island’s plight following Hurricane Maria.

The regional Task Force on Puerto Rico Arrivals to Central Florida was announced to consist of elected officials from Seminole, Osceola and Polk counties. It will hold its first official meeting in Central Florida starting at 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon, to discuss effective ways to tackle the housing, educational, employment and healthcare challenges facing new Puerto Ricans in the area, according to a news release.

Soto, a Democrat from Orlando, went to Puerto Rico Wednesday with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, meeting with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, former Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, and others to discuss the island’s status, much of it still without power or water, and federal responses and laws, including the new excise tax included in the federal tax reform bill approved last week. Together, the pair also plan to hold a separate 1 p.m. meeting Thursday with Puerto Rican community leaders in Central Florida.

Soto’s office described the task force as bipartisan, but like the vast majority of Puerto Rican relief efforts and events arranged in Central Florida in the past three months, it is largely uni-partisan, at least in its initial makeup. Immediately after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20-21, Nelson and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio appeared together and vowed to work together, and have made several joint statements since. Gov. Rick Scott organized a roundtable discussion in late October in Kissimmee that included Democrats and Republicans. But otherwise, bipartisan crossovers have been rare at numerous events involving Central Florida political leaders dealing with assistance for Puerto Rico and the evacuees coming to Florida.

Among the regional Task Force on Puerto Rico Arrivals to Central Florida members announced by Soto’s office are U.S. Reps. Val Demings of Orlando and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park; state Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando; state Reps. Amy Mercado and John Cortes; Osceola County Commissioners Brandon Arrington and Viviana Janer; and Osceola County School Board Chairman Kelvin Soto, all Democrats.

Soto’s office said Republican office holders who have been very active in Puerto Rico and evacuee assistance efforts, such as state Reps. Rene Plasencia and Bob Cortes, and Orange County Commissioners Jennifer Thompson and Pete Clarke, were invited and that he hopes they will join the effort.

Recently when Plasencia was asked why Democrats were not active in relief and assistance efforts he, Cortes, and other Republicans were helping organize and run, he said the same thing, that Democrats had been invited, and he hoped they would join the effort.

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