Bill Nelson Archives - Page 2 of 35 - Florida Politics

Mosquito Zika bills by Darren Soto, Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio pass panels

Two bills with Florida sponsors and cosponsors were approved by committees in both the U.S. Senate and House Wednesday to reauthorize a 2004 law to spend $100 million a year for local grants to help mosquitoes, now in the age of Zika, has been approved by a key committee.

House Resolution 1310, introduced by U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, the Democrat from Orlando, was approved Wednesday by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

Earlier, U.S. Senate Bill 849, cosponsored by Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, was approved Wednesday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The House of Representatives bill was cosponsored by 21 others, including a dozen members of Florida’s delegation.

The companion Senate bill was filed by Maine’s independent U.S. Sen. Angus King.

Both bills intend to reauthorize the “Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health Act” (SMASH Act) of 2004.

They would authorize an additional $100 million per year for five years in grant funding to local mosquito-control efforts to eliminate the mosquitoes responsible for spreading the virus.

They also would also authorize additional funding for public health laboratories so they can better test for the virus, and would require the Government Accountability Office to find ways to improve existing mosquito-control programs.

“One of the best ways to curb the spread of the Zika virus is to eliminate the insects known to carry it,” Nelson stated in a news release from hi suffice. “As summer approaches, Florida’s mosquito population is going to rise, and we need to make sure our local mosquito-control boards have the resources they need to protect their communities.”

Although Zika – the mosquito-borne disease that can cause horrific burt defects – has dropped from the news over the winter, the disease is seasonal along with the mosquitoes, and likely to reemerge soon. With more than 1,300 cases of the virus reported last year, no state has been harder hit by Zika than Florida, Nelson noted.

Bill Nelson presses Tom Price on Florida’s opioid crisis, Medicaid’s ability to fight it

In a letter sent today to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson called attention to Florida’s heroin and opioids crisis and sought answers on how Medicaid can do more.

In his letter, Nelson declared that the heroin and opioid epidemic is “devastating Florida” and he encouraged Price and his agency to continue the fight against opioid abuse and misuse in the United States.”

“Addiction to heroin and opioids has reached staggering levels, and the situation is only getting worse. In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose. That’s 15 percent more people who died from opioid overdoses than in 2014,” Nelson wrote. “The state of Florida is no exception to the national trend. More than 2,200 Floridians died of opioid abuse in 2015.”

He noted that Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Melissa McKinlay‘s effort to get Gov. Rick Scott to declare a public health emergency, and Congress’s efforts to push a comprehensive approach and provide additional funding to approach opioid abuse.

Now Nelson challenged Price to consider Medicaid’s role, and to support efforts to retain Medicaid’s opportunities, even against proposals pushed by Republicans in Congress and in Tallahassee.

“As the single largest payer for substance use services, Medicaid plays a critical role in the fight against the opioid epidemic,” Nelson wrote. “Changing the Medicaid program through block grants or caps will shift costs to states, eliminate critical federal protections, and hurt the more than 3.6 million Floridians who rely on the program, including those struggling from opioid disorders.

“If those cuts are made, how do you propose states like Florida provide the necessary services to help individuals with substance use disorder?” Nelson inquired.

Then he turned to the Medicaid expansion program included in the Affordable Care Act, noting that Florida declined it, leaving an estimated 309,000 low-income Floridians with mental health or substance abuse disorders without easy access to affordable health care.

According to a study by Harvard University and New York University, Medicaid expansion provides drug treatment to nearly 1.3 million Americans,” Nelson wrote. “If Florida expanded its Medicaid program, would it be able to increase access to treatment for those with opioid use disorder? And would expanding Medicaid help the state avoid the rising costs associated with the opioid crisis and mental health needs?

Rick Scott still mulls Senate race, CFO choice

Two major political questions in Florida right now are predicated on the eventual decision of Gov. Rick Scott.

But he’s in no rush to provide answers.

One such decision: will he, as is widely expected, challenge Sen. Bill Nelson next year.

Nelson, already in campaign mode, is telling reporters he’s “scared as a jackrabbit” to run against Scott.

“In regard to the Senate race, I haven’t made a decision. I don’t think people like long races,” Scott told us regarding the first question.

“I didn’t get into the Governor’s race until April the year of the election. I’m going to continue to focus on my job as Governor. There’s a lot more to do,” Scott added.

“My primary goal is to get people a job,” Scott continued, noting his job creation total is already up to 1.3M.

Another major question: with the Legislative Session closer to the end than the beginning, who replaces outgoing CFO Jeff Atwater?

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who meets with Scott in Tallahassee on Tuesday morning, has been discussed as a potential replacement for Atwater.

“Lenny Curry’s been a good friend for a long time, and I’ve enjoyed working with him. He’s done a wonderful job as mayor.”

“CFO Atwater will be leaving at the end of the session – in a few weeks,” said Scott, who wants to find someone who will do the best job possible “for all the citizens of the state.”

Curry, who has a 70 percent approval rating in a just-released internal poll (including 60 percent with Democrats and Independents), has seen his political stock rise as his pension reform plan moves ever closer to becoming law.

A unique advantage that Curry – if the Jacksonville microcosm is dispositive – brings to the table: an ability to reach beyond the GOP base.

Curry is clearly on Scott’s radar. And, with the pension reform package expected to pass next week, if Curry were to leave, he’d be leaving the city with a plan to move forward on dispatching the currently crippling unfunded pension liability.

Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran’s invite to Bill Nelson a stick in Rick Scott’s eye, maybe more

There were all kinds of messages being sent to Gov. Rick Scott late last week at the Florida House of Representatives.

The one from Democrat Bill Nelson, a three-term U.S. senator, can be summed up in two words: game on.

Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran had his own two-word message for the governor. I think I’ll leave it at that. Is loathing too strong a word for how those two feel about each other?

Whatever the interpretation of the message, the invitation to Nelson from Corcoran to address the House was intriguing, given that Nelson could face Scott in a bare-knuckle brawl for the 2018 senate race.

It gave Nelson some free airtime on a no-lose issue at a time when Scott’s poll numbers are surging.

His effusive praise of Corcoran for the courageous stand he’s taken with all of those children who are all buriedat the infamous Dozier School for Boys in north Florida” allowed Nelson to look like someone willing to work with everybody for the greater good.

Corcoran came across that way as well, just in case he decides to run for governor in 2018.

Unless …

Corcoran decides to go after Scott for the GOP nomination.

Say what?

That speculation is gaining traction, given the Republican field for governor likely can be winnowed down to “Adam” and “Putnam.”

As a senate candidate though, Corcoran could be the darling of cost-cutters everywhere. He has stood in the legislative doorway to block Scott’s favored programs for business and tourism incentives.

Republicans consider Nelson vulnerable and will pour every nickel they can into the effort to unseat him. And Corcoran is amassing quite a reputation for changing the way business is done in Tallahassee.

It won’t be easy.

Even though a lot has changed since Nelson swamped Connie Mack IV by 13 percentage points in 2012 and much of it hasn’t been good for Democrats, he has made sure to shore up the home front while in office.

He frequently returns to the state to touch base with voters and was a vocal advocate for congressional funding to combat the Zika virus and to address the environmental mess known last summer as the algae bloom.

Just as Republicans will roll out the war chest to unseat Nelson, so Democrats likely will spend what it takes to keep an important seat from going into GOP hands.

That brings us back to Corcoran’s invitation to Nelson. It was a sharp stick in the eye of the governor, one possibly designed to fuel the kind of speculation we have in this column.

Corcoran, a crafty chap, undoubtedly knew that.

He got his wish.

But if his aim is to run against Nelson eventually, why give his rival the chance for free feel-good publicity?

Because he could.

Joe Henderson: Rick Scott’s approval rating climbs because the economy trumps everything

The steady increase in Gov. Rick Scott’s approval rating has reinforced the notion that if voters have a job and the economy seems to be humming along, other things don’t matter much.

The latest poll, released this week by Morning Consult, put Scott’s approval number at 57 percent. Considering that he stood at 26 percent in 2012 according to Public Policy Polling, that’s downright miraculous.

That same PPP poll five years ago included a forecast that Scott would lose a then-theoretical matchup with Charlie Crist by 55-32 percent. Scott was declared to be the most unpopular governor in the country.

What changed?

The economy. Duh!

Scott still has the singular focus he brought to Tallahassee as an outsider in 2011. We all remember what the economy was like then as the nation tried to recover from the Great Recession.

Scott’s game plan of offering business incentives to attract jobs has been unrelenting. He has targeted regulations that he says strangle job growth.

While his disregard for environmental laws proved disastrous last summer when guacamole-like runoff from Lake Okeechobee became national news, voters appear inclined to overlook that as long as they have a steady paycheck. That’s how Scott got out of controversies that included the messy dismissal in 2014 of Florida Department of Law Enforcement chief Gerald Bailey. That was handled so poorly that even Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a member of Scott’s cabinet, claimed he was “misled” by the governor’s staff.

Scott also had to spend more than $1 million in taxpayer money to settle seven public records lawsuits because of his penchant for operating in the shadows.

Even the ongoing battle with Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran over two of Scott’s major programs for business development and tourism promotion — Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA — hasn’t hurt the governor. If anything, it seems to have enhanced his standing with voters.

All of this would seem to bode well for his expected challenge for Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat in 2018. Scott’s approval number has inched above Nelson’s, which is significant (maybe).

A lot can happen before that Senate race; remember the poll that said Crist would easily beat Scott for governor. Scott is closely aligned with President Donald Trump, and there is no way to tell how that will impact the race.

And while the economy is doing well and Scott is reaping the benefit now, everyone would be advised to remember another campaign from the dusty past as an example of how quickly things can change.

Republicans circulated a flier saying their candidate for president would ensure “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”

That was in 1928. The candidate was Herbert Hoover. He won with 444 electoral votes. A year later, the stock market crashed, and the Great Depression changed everything. Just four years after his landslide, Hoover lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose electoral college total was 472.

Translation: Things look good now, but don’t get cocky.

Bill Nelson talks offshore oil drilling ban during Southwest Florida stop

Sen. Bill Nelson vowed to fight off threats to drill in the waters off Florida’s west coast, telling Southwest Florida officials he’ll do whatever he can to protect the coastal communities.

“Increasingly we have threats to drill in the Gulf of Mexico off the west coast of Florida, and it’s getting to the point that I have to keep beating back these attempts,” said Nelson during a meeting in Fort Myers on Tuesday.

In 2006, Nelson and then-Sen. Mel Martinez, a Florida Republican, passed legislation to ban oil drilling off much of the Sunshine State’s Gulf Coast through 2022. The no-drilling zone, according to Nelson’s office, extends 125 miles off much of the Florida Gulf Coast, and as far as 235 miles at some points, to protect military training areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Nelson filed legislation in January that would extend the ban another five years, from 2022 to 2027.

While President Donald Trump’s administration has announced they were implementing the same five-year oil and gas leasing plan as President Barack Obama’s administration, Nelson said there are concerns the 2006 law could be overturned.

“What I find is one of the newer senators from Louisiana keeps filing bills that do all kinds of things, very subtle like the proverbial camel getting its nose under the tent.” said Nelson. “That’s what we’ve had to fight off over and over. The good news is almost all, in a bipartisan way, of the congressional delegation wants to keep oil drilling off of the coast of Florida. The Atlantic is another matter … but we have that kind of unity, in the Atlantic as well.”

In March, Nelson and several members of the Florida congressional delegation — including Republicans Vern Buchanan, Francis Rooney, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Democrats Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, and Darren Soto — sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke urging him to keep the eastern Gulf off limits for oil drilling.

“Drilling in this area threatens Florida’s multi-billion-dollar, tourism-driven economy and is incompatible with the military training and weapons testing that occurs there,” read the letter.

Sanibel Island Mayor Kevin Ruane said his community could be negatively impacted if drilling were to occur off the coast, noting that it’s part of a trickle-down effect.

“No one I’m aware of is in favor of drilling,” he said.

Nelson said he plans to have a similar meeting with members of Florida’s east coast delegation in the coming weeks about off-shore drilling.

National Democrats using Google ads to highlight Rick Scott’s support for unpopular GOP health care plan

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) announced Tuesday they are launching a six-figure digital buy of Google search advertisements highlighting Florida Governor Rick Scott’s support for the American Health Care Act, the GOP health care plan that proved so unpopular with the public that House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the measure.

The DSCC says the ads will reach Florida voters across the state who are searching for information about Scott’s record on healthcare. The ads direct individuals to a Florida specific page on the DSCC’s newly expanded healthcare website — which now features video of Scott praising the Republican plan  as well as resources for voters to learn and share how the GOP’s Plan would hurt middle class families in their state. The ads are part of a six-figure digital buy.

“There is nowhere Gov. Scott can travel across the state to escape his support for a toxic Plan that makes older Floridians pay five times more for care, strips coverage from millions and raises costs for middle class families — all to give another tax break to big insurance companies,” said David Bergstein of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “The GOP’s Plan jeopardizes coverage for pre-existing conditions and makes working people pay more for less — and there will be nowhere Scott can hide from his support for this reckless agenda. If Scott decides he actually wants to run for anything besides dog-catcher after his Party’s humiliating healthcare defeat he’ll see these clips again.”

Scott is considered a likely candidate to run against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

The DSCC digital ads are running at the same time that the National Republican Congressional Committee launched a series of digital billboard targeting five House Democrats over their support for the Affordable Care Act, including Orlando’s Stephanie Murphy.

 

Rick Scott’s approval rating ticks up to 57% in new poll

Gov. Rick Scott’s approval rating is ticking up, something that could prove critical as the Naples Republican ponders a 2018 U.S. Senate bid.

A new survey from Morning Consult showed Scott has a 57 percent approval rating. That’s up 8 points from similar rankings released in September, which showed Scott had a 49 percent approval rating.

Scott’s disapproval rating dropped to 36 percent in the most recent Morning Consult survey, while 7 percent of Floridians surveyed said they didn’t know or didn’t have an opinion. In the September survey, 42 percent of Floridians disapproved of Scott and 9 percent said they didn’t know or didn’t have an opinion.

The survey of 8,793 Florida voters was conducted from January to March. It was part of a nationwide survey that evaluated the job performance of the nation’s senators and governors.

The Morning Consult survey shows Scott with a higher approval rating than two recent surveys of Florida voters.

In March, the Florida Chamber of Commerce released a survey that showed Scott’s approval rating at 50 percent. When broken down by political party, the Florida Chamber poll found 76 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of independents gave Scott good marks, while 77 percent of Democrats said they didn’t approve of the way he was doing his job.

A few weeks later, the Florida Hospital Association released a survey that showed Scott’s approval rating was at 45 percent, while his disapproval rating was at 41 percent.

Still, the Morning Consult survey could bode well for Scott, who is widely believed to be considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2018. According to the survey, Scott’s approval rating among Florida voters is slightly higher than Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

The survey found Nelson’s approval rating is 53 percent. That’s up ever-so-slightly from September rankings, which showed Nelson had a 52 percent approval rating.

Nelson’s disapproval rating is 26 percent; up 2 points from September when it clocked in at 24 percent. The survey found 21 percent either didn’t know who Nelson was or didn’t have an opinion of the state’s senior senator.

Several early polls have shown Nelson leading Scott in hypothetical 2018 match-ups. The Chamber poll showed Nelson leading Scott 48 percent to 42 percent; while the Florida Hospital Association poll showed a much closer race, with Nelson leading 46 percent to 44 percent.

According to the Morning Consult survey, Sen. Marco Rubio’s approval rating is at 52 percent, a 10-point increase from the September survey.

Citing rising poll numbers, Florida congressional Dems urge Rick Scott to expand Medicaid

When Congressional Republicans last month attempted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, they heard from several GOP governors, who warned them not to go ahead with a plan to cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid, saying it would have a deleterious effect on voters.

Now, with new polling indicating that Medicaid has never been more popular, Florida Congressional Democrats are finding the inspiration to ask Gov. Rick Scott to again consider expanding Medicaid.

“A number of states that had not previously expanded Medicaid are now considering expansion and we strongly urge you and the Florida Legislature to do so too,” begins the letter penned by Sen. Bill Nelson, and Congress members Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel, Fredericka Wilson, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto.

The letter comes on the same that a new poll conducted by the University of Miami shows that two-thirds of Floridians, or 67 percent, say they favor Medicaid expansion.

Infamously, Scott said in 2013 that he initially supported expanding Medicaid in Florida, but then quickly reversed course and every year since has steadfastly maintained his opposition, despite the business community rallying behind such a move.

In 2015, the Florida Senate approved a hybrid version of Medicaid expansion; the House overwhelmingly rejected the proposal.

State officials said that plan would have covered as many as 650,000 residents.

Here’s the text of the letter sent to Scott:

Dear Governor Scott:

A number of states that had not previously expanded Medicaid are now considering expansion and we strongly urge you and the Florida Legislature to do so too. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia already have expanded Medicaid to provide affordable health care to working families and students. Floridians should not be placed at a disadvantage compared to other states. Indeed, a survey published today by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation found that 67 percent of Floridians support moving forward with expansion to bring $66 billion in federal funding between the years of 2013-2022 to our state. Medicaid expansion will boost jobs and enable Florida to move to a more efficient health care delivery model. In fact, it is estimated that the state would have seen $8.9 billion in increased economic activity and more than 71,000 new jobs in 2016 alone. It not too late to chart a better course for the State of Florida.

Now that Speaker Ryan has declared, “[the Affordable Care Act] is the law of the land,” we should all be doing our part to expand coverage to the uninsured, improve the quality of health plans, and lower costs for everyone. Expanding eligibility to all Floridians with annual income below 138 percent of the federal poverty level–less than $30,000 per year for a family of three–is the fiscally-responsible thing to do not only for a huge number of Floridians, but also for consumers who use Healthcare.gov, for businesses who provide coverage to their employees, and for hospitals who are charged with providing care without regard to a patient’s coverage status. Insurance premiums for Americans who have private insurance are generally lower in states that have expanded Medicaid. Private insurance costs are higher in states that did not expand Medicaid because of costs of sick and uninsured are transferred to the private insurance pool according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Coverage is key, rather than costly and inefficient emergency room care and delayed treatment.

With years of Medicaid expansion already underway in other parts of the country, we have seen that other hard working Americans have benefited from improvements in health care quality and affordability through expansion. Medicaid expansion in Florida would provide over 800,000 of our fellow Floridians with access to primary care. Preventive services like screening for HIV, cancer, and heart disease will save lives, help keep our state’s residents healthier, and improve management of their chronic conditions. Providing access to Medicaid will also improve risk pools in the private market, a shift that has saved consumers in expansion states seven percent on their monthly premiums. Floridians deserve these benefits just like any other American.

Medicaid expansion also will reduce the unpaid medical bills owed to hospitals that put pressure on the state budget and our safety net hospitals funded with taxpayer dollars. Refusing to cover working Floridians through Medicaid expansion does not reduce our state’s health care costs, it just passes them on through rising premiums and tax hikes. With a third of our state’s resources already devoted to health care, the influx of $50 billion in federal funding would safeguard services from the draconian cuts currently under consideration by the state legislature. Medicaid expansion would help the state avoid the rising costs brought by Zika, the opioid crisis and mental health needs.

Throughout your time as the chief executive of our state, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has shown a willingness to work with you to find a path forward that will expand coverage to hard-working, able-bodied adults in our state. States with conservative governors around the nation have arrived at solutions that expanded Medicaid while upholding their conservative principles. If you miss this opportunity, you will chart a fiscally-irresponsible path that will cost our state billions, cost our state jobs and sacrifice the health and well-being of all Floridians.

Thankfully, Republicans in Congress abandoned their recent proposal to rip coverage away from millions of Americans including children, the disabled, and our neighbors with Alzheimer’s in skilled nursing. Like most Floridians, we realized that this was not an honest attempt at improving health care in America. Rather than continuing political games over the Affordable Care Act, we ask that you move to develop a plan for Medicaid expansion in our state to benefit the health, financial security, and well-being of all Floridians.

Sincerely,

###

 

Bill Nelson raises over $2 million in first quarter

Florida’s sole statewide elected Democrat is off to a strong start in his bid for re-election, according to first-quarter fundraising numbers released today by his campaign.

 U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, up for re-election in 2018, will be reporting more than $2 million raised from more than 4,500 individual donors during the first three months of the year.

The $2 million-plus haul is on top of the nearly $1.8 million Nelson had in the bank before January 1, giving the state’s senior senator more than $3.6 million cash on hand.

The numbers released today come on the heels of several recent polls showing Nelson with a solid lead over his likely GOP challenger.

A poll released last month by the Florida Chamber of Commerce showed Nelson leading Florida Gov. Rick Scott in a hypothetical 2018 matchup by 6 points, 48 — 42.

Another poll released late February by the University of North Florida showed Nelson leading Scott by the same 6-point margin, 44 — 38.

Candidates’ first-quarter fundraising reports are due April 15.

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