Bill Nelson Archives - Page 3 of 29 - Florida Politics

Senate passes NASA bill too late, but offers statement of Congress priorities

When the U.S. Senate passed a quadrennial NASA Authorization bill Saturday it was too late for it ever to get adopted, since the House of Representatives already had adjourned for the session, but the bipartisan bill with bi-cameral input was intended as a message to the Donald Trump White House about Congress’s priorities for NASA.

The bill made it clear that Congress – at least those who made up the legislature for the now-ended 114th Congress – wants continuity over the next few years for key space agency programs, notably those aimed at getting humans into deep space. That means continued progress on developing the Space Launch System deep-space rocket, the Orion deep-space astronaut capsule, and several other deep-space projects, including a satellite visit to the Jovian moon Europa.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the NASA Transition Authorization Act, Senate Bill 3346, on Saturday, which would have authorized $19.6 billion for NASA in 2017. The bill had been sponsored by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who chairs  Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Florida’s U.S. senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, were among eight co-sponsors.

“I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in introducing this bill, and look forward to advancing our nation’s space program in the next Congress,” Rubio stated afterwards.

With this bill, he and the 114th Congress left a priorities list for the 115th and for Trump, who has not spelled out much of his space policy yet.

Among them:

* Continued progress in developing the SLS rocket and Orion, keeping NASA shooting for an unmanned launch of the pair in late 2018, and a crewed launch to go around the moon in 2021. In addition, the bill pushes for a “heavy lift” version of the SLS rocket, which would use addition rocket boosters, essentially from the space shuttle program, to give the rocket the ability to send very big items into deep space.

The bill says Congress wants a strategic plan out of NASA by the end of 2017 explaining how it intends to get humans onto Mars by the 2030s.

* Eventually, the bill states, NASA needs to look at longterm goals  to create a permanent human presence beyond lower-Earth orbit, even a “peaceful settlement of a location in space or another celestial body,” according to a committee report filed by U.S. Sen. John Thune, the South Dakota Republican.

Consequently, the bill had proposed increasing funding 12 percent for NASA’s space exploration directorate, while making trims elsewhere in the space agency’s budget, notably in NASA’s Earth science programs.

Naturally, the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, a lobbying group that represents many of the interests and corporations involved in developing the SLS, Orion and other deep space programs, expressed strong support.

“There is no clearer signal of the continued Congressional support for NASA’s human exploration and deep space science programs than the Senate’s passage of the NASA Transition Authorization Act,” Mary Lynne Dittmar, the coalition’s executive director, stated in a news release Monday. “This bill is the product of hard work by Senators Thune, Nelson, Cruz and [Michigan’s Democrat Gary] Peters, as well as the full Commerce & Transportation Committee and their staff, and their work to pass this bill before the 114th Congress adjourns shows their commitment to NASA and ensuring continued progress on NASA’s core exploration capabilities.”

* Continued development of the James Webb  Space Telescope, NASA’s planned but over-budget and behind-schedule replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope.

* Continued support of the International Space Station through the year 2024.

* Continued support of NASA’s commercial resupply program, which has SpaceX, Orbital ATK and soon Sierra Nevada Corp. running delivery services to the space station. And continued support of NASA’s commercial crew program, which is to soon have SpaceX and Boeing running a taxi service for astronauts headed to and from the space station.

* Continued support for the 2020 Mars Rover mission, and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, a planned space observatory that would be used to delve into deep physics questions.

* Continued support for NASA to continue transforming Kennedy Space Center and the space agency’s launch center in Virginia into multi-user space ports open to private companies’ launches and landings.

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio applaud NIH funding bill passage; Moffitt money preserved

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson both applauded passage Wednesday by the U.S. Senate of a bill that heads off potential cuts in cancer research at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The Senate approved H.R. 34, entitled the “21st Century Cures Act,” by a 94-5 vote Wednesday. The House of Representatives approved it earlier.

“This bill makes a lot of improvements to our nation’s medical research programs, but the most important thing it provides is hope — hope for patients affected by thousands of diseases, hope for people battling mental illness, and hope for families scarred by the ravages of opioid addiction,” Rubio stated in a news release issued by his office. “This legislation combines some of the best ideas for advancing medical treatment and research, speeding up the development of lifesaving drugs, and reforming our mental health system. It also funds the fight against the heroin epidemic and overdoses sweeping through far too many communities in Florida and around the country.”

The bill provides the National Institutes of Health an additional $4.8 billion over the next ten years.

“This funding will help us retain some of the nation’s best and brightest medical researchers and allow them to continue working on several important projects such as cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s,” Nelson stated in a news release from his office.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.7.16 – The Hillsborough County DEC melts down

“Image is everything” that great philosopher, Andre Agassi, once said in a series of television ads for Canon in the early 1990’s.

Though a bit of an exaggeration, there’s no question that the image of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee has taken a significant body blow following its reorganization meeting on Monday night.

To recap: Party Chair Ione Townsend concluded that the party’s by-laws precluded Democrats elected to nonpartisan positions from voting in the local DEC elections. The upshot was that the local party, in effect, “disenfranchised” some of the most prominent Democrats in the county – specifically five members of the Tampa City Council and two Hillsborough County School Board members, who did not take their banishment very calmly, let’s say.

Why would there even be by-laws that would do so? Allegedly it’s because nonpartisan officers, unlike Hillsborough County DEC members, don’t have to take a “loyalty oath,” which means not endorsing Republicans in partisan races. As was mentioned the other night, not every Democrat who wanted to vote in the election could say that (specifically Frank Reddick, who endorsed Republican Shawn Harrison over his former colleague, Lisa Montelione, in the recent House District 63 race).

I would argue that one of the reasons why people are turned off by political parties (and they are) is because one is forced to sign a “loyalty oath,” but that’s just my opinion.

A couple of other thoughts from the meeting.

Although I’d hardly call members of either the Hillsborough County School Board or Tampa City Council “elite,” (none make more than $41,000 annually), that’s apparently the perception of some of the members of the Hillsborough DEC, which had no qualms at all putting these elected officials in their place for having the temerity to question how their Democratic Party bonafides could be questioned.

And let’s not forget the anti-Alan Clendenin factor. In my reporting on his attempt to defeat the Debbie Wasserman Schultz/Bill Nelson establishment pick of Allison Tant to lead the Democrats to the promised land in the January of 2013 election, I learned that there were definitely some local folks who wanted to bring down Clendenin, a longtime Democrat who has been a committeeman at the Democratic National Committee, a local committeeman in Hillsborough County, and was given the (token) title of Florida Democratic Party Vice Chair after his loss to Tant.

There definitely seemed to be some of that same scent in the air for those who supported Hillsborough County DEC Chair’s decision to challenge the current by-laws regarding whether Democrats from nonpartisan races should be prohibited in voting in certain locations. The conventional wisdom is that all seven of those Democratic officials who attended Monday night’s meeting were pro-Clendenin votes. He ultimately lost by 12 votes to Russ Patterson, so technically the decision to ban them from not voting didn’t cost Clendenin the election to committeeman, which could have put him in position to run for state chair again last month.

Can you imagine if the margin had been by six votes or less?

Frankly, there wasn’t a whole lot of noble behavior on the part of Democrats regardless of where they stood on the issue on Monday night. The fact that the meeting was held at the Letter Carriers Union is proof that after Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the electoral college last month, Democrats around here appear ready to want to participate more than ever in the process. But events like Monday night are why people don’t get involved – when it seems to be about personalities, or by-laws, instead of inclusion and changing policies.

In other news….

Luis Viera has defeated Jim Davison by just 65 votes in the special Tampa City Council District 7 run-off election last night.

Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan is warning President Obama not to pardon U.S. Army veteran Bowe Bergdahl before he leaves office next month.

Newly elected Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren has made his two first personnel selections to join his administration next year, including nabbing former HD 59 candidate Rena Frazier to be his communications chief.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is checking in with his constituents about his ambitious plans to have a streetcar run from Miami to Miami Beach.

 

Joe Henderson: Donald Trump ‘saves’ Indiana jobs; Eric Newman asks ‘why not us?’

Eric Newman read news reports of the fight by incoming president Donald Trump to keep the Carrier air conditioning company from moving jobs to Mexico and thought, hey, why not us?

Newman owns the J.C. Newman Cigar Company in Tampa and has been fighting the Food and Drug Administration over regulations that Newman says could put his 121-year-old operation out of business.

So when this lifelong Democrat saw what Trump was doing to save jobs in Indiana, he described himself as “cautiously optimistic.”

“If President Trump is true to his word that overregulation is killing small businesses, we are the poster child for that,” Newman said. “It’s still way too early to tell if he can help us, but I feel better about it now.”

At its peak, Tampa was home to about 150 cigar-making companies, but Newman’s is the last such operation in the city. Other companies folded under increased regulatory pressure by the FDA and health concerns about tobacco use.

But, Newman has always argued that cigars are different from cigarettes and shouldn’t be held in the same category as a cancer risk.

“You go outside an office building, and you’ll see people huddled around smoking cigarettes,” he said. “You don’t see them smoking cigars. It’s not the same thing.”

You can’t blame Newman for feeling his government is out to get him, though. In addition to stringent new FDA rules that restrict the development of new product lines, Newman pointed to an executive order by President Obama that benefited Cuban cigar-makers.

The order allows travelers to bring all the Cuban cigars they want into the United States for personal consumption. Those cigars aren’t subject to the same regulations faced by Newman’s company.

“I have no problem competing with Cuban cigars on an equal footing,” Newman said. “But this exemption by President Obama gives such an advantage to the Cuban worker while screwing the American worker.

“We’re not looking for a handout. But one federal agency says cigars are bad for you, while another federal agency – in this case, the president – says it’s OK to bring in all the Cuban cigars you want. This whole thing with Cuba is just wacky.”

There have been attempts in Congress to address this issue, but despite bipartisan support from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, they haven’t gotten anywhere.

However, as Newman pointed out, “There will be a new sheriff in town.”

The Trump administration likely will mean an overhaul at the FDA and that gives Newman hope that the added fees and testing requirements that he says drives up his cost dramatically will be reduced or eliminated.

“It is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people,” he said. “It’s not supposed to be screw the people.”

Alan Clendenin says he’s undecided on whether to run for Florida Democratic Party Chair

In January of 2013, DNC and Florida State Committeeman Alan Clendenin lost out to Allison Tant in an intensely fought contest to lead the Florida Democratic Party.

When Tant announced two weeks ago that she would not run again for party chair in 2017, a bevy of names were floated as possible candidates to succeed her. One of them was Clendenin, but as of now, he has yet to commit to the race.

“I  am still talking to folks and observing,” Clendenin told FloridaPolitics in an email on Tuesday. “I’ll make a decision before the end of December. Right now there is a lot of upheaval and of course people are manipulating and attempting to rig the election.”

He didn’t elaborate in his email, but he did address his feelings about Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s  involvement in his FDP election bid against Tant while addressing an overflow crowd of (many new) members at the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee meeting on Monday night.

“I was the first one to experience what Bernie felt,” he said, referring to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders contention that the Wasserman Schultz and the DNC had “rigged” the nomination for Hillary Clinton, a contention that appeared to be vindicated with the disclosure in July by WikiLeaks of thousands of DNC emails that prompted Wasserman Schultz to resign here position (though she continues to insist she didm’t rig anything).

Tant defeated Clendenin by just 80 votes, 587-507, in January of 2013. Tant received strong support from Wasserman Schultz, who recruited her to run for the position.

The tension from that vote between Clendenin and Wasserman Schultz never subsided from that election. Although a Clinton supporter, Clendenin sided with both Sanders and Martin O’Malley in criticizing the debate schedule Wasserman Schultz put together for the Democratic nominees for president in  the fall of 2015/winter 2016.

Tant was also supported by Senator Bill Nelson, who Clendenin said on Monday remains the “biggest influencer” in determining who the next DEC chair will be.

The Democratic National Committee is also searching for a new leader, with that election scheduled for February. But speaking to the Hillsborough Democrats on Monday night, Clendenin said, “If we don’t get our sh*t together at the local level and the state level, we are not going to do anything. Rather than focusing on what’s happening up there, let’s get our ducks in a row, talk to your friends and neighbors, and get them actively involved.”

“The power lies with the people in this room,” Clendenin added. “Things can only happen when people allow it to happen. If we stand up and pay attention, keep your eye on the ball, keep up that public pressure, it will work.”

In addition to Clendenin, there a number of other Democrats being mentioned as potential candidates to succeed Tant, including former state senator Dwight Bullard, Annette Taddeo, Dan Gelber and Ed Narain.

Although observers have noted that the bylaws state that only a state committee man or woman or party chair can be eligible to run for FDP chair, others say that those laws can  be “finessed” to make that happen (others prefer the term “rigged”). Bullard, who lost a bid for re-election earlier this month, is now running to be chair of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party on December 6. If he were to win, he would be eligible for the chair position in January.

 

PROMESA task force seeking to rescue Puerto Rico, but pain will come too, Bill Nelson says

Meeting with a bipartisan roundtable of Puerto Rican leaders in Kissimmee Tuesday, Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson expressed both hope that current Puerto Rico “rescue” plans being developed will help, and concern that not all the details they want can be delivered.

Nelson, Congressman-elect Darren Soto and Osceola County Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer met with 15 Orlando- and Kissimmee-area Puerto Ricans to hash out what they hope for through Congress and the Puerto Rico Oversight Board the lawmakers created last summer with the PROMESA Act.

The island territory is wracked in debt; a downward-spiraling economy; an exodus of people, particularly doctors, lawyers, and other professionals; and a double-whammy health care crisis combining lack of health care money and the rise of the Zika virus. Schools and hospitals are closing. Fire and police departments are cutting back. Business and jobs are draining away.

“Needless to say, they are suffering,” Nelson said.

But in speaking to the press earlier, Nelson cautioned, “The austerity measures are indeed hurting folks. But there has to be austerity measures because you can’t spend money that you don’t have, and that’s what’s been going on for the last several years.”

Janer brought it home.

“Osceola County is more than 50 percent Hispanic with most of them being Puerto Rican. I myself, I was born on the island and still have close family ties there. And I think that’s what this is all about. All of us in one way, shape or form is connected to the island of Puerto Rico,” she said. “When Puerto Rico is doing poorly, we’re doing poorly. When they succeed, we will succeed. We care what happens.”

The oversight board is a new federal authority charged with pushing through tough-love economic measures, many of which Congress will have to adopt. And while Nelson made it clear to the gathering the board will administer the economic rescue, he cautioned that many of the hopes of the people there, and their friends and relatives in Florida, will have to accept that bipartisan disagreements will lead to difficult compromises.

A bipartisan, bicameral task force in Congress, which includes both Nelson and Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, is overseeing the oversight board, and will recommend reforms to Congress. The task force must report by Dec. 31. Rubio held a similar roundtable in Orlando in October.

“What we are trying to do is a rescue package, and we, the task force, were given the task of coming up with the recommendations,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he hopes to see the first important reforms, “relative relief, uncontroversial measures,” passed in this Congress, through the budget bill. He said he expects it to only be a three-month continuing continuing resolution, but cited it as the best shot.

Among the key points Nelson and Soto said they expect will pass: some sort of increase in Medicaid funding for island residents, seeking to bring them into parity with stateside Medicaid recipients; childcare tax credits for Puerto Ricans; some sort of small business loan program to help entrepreneurs; and some way to address the Zika virus, which now has affected an estimated 20,000 island residents, including 2,500 pregnant women.

Other key issues, including how the territorial government will address $69 billion in debt to bondholders and a huge shortfall in its $43 billion pension system, remain uncertain challenges, and still others drew debate even among the roundtable panelists.

Some in the roundtable called for the need to protect corporate investors so they will feel comfortable investing in Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican business ventures in the future. Others insisted the territory must get the chance to refinance its debts. The Jones Act — the 96-year-old maritime law — was cited as costing the island and its residents enormous amounts of money. The corporate tax exemptions in Puerto Rico were debated. The prospect of a minimum-wage cut for islanders looms, under PROMESA.

“We are here simply because our brothers and sisters on the island of Puerto Rico need our help,” said Soto, the first Puerto Rican elected to Congress from Florida. His district includes all of Osceola County. “While we face recession, they face a catastrophe of monumental economic depression.”

Phillip Arroyo, a Democrat active in politics, decried what he said has been longstanding corporate exploitation on the island.

“If Congress, if this nation, bailed out Wall Street, I think Puerto Rico should be bailed out as well,” he said.

Anthony Suarez, a Republican active in politics, noted that Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla refused to enact austerity measures ordered by the oversight board, saying he is posturing, trying to make the board look like “the bad guy.”

All of it underscored Nelson’s and Soto’s warnings that the answers will require tough compromises that will hurt as they help.

Soto cautioned that there are those who want the relief to be distributed to the top and trickle down, and said, “I’m hopeful that economic relief will go directly to the people of the island.”

Bill Nelson speaks highly of Attorney General prospect Jeff Sessions

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson spoke highly Tuesday of Alabama’s Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions as a possible U.S. attorney general in Donald Trump‘s administration.

During a stop in Kissimmee Tuesday, Nelson described Sessions as a colleague, friend, and fellow senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and as someone he can work with. Nelson, however, stopped short of declaring his support for Sessions, President-elect Trump’s pick to run the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sessions has many Democrats worried because of hard-line stances he has taken in issues involving abortion, gay marriage, and health care, among others. But Nelson said he’s seen his colleague as someone willing to reach across the aisle to seek bipartisan consensus.

“Jeff Sessions is my friend. I, of course, will listen to all the testimony and make a decision as to whether or not he is responsible and ready to be attorney general. I reserve judgment as I would on anybody,” Nelson said. “But I can tell you I’ve worked with Jeff Sessions on a number of pieces of legislation … and we always got along. And we worked out, in a bipartisan way, whatever the issues were at the time.

“I think he’s a reasonable person,” Nelson added.

 

Mitch Perry Report for 11.20.16 — Bill de Blasio’s big moment?

In New York City today, Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to give a “major speech” on the presidential election’s impact on the city. De Blasio wants help from the feds to pay for the additional security costs in dealing with the fact that the president-elect’s home is literally in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

The NYPD has already put about an additional 50 officers on each shift during daytime hours to manage the flow of traffic in the immediate area of Trump Tower, de Blasio said Friday, and he wants Washington to help pay for overtime costs.

Although being mayor of New York already presents a huge national platform, de Blasio’s profile could grow larger as a dominant liberal voice in opposition to the new Donald Trump administration, along with the usual suspects (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, etc.)

“The mayor has an enormous opportunity to stand up on behalf of New Yorkers and our values. Lots of New Yorkers are afraid of Trump and the mayor can be their voice,” political consultant Howard Wolfson, who advised Michael Bloomberg and served on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign team, told the NY Post on Sunday.

It also may help him as he begins his quest to be re-elected in 2017.

If you’ve followed de Blasio’s tenure to date so far, you know it’s been somewhat checkered, to say the least, following 12 years under Bloomberg. Scorned by conservatives, he hasn’t exactly fired up his own liberal base, and his poll numbers have been pretty average throughout his first three years.

A Quinnipiac poll released last week shows the populace split in half as he received a 47/47 percent approval rating. However, that was his BEST rating since January and up from a negative 42/51 percent approval rating in August.

However, that same poll shows that by a  49-39 percent margin, NYC voters say they don’t support his re-election. To date, no major players have surfaced to challenge the mayor, but there’s still nearly a year for a serious opponent to surface.

Another big mayoral election will take place a year from now in St. Petersburg, where Rick Kriseman’s poll numbers have been solid, though he could be vulnerable if a strong challenger emerges.

In other news …

Local reporters/pundits discussed the 2016 presidential election at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club on Friday.

Donald Trump has been busy nominating men for his Cabinet, including Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general. Bill Nelson says he’s withholding judgement on his Senate colleague.

Eckerd College president Donald Eastman is one of 110 college presidents to pen a letter to president-elect Trump on the need to speak out against violence being committed in his name.

House chairman: Donald Trump favors privatizing air traffic control

A House committee chairman says President-elect Donald Trump likes the idea of spinning off air traffic control operations from the government and placing them under the control of a private, non-profit corporation chartered by Congress.

Rep. Bill Shuster, head of the House transportation committee, told The Associated Press that he spoke to Trump about the idea several times both before and during the presidential election.

He said he believes the president-elect would be supportive, although details would have to be worked out.

“I have spoken to him on a number of occasions and he generally likes the idea,” Shuster said. “We do need to sit down and put meat on the bones … I think in general he sees it as something that’s positive and we need to work on it.”

The Republican lawmaker endorsed Trump early on and campaigned twice with him in his Pennsylvania congressional district. He also campaigned twice with Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Since the election, Shuster has met with Shirley Ybarra, a former Virginia transportation secretary who is working with the Trump transition team on transportation matters.

Ybarra and the Trump transition team didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Shuster and most of the airline industry have been pressing for air traffic control privatization. They say the Federal Aviation Administration is moving too slowly to adopt new technology and that airlines haven’t seen the benefits they expected from the agency’s air traffic control modernization program, which has been in the works for more than a decade.

Earlier this year, Shuster included a plan to privatize air traffic control in a bill to extend the FAA’s operating authority. The bill was approved by the transportation committee, but Shuster was unable to get it to the House floor after several influential lawmakers, including the Ways and Means Committee chairman and the House and Senate Appropriations Committee chairmen, raised objections. Democrats, some segments of the aviation industry and some FAA unions also oppose the plan, although the National Air Traffic Controllers Association endorsed the bill.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chairman and Shuster’s Senate counterpart, hasn’t taken a position on the issue. He said Friday that the FAA hasn’t been successful in bringing fundamental change to how air traffic is managed despite spending billions of dollars.

“Congress has different options, and we will continue to explore them, but the case for changing the FAA’s approach to air traffic control modernization has become stronger,” Thune told the AP.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the senior Democrat on the House transportation committee, cautioned earlier this week that any proposal to overhaul the existing air traffic system “must be thoroughly vetted, not rushed through Congress just because the political landscape makes it easier.”

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., raised objections Friday to what he described as an attempt by House proponents of air traffic control privatization to include language in a defense policy bill that would effectively squelch military objections to the plan. Nelson described his concerns in a letter Friday to Senate Armed Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the committee’s senior Democrat.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Bill Nelson wants probe into Florida’s use of driver records

Sen. Bill Nelson wants a federal investigation of how Florida uses the personal information of its 15 million licensed drivers.

The Florida Democrat wrote U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Friday asking her to probe whether the state is selling information for marketing purposes without the drivers’ consent in violation of federal law.

Nelson made the request after WTVT-TV reported that 75 companies are getting information in bulk from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and that the agency is not doing anything to ensure the information is used properly.

“In this new era, when identity thieves are causing real damage to millions of hardworking families, the fact that the state is making a profit by selling Floridians’ personal information on the open market is simply unconscionable,” Nelson’s letter says. “I ask that your agency investigate whether the State of Florida is fully adhering to the intent of the law, as any deviation could be severely harmful to the millions of people who trusted the state.”

The agency has collected $150 million in the last two fiscal years from companies requesting driving records. Its executive director, Terry Rhodes, said in a statement that the agency “does not sell driver or motor vehicle information” and that the driving records were handed over as required under federal laws and the state’s public records laws.

Beth Frady, a spokeswoman for Rhodes, added that the money collected from companies was based on fees that were set by the Florida Legislature.

Rhodes and her agency report to Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected members of the Florida Cabinet.

Scott’s office and Attorney General Pam Bondi did not comment on Nelson’s letter and instead referred all questions to the agency. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Friday in a statement that he has requested the agency to “provide me with a full update regarding this important consumer and personal privacy matter.”

WTVT reported that some of the companies obtaining driver records had no websites or storefronts, and were not registered to do business in Florida. One operates out of a condominium near Fort Lauderdale, but did not respond to the station’s requests for comment.

WTVT said it began investigating after noticing that Florida residents doing transactions with the agency would then receive direct marketing ads.

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