Bill Nelson – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott spar over shortened Senate recess

In a move Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is calling “raw politics,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has canceled most of the Senate’s August recess, forcing would-be campaigning senators to remain in Washington for most of the month.

“Due to the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president’s nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, the August recess has been canceled,” McConnell said in a statement.

“Senators should expect to remain in session in August to pass legislation, including appropriations bills, and to make additional progress on the president’s nominees.”

Senators will reportedly be able to spend the first week of August in their home state. But that’s a far cry from the full-month break senators were expecting.

Republicans have hit Democrats for their “obstruction” of Donald Trump‘s nominees in the past. The truth is a bit more complicated, but Democrats have used tactics to stall some of Trump’s selections.

Now, McConnell says he aims to make them pay by taking away their vacation time. Nelson, however, sees the move more cynically.

Speaking to reporters, Nelson says McConnell’s real intent is to block Democrats in competitive elections from hitting the campaign trail. By scheduling votes in Washington, senators face the choice of skipping votes to campaign in their home state or giving up on valuable campaign time to remain in Washington.

Though the move affects all senators, it hits Democrats especially hard. The 2018 election map is an incredibly harsh one for Democrats, as Democrats hold 26 of the Senate seats up for re-election this cycle. Ten of those seats are in states won by Trump, including Nelson’s here in Florida.

Outgoing Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican trying to take Nelson’s seat, used McConnell’s move as a way to jab at his incumbent opponent.

“It’s promising to see the Senate cancel its month-long vacation and try and get some work done,” Scott said in a statement. “Working Floridians don’t get to take the month of August off, and neither should career politicians.”

The amount of resources Scott has poured into this campaign has not gone unnoticed. It remains to be seen whether the loss of three weeks of campaign time will harm Nelson’s chances to hold his seat, or whether he can find time to fundraise and stay connected to Florida voters while hundreds of miles away.

The race is widely expected to be a close one. Intended or not, McConnell’s move may just help tip the scales.

Bill Nelson to Congress: Help us stop algae bloom

With spring coming to a close, school is ending, the temperature is rising — and algae bloom season may have just begun.

Blue-green algae pouring from Lake Okeechobee has been the bane of many Floridians, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says it’s time for the federal government to do something about it.

Nelson released a letter calling on the Senate to include the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir project to this year’s Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

Nelson says the project would increase water storage and treatment to help lessen the stress on Lake Okeechobee and its surrounding areas.

“It couldn’t be more critical to residents, fishermen, and business owners in South Florida who fear another ‘lost summer’ plagued by toxic algae blooms in their waterways,” Nelson said. “Today, Lake Okeechobee’s water level is at 14.22 feet, approaching the high end of the Army Corps’ preferred management levels, especially as we enter hurricane season.”

The blooms have become a common problem during this time of year. Causing the issue are nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into Lake Okeechobee, which helps the blue-green algae grow. When the lake rises high enough, water pours out into nearby waterways, spreading the algae elsewhere throughout the state.

The toxic and foul-smelling algae caused severe problems for the Treasure Coast back in 2016, causing Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency in four counties.

Nelson says his proposal would help address the problem — if Congress is willing to approve it.

“Just last week, the Army Corps of Engineers submitted a favorable report on the project to the Office of Management and Budget, moving it one step closer to being included in the broader water bill that will soon be considered in the Senate,” said his office in a statement backing the EAA project.

Gov. Scott, who is campaigning against Nelson for Senate in 2018, called into question Nelson’s efforts to solve the algae issue. “Under [Scott’s] leadership, Florida has stepped up multiple times to secure state funding for Lake Okeechobee and he championed legislation to accelerate the EAA reservoir,” said Ryan Patmintra, communications director for Scott’s Senate campaign.

“Meanwhile, Nelson dragged his feet for decades and Congress did nothing to fund repairs for the Herbert Hoover Dike. Suddenly showing up just in time for an election year won’t cover up Nelson’s decades of failures on Lake Okeechobee.”

The WRDA is expected to come up for a vote soon, perhaps as early as this month.

Bill Nelson a hard no on adult use cannabis legalization

Cannabis legalization is approaching consensus in the Democratic field for Florida governor, but U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is maintaining a ‘Just say no’ policy.

Speaking to media in Jacksonville on Friday, Nelson was asked if he aligned with the growing consensus among the Democratic candidates for liberalization of cannabis laws, including decriminalization, legalization, and removing the plant from Schedule 1.

“That’s a fancy way that you’ve asked me ‘Do I agree with recreational marijuana’, and the answer is no,” Nelson said, breaking from hisa usual pattern of essayist expositions when answering questions.

Nelson, unprompted, broached the subject of medical marijuana by way of tweaking Gov. Rick Scott.

“This question of him trying to torpedo the constitutional amendment for medical marijuana prescribed by a doctor,” nettled Nelson, who has been messaging statewide on this issue, including advocacy of smokable medical cannabis in Tampa Thursday.

Nelson’s paradox: his measured support of medical cannabis is out of step with a more liberal approach among other Democrats with statewide profiles. While he may score points against the Scott position, his opposition to rescheduling cannabis won’t excite many activists.

Blake Dowling: Oops

Technology can be your best friend and your worst enemy. Have you ever “replied all” to an email when you meant to reply just to the person who sent it to you? Has your phone ever pocket dialed your high-school sweetheart or the FBI?

The “oops factor” in tech is always looming, so make sure you are always diligent with your devices and treat your tablet and phone as sacred.

Also, remember your devices have a mind of their own.

Tech industry leaders like Elon Musk have been warning us that artificial intelligence will take over the world if we are not careful. I think we have a few college football seasons ahead of us before global apocalypse happens but in the meantime, AI is wreaking some havoc. How about Alexa sending out a private conversation between two people to one of the person’s contacts without their knowledge. That happened. The “smart” device heard a series of words within the dialogue that lead it to take several steps. 1) Record the conversation and then 2) send it to a contact. Mind blown.

The potential for scandal, disaster, embarrassment and hilarity are off the scale here.

So, while you chew on that, let’s also look at the other most common part of tech that is infested with oops: social media.

We have seen a renaissance in social media use the past couple of years. It seemed to me that a couple of years ago the worlds of Twitter, etc. had calmed down a little but man then the gloves came off in a big way, especially around the time of the last election.

People, especially politicians, started unloading on Twitter, attacking their enemies, defending their agendas, etc.

Even with all this raw content sometimes people have a “hmmm” moment and delete something.

Not so fast my friends.

There is an entire website devoted to the publication of deleted tweets from your fave politicians. It’s called Politwoops.

According to the site, Sen. Bill Nelson deleted this May 26 after posting it for two hours. I don’t see anything too threatening, and Alan Williams is cool, so who knows why this got deleted. But it did.

You can check out all fun for yourself here, I narrowed it down to just Florida.

So remember to treat your tech like the powerful tool it is and it can be your pal.

Also, give those posts some thought before posting as people are always watching. A lot of you out there might have someone to review your posts for you before hitting the enter button. This is a superb system of checks and balances. Consider putting this into play, especially if you work in the hypersensitive world of state, local or federal politics.

Lastly, considering unplugging those smart devices when they are not in use. As we are starting to see, they aren’t really that smart yet and they could accidentally open you up to a world of hurt by emailing private conversations to everyone you know, in theory.

Have a great week.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at

Bill Nelson warns of ‘trade war’ with allies, holds out hope for NoKo summit

President Donald Trump has irritated traditional U.S. allies such as Canada and the European Union with tariffs, setting off a trade war amidst fiery rhetoric on both sides.

In Jacksonville Friday, Sen. Bill Nelson took Trump to task, discussing how tariffs would affect domestic businesses.

Meanwhile, he endorsed the President’s Singapore Summit with North Korea’s Supreme Leader later this month.

“Starting a trade war with our closest allies is the last thing we should be doing. No one wins in a trade war, especially hardworking families who may have to pay more for the goods they buy every day,” Nelson said.

Nelson noted that the 25 percent steel tariff and the 10 percent aluminum tariff would affect local businesses, including the Budweiser plant.

“They produce 3.3 billion,” Nelson said, “cans a year. Multiply that by 25 percent tax add to that, that adds up to real money.”

Europe, Canada, and Mexico, Nelson added, provide consumer goods ranging from cars and machinery to steel from Mexico.

“The cost of a car is going to increase … a lot of the goods we buy every day,” Nelson said, forecasting an “international trade war” with retaliatory tariffs.

Nelson added that “a lot of the Republican Senators are feeling uncomfortable,” including Sen. Marco Rubio.

“If this starts an international trade war, Florida’s going to get hurt,” Nelson predicted.

The Senator was more bullish, relatively speaking, on the prospects of diplomacy with North Korea.

Despite inevitable “starts and stops,” Nelson “hopes the summit’s on.”

“It’s always better to talk to your enemy than to be shooting,” Nelson said, though acknowledging skepticism on North Korea making significant concessions.

“He will get what he wants, to be on an equal playing field with the United States,” Nelson said of Kim Jong Un, “and will bob and weave.”

Despite the “hollowed-out” State Department, Nelson holds out hope that current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “will have the experts he needs as they do the pre-negotiation.”

“What you would hope is that you have everything negotiated by the time they do the summit in Singapore,” Nelson said.

Pot legalization could be key issue for Democrats

Three of the state’s top Democratic candidates for governor support legalization of recreational marijuana, and the fourth backs decriminalizing pot for personal use, showing near-consensus on an issue political rainmaker John Morgan said could determine the outcome of the August primary.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Winter Park entrepreneur Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine back an across-the-board legalization of pot in Florida, where voters two years ago overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, meanwhile, has endorsed a plan to decriminalize marijuana for personal use, saying she doesn’t believe people should be locked up for possessing small amounts of pot.

Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who largely bankrolled the medical marijuana amendment, called recreational weed a make-or-break issue for Democratic candidates seeking to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

“A Democrat who doesn’t call for the full legalization of marijuana I do not believe can win the Democratic primary,” Morgan told The News Service of Florida this week.

In a Medium post on May 21, Gillum pledged to “inject new revenue into the state budget by legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana” if elected governor, predicting legalization could generate up to $1 billion in new revenue.

And legalizing pot will help undo the “over-criminalization of young people,” Gillum said during a debate between the candidates in April.

“We’ve got to end this prison-industrial complex that is being built all around a plant and a seed that, quite frankly, provides much more redemptive use than it does harmful,” he said.

Levine campaign consultant Christian Ulvert told the News Service the former Miami Beach mayor would back legislative efforts to legalize marijuana.

If the Legislature doesn’t take up the issue, Levine “wants to put the weight of the governor’s office behind a constitutional amendment and let the people decide,” Ulvert said.

As mayor, Levine supported decriminalization in 2015 when Miami Beach commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance that allowed police to issue $100 fines for people caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana. The city ordinance mirrored one passed by Miami-Dade County.

King has made legalization of pot a key element of his criminal-justice package and, like Gillum, wants to use the tax revenue to boost state coffers.

“Florida should legalize and regulate marijuana to end the practice of overcriminalization predominantly affecting communities of color and tax it to invest in programs that reverse the school-to-prison pipeline,” King said in an email.

King used the issue to jab his opponents: “Florida needs bold, progressive leadership and half-measures from conventional politicians such as ‘decriminalization’ or ‘following the will of voters’ are answers straight from the political establishment playbook.”

Graham, who has been criticized by some Democrats for being too conservative during her two-year stint in Congress, is the only candidate to stop short of endorsing flat-out legalization. Some states, counties and cities have used decriminalization as a way to allow people to get citations for possessing small amounts of pot, removing the possibility that they will be arrested on criminal charges.

Graham included decriminalization of personal possession of marijuana in a criminal-justice reform package released Thursday. She also wants to reduce sentences for nonviolent drug possession and called for a review of all mandatory- minimum sentencing laws.

“Florida should embrace the principle that no young person should go to jail or have their lives ruined over an incident of marijuana use — we can and should decriminalize,” she said in a statement last year.

But Morgan said the only way “people won’t be arrested, detained, ticketed or stopped” is the full legalization of marijuana.

“Gwen is playing a general election game assuming that she’s going to be the nominee, and that is the most dangerous game a politician can play, because it reeks of arrogance and it assumes that the Democratic Party is going to give her a pass on an issue they’re passionate about,” he said. “I would never vote for her in a million years with that position. And I think I speak for almost 100 percent of the Democratic Party. It’s an outrage.”

For Democratic primary voters, opposing flat-out legalization of marijuana is on the same scale as being against same-sex marriage, according to Morgan.

“You’re dead. You’re DOA,” said Morgan, who toyed with running for governor but has abandoned the idea in favor of pursuing a constitutional amendment that would raise the minimum wage.

Morgan is embroiled in a bitter legal fight with the Scott administration over a state law prohibiting the smoking of medical marijuana. Siding with Morgan and other plaintiffs, a Tallahassee judge last week found the smoking ban — included in a state law passed last year to implement the 2016 constitutional amendment — ran afoul of the Constitution.

The state Department of Health immediately appealed Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers’ May 25 ruling.

Morgan this week called on Scott to drop the appeal, warning it could hurt the Republican governor in his effort to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

All four Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls said they support allowing patients to smoke medical marijuana, if their doctors order it.

Where the candidates stand on recreational pot will affect the outcome of the Democratic gubernatorial primary and the Senate race, Morgan predicted, pointing out that more than 71 percent of voters supported the amendment legalizing medical marijuana.

But unlike the nearly $7 million of his own money he spent to legalize medical marijuana, Morgan said he’s not going to underwrite any attempts to make pot an issue in this year’s campaigns.

“I’m not going to unfold my wallet. I’m unfolding my wallet to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” he said, referring to a citizens’ initiative he hopes to put on the 2020 ballot. “But I am going to unfold my megaphone, and I don’t need money to do that. People listen to what I say.”

Bill Nelson

Bill Nelson campaigning in Tampa Bay Saturday

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will be in the Tampa Bay area tomorrow for a “canvass kick-off” event with the local troupe of volunteers backing his re-election campaign.

The third-term Senator will be alongside Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson and St. Petersburg state Sen. Darryl Rouson for the 2 pm “Nelson’s Neighbors” event at Greenway/Childs Park on 49th Street South and Tangerine Avenue.

After that event wraps, Nelson will make his way back across the bay to attend a reception in Lutz hosted by the Pasco County Democratic Party. He’s slated to speak to volunteers and supporters during the event, scheduled for 6:30 pm at the Hilton Garden Inn, 2155 Northpoint Parkway.

Supporters will need a ticket to make it into the fundraiser. The price tag is $26 a person, or $10 with a student ID.

Nelson is in the midst of his toughest re-election battle yet. He faces Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who has already dumped millions into early campaign ad blitz.

Nelson’s media presence started rolling out last week with an ad buy from Senate Majority PAC, though reports indicate his  campaign will stay mostly dark until the fall.

Democratic PACs’ digital ad touts Bill Nelson’s fight for Medicare, Social Security

Democratic Senate Majority PAC and Priorities USA Action are teaming up on a $600,000 statewide digital advertising campaign being launched in Florida Thursday, beginning with an ad focusing on Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s efforts to protect Medicare and Social Security.

The initial 15-second ad “Privatize” is in addition to the campaign that the Senate Majority Political Action Committee is running on TV on behalf of Nelson in Florida’s U.S. Senate race against Republican Gov. Rick Scott. That PAC began last week with a television spot that covers some of the same material.

The new campaign also is releasing a Spanish digital ad called “Pre-Existing Conditions,” portraying Nelson as taking on insurance companies that denied coverage to people with health care pre-existing conditions.

Like the Senate Majority PAC’s TV commercial, the digital ads also make quick references to Nelson’s service as a U.S. Army captain and astronaut, and ratings as an independent senator.

The ads will appear on social media, Google search, and across websites and video properties such as YouTube playing on an iPhone, Pandora playing on an Echo, or Hulu playing on a smart TV.

“Throughout his career in public service, Bill Nelson has fought for middle-class Floridians and their families time and time again,” Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA Action. “While some may go to Washington to try to get rich or push their ideological agenda, Bill Nelson shows up to work every day looking for ways to improve the lives of working people. Priorities and SMP are proud to support Senator Nelson with a digital campaign that highlights all that he has delivered for Florida.”

Scott’s campaign called it ironic that two groups with partisan orientations would call Nelson independent.

“Consider the irony of another liberal group proclaiming Bill Nelson is an independent senator. This is yet another ad of Bill Nelson failing to highlight a single legislative accomplishment. At some point, can anyone point to anything Bill Nelson has done on Earth?” Scott campaign Communication Director Ryan Patmintra said in a statement.

National Democrats aid Florida Democrats’ Puerto Rican voter outreach

The Democratic National Committee just weighed in on the Florida partisan fight for Puerto Rican voters, providing the state party with a $100,000 grant and arguments on why they should register as Democrats.

DNC Chair Tom Perez and Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo joined U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and Val Demings and others in Orlando Wednesday to announce the grant, amidst a drumbeat of criticism for how Puerto Ricans desperately need help and Republican-led Washington is not delivering.

It began with Soto arguing that the island territory already was in dire straights when Hurricane Maria caused $90 billion in damage, yet got $18.9 billion in aid, adding, “We had to fight for each inch for what they got … The worry I have is in Washington the attitude is, ‘Puerto Ricans should be grateful for what they got,’ because they’re not a state.”

That led to the mass migration of people from the island to Florida, a scenario the Democrats see as a beacon call, and Soto, Demings, state Sen. Victor Torres, states Rep. John Cortes and Carlos Guillermo Smith, Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla and others all made arguments that they have every reason to want to join the Democratic Party.

“The Democratic Party is the party that is going to be fighting for working people; it’s the party that’s going to be fighting for immigration, for living wage, for making sure we have a fully-funded affordable housing fund – and the Republican Party is the party of Donald Trump,” Smith said.

Perez, the former U.S. Labor Secretary under President Barack Obama, charged that under President Donald Trump the federal government offered clear double standards with how it assisted Texas and Florida, compared with how it assisted Puerto Rico. He also put in plugs for Soto, Demings, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for supporting Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans who came to Florida.

“When all you see from Republican leadership is throwing paper towels, that’s insulting. What we have on the island is an economic crisis. It’s a health care crisis. It’s a humanitarian crisis, and frankly it’s a moral crisis,” said Perez a Dominican-American who said he has family ties in Puerto Rico.

Yet in Florida the Democratic Party faces a challenge in convincing Puerto Rican voters that Republicans are not addressing the moral crisis, as Nelson’s opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, and others in the party such as state Reps. Bob Cortes and Rene Plasencia, like Nelson, Soto, Torres, John Cortes, Smith and other Democrats, made numerous trips to the island and pushed hard to organize and provide aid, and to help displaced Puerto Ricans in Florida.

“While the Republican National Committee, in conjunction with the Florida GOP, has been working to ensure the Puerto Rican community in Florida has all the resources they need after Maria, Tom Perez is showing up right on time to support Bill Nelson and Congressional Democrats with more empty rhetoric in a tough campaign year. We are here to continue to be supportive of the people of Puerto Rico. They deserve nothing less than that, and we’re going to continue to be focused on helping in every way we can,” RNC spokesperson Taryn Fenske said in a written statement.

The DNC grant money comes from a party”s new State Party Innovation Fund the DNC established.

“Florida Democrats have been working tirelessly to organize in every community, and mobilize voters in every election,” Perez said in a news release. “With this grant, we’re making sure that Florida Democrats have the tools they need to identify and connect with new Puerto Rican voters, and provide them with the support they need as they settle in the Sunshine State. By using innovative digital outreach efforts combined with grassroots organizing, we will be able to reach thousands of potential voters. The DNC is proud to partner with the Florida Democratic Party through this grant to expand our engagement in every single ZIP code.”

Joe Henderson: Voter poll is a chapter, but full story is yet to come

The latest voter survey by Public Policy Polling — the one showing Philip Levine with a double-digit lead in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial race — is interesting and should be taken seriously.

His strategy of blanketing the airwaves seems to be working, although it would be more impressive if the primary was held in early June.

But it’s a long game (just ask the Houston Rockets what it means to be ahead at halftime). Toward that end, over lunch the other day, a friend was saying nice things about Adam Putnam, having met him a few times. That is welcome news to him, I’m sure, considering recent events.

But then, my friend casually asked who was running on the Democratic side. I said, well, there’s Philip Levine — he used to be mayor of Miami Beach.

I got a quizzical if-you-say-so look.

Well, and there is Gwen Graham. Remember U.S. Sen. Bob Graham? That’s his daughter.

Um, no. No clue.

At that point, I didn’t bother to mention Andrew Gillum or Chris King.

Now, my friend is older, smart, only peripherally interested in politics but will turn out to vote.

That is the kind of voter Democrats are going to need if they have any realistic hope of regaining the Governor’s Mansion in November. To many folks, though, their efforts have been a tree falling in the forest.

It’s not for a lack of trying.

They’ve all been out on the campaign trail, meeting with every civic or political group (or fundraiser) that will offer an audience.

Only Levine has been peppering the TV airwaves with commercials though, especially the one where he says public school teachers deserve a $10,000 annual raise.

I did some quick math on that.

There are about 180,000 public school teachers in Florida.

That works out to about $1.8 billion in extra money the state would have to find to make Levine’s wish come true even if he becomes the next Governor.

If you believe that will happen, fly to Vegas immediately and put it all on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl next season.

It’s a message that Levine is planting in voters’ minds, though.

I mean, it’s never bad to be on the side of public school teachers; they are the firewall between us and a future straight out of a zombie apocalypse. 

They should be paid accordingly.

It’s fair game, though, to ask Levine exactly how he would plan to do that.

And since during a debate he fumbled over the question of how much money the state budgeted this year for public education (along with each of Democratic competitors), I think the devil might be in the details on this one.

The good news for Levine is that it’s probably too early for the vast majority of voters to care about details, or platforms, or even to get serious about knowing candidates who might as well be from the planet Zortron for all they know.

After all, they are competing for attention with seismic stories like the cancellation of the Roseanne Barr show on TV after her racist (but predictable) Twitter meltdown.

So, polls show Levine with a big lead. It shows Rick Scott leading Bill Nelson.

Interesting? Sure.

But what’s all mean?

Three words: Hillary. Rodham. Clinton.

After all, we are about three months away from the primaries and more than five months from the general election.

Candidates who are way behind should be aware and maybe a little concerned. But anyone in the lead probably shouldn’t start thinking about measuring drapes for their new office just yet.

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