Bill Nelson Archives - Page 4 of 89 - Florida Politics

Red tide report spells good news for Rick Scott

Florida Governor Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate bid got some good news this week, thanks to a University of South Florida College of Marine Science report.

A three-week red tide mission found abnormally cooler temperatures and increased salt content might have caused this year’s red tide outbreak.

Scott is running against incumbent U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.

Scott has been fighting back claims from opponents that his administration’s environmental policies led to increased discharges from Lake Okeechobee and exacerbated the levels of the K. brevis bacteria that causes red tide in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Our elected leaders have not only done nothing to help us, but they are making the problem worse,” said Susan Glickman, Florida Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Action Fund, two weeks ago.

“Warmer weather is making the problem worse. But we have a governor who has denied climate change. He reduced monitoring, he reduced water standards, he reduced enforcement, and we’re all bearing the burden.”

The report makes no mention of that being the case.

Marine scientists from USF and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission deployed an autonomous robotic glider northwest of Clearwater Beach to traverse the middle of the continental shelf between Pasco County and Sarasota County. The glider traveled along a zigzag path between 25 and 50 miles offshore where red tide is thought to originate.

The cool seafloor temperatures and increased salt content came from water upwelled from the deeper Gulf of Mexico and moved toward the shore.

“The persistence of the upwelling circulation through the present time also explains why K. brevis cells were eventually transported around the Florida Keys to the east coast of Florida, thereby causing the present 2018 red tide outbreak to cover three regions, the west coast of Florida, the Panhandle and the east coast of Florida,” said Robert Weisberg, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor of Physical Oceanography.

The gliders also detected elevated levels of chlorophyll and reduced levels of oxygen. The glider cannot directly measure K. brevis levels, but data indicates it is present and red tide continues to be a threat this year.

Weisberg and others have been able to account for the occurrence or nonoccurrence of red tide 20 out of the last 25 years by tracking ocean circulation. His team previously predicted June would be a lousy month for red tide.

The report notes that regularly sampling water off Florida’s west coast is crucial in understanding the state’s coastal ocean ecology, which gives researchers a better ability to predict human-induced or natural changes in water quality.

The report notes, as Scott’s office has done in all its red tide-related announcements, red tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon; some years, it’s worse than others.

Scott’s office has allocated millions for mitigation, research and restoration and recently allocated $3 million in relief funds for businesses negatively impacted by lost clientele as visitors steer clear of affected beaches.

Red tide causes minor to severe respiratory discomfort, coughing and, in some cases, illness. Dead fish washing ashore also creates a foul odor.

Florida Southern College poll: ‘Narrow lead’ for Andrew Gillum

A new poll shows “a narrow lead” for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum over his Republican counterpart, Ron DeSantis.

But the poll, by the Florida Southern College Center for Polling and Policy Research, has a roughly 4½-point margin of error, and Gillum’s lead is just over 3 points.

Gillum received just over 47 percent support, compared to DeSantis’ nearly 44 percent.

“While our results show a small degree of separation between the candidates, this race is still up for grabs,” said Zachary Baumann, a professor of political science at the school and the center’s director.

Among other takeaways from the poll on the Governor’s race:

— “Independents are breaking toward Gillum 46 to 33 percent in this sample.”

— “Our survey indicates a healthy gender gap between the two candidates with Gillum polling 15 points ahead of DeSantis among women.”

— “Interestingly, we see evidence that Gillum is attracting a younger base of support, with over half of respondents aged 18 to 29 and 30 to 44 indicating they plan on voting for the candidate. DeSantis holds a substantial lead among those age 45 to 64 and a smaller advantage among those 64 years old and older.”

In other contests, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is locked in a virtual tie with GOP Gov. Rick Scott in the U.S. Senate race; Scott has a 1½-point lead over Nelson.

“While polls released over the past several weeks have shown Nelson to have a slight lead in this race, ours is showing Scott making headway and gaining a marginal advantage,” Baumann said.

And “President (DonaldTrump continues to be influential in how voters evaluate candidates,” he said.

“When asked how influential the President will be to their choice of candidate, 54 percent of all respondents indicate he will be extremely or very important. When asked to evaluate his performance in office, a statistical tie emerges with 48 percent strongly or somewhat approving of his job in office and 48 percent strongly or somewhat disapproving.”

The poll is below. It was conducted during the evenings of Oct. 1-5 and got responses from 476 likely voters.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Navigating November

Never mind candidates on the ballot. There are a dozen constitutional amendments voters must worry about on Election Day.

In the interest of saving time and avoiding long lines at polling locations, it’s best Floridians equip themselves early with knowledge of each proposal, rather than making a gameday decision.

As the courts have told us, ballot titles and accompanying language might not be enough to make a well-informed decision. Fortunately, there are useful guides available to help voters do their due diligence.

The latest: Florida TaxWatch’s “2018 Voter Guide to Florida’s Constitutional Amendments.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog is offering an early glimpse of what voters will see Nov. 6, along with the anticipated result of each amendment, pass or fail. Also included are arguments from supporters, and conversely, criticisms from opponents.

One example: under the guide’s analysis of Amendment 13, a controversial proposal that would phase out dog racing in the state, TaxWatch notes, “Animal rights advocates say that the greyhound racing industry’s treatment of the dogs is cruel and inhumane, citing hundreds of greyhound deaths in Florida and the banning of commercial greyhound racing in 40 states.”

Florida TaxWatch Chair David Mann introduces the 2018 Florida Amendments Voter Guide.

Opponents, on the other hand, “say the greyhounds are treated well, and that greyhound racing fully complies with American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines governing the housing, feeding and treatment of the dogs.”

“As a Florida taxpayer, I know how overwhelming 12 constitutional amendments seems when there’s already so much included on our ballot,” said TaxWatch Chairman David Mann. “It is an honor to lead an organization that is focused on the best interest of the state and dedicated to keeping taxpayers informed.”

To officially amend the state’s governing document, each amendment must obtain 60 percent approval on Election Day.

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

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

Take 5

Red tide reaches Atlantic Coast — Algae causing toxic red tide was confirmed this week on four beaches on Florida’s eastern shore. Following closures in Palm Beach and Miami Dade counties, Gov. Rick Scott directed the Department of Environmental Protection to offer $3 million in grants to help affected areas curb the outbreak. The money is currently available to St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Florida’s Gulf Coast has been hit particularly hard this season by the near-annually occurring Karenia brevis algae, although the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission recently announced the outbreak in southwest Florida was weakening.

State launches priest investigation — Following a Pennsylvania grand jury report that found decades of sexual abuse by priests was covered up by church leaders, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced an investigation into Florida’s seven Catholic dioceses. “Any priest that would exploit a position of power and trust to abuse a child is a disgrace to the church and a threat to society,” Bondi said in a statement. “I am calling on victims and anyone with information about potential abuse to please report it to my office. Victim information will be kept confidential in accordance with state law.” Assisting statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox in the investigation is the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Bondi encourages anyone with information about past child abuse by priests to report here.

Committee weeks set — Meetings leading up to the 2018 Legislative Session will begin in early December, according to memos released this week by leaders in the state Legislature. Organization Session will take place during the week of Thanksgiving, Nov. 20. That’s when Senate President Joe Negron will pass the gavel to Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, as will House Speaker Richard Corcoran to House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva. Legislative committees will meet the weeks of Dec. 11, Jan. 7 and 22, and Feb. 4, 11 and 18. The 2019 Legislative Session begins on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. The annual 60-day session is scheduled to end May 3.

State Sen. Dorothy Hukill passes Hukill died Tuesday, less than a week after announcing on Facebook that she “recently experienced an aggressive recurrence” of her cancer and decided to enter hospice. She was 72. A private, invitation-only memorial service will be held for the Port Orange Republican and longtime public servant. In lieu of flowers, her family asks for donations to the Halifax Health Hospice facility in Port Orange, where “dedicated and caring staff took such wonderful care of her in these last days.” Senators and staff members are invited to pay respects from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Volusia Memorial Funeral Home in Port Orange. “Dorothy was a strong and passionate advocate for her community, serving in several positions in local government and also for eight years in the Florida House before her election to the Senate in 2012,” Senate President Joe Negron said in a statement.

Judge blocks pot license process — Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson this week ordered the Florida Department of Health to halt its application process for those seeking licenses to distribute medical marijuana. The order comes after Dodson in August declared significant provisions of the state’s controversial medical marijuana law unconstitutional, including limits on the number of licenses the state can issue and carve-outs for special licenses, such as for owners of former citrus processing facilities. The recent order had been sought by Florigrown, which had been denied a permit by the state. “Another two months have passed, and I do believe now we’re at the point where Florigrown will suffer irreparable harm absent the entry of a temporary injunction and that, given the public interest that can’t be more clearly stated than the public stated in the medical marijuana amendment, that allowing this process and procedures going through by the department is not in the public interest,” Dodson said Wednesday, according to the News Service of Florida.

Scott highlights new Deepwater Horizon aftermath spending

More than $291 million is on its way to protect Florida’s Gulf Coast, Gov. Scott announced this week.

The money will be for projects approved by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. In 2013, Scott reached an agreement with the Council to develop a plan for the portion of federal funding allocated to Florida following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Read the full plan here.

Rick Scott reached an agreement for nearly $300 million to protect the environment after the BP oil spill. (Image via Reuters)

“The communities impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill have come so far since that tragic disaster, and we will never stop fighting to protect our environment and make sure families and businesses along the Gulf Coast continue to grow,” Scott said. “The approval of this funding is great news, and I look forward to continuing our good work with all of our partners to take care of Florida’s Gulf Coast.”

The RESTORE Act, passed by Congress on June 29, 2012, created the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.

“This is a culmination of five years of work and cooperation with and between federal, state and local governments,” said Council Chairman Grover Robinson. “This ambitious plan implements environmental restoration projects across 23 counties from the Perdido River in my county of Escambia to Key West in Monroe County.”

Scott, Bondi attend human trafficking summit

Gov. Scott and Attorney General Bondi delivered remarks Monday to an Orlando audience deeply concerned with accomplishing one goal: eradicating human trafficking.

The 2018 Human Trafficking Summit brought together law enforcement, the legal community, educators, health care professionals, service providers and other first responders from around the state for breakout sessions focused on combating the ongoing problem.

Rick Scott, Pam Bondi spoke in Orlando this week at the 2018 Human Trafficking Summit.

“The Human Trafficking Summit is, and will continue to be, a valuable opportunity to bring law enforcement, activists and experts together to share ideas and build on the model we have built,” Bondi said.

During his remarks, Scott highlighted seven pieces of legislation he signed since 2012, including $6.2 million in new funding authorized in this year’s budget to provide services for victims of human trafficking.

According to the Florida Department of Health, the state is the third-highest trafficking destination in the country, with half of all victims under the age of 18.

Instagram of the Week

The week in appointments

Technology Advisory Council

Susan Amat, 43, of Coral Gables, is the founder and chief executive officer of Venture Hive. She received her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and a doctoral degree from the University of Miami. Amat is reappointed for a term ending June 30, 2022. Allen Ginder, 51, of Jacksonville, is the Florida public sector director for Avaya. Ginder received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia. He is reappointed for a term ending June 30, 2022.

Lake-Sumter State College District Board of Trustees

Jennifer Hooten, 42, of Bushnell, is a teacher for Sumter School District. She received her bachelor’s degree from St. Leo University. Hooten succeeds Kelly Rice for a term ending May 31, 2022. Emily Lee, 72, of Eustis, is a retired integration specialist from Community Coalition Alliance. She received her bachelor’s degree from Southern University, and her master’s degree from Mankato State University. Lee is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Department of Elderly Affairs Advisory Council

Stacy Robello, 42, of Gulf Breeze, is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care of Pensacola. She succeeds Dorothy Peoples for a term ending Sept. 30, 2020.

Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee

Dr. Ronald Lucchino, 77, of Longboat Key, is an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida. He is reappointed for a term ending Feb. 13, 2022. Aileen Ruess, 60, of Fort Walton Beach, is the owner of Ace Senior Care Management. She succeeds Christine Powers for a term ending Feb. 13, 2021. Dr. Robert Glueckauf, 68, of Tallahassee, is a professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine. He succeeds Todd Golde for a term ending Feb. 13, 2022. Dr. Maria Ordóñez, 51, of Boca Raton, is the director of the Florida Atlantic University College of Nursing Memory and Wellness Center. She fills a vacant seat for a term ending Feb. 13, 2021.

Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind Board of Trustees

Christine Chapman, 49, of St. Augustine, is a former staffing specialist for the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. She is reappointed for a term ending Nov. 13, 2021. Ralph “Terry” Hadley III, 76, of Winter Park, is an attorney and managing partner with Swann, Hadley, Stump, Dietrich & Spears PA. He is reappointed for a term ending Nov. 20, 2021. Christopher Wagner, 50, of Palm Harbor, is the chief operating officer for ZVRS and Purple Communications. He is reappointed for a term ending Nov. 19, 2020. These are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Worth a thousand words: State remembers history through pictures

October is American Archives Month, and in the Sunshine State, it will be celebrated in still shots.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced the campaign this week, kicking off by highlighting one of the earliest known photographs of Florida. It features an 1849 Key West daguerreotype.

The campaign, titled “Focus on Florida: Photography in the Sunshine State,” will also share the State Archives’ collection of stills, along with the history of the artmaking process.

Celebrating the history of Florida in black and white for American Archives Month.

“American Archives Month is a great time to visit Florida’s state and local archives facilities, find ourselves and our communities in historical records, and see how archives preserve and tell our stories as Floridians,” said Detzner.

The Archives will hold two open house events this month: Saturday, Oct. 13, and Tuesday, Oct. 23. Both events kick off at 9 a.m. and aim at giving “more people an opportunity to explore the Archives’ extensive publicly accessible resources for researching and preserving local and family history,” according to Detzner.

“The State Archives of Florida is hosting open house events throughout the month to give more people an opportunity to explore the Archives’ extensive publicly accessible resources for researching and preserving local and family history.”

FWC highlights red tide partnerships

Following a particularly strong outbreak of red tide this year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission emphasized its continued focus on research efforts to help understand and combat the toxic, near-annually occurring algae.

By partnering with scientists at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science and the Mote Marine Laboratory, a nonprofit marine research and science education institution, FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton hopes to make a dent in the red tide and help affected areas recover.

FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton says partnerships will be critical to Florida’s recovery from red tide.

“We all know we will recover, but it is going to take our continued partnership,” Sutton said.

The public-private partnerships that have been formed include the Department of Environmental Protection.

“With the talented team we have working together, I know the next big breakthrough in how we manage red tide will come from right here in Florida,” DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said.

At USF, “a combination of buoys, underwater drones and satellites to predict the conditions conducive to development of red tide, measure where it is now, and use sophisticated computer models to predict where it’s going to go,” according to Jackie Dixon, dean of the College of Marine Science.

Ed officials recognize employers for hiring practices

Seven Tampa Bay companies were recently honored for hiring Floridians with disabilities.

The announcement coincides with Disability Employment Awareness Month and stems from an outreach initiative sponsored by the Florida Department of Education Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, or VR.

Director Allison Flanagan’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation helps thousands of Floridians live independent lives through employment.

“Individuals with disabilities contribute greatly to our communities and are integral to our state’s workforce,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “Through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, we are proud to connect job seekers with disabilities to career opportunities that enable them to lead more independent lives.

Among the honorees: AMC 20 Movie Theatre, BayCare Health System, Culver’s of Zephyrhills, The Hamptons at Clearwater, K & K Glass, NASCO Aerospace and Electronics and Wawa.

VR Director Allison Flanagan noted that her division — and thanks to employers helping spearhead evolved hiring practices — nearly 5,000 individuals obtained or maintained employment last year.

“Individuals with disabilities offer a broad pool of talents and tend to stay on the job longer than employees without disabilities,” Flanagan said. “Given the opportunity, individuals with disabilities are able to show their skills, loyalty, and determination and become successful members of the community.”

Election registration deadline nears

Prospective voters take note: Oct. 9 is the last day Floridians can register to vote in the upcoming election.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees the 67 county ballot offices, is reminding citizens to take action now if they intend to cast a ballot on or before Nov. 6.

Ken Detzner says the end is near — for voter registration in 2018, that is.

“I encourage all eligible Floridians who still need to submit a voter registration application to do so by the Oct. 9 deadline,” said Detzner.

Anticipating increased demand, Detzner announced that the State Department is extending Voter Assistance Hotline hours. The hotline — 1-866-308-6739 — will be operational from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday. On Tuesday, the registration deadline, the service will be open until midnight.

To register, users will need a driver’s license or official identification card, along with the last four digits of their Social Security number. To register online, voters can visit here.

Florida accepts maternal mental health grant

The Human Resources and Services Administration is funding the development of a model for screening and treating mental health concerns of pregnant and postpartum women, the state Health Department announced.

Florida is one of just seven states to receive the federal funding. The Florida Department of Health will partner with the FSU College of Medicine and the Florida Maternal Mental Health Collaborative for the project.

Good mental health during pregnancy is best for all involved, says Dr. Celeste Philip.

“Good mental health before, during and after pregnancy can positively impact the health of both mother and child,” said State Surgeon General and Health Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip.

A risk assessment program managed by the state found that more than half of mothers in Florida experience depression after childbirth, but less than 10 percent sought or had access to professional help.

The five-year grant seeks to, among other things, “build statewide capacity in Florida to fully and competently deliver all aspects of screening, referral, engagement, and mental health consultation training to all major obstetrics practices and birth hospitals across North Florida,” according to state health officials.

Florida hospitals reach C-section milestone

Many Florida hospitals are ahead of schedule in accomplishing a nationwide goal of reducing the number of cesarean section, or C-section, operations performed on first-time mothers with low-risk pregnancies.

State health officials announced this week that 20 hospitals already have reached the federal “Healthy People 2020 Maternal and Child Health” goal.

AHCA Secretary Justin Senior is helping the state reduce the number of cesarean sections.

“As part of managed care our Agency has worked with health plans and hospitals to improve birth outcomes and lower risks to both mother and baby,” said Justin Senior, Secretary of the state Agency for Health Care Administration. “We have seen many hospitals take on this challenge and are excited to recognize the hospitals that have met the Healthy People 2020 goal.”

A complete list of recognized hospitals can be found here.

Currently, Florida C-section rates for first-time low-risk pregnancies range from 17 percent to 61 percent, according to the state.

Book lauds investigation into sexual abuse

State Sen. Lauren Book is supporting the state’s decision to probe Florida’s seven Catholic dioceses for information regarding past and current sexual abuse by priests.

Spearheaded by Attorney General Pam Bondi, the state announced the investigation Thursday in light of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that found decades of sexual abuse by priests was covered up by church leaders.

Lauren Book is applauding the state’s investigation of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

“Sadly, we know these instances are not isolated,” Book said, referencing the more than 1,000 children found to have been abused in Pennsylvania. “Attorney General Bondi has sent a clear message to any person using their position of power to exploit and manipulate children: your actions are not tolerated, and you will not get away with harming children.”

Book, herself a survivor of sexual abuse as a child and vocal advocate against abuse, encouraged individuals to come forward.

“As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I know how scary it is to come forward, but I want all survivors to know that your voice matters, the guilt is not yours to carry, and you will be believed. If you or someone you love is a victim of sexual abuse, I promise it is OK to tell,” Book said.

Victim shield law tested

The state struck out on its bid to force the mother of a man accused of sexual assault — who died before he could stand trial — to take down a social media post naming the victim.

At least for now.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said officials improperly pursued the order within the framework of its criminal case against Nathaniel Green — which legally ended upon his death.

Still, the court said officials could proceed against Rebecca Green under a state law forbidding publication of sexual assault victims’ names — as long as they target her in a separate proceeding.

“The statute provides an independent basis of jurisdiction (and a supplemental grant of authority) for the circuit court to enter an order protecting a crime victim from harassment, whether the harassment occurs during the pendency of the criminal case or thereafter,” the court said. The case originated in Leon County.

Florida cancer advocate honored with national award

Heather Youmans, the lead government relations professional for the Florida chapter of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, recently received the group’s top lobbying honor.

ACS CAN, an advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, presents the award each year to a government relations professional who has worked tirelessly to promote cancer-related public policy.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is recognizing Heather Youmans with its top lobbying honor.

During the 2017 Session, Youmans’ work was particularly successful. She helped secure more than $1.8 million in recurring appropriations for Florida’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection program.

Youmans also led efforts to secure $23 million for the state’s peer-reviewed, competitive biomedical research programs, which focus on cancer and tobacco-related illnesses.

FSU ‘Policy Pub’ to focus on consolidation

What are the pros and cons of merging city and county governments?

That’s the question of the day — or evening — for those planning to attend the latest Policy Pub installment: “The pros and cons of consolidation.”

The free public forum presented by the Florida State University College of Social Sciences will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Backwoods Bistro in Tallahassee.

FSU’s Sam Staley will moderate a debate on local government consolidation.

The discussion will be led by Sam Staley, director of FSU’s DeVoe L. Moore Center. Staley also teaches undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation and urban economics.

Specifically, Staley is expected to discuss when consolidation makes sense, and when it doesn’t.

An invite teasing the event notes, “Consolidating public services seems like a no-brainer — reduce duplication of services and labor, cut costs, increase efficiency and get better public services. But does it work in practice?”

GreenWise Market sets up shop in capital city

Good news for organically inclined Tallahasseeans: GreenWise Market, the natural and organic affiliate of Publix Supermarkets, opened up a location this week at the southwest corner of Gaines Street and Railroad Avenue.

The store boasts a variety of ooff-the-beaten-path options for the environmentally conscious consumer, including antibiotic-free meats, organic cheeses and vegan items.

Tallahassee’s Gaines Street Publix is part of a return to the company’s Greenwise brand.

“With our new-format GreenWise Market, we will offer today’s natural and specialty customer the new and interesting products they are looking for while setting the stage to provide a uniquely different shopping experience,” said Kevin Murphy, Publix senior vice president of Retail Operations. “The customers in this growing market are looking for a brand they trust, and we are confident GreenWise Market will be their specialty, natural and organic store of choice.”

In-house eats differ from those offered by traditional Publix locations. At GreenWise, patrons have the option of “fresh, handcrafted sandwiches, acai bowls, gourmet pizzas, burritos, bowls, sushi and sausage” made on location by employees, according to the grocery giant.

The store will also cater to those looking to catch a quick buzz or caffeinated jump, offering kombucha, local craft beer, wine, smoothies and locally-roasted coffee.

Capitol Directions

Nelson AFP-Action ad

Americans for Prosperity Action spending $1M-plus on anti-Bill Nelson ads

Americans for Prosperity-Action (AFP-Action) said Friday that it’s anteing up “seven-figures” for digital and direct mail campaigns urging voters to send Bill Nelson packing after three terms in the U.S. Senate.

The new AFP-FL digital ad, titled “Bill Nelson Has Had 30 Years,” hits the longtime Democratic lawmaker’s perceived lack of progress on health care, one of the top issues for Florida voters in November.

“If you gave an elected official three decades to fix health care, what results would you expect? Bill Nelson has had 30 years,” the ad says. “Nelson voted in favor of Obamacare, lining the pockets of his donor friends while raising costs for everyone else. Nelson supported the individual mandate, punishing those who couldn’t pay. Higher costs, less access. Bill Nelson had 30 years and made health care worse. He doesn’t deserve another six years.”

AFP-FL did not include examples of the direct mail ads in its announcement, though odds are they will also be health care focused as Chris Hudson, senior adviser to AFP-Action, largely echoed the digital ad’s script in a Friday statement.

“Bill Nelson’s vote for the failed health care law punished Florida families with higher insurance premiums — 84 percent higher — and lined the pockets of pharmaceutical companies,” Hudson said. “Bill Nelson has had 30 years to fix health care and didn’t do anything. He doesn’t deserve another six.”

Nelson is up against term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the fall. Most polling indicates the race will head down to the wire, though that’s a change of pace from early on when Scott led thanks in part to his vast financial advantage allowing him to hit the airwaves early.

Nelson is one of 10 Democratic Senators running for re-election in a state carried by Donald Trump two years ago, and a recent analysis by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight listed him as the “most vulnerable” Senate Democrat on the ballot.

“It might seem surprising that the fundamentals calculation regards Florida’s Bill Nelson as the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent since Florida is quite purple and there are Democrats up for re-election in some genuinely red states” … “Nelson has a very good challenger in Florida Gov. Rick Scott; one way our model accounts for candidate quality is by looking at the highest elected office the opponent has held, with races against current or former governors or senators falling into the top category.”

Florida’s U.S. Senate election is seen as a “must-win” by national Democrats, who are holding out hope they can flip both chambers of Congress in the fall. Republicans currently hold a 51-49 advantage in the Senate.

The digital ad is below.

Rick Scott says health care a ‘right,’ but questions remain

In trying to distance himself from a multistate lawsuit that could eliminate insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said this week he believes health care should be a “right.”

Scott’s statement, which came during a debate against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, is at odds with other Republican politicians and followed years of Scott fighting against heavy government involvement in providing health care. Even before he launched his first campaign for governor, Scott ran television ads decrying the idea of having a “public option” as part of the federal health care overhaul pushed by then-President Barack Obama.

In the middle of this week’s heated debate in their U.S. Senate race, Nelson sharply criticized Scott for his health-care stances, which have included flipping back and forth on Medicaid expansion, and for Florida joining a lawsuit to overturn the federal Affordable Care Act. If the lawsuit is successful, it could end a part of the law that protects people with pre-existing conditions who seek insurance coverage.

Scott said little at the time the suit was filed but is trying to distance himself from it, saying that Attorney General Pam Bondi initiated Florida’s involvement without his input. He further chided Nelson by reminding him that Bondi was a statewide elected official and added, “So I completely believe, just based on my own family’s background, that you should have a right, whether you have a pre-existing conditions or not, to be able to get health care.”

Scott’s Senate campaign reiterated the statement in press releases sent the night of the debate, saying health care was a right.

But the talking point of health care as a right has been embraced by Democrats this year, not Republicans. And Scott’s comments came just weeks after a GOP gubernatorial primary debate between Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam where they both denounced the idea that it was a right.

What, exactly, having a right to health care means, though, is different to different people, said Tallahassee attorney Anne Swerlick, who has long worked on health-care policy issues affecting low-income residents.

“People need to get beyond the political rhetoric, they need to get behind those words to know exactly what they mean,” Swerlick said.

Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids & Families at the University of South Florida, said some people contend universal access to health care already exists because hospitals are required under federal law to treat people with emergency conditions and stabilize them.

But, she said, without health insurance, it would be difficult for people to follow up with orthopedic care. For Ray, a key is that health care must be accessible and affordable. Moreover, it has to be high-quality.

“Health care as an entitlement has to take all those things into account,” said Ray, whose group is the lead “navigator” for Florida and works to ensure that residents have access to health care, whether it’s through the Medicaid program or through access to an Affordable Care Act plan on the federal insurance exchange.

The James Madison Institute is a conservative think tank in Tallahassee that promotes free-market health care solutions. Sal Nuzzo, the institute’s vice president for policy, said for health care to be a right, it means the government either is providing the care or is enforcing that it be provided.

“When a politician says that, any politician comes out and says that, it’s a dog whistle for government involvement,” Nuzzo told The News Service of Florida.

When pressed for what Scott will do to ensure that Floridians have access to health care, campaign spokeswoman Lauren Schenone touted, among other things, Scott’s legislative push for a claims database.

The goal of the database was to lower health-care costs by enabling consumers to “shop” in advance to see what payments hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers accepted for certain health care services, such as having babies.

Scott, a former hospital-company executive championed cost “transparency” and the establishment of the database after hospitals in 2015 supported a proposal to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. Scott, a fierce critic of the federal law better known as Obamacare, opposed the Medicaid expansion proposal, which died in the Legislature.

But nearly two years after the Legislature authorized such a database, facility-specific information still isn’t available, and some of the state’s largest insurance companies aren’t submitting data as required.

Ensuring access to health care is far different than political theater of proclaiming that health care is a right, said Matt Childers, co-founder of Florida Health Justice Project, a South Florida think tank.

Voters on both side of the political spectrum think Medicaid expansion when they hear right to health care, said Childers, who has doctorate degree in political science.

“It’s ironic he believes it’s a right now that he’s running,” Childers said.

For Our Future Florida to launch statewide day of action

Progressive group For Our Future Florida (FOF-FL) is launching a statewide day of action this Saturday, which happens to serve as the one-month mark until the midterm elections.

“Saturday’s events will see hundreds of volunteers at over 70 neighborhood canvassing events from Tallahassee to Miami encouraging Floridians to cast their ballots for November,” said Blake Williams, a spokesperson for the group.

FOF-FL says it has already knocked on more than 500,000 doors in an effort to convince voters to elect Democrats on Nov. 6. Now that vote-by-mail ballots have begun to be sent out, FOF-FL says it is ramping up its operation.

The group has already promised resources to help unseat state Sens. Keith Perry and Dana Young. FOF-FL has also highlighted its support for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in his quest to defend his seat from Republican Rick Scott, as well as Andrew Gillum‘s contest against Ron DeSantis in the Governor’s race.

Gillum is attempting to be the first Democrat to hold that position in two decades.

“Progressive voters are more fired up than ever to bring change to Florida for the first time in 20 years, and it’s shown in For Our Future Florida’s large-scale volunteer program,” Williams said.

“FOF-FL will be channeling that enthusiasm for change among Democratic voters into voter outreach and action at the polls.”

‘Kids, family, future’: New ad features Rick Scott’s grandsons

Following a diss-fueled debate and a seemingly endless series of news cycles with attack ads, Gov. Rick Scott is going positive.

In an ad released Thursday by his Senate campaign, Scott is getting help: His six grandsons made cameo appearances in the spot designed to remind Florida voters of the Naples Republican’s relatability and humanity.

“With all these attack ads, all Bill Nelson wants to do is throw mud,” Scott said, noting that he’s “used to it.”

“I have six grandsons,” Scott said. “That’s right. SIX BOYS.”

“We dig for bugs, make slime from scratch. With these guys — even lunch can get dirty,” Scott contended, before entering the call-to-action territory.

“Bill Nelson slings mud to make this race about me. It’s not. This race is about your kids, your family, your future,” Scott asserted.

Scott’s campaign has advanced the narrative of “Negative Nelson” since the summer, as part of a cycle of narratives asserting that Nelson is too negative, too “confused”, and too partisan to represent Florida.

“Now that Nelson is attacking Rick Scott, you might ask, after almost a half-century in office, why can’t Nelson find much good to say about himself? Bill Nelson. Negative. A long, long time,” the Scott ad from late June concludes.

Polling shows the race as too close to call.

A survey released this week by St. Pete Polls shows less than a one-point gap in Scott’s favor, though multiple other polls show a Nelson lean.

Retirees criticize Rick Scott for ‘ageist, inflammatory’ attacks on Bill Nelson

A group boasting more than 188,000 retired Floridian voters is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to quit suggesting Sen. Bill Nelson‘s age makes him unfit for office.

“The members of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans call on Governor Rick Scott to stop using ageist, inflammatory language to describe Senator Nelson immediately,” Bill Sauers, president of the organization, said.

Nelson, 76, faced Scott for a televised debate on Tuesday. During at least one of his responses, Scott said Nelson is “confused.”

“We noticed and were angered each time Rick Scott used a code word to insinuate false, slanderous reasons for not re-electing Senator Nelson during the Telemundo debate,” continues Sauers.

After the debate ended, Scott’s campaign manager, Jackie Schutz Zeckman, charged that Nelson is “barely hanging on.”

“Tonight, you will see Bill Nelson losing his mind,” Schutz Zeckman added. “A rambling, incoherent, confused, disjointed performance from a desperate career politician who is trying to hold onto his job.”

Responded Sauers: “Those statements are offensive and patently untrue and suggest that Rick Scott has a deep seated bias against older Floridians. Ageism has no place in this campaign.”

In response to criticism from the Florida Alliance, Scott spokesman Chris Hartline wrote on Twitter that the attacks are on Nelson’s ideas, not his age.

“It’s his ideas that are old, which is why we need term limits,” Hartline tweeted.

Hartline also cited an instance when Nelson had questioned the late former Gov. Lawton Chiles‘ aptitude for the job. According to Hartline, Nelson is quoted saying “the mental and physical history and the mental and physical health of a candidate for Governor is a legitimate issue.”

In prior spats between the two, Scott has also suggested Nelson is confused, though has not outright linked the accusation to Nelson’s age.

An August ad from the Scott campaign said Nelson was confused when he made public claims that the Russians had penetrated the state’s voting systems this election cycle. Those claims have not been confirmed. Scott’s team titled the video “Confused.”

New Republican PAC offers retrospective of Bill Nelson’s ’empty suits’

A new ad from the political action committee set up by Republican Gov. Rick Scott to provide outside support to his U.S. Senate campaign is painting Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson as a “do-nothing” featuring a retrospective of empty suits starting with a 1970s wide-lapel three-piece.

The 30-second spot, “Empty Suit,” pivots off a 1990 article in Florida Trend magazine that asked on the cover if Nelson was an empty suit. The new ad from New Republican Political Action Committee emphatically offers the answer of yes, as an animated video shows Nelson aging while a series of suits flip past sporting lapel pins starting with Jimmy Carter and running through Hillary Clinton.

It’s the sixth in a series of TV commercials New Republican has run in Florida all with the same themes: that Nelson has been in office way too long, and he has never done anything worth mentioning the whole time. Through last Friday the super PAC had spent more than $9.6 million, mostly on those television commercials.

“In the 1970s, Bill Nelson wears his first suit in Washington; begins unremarkable career,” the narrator says as the suits start changing, first to a salmon suit with a Mondale-Ferraro button.

“He manages to raise taxes and cut Medicare. Nelson is called an ’empty suit’ adored by big money. Nelson even skips national security briefings and leaves hearings about the algae blooms. After nearly 40 years in DC, he votes with his party 89 percent of the time.

“It’s been an empty career, and it’s time to retire empty-suit Bill Nelson,” the narrator concludes.

Gillum AFP-Action ad 10.2.18

Americans for Prosperity Action hits ‘extreme’ Andrew Gillum in new ad buy

The Koch-backed political committee Americans for Prosperity Action, or AFP-Action, announced Wednesday that it was launching a digital and direct-mail campaign attacking Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum over his “record and extreme agenda.”

“Andrew Gillum’s agenda is too extreme for Florida,” said AFP-Action senior adviser Chris Hudson. “His plan for the economy? Raise taxes that hurt Florida businesses and families. His plan for health care? Take away your health insurance and cut access to Floridians on Medicaid by expanding a broken system. His plan for education? Destroy successful programs that give students a hand up in achieving their goals. We can’t afford Andrew Gillum.”

AFP-Action did not include any of the direct mailers in its announcement, though it did link to the digital ad. The 30-second spot, titled “Andrew Gillum is too Extreme for Florida,” starts by saying “Florida is on the right track, good jobs and a strong economy,” before pivoting to hammer Gillum.

“Andrew Gillum’s extreme agenda could put it all at risk. Gillum supports government-run, single-payer healthcare that could prevent access to quality, affordable care,” the ad narrator says. “He’d end successful education programs for one-size-fits-all mandates that hold our students back.

“His plan to pay for all these promises? More taxes on hard-working families and local businesses. Andrew Gillum is too extreme for Florida,” the ad concludes.

The ad buy comes after AFP-Action has attacked Gillum in press releases for his health care positions and for a statement he made during an appearance on Facing South Florida that said the state’s low unemployment level was due to individuals being forced to work “two to three jobs to make ends meet.”

The new ad buy comes a day after AFP-Action announced it was launching a “significant direct-mail push” to oppose U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in his re-election bid against Gov. Rick Scott.

Gillum, currently the mayor of Tallahassee, has indicated that he would raise taxes on businesses. His plan would increase Florida’s corporate income tax rate from 5.5 percent to 7.75 percent in order to pay for his proposed $1 billion increase in the education budget.

Republican nominee Ron DeSantis has dogged Gillum for that position on the campaign trail, most recently when he was accepting the “firm endorsement” of the Florida Chamber of Commerce last week.

AFP-Action’s ad is below.

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