Bill Nelson Archives - Page 5 of 45 - Florida Politics

Bill Nelson to NOAA: Where are those extra hurricane planes we sought?

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson called it “unacceptable” Wednesday that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has taken no steps to secure back-up “hurricane hunter” airplanes since Congress approved them early this year.

“As the nation recovers from Hurricane Harvey and watches the model runs for Hurricane Irma with an increasing sense of concern, NOAA has taken no major steps to acquire reliable backup – at grave threat to public safety,” Nelson wrote in a letter Wednesday to Benjamin Friedman, acting under secretary of the Department of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The agency has only one set of “hurricane hunter” aircraft, which probe hurricanes to retrieve meteorological data critical to assessing their strength and forecasting their routes and impacts. Key are the Lockheed WP-3D Orion four-engine turboprop that can fly into hurricanes to probe wind and pressure changes, and the Gulfstream IV-SP jet, which flies above storms to collect data on the weather systems in the upper atmosphere surrounding developing hurricanes.

Last spring Congress approved a measure, sponsored by Nelson in the U.S. Senate and pushed by U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando in the U.S. House, to purchase a back-up set of planes in case one of the NOAA planes is  undergoing maintenance or otherwise unavailable. The measure was included in House Resolution 353, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017, signed by President Donald Trump on April 18.

Not only has NOAA not taken any major steps to acquire the new planes, it also has not recently take steps to secure loaner ass back-ups, as it has done in the past, according to Bryan Gulley, communications director for the Democratic Office at the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Technology. One Gulfstream IV-SP that NOAA has counted on in the past, belonging to the National Science Foundation, is set to leave for a NASA mission in Greenland starting Friday, Nelson wrote.

NOAA’s planes currently are fine, and are performing well with Irma, as they did with Harvey, Gulley said. But there have been times in the past when that was not the case, including last year for Hurricane Hermine, when the NOAA Gulfstream was grounded and the agency relied on the NSF plane.

“It is unacceptable that we again find ourselves in the midst of hurricane season without reliable NOAA aircraft reconnaissance and without backup capability,” Nelson wrote on Wednesday. “This single point of failure is dangerous. NOAA’s hurricane hunters flew a combined eight flights for a total of 65 hours doing vital data collection to improve the accuracy of the forecast for Hurricane Harvey. And for the last few days, they have been conducting reconnaissance flights out of Barbados to better predict what Hurricane Irma will do. Their mission and continued operation is essential and should represent a high priority for NOAA.”

 

Bill Nelson asks FTC to go after gas gougers

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asked the Federal Trade Commission to keep a lookout for price gougers ahead of Hurricane Irma’s potential landfall on Florida shores.

The Democratic senator sent a letter to acting FTC head Maureen Ohlhausen asking for the commission to watch for spikes in gas prices ahead of the storm and also in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which ravaged the gulf coast last week.

Nelson said that the release of 1 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve looks to have kept prices stable in the immediate aftermath of Harvey.

“Hurricane Irma now poses a grave threat to Florida and many other areas of the Southeastern United States.  While continued disruption to some refinery operations may continue to contribute to higher retail gasoline prices, past experience in Florida and elsewhere has shown that some unscrupulous operators will seek to magnify these natural price increases to take advantage of consumers – including those that may be trying to prepare for or evacuate from an impending hurricane,” Nelson wrote.

“I ask that you closely monitor retail gasoline outlet pricing in the coming weeks to detect and defeat any price gouging schemes.  Thank you in advance for your assistance with this critical consumer and public safety issue,” he continued.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has also opened up the state’s price gouging hot line, 1-865-9-NO-SCAM. Violators of the state’s price gouging statute can face civil penalties of $1,000 per violation up to a total of $25,000.

An advisory released 5 p.m. Tuesday by the National Hurricane Center puts Irma 130 miles east of Antigua, moving at 15 mph to the west. The storm is expected to turn west-northwest for Tuesday evening and through the next couple of days.

The storm is expected to hit the state sometime Friday, but experts are not yet sure which parts of the state will be affected.

Keep track of the latest news on Hurricane Irma.

Florida’s U.S. senators urge emergency declaration

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson Tuesday called on President Trump to approve Gov. Rick Scott’s request for a pre-landfall emergency declaration for Florida in advance of Hurricane Irma. 

“A pre-landfall declaration will provide important resources and assistance from the federal government and would free up funding sources for emergency protective measures such as shoring up beach dunes, building emergency berms and planning for potential evacuations,” a press release from Scott’s office explained earlier Tuesday.

The full text of the senators’ letter is below: 

Dear Mr. President, 

We write in full support of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s request for a pre-landfall emergency declaration for the state of Florida in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. As the current projections indicate, this major hurricane will heavily impact Florida communities, and we urge you to immediately approve this request to ensure that full federal resources are made available. 

Hurricane Irma has been classified as a category five hurricane, and is projected to cause incredible devastation to Florida and portions of the Caribbean.

While the storm is not predicted to make landfall until later this week, the state and federal government must work together in order to help reduce the potential loss of life and destruction of property. As we recently witnessed with Hurricane Harvey, preparation and up-front resources are paramount. 

We strongly urge you to consider all of the circumstances referenced in Governor Scott’s request and approve this pre-landfall emergency declaration that will provide the resources necessary to ensure the safety of Floridians.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson have qualms on path forward for DACA

The Donald Trump administration announced Tuesday plans to scrap DACA: the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The program was instituted by President Barack Obama via an Executive Order that current Attorney General Jeff Sessions will not defend.

With six months for Congress to perhaps institute a legislative fix to DACA, Florida’s Senators both have concerns about the way forward.

Sen. Marco Rubio agreed that the program as currently constituted violates the U.S. Constitution — but has questions about where the White House wants to go.

“I have long supported accommodating those brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own. However,” Rubio said, “I have always felt that President Obama’s executive action was unconstitutional and that the right way to address this issue was through legislation.”

“Congress now has less than six months to deal with this the right way, through the legislative process. It is important that the White House clearly outline what kind of legislation the president is willing to sign. We have no time to waste on ideas that do not have the votes to pass or that the president won’t sign,” Rubio added.

Sen. Bill Nelson, meanwhile and unsurprisingly, took issue with the decision as a whole.

“DREAMers are our neighbors and our friends. They are our high school valedictorians and our first responders. It’s time for us, as a country, to come together and acknowledge the many contributions that DREAMers have made to our great country, instead of trying to kick them out of the only country they’ve ever known,” Nelson said.

Splitting the distance between the two Senatorial positions last week was Gov. Rick Scott, who issued a preemptive statement, saying that while “President Obama was wrong to address the Dreamers issue by Executive Order,” DACA “kids must be allowed to pursue the American Dream, and Congress must act on this immediately.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson want Florida agriculture protected in NAFTA talks

NAFTA negotiations are all but upon us and Florida’s U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio want to ensure Sunshine State agriculture gets a fair deal.

On Thursday, the two wrote a joint letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, urging protecting of Florida’s agriculture industry from what they call “unfair trade practices,” especially regarding a “fair and equitable market” for Florida farm goods.

Rubio and Nelson want “regional growers to use seasonal data for antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) cases.”

The senators “are hopeful the Administration will use all means available to prevent Mexico from targeting regional growers in an effort to monopolize the U.S. market during certain seasons.”

Nelson and Rubio also invoke the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015; specifically, its call for “eliminating practices that adversely affect trade in perishable or cyclical products, while improving import relief mechanisms to recognize the unique characteristics of perishable and cyclical agriculture.”

“Failure to meet these objectives would clearly not meet the standards Congress has set for trade agreements and would threaten the viability of a renegotiated NAFTA,” the Senators contend.

“A modernized NAFTA that helps level the playing field for American farmers, ranchers, businesses, and workers will go a long way toward restoring faith in our trade agreements. Therefore, we ask that you give this request careful consideration and take meaningful steps throughout the remainder of these NAFTA negotiations to support American fruit and vegetable growers,” the letter concludes. 

Bill Nelson says Florida panther is still endangered

The federal government is mulling removing the Florida panther from the endangered species list. If that happens, it is over the objection of Sen. Bill Nelson.

On Tuesday, Nelson wrote Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

The Senate Democrat’s letter contended that the panther is still in fact endangered — and that the cats continue to face existential threats, despite the population expanding from 20 panthers at the end of the 1970s to seeing its territory expanding “north of the Caloosahatchee River for the first time since the species was listed in 1973.”

Panthers, however, are still in danger.

Nelson notes that just in the last decade, 140 panthers were killed by cars.

“Clearly,” Nelson writes, “there is a need for additional resources to protect the panther from vehicle collisions. Wildlife crossings and roadway fencing are a tried and true way to do this while also preventing habitat fragmentation.”

Development: also an issue.

“It is critical that future development effectively balances the panther’s needs.” Nelson writes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to review the endangered status of the panther and 21 other species.

Bill Nelson calls for federal intervention over kids’ health care

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson Tuesday called on federal health officials “to exercise oversight and enforcement authority to protect more than 13,000 Florida children with special needs,” who he says were wrongly taken out of the state’s specialized care program.

The Department of Health, however, has refuted a CNN report that spurred Nelson’s concern, saying it “demonstrates a misunderstanding of Florida’s Medicaid system, the health insurance industry and the ethical standards of the State of Florida.”

In a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, which was co-signed by Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor of Tampa, Nelson said “the state has still not notified all of the families whose children were improperly removed from the program,” known as Children’s Medical Services.

That’s “despite a Florida judge’s ruling two years ago that required the state to stop using a new screening tool that declared thousands of kids ineligible,” he said.

CNN reported this month that “in the spring and summer of 2015, the state switched more than 13,000 children out of Children’s Medical Services, a part of Florida Medicaid. Children on this plan have serious health problems including birth defects, heart disease, diabetes and blindness.

“The state moved the children to other Medicaid insurance plans that don’t specialize in caring for very sick children,” CNN’s report added.

The Health Department issued its own takedown of that story, saying in part that a “new screening process for CMS eligibility has been in place since January 2016, which was developed by working collaboratively with the CMS medical providers to make sure all children who require the specialized care provided by CMS are eligible for the plan.”

The department added: “It is completely inaccurate for CNN to assert that Florida health officials made decisions based on politics. This claim is 100 percent false. The department remains committed and focused on providing high quality healthcare to Florida’s medically complex children.”

The Nelson/Castor letter says “we have seen over the years that the State of Florida has evaded its legal responsibilities in many instances to ensure access to care for the children of Florida,” adding that “we urge HHS to exercise its oversight and enforcement authority to ensure that children in Florida are appropriately enrolled in the plan that best fits their needs.

“At a minimum, every family affected should be notified immediately and given an opportunity to have their child reevaluated for FLCMS coverage. Furthermore, we urge you to contact the Florida Department of Health and ensure that the 13,074 children who lost access to FLCMS receive the care they deserve.”

The full letter is below.

Bill Nelson and Rick Scott virtually tied, new poll shows

A new poll of the likely 2018 U.S. Senate race finds Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and likely challenger Gov. Rick Scott virtually tied.

The Florida Atlantic University poll, scheduled for release Tuesday, shows Nelson with 42 percent support compared to 40 percent for Scott.

“It is very early with many undecided voters,” wrote FAU political scientist Kevin Wagner.

The poll also took stock of the race to replace Scott as governor and found nearly half the voters for both parties – 47 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans – had not yet decided who they would support during primary season.

Republicans picked Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam with 27 percent support, followed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran at 10 percent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis at 9 percent and Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala at 2 percent.

Only Putnam and Latvala have launched campaigns.

Democrats’ top pick is John Morgan, who picked up 19 percent support despite not being in the race, followed by former Congresswoman Gwen Graham at 14 percent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 9 percent, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at 8 percent and Orlando Businessman Chris King at 4 percent.

Levine, like Morgan, has hinted at a run, but has not yet entered the race. He has also played around with the idea of running as an independent in 2018.

The biggest dividing line between voters is how the Sunshine State should handle guns.

Over half of Democrats, 54 percent, said the state should outlaw guns in public places, while 55 percent of Republicans hold the opposite view.

About a fifth of Republicans are in favor of “open carry” gun laws, so long as a person is licensed, while only 16 percent of independent voters and 9 percent of Democrats felt the same way.

Just 8 percent of respondents said residents should be able to openly carry firearms without a license.

The survey was conducted by the FAU Business and Economics Polling Initiative and took in 800 responses from registered voters through the internet and robocalls. It has a margin of error of 4 percent, while the polling questions on the Democratic and Republican primaries have a margin of error of 7 percent, due to smaller sample sizes.

Rick Scott says Capitol monument is issue for lawmakers

Gov. Rick Scott says proposals to remove a Confederate soldier monument from the Capitol grounds should be handled through the Legislature, where the controversial issue could be discussed early next year.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates and the Florida NAACP are among a chorus of people calling for Scott to relocate the memorial outside the Old Capitol or to hold a special legislative session on the future of Confederate monuments on public lands. The demands, at least in part, are a reaction to a white supremacist rally this month in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly.

Scott held to his stance Tuesday that government agencies across the state that have Confederate markers on their property should make the final decisions about possible removal.

And in the case of the monument outside the Old Capitol, Florida lawmakers will start holding a series of pre-session committee meetings Sept. 12.

“We’ve got a regular session that starts in January, so that’s just a few months away,” Scott told reporters Tuesday after an Enterprise Florida board meeting in Fort Lauderdale.

As of early Wednesday, no bills had been proposed to address the Confederate soldier memorial that has stood outside the Old Capitol since 1882.

On Tuesday, the Florida NAACP demanded Scott and lawmakers remove the Confederate monument — as well as flags and memorials representing “hate, racism and discrimination.”

“We are and will continue to be steadfast and immovable in the fight against discrimination, prejudice and hatred,” Adora Obi Nweze, president of the NAACP Florida State Conference, said in a prepared statement.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor, has directly targeted the Confederate soldier memorial as something glorifying history’s “ugliest moments.”

The monument lists Civil War battles participated in by Confederate soldiers from Leon County.

Another Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Winter Park businessman Chris King, went further.

“These monuments should be removed because we should not celebrate literal anti-American ideology or any ideology based on the oppression of any group of people,” King said in a statement. “And to those who say these monuments are needed to preserve our history, I say we don’t need memorials celebrating this dark time in our history.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat expected to be challenged by Scott next year, tweeted Tuesday that “Confederate statues belong in a historical museum or cemetery, not in a place of honor.”

The corrective tweet came a day after the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that Nelson said, “I think leaving it up to the good sense of the communities involved is the best thing to do.”

While the debate rages in Florida and other states, President Donald Trump has used Twitter to bolster support for such monuments, say it was “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Nat’l Democrats serve up trio of ads attacking Rick Scott

The committee backing Senate Democrats released a series of attack ads Tuesday against Gov. Rick Scott, who is widely considered to be U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s top challenger in 2018.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee campaign includes a trio of “bumper ads,” known as a “bumper flock” when viewed in order. The ads are short-format, unskippable and play across Google platforms such as YouTube.

The committee is also putting a more traditional 30-second ad from earlier this year back into circulation. That ad, called “The Price,” depicts parents selling their possessions to care for their sick child.

The three six-second-long anti-Scott bumpers, which DSCC said are the first of its kind this cycle, depict a son texting his mother about health insurance from an emergency room. The teen asks his mother what type of health insurance the family has, and she responds with “I’m sorry honey, we don’t”

“It’s going to be $$$$$. Why is it so expensive???” the son writes in the third ad. The mother responds with a link to a Miami Herald article titled: “Rick Scott Says He’s Helping Trump Craft Replacement Health Care Plan.”

DSCC said the bumpers are part of a six-figure digital ad buy and are “optimal for delivering critical messages while keeping viewer’s attention, especially across mobile platforms.” The ads will trigger in order ahead of YouTube videos or internet searches.

“The Republican’s health care plan is striking Americans families in their everyday lives and in their most challenging moments — spiking their costs and stripping away coverage they are depending on, so big insurance companies can get another tax break,” said DSCC’s David Bergstein. “This message reaches voters over a series of direct and compelling spots that tell the story of how Rick Scott’s agenda has hurt Floridians and their families.”

Scott, who is termed-out as governor, hasn’t formally declared for the SWillenate race and has remained tight-lipped about when he will decide whether or not to run.

“I’ve always said the same thing: It’s 2017. The race is in 2018. I won’t make a decision until later,” Scott said in an interview earlier this year.

View the ads below:

 

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