Bill Nelson Archives - Page 5 of 74 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott pushes back on Bill Nelson’s algae claims

Gov. Rick Scott didn’t take too well to aspersions cast by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson at him from the Caloosahatchee River yesterday.

Rather than hearing from a federal official about how green algae blooms lay with state policy, Scott promises he will do something from Washington if voters send him there to replace the incumbent.

“Nelson himself acknowledged in Cape Coral that the problems surrounding Lake Okeechobee came from decades of mistakes,” reads a statement to Florida Politics from Scott’s Senate campaign, “but he had nothing to say about his own decades of inaction when asked why solutions were so slow.”

Scott, a Republican, is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Nelson. The general election is Nov. 6.

On Friday, Nelson’s campaign hosted a roundtable about algae in North Fort Myers, joined by environmental and Cape Coral leaders — and with a distinctly partisan tone.

The Scott campaign pushed back, noting Nelson has been in Washington for decades, whether as a Senator for the past 17 years or before that as a congressman, while repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike lingered as a long-drawn-out federal project.

“When Bill Nelson repeatedly failed to step up, it was Governor Scott who secured state funding for Lake Okeechobee, supported legislation to accelerate the EAA reservoir, and now secured funding through the Army Corps of Engineers,” reads the statement from Scott.

Scott took umbrage at suggestions a law easing regulations on septic tank inspections played a more significant role in the algal blooms now impacting homeowners and businesses in South Florida.

“It’s absurd for Nelson to say that a bill that was overwhelmingly passed by the legislature only six years ago to save homeowners money is somehow responsible for a problem that has lasted for generations,” the statement reads. “Additionally, under Governor Scott’s leadership, Florida established the most comprehensive nutrient pollution standards in the nation and became the first state to adopt complete nutrient standards protecting all lakes, rivers, streams, springs and estuaries.

“Ultimately, Bill Nelson’s misleading attacks make it clear that with no accomplishments of his own after nearly half a century in office, he has no choice but to go negative.”

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Weathering the storm

Clouds are brewing over the journalism industry, but the long-term forecast is promising.

That’s according to Diane McFarlin, the former publisher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and current dean of the University of Florida College of Journalism. She delivered a media ‘forecast’ to an audience of UF alumni in Tallahassee this week.

Diane McFarlin offers a grim warning for the short-term, with hope on the horizon.

In the short term, “It’s all clouds and storms,” according to McFarlin. And it’s not getting any better soon, in fact, it “looks like a hurricane is coming upon us.”

“Financially, a decline that began more than a decade ago for the newspaper industry has accelerated,” McFarlin said, adding that newspaper employment pales in comparison to its glory days stats.

But there’s hope.

Describing the “silver linings from what has probably been the most tumultuous decade in the history of American media,” McFarlin expressed faith in the future of journalism. Her extended forecast: “Partly cloudy skies with rays of sunshine.”

She cited reputable recent polling that found increased trust in professional journalists and other “voices of expertise.”

As well, the proliferation of fake news and deceitful information has been met by a push for media literacy, noted McFarlin.

She also estimated that the shuttering of local news publications will be counterbalanced by an increased demand for journalism, perhaps through new media publications.

And from her post overseeing prospective journos, she is optimistic about the upcoming professional class of Americans.

“They are not impressed by power and influence, they are impressed by authenticity and veracity,” McFarlin said. “That’s what they want in their bosses. That’s what they want in their leaders. That’s what they want in their country.”

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

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

Take 5

Scott battles wealth lawsuit — Attorneys for Gov. Rick Scott are encouraging a state appellate court to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Scott’s financial disclosures. An attorney representing the Governor this week asked the court to let wealth disclosure compliance issues be decided by the Florida Commission on Ethics, as the law prescribes. But Donald Hinkle, who filed the original lawsuit challenging Scott’s 2017 disclosed net worth, argued the Commission does not provide a reasonable avenue for appeal. “It was dismissed. We cannot appeal. That’s the end of the road,” Hinkle said, according to the News Service of Florida. “Is there to be no opportunity to review the disclosures of any elected official, every constitutional officer in this state?” The appellate court has not yet ruled on the matter.

Lawmakers plan to boost election security — Federal funding is on its way to county elections offices. During a Joint Legislative Budget Commission meeting this week in Tallahassee, lawmakers approved a request from Secretary of State Ken Detzner to distribute $19.2 million from the federal government to Florida’s 67 counties. Each county will at least receive $50,000. The money will be used to beef up elections security systems and voting facilities. It will also be used to fund five cybersecurity specialists and voter education. The news is welcome to those who fear election systems can be compromised, but concerns still were raised over how the money will be spent. Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley told the News Service of Florida that he fears counties could spend the money recklessly if they are forced to spend it all ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.

Extra citrus, medical marijuana dollars approved — More money than originally planned is on the way for regulators of the state’s medical marijuana industry and citrus growers affected by Hurricane Irma. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission agreed in Tallahassee this week to dole out another $13 million to cover operating costs at the Office of Medical Marijuana Use. The group of lawmakers also approved a $340 million federal grant for citrus growers to cover the buying and replanting of trees, grove rehabilitation and repairs to irrigation systems. The extra money requested by OMMU will be used to fund ongoing litigation, review four new provider licenses and develop a new computer tracking system. The citrus grant money was announced by the United States Department of Agriculture in May, and Gov. Scott urged the Commission to approve the dollars ahead of its meeting.

State readies Hope scholarships — Florida students who are bullied could be eligible for a new remedy as early as the upcoming school year. The Florida Board of Education approved a rule this week that authorizes school districts to send parents a form giving them the option to enroll their student in another public school or charter school if he or she is bullied, harassed, or is the victim of other violent acts at school. That action follows a new law passed this year that created the Hope scholarship program. The voucher-like scholarships will fund bullied students’ transitions to different schools. Reports the News Service of Florida, “State analysts project 7,302 partial-year Hope scholarships being awarded in the 2018-2019 school year, with some $27 million in funding.”

Marsy’s Law challenged — A South Florida defense attorney is challenging a proposed amendment that seeks to expand rights granted to victims of crime. The attorney, Lee Hollander, filed the amendment last week, arguing the ballot summary is misleading. The suit alleges that the amendment “fails to inform voters that it will result in the loss of current constitutional rights of criminal defendants, purports to ‘create’ constitutional rights for victims of crime even though rights for crime victims already exist in the Constitution (and) fails to inform voters that it curtails time allowed for criminal appeals,” according to the suit. Known as Marsy’s Law, the bundled provisions are set to appear on the ballot this November as Amendment 8. The language focuses largely on enumerating certain rights to victims of crime and their relatives. Amendment 8 was placed on the ballot via the Constitution Revision Commission. It needs 60 percent voter approval to pass.

Scott, Nelson appear at sportfishing convention

Last Friday, a niche audience attracted two top-ballot Florida candidates in Orlando.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and challenger Gov. Scott spoke separately to fishing industry leaders at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades — or ICAST.

“Fishing is more than a pastime in Florida: it’s part of our heritage. And I believe it’s part of our future. So we must restore and conserve the lands and waters, the corals and the mangroves, and ultimately: the fish. The fishing industry supports thousands of jobs and helps our local economies in Florida,” said Sen. Nelson.

In 2016, Rick Scott proclaimed July as Keep Florida Fishing Month.

Scott, citing 128,000 supported by the fishing industry, told the crowd, “We’ve worked hard to protect fishing opportunities in our state by offering license-free fishing days, fighting to expand the federal red snapper season and securing legislation to encourage safe boating. We have also stepped up and made major state investments in the natural resources that help make Florida the ‘Fishing Capital of the World,’ such as our iconic Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.”

ICAST, the largest sportfishing trade show in the world, drew more than 15,000 attendees. It’s produced yearly by the American Sportfishing Association.

Jobs numbers still strong

Gov. Scott announced Friday that “Florida businesses have created 16,900 private-sector jobs in June and 172,600 in the past year, for 1,554,800 jobs since December 2010.”

Florida’s annual job growth rate has outpaced the nation for 74 of the past 75 months, according to the Governor’s Office. The only month that Florida did not exceed the nation was due to Hurricane Irma.

Rick Scott touts job growth at a campaign stop in Jacksonville.

In June, Florida’s unemployment rate remained at a low 3.8 percent, a drop of 7 percentage points since December 2010; this drop is faster than the national decline of 5.3 percentage points.

“We proudly serve as a model for the nation on how to build business and secure continued economic growth and success,” Scott said in a statement. “Our playbook of cutting taxes and eliminating thousands of burdensome regulations has created real momentum in Florida, allowing us to make historic Investments in things families care about — like education, safe neighborhoods and our environment.

“As our economy keeps booming and bringing thousands of families to Florida, the entire country is taking note.”

Florida’s annual job growth rate of 2.3 percent continues to exceed the nation’s rate of 1.9 percent. In the past year, 130,000 people entered Florida’s labor force, a growth of 1.3 percent, which is greater than the national labor force growth rate of 1.2 percent.

USDA launches disaster-relief sign-up

Florida growers are one step closer to receiving some of the more than $2 billion in disaster-relief funding passed by the federal government this year.

United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced this week the farmers nationwide who were affected by wildfires and hurricanes in 2017 can now apply for assistance money approved by Congress and President Donald Trump.

Farmers can now apply for federal assistance money, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced this week. (Image via Getty)

“Hurricanes and wildfires caused billions of dollars in losses to America’s farmers last year. Our objective is to get relief funds into the hands of eligible producers as quickly as possible,” said Perdue. “We are making immediate, initial payments of up to 50 percent of the calculated assistance so producers can pay their bills.”

The funding spawned the creation of the USDA’s 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP), which seeks to distribute $2.36 billion worth of federal funding to “agricultural producers to offset losses from hurricanes and wildfires during 2017,” according to the USDA.

The program will cover losses of crops, trees, bushes and vines for producers.

WHIP will distribute individual payments to farmers worth up to $125,000. But, per the USDA, “Producers who derived 75 percent of their income in tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015 will be subject to a $900,000 payment limitation.” Producers who did not insure crops will receive 65 percent of their expected crop value if they are eligible for WHIP funding. Meanwhile, insured producers could receive up to 95 percent of their expected crop value.

FDACS targets phony charities

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is now part of a growing list of government bodies seeking to help Americans avoid fraudulent charities that claim to aid veterans or current members of the military.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam this week announced that his agency joined “Operation Donate with Honor,” a nationwide partnership, spearheaded by the Federal Trade Commission.

Adam Putnam is teaming up with FTC, Pam Bondi to crack down on veteran charity scams.

“The brave men and women who sacrifice so much to protect our freedom deserve all the support we can provide. It is deplorable to exploit our nation’s heroes by scamming Floridians out of hard-earned money,” said Putnam.

Putnam’s agency joins the FTC, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and law enforcement officials and charity regulators across the country in the partnership.

Offering tips to prospective charity donors, FDACS suggests Floridians ask questions like: “Who is the fundraiser and who will benefit from the donation?”; “How much of the contribution goes to the charity mentioned in the request?”; and “How much of the donation goes toward administrative and fundraising expenses?” Charities registered with the agency can be found at

Instagram of the Week

The week in appointments

Florida Independent Living Council

Tyler Morris and Whitney Harris were reappointed to the council. Morris, 33, of Jacksonville is the executive director for Independent Living Resource Center, Jacksonville Center for Independent Living. His new term ends June 30, 2021. Harris, 27, of Tallahassee, is the comptroller for the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology. Her term also ends June 30, 2021.

Pinellas County Commission

Jay Beyrouti fills the vacancy created by the passing of former Commissioner John Morroni. A Redington Shores resident, Beyrouti, 66, is a small-business owner. He received his bachelor’s degree in accounting and international business from Sacred Heart Business School.

Holmes County Hospital Corp.

Joseph Sowell, 76, was reappointed for a term ending Aug. 10, 2021. He is a retired district supervisor with General Telephone and Electronics.

North Florida Community College District Board of Trustees

Alton Williams Jr., 75, of Live Oak, is the retired sheriff of Suwannee County. He also served in the Florida Army National Guard from 1960 until 1968. Williams is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

Billy Washington, 42, of Pinetta, is the past president of Briggs, Washington and Thompson Land Surveying, Inc. and serves as the Madison County Clerk of Court. He received his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University. Washington is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

Sandra Haas, 70, of McAlpin, is a retired attorney for the 3rd circuit for Guardian Ad Litem in Florida. She received her bachelor’s and juris doctorate degrees from the University of Florida. Haas is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Public Swimming and Bathing Facilities Advisory Review Board

Gerald D. Robinson, 47, of Auburndale, is a professional engineer with the Florida Department of Health. He succeeds Darrel Graziani and is appointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2021.

Eastern Florida State College District Board of Trustees

Bruce Deardoff, 70, of Cocoa Beach, is the chairman of Deardoff Automotive Group. He received his bachelor’s degree from Fordham University. Deardoff succeeds Dewey Harris and is appointed for a term ending March 31, 2022.

Dr. Edgar Figueroa, 62, of Melbourne, is a trauma surgeon with Health First Melbourne. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Central del Este. Dr. Figueroa succeeds Myra Haley and is appointed for a term ending March 31, 2022.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Group urges AHCA on behavior analysis

The Florida Association for Behavior Analysis, or FABA, is calling on the state Agency for Health Care to address delays in approval and authorization of behavior analysis centers.

FABA is faulting a third-party contractor, for harmful delays that last a month or longer. Children with autism or other developmental disorders are hurt by these delays, FABA claims.

“These delays are inexcusable and are causing heartache for so many children and families who desperately need the services provided by qualified behavior analysts,” said Nikki Dickens, president of FABA. “Our state government simply cannot sit back while these vulnerable children suffer as a result of an ineffective and inefficient bureaucratic system.”

The contractor, eQHealth Solutions, was hired by AHCA “to process Medicaid assessments, authorizations, and claims for behavior analysis services.” But once working under AHCA, eQHealth terminated all prior approvals from a different contractor and required all behavioral analysis providers to once again seek authorization by the state.

“AHCA has repeatedly said there will be no loss of service for children who need behavior analysis services, but we are hearing from countless providers and families across the state who say that is simply not true,” Dickens said.

“This problem must be addressed immediately, and it must be addressed with the top priority on helping those Floridians who need the services that skilled professionals can provide.”

FHP breaks ground on new training complex

The Florida Highway Patrol this week began construction of the state’s Advanced Vehicle Operations and Training Complex.

It’s an addition to the agency’s Florida Public Safety Institute in Havana and will feature a 1.4-mile driving track to sharpen law enforcement officers’ driving skills.

Construction has begun at Florida’s Advanced Vehicle Operations and Training Complex at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Havana.

“I am incredibly proud to break ground on the Advanced Vehicle Operations and Training Complex. The support for this new, innovative complex is a testament to the state’s commitment to law enforcement officer safety and the safety of motorists on our roadways,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “This new facility enhances training for law enforcement by providing real-world scenarios, best preparing our Troopers and officers to safely navigate the events they will undoubtedly experience as they work to protect us each day.”

The Legislature, Governor and Cabinet supported funding the new complex, according to the DHSMV.

The agency said its officers drive 32 million miles each year and expressed confidence that the track will make a significant difference in statewide vehicle operations.

“The complex will offer advanced training to include traffic incident management, high-speed driving and comprehensive vehicle operations to improve public safety,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Florida shines at UK airshow

Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private jobs incentive initiative, once again displayed the largest exhibit of any U.S. state at the Farnborough International Airshow in the United Kingdom.

Dubbed the Florida Pavillion, the exhibit housed 12 participating Florida aviation-related companies and organizations. Per Enterprise Florida: “Last year, leading Florida-origin exports reached $6.3 billion in civilian aircraft, engines and parts. Another $678 million in turbojets, turbo propellers and parts was exported to countries around the globe.”

Florida reaps millions in contracts from the Farnborough International Airshow.

Enterprise Florida and businesses demonstrated to airshow attendees Florida’s competitive advantage in aviation.

“Events like the Farnborough Airshow allow us not only to help small and medium-sized Florida businesses expand their international footprint, but also to meet with leadership and decision-makers for some of the world’s leading aviation and aerospace companies,” said Joe York, vice-chair of Enterprise Florida’s Board of Directors. “The Florida Pavilion demonstrates the state’s leadership in the industry in a way no other state can match.”

Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development organization, attended the airshow.

“Space Florida is again pleased to join Enterprise Florida in representing the State of Florida at the Farnborough Air Show,” said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “Such opportunities significantly help Space Florida and Enterprise Florida continue our path to make Florida the leading U.S. state in the global aerospace industry.”

FSUPD releases active shooter PSA

An unfortunate sign of times: Florida State University Police Department is instructing students on how to act during active shooter scenarios.

Titled “Run. Hide. Fight,” the law enforcement arm of the university released a nearly 7-minute-long instructional video this week depicting an active shooter storming a campus building in broad daylight.

The university warns that viewer discretion is advised. According to campus authorities, the video “is designed to educate and prepare citizens to deal with an active aggressor in any setting.” The actors in the video, who depict law enforcement and students, offer realistic tips throughout the clip.

To view “Run. Hide. Fight.,” click on the image below:

While the attack in the video is fictional, its rooted in some truth at FSU and the state. In 2014, a gunman opened fire at Strozier Library on the campus, injuring three students. Earlier this year, a shooter killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“The video was created to enhance the in-person training provided to employees and students at the university. We hope people will remember these important and potentially lifesaving tips when they are on or off campus,” said David L. Perry, FSU chief of police and assistant vice president for Public Safety. “Being prepared mentally is a major component to surviving a serious event, and we believe the video will encourage people to consider their options when an emergency occurs.”

Summer safety in Tallahassee

Authorities this week convened at the FHP Troop H building in Tallahassee to promote safety tips for the hot summer months.

Visuals depicted the dangers of leaving pets or children in the car during times of extreme heat. Specifically, observers were shown a life-size doll in a hot car. The doll was later transported by Leon County EMS for treatment.

To prevent accidents this summer, parents must be proactive, says DCF Secretary Mike Carroll.

The effort is ongoing via a partnership between the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and the state Department of Children and Families. Local law enforcement personnel throughout the state also are involved.

“It only takes a moment to be proactive and ensure your child is safe, to prevent a fatal accident,” DCF Secretary Mike Carroll said. “During the upcoming months, take advantage of the information shared with you today and throughout the next few months, so that your summer will be filled with wonderful memories and fun times.”

“Florida summers are extremely hot and leaving a child in a car for any amount of time is neglectful and can have deadly consequences,” said DHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “DHSMV encourages all motorists to Arrive Alive by not only driving safely but by also confirming that all passengers are out of the vehicle when they reach their destination.”

FAC recognizes Leon commissioners

The Florida Association of Counties (FAC) recognized Leon County Commissioners for their commitment to public service and leadership during the 2018 FAC Annual Conference in Orange County.

At the conference, Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox rose to president-elect of the association. Next year, Maddox will serve as President and oversee the direction of policy, advocacy, and the administration of the Florida Association of Counties.

Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge is among those recognized by the Florida Association of Counties.

In addition, some Leon County commissioners were recognized:

— Commissioners Maddox, Bryan Desloge, Kristin Dozier, and Mary Ann Lindley received the Presidential Advocacy Award, given annually to county commissioners “who have shown exceptional leadership in partnering with FAC to advance the legislative agenda of counties.”

— Commissioner Jimbo Jackson was honored with the Certified County Commissioner (CCC) designation, “a voluntary program of study designed for county commissioners who want to learn the ins and outs of county government while enhancing their skills as an elected official. To earn the CCC designation, participants must complete 45 hours of coursework, the majority of which is offered during FAC conferences and events.”

— Dozier received the status of Advanced County Commissioner (ACC), “a program that consists of three sessions that focus on leadership development and issues affecting Florida’s future. Altogether, the courses total 27 hours. To earn the ACC designation, participants must have completed the CCC program and all three ACC sessions.”

— Desloge, Lindley and Maddox received Torchbearer Recognition, “ACC alumni who continue to be engaged in FAC activities and education programs. The Torchbearer program recognizes those ACC Alumni for their ongoing commitment to FAC and continued learning.”

Dozier elected vice chair of Florida Counties Foundation

Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier was elected vice chair of the Florida Counties Foundation. She will assist with “providing high quality and comprehensive educational opportunities for county commissioners and staff throughout Florida,” a press release said.

The Florida Counties Foundation has continued to build FAC’s educational offerings over the last 20 years. Specifically, the programs are designed to educate commissioners and county staff on their duties and to encourage them to be leaders within their communities as well as FAC.

Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier.

Dozier said, “As county commissioners committed to serving our citizens, we do our best work with an in-depth knowledge of government structure, ethics laws, budgeting methods and strategies, as well as economic development and growth management. This role is an exciting one to help set curriculum and goals that will shape our future.”

The Foundation oversees the County Commissioners Voluntary Certification, Advanced County Commissioner Education programs and the content for FAC’s Annual Conference.

Leon County tops in tech

For six consecutive years, Leon County has earned top honors by “harnessing technology to increase services and efficiencies for its citizens,” a press release this week said.

The county ranks among the top 10 in the nation in its population category for implementing the best technology practices, according to the 2018 Digital Counties Survey conducted by the Center for Digital Government (CDG) in partnership with the National Association of Counties (NACo).

“Leon County is proud to yet again be recognized as a local government leader in the area of technology,” Commission Chairman Nick Maddox said in a statement. “We’ve raised the bar in many areas, such as in disaster communication with our Citizens Connect mobile app, which provides up-to-the-minute emergency updates right to your phone.”

NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase.

In the past year, Leon County has completed or made substantial progress on important technology projects. Just a few examples include implementing digital signage at county facilities and continuing to deploy an updated permitting system that takes advantage of mobile and online technologies to further improve service.

Leon County’s “embrace of cutting-edge approaches has benefited residents while ensuring good stewardship of taxpayer resources,” added NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase.

It’s spiny lobster season

The 2018 spiny lobster mini-season will soon be upon us.

The two-day recreational mini-season takes place July 25 and 26. In 2016, more than 69,000 people participated.

It’s spiny lobster time!

“Florida residents and visitors look forward to the start of spiny lobster season all year,” said Bo Rivard, chair of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. “This Florida tradition is one of the many reasons Florida is the fishing capital of the world.”

You can learn about bag limits, size limits, where to harvest and other regulations at and click “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Lobster.”

Get your license and spiny lobster permit at Lobster mini-season is followed by the regular commercial and recreational lobster season, which starts Aug. 6 and runs through March 31, 2019.

Capitol Directions

Where will candidates for governor be today?

From a Democratic get-together in Punta Gorda to meet-and greets in Jacksonville, candidates for governor will spend this weekend connecting with voters. Here’s where you can find some of the major players.

For Democratic candidates for governor, South Florida this weekend is the place to be.

Philip Levine today will speak to Charlotte County Democrats at noon at the Politics in the Park event at Harbor Heights Park in Punta Gorda. Then he will head down the road to Fort Myers to open a new campaign office on Cleveland Avenue at 4 p.m.

Chris King’s “Keeping The Promise” tour continues today into Punta Gorda, where he also will attend Charlotte County Democrats’ Politics in the Park event at 1 p.m. King plans to focus on health care issues including Medicaid expansion and the opioid crisis.

Andrew Gillum will spend the day in South Florida. The Tallahassee mayor will rally supporters in Miami Gardens at the Unrepresented People’s Positive Action Council Community Forum’s Gubernatorial Community Forum, an event that runs from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Greater New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. Then he opens a West Palm Beach campaign office on Corporate Way at 2 p.m. before heading back to Miami for the Wilkie D. Ferguson Bar Association 40th Annual Gala at Briza on the Bay at 8 p.m.

And on the Republican side, Ron DeSantis will meet voters bright and early for a Duval County Meet and Greet at The Local in Jacksonville, where doors open at 8:30 a.m. Then he heads to Orange Park for a Clay County Meet and Greet there, held at La Nopalera Mexican Restaurant with doors opening at 1:30 p.m. and the program starting at 2 p.m.

Adam Putnam will meet with firefighters today at the Florida State Forest Service Association’s executive board meeting.

Gwen Graham and Jeff Greene have not announced any public events today.

But following up on a similar event in Fort Myers, Sen. Bill Nelson plans to meet with health care professionals at a roundtable in Deltona at the Community Life Outreach Center at 2:30 p.m, part of his re-election effort. Then he plans to visit Bethune Cookman University for a tour of Mary Mcleod Bethune before a Volusia County canvassing event. He’ll end the day with a keynote address at the 7 p.m. Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Gala at Hilton Daytona Beach Ocean Front Resort.

Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Nelson, will join Puerto Rico Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón for a Valrico rally at Rico Frappe Latino at 2:15 p.m. He will then meet with Puerto Rican leaders there. González-Colón endorsed Scott in May.

If more events get announced, this story will be updated.

Bill Nelson worries Russians will hack November election, have hacked Donald Trump

Sen. Bill Nelson is in for the fight of his political career against Gov. Rick Scott in November, but Scott for Florida isn’t his only concern.

On CNN Tuesday afternoon, the third-term Democrat expressed worries of Russian hacking playing a factor.

“It was a year and a half ago that unanimous report of the American intelligence community, that Russia interfered in the election,” Nelson said. “They are in the election records of 21 states, including my state.”

“And I have to worry in my election upcoming. Now I not only have to be concerned about my opponent,” Nelson added, “I have to be concerned about the Russians trying to influence the election against me.”

Later in the interview, Nelson joined what is now a chorus of Democrats suggesting that Moscow has something incriminating on President Donald Trump.

Nelson wondered “whatever it is that Putin has hanging over the head of Donald Trump.”

“Why does Donald Trump continue to defer, to curtsy, to bow, and will never say an unkind word toward Vladimir Putin? What is it going on with the U.S. President that he believes Putin instead of our own U.S. intelligence community?”

Gov. Scott has struggled to distance himself from the President in the wake of Trump’s kowtow to the Kremlin on Monday, preemptively asserting in Jacksonville that the Russians meddled in Florida elections.

“Putin is not our friend. Putin is not our ally. I don’t trust Putin. It clearly appears that Russia tried to meddle in our election,” Scott said.

“That’s why I’ve added more counter-terrorism experts at Secretary of State. Why I’ve made sure the federal money that came down, that could go to our Supervisors of Elections, got out as quickly as we can,” Scott said.

In response to that, Nelson noted Scott couldn’t name Trump, thus demonstrating political cowardice.

“Rick Scott has refused to stand up to his pal, Donald Trump – now on an issue that puts our national security at risk. Floridians need a senator who will stand up to Trump, especially when our democracy is under attack, and Rick Scott’s refusal is just another reminder that he’s only looking out for himself,” Nelson asserted.

Rick Scott calls Bill Nelson ‘a hypocrite’ over tax, health care for staff

Republican Gov. Rick Scott blasted his U.S. senate election opponent Bill Nelson on Tuesday, calling the Democratic U.S. senator a hypocrite for not paying payroll taxes or health care benefits for campaign staffers while railing against tax cuts and Republican opposition to health care programs in Washington.

Scott was responding to reports that Nelson’s campaign finance report details show that his campaign was not paying the matching Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes for those laboring in his re-election campaign this year, and also was not offering any health care benefits.

“Here’s a guy who likes to raise our taxes all the time, Bill Nelson, and at the same time we got a report last week that for his campaign, he’s not even paying his payroll taxes. … And on top of that he likes all these big government health care mandates and he’s not even paying his own employees’ health care,” Scott said.

“He’s been a hypocrite,” Scott added.

Nelson’s campaign responded by insisting that Scott’s criticisms are based partly on out-of-date information, and partly on the fact that the Nelson campaign followed a very common start-up model: For the first few months the campaign was run and staffed significantly by consultants – independent contractors who get paid a contract amount and are on their own for dealing with taxes and benefits.

That has largely changed, starting July 1, as the Nelson campaign has gotten established, replacing many contractors with full-time employees. For them, the campaign does pay payroll taxes, and negotiates salaries to provide that the employees can be able to afford to purchase health insurance, Nelson’s campaign contended.

Scott said his campaign pays payroll taxes and provides health care benefits.

Scott’s campaign also uses contractors and consultants, but his staff argued it’s a different matter, because his are not used in lieu of full-time staff members.  The Scott for Florida team has more than 30 full-time employees. Full-time staffers are salaried with health insurance and the campaign pays payroll taxes.

Scott declined to speak to whether any of his businesses do not pay payroll taxes or health care benefits, saying they’re all in a blind trust.

He was in Orlando Tuesday, at Restaurant Supply World, a longtime supporter of his, to announce the endorsement from the National Federation of Independment Businesses of Florida, and the formation of his campaign’s Small Business Coalition, made up of more than 400 endorsing businesses spread across all 67 of Florida’s counties.

He argued Nelson is no friend of small business, and, worse, doesn’t pay the taxes and health care mandates he helped create for those small businesses.

“I think it’s absolutely hypocritical for Bill Nelson to sit there and vote for all these tax increases but he doesn’t want to pay his own taxes,” Scott said. “Can you imagine? He’s not paying his fair share of payroll taxes and he’s not providing his workers health care, but he wants to go raise all these taxes on us and have all these big government health care mandates.”

Americans for Prosperity targets Bill Nelson over SCOTUS confirmation

Americans For Prosperity-Florida is launching a digital and direct mail effort to encourage U.S. Senate confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Their target: Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Announced Tuesday, the Florida chapter of the Koch-funded think tank will be backing the campaign with a six-figure sum. Trump announced last week that Kavanaugh is his pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

“Judge Brett Kavanaugh is renowned for his demonstrated commitment to defending the Constitution and interpreting the law as written,” AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson said. “President Trump succeeded in nominating a jurist who exercises judicial restraint and doesn’t legislate from the bench, and that is exactly why Senator Nelson should confirm this nominee to replace Justice Kennedy.”

The campaign isn’t exclusive to Florida. AFP called it a “multi-million dollar” effort across various states. Direct mail pieces will be sent to voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Dakota — all of which are states where President Donald Trump won in 2016 and have at least one Democratic sitting U.S. Senator. 

As well, a new thirty-second digital ad and website were unveiled.

From the voice over in the digital ad: “We are a country of laws, freedom and justice. For the second time in recent years, our country has a historic opportunity to see another defender of the constitution appointed to the Supreme Court.

“Judge Kavanaugh will interpret the law as it is written. Judge Kavanaugh has the integrity and character to serve on our highest court of justice and will respect our constitution and the rule of law.”

The ad ends with a prompt for watchers to contact their Senator (Nelson, in Florida’s case) in support of Judge Kavanaugh.

Hudson said the direct mail and digital efforts will be complemented by canvassing and phone banking across the state.

Nelson is undoubtedly expected to vote against Kavanaugh, but he hasn’t been as critical of the judge as his Democratic colleagues have. In fact, he’s remained relatively quiet and noncommittal.

“I look forward to meeting with Judge Kavanaugh to discuss his views on several issues such as protecting women’s rights, guaranteeing access to health care for those with pre-existing conditions & protecting the right to vote, just to name a few,” Nelson tweeted after Trump announced Kavanaugh as his pick. “I’ll make my decision after that.”

Watch the digital ad here or below:

Bill Nelson wants to put the ‘freeze’ on Russia

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is calling on Congress “to enact additional economic sanctions on Russia for their interference in the 2016 elections, and even suggested freezing the bank accounts of some of Russia’s most senior leaders,” according to a Monday press release.

“I hope we’re going to come together quickly, in a bipartisan way, to defend ourselves and to finally push back on Putin,” Nelson, a Democrat, said in a statement.

“I hope that we are going to insist that the White House enforce all of the economic sanctions that the Congress has already pushed through that the White House has been very slow to enact.

“And I hope this Congress is also going to enact more economic sanctions and get it to where it will really start causing a crimp in the step of the Russian leaders,” added Nelson, who faces a re-election challenge from term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott. “Why not start freezing the bank accounts of some of the highest leaders?”

Nelson’s comments came just hours after President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met privately in Helsinki, Finland on Monday.

Nelson called Trump’s comments at a news conference after that meeting – and his refusal to accept the fact that Putin interfered in the 2016 election – “alarming,” “embarrassing” and “unacceptable.”

Rick Scott Victory Fund gets big push from oil, sports, prison moguls

Contributions to the Rick Scott Victory Fund include large checks from Big Sugar magnates, Florida-based developers, and the sports world, according to data published by ProPublica.

The new political committee, set up to help Gov. Rick Scott unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, just made its first filing with the Federal Elections Commission.

A few of the biggest names behind the bucks:

Jose “Pepe” Fanjul: The son of sugar baron Alfonso Fajul (and brother of Democratic mega-donor Anfonso Jr.) serves as president and chief operating officer for Florida Crystals. He’s also a longtime patron of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and also chipped in $39,300 to the Rick Scott Victory Fund.

Jeffrey and Penny Vinik: He’s the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. She’s one of Tampa Bay’s most prominent philanthropists. Each donated $39,300 to the fund.

Tom O’Malley: The wealthy oilman and retired executive chairman of PBF Energy, O’Malley accepted a 2014 appointment from Scott to the Florida Polytechnic University Board of Trustees. He and wife Mary Alice each donated $39,300.

Dan Doyle, Sr. and Dan Doyle, Jr.: The father-and-son team behind Tampa-based Dex Imaging also made a heavy family investment in the fund. Both contributed $39,300, and a look further down the list also shows donations from Doyles named Dan (a student), Rosaleen (a homemaker) and Nicole (self-employed).

Jordan Zimmerman: The founder and chairman of Zimmerman Advertising and part owner of the Florida Panthers gave $39,300, with wife Terry donated the same. Scott reappointed him to the University of South Florida Board of Trustees after Zimmerman was initially being put on the board by then-Gov. Charlie Crist.

Michael Durden: The Panama City rail executive was previously one of the biggest donors for Scott’s state political committee Let’s Get to Work. Now he’s donated $39,300 to the federal fund.

Jim Henderson: The board chairman and CEO of insurance giant AssuredPartners donated $39,300 to the fund, as did wife Carole.

George Zoley: The founder and CEO of GEO Group, a controversial but highly successful prison company labeled as profiteers by the American Civil Liberties Union, Zoley contributed $39,300 to the fund, and so did wife Donna. Zoley also previously served on the Florida Atlantic University Board of Trustees.

Brian D’Isernia: The founder and CEO of Eastern Shipbuilding, a company that two years ago landed the largest U.S. Coast Guard contract in history to build a series of offshore patrol cutters, donated $39,300 to the fund.

Carlos Beruff: The Medallion Home founder (and close Scott ally) chipped in $39,300. Beruff is currently chair of the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission and waged an unsuccessful Republican primary challenge against incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio two years ago.

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen call for consequences in Nicaragua

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen say Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega must face consequences after protests of his regime turned deadly this weekend.

A new wave of violence broke out late last week as anti-Ortega protesters clashed with the government. The Nicaraguan Bishop’s Conference tells the BBC that one man died when police and paramilitary forces on Friday evening assaulted a Managua church where 150 students had converged.

Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, on Friday called Ortega a coward in a Spanish-language tweet. She condemned the regime and called for the international community to take action in response to the violence.

Rubio said Ortega should consider himself on notice. “If his violence leads to a bloodbath he will face consequences,” he tweeted Friday.

Rubio also said that he had spoken with Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada Colindres weeks ago, personally telling him an “opportunity still existed to avoid cycle of conflict with U.S. if they held early & fair elections. But Ortega/Murillo regime responded with more violence making very clear the path they have chosen.”

The tweet referenced Rasio Murillo, Ortega’s wife and vice president.

Rubio said he was closely monitoring the situation and awaited news of a promised release of students, journalists and clergy still trapped inside the church.

Nelson also tweeted in Spanish on Friday that the Nicaraguan people face repression from the Ortega regime. He expressed fear the country could follow the same path as Venezuela under President Nicolas Maduro.

And Florida Gov. Rick Scott chimed in as well, echoing concern that Nicaragua and Venezuela were on the same path to totalitarianism, while also expressing his belief that Cuba’s fate could be tied to that of those nations.

“What we are seeing in Nicaragua this weekend is scary,” he added. “We have to stand with the people of Nicaragua who desperately want freedom and safety.”

Violent protests in Nicaragua in April resulted in nearly 30 deaths, the deadliest political conflict in the nation since the close of the Nicaraguan Revolution, according to The New York Times.

Ros-Lehtinen in June led a Congressional effort urging President Donald Trump’s administration to strongly support the Nicaraguan people resisting totalitarianism. She and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat, penned a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling for action.

“We are calling on the Administration to target additional regime officials for designation under the law, so that Ortega and his cronies feel the real impact of their brutal policies,” the letter reads.

Eight other federal lawmakers signed onto the letter, including fellow Floridians Rubio, Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The State Department announced new sanctions on Nicaragua on July 5.

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio file bill wooing Canadian snowbirds for longer visits

Florida’s U.S. senators agree that those crossing the nation’s northern border should get to stay here for a while.

Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio filed The Canadian Snowbird Act, legislation that would let older Canadian visitors to the United States stay here as long as eight months without being considered residents.

“It’s no secret that Canadians love to visit Florida in the winter,” said Nelson. “The millions of Canadian snowbirds who visit our state each year play an important role in our state’s tourism-driven economy. Allowing them to stay even longer is a win for them and for the local economies they visit.”

With certain exceptions, Canadians merely visiting the United States do not typically need visas, according to the State Department. But under current law, those who come to the U.S. and stick around for longer than six months will be considered full-time residents of the U.S. and must pay income tax on their entire annual income, even money made in Canada.

Canadians who become permanent residents of the United States must have a visa or a waiver that says that the foreign nationals intend to be in the United States for less than 90 days.

If the new bill becomes law, Canadian citizens over the age of 50 could stay here for 240 days, or eight months, though they would be expressly prohibited from working for American employers or seeking public assistance in the U.S.

Regardless, visitors from the Great White North find their way to Florida and stay around for some time.

Visit Florida, which endorsed the legislation filed by Rubio and Nelson, estimates 3.2 Canadians visited the state in 2016. The Canadian embassy forecasts visitors from Canada contribute $4 billion each year to Florida’s economy.

The Canadian Snowbird Association is also endorsing the legislation.

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