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New Congressional NASA Caucus to include Bill Posey, Charlie Crist, Alcee Hastings

Florida U.S. Reps. Bill Posey, Charlie Crist, and Alcee Hastings are joining a newly-formed, bipartisan Congressional NASA Caucus to promote the space agency’s agenda, research and budgetary needs.

The caucus, announced Wednesday, is distinctly different from the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and its Subcommittee on Space, as Crist, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, and Posey, a Rockledge Republican, are members of both of those committees, while Hastings, a Miami Gardens Democrat, is not. Likewise, Republican U.S. Reps. Neal Dunn of Panama City and Dan Webster of Lake County are members of the full committee, and Webster of the subcommittee, but are not charter members of the caucus.

The caucus is being co-chaired U.S. Reps. Steve Knight, a California Republican, and Marcy Kaptur, an Ohio Democrat, indicative of NASA’s broad national reach with its facilities. The 23-member caucus also has members from Indiana, Mississippi, Michigan, Virginia, Alabama, Texas, Maryland and Colorado.

“The NASA caucus will be instrumental in educating members of Congress about the importance of maintaining our leadership in space and shaping legislation affecting our nation’s space program,” Posey said in a statement. “The NASA caucus can also be helpful in rallying support for Vice President [Mike] Pence’s recent important announcement that the administration is planning to return humans to the Moon and explore beyond.”

The Democrats from Florida were more interested in promoting the science than the vice president.

“Our nation’s leadership in space exploration is key to innovation, technology development, scientific discovery, and educational research – advancing our society and economy,” Crist stated. “Florida has long been a hub for space exploration and research at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, which facilitates tremendous advances in both the public and private sectors.”

“NASA is a symbol of American innovation,” Hastings stated. “At a time when the United States faces increasing challenges to its leadership in science and technology, reinvesting in these programs at home is critically important. I am pleased to be one of the founding members of the NASA Caucus, which will promote American leadership in science, and inspire the next generation of young Americans to dream big and break down barriers.”

Rick Kriseman, Kerry Kriseman, GOTV Oct. 9, 2017

Rick Kriseman pounds the pavement as ballots hit the streets

Mail ballots have started to hit the streets in St. Pete cend incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman has started to pound the pavement again ahead of the second round of his re-election battle against former two-term Mayor Rick Baker.

Kriseman and his wife, Kerry, joined their corps of volunteers and staffers kicking off their get-out-the-vote efforts ahead of the Nov. 7 election.

Kriseman and co. knocked on doors across the city and talked one-on-one with voters to plead their case for another four years. The mayor also pitched in at the phone bank to give voters a heads up that the first mail ballots are on the way.

“We’ve come a long way in 4 years. Crime is down, big projects are moving forward, and our city is preparing for climate change,” Kriseman said in a Monday press release. “This November’s election is going to come down to conversations between neighbors in their front yards and living rooms. August turnout was record high, and we’re here to earn every vote to keep St. Pete moving forward.”

Despite polls showing him behind by as much as 7 points three days before the election, Kriseman edged out Baker by a hair in the August primary, which saw the field whittled from six candidates down to two. The slim win wasn’t lost on Kriseman, whose campaign acknowledged it was indeed a “come-from-behind” victory.

That doesn’t mean they see it as a meaningless win, either.

Even though both candidates had to turn around and fund raise their hearts out to reload for the what’s become the most expensive mayoral election in city history, the mayor’s campaign said Monday that the primary win brought forth “a surge in grassroots enthusiasm with volunteers from all over the bay area committing their time and energy to re-electing Mayor Kriseman.”

While the St. Petersburg mayor position is officially non-partisan, Kriseman was a Democrat in the Florida House before becoming mayor. He has picked up endorsements from top elected Dems, including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and Congressman Charlie Crist.

The Florida Democratic Party has also been in his corner and treated the city election as a bellwether for 2018, while multiple left-leaning groups such as the Sierra Club have also flocked to his side.

One of the deciders in the August election was undoubtedly the 11th hour endorsement he received from former President Barack Obama.

Kriseman is historically an underachiever with black voters, who make up 15 percent of the city’s electorate. Baker, on the other hand, is one of the rare Republicans who excells at making inroads with the community. The Obama nod put a thumb on the scales, though, and may have been what shunted Baker’s chances of winning it all in the primary.

The Kriseman camp also pointed out Monday that the mayor bested every pre-primary poll in his 69-vote August win, and he may have to do it again in the general election. A St. Pete Polls survey released last week showed Baker with a 1-point advantage over Kriseman, 46-45 with about 9 percent undecided.

All St. Petersburg voters will get a chance to pick one of the Ricks on Election Day, set for Nov. 7, but voters in City Council District 2 and District 6 will also pick the replacements for Jim Kennedy and Karl Nurse, respectively, while District 4 voters will decide whether to give Darden Rice another term.

In Tampa, Andrew Gillum speaks frankly about race

No African-American has ever won statewide office in the Sunshine State.

In fact, one of the last candidates attempting to do so had to contend with a former president asking him late in the campaign to drop out of the race.

Kendrick Meek was a U.S. Representative from Miami-Dade who in 2010 became the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. He faced not only Republican Marco Rubio, but also independent Charlie Crist.

Trailing in the polls with just weeks before the election, Bill Clinton asked Meek to drop out of the race, so that the party could rally around Crist. Meek declined, saying he never seriously considered it. He finished third while Rubio advanced to Washington.

Seven years later and it’s now Andrew Gillum attempting to do the unprecedented as he runs for the Democratic nomination for Florida governor.

And while it’s not something he talks much about on the campaign trail, the Tallahassee mayor opened up about the reality he faces as a black man while addressing students in an appearance at the University of Tampa campus last week.

“There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by in my city where I’m not driving behind a truck on my way to work that has a big old Confederate flag,” he said.

“I know a lot of folks say you shouldn’t conflate the Confederacy with racism,” Gillum added. “Well, I don’t know another way to describe it. States’ rights? States’ rights to own slaves? … If I pause long enough to allow it to impact me, it would.

“But I psych myself out on a pretty regular basis that they’re not talking about me. That they don’t mean me, and I’m the mayor of this city, and all the other things that you tell yourself to be unpenetrated by the kind of inequality that you get to see and experience every single day that you live and breath.”

Big things have been expected from Gillum ever since 2003 when he became the youngest member of the Tallahassee City Commission at the age of 23.

His profile grew larger after he had an opportunity to speak last summer at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Now he’s trying to buck the odds in a state that has never elected a black person statewide (though some Democrats count Barack Obama‘s two victories in Florida in 2008 and 2012).

At UT, Gillum said it’s pertinent as an elected official to note and try to do something about the structural forms of racism and inequality. He referred to a row he had last month with Jim Cooke, Tallahassee’s treasurer-clerk, revolving around the fact that while three minority based firms do bond work for the city of Tallahassee, they generally are recommended only for some of the city’s smaller contracts.

“So I had to ask the question: ‘Why does it seem in the city of Tallahassee minority firms always seem to get the smallest piece?’ ” Gillum said, replying to his own question by saying that he wasn’t certain, and speculating that perhaps Cooke (who he never mentioned by name) had a “predisposition to ‘big’ ” explicitly mentioning Bank of America and other larger institutions.

Cooke later told Florida Politics that he did not want to comment.

Gillum said there is definitely structural bias within the criminal justice system, citing studies that show that penalties for blacks are much stricter than for whites who commit the same crimes. Gillum also said that didn’t mean that judges were racist, but speculated that “a lot of it might be unconscious bias.”

“We should have, moreover, conversations about race, racism, sexism, all the other -isms, because if it sits unconscious, we’ll allow it to continue to perpetuate,” he said.

He then launched into a discussion about his Longest Table program which he initiated in 2015 to spur conversation and strengthen relations between people from all walks of life in Tallahassee. The project won a Knight Cities Challenge grant earlier this year.

“I don’t want to be Pollyanna-ish about it,” he explained. “I know that’s not the cure all, end all, be all, but if we can start to have some deliberate conversations where we put people in places and try to encourage curiosity over judgment, it’d be interesting to see what happens.”

While he can’t mandate people of different walks of life to get together, Gillum said he can try to set an example.

“I think it would be much better to have a governor that encourages that conversation rather than the ‘other-izing’ of each other because Latinos are here and you don’t have a job, or black people are shiftless and on welfare, or all white people are racists, or Black Lives Matter people are unpatriotic,” he said.

“Those are simple platitudes, and they mean nothing, and they get us nowhere.”

Gillum has had a bumpy ride at times during this campaign season. An FBI investigation into Community Redevelopment Agency deals in Tallahassee has put a cloud over his campaign, though Gillum told reporters in August that a federal prosecutor informed him he wasn’t a target of the investigation.

The race is poised to get more competitive, as John Morgan and Phillip Levine contemplate entering the race to join Gwen Graham, Chris King and himself, all vying to become the state party’s standard-bearer next year.

Gillum is the choice among the progressive wing of the party. Whether that is enough in Florida will play out over the next year.


Editor’s Note — An earlier version of this story said Kendrick Meek was the last African-American political candidate to run for statewide office in Florida. In fact, Thaddeus Hamilton ran unsuccessfully for agriculture commissioner in 2014.

Report: Can Florida Republicans finally win back-to-back U.S. Senate races?

Over the past century Florida has never elected a Republican in back-to-back U.S. Senate elections, making the Sunshine State somewhat of a rare bird.

Despite having a veritable stranglehold on the state legislature, and the fact that it will have held the Governor’s Mansion for 20 years by the time Rick Scott leaves office, the GOP has yet to string together consecutive victories for U.S. Senate, notes Eric Ostermeier of Smart Politics.

The only other states that can claim the same are Montana and Hawaii, according to Ostermeier’s blog, the latter of which is young enough in its statehood that the trend hasn’t become generational.

It’s not like Florida Republicans have had a hard time winning statewide, either. One look at the governor and Cabinet, and a cursory glance at the campaign accounts of those looking to replace them next year, and it’s clear the Florida branch of the big tent party is suffering from an embarrassment of riches – RPOF simply outclasses FDP with its seemingly endless candidate bench, infinitely deep pockets, and perpetually motivated voters.

Of the 24 statewide races held in Florida since the turn of the century, GOP candidates have won 20. Nelson was the winner of three of those four, while former CFO Alex Sink holds the honor of being the only other Democrat since Walkin’ Lawton Chiles to win a statewide election.

And if it wasn’t for Chiles’ victory in his U.S. Senate contest against then-Congressman Bill Cramer, Republicans would have ended the streak back in 1970.

That election was decided by about 8 points. Not “close,” per se, but an examination of the half dozen opportunities Republicans had to put two of their own in the Senate since then certainly makes it look that way.

The first of those six wins came a decade later, when Paula Hawkins won in President Ronald Reagan’s landslide election in 1980. Two years later, Chiles won re-election by an astounding 24 points, cementing the legendary Florida Democrat’s reputation as a Cinderella smasher.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham also proved a thorn in Florida Republicans’ side. Connie Mack III’s win in 1988 was followed up by Graham’s 35-point beatdown of Bill Grant in 1992, while Charlie Crist was smacked with a 25-point loss by the former governor in the 1998 election, four years after Mack won re-election.

Former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and Connie Mack IV earned their double-digit Ls from Nelson following victories by Mel Martinez in 2004 and Marco Rubio in 2010.

But the times, they are a-changin’.

Nelson isn’t as spry as he was when he came into the Senate as a fresh-faced 59-year-old who was only a little over a decade removed from from becoming the first member of congress in space.

And none of his opponents had the kind of goodwill Scott built up among Florida voters during his master class on how to prepare the state for a Hurricane. In fact a Scott candidacy, which is almost a guarantee, would be orders of magnitude more viable than the bids by Harris in 2004 and Mack in 2012.

Sure, many voters may have cast their ballots for the Florida transplant begrudgingly, especially in 2014, but there’s no political spectre so damaging or memorable as the 2000 presidential election snafu that put Harris on TV sets nationwide.

And Mack is just Mack. He was a better than serviceable congressman, but he pussyfooted around the idea of running too much and too publicly in 2012, while Nelson had higher favorables and had the innate benefit of being a Democrat in a presidential election year.

Those advantages disappear next year, and one of the Democrats’ only noteworthy streaks in Florida could  disappear with them.

SD 40 race could be Donald Trump test for Democrats

Florida Democrats are facing a test to see whether anti-President Donald Trump politics will give them a boost ahead of a critical election year and perhaps signal a turnaround after two decades of Republican dominance in the Legislature.

They’ve made Trump a focal point in a special election set for Tuesday to replace a Miami-area Republican state senator who resigned after using racial slurs in front of black colleagues. The Republican in the race, state Rep. Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz, was a contestant on Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” helping to make that connection easier.

“Trump’s apprentice just got the GOP nomination,” said a Democratic fundraising email when Diaz won the primary in July. “Contribute now to fire Trump’s apprentice.”

If Democrat Annette Taddeo wins with less money against the stronger organization of the Republican Party, it could be a sign of better times for Democrats. It would also test an anti-Trump strategy ahead of a 2018 election when the governor’s seat and all three Cabinet positions are open and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is up for re-election.

“It’s an interesting test. Does the Trump thing translate down the ballot in a nontypical election?” said Democratic political strategist Steve Schale. “If Democrats talk about getting back to a majority, you have to win races like this at some point.”

On paper, the district southwest of Miami leans Democratic. Democrat Hillary Clinton beat Trump last year, but Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio also carried the district.

“I’m sure the Democrats are going to try to make it a referendum on Trump, but they’re going to have to spend a lot of money to do it,” said David Johnson, a Republican political consultant. “If Pepi wins, it will be credited largely to superior resources and organization.”

Taddeo, 50, has a television ad that begins with her clicking off a television showing a clip of Trump “attacking” professional wrestling icon Vince McMahon. And in a speech to supporters two months ago, she said, “We have a president that we need to stand up [to] and not stand on the sidelines. We need to fight him every step of the way.”

She has run for Congress twice, losing both times. She was also Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist‘s running mate in 2014 in a race barely lost to Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

She said Diaz, 37, wasn’t shy about using his ties to Trump during the primary.

“When the president was insulting to Hispanics, instead of coming out and defending us, Representative Diaz actually joined his national Hispanic advisory council,” she said.

Diaz dismissed the attacks from Taddeo and Democrats over Trump and said that being on “The Apprentice” in 2006 was a life-changing experience — even if he was one of the first contestants to get fired.

“Having a camera on 24 hours a day changed me. It made me really think about just how important it is to make the right the decision at all times,” he said.

And while he said the race isn’t about Trump, some voters still see it that way.

“I support Diaz because I support President Trump,” said Republican Raul Musibay, 75.

Abel Lopez, a 65-year-old Democrat, agreed that the Trump factor was key.

“Anything I can do to help those against Trump,” Lopez said, “I will do it.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

National Weather Service employees ask Charlie Crist to help stop personnel cuts

Charlie Crist was already well aware of how unhappy National Weather Service (NWS) employees were about budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

But the St. Petersburg Democrat learned a whole lot more Monday about the concerns of career agency staffers over personnel reductions — specifically in Alaska. They say such cuts could damage the accuracy in forecasting storms and other major weather events.

“I’ve noticed that it’s under attack, but sadly a lot of things that make a lot of good sense are under attack in the recommendations from the administration,” Crist told members of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.

The group was holding its annual convention this week at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg.

Crist said that while the president can propose, it’s Congress that has the power to appropriate, and he predicted that the agency wouldn’t get the proposed five percent budget cut proposed by the Trump administration.

The former Florida governor said that in all of his decades living in the Sunshine State, he’s never seen federal, state and local officials work better in preparing for Hurricane Irma last week, and he said that much of that credit has to go to the NWS and their colleagues. “You are heroes to an awful lot of my fellow Floridians from this past week,” Crist told the attendee. “People are watching your colleagues on television, practically 24/7.”

But the employees with the National Weather Service don’t feel very appreciated these days.

“In Alaska, we have something like a 23 percent vacancy rate,” said Jim Brader, the Alaska Regional Chair with the NWSEO. “Positions aren’t being filled. Some offices have no employees, and so there’s other people filling in.”

Brader added that in one case, a reduction in personnel forced one employee in his office to work 145 days in a row, and some of those were double shifts. He said such reductions in Alaska impact weather forecasting for the rest of the country.

While there are staffing issues in other NWS offices, other employees also noted the significance of downgrading the Alaskan office.

“If you don’t get the critical data into our models, the forecasts are going to deteriorate,” warned Surranjana Saha, who works at the National Weather Service in Maryland. She said that the Alaska region is critical to read out climate forecasts.

“It’s a data void region and whatever radars you get are so precious because this affects the upper stratospheric winds and the wintertime flow over these areas,” Saha said, calling it “gold” to have such information.

Daniel Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, said that it was information from the Alaska office of the National Weather Service that was able to predict when the eye of Hurricane Irma began moving more eastward and out of the Tampa Bay area last Sunday.

“What causes it to make that turn was a mild attitude system was dropping down into the continent, but the information from Alaska is the information that we use to determine where that mid-latitude thing is going to come down so when that storm is going to turn,” he said.

Sobien also said that the NWS has also stopped sending up balloons to get the weather information needed to feed the models that are used to forecast hurricane.

“They just stopped doing that,” he said.

The problems with the National Weather Service aren’t exclusive to the Alaska, however. Brandon Dunston is with the NWS forecast office in Raleigh, North Carolina. He said that his office has lost five operational forecasters in recent years, approximately 40 percent of their meteorologists’ staff.

Although Trump has proposed a budget cut of five percent to the NWS, officials with the agency say the reduction in hiring additional staffers goes back a decade, and they’re still not certain why.

Some NWS employees said they want to have Crist push the chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Arizona Republican Andy Biggs, to call for holding a hearing based on the study the Government Accounting Office has released that confirms the  confirms the vacancy rate in NWS operational units has reached a point where NWS employees are “unable at times to perform key tasks.”

The GAO also found that NWS “staff experienced stress, fatigue and reduced morale resulting from their efforts to cover for vacancies” due to lack of time off and a loss of training.

According to the GAO, NWS managers admit “that employees are fatigued and morale is low” and that employees “were demoralized because they had to cover the workload for multiple vacancies.”

Charlie Crist calls for an investigation into United Airlines pricing

Congressman Charlie Crist says he’s heard complaints from constituents about price gouging from United Airlines, and he’s written a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asking her to investigate.

“While I understand the fundamental economic principle of supply and demand, no company engaged in interstate commerce should exploit an emergency to take advantage of the people,” the Pinellas County Democrat writes.

“When I served Florida as Attorney General, I was proud to pursue price gouging aggressively, before, during, and after hurricanes,” he said. “My office prosecuted offenders within the full extent of the law.”

Delta and United have been the two U.S. airlines that have engendered the most criticism this week for price gouging in Florida. Delta announced Wednesday that they were capping all flights out of Florida at $399.

FloridaPolitics.com contacted United Airlines Thursday night for comment on Crist’s criticism. They did not immediately respond but did tell CNBC on Wednesday that they were sold out for all flights on Thursday and Friday but had added six new flights, all capped at $399.

The text of the letter is below:

I write on behalf of my constituents’ concerns that United Airlines is gouging Floridians trying to evacuate Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever to threaten the State of Florida. According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Irma will bring potentially catastrophic and life-threatening conditions. As a result, local and state governments have taken steps to help Floridians comply with evacuation orders and save their lives, including suspending highway tolls statewide.

In response to public criticism of outrageous prices, several airlines, including Jet Blue, Delta, American, and Southwest, have capped rates and, in some cases, expanded outbound capacity. I remain concerned that as of this evening, United Airlines’ price remain sky high – advertising pre-storm evacuation tickets for 10 times more than routine flights. While I understand the fundamental economic principle of supply and demand, no company engaged in interstate commerce should exploit an emergency to take advantage of the people. When I served Florida as Attorney General, I was proud to pursue price gouging aggressively, before, during, and after hurricanes. My office prosecuted offenders within the full extent of the law.

While this may be nothing more than an airline pricing algorithm that needs to be updated, my constituents are running out of time. Consistent with federal law and regulations, please give full and fair consideration whether it would be appropriate for the Department of Transportation to investigate this matter. I look forward to your timely response.

Hurricane raises temperatures within Florida Capitol Press Corps

Despite getting rave reviews for his handling of pre-landfall Hurricane Irma, some in the Capitol Press Corps remain unsatisfied with Gov. Rick Scott, accusing him of being less forthcoming than his predecessors during the worst weather threat in a generation.

As South Florida awaits the arrival of a potentially deadly Category 5 storm — and the bedlam it has already caused — one reporter feels the governor is still not doing enough, accusing Scott of holding back essential information to media, and by extension the public, during one of the most severe public threats in recent history.

In an email to Scott spokesperson McKinley Lewis — cc’d to several other reporters — Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald suggests the governor and his staff are “going backward” in providing real-time emergency information to Floridians in the path of the Category 5 storm.

Timeliness is essential since Irma is scheduled to begin passing through Florida starting sometime Saturday evening.

As Irma approaches southeast Florida and the Keys, with the storm possibly making landfall in the Miami area this weekend, a shift of only a few miles west — staying offshore even slightly — could save lives and prevent billions of dollars in damage. And a slight move to the east could bring the center of the storm straight up through Florida, with even more catastrophic results.

Klas is also questioning a lack of audio access to briefings, as well as a failure of state officials to distribute timely situation reports to the public. She says both are a distinct departure from the administrations of both former Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist.

In an email obtained by FloridaPolitics.com, Scott communication director John Tupps replies that it is standard practice to not invite the media to briefings on law enforcement or military actions. However, once the information is ready, the information is immediately made public.

“We do not invite the media to briefings that contain detailed movements of military units or tactical law enforcement lifesaving efforts when in progress,” Tupps said. “However, this information is immediately released once it is ready to be made available. This is standard practice – and our goal is to ensure that our military can share this information with counties officials directly.”

Tupps also pointed out that over three days, Scott has held ten media briefings across the state – including two in Tallahassee with the Klas’ own Miami Herald.

“He has answered questions from the media at each one of his press conferences – including questions from the Times/Herald Bureau,” Tupps added. “Hurricane Irma is unprecedented, and making comparisons to weather events from nearly a decade ago is irresponsible and very inaccurate … The Governor has worked nonstop to keep Floridians and our visitors fully aware of the dangerous storm – including many press releases, information handouts and social media posts.”

The text of Klas’ letter is below (h/t to Diane Roberts):

From: Mary Ellen Klas <meklas@miamiherald.com>
Date: Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at 10:49 a.m.
Subject: Questions about public access to information

With the most damaging and dangerous storm rapidly approaching our shores, the ability of the media to provide assistance to help inform the public with real time and accurate information is more important than ever. It is also easier than ever with the emergence of smartphones, social media, and hardened telecommunications and satellite technology.

At the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times, we have every intention of operating through the storm and providing updated and accurate information to the public on our website and Twitter feeds. We have removed our paywalls, deployed staff and resources, fortified our headquarters and are determined to do our job.

The last time Florida was tested to this degree was during the hurricane seasons of 2005 and 2006 and while it was a time with little social media presence, the internet and online news was a constant and important force.

So why would the Scott administration choose to go backward from the accessibility provided to the public and the media during the Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist administrations?

McKinley asked me to provide my questions in writing. None of these is new to you since we have presented them to McKinley and other administration PIOs over the past few days. Our goal is not to write a story but to get you to open up to a level that was once expected for Florida. I hope we can achieve that.

Meanwhile, please provide us with answers to the following by 3 p.m. today:

* Why is the media no longer given audio access to the briefings from key officials in the command center?

* Why have you rejected requests to allow the media to attend the briefings if the audio is not available?

* Why are situation reports not distributed to the public and media in real time? (Please refer to the FLSERT archives for reference of how this was handled during other natural disasters by previous administrations.)

* Why have you rejected requests to have EOC command officials brief the media about issues and updates on a daily basis as previous administrations have done?

* Current and former officials who were actively involved in previous state emergencies speculate there has been no practical change but a leadership change and a change in the philosophy and approach to openness.

Please explain what protocols and documentation of events at the EOC have changed since the Bush and Crist administrations?

 

Florida Democrats in Congress call for Florida special session to replace statue

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz now has gotten the other ten Florida Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to join her call for a one-day Florida Legislature special session to replace Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith‘s statue in the U.S. Capitol.

“We must denounce symbols of what supremacy and stand up for love and compassion – not just with words, but with our deeds,” state letters from the 11 Florida Democratic members of Congress to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “As the third largest state, and easily one of the most diverse in our nation, Florida has an opportunity to send a defining message.”

Wasserman Schultz first called for such a special session on her own, on Aug. 15.

The issue involves one of Florida’s two state representation statues in the U.S. Capitol. In 2016 the Florida Legislature voted to replace the Smith statute, but in 2017 was unable to agree on a replacement, so the statue remains.

The new congressional letter calls for Scott, Negron and Corcoran to act immediately, “in the shadow of Charlottesville,” to “stand at a crucial moment when leaders and institutions must confront hate and violence without ambiguity.”

A spokesman for Scott’s office expressed confidence that the legislature would take care of the matter as soon as possible. In January. When the regular 2018 Legislative Session convenes.

“In 2016, Governor Scott signed a bill that replaced this statue at the U.S. Capitol. A committee was quickly convened, public input was gathered and three names were submitted to the Legislature for consideration for a replacement. It is now up to the Legislature to decide how to resolve this issue and Governor Scott hopes they do so when they convene in January,” McKinley Lewis said in a statement.

The offices of Negron and Corcoran did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the letter.

When Wasserman Schultz first made her call two weeks ago, Corcoran responded by accusing her of being out of touch and grandstanding, noting that the Florida Legislature already had voted to replace Smith’s statue and was working on picking a replacement.

The latest letter was signed by the 11 Democrats Florida has elected to the U.S. House, Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Kathy Castor of Tampa, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Darren Soto of Orlando, Frederica Wilson Miami Gardens, Val Demings of Orlando, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

“The legislature’s inaction leaves in place of honor, a symbol that represents a painful and horrific period in American history for so many Floridians and Americans,” the letter states.

“No family visiting our nation’s Capital should have to explain to their child that the statue representing our state honors someone who fought for a philosophy built on hatred, inequality and oppression.

“We urge you to take immediate action by calling a one-day special session during the Florida House and Senate’s upcoming interim committee meetings that already are scheduled in Tallahassee and finish this important and historic work.”

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