Kathy Castor – Page 5 – Florida Politics

House Republicans reject Kathy Castor amendment to protect DREAMers

President Donald Trump said beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program shouldn’t worry about their future, despite an announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the program will end in six months unless Congress addresses the issue.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted that DACA recipients have “nothing to worry about” despite the fact that his administration is phasing out the program. That news came despite a report from CBS News that the White House had issued a set of talking points on Tuesday affirming that DACA recipient should prepare to self-deport.

Meanwhile, Republicans on the House Rules Committee voted down an amendment offered by Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor on Wednesday night to protect the so-called DREAMers from deportation.

“Despite the chorus from some Republican lawmakers who say they want to protect DREAMers from deportation, the Republican majority refused to allow my amendment to come to the floor for debate and a vote.  Speaker Ryan and Republicans in Congress appear unwilling to take any step to protect DREAMers despite widespread calls for action from families, churches and businesses across America,” Castor said in a statement Thursday.

“Congress must immediately pass the DREAM Act to provide certainty and stability to these young people and our community. I will fight every day and in every way possible to protect our young DREAMers.  They know no other home but America, and my Republican colleagues and President Trump must live up to their rhetoric and do the right thing and support and pass legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers.”

In her statement, Castor also noted that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would accept DACA renewal applications filed through October 5, 2017, for current DACA recipients whose authorizations expire between Sep. 5, 2017 and Mar. 5, 2018.

“If you or someone you know is a DACA student or works with DACA students whose renewal is coming up, they should apply immediately and in any case before the Oct. 5 deadline. These students will be able to stay on DACA for two years,” Castor said.

 

Hillsborough lawmakers call on state and feds to reject Medicaid, CHIP cuts

Hillsborough County Democratic lawmakers Wednesday called on Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-led Congress to reject potential cuts to Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

President Donald Trump’s budget plans unveiled earlier this year would reduce the Children’s Health Insurance Program by at least 20 percent over the next two fiscal years and slash Medicaid, which covers millions of children.

Hillsborough County officials and the children who would be directly affected by those cuts, spoke out against the proposals at a news conference at Robles Park Village in South Seminole Heights on Wednesday afternoon in an event sponsored by the group Organize Florida.

Congress enacted the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997 as a more modest and more bipartisan expansion of federally funded insurance than compared with the failed bid of Bill and Hillary Clinton for universal health care in 1994.

George W. Bush vetoed efforts to increase the program’s reach, but Democrats succeeded in expanding it once Barack Obama took office in 2009 and again a year later as part of the Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration and Republican congressional leaders struck a deal in 2015 to reauthorize the program, which by then had been credited with helping reduce the uninsured rate among children from nearly 14 percent two decades ago to under 4.5 percent.

The Trump administration official told the New York Times Thursday that the administration wants Congress to provide money the CHIP program.

Tampa Democratic Representative Kathy Castor said that Congress had to recommit to extend the CHIP program by the end of September. She said that has to happen first, or else Governor Scott and the Legislature could then begin cutting kids from the state health care rolls.

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz says she grew up in a family where her single mother couldn’t afford to take her to the dentist as a youth with a severe toothache.

“We tried to figure out all kinds of different things to make the pain go away, and one of the number one causes of absenteeism in schools is toothaches,” she said.

Cruz said one out of every two children in Florida receives their health care through Florida KidCare. She said the program was “fundamental to fulfilling our moral obligation of ensuring that a child’s ability to access health care doesn’t vary by the size of their parents’ paycheck.

“Governor Scott, go pick on somebody your own size and stop picking on these kids!” she said to applause.

“All my life, I’ve received health care through Medicaid,” says Isabelle Hall, 17, a student at Hillsborough High School. “Without this essential service, my teeth would have rotted in my skull because of a lack of dental care. Without the psychological resources provided by Medicaid, my depression and anxiety issues would have made my life exponentially more burdensome.”

“My mother provides for me as a single parent,” she adds, “but Medicaid helps her fill in the gaps when her bi-weekly paycheck is parceled out into every bill due that month until barely anything remains.”

Low-income children are covered by a complicated mix that only the state why they leave it to the leave it to the individual of programs. Medicaid covers 37 million children. The Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, has 8.9 million enrolled. Together, these two programs cover about one in three American children, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Hillsborough County School District receives up to $12 million annually in Medicaid reimbursement payments, according to school board member Tamara Shamburger. Those funds are used to Medicaid eligible services to students for speech therapies, psychological and counseling services, and providing assistance to students managing their diabetes.

“The loss of this funding does not lower our cost to provide these mandated services, neither does it lessen our obligation,” she said.

“I suffer from sickle cells. It is a problem, and it’s difficult to deal without Medicaid,” said Germanique Canyon, 20. “I’m coming before all of you to ask Governor Rick Scott to please just leave Medicaid for Florida.”

Samantha Underwood, 16, attends Hillsborough High School. She suffers from asthma, allergies and eczema, and had a word for politicians who often talk about “the children.”

“As they’re running for everything, they’re saying it’s all about the youth, but when they get in, they want to take from the youth, and that’s really unacceptable,” she said.

“It would be devastating for state spending if these federal dollars were to go away,” said St. Petersburg Democratic state Sen. Darryl Rouson.

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.”

Nine Florida Democrats urge Donald Trump to rescind transgender ban

Nine of Florida’s 11 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter Tuesday urging President Donald Trump to reconsider his recently announced ban on transgendered people in the military.

“There is no place for discrimination in our Armed Forces or indeed anywhere else in American society,” the letter signed by most Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives reads.

“Enforcing your ban could mean discharging active duty soldiers, sailors, Marines and members of the Air Force who serve honorably. It also would mean barring other patriotic Americans from serving in the future. Both actions are detrimental to our national security, ill-advised, and contrary to the values upon which our nation was built,” it continues.

The letter states there are thousands of active-duty transgender service members and refutes Trump’s contention that they have been a disruption or burden on the military, saying they serve with equal distinction, and are “equally deserving of our gratitude and respect.”

The letter also argues that the ban is likely unconstitutional.

The 143 signatories Tuesday afternoon included Democratic U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor of Tampa, Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, and Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Darren Soto, both of Orlando, had not signed the most recent copy sent to FloridaPolitics.com, but Soto’s office said he fully endorsed the letter and wanted to sign it but did not get the chance before the letter was closed.

Last month, after Trump signaled, in a Twitter post, his intention to ban transgendered people, Soto released a statement that included, “There are over 15,000 transgender military service men and women currently risking their lives every day protecting our country. Now, we must also protect them. I proudly stand with the transgender troops serving in the U.S military, you make us proud to be American! “

Demings office did not respond to an inquiry about why she had not signed the letter.

In a Facebook post Murphy, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote, “All people who are willing and qualified to defend our nation and to protect those who fight alongside them should be free to serve.”

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.

Jack Latvala: State needs to spend $20 million more on opioid crisis

Republican candidate for governor Jack Latvala, who’s been aggressive in saying that Florida needs to do more to deal with the exploding opioid epidemic, on Monday called on Gov. Rick Scott to fund another $20 million to address the problem.

Latvala, a Clearwater state senator and Appropriations Committee chair, also is calling on Scott to immediately extend the executive order he originally signed in May, declaring the opioid crisis to be a public health emergency in Florida.

That request allowed the state to immediately draw down more than $27 million in federal grant funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Opioid State Targeted Response Grant. That funding has been used to provide prevention, treatment and recovery support services, but is expected to expire within the next week.

“There have been reports that suggest 14 Floridians have died every day in the first half of this year due to opioids, which is higher than the number of Floridians we have lost per day at the height of the pill mill crisis,” Latvala wrote in his letter. “If this trend continues, by the time the Legislature passes a budget in March 2018, over 2,700 more Floridians could die. Florida’s citizens cannot wait until then for more financial resources to combat this public health crisis.”

Latvala participated in a three-hour discussion in Palm Beach County earlier this month regarding the opioid crisis, where he notes in his letter to Scott that he heard from longtime health officials that said that they have never experienced a crisis of this magnitude.

“The opioid crisis presents an existential threat to the people of our state as entire generations quickly being lost, or unable to meaningfully contribute as productive members of our society and economy,” Latvala writes.

The longtime legislator breaks down his $20 million request for funding into five different categories: He says $9 million should be allocated for residential treatment; $5 million for detox services; $3 million for outpatient treatment and recovery support; $2.4 million for prevention and $600,000 in specialized services.

“I think the sheer number of people that came to talk about this issue for a guy from Pinellas County where this is really not that big of an issue, it was stunning to me that there were that many people – the magnitude of the calls to the fire department, the involvement of the Sheriff’s department, just the whole community seems to be zeroing in on trying to solve this problem, so I think the state should do our part to try to solve it with the community,” Latvala told reporters after the hearing in Palm Beach County, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Senate President Joe Negron, GOP state Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah and Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader of Boca Raton joined Latvala in that listening session in Palm Beach County earlier this month.

At a press conference in Tampa last month featuring Congresswoman Kathy Castor, health officials blasted the Legislature, saying that in the face of the opioid crisis, the state actually cut funding for mental health and substance abuse.

Florida ranks virtually last in the nation in spending on mental health and substance abuse, Rutherford said those on the ground fighting the epidemic needs more help from the Legislature.

Latvala officially announced his candidacy for governor two weeks ago.

“Governor Scott has been working with legislative leaders on further ways to help families who are struggling with addiction during the upcoming legislative session,” responded Lauren Schenone, a spokesperson for Scott. “Governor Scott will be announcing his legislative package to fight this national epidemic in the coming weeks, which will include significant increases of funding. We are hopeful the Legislature will support the Governor’s proposal. The Governor has been extremely focused on this issue and declared a public health emergency in May which provided $27 million in federal funds. This public health emergency was already extended today. Governor Scott has also made it easier for law enforcement to combat this epidemic.

Governor Scott appreciates the members of the Florida House and Senate for their focus on the national opioid epidemic.”

 

 

At Senate Commerce hearing in St. Pete, Bill Nelson vows to keep oil drilling moratorium

While the U.S. Senate is officially in recess, Bill Nelson brought a bit of Washington D.C. to St. Petersburg.

On the USFSP campus Thursday, the Florida Democrat hosted a meeting of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which focused on the threats to the state’s tourism-driven economy.

Last year, Florida attracted 112 million visitors, generating $108 billion for the state’s economy and supporting 1.4 million jobs. But that dependence on the tourism industry means any problems (man-made or through nature) could impact that cash cow for the state’s future economy.

Nelson was joined by local Democratic Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist, who also shared the dais with Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and Pinellas County Commission Chair Janet Long.

Nelson boasted about sponsoring the 2006 bill with then-GOP Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, calling for an oil drilling ban off much of the state’s Gulf Coast through most of 2022. That translates into a no-drilling zone through June 30, 2022, extending 125 miles off much of Florida’s Gulf Coast, reaching as far as 235 miles at some points in the eastern Gulf.

Nelson wants that ban to continue until 2027, but says it’s “vigorously opposed by the oil industry.”

Castor took Nelson’s idea further, saying her Florida Coastal Protection Act would prohibit oil drilling, leasing, preleasing and any related activities off the Gulf Coast and the Straits of Florida permanently. However, she had been reintroducing that bill in Congress for the past eight years.

Castor notes that a huge challenge to the tourism industry, as well as the future of everyday Floridians, is the changing environment — higher air-conditioning bills, more beach renourishment, and rising flood and property insurance rates.

“If we do not act now to get ahead of this, we’re going to be facing a very difficult future,” she said.

Another concern for Florida is that President Donald Trump has slated to completely cut funding for Brand USA, a federally funded organization to promote America overseas as a tourist destination.

“I think it’s the classic definition of a penny wise and a pound-foolish,” Nelson said, adding that Castor and Crist would fight to maintain that funding in the budget.

Also testifying were many local experts.

Mise en Place co-owner Maryann Ferenc, a member of the Brand USA  board of directors, told committee members the organization generated nearly $3.9 billion in federal, state and local taxes, and supports 50,900 incremental jobs annually.

Robin Sollie, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, indirectly referenced the attempted budget cuts to VISIT Florida in the Legislature this year when she spoke about Brand USA, particularly in “emerging markets like Dubai and Cuba.”

University of Florida Associate Dean of Research Sherry Larking said Florida’s tourist economy is based on natural resources. Preserving those resources was crucial for Florida’s economic interests, she said.

Mitchell Roffer, president of Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecast Service, said threats to Florida’s economy come from both inside and outside the state. He singled out water quality, habitat degradation, and climate change.

Kathy Castor weighs in (sort of) on abortion litmus test

California Gov. Jerry Brown believes the deciding factor for Democratic candidates should be intelligence, suggesting that as a litmus test, abortion would not be helpful nationwide.

“The litmus test should be intelligence, caring about, as Harry Truman or Roosevelt used to call it, the common man,” Brown NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet The Press over the weekend. “We’re not going to get everybody on board. And I’m sorry but running in San Francisco is not like running in Tulare County or Modoc, California, much less Mobile, Alabama.”

Brown’s comments come at a time when Democrats nationally are debating the idea that support for abortion rights should be a requirement for candidates looking for Party backing.

As a strong supporter of abortion rights, Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor is somewhat ambiguous on this growing debate.

“I love the Democratic Party!” she exclaimed Tuesday after a visit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training facility. “But women’s health issues and the ability to control our own bodies is one of a whole host of issues, and I don’t think in America and in any political party you can say there’s a litmus test for anything, but people certainly have the right to say that this is important to me and judge those candidates based on their position.”

Discussion of a litmus test began after Ben Ray Lujan, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), recently told The Hill that the Party will not withhold funding from candidates who do not support abortion rights, as Democrats attempt to win back the House in next year’s midterms.

Lujan’s comments have ignited a firestorm from abortion rights supporters.

“Women’s health & rights are nonnegotiable — incl. access to safe, legal abortion,” Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards tweeted last week. “We’ll hold any politician who says otherwise accountable.”

Former DNC Chair Howard Dean expressed similar outrage, tweeting: “I’m afraid I’ll be with holding support for the DCCC if this is true.”

“The Democratic Party is supposed to be the party of equality, freedom and justice. You cannot deny those guarantees to women and call yourself a Democrat as far as I’m concerned,” wrote Susan Smith, chair of the Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus. “If the DCCC and DSCC and DNC don’t make that clear, then don’t expect us to support your anti-choice candidates or your organizations.”

According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, three-quarters of Democrats (75 percent) support abortion rights. Overall, 57 percent of Americans support a woman’s right to choose an abortion, which is “as high as it has been in two decades of polling,” Pew reports.

Democrats need to win 24 seats in the 2018 congressional midterm to retake the U.S. House. Some areas where they may be able to win over GOP seats are in socially conservative Southern states. When asked if she could find herself supporting a pro-life Democrat in a congressional contest next year, Castor couldn’t answer that without other factors to consider.

“It would really depend on that candidate and their background and their position on a whole host of issues,” she said.

Kathy Castor likes Democrats new ‘A Better Deal’ slogan, agenda

The Democratic Party unveiled its new economic plan Monday, which includes the tagline: “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.”

Despite some on Twitter mocking the slogan as sounding a little too much like a Papa John’s ad, Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor digs it.

Among the policy proposals include focusing on lowering prescription drug prices, reforming corporate merger policies, pushing for a $15 an hour living wage, and creating jobs for 10 million Americans.

“These are the things that I talk about all the time,” Castor said Monday at an occasion celebrating the 52nd anniversary of Medicare held in the West Tampa building housing her district office. “We need better wages in the Tampa Bay area. We are still below the median wage when you compare us to other communities across the country,” she said, adding: “We can’t rely on tourism and real estate any longer. We have to support small business entrepreneurs that are often the pathway to better-paying jobs.”

As has been well-documented, the Democratic Party has been severely dismantled in both national and statewide elections around the country since 2010. The party has lost more than 1,030 seats in state legislatures, governor’s mansions and Congress during the Obama presidency, according to the AP.

As far as rebranding the party is concerned, Castor said it was “natural” to renew and refresh the Democratic message every few years.

“I think it encapsulates very well a lot of the policies that we’ve been working on,” she said, citing the push to lift wages to supporting students to attend college without getting hit by loft student loans.

“We’ve been waiting for the president, who said we’re going to do infrastructure, but there’s been no conversation about that,” she lamented.

Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives are poised to vote Tuesday on a bill that punishes Russia for interfering in the U.S. election, as well as the 2014 annexation of Crimea and its ongoing military activity in eastern Ukraine.

The Senate passed its version, 97-2, earlier this year, but the House had dithered for months on bringing up the bill, reportedly because of resistance by President Donald Trump.

“There was no rational reason to delay or postpone it, and I was disheartened that there was pressure by the White House to stall it,” she said. “But the reports are now that even the president is likely to sign the Russians sanctions bill. This is important. This is a response to Russian meddling in our election and people are asking me about it. They’re asking me about health care, but they also want to know how is the U.S. going to respond to the Russian meddling, and this is one important step.”

 

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