Marco Rubio Archives - Page 3 of 228 - Florida Politics

Marco Rubio lauds Pres. Trump’s decision to leave UNESCO

Citing “anti-Israel bias,” the U.S. State Department announced its decision to withdraw from UNESCO at the end of 2018.

Sen. Marco Rubio backs the move.

“As ISIS commits genocide and destroys historical and cultural heritage sites throughout the Middle East, the majority of UNESCO’s member states have chosen instead to advance a discriminatory and counterproductive anti-Israel agenda,” Rubio said, “including the repeated passage of measures that deny any connection between Jews and Christians and the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and other holy sites in Jerusalem.”

“Until UNESCO’s member states end their anti-Israel agenda,” Rubio added, “the Trump Administration is right to withdraw the United States from UNESCO and uphold U.S. laws that forbid American taxpayer money from going to this organization.”

In recent years, Sen. Rubio has pressed for disengagement from UNESCO, including urging the Barack Obama administration to withdraw taxpayer funding from the organization, and leading a letter to the U.N. Secretary General that objected to anti-Israel bias in UNESCO and elsewhere in the U.N.

Along with citing anti-Israel bias, the State Department outlined concerns with “mounting arrears at UNESCO, [and] the need for fundamental reform in the organization.”

In 2019 and beyond, the United States will be a non-member observer state relative to UNESCO.

Marco Rubio presses Senate panel on nursing home oversight

In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday cited the case of the now-infamous Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills to urge an investigation of nursing home regulation oversight.

During Hurricane Irma, the facility lost power — setting into motion a chain of events that led to seemingly avoidable casualties, when the nursing home operators failed to evacuate patients to a nearby hospital.

In the weeks since the storm, 14 patients have died, and many of those deaths can be attributed to the power loss in Irma.

“In the wake of Hurricane Irma, 14 residents of a single nursing facility in Hollywood, Florida, passed away. While this terrible tragedy is currently under investigation, it has been widely reported that these individuals were left in sweltering conditions after the nursing facility’s air conditioning system lost power,” Rubio wrote Chairman Orrin Hatch and Ranking Democrat Ron Wyden.

“This has shocked the state of Florida,” Rubio added, “and rightfully raised questions about the oversight of nursing homes, particularly the enforcement of existing emergency preparedness requirements.”

Rubio went on to note issues in previous inspections by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Among them: a medication error rate of 26 percent in Feb. 2016, which far exceeds the federal government’s dictum that error rates should be no more than 5 percent.

As well, beyond medication mishaps, the nursing home was found in 2014 as “not providing enough water to all patients in order to maintain proper hydration and health, contravening federal requirements,” wrote Rubio.

Rubio notes that “federal regulations mandate that facilities’ emergency preparedness procedures address subsistence needs for residents, including alternate sources of energy to maintain temperatures and protect residents’ health and safety.”

“Unfortunately,” Rubio adds, “despite this requirement and the facilities’ close proximity to an operational hospital, residents were found to have temperatures exceeding 109 degrees, far above the level that puts seniors at risk for heat stroke.”

Rubio seeks an investigation of the Hollywood Hills facility, as well as others in Florida and Puerto Rico, “to prevent similar tragedies in the future.”

As well, Rubio wants the committee to “consider examining other ways in which Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries were impacted by these storms and how better planning and coordination between the federal, state, and local government could mitigate harm caused by hurricanes.”

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.

Florida calls for $27 billion in hurricane recovery funding

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, along with 26 U.S. representatives from Florida, submitted Friday a line-item list of budget requests totaling $26.945 billion worth of federal hurricane recovery funding.

In a letter penned to members of the House Committee on Appropriations, nearly the entire Florida delegation outlined specific recovery funding requests in addition to the $29 billion requested this week from the White House.

“Three hurricanes have hit U.S. soil in a short time, stretching our federal agencies, first responders, and community resources thin,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “With more than a month left in the 2017 hurricane season, and another storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, Americans need to know that the federal government is ready to respond.”

The letter stresses that additional funding will likely be needed once a more thorough damage assessment is complete, and the funding sought in the letter will likely cover only part of the state’s overall recovery costs.

“This supplemental package should serve as a down payment on hurricane recovery efforts while we await full assessment of needs later this month,” the lawmakers wrote.

The largest of the requests include $10 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers to help repair and sustain port and river functionality, along with repairing any damage to ongoing projects like the Herbert Hoover Dike; $7 billion for the Community Development Block Grant to fund any unmet needs, including seawall restoration in South Florida; and $5 billion for the Department of Agriculture to assist with crop and livestock losses from Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Congressman Daniel Webster, a Republican from Florida’s 11th district, was the only Florida delegation signature absent from the letter Friday.

Florida scientists urge Senate to oppose Donald Trump’s NASA pick

Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have already lobbed objections to Jim Bridenstine, President Donald Trump‘s pick to head NASA.

Now, more than 30 Florida scientists signed a letter to the state’s U.S. senators, urging them to outright reject Bridenstine when he comes up for confirmation.

Among the criticisms that scientists around the nation have voiced about Bridenstine is that he has said that he doesn’t believe humans are causing climate change.

“We find it troubling that Congressman Bridenstine has repeated misinformation in his quest to deny climate change, notably in 2013 when he suggested that global temperatures were not rising,” the scientists write to Rubio and Nelson. “Climate and weather are intertwined and while we know that Congressman Bridenstine has publicly expressed desire for better weather prediction capabilities, we cannot predict weather events if we ignore emerging trends.”

“The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” Nelson told POLITICO last month.

Rubio concurred, saying that he shared the same concerns of Nelson and thought his “political baggage” would be a drag on his confirmation.

“I just think it could be devastating for the space program. Obviously, being from Florida, I’m very sensitive to anything that slows up NASA and its mission,” Rubio told POLITICO.

The scientists say that they fear that Bridenstine will de-prioritize NASA’s Earth science research arm. Scientists also fear that climate satellites might lose funding and if so there could be a gap in the data that helps scientists understand the planet.

Bridenstine has been a congressman from Oklahoma since 2012. He was critical of Rubio during the Florida senator’s ill-fated run for the White House in 2015-2016, cutting two ads for Texas Senator Ted Cruz‘ campaign suggesting that Rubio was weak on terrorism. He also took a shot at Rubio for supporting comprehensive immigration reform

The signatories to the letter are many of the same Florida scientists who previously penned a letter to Wilbur Ross, the Secretary of Commerce, which they say generated a dialogue between Nelson and Ross on climate change and scientific integrity. Ross is on record as stating, “science should be left to scientists.”

Here’s the full letter, and the scientists who wrote it:

re: NASA Administrator Nominee Jim Bridenstine

October 6, 2017

Dear Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio,

We are writing to thank you both for your outspoken concerns regarding Congressman Jim Bridenstine’s nomination to serve as NASA Administrator. We share those concerns.

As scientists, we wholeheartedly agree that leading NASA requires someone with qualifications in science, administration, engineering and technology. NASA satellites produce data that helps keep America safe.  Scientists use these data to measure changes in our oceans, moisture in our soil, rising seas, forecast hurricane tracks, and monitor drinking water supplies.

At this critical time, we can ill afford to allow this vital agency be subject to political whims. There is too much at stake.

Of all of the scientific agencies worldwide, NASA does the best job of observing our planet from space. We must continue to be the leader in Earth observation systems. Cutting funding for satellites will rob us of our ability to safeguard our planet and resources.

One satellite in particular — Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment — known as GRACE, uses gravity to measure mass. Grace is at the end of its life and needs to be funded for continuity. While originally conceived to help guide ballistic missiles, data from Grace has facilitated multiple scientific discoveries, including the following:  

— Grace measured the rate of melting ice in Greenland and the Antarctic.  

— Grace kept track of diminishing groundwater supplies in California’s aquifers during the drought.  

— Grace helped scientists decipher how much sea level rise is caused by melting ice sheets and how much is caused by thermal expansion.

— Most recently, Grace allowed scientists to track flood patterns, soil moisture and power failures all over East Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  

Importantly for Florida — just recently, Geophysical Research Letters reported that scientists are using data from Grace to determine the world’s most vulnerable coastal area by “fingerprinting” sea level rise, which will help researchers predict how climate change will affect storm surges in flood-prone coastal areas.  

The original Grace mission launched in 2002 and is nearing its end-of-life with fuel running out, https://grace.jpl.nasa.gov), and its important work must continue.   

Other important NASA Earth science missions include:  

— CLARREO Pathfinder Mission will set climate benchmarks critical for assessing changes in the Earth system to optimize strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

— The Orbiting Carbon Observatory measures, with high precision and high resolution, carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

— DISCOVR, the Deep Space Climate Observatory, supports the sophisticated EPIC camera monitoring Earth.

— The PACE mission studies harmful algal blooms and volcanic ash eruptions among other things. Their work helps safeguard our shellfish supply.

— The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2 known as ICESat-2 is a laser altimeter to measure elevation and provide mass balance of ice sheets and sea ice, to be launched in Sep 2018, https://icesat-2.gsfc.nasa.gov

— Operation IceBridge deploys airborne missions over Arctic and Antarctic to measure sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers, and elevation. This work is ongoing since 2009 and is expected to continue into 2019 https://icebridge.gsfc.nasa.gov

— Soil Moisture Active/Passive (SMAP) is a microwave instrument to measure soil moisture and freeze/thaw state of ground (the main applicability to polar regions). It also has the potential to estimate thin sea ice. https://smap.jpl.nasa.gov

— Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (Suomi VIIRS) is a joint mission with NOAA to examine sea ice concentration, ice surface temperature, sea ice thickness, land snow extent, surface reflectivity/albedo with a visible/infrared sensor. It was launched in 2011. https://jointmission.gsfc.nasa.gov/viirs.html

— Joint Polar Satellite System Program (JPSS-1) is a joint mission with NOAA, to follow up on Suomi and examine sea ice concentration, ice surface temperature, sea ice thickness, land snow extent and surface reflectivity/albedo. Launch scheduled for November 2017. http://www.jpss.noaa.gov

— Aqua/Terra: NASA Earth Observing System (EOS) missions launched in 1999 (Terra) and 2002 (Aqua), a suite of several instruments to provide information on sea ice concentration, snow cover (on sea ice and land), reflectivity/albedo, sea surface temperature, clouds and radiative fluxes. https://eospso.nasa.gov

— Special Sensor Microwave Imager and Sounder (DMSP SSMIS) deploy DoD sensors for the sea ice time series developed by NASA and archived at NASA centers.

— Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR2) is a JAXA (Japanese) sensor which NASA uses to create data products on sea ice and snow.

— CryoSat-2: an ESA sensor, radar altimeter measures surface elevation, and NASA is creating data products from it, including on sea ice thickness.

The vital work of NASA’s Earth observation systems must continue without political interference.

We find it troubling that Congressman Bridenstine has repeated misinformation in his quest to deny climate change, notably in 2013 when he suggested that global temperatures were not rising.

Climate and weather are intertwined and while we know that Congressman Bridenstine has publicly expressed desire for better weather prediction capabilities, we cannot predict weather events if we ignore emerging trends.   

NASA must remain an independent scientific agency, and its critical Earth science missions must continue and expand. We agree as you have both said, that NASA should remain free of politics and partisanship.

We urge you to oppose Jim Bridenstine’s nomination. He has no scientific training and little administrative experience and he is not qualified to lead this prestigious agency.  

Make no mistake; our Earth is getting warmer. As humans continue to add heat-trapping gases to our atmosphere, we must keep a close eye on how our changing climate will impact society and our way of life. Florida, in particular is vulnerable to rising seas and more extreme weather events.  Sea level rise is an existential threat to our state.  

Thank you again for speaking your mind about the Jim Bridenstine nomination and we trust you and your colleagues in the U.S. Senate will do the right thing to protect Floridians and all Americans.

Sincerely,

Senthold Asseng, Professor

Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department

University of Florida

Leonard Berry, Ph.D.

Emeritus Professor of Geosciences

Florida Atlantic University

Henry O. Briceño, Professor

Southeast Environmental Research Center

& Department of Earth and Environment

Florida International University

Mya Breitbart, Professor

College of Marine Science

University of South Florida

Kristen Buck, Assistant Professor

College of Marine Science

University of South Florida

William S. Castle, Professor Emeritus [Horticulture]

Citrus Research & Education Center

University of Florida

Linda M. Callejas, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor

Department of Child & Family Studies

University of South Florida

Jeff Chanton, Professor

Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science,

Florida State University

Eric Chassignet, Professor and Director

Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS)

Florida State University

Dr. Allan J. Clarke

The Adrian E. Gill Professor of Oceanography

Distinguished Research Professor

Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science

Florida State University

Dr. Amy Clement

Department of Atmospheric Science

University of Miami

Anne J Cox, Professor of Physics

Natural Sciences

Eckerd College

Jeffrey A Cunningham, Ph.D., Associate Professor,
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

University of South Florida

Kimberly Dobrinski, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Biology

University of Tampa

Robert G. Ellingson, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus

Department of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Science

Florida State University

Shannon Grogan, Master’s Candidate

Integrative Biology Department

The University of South Florida

Jude W. Grosser, Professor of Citrus Breeding and Genetics

Citrus Research and Education Center

University of Florida

David Hastings, Professor

Marine Science and Chemistry

Eckerd College

Nicole Hernandez Hammer

Biologist

Chuanmin Hu, Professor

College of Marine Science

University of South Florida

Daniel Huber, Associate Professor

Biology Department

The University of Tampa

Elizabeth Kiebel, M.S., doctoral student

Department of Psychology

University of South Florida

Ben Kirtman, Professor

Department of Atmospheric Science

Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences

University of Miami

Marguerite Koch, Professor

Department of Biological Sciences

Florida Atlantic University

Cory J. Krediet, Assistant Professor

Marine Science and Biology

Eckerd College

William M. Landing

Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science

Florida State University

Steve Leitman

Department of Urban and Regional Planning  

Florida State University

Juliana Leonard, Ph.D. Student
Environmental and Ecological Microbiology
Department of Integrative Biology
University of South Florida

Ken Lindeman, Professor

Sustainability Program Chair

Florida Institute of Technology

William Louda, Research Professor

Environmental Biogeochemistry Group

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and The Environmental Sciences Program

Florida Atlantic University

Talea L. Mayo, Assistant Professor

Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering

University of Central Florida

David Mertens

Assistant Professor of Physics

Eckerd College

Karena Nguyen, Ph.D. Candidate

Department of Integrative Biology

University of South Florida

John H. Parker

Interior Secretary heading to South Florida

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will be in South Florida this week reviewing damage from Hurricane Irma and getting a briefing about Everglades restoration efforts, according to his office.

Zinke will receive a briefing Thursday on Everglades restoration at Lake Okeechobee, assess storm cleanup Friday at Big Cypress National Preserve and discuss Everglades National Park Saturday with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and other members of Florida’s congressional delegation.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Marco Rubio after Equifax hack: companies should be reporting quickly

Citing the recently disclosed mammoth hack of the Equifax credit ratings company that had occurred last spring, Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio sent a letter to the Security and Exchange Commission Wednesday urging it to require companies to make prompt disclosures of hacks that could affect consumers.

Rubio said in his letter to SEC Chairman Jay Clayton that he believes companies that hold Americans’ personal information must be held to a higher standard of security and reporting, lest Americans be exposed to identity theft without being informed in a timely fashion.

Equifax announced Sept. 7 that it had a “cyber security incident.” The announcement revealed a hacking effort that netted personal information on more than 140 million Americans dated as early as May and was discovered and plugged by the company in July. In that period, hackers were able to steal identity and financial information on more than 140 million Americans. The company acknowledged the hackers were able to obtain names, Social Security numbers, birthdays and addresses on those clients, and driver license numbers on many.

Credit card numbers were stolen for 209,000 people and certain “documents with personal identifying information” for 182,000, the company announced.

“This breach, and others like it, have made Americans vulnerable to identity theft and scams,” Rubio wrote to Clayton. “The reality of our data-rich 21st century requires that we take security guardrails very seriously, and ensure the federal government is upholding the trust Americans need for their full participation in the national economy.”

“For this reason, I write to urge that, to the maximum extent consistent with the law, the Securities and Exchange Commission require companies to promptly disclose significant hacks of material impact that make Americans vulnerable to identity theft,” Rubio implored.

Rubio declared that companies holding Americans’ personal information should be held to a higher security standard.

“In recognizing this, I urge that you prioritize transparency actions for Equifax so that consumers can be aware of their status with adequate time to take appropriate remediation steps,” he concluded.

Rick Scott proposes legislation banning business with Venezuela

Gov. Rick Scott Monday announced proposed legislation to prohibit the state, including all agencies, from investing in any company that is doing business with Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro’s government.

The proposal comes six weeks after the state’s State Board of Administration, which maintains the Florida Retirement System and its $150 billion in assets, voted to reaffirm that they would not invest in any companies or securities controlled by the Venezuelan government.

“In Florida, we have been absolutely clear: The brutal government of Nicolas Maduro must end and the people of Venezuela must be given total freedom and democracy now,” Scott said while speaking at the 2017 Latin American Summit in Miami.

Scott said he also was calling on all local governments and businesses in the state to stop doing business with the Maduro government, if they currently are.

“Let me be clear: This proposal is aimed squarely at the Maduro regime, not businesses who provide much needed goods and services to the Venezuelan people,” Scott said.

Scott has been unrelenting of his criticism towards Maduro — a trait familiar in the Trump administration, the Vatican, and other governments around the world — accusing him of undermining Venezuela’s democracy and plunging the country’s 30 million people into suffering due to food and medicine shortage.

In the past few months, Maduro has arrested and detained opposition leaders, and cracked down on street protests with lethal force.

In July he oversaw a disputed election for a special legislative body that took over the country’s parliament, ignoring a citizens referendum held in Venezuela and across the country that opposed that move.

More than 100,000 Venezuelan-Americans live in Florida, and the troubles there have captured the focus of Scott and Florida’s two U.S. Senators, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson.

Scott is expected to challenge Nelson’s bid for re-election to his Senate seat next year.

Nelson has gone as far as to call for cutting imports of Venezuela oil as a response to Maduro’s actions.

Maduro called on his nation’s military leaders last week to prepare for war against the U.S., days after the Trump administration banned Venezuelan officials from entering the nation.

State prepares for influx from Puerto Rico

From schools to shelters, Florida is readying for an influx of people struggling for food, water and power in hurricane-damaged Puerto Rico.

Gov. Rick Scott said Florida doesn’t know how many people will make the trip from Puerto Rico. Also, Scott said it is unknown how many will decide to remain permanently in Florida or return to the Caribbean island.

But Scott, who traveled Thursday to the U.S. territory to tour the damage left by Hurricane Maria and on Friday went to the White House, said Florida is getting prepared for the displaced Puerto Ricans and is in “a good financial position” to help.

“We’ll be able to figure this out. Florida’s a welcoming state. We’re a tourism state. We love people coming here,” Scott told reporters Thursday night at Orlando Sanford International Airport. “But I know talking to their Gov. (Ricardo Rossello) their goal long-term is they want to build their island. They don’t want everybody to come here and stay here. They want to build their island. They’re very proud of Puerto Rico. If they do have to come here, whether it is for medical reasons, or whatever it is, they want people to come back.”

After lunch Friday with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House, Scott told reporters in Washington that, “We’re going to do everything we can to help Puerto Rico.”

Trump is scheduled to visit Puerto Rico Tuesday.

Maria, a powerful Category 4 storm, pounded Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, two weeks after even stronger Hurricane Irma swept past the island of 3.4 million residents.

With power still out to a majority of the island, Florida’s U.S. senators have been calling for Trump to send the “cavalry” – in the form of the U.S. military – to help in Puerto Rico.

“There is a crisis in Puerto Rico where food, fuel, water and medicine is sitting at the docks and not getting out to the remote parts of the island,” Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said in a prepared statement Thursday. “The situation calls for an immediate response by the U.S. military to provide security and distribution to these remote areas. As was said after Hurricane Andrew: `Where the hell is the cavalry?’”

Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted: “Conditions in parts of #PuertoRico getting worse. The main problem is a logistical one, the distribution of aid beyond #SanJuan. Likely need the @DeptofDefense to address some `battlefield’ like logistical challenges in #PuertoRico. This will NOT improve on its own.”

Scott told reporters after the White House lunch that he advised Trump and Pence of a need for more people and vehicles to deliver supplies.

Scott also said while many of the issues confronting Puerto Rico are similar to those that faced Florida after Hurricane Irma, being an island and having a mountainous terrain work against the relief work.

Scott has worked with seaport directors on Florida’s East Coast about speeding materials to Puerto Rico. But he said debris and damaged roads and bridges have kept many supplies at the Port of San Juan.

He has also called on Florida colleges and universities to offer in-state tuition for Puerto Rican students. Florida International University said Friday that it would do so for students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam also announced that Puerto Rican students displaced by the hurricane can get free school meals through the National School Lunch Program.

“To any families fleeing Puerto Rico and coming to Florida, you will not have to worry about how you’re going to pay for your child’s school meals,” Putnam said in a prepared statement.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Four candidates qualify for HD 72 special election

The card is set for the special election in House District 72, and four candidates have qualified in the race to replace former Rep. Alex Miller, who left the House Sept. 1.

Republican James Buchanan, Libertarian Alison Foxall and Democrats Margaret Good and Ruta Jouniari made the cut before the noon deadline on Friday.

The primary election for the race is set for Dec. 5, and the winner of the Good v. Jouniari contest will move on to the Feb. 13 general election with Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, and Foxall.

A couple weeks ago it didn’t look like the primary date would be used, but Journiari ended up qualifying despite flubbing on her paperwork and using a personal check to pay the qualifying fee.

The GOP almost had its own primary as well, but Republican Alexandra Coe, who entered the race last week, failed to qualify according to the Florida Division of Elections.

Buchanan has earned the backing of a long list of Republican lawmakers in past few weeks, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, and likely would have fared well in a primary battle had Coe forced one.

He also had the advantage of already having a campaign set up for HD 71 before Miller made the surprise announcement she was leaving the Legislature. When Buchanan filed less than an hour later, he brought a six-figure campaign account with him.

HD 72 has a solid Republican lean, and even if Buchanan didn’t have political pedigree or campaign cash, he would still have been the odds-on favorite for the northern Sarasota County seat.

Democrats ran their best possible candidate for the seat last year, Ed James III, and despite being one of the top fundraisers in the cycle he lost 58-41 on Election Day.

Statistics from last year show HD 72 has about 52,000 Republican voters compared to about 35,000 Democrats and another 30,000 with no party affiliation. Miller’s landslide victory last year came alongside a 5-point win for President Donald Trump in the district.

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