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The Delegation for 4.13.17 – Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Every four years, Charlie Cook and his Cook Political Report compile the Partisan Voter Index (PVI) for each of the 435 congressional districts. The index takes the presidential popular vote from the 2012 and 2016 elections and uses the average to form the baseline for each party (Democrats 51 percent and Republicans 48 percent). If Hillary Clinton won a district with 59 percent, that district would have a PVI of D+8. If Donald Trump won with 51 percent, the PVI would be R+3.

Here are 5 takeaways from the 2017 Partisan Vote Index:

— We truly are a polarized state and nation. Only 72 districts nationwide have a PVI of between D+5 and R+5. Among Florida’s 27 districts, 24 have PVI scores of +5 or greater. A dozen of the Florida districts have a gap of 10 points or higher. Only Democrats Stephanie Murphy (even) and Charlie Crist (D+2), and Republican Mario Diaz-Balart (R+4) are in partisan swing districts but see number two below.

Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen defy the numbers. The Miami Republicans overcame bad partisan numbers to win swing districts. Curbelo won by 12 points in a district with a PVI score of D+6, the highest deficit of any Republican in Congress. Ros-Lehtinen was next among those known as “Clinton Republicans,” winning despite a D+5 PVI. She overcame Clinton’s 19-point margin over Trump in the 27th District to win by 10, the highest single gap among the Clinton Republicans nationwide.

New data from the Cook Political Report indicates three South Florida Republicans could be facing tough trends in the coming years.

— Trends favoring Democrats in Florida. South Florida’s three Hispanic Republicans are facing tough trends. Ros-Lehtinen’s district trended toward Democrats by 6.2 points over the last four years and represents the 6th greatest swing. Diaz-Balart’s district shifted 5.6 points toward Democrats and was the 10th largest. Curbelo’s district trended 4.5 points toward Democrats and was ranked 25th nationally.

— Redistricting tinkered with PVI in Florida. In 2013, the late Bill Young’s old district was R+1, but that flipped to D+2 for Crist. Gwen Graham beat Steve Southerland in a R+6 District 2 in 2014, but she wisely decided not to run in a new district that was R+18 for Neal Dunn. Daniel Webster fled his old district that was R+6 in 2013, paving the way for Val Demings to win in a new district that was D+11.

— Kansas may have a message for everyone. On Tuesday, Republican Ron Estes won by only 6 points in a special election to fill the 4th District formerly held by now-CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The district has a PVI number of R+15. Pompeo won re-election in November by more than 30 points, and Trump won by 27. The GOP ignores something like this or the loud town halls at their peril.

Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.

Trump’s China summit cost local taxpayers $1.5M — Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said his office spent about $1.5 million to help the Secret Service with security during President Trump’s latest four-day visit to Palm Beach, reports George Bennett with the Palm Beach Post.

That visit included a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Chinese delegation stayed at the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Manalapan, while Trump stayed at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. That led to two presidential security details and two sets of motorcades.

Law enforcement officials also had to deal with as many as 2,000 pro- and anti-Xi demonstrators.

“It was a large operational undertaking…When you’ve got two of the largest leaders of the world in one spot, the security is something you’ve got to pay attention to,” he told the Palm Beach Post.

Bennett reported that, as of Tuesday, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office reported it had spent about $3.5 million since Trump’s victory in November.

Trump spent this past Sunday at what appears to be his favorite course, Trump International Golf Course, in West Palm Beach. It was his 16th visit to a golf course since becoming President and the 10th weekend that he has visited a Trump property since taking office.

If it’s Sunday, that means golf: President Donald Trump hit the links at, where else, Trump International Golf Course in West Palm. Since his inauguration, this is his 16th visit to a golf course.

When will Trump arrive in Palm Beach for Easter? – According to restrictions posted by the Federal Aviation Administration, the president should arrive sometime after 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and leave the area Sunday before 4:30 p.m. The announcement means restrictions will be in place for a security zone covering much of Palm Beach County, extending into Martin and Broward counties. The Palm Beach Post reports the zone “includes two concentric rings of restricted airspace: an inner 10-nautical-mile ring that serves essentially as a no-fly zone, with limited exceptions; and an outer 30-nautical-mile ring with fewer restrictions on activity at airports.”

Bondi, others wait for White House personnel operation to get in gear — Since Trump was sworn in nearly three months ago, many in Florida and around the country have waited for the call to help the 45th President run the government. Pam Bondi is the most well-known Floridian still in limbo, and there seems to be no sign of shifting the process into second gear.

POLITICO reports “hundreds of key jobs across the federal government remain vacant as a result of an overworked White House personnel office that is frustrating Cabinet secretaries and hampering President Trump’s ability to carry out his ambitious legislative agenda.”

Presidents have 553 key appointments which require Senate approval. The president has forwarded 24 nominees, and 22 have been confirmed. By comparison, President Barack Obama had more than twice that number submitted and approved by April 7.

Politico quoted a White House source that used the word “paranoia” in describing the process. With the waterfall of leaks coming from current or outgoing staffers, the Trump team is trying to ensure loyalty among those they bring in.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke did not mind being quoted when he said “the executive branch is no different than any other branch. It’s a frustration of bureaucracy.”

If a fall guy emerges, expect it to be the head of the Office of Presidential Personnel, Joey DeStefano. Among the adjectives attached to him is “overwhelmed.”

On the other end are hundreds of applicants and hopefuls patiently waiting for their phone to ring. At least Bondi has other things to do in the meantime.

The trouble with Trump’s White House is Donald Trump” — In a recent column for the Daily Beast, Florida’s Rick Wilson makes the argument that problems within the White House aren’t due to staff but to the president himself.

“The cancer in the presidency isn’t his staff — though they reflect his shoddy intellect, his shallow impulsiveness, his loose grasp of reality, and Chinese-menu ideology,” writes Wilson. “The problem is Trump himself, and nothing and no one can change that.”

If Trump opts to keep Steve Bannon, his chief strategist, Wilson says Trump maintains a “poisonous, post-conservative nationalism and thinly-veiled racial and religious animus that helped put him in the Oval Office.” But if he fires him, then Trump should “prepare for war.”

“The information warfare architecture Bannon built with the money of Robert and Rebekah Mercer is already restive and nervous that Trump has been co-opted by (((them))) and lured into being a more conventional president,” writes Wilson. “Since the Trumpbart/Bannon/Mercer propaganda platform helped elect Trump with its lurid “reporting” and its troll army (shoutout to Putin!), it can just as easily be turned against him. Trump’s social media power was always boosted by—if not contingent upon—this system, and the idea of a vengeful Bannon turning those tools against him should keep Donald awake at night.”

Wilson also takes on Trump’s decision to elevate Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, to an increasingly prominent role in the administration, and questions about replacing Reince Priebus, the current chief of staff.

Mar-a-Lago kitchen vexed by health inspectors – From undercooled meat to dangerous fish, the Miami Herald reports on how health inspectors are zinging the kitchen of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.

Days before the state visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Trump’s Palm Beach private club, Florida restaurant inspectors found potentially dangerous raw fish, citing the club for improper food storage in two broken down coolers.

Records show Inspectors found 13 violations at the club’s kitchen, an all-time high for an institution charging $200,000 in initiation fees. Three violations were marked “high priority” – meaning plates served in the dining room could hold illness-causing bacteria.

Proposed EPA Superfund budget cuts bad news for Florida – Broad domestic cuts in the Trump administration’s preliminary budget, which include the Environmental Protection Agency, will not be good news for Floridians living near several federal Superfund sites, including the former United Metals site in Marianna, the Piper Aircraft site in Vero Beach or the Pensacola Naval Air Station (NAS).

Ledyard King of the Tallahassee Democrat reports that the toxic contamination at those three sites — among Florida’s 53 active sites — made them part of the federal Superfund program, which the EPA names as some of the nation’s most environmentally hazardous areas.

Trump’s initial 2018 proposal cuts $330 million out of a nearly $1.1 billion Superfund budget – a 30 percent reduction to a program already struggling to keep pace with the increasing number of hazardous environmental hotspots. Superfund sites, such as abandoned industrial sites, city landfills and military depots, are linked to higher rates of cancer risks and other diseases.

Touring Miami affordable housing, Ben Carson gets stuck in an elevator – The U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was visiting Courtside Family Apartments, a complex co-developed by former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning and his nonprofit AM Affordable Housing, reports The Associated Press. Mourning arrived a few minutes late, so Carson and Miami-Dade County Public Housing Director Michael Liu began the tour without him. They got stuck along with five other people on the way down. The elevator descended safely, but the doors were jammed, so Miami-Dade Fire Rescue crews had to pry them open.

Happening Thursday —  Carson continues listening tour in Miami — The part-time Palm Beach County resident is taking part in a national listening tour, which brings him to Miami this week. The tour is meant to give organizations that rely on, and support, public housing a chance to talk directly to Carson about their needs.

Carson will continue his listening tour with stops in Miami on Thursday. He kicked off his day at 12:15 p.m. at the Versailles Restaurant, 3555 SW 8th Street. During that stop, he’ll be joined by Linda McMahon, the administrator of the Small Business Administration, and Miguel Del Campillo, the president of the Florida Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials.

Carson then traveled to Villa Aurora, 1398 SW 1st Street, where was joined by Rep. Diaz-Balart.

Carson’s listening tour will continue in Hialeah, where he’ll be joined by Diaz-Balart, Del Campillo, Commissioner Esteban Bovo, and Julio Ponce, the executive director of the Hialeah Housing Authority. The group will hold a forum at 3 p.m. at Hoffman Gardens, 987 West 75th Street.

Carson will wrap up his day at 6:15 p.m. when he delivers the keynote address at the NAACP National Fair Housing Month Conference at the Miami-Dade College North Campus, 11380 NW 27th Avenue.

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio get top marks in new survey — A new survey from Morning Consult showed Floridians thought both of the state’s senators were doing a good job when it comes to their work in the nation’s capital.

The survey of 8,793 Florida voters was conducted from January to March. It was part of a nationwide study that evaluated the job performance of the nation’s senators and governors.

According to the survey, Nelson’s approval rating is 53 percent. That’s up ever-so-slightly from September rankings, which showed Nelson had a 52 percent approval rating.

Nelson’s disapproval rating is 26 percent; up 2 points from September when it came in at 24 percent. The survey found 21 percent either didn’t know who Nelson was or didn’t have an opinion of the state’s senior senator.

Rubio saw a big bump since the last survey, according to the Morning Consult survey. The study found 52 percent of respondents said they approved of the job Rubio was doing, a 10-point increase from the September survey.

Also enjoying good news this week: Gov. Scott. The Morning Consult survey showed Scott has a 57 percent approval rating. That’s up 8 points from similar rankings released in September, which showed Scott had a 49 percent approval rating.

CVA calls on Nelson to support VA Accountability First Act of 2017 — Concerned Veterans for America launched a web ad this week urging the Orlando Democrat to support the legislation, introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio earlier this year.

The bill, according to GovTrack, would institute necessary reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs, by giving the secretary the authority to remove, demote or suspend employees for performance of misconduct. Nelson, according to CVA, supported similar legislation in the past.

“Senator Nelson has supported strong VA accountability measures in the past, and there should be nothing stopping him from doing so now,” said Mark Lucas, the executive director of CVA, in a statement. “The VA Accountability First Act of 2017 will help Secretary Shulkin get rid of the bad VA employees who drive a toxic culture and fail to give our veterans the care they need. Veterans shouldn’t have to suffer at the hands of incompetent or negligent VA employees. We urge the Senate to prioritize sending the VA Accountability First Act of 2017 to President Trump’s desk.”

The ad is part of a six-figure investment the group is making in helping get the VA Accountability First Act of 2017 through the Senate this year. The group is making thousands of phone calls to Senate targets.

The ad targeting Nelson is part of a larger series of 16 other accountability ads the group launched this week. It also launched ads targeting Democrats Jon Tester, Joe Manchin, and Claire McCaskill.

Nelson calls for an end to attacks on climate science — Three years after he held a hearing in Miami Beach to draw attention to climate change, Nelson held a second hearing, this time with his sights set of the Trump administration, reports Jenny Staletovich with the Miami Herald.

Nelson held the hearing in West Palm Beach Monday, just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s so-called “winter White House.” The discussion highlighted a need to free science from politics.

Nelson said he has met with officials in federal agencies who said the administration had banned the term climate change. He said the administration has also proposed scaling back agencies that deal with climate-related issues.

“There are people trying to muzzle scientists. I’ve seen it in Washington. I’ve seen it here in the state of Florida,” he said, according to the Herald’s report.

Rubio calls on Trump to get tough on China — The Miami Republican senator said President Trump needs to be tough on China’s human rights violations in a Wall Street Journal editorial published ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit to the US.

Rubio said issues such as the trade deficit and the plight of manufacturing workers is important, but that “it would be a mistake for the U.S. to view its relationship with China only through the lenses of economics or security.”

The second-term senator wrote that China’s economic and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan, a US ally, and China’s illegitimate actions in the South China Sea should put sanctions are on the negotiating table unless China begins showing restraint.

“China’s authoritarianism, its disregard for the rule of law, and its growing desire to upend rather than support the rules-based international order should give the Trump administration pause about cutting any deals with Beijing,” he said.

Rubio also plugged the hashtag #FreeChinasHeroes, which his Congressional-Executive Commission on China is using to highlight individual prisoners of conscience this week

Senate unanimously passes hate crimes resolution co-sponsored by Rubio — Senators from both side of the aisle, including Florida’s junior senator, joined together sponsor a resolution condemning hate crimes and discrimination. The resolution, which passed unanimously late last week, condemned racial and religion-based crimes that are on the upswing in recent years.

“Embracing diversity of thought and people from different backgrounds has made America a more perfect union,” Rubio said in a news release. “Unfortunately, there are still some individuals who seek to tear our social fabric apart with violent acts and threats fueled by hatred.”

The resolution points out the increased acts of violence against Muslims as well as anti-Semitic acts and threats. Crimes against African-Americans, Hindus and Sikhs are also condemned.

California Democrats Kamala Harris and Diane Feinstein co-sponsored the resolution along with Maine Republican Susan Collins.

“In America, no one should live in fear due to their religion, race, or ethnicity,” said Harris, who was the lead senator on the resolution.

Rubio, bipartisan coalition address campus sexual assaults — The Miami Republican has joined with several colleagues from both sides of the aisle to address the ongoing problem of sexual assault on college campuses. The bipartisan group introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act designed to protect students and strengthen accountability and transparency at institutions.

“Sexual assault on college campuses is a crime that too often goes unpunished,” Rubio said in a news release. “We must hold colleges and universities accountable for ensuring the safety and well-being of their students.”

Some of the changes provided in the bill include the way incidents are reported and adds safeguards for both the victims as well as the accused of such incidents. Also included are new standards to the notification process for victims and the accused.

Joining Rubio in sponsoring the legislation are fellow Republicans Dean Heller of Nevada and Iowa Republicans Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. From the Democrat side are Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Mark Warner of Virginia.

Rubio paying ‘a lot’ of attention to Florida –- After facing criticism for lacking focus on Florida, the Tampa Bay Times notes the Miami Republican has been “paying a lot of attention to the state,” meeting with groups in Washington, giving media interviews, speaking at a Vero Beach prayer breakfast and visiting a Plant City strawberry farm. Rubio also booked a Lincoln Day dinner event in Pinellas County for May 19.

“By no means has he given up his national profile,” writes the Times’ Alex Leary, “ensuring he’d be heard in the Syria developments. He continues to tap into a national fundraising base. And he’s eschewing calls to hold a town hall.”

Whatever the case, Leary says it’s “interesting.”

Days until the 2017 election: 208.

Paulson’s Principles: The Florida delegation gets no respect

Florida is the Rodney Dangerfield of congressional delegations: it gets no respect. And, after the 2016 election, it will merit even less respect.

Due to retirements, court-ordered reapportionment which altered the boundaries of 24 of the 27 congressional districts, and several members seeking higher office led to the election of eight new members in the 27 person delegation.

The high turnover is great for those who seek new faces in Congress; it is terrible for Floridians who want their congressional delegation to exercise the clout you would expect to have from the third largest delegation in the nation.

Florida’s congressional delegation has never garnered much respect. Florida is the only one of the ten most populous states never to have a House Speaker, Senate President or House or Senate majority leader. Florida is like the little kid on the beach who keeps getting sand kicked in his face.

As the third most populous state with the third largest congressional delegation, one would expect Florida to have far more political clout. The only House committee chair, Jeff Miller, chair of Veterans Affairs, retired after the 2016 election. Floridians do hold seven subcommittee chairs.

In comparison to Florida, the smaller Texas delegation has seven committee chairs and seven subcommittee chairs. Guess which delegation has more political clout?

So, why has the Florida congressional delegation garnered so little political clout over the decades? Part of it is due to Florida’s rapidly growing population since the end of World War II. Members of Congress consistently face a rapidly changing electorate, making it more difficult to build-up committee seniority. Also, Florida elections have been more competitive than other states, making long tenure more unlikely.

The 2016 election hit no area of Florida harder than Jacksonville. They lost long-time Rep. Ander Crenshaw, a Republican, who chaired the important Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government. Crenshaw retired from Congress, while fellow Jacksonville member Corrine Brown, was defeated when her district underwent a massive redrawing due to court action. Brown, elected in 1992, was the ranking Democrat on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

In addition to the abundance of new faces in Congress, Florida’s political clout has been damaged by House rules changes. The ban on congressional earmarks, long used to secure a compromise on legislation and to award more senior members, was abolished by the Republican Caucus. Congressmen Bill Young, Republican from Pinellas County, was probably most adversely affected by the earmark ban. Young’ name is plastered all over Pinellas County, a testimony to his bringing home federal dollars to his district.

Republicans also imposed a six-year limit on chairing a committee. Although that reform opened up power positions to younger members, it also took power away from more senior members. Both John Mica and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had to give up leadership positions due to the 6-year term limit.

Mica was defeated in 2016 by political newcomer Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat, and Ros-Lehtinen is considered one of the most vulnerable Republican members of the Florida delegation. The loss of Mica and the jeopardy in which Ros-Lehtinen finds herself is not due solely to the rules changes, but it certainly didn’t help their re-election chances.

AFP launches ad calling on Congress to scrap border adjustment tax — A new ad from Americans for Prosperity is calling on Congress to ax the border adjustment tax provision included in House leadership tax reform proposals.

The organization launched the national, six-figure ad buy Monday. The ad 30-second spots are expected to air on cable news, and encourage the public to call on their lawmakers to scrap the provision.

“Imposing a massive 20-percent import tax is the wrong approach. A border adjustment tax would harm hard working families that deserve relief from the tax code, not a new consumer tax that would drive up the cost of everyday items,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, in a statement. “Congress needs to know this is not the change the American people signed up for. We have a significant opportunity to get the tax system working for every American, but we need to move on from this costly and misguided policy.”

The ad, according to the organization, is the latest in AFP’s effort to oppose the border adjustment tax, and comes on the heels of a new report, which detailed the impact the tax could have on state’s economies

Delegation supports Syrian missile strikes, but offers suggestions going forward — Last week’s U.S. missile strike into Syria was generally supported by the Florida delegation. Democrats spoke of the need for a plan going forward, including gaining Congressional approval for further action, and the need to end rethink the president’s ban on Syrian refugees.

Other Democrats sounded like Kentucky Republican Senator and libertarian Rand Paul in believing last week’s strikes were not lawful. Here is a broad sample from around the state.

“President Trump was fully justified in executing America’s response,” said Shalimar Republican Matt Gaetz. “All precautions were taken to avoid human casualties of any kind. A message has been sent that there will be consequences for such vile acts.”

“Our military leaders acted swiftly and professionally to send a clear message that (Bashar al-Assad’s) disregard for international law and innocent lives will not be tolerated,” said Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch. “Finally, to help save lives and enhance our national security, President Trump should rethink his harmful ban on Syrian refugees.”

“The Assad regime has terrorized the Syrian people and, unlike the previous administration, President Trump will not tolerate Assad’s egregious actions,” said Miami Republican Diaz-Balart. “I applaud President Trump for his stance against those who would use these horrifying weapons.”

“It is a sad state of affairs for this nation that Congress has continued to sit idly by while the Executive Branch further engages our military in conflicts overseas without Congressional authorization,” said South Florida Democrat Alcee Hastings. “This dereliction is no fault of President Donald John Trump’s, but does our entire national a disservice.”

“(Thursday) night the United States took appropriate military action to degrade Syria’s ability to launch further chemical weapons attacks,” said Panama City Republican Neal Dunn. “The world must unite to show Assad such attacks are intolerable and he will be held accountable.”

“(Thursday) night’s targeted airstrikes were a proportional and appropriate response, making clear that these war crimes will not go unanswered,” said St. Petersburg freshman Democrat Charlie Crist. “Congress must also do its part and return immediately from recess to debate an Authorization for Use of Military Force to determine a comprehensive strategy for the United States and our allies.”

“The U.S. strike against a Syrian air base was a measured and appropriate response to Bashar al-Assad’s use of banned chemical weapons,” said Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan. “I hope the president will now bring together the international community in a unified response against the Syrian government’s unacceptable actions.”

Murphy, Demings back missile strikes but call for long-term solution — Orlando’s two freshmen Democratic U.S. congresswomen both declared their support for President Donald Trump‘s missile strikes on Syria last week, yet expressed a yearning for a long-term solution.

U.S. Reps. Val Demings of Orlando and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park made their statements to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida during a luncheon update on their first three months in Congress.

Beyond Syria, both expressed desires for bipartisan efforts to address health care by considering improvements to the Affordable Care Act, and both disavowed any overt partisan glee or anger regarding health care bills, Friday’s confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

But the most sincere bipartisan overture they each made had to do with their mutual horror over the chemical weapons Syrian President Bashar Assad used on his people this week, and their support for Trump’s missile attack on Assad’s air base Thursday night.

Murphy, a former Defense Department analyst who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, called the attack “singular” and “measured.” Demings, a former Orlando police chief who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee, called it “immediate and appropriate.”

“Our national security, the security of our nation, has to be, it must be, our number one concern, and it has to be at the forefront of our minds every day,” Demings said. “We all saw the horrific images in Syria a couple of days ago, of children, women and men who were brutally murdered, led by Assad, a chemical attack against his own people. We all saw the images of the babies.

“I was pleasantly pleased to see the president respond to those images and clearly respond,” Demings said. “I believe the airstrike, 59-missile strike, was immediate and appropriate.”

Murphy noted Tuesday was not the first time Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people.”

NRCC targets Murphy over ACA support — The National Republican Congressional Committee unveiled a digital billboard targeting Murphy in her hometown of Winter Park on Tuesday.

The billboard — located on Fairbanks Avenue — encourages passers-by to tell the Winter Park Democrat “No to Obamacare! No to Single-payer healthcare!”

“Stephanie Murphy supports Obamacare, yet her constituents are suffering under it,” said NRCC Spokesperson Maddie Anderson in a statement. “The voters of Florida’s 7th Congressional District need to know that their representative is a supporter of the failed law, and is doing nothing to fix the problems they are experiencing because of it.”

Webster joins effort to reform federal saltwater fisheries — The Central Florida Republican joined with three other colleagues to address recreational and economic issues surrounding saltwater fishing in the state. Sponsored by Louisiana Republican Garret Graves, the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 is designed to improve the public’s access to federal waters, promote conservation and spur economic growth.

“Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World, with recreational fishing supporting more than 128,000 jobs and generating $9.6 billion in economic impact,” said Kellie Ralston, Florida Fishery Policy Director of the American Sportfishing Association.

Among other things, the bill aims to benefit fishing access and conservation by incorporating modern management approaches, science, and technology to guide decision-making. Joining Graves and Webster in co-sponsoring the bill are Texas Democrat Gene Green and Virginia Republican Rob Wittman.

“On behalf of America’s 11 million saltwater anglers, we thank Congressmen Graves, Green Webster and Wittman for championing this legislation to modernize federal recreational fishing management,” said Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Sportfishing Policy.

Bilirakis opens Wesley Chapel office — U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis expanded his footprint this week with the opening of a new district office.

“I’m proud to announce the opening of my new office space in Wesley Chapel. Here, my team and I will be able to better serve the people of central and east Pasco, and ensuring we are accessible to all parts of Florida’s 12th District,” the Republican congressman said. “The Wesley Chapel office is ready to assist you, and I encourage local residents to come by and say hello.”

The Wesley Chapel branch, inside the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce building, is the congressman’s third district office after the New Port Richey and Tarpon Springs locations.

Bilirakis said he would break in the new digs with office hours from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on April 18 and that those interested in swinging by during office hours should call ahead to confirm a time at 727-232-2921.

Save the date – Charlie Crist will be special guest at the Suncoast “Tiger Bay After Hours” event Thursday, April 20, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at The Hangar, 541 First St. SE in St. Petersburg. Admission is free for Tiger Bay members, $10 for guests. RSVP deadline is noon Monday, April 17. Register here.

Ross, Soto visit troops in Middle East – It was part of a five-day trip to Iraq and Kuwait, reports the Ledger of Lakeland, to “visit with active-duty members of the Florida National Guard, learn more on operations in the Middle East and meet with foreign officials.”

“Meeting face to face with members of the Florida National Guard in Kuwait, and being able to shake their hands and thank them for their service in person, was an amazing honor,” Ross said in a statement during his trip home Tuesday. “Our military is the most advanced and well trained the world has ever seen, not just because of the latest in technology and weapons systems, but because of the courageous men and women who volunteer to stand in defense of our country.”

Ross brought with him a “suitcase filled to the brim” with letters from students at from schools in Lakeland, Brandon and Claremont.

Castor leads anniversary celebration for Special Operations Command   The Tampa Democrat joined with some of her colleagues in Congress to honor an elite group of military personnel. On the 30th anniversary of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Castor and other members of the Special Operations Forces Caucus, of which she is co-chair, introduced a resolution celebrating that anniversary.

Special Operations Command, activated on April 16, 1987, is headquartered at MacDill Air Force base in Castor’s district. Special Operations are well-known for their many successes in protecting America’s national security.

“Today, USSOCOM is an agile and effective global force for good,” said Castor in a news release. “We must be vigilant in our support for modernizing our strategic capabilities that will bolster counterterrorism efforts.”

Other co-sponsors of the resolution are California Democrat Scott Peters, Minnesota Democrat Tim Walz, and North Carolina Republican Walter Jones.

“It is my honor to file this resolution to honor our fallen and our active special forces who answer the call to keep America safe,” Castor said.

Buchanan honored by Humane Society — The Humane Society of the United States awarded the Sarasota Republican with its “Legislative Leader” award for his work to protect animals during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol last week.

Buchanan was honored for his 2016 congressional record, which included support for outlawing horse slaughter, banning cosmetics testing on animals and protecting endangered species.

Rep. Buchanan is presented with the award by Sara Amundson of the Humane Society

“Rep. Buchanan has been a forceful champion for animals again in 2016, as a lead sponsor of the SAFE Act to stop horse slaughter for human consumption and a sponsor of the AWARE Act to bring humane care standards to farm animals used in federal research,” said Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the Humane Society, in a statement. “We are so grateful for his stalwart support and compassion.”

Pacelle also pointed to Buchanan’s work challenging plans for wild horses on federal land, fighting for endangered species, and voting to sustain protections for gray wolves in the lower 48 states.

“Safeguarding threatened wildlife and promoting animal welfare should be a nonpartisan issue important to everyone,” said Buchanan in a statement.

T. Rooney advocates earmarks to “make infrastructure A+ again” — The Republican from the 17th District is beginning to push harder for an idea he offered earlier this year to help fund infrastructure projects. This week Rooney sent out a release titled “Rooney to Trump: Let’s Make Infrastructure A+ again.

To get his plan through Congress, he will need to overcome a bad word inside Republican circles: earmarks.

Rooney referred to an op-ed he wrote in February, where he talked about funding projects for water resource development “without increasing our current level of spending by one cent.” To keep this pledge, he offered a “minor amendment (emphasis his) to the earmark moratorium.”

Last month, he wrote to President Trump about the idea and gave a pertinent example of the necessity of repairing the aging Herbert Hoover Dike, which is all that stands between residents and catastrophic flooding from Lake Okeechobee. With the Army Corps of Engineers requesting only “roughly half of the funding required to complete the repairs necessary … the earmark ban prevents me from doing anything about it.”

“Yes, it may be politically risky to suggest that politicians and earmarks should be trusted in a room together again,” he wrote, “but I think it’s riskier to continue the broken status quo for political expediency.”

Mast to hold town hall this weekend — With Congress out of session for two more weeks, legislators will be meeting with constituents in various forms. The freshman Republican will take the plunge for another town hall this Saturday.

Republicans have faced vociferous attendees who are unhappy with various issues, but mostly President Trump and the GOP approach to health care. Despite the failure of the American Health Care Act, Mast is still likely to hear plenty about health care. He will have the opportunity to gauge the voters’ feelings on last week’s missile strikes in Syria as well.

“After nearly a decade of failed foreign policy, a stagnated economy, and partisan dysfunction, we’re past due for real progress to improve the lives of families in our community,” he said in the email invitation to attend.

Joining Mast will be Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay. The town hall is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and will be held at Seminole Ridge High School, 4601 Seminole Pratt Whitney Road in Loxahatchee. Seating is limited.

Happening Thursday: Deutch joins town hall, discusses money in politics – Deutch will take part in a town hall to talk about the Supreme Court Citizen’s United decision. Hosted by Indivisible, the event begins 2 p.m. at the Pride Center at Equality Park, 2040 N. Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors. Deutch is vice chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force within the Democratic Caucus. He is also the lead sponsor of a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United with nearly 100 House co-sponsors.

MDB talks air traffic management during stop at Harris Corp — Rep. Diaz-Balart met with Bill Brown, the chairman, president and CEO of Harris Corp. during a visit to the company’s Melbourne headquarters this week.

The Miami Republican toured the company’s Global Innovation Center and the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure Network Operations Center, a facility that carries critical safety-of-flight communications throughout the U.S. airspace. Diaz-Balart is the chairman of the House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee and sits on the House Defense Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Diaz-Balart toured Harris Corp. this week.

“For over 35 years, Harris has created and cultivated hundreds of jobs in Florida that provide indispensable support to our nation’s military, airspace, and infrastructure. They produce and maintain cutting-edge systems critical to the safety and security of the national airspace, including vital NextGen telecommunications programs,” said Diaz-Balart. “I enjoyed learning about these systems and their research and development in defense, aviation, and space. I look forward to continue working with them to ensure we sustain advances in infrastructure and aviation and maintain our military superiority.”

Curbelo target of attack ads over attempted Obamacare repeal — Save My Care, a coalition of left-leaning health care advocacy groups fighting to preserve Obamacare, is launching a seven-figure ad buy in seven competitive House districts across the country, including Rep. Curbelo’s, reports Kyle Cheney with POLITICO.

The ad blitz marks one of the first attempts by progressive groups to hit Republicans on their failed attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, and comes as members arrive home for a two-week recess. The advertisement targets Republicans in five districts won by Clinton — Curbelo, Darrell Issa of California, Martha McSally of Arizona, Mike Coffman of Colorado, and David Valadao of California. The ads will also air two districts won by President Trump — Florida’s Brian Mast and New Jersey’s Tom MacArthur.

Cheney also reported pressure on moderate members is also coming from the right, with conservative groups like Heritage Action indicating they intend to have a presence in moderate members’ districts.

Ros-Lehtinen calls on Trump to oust Bannon — The Miami Republican didn’t mince words last week when she said presidential advisor Steve Bannon should be ousted from the White House for un-American views.

“I think it would be welcome news for the nation,” she said on a Miami radio show.

She similarly called Bannon’s removal from the National Security Council earlier this week “welcome news.”

“His views are not in line with our country,” the congresswoman said Friday. “We are an inclusive country that welcomes different points of views. His ties to certain groups are very worrisome.”

Ros-Lehtinen didn’t list any specific policy points where she disagrees with the former Breitbart News executive, but she has been at odds with President Donald Trump’s administration over its deportation and refugee policies as well as its position on transgender restrooms.

DSCC launches Google search ad targeting Rick Scott — The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced this week it was launching a six-figure digital ad buy of Google search advertisements highlighting Scott’s support for the American Health Care Act, the failed GOP health care plan.

According to the DSCC, the ads will reach Florida voters who search for information about Scott’s record on health care. The ads will direct individuals a Florida-specific page on the DSCC’s newly expanded health care website, which features video of Scott praising the Republican plan.

“There is nowhere Gov. Scott can travel across the state to escape his support for a toxic Plan that makes older Floridians pay five times more for care, strips coverage from millions and raises costs for middle-class families — all to give another tax break to big insurance companies,” said David Bergstein with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in a statement.

Scott is widely believed to be considering a 2018 U.S. Senate bid.

Scott not giving up on healthcare reform — The Naples Republican said this week he isn’t ready to throw in the towel when it comes to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, and doesn’t think Congress should either.

During a stop in Bonita Springs on Monday, Scott said he plans to “do everything (he) can do to make sure we can get something done” on health care. Scott had met several times with President Trump and members of his administration during the effort earlier this year to repeal and replace Obamacare, and even traveled to Jacksonville with Vice President Mike Pence to promote the House proposal. That plan, however, failed to progress when Republicans didn’t have the votes to get it through the House.

While Scott has applauded Trump for moving on to issues like tax and regulatory reform, he has been critical of the decision to move away from health care completely. Earlier this month, he penned an op-ed in USA Today where he said: “failing and then quitting is unacceptable.” He echoed that sentiment this week while speaking to reporters in Bonita Springs, saying Congress “can’t just stop.”

“I’ve been in business all my life. If something doesn’t go right the first time, you just don’t shut down. The fact that they didn’t get it the first time, you can’t just stop,” said Scott. “We’ve got to figure out how everybody has the opportunity to afford high-quality health care, and … I’m going to try and do everything I can to make sure that happens.”

Spotted – At a D.C. fundraiser Monday for Jose Mallea, the former Rubio campaign manager and Jeb Bush adviser running for the Florida House: Olga Arguello, Dane Bahnsen, Allie Brandenburger, Fritz Brogan, Andy Card (Mallea served as his personal aide at the White House) and his wife Rev. Kathleen Card, Ed Cash, Tom DiNanno, Michael Heath, Tom Hoare, John McConnell, Frank Mermoud, Tim Miller, James Norton, as well as several Bush 43 and Jeb! alumni.

Ballard Partners signs its first foreign government as client — The Dominican Republic signed a one-year, $900,000 contract with the Tallahassee-based firm, reports Megan R. Wilson with The Hill.

The contract doesn’t list specifics about what the firm will be doing for the country, only stating it will provide “various strategic consulting and advocacy services to (the government of the Dominican Republic) in relation to businesses” with the United States.

In February, Brian Ballard, the president of Ballard Partners, announced he was opening up a Washington, D.C. outpost of his Florida-based firm. The announcement came just weeks after President Trump, who Ballard supported during the 2016 presidential, was sworn into office.

According to Wilson’s report, Ballard Partners will be responsible for consulting with the Dominican Republic and advocating on its behalf “the situations and matters that (the client) deems necessary and appropriate before the Federal Government of the United States of America.”

Robert Wexler joins Ballard Partners D.C. team — The Florida-based government affairs firm announced Thursday that Wexler, a former congressman, has joined the Washington, D.C. office as senior counsellor.

“Having someone of Robert Wexler’s caliber on our team is a tremendous win for the firm,” said Ballard, president of Ballard Partners, in a statement. “Having worked with numerous governments in Europe, Asia and the Middle East throughout his tenure as U.S. Congressman and advisor to President Barack Obama, Robert’s three decades of political experience will advance our work for international clients. We are pleased to welcome him to our office in the nation’s Capitol.”

Wexler served in Congress from 1997 until 2010, before retiring to serve as president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. He was an advisor on Middle East and Israel issues during Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and served on the president’s 2012 re-election steering committee.

His extensive foreign policy experience is expected to be put to good use in his role as senior counsellor at Ballard Partners, where he will spearhead the firm’s growing international affairs practice.

Book asks Nelson to protect funding for homeless — Super lobbyist Ron Book is using a letter to Florida’s senior senator to send a political message to the Trump Administration. Book, who is Chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, is raising awareness of proposed budget cuts that could have negative impacts on the area homeless.

The letter to Nelson opened by describing him as a “longtime and passionate supporter of homeless services in Miami-Dade County.” Book methodically pointed out “potential local impacts of the proposed cuts to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)” outlined in the president’s proposed budget.

The timing of the letter was exquisite. It became public before HUD Secretary Carson’s visit to Miami this week.

Book pledged to Nelson that he and his organization would “continue to work cooperatively and collaboratively with you and your office” going forward. The letter was addressed only to Nelson and omitted Rubio, a Miami-Dade resident.

Miami-Dade mayor’s son to join Corey Lewandowski lobby shop – Former Trump consultant Carlos Gimenez Jr.is joining Avenue Strategies, the lobbying shop run by the president’s former campaign manager Lewandowski. POLITICO Florida reports that Gimenez, son and namesake of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, said he joined the newly founded firm to “focus less on lobbying and more on strategic consulting and business development for clients in Florida and Latin America.”

 

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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