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Bipartisan Florida for Puerto Rico legislative effort assembled

State Reps. Rene Plasencia and Bob Cortes announced the creation of a bipartisan legislative team starting with two dozen Florida lawmakers seeking ways to assist Puerto Rico in its recovery from Hurricane Maria.

Besides Cortes and Plasencia, Central Florida Republicans who both have Puerto Rico heritage, the “FL2PR Response Team” also includes Republican David Santiago of Deltona and Orlando Democratic state Sen. Victor Torres and Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado, whose families also trace to Puerto Rico.

Much of the Central Florida delegation signed on, also including Republican state Reps. Mike Miller, Mike LaRosa and Scott Plakon, and Democratic state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and John Cortes.

Outside of Central Florida, state Sens. Oscar Braynon, Anitere Flores and Jose Javier Rodriguez, and state Reps. Jose Oliva, Robert Asencio, Jose Felix Diaz, Jackie Toledo, Paul Renner, Julio Gonzalez, Matt Caldwell, Manny Diaz, Danny Burgess, Janet Cruz, and Daisy Baez.

The group is making connections with public and private entities from Florida to provide materials needed to achieve both short- and long-term infrastructure reconstruction, a press release from Plasencia and Cortes announced. The team will coordinate assistance for the delivery of disaster supplies to help speed up infrastructure repair and will help Puerto Ricans evacuating the island with issues like education, healthcare, documents and job placement.

FL2PR Response Team also will be assisting evacuees from Puerto Rico who are relocating to Florida by connecting citizens with agencies and private sector. This will include job placement opportunities with partners like NBC Universal, Disney, Sea World, and Walmart, as well as other organizations that will be joining the effort soon the release stated.

“All Americans, especially those of us with roots in Puerto Rico, are watching the devastation with broken hearts,” Cortes stated in the release. “If you have lost all your material possessions and your livelihood, political affiliation makes no difference to you. I’m honored to work with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle and these great corporate partners to help with this effort.”

“Since many Puerto Ricans already have family members in Florida, it makes sense that many will be looking to relocate here to rebuild their lives while the island’s infrastructure is literally being rebuilt,” Plasencia stated. “This effort represents an opportunity for Floridians to reach out in a very real way to offer a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico who are facing such huge challenges from Maria’s impact.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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