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As the nation reels from last month’s mass shootings, the House Judiciary Committee held an emergency meeting on gun safety legislation.
There, multiple Florida members made their thoughts known on the best ways to combat violence — or not.
Rep. Val Demings supported legislation — the Protecting Our Kids Act (HR 7910) — which she said will close obvious loopholes in federal gun laws and help prevent further mass shootings.
“Getting guns out of the hands of dangerous people will protect our children,” said the Orlando Democrat, a Senate candidate. “Gun violence is not inevitable. The shootings that take the lives of our children every day are a policy choice, one that we can change. Today each member of the Judiciary Committee will choose between our children or the gun lobby. The gun lobby and their pawns want you to give up, to feel hopeless. I am here to tell you that there is always hope for a better, safer future.
“Americans are good people, but we have to choose to do good things. Thoughts and prayers are fine, but faith without works is dead. Our children need us to protect them.”
But Rep. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, called the bill into question with something a bit more dramatic.
Videoconferencing into the hearing from his home, he demonstrated with his gun collection how proposed limits on ammunition and firearms would effectively ban many handguns kept for self-defense.
Something Steube also proved to the world: he owns a lot of high-powered firearms.
At one point, he showed how a legally allowable cartridge under the bill couldn’t be used on a Sig Sauer P 365 if high-capacity cartridges the gun was designed to hold were banned, effectively making the gun useless.
When Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas objected to Steube loading a weapon during a hearing, Steube took open umbrage.
“I’m at my house,” he said. “I can do whatever I want with my guns.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz said it’s too early to try and respond to shootings like the one in Uvalde, Texas, which claimed the lives of 19 children; not just as a matter of politics, but from a practical position. Investigators still don’t know everything about police response, school security or the deceased shooter’s motives to offer complete solutions.
“It is not kind, and it is not compassionate to tell people that you are doing something to help them when, in fact, you have no idea whether or not this legislation that you fashioned would, in fact, do that,” the Fort Walton Beach Republican.
Hurricane hot wind?
With Hurricane Season underway, Sen. Marco Rubio said it’s time for a federal review of regulations that could be streamlined ahead of storms. Florida’s senior Senator sent President Joe Biden a letter encouraging a comprehensive study of what bureaucracy can be lifted in the event of a hurricane making landfall in the U.S. this year.
“The 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season was among the most prolific on record, having produced 21 named storms, including seven hurricanes, four of which were major,” Rubio notes. “It came in the wake of the most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history in 2020, exacerbating an already extensive recovery effort.”
He continued: “Other ongoing challenges are also testing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) ability to respond to this unprecedented two-year period, including additional natural disasters around the nation, direct and indirect consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a historic immigration crisis at the Southern border.”
Hurricane Season is from June 1 to Nov. 30. Already, some meteorologists say the first named storm of the season may be forming off the Yucatán Peninsula and heading for Florida.
On the federal front, Rubio sees things that can be achieved, including coordinating recovery planning by the Health and Human Services and the Defense Departments to provide rapid aid. He’d also like plans from the Federal Aviation Administration for a disaster declaration to trigger lifting flight restrictions on rescue efforts.
Rubio also sees a need for Labor Department officials to lighten up on reporting requirements of businesses in hurricane-stuck areas and wants resources with the Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development Departments ready to dispatch to areas with the greatest need levels after a major weather event.
“By cutting or pausing onerous, often duplicative regulations, your administration can ease the burden faced by Americans working together to rebuild their communities in a hurricane’s wake,” the Miami Republican wrote. “I respectfully request that your administration work directly with my office and the State of Florida to ease any other regulatory burdens associated with federal disaster relief and recovery that may require Congressional assistance.”
Navy cap season
Sen. Rick Scott used the start of a new hurricane season to bring out a familiar piece of wardrobe to longtime Floridians. He wore his well-known Navy ball cap at a Hialeah news conference.
“In Florida, we know better than anyone that preparedness saves lives. With hurricane season starting today, I’m urging all Floridians to make a plan in case of emergency, stock up on supplies, and stay alert as weather threats occur to ensure your families and businesses are ready,” he said.
“Throughout my eight years as Governor, I saw firsthand the destruction left behind by multiple devastating hurricanes — Michael, Irma, Hermine, Matthew. Florida is resilient because we prepare. Make a plan today.”
His office published a list of supplies and planning tips.
But back to the hat.
It’s a symbol that may bring traumatic memories, particularly for those who lived through the devastation of the mentioned storms, or the disruption provided by any number of smaller storms threatening the state from 2015 through 2019.
Scott started wearing it every time storm paths pointed toward Florida, later symbolizing a dread much like seeing the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore at a local restaurant.
The headwear would become the subject of media conversation for years, and Scott has continued to don the chapeau whenever weather became the talk of the state once more.
Florida’s tourism economy may have seen an exceptionally strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. But several members of the delegation say the critical industry shouldn’t face that type of threat again without support from the federal government.
Panama City Republican Neal Dunn, Miami Republican Maria Elvira Salazar and Kissimmee Democrat Darren Soto introduced bipartisan legislation, the Travel and Tourism Act (HR 7820), that would require the Commerce Secretary to identify resources, regulatory changes and private sector engagement needed to achieve annual tourism goals.
Dunn spoke about the bill at the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee this week and stressed the need for a strategy for tourism recovery in the wake of disasters or pandemics.
“Florida relies on tourism. In 2020, we saw tourism take a nosedive as COVID-19 spread nationwide. Now, skyrocketing gas prices and burdensome inflation threaten the industry. My district and my state cannot afford this decline,” Dunn said.
“Thanks to Governor (Ron) DeSantis’ leadership, Florida’s tourism industry successfully responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and should serve as a blueprint for disaster readiness. I’m proud to introduce the Travel and Tourism Act with two of my colleagues from the Florida Delegation, who recognize the need for solutions that protect the tourism and travel industry.”
Central Florida funding
Soto this week also released a list of funding priorities for his Central Florida constituents. He announced 15 community projects for which he’s requested funding in the 2023 fiscal cycle.
“I am honored to advocate for projects that aim to help our community,” Soto said. “From protecting clean water to boosting jobs and promoting cybersecurity, from fixing the traffic to creating more pedestrian-friendly streets, and from increasing solar energy to combating homelessness and improving education quality, these projects encompass the direct needs of Osceola, Orange and Polk County residents and will have a lasting impact on future generations. It is an honor to advocate for our community every day in Congress.”
The nearly $19.4 million in earmark requests include $2.4 million for Behavioral Health Improvement Project in Polk County, $2 million to replace fire truck apparatuses in Haines City, another $2 million for a Kissimmee fire station, and $2 million for sidewalks near Deerwood Elementary in Kissimmee.
Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor escorted Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on a visit to the region, including stops at the Hillsborough River Dam and the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research to discuss alternative energy.
That occurred alongside an announcement by the city of Tampa that the dam would be retrofitted with energy turbines.
“We are all focused on lowering energy costs for families and businesses across the Tampa Bay area, especially in the city of Tampa, but all across America,” Castor said.
In remarks at the Hillsborough dam, the Congresswoman, also chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, stressed: “clean energy is cheaper energy.”
In her remarks, Granholm praised Castor for including environmental provisions in a significant infrastructure act passed and signed by Biden. She also noted about the dam in particular that hydroelectric power remains vastly underutilized within the U.S.
“There are about 90,000 dams across the country,” Granholm said. “Only 3% of them actually generate electricity; 50% of them could. … So, the fact the Hillsborough dam is now going to be generating electricity is another piece of the puzzle that will get us to the goal of reaching 100% clean energy by 2035, which is President Biden’s goal, and of course, a net-zero economy by 2050.”
At USF, Granholm and Castor also touted solar power in the Sunshine State. Castor praised the Cabinet member for working on alternative energy.
At the same time, Byron Donalds took to Twitter with concerns about the administration’s position on fuel. He shared a meme on Twitter of Granholm at one point laughing off concerns of rising gas prices.
“Prices continue to skyrocket, and their only answers are to buy pricy electric cars and negotiate with dictators for oil,” the Naples Republican posted. “Floridians won’t forget.”
Longboat Key Republican Vern Buchanan headed another release of GOP policy initiatives around health care.
As co-chair of the Healthy Future Task Force, he and Kentucky Republican Brett Guthrie this year have periodically pushed party planks ahead of the Midterms. On Wednesday, it was the Modernization Subcommittee’s turn to forward potential solutions involving the harnessing of technology to improve U.S. medical care.
“Instead of a government-run, socialized system that would destroy medical innovation, we need to modernize and personalize health care in America to improve people’s lives and lower their costs,” read a joint statement from Buchanan and Guthrie.
“These solutions also aim to improve our nation’s fiscal health by cracking down on taxpayer dollars wasted on improper payments in government health care programs. These proposals to modernize our health care system build upon the Healthy Future Task Force’s work to better serve all patients and help them live healthier and longer lives.”
Those include safeguarding telehealth access, which greatly expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic and which the Republican leaders said should not roll back. The task force also sees ways technology can cut waste and curb fraud. The group also wants access improved for patient-centered technologies focused on individuals’ well-being.
The initiatives all come after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tasked the group with developing solutions that will lower costs of health care for Americans while guaranteeing quality care. It’s a message Republicans expect to run on in the Midterms as they hope to retake a majority in the House.
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick’s campaign promise of a guaranteed income for everyone making less than $75,000 looks on paper like it’s going to be buying a lot less — and it’s not just because of inflation.
Filed on May 5, the Miramar Democrat’s first go at congressional legislation (HR 770) clocks in at about 3,770 words, and none of those words seem to indicate a monthly payment as discussed during her campaign. Instead, it appears to show a yearly tax rebate of $1,000 for those making less than $75,000.
Contacted by Florida Politics, her staff says the Congresswoman intends to amend her plan to include a monthly stipend of $1,000 and blamed a “clerical error” for the explanation of the amount.
The legislation, called a measure for “additional recovery rebates to taxpayers,” explains further: “‘2022 rebate amount’ means, with respect to any taxpayer for any taxable year, $1,000 ($2,000 in the case of a joint return or surviving spouse).”
Those downsized expectations still failed to attract a co-sponsor, although it has made it to the House Committee on Ways and Means. Staff sent a statement from Cherfilus-McCormick Friday that she intends to deliver fully.
“In less than 100 days in Congress, I introduced The People’s Prosperity Plan,” the statement reads. “This legislation proposes that our government continue delivering economic relief, which would allow everyone over 18 who makes less than $75,000 to continue to receive stipends of $1000 a month. Due to clerical errors, Congress.Gov will be updated with the correct legislation.”
And other legislation is in the pipeline, she says.
“I’ve also submitted more than $20 million in community funding project requests on behalf of the cities and nonprofit organizations,” the statement says. “I’m pleased that more than $5 million was requested to provide relief for constituents who cannot pay their rent and those who are first-time homebuyers.”
It will be interesting to see if the clerical error comes up in the campaign. Her People’s Prosperity Plan was the. focus of a court allegation from her former opponent Dale Holness, who lost the Primary Election to her by five votes. His team alleged the promise illegally tried to buy votes with money.
Holness, a former Broward County Commissioner, is running against her again in an August Democratic Primary.
Coral Gables partnerships
Salazar also held a roundtable within her district with Coral Gables business and community leaders. There, she talked about potential for new partnerships between the city and federal government. Mayor Vince Lago and other city officials took part in the event.
“Coral Gables is one of the most beautiful parts of Florida’s 27th District, and I couldn’t be prouder to represent it,” the Congresswoman said. “I’m excited about the community’s future, which is exactly why I welcome all the feedback and ideas from residents and community leaders on how we can ensure it remains such a great place to live.”
Salazar just requested $1.4 million through the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for new trolleys in the South Florida city, and also sent a community funding request for $900,000 for the University of Miami’s aquaculture campus in town.
The Florida Supreme Court won’t hear a challenge to Florida’s new congressional map before the Midterms.
The court announced Thursday it denied a request for a new hearing on redistricting. That means the final voice on the matter before the 2022 elections will be Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal, which last month stayed a circuit court decision to replace the map.
“The right to come before the high court “is restricted to preserving jurisdiction that has already been invoked or protecting jurisdiction that likely will be invoked in the future,” reads a disposition of the case.
That means a map (P 0109) designed by Gov. DeSantis and signed by the Governor will govern the 2022 elections. A lawsuit alleging the map violates the Fair Districts amendment to Florida’s Constitution by diminishing the ability of Black constituents to elect a Representative of their choice remains ongoing, but any impact will likely have to wait for a full trial to unfold, something that could take years.
On this day
June 3, 2014 — “U.S. announces $1 billion program to boost military presence in Eastern Europe” via The Washington Post — President Barack Obama pledged his ironclad commitment to the defense of Europe and proposed as much as $1 billion in additional spending to bolster the U.S. military presence in Poland and its neighbors, part of a strategy to reassure nervous allies and check Russia’s encroachment into the region. Standing beside Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski at the start of a four-day tour of Europe, Obama warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that he will face additional sanctions if he escalates the crisis in Ukraine and urged him to take steps to resolve it diplomatically.
June 2, 1800 — “John Adams moves into a tavern in Washington” via History.com — Adams became the first President to reside in Washington, D.C. when he took up residence at Union Tavern in Georgetown. The city of Washington was created to serve as the nation’s capital because of its geographical position in the center of the existing new republic. The states of Maryland and Virginia ceded land around the Potomac River to form the District of Columbia. Adams moved to a temporary residence in the new capital as construction was completed on the executive mansion. On Nov. 1, the President was welcomed into the White House.
Delegation is published by Peter Schorsch and compiled by Jacob Ogles, with contributions by Anne Geggis.