Bill Nelson Archives - Florida Politics

Rick Scott: I will do ‘everything I can’ to ensure Jimmy Patronis stays CFO in 2018

A day after state Sen. Tom Lee indicated he would enter the race for Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Gov. Rick Scott committed to helping current CFO Jimmy Patronis stay in the position.

“I’ve known Jimmy for a long time. I appointed Jimmy because I think he’s going to do a really good job as the CFO,” Scott told reporters after holding a press conference touting July jobs number at a Honda dealership in Brandon.

“He’ll have about a year and a half to be in office,” Scott added. “I know he’s considering whether he’s going to run or not. If he runs, I’m going to be a big supporter.”

Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican and former Senate President, indicated this week he will announce his candidacy for CFO this fall. When asked if he would endorse Patronis over Lee, Scott replied, “I’ll do everything I can to make sure he wins.”

Officially, Patronis has not announced whether he’ll run next year.

“I’m putting a lot of thoughts and prayers into it, but it’s a possibility,” Patronis said after the news conference, in which Scott gave him (and House Speaker Richard Corcoran) the opportunity to advocate for a proposed constitutional amendment requiring a supermajority vote before future the Legislature can raise any taxes or fees.

Over the years, Scott has rewarded Patronis for his loyalty. The Panama City Republican, restaurateur and former state representative was an early supporter of Scott when, as a largely unknown political quantity, he ran for governor in 2010.

In 2014, Scott appointed Patronis to the Florida Public Service Commission, and in March he named him to the state’s Constitution Revision Commission.

He was named CFO by Scott in June, to finish out the term of previous CFO Jeff Atwater, who left early to become CFO of Florida Atlantic University. Patronis then stepped down from the PSC and CRC.

Lee also was at Friday’s press conference. He told Florida Politics earlier this week: “It’s my intention to run for the Republican nomination (for CFO) in 2018 and it is my intention to announce my candidacy this fall.”

Scott also is likely to be on the 2018 ballot, considered an eventual challenger to Bill Nelson for his U.S. Senate seat.

On Friday, Scott criticized Nelson for his support of the Affordable Care Act. The governor trashed the bill as “a disaster,” saying that Nelson has done nothing to try to reform its various problems.

Other Tampa Bay Republican House members who attended the event included Chris Sprowls, Jamie Grant, Jackie Toledo, Ross Spano and Amber Mariano. 

Rick Scott reluctant to question President Trump’s call for possible military action in Venezuela

As Venezuela’s economy continues to spiral downwards, Governor Rick Scott has been championing the opposition to President Nicholas Maduro.

Scott is expected to ask the Florida Cabinet on Wednesday for a resolution prohibiting the State Board of Administration, which acts as the state’s investment manager, from investing in companies or securities that are owned or controlled by the Venezuelan government.

President Donald Trump threatened military action in Venezuela last Friday night, sparking condemnation from around the region, including from countries which are usually some of Maduro’s harshest critics.

Maduro has seized on Trump’s comments to reaffirm long-standing accusations that Washington is preparing a military attack. He called for military exercises on Monday, urging the public to join in a two-day operation on August 26 and 27 involving both soldiers and civilians.

“I know that the president is very concerned,” Scott told Florida Politics Tuesday when asked if he had any concerns about Trump’s provocative comment.

“I’ve talked to him about Venezuela a number of times. I think doing the sanctions was right against everybody involved with Maduro,” said the Governor, speaking to reporters at the Florida Aquarium after holding a press conference touting the record number of tourists who visited Florida during the first half of 2017.

“It’s disgusting what’s happening down there,” Scott said.

Scott derided the Maduro government for placing opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez under house arrest after he was released from prison following a three year sentence for leading anti-government protests.

“Maduro needs to step down, he needs to release all political prisoners, we need democracy again, ” Scott said.

The Governor has not officially declared himself a candidate for U.S. Senate, but is expected to at some point in the next year. He’ll face Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. With the crisis in Venezuela exploding, both men have been competing with each other to show how devoted they are to the Venezuelan-American constituency in Florida.

Nelson has been seemingly trying to catch up to Scott in talking tough on the Maduro government. Last month he called the Trump administration to consider cutting off imports of Venezuelan oil. While limiting Venezuela’s oil imports to the U.S. is seen as a powerful weapon, it’s not clear how effective it would be, and is not something that even Marco Rubio has publicly called for (though he has said the issue should be on the table).

Nelson and Rubio introduced legislation in May to provide humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people and increase sanctions on the Venezuelan officials responsible for the ongoing crisis there. Meanwhile, officials close to the governor note that he has been concerned about the Venezuelan people going back to 2014.

Scott brushed off a question about whether he supported Nelson’s request, saying that the Trump administration is looking at everything that they can do to promote democracy.

Over 120 people have been killed since anti-government protests began in April, driven by anger over shortages of food and medicine and Maduro’s creation of a legislative superbody that governments around the world say is dictatorial.

“I’ve talked to a variety of people, including some people who do charity care down there and they can’t even get charity care in there,” Scott decried.

The governor then got personal, saying that his daughter is pregnant with twins, and said he couldn’t imagine having a daughter or wife in a country that is enduring a shortage of medicine, which is the case currently in Venezuela.

“Can you imagine that knowing that your wife or daughter or somebody is going to have a baby and you know that unfortunately you’re in a country where they won’t even allow in the right medicine to take care of their citizens?” he asked. “That’s wrong.”

Senate Republicans’ Spanish ad says Bill Nelson ‘supports murderers’

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is being targeted in a new Spanish-language radio commercial accusing him of being soft on Cuba and for expressing admiration for former Venezuela dictator Hugo Chávez, and charging he supports murderers.

The 30-second spot from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, playing in the Miami market, also contends that Nelson’s actions offer encouragement to current Venezuelan Dictator Nicolas Maduro, who took over after Chavez’ death in 2013.

As Maduro oversaw an election marked by violence and deaths of protesters while international and opposition observers decried the vote as a sham in recent weeks, Nelson has issued several strong statements condemning Maduro.

Nelson’s campaign spokesman Ryan Brown called the ads “untrue” and “thinly-veiled attempt to distract from Gov. Rick Scott‘s record. Scott is raising money for a presumed challenge of Nelson in the 2018 election.

“These ads are untrue. Sen. Nelson is one of the strongest opponents of the Maduro and Castro regimes. In fact, the Miami Herald has called Nelson one of Chavez’s fiercest critics. And earlier this month Nelson called on President Trump to ban at least some imports of Venezuelan oil until constitutional order has been restored in Venezuela,” Brown said in a written statement. “These attacks against Nelson’s anti-Castro, anti-Maduro record are false and nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to try to distract people from Rick Scott’s decision to flip-flop on doing business with Goldman Sachs, which is currently doing business with an arm of the Maduro regime.”

Yet the radio ad, which plays like a radio news report, notes that Florida’s senior senator has taken other steps that suggest support.

“In the past, he has aligned himself with communists and dictators. Look at him with Cuba. He supported [President Barack] Obama when he negotiated with the other terrorists, the Castro brothers,” the narrator states in Spanish, with a sound effect that sounds like him flipping pages of notes on a desk.

“When Nelson supports the Castros, that only reinforces and encourages others, like it did with Chavez and now with Maduro. In 2005, Bill Nelson even visited Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. Here it says Nelson went to Venezuela to admire Chavez’s revolution,” the narrator continues.

“If Bill Nelson supports murderers, I can’t support Bill Nelson,” the ad concludes.

Rick Scott committee adds $164K in July

Governor and likely 2018 U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott brought in $164,150 last month for his political committee, “Let’s Get to Work.”

The haul was balanced out by $133,645 in spending, mainly on consultants, leaving the second-term Republican governor with about $2.9 million on hand.

The July donor roll included Amscot Financial, JM Family Enterprises and Charter Communications, each of which chipped in $25,000. Healthcare groups Ameriteam Services and Pediatric Dental Anesthesia Associates gave $15,000 and $12,500, respectively, while lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig gave $10,000.

The bulk of Scott’s spending headed to Annapolis-based On Message, Inc., which has been retained by the governor for consulting and media work for several years. The company picked up $79,000 in July, while Contribution Link got $16,000 for database services and Deborah Aleksander got nearly $15,000 for fundraising consulting and travel expenses.

Other consulting companies getting a paycheck last month were Cavalry Strategies, JTKE, Traction Capital and Robert Manders. Law firm GrayRobinson PA also picked up a $1,000 check for legal services.

Scott’s second term is entering its twilight and term limits prevent him from running again. Though he hasn’t announced his plans for 2018, most believe he will make a run for the senate against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also testifying were many local experts.

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

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

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

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

Marco Rubio says now’s the time to impose more sanctions on Venezuelan government

The Trump administration imposed sanctions Wednesday on eight more Venezuelan officials, including the brother of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, punishing them for their roles in President Nicolas Maduro‘s creation of a new Constituent Assembly.

The actions by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will result in freezing all assets of the eight officials subject to U.S. jurisdiction, and American citizens are prohibited from dealing with them.

“I support the Administration’s imposition of a new round of sanctions against corrupt individuals involved in organizing or supporting the illegitimate and anti-democratic Constituent Assembly in Venezuela,” Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio responded. “Given the Maduro regime’s continued assault on democracy in Venezuela, the time has now come for the president to act on his promise to impose significant economic sanctions on the Maduro dictatorship.”

Washington slapped sanctions on Maduro himself last week, a day after the Constituent Assembly was sworn in. That same day Maduro ousted Attorney General Luisa Marvelia Ortega Diaz, who had ordered an investigation into possible fraud in the Constituent Assembly vote.

Most countries worldwide have dubbed the election fraudulent and say the Constituent Assembly is a sign of a dictatorship.

The Trump administration says harsher sanctions could come if the political situation continues to deteriorate. Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson hinted that the U.S. could impose a ban on Venezuelan oil, the country’s sole source of income.

However, such a move would likely only further hurt the Venezuelan people, making the South American nation’s food and medical shortage worse than it already is.

In Florida, more than 93,000 Venezuelan-Americans voted last month in a nonbinding straw poll, in advance of the Venezuelan vote on the Constituent Assembly.

Earlier this week, Nelson criticized Gov. Rick Scott for backtracking on a proposal to crack down on state money flowing to organizations or investments that could benefit the Venezuelan government.

Bill Nelson says he’ll campaign on saving Obamacare

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson Tuesday said he will make saving Obamacare a focus of his 2018 re-election campaign.

“Of course—it is the law,” he told reporters at a press conference at the Tallahassee International Airport. “I want the law to work. And it’s been working: 24 million people have health insurance that never had it before.

“But it needs some fixing,” he added about the Affordable Care Act. One of those fixes is putting money back in to help people afford co-pays, Nelson said.

The state’s senior senator, who met with constituents before meeting with the press, also touched on tax reform, North Korea, and a looming challenge for his seat from current Gov. Rick Scott. The Naples Republican is term-limited next year.

“I know how to campaign,” Nelson said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

Below are two Periscope videos, one of Nelson meeting with supporters and another with members of the Capitol Press Corps.

Florida League of Cities applauds Marco Rubio for FEMA claw back bill

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got a pat on the back from the Florida League of Cities for filing a bill that would protect communities that receive FEMA funds from claw backs years after a disaster strikes.

The Post-Disaster Fairness to States Act puts a three-year cap on the FEMA seeking refunds for money handed out to help with disaster recovery. Similar legislation has also been filed by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel and U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

“Floridians should not be subjected to permanent uncertainty about when the federal government might claw back support distributed after a disaster,” Rubio said. “Our state has experienced numerous storms since 2004, and although recovery efforts have long been completed, under current law the federal government can take back these funds, sometimes decades later—financially decimating the recipients who relied on them.”

The Florida League of Cities agreed, thanking Rubio and other lawmakers for their taking up the issue.

“Florida’s communities accept the constant threat posed to our state by hurricanes and other natural disasters, but they should not be forced to live at risk of a drawn out bureaucratic process that is confusing and inconsistent,” the League said in a press release.

“In the aftermath of a disaster, Florida’s municipalities do heroic work restoring order to their communities, and the value of help from agencies like FEMA is impossible to calculate. We applaud Senators Rubio and Nelson, Representatives Frankel and Diaz-Balart and Florida’s other congressional members, for their steadfast support on this matter.”

Rubio’s bill also applies to homeowners and carves out the claw back limitation if objectives specified for the FEMA funds are not accomplished. It also keeps in place requirements that communities getting federal resources after a disaster act as good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Legislation calls for 7 new VA medical clinics in Florida

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says lawmakers have authorized seven new medical facilities for veterans in Florida.

Nelson said in a news release Wednesday that the new Veterans Affairs facilities will be located in Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Ocala, Tampa and Lakeland, with two in Gainesville. A total of 28 around the country were approved. Some are replacements for clinics already operating, while others are new.

By law, Congress must approve any VA leases that would result in an average rental payment of more than $1 million per year.

The legislation authorizing the new Florida facilities was included in a larger veterans’ health care bill. The measure, which was approved by the House last week, heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Bill Nelson says U.S. should consider cutting off Venezuelan oil imports

Donald Trump is imposing sanctions directly on Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro after a vote Sunday that many see as a step toward rewriting his country’s constitution.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is completely behind the sanctions, saying it’s time for the U.S. to “consider cutting off imports of Venezuelan oil.”

The directive from the Treasury Department freezes any of Maduro’s assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prevents U.S. persons from dealing with him.

“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday. “By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy.

“I talked to Treasury and we have frozen the assets of Venezuela’s dictator, Nicolas Maduro, and I expect other countries will follow,” Nelson said in a statement. “This is the first in what I hope are the strongest possible economic sanctions to stop Maduro from instituting a Cuban-style regime.”

Florida’s other senator, Republican Marco Rubio, has also been front and center in calling for the Trump administration to impose sanctions on the Maduro government. Last week, Rubio warned of a “very strong response” from Trump if Venezuela went through with what he termed a “fraudulent vote,” delivering a list of Venezuelan officials that he hoped that Trump would issue sanctions to before yesterday’s vote.

That prompted comments from top Venezuelan officials that Rubio and CIA Director Mike Pompeo of secretly conspiring against Caracas so that Washington could install new leaders amenable to U.S. interests. Speaking in Aspen earlier this month, Pompeo said he was “hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela and we the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there”.

“The sanctions imposed today on Nicolas Maduro are warranted,” Rubio said on Monday. “However, I remain confident the president will keep his clear commitment to impose economic sanctions on the regime if they convene the illegitimate Constituent Assembly.”

The Constituent Assembly chosen Sunday will meet as soon as this week to discuss changing the charter rewritten under former socialist leader Hugo Chávez. The opposition says the rewrite is meant to replace a critical congress and delay general elections.

Over the past year, Venezuela has become engulfed in a political and economic crisis, which led to shortages in food and medicine as well as government violence against protesters.

For years, Rubio has called out the Maduro regime, while Nelson hasn’t been as public in his criticisms. That makes his comments Monday particularly noteworthy, especially when he said it may be time for the U.S. to stop buying Venezuelan oil.

Venezuela is the third-largest oil supplier to the U.S. — sending 10 percent of its imports last year — and the top supplier to refineries on the Gulf Coast. There are some concerns that cutting off the oil would only further devastate the Venezuelan economy.

Nelson is running for re-election for the Senate next year, probably against Gov. Rick Scott, who has been adroit in talking tough about the Maduro government.

Last week, Scott announced the details of his proposal to the Trustees of the Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) that would prohibit the State of Florida from doing business with any organization that supports the Maduro regime.

Fifteen days ago, in a nonbinding straw poll in Miami, Tampa, Orlando and a host of other Florida cities, more than 93,000 Venezuelan-Americans voted to let people know their opinions about the Maduro administration’s plan to elect the National Constituent Assembly yesterday.

 

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