Sunshine State News Blogs

Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., announced this week that his was backing Wendy Rogers, the Republican candidate running against U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. Rogers becomes the 14th candidate backed by the Allen West Guardian Fund PAC. West praised Rogers for her service in the Air Force and her efforts to reform the federal VA department.

“Wendy is an exceptional patriot,” West wrote supporters on Friday in an email. “You can be certain a battle-hardened veteran like Wendy will fight to get to the bottom of the incompetence and cronyism plaguing not just our VA system, but Washington as a whole. And there is no doubt we need her war-fighting experience to help shape an effective strategy against the foreign threats facing our nation.”

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With two and a half weeks until the general election, Gov. Rick Scott announced on Friday that the state unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent in September from 6.3 percent in August. In September, 12,800 private-sectors jobs were added across the Sunshine State.

“Today’s announcement that Florida businesses have created nearly 13,000 private-sector jobs is great news for Florida families,” Scott said. "Together since December 2010, Florida job creators have created 651,300 private-sector jobs. Florida’s unemployment rate has also dropped from 6.3 to 6.1 percent, the lowest it has been since June 2008. Our policies are working in Florida, and more and more Floridians are able to get a job and support their family, and we will keep working until every Floridian who wants a job can get one.”

Under Scott’s watch, the unemployment rate dropped from 11.1 percent in December 2010, the last month former Gov. Charlie Crist was in office, to its current rate. Crist is the Democratic nominee challenging Scott in November.

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce released a new TV ad on Friday, hitting former Gov. Charlie Crist as a trial lawyer and contrasting his economic record with that of Gov. Rick Scott. Crist has worked for Morgan & Morgan, one of the leading trial attorney firms in the state. 

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“Governor Rick Scott has Florida’s economy moving in the right direction again, and the last thing Florida needs is another trial lawyer in Tallahassee,” said Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber. “The trial lawyer agenda and lawsuit abuse hurts families and small businesses the most. Voters deserve to know that Charlie is a trial lawyer whose firm makes millions of dollars suing small businesses and families.”

Wilson also took a shot at Crist for using a fan in Wednesday night’s debate in violation of the rules.

“What we’re doing is helping educate voters so they will know the difference between job creators like Governor Rick Scott and trial lawyers like Charlie Crist,” said Wilson. “Knowingly violating the debate rules is consistent with a candidate who changes parties and positions based on political expediency.”

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Even as fellow Florida Democrats like U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson break with the White House and demand a travel ban on African nations impacted by Ebola, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown says she opposes the idea.

“Although I support strong measures to prevent the spread of Ebola, including additional screening at airports, I do not believe that a travel ban would make the citizens of the United States any more secure,” Brown said on Thursday night. “In fact, according to several global health organizations, more travel restrictions are not going to make the world safer when it comes to Ebola; instead, they might make the situation worse

“Additionally, flight restrictions will only make it more difficult for lifesaving aid and medical professionals to reach West Africa,” Brown added. “Any discontinuation of transport will affect humanitarian aid, doctors, nurses, and human resources entering the affected countries. And according to the global health researchers who have modeled the risk of the international spread of Ebola, it is clear that the longer the outbreak goes on and the bigger it is, the more likely Ebola is going to spread beyond West Africa to the rest of the world and the United States. Certainly, the best way to prevent Ebola from spreading to the U.S. is to eradicate it in the afflicted West African countries. Beyond a doubt, it is imperative to prepare hospitals and providers to treat any cases in the U.S., as well as adequately funding our nation’s public health agencies.”

Brown insisted current safeguards are enough, despite a Liberian national infected with Ebola flying from Africa to Dallas.

“Travelers from the affected countries are already subjected to screening prior to departure from West Africa,” Brown said. "They are also subjected to additional, enhanced screening upon arrival in the United States. Certainly, imposing a ban would give travelers an incentive to evade detection or conceal their travel history, which would make it even harder to ensure they are properly screened before entering the United States.”

The First Coast Democrat said the Ebola scare showed how much America needed a surgeon general and hit Republicans for blocking the Obama administration’s nominee to that position.

“One other contributing difficulty is that the United States is currently without a surgeon general, since the former surgeon general departed in July 2013,” Brown noted. “Certainly, it is vital that the American people have a surgeon general to educate them about the disease and how to best protect their health. The surgeon general is America’s doctor, and the trusted medical spokesperson who can reassure the American public about the risk of exposure, and what precautions and protocols are being enacted to protect them. However, this position has been vacant for over one year and attempts to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy have been blocked by Republicans since he was nominated in November 2013.”

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As Congress held hearings on the Ebola threat on Thursday, elected officials from Florida continued to push their own solutions.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said on Thursday that he backed the White House naming an Ebola czar, a proposal floated by U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., among others.

“If there’s a will, there’s a way,” Nelson said on Thursday. “This person should be at least temporarily based in a White House war room with direct authority from the president -- someone like former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who has the requisite medical background and who served in that position under former president George W. Bush.”

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U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., offered his take on the Ebola threat on Thursday, calling for President Barack Obama to show more leadership on the issue and supporting a travel ban on impacted African nations.

“The growing Ebola crisis in Western Africa, new cases here in the United States, in combination with the virus’ impact to other countries warrants the highest level of attention across all governments,” Crenshaw said. “At home, it’s clear we are not ready and have to do more to stop this deadly disease cold. This is a real threat to our nation’s health and security; quicker response and better procedures are needed.

“Moving forward, President Obama must assure a worried nation that Ebola will spread no further,” Crenshaw added. “That means a clearer flow of information and stronger display of leadership about how American lives, including front-line health care workers, will be protected. Among the steps he should consider is a temporary travel ban from Western African countries to the United States.

“Concerns about the possibility of this sort of outbreak prompted Congress to provide more Centers for Disease Control (CDC) funding than requested,” Crenshaw continued. “And, this morning, hearings on Capitol Hill have begun. Congress will continue to assess the response to date and how it can be improved, and the House stands ready to act if legislation is needed to counter Ebola’s growing threat. We pray for the safety of the U.S. military that has been called into action to stem Ebola’s tide and we keep all who are fighting against the ravages of this horrific disease front and center.”

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Incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, named some of his leadership team on Thursday. Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, will be speaker pro tempore while Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, will take over as House majority leader. Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, will head up the Rules and Calendar Committee while Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, who is scheduled to take over as House speaker after the 2016 elections, will lead the Appropriations Committee.

“Rep. Hudson has shown unfailing leadership in his role as chairman of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee,” Crisafulli said of Hudson. “He has tackled complex issues and has a willingness to fight for legislation that is in the best interest of all Floridians. He has served the House well and will be a great asset to me during this legislative term.”

Crisafulli offered praise for Young who is a key ally of outgoing House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

“As majority leader, I had the pleasure of working with Rep. Young who served as majority whip," he said. “I know firsthand that she has what it takes to be a great majority leader for our caucus. She is bold, knowledgeable, and has earned great respect in the Florida House.”

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Florida CFO Jeff Atwater released a Web ad on Thursday, highlighting his efforts on economic matters and transparency. Atwater holds a large lead in the polls over Democratic challenger William Rankin and ignores his foe in the new ad to focus on talking about economic opportunity and growth.

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"Jeff Atwater has been keeping promises and getting the job done for Floridians," said Brian Hughes, a spokesman for Atwater, on Thursday. "The pledge is Jeff's commitment to never stop standing up for Florida's taxpayers and consumers. When they need someone on their side, Jeff Atwater will always be there."

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., unveiled the “Contain Ebola and Stop the Epidemic (CEASE) Act” on Thursday. Ross’s bill will stop commercial flights flying to and from West African nations impacted by Ebola until the threat from that disease is over.

“President Obama’s comments stating that it’s ‘highly unlikely’ Ebola would reach our shores were completely wrong,” Ross said on Thursday. “Now, he is ignoring Congress’s letter requesting the restriction of air travel from countries in West Africa that are experiencing an Ebola outbreak. This is why I plan to introduce legislation that bans air travel, and also suspends the issuance of visas for travel, to the United States from countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. These bans will be lifted when the outbreak is declared to be contained and no longer a threat. I feel that discontinuing air travel is an obvious first step solution to combating Ebola in the United States. It’s frightening that our commander in chief presumes that Ebola will not spread in the United States and is only taking delicate precautions. Ebola has a death rate of 50 percent. How can you ignore this fact, and take a gambit with American lives by allowing people to travel to and from countries where the virus is quickly spreading?

“Now that two of our health care workers have contracted the virus I am putting my foot down,” Ross added. “This legislation is a more serious approach to preventing Ebola from further infiltrating our homeland. Airport security screening is a complete smoke and mirror approach to the virus and Americans aren’t buying it. I urge my colleagues to sign onto this legislation and hope Speaker Boehner will quickly call Congress back into session to debate my legislation.”

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In the aftermath of Wednesday night’s Florida gubernatorial debate -- which was overshadowed when Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., did not come out immediately due to sparring with former Gov. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., using a fan -- the Florida Press Association (FPA) and Leadership Florida (LF), which sponsored the debate, released a statement on Thursday afternoon in which the FPA insisted the Crist campaign violated the rules of the debate. The statement reads as follows:

Last night’s debate began with a delay as the campaign staff from both campaigns were reviewing the rules as they related to the use of a fan. Both campaigns received a letter in advance from the debate organizers (FPA and LF) stating the format, logistics and other detailed information relating to the debate. The letter also specified that “candidates may not bring electronic devices (including fans), visual aids or notes to the debate, but will be provided with a pad and pen.” The Scott campaign signed and returned the letter on Thursday, October 9. The Crist campaign signed and returned the letter on Monday, October 13, but with the added hand-written note “*with understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary.”

Dean Ridings, FPA president, received and reviewed the note and told the Crist campaign that the partners want all candidates to be comfortable, but that he expected that Bailey Hall, the newly renovated-facility at Broward College where the debate was to be held, would be maintained at a comfortable temperature, and if there was a temperature problem, the partners would deal with it appropriately.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday night, the temperature was checked on the stage under the lights, and was determined to be 67 degrees. Ridings then informed the Crist campaign that there was no temperature issue, and no fan would be needed, or permitted. At 6:20 p.m., the temperature was checked again, and was at 66 degrees, again, under the lights on the stage by the podium. Between 6 and 6:20 p.m., someone from the Crist campaign placed a fan under Charlie Crist’s podium, and they were again told that no fans would be permitted.

In the minutes before airtime, the communication among the campaigns, the producing television station and the debate partners was chaotic and there undoubtedly was some confusion, but Governor Scott never told Ridings or Wendy Walker, president, Leadership Florida, that he would not join the debate. Rather, the Scott campaign was waiting on resolution of the rules issue before Scott took the stage. The debate partners appreciate Governor Scott’s willingness to participate in the debate.

Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association did not anticipate or plan for the possibility that a candidate would not honor the debate rules. In retrospect, the debate partners should have been better prepared for this possibility. In addition, we regret that one candidate was allowed to take the stage and allowed to talk before the fan issue was resolved. Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association regret that the rules of the debate as discussed with both campaigns were not followed. However, we hope that this important debate of the issues discussed by both candidates is not overshadowed by this issue. The intent of this debate is to educate Florida's voters about the candidates’ views. We are pleased that this debate allowed for that to happen.

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Gov. Rick Scott released the 2013 tax returns of himself and his wife Thursday morning, just hours after he faced off against former Gov. Charlie Crist in one of the most widely-publicized debates in Florida history

Scott waited to file paperwork until Wednesday, the deadline to file tax returns for all who asked for extensions.  

Scott has consistently criticized Crist for not releasing the tax returns of his wife and has also trumpeted the disclosure of significant financial data, unlike his opponent.

See Scott's tax return here.
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A Frontier Airlines plane carrying a nurse who was infected with Ebola made a stop in Fort Lauderdale 24 hours after leaving Dallas.

The Fort Lauderdale stop was one of four others the plane made after leaving Dallas, according to a flight-monitoring website, flightaware.com. 

Frontier Airlines said it immediately grounded the plane after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified it of the Ebola-infected passenger. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said the woman should never have boarded the flight, but nobody at the agency stopped her despite her reporting a temperature of 99.5 Farenheit.
 
The woman flew from Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth Monday. The next day, the plane flew back to Cleveland and then to Fort Lauderdale. The plane was then flown back to Cleveland, then to Atlanta, then back to Cleveland before it was grounded.

The CDC has already contacted all passengers who flew on the same flight as the Ebola patient.
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Republican candidate Carol Platt insists she has momentum as she looks to upset U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., in November.

Having just won the endorsement of the Orlando Sentinel, Platt released an internal poll on Thursday showing her closing in on Grayson. The campaign poll from Data Targeting shows Grayson with 40 percent, Platt with 35 percent and Marko Milakovich, who is running with no party affiliation, with 7 percent.

The poll shows Grayson is treading water with 34 percent seeing him as favorable and 32 percent viewing him as unfavorable. Platt is largely unknown with 61 percent of those surveyed having never heard of her while 17 percent see her as favorable and 4 percent see her as unfavorable.

The poll of 305 voters in CD 9 was taken on Oct. 9 and Oct. 12 and had a margin of error of +/- 5.7 percent. 

"These numbers simply confirm what we've been hearing and seeing on the ground," Platt said. “District 9 is fed up with the representation they're getting from Alan Grayson and they're ready for someone new. We fully intend to win this race and will be working harder than ever in this final stretch."

With Democrats having more than an 8-to-5 advantage on registration, most observers have written this race off as safe for Grayson.

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Opponents of Amendment 2, a proposal to expand medical marijuana in Florida, pointed to a World Health Organization researcher’s study on the impact of marijuana.

“This study is one of the strongest signs yet that the regular use of marijuana carries tremendous unwanted health risks,” said Calvina Fay, the executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation. “Studies such as these confirm that efforts to legalize marijuana in Florida do not have the health and well-being of Floridians in mind.”

The report from Wayne Hall shows marijuana usage leads to addiction and higher risks of other problems including psychotic symptoms and schizophrenia.

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Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has a solid lead over her rivals in a new poll.

The poll of likely voters from Viewpoint Florida, which was unveiled on Thursday, shows Bondi taking 50 percent while former DCF Sec. George Sheldon, the Democratic nominee, gets 41 percent. Tallahassee attorney Bill Wohlsifer, the Libertarian candidate, gets 6 percent and 3 percent are undecided.

Bondi has secured Republicans with 77 percent backing her while 75 percent of Democrats are behind Sheldon. Voters outside the major parties go Bondi’s way with the Republican taking 50 percent of them while 33 percent are for Sheldon and 14 percent back Wohlsifer.

The poll of 1,050 likely voters was taken on Oct. 12 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

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A new poll shows Florida CFO Jeff Atwater routing Democratic businessman William Rankin.

The poll of likely voters from Viewpoint Florida finds Atwater taking 54 percent while Rankin garners 38 percent and 7 percent are undecided.

Atwater has the GOP base nailed down, taking 81 percent of Republicans while Rankin has the support of 69 percent of Democrats. Voters outside the two major parties break for Atwater, 56 percent to 35 percent.

The poll of 1,050 likely voters was taken on Oct. 12 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

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After reports emerged that Amber Joy Vinson, the second health care worker who came down with Ebola in recent days, flew across the country on a Frontier Airlines flight on Monday, Gov. Rick Scott called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to contact passengers who were on that airplane that day.

“The CDC announced that they are contacting those passengers on the airplane with nurse Amber Joy Vinson, and I am asking them to expand their contacts today to include all passengers traveling on that plane for the full 24 hours after Amber’s flight,” Scott said in a statement released on Thursday morning. “Within 24 hours of Amber’s flight with a low-grade fever, we know the plane made five additional stops – including one into and one out of our Fort Lauderdale Airport.

“The CDC has already admitted that they have been slow to respond to developing cases of Ebola, and we do not want to take any risk of Ebola coming to Florida,” Scott continued. “Their immediate action to contact all these passengers today is essential to explaining any potential health risks to themselves and their family. I want all Florida passengers to have as much information as possible directly from the CDC to ease any of their fears and understand any way they could have made contact with the disease.

“We continue to hope we will never have a case of Ebola in Florida, but unfortunately, we have seen from the CDC’s own admission that they have failed to get ahead of this disease’s spread in America to date – and we will do everything we can in Florida to get the CDC’s full engagement to protect our Florida health care workers, our citizens and our visitors,” Scott added. “Yesterday, we also requested the CDC conduct health care worker training with all Florida hospitals by conference call. Friday morning, I will meet again with our Florida Department of Health leaders and notify the public of what, if any, action the CDC has taken on our Ebola preparedness requests following that meeting.”

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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., cheered the news that Kent Fuchs, currently the provost of Cornell University, will be the next president of the University of Florida (UF). Yoho is certainly familiar with UF. Besides living in Gainesville for 35 years, Yoho did his undergraduate and graduate work at UF before embarking on his career as a large-animal veterinarian.

“As a University of Florida alumni (sic), I would like to congratulate Dr. Fuchs on being named president of the best university in the country,” Yoho said. “His extensive experience at Cornell, as well as his 20 years of experience at land grant institutions, will surely be an asset to the University of Florida/IFAS.

“Dr. Fuchs' proven leadership will help ensure that the proud heritage and reputation that has been earned at UF/IFAS -- as one of the top leaders in the nation in higher academics and innovation -- will not only remain intact but flourish.” Yoho added. “I am sure he and his wife will find Gainesville a great place to call home. Welcome to the Gator Nation!”

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, offered his take on the Ebola threat in an op-ed published by CNN on Wednesday. In the op-ed, Rubio backed a travel ban on African nations impacted by the disease.

“We need to prevent the growing crisis in West Africa from leading to more cases in the United States,” Rubio wrote. “The recent announcement of increased entry screening of those traveling from affected countries by Customs and Border Patrol at select points of entry in the United States is a good but, frankly, overdue first step. However, it will not be enough, and the State Department should institute a temporary ban on new visas to non-U.S. nationals seeking to travel to the United States from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.”

The op-ed can be read here.


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Lost in the hoopla over Wednesday night’s Florida gubernatorial debate -- and former Gov. Charlie Crist’s fan -- was another debate impacting the politics of the Sunshine State.

U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., squared off in a debate with Gwen Graham in Tallahassee and the Democratic challenger is getting some national notice for her answers.

Despite being a darling of national Democrats, including a favorite of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DNCC), Graham said she would not back U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for speaker. Earlier in the campaign, Graham refused to say if she would back Pelosi for speaker even as her campaign took money from the Democratic leader’s PAC.

Graham’s refusal to back Pelosi won her some national attention, including from the conservative Washington TimesPolitico also looked at Graham’s criticism of President Barack Obama, his federal health-care law and Democratic congressional leaders like Pelosi.

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From his perch on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., weighed in on the Ebola threat on Wednesday night.

“I am deeply concerned about the threat Ebola poses to public health,” Bilirakis said. “We must continue to provide diligent oversight of the response and preparedness efforts. The priority must be ensuring the safety of Americans, and stopping this outbreak in West Africa and around the world. In order to guarantee no further importation to the U.S., the Ebola virus must be immediately eradicated in West Africa.

“We must have a robust, consistent, and comprehensive strategy to protect the public and fight this devastating crisis, and all options – including a potential temporary travel ban to the affected areas – should be considered,” Bilirakis added. “The federal government must coordinate with local governments and health care providers to ensure our doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals have the training and resources available to adequately diagnose and treat infected patients. We must also ensure members of the armed forces and first responders have the resources they need.”

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The University of Florida finally has its next president -- on Wednesday, the university named Cornell provost Kent Fuchs to be the 12th person to lead the school. 

Fuchs has a lengthy history in higher education, having worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University and later as dean and provost at Cornell. 

“Dr. Fuchs brings to the University of Florida all of the important qualities we have been seeking in our next president,” said Dr. Steve M. Scott, chair of the board of trustees. “He is a distinguished academic who has very effectively served as provost and chief operating officer of the nation’s 15th best institution among all universities.”

Looking ahead, Fuchs promised he'd keep UF, Florida's largest university, on the right track.

“With the great privilege and responsibility you have given me, I will devote all of my energies, talents and abilities to helping move the University of Florida toward its pre-eminence goals,” Fuchs said. “We won’t be complacent. We will focus on being an even greater institution than we are today.”

The appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2015, and must be confirmed by the Florida Board of Governors. They'll meet next month on Nov. 5 and 6.
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Gov. Rick Scott said on Wednesday that the Florida Department of Health (DOH) is demanding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) instruct health care workers on how to handle Ebola patients. After the death of a Liberian national from Ebola in a Dallas hospital, two health care workers who tried to treat him were infected.

“Now that there is a second health care worker with Ebola in Dallas, we want Florida hospitals to hear directly from the CDC on how to best protect our health care workers on the front lines,” Scott said. “While the CDC has existing guidance, there have been public reports from nurses in Texas that either that guidance was not followed, or the guidance for health care workers needs to be updated. Whatever the case may be, Florida hospitals must hear any new safety guidelines directly from the CDC in the next 48 hours so our hospitals are best prepared to protect the health of nurses, doctors and patients.

“We are asking the CDC to hold a conference call with Florida hospitals on the best training and personal protective equipment protocols in the next 48 hours because we have to act with a sense of urgency to ensure our hospitals are prepared,” Scott added. “We have also informed the CDC of DOH’s work to redirect federal grant funding, so we can purchase more personal protective equipment and other supplies to prepare for any case of Ebola in Florida. In light of this second case in Dallas today, we are asking the CDC to support our work to redirect these federal funds for Ebola preparedness, also within the next 48 hours.”

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Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist will clash in a war of words in their second debate in Davie Wednesday evening.

The debate begins at 7 p.m. at Broward College and is hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association. It will air in all media markets across the state.

The first debate between the two politicians focused primarily on each of the candidates' respective talking points, with several personal shots exchanged throughout the debate

Polls continue to show a neck and neck race between Scott and Crist as the final weeks to Nov. 4 wind down.

The third and final debate will be held by CNN on Oct. 21 in Jacksonville.
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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., part of the U.S. House leadership as senior deputy majority whip, will launch a new TV ad which hits the air on Thursday as he runs for a third term in Congress.

Ross plays up his Florida roots, his opposition to amnesty and his commitment to securing the border in the new ad. The congressman also notes his work on helping veterans obtain access to better health-care.

“I understand the challenges we face,” Ross says in the new ad. “Positive solutions for Florida’s families. That’s what it’s all about.”

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Ross is favored to beat Democrat Alan Cohn, a former TV reporter, in the general election in November.  

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The Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) punched the ticket on Wednesday, announcing it was endorsing Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam for a second term. Putnam faces Democrat Thad Hamilton in November.

“Commissioner Putnam has demonstrated his commitment to the safety and protection of our citizens and our state, and the FPCA is proud to endorse his candidacy,” said Amy Mercer, the executive director of the FPCA.

Mercer pointed to Putnam’s work on the Keeping ID Safe (KIDS) Act and his efforts against fraudulent charities.

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U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., sent a letter to President Barack Obama and members of his administration, asking what they plan to do to combat Ebola. Besides Obama, Rooney wrote U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden.

Rooney ripped Obama’s handling of Ebola and the current crisis in the Middle East and called for Congress to return to Washington to tackle the matters.

“The United States now faces two very different but grave national security threats – the spread of Ebola from West Africa and the growth of IS in the Middle East,” Rooney said on Tuesday. “President Obama should present comprehensive response plans and authorization requests to combat these crises to Congress and the American people, and we should return to D.C. promptly to debate and vote on them.

“My constituents are afraid, and few have confidence that the administration’s response has been sufficient,” Rooney added. “What’s the next step to prevent exposing Americans to the disease? Why isn’t the administration at least restricting tourist travel to and from Ebola-stricken countries? How do we account for individuals that aren’t stopped for screening or pass airport screening procedures because they’re not yet exhibiting symptoms? No one wants to stop humanitarian and medical assistance from reaching West Africa, but I fail to see any national security or humanitarian reason for allowing high-risk individuals – like Mr. Duncan – to enter our country for purely tourist reasons while the disease is uncontained.”

Rooney called for limiting travel to Ebola-impacted nations in Africa and wanted answers on how the various federal agencies are handling matters.

“Rather than issuing an outright refusal on further travel restrictions to and from West Africa, the U.S. should explore every feasible and available option to restrict all non-essential travel,” Rooney wrote.

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There is little opposition to Amendment 1, according to a poll released on Tuesday. Needing 60 percent to pass on the November ballot, Amendment 1 would mandate the Legislature send 33 percent of funds generated from real estate document taxes to be used for environmental conservation efforts for the next 20 years. Estimates shows these funds would range from $700 million to $1.3 billion.

A WFLA/Survey USA shows 49 percent of likely voters support Amendment 1 and only 7 percent are opposed to it. But a large segment of voters -- 44 percent -- remain undecided on Amendment 1 with three weeks to go until the general election.

The WFLA/Survey USA poll of 566 likely voters was taken from Oct. 10-13 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent.

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Florida TaxWatch noted on Wednesday that legislators will have a small surplus -- $336.2 million -- in the 2015 session. While this is the fourth year in a row there was a surplus, the projected surplus is less than half of what it was this year.

Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, said the surplus was a result of job growth.

"More Floridians are working and paying their taxes, which has enabled our government to receive a budget surplus for the past four years," said Calabro on Wednesday. "However, even with a small surplus, it is crucial that lawmakers spend the hard-earned money of Florida taxpayers as carefully as they do for their own families."

"The $336 million surplus needs to be put into context," said Kurt Wenner, the vice president of tax research for Florida TaxWatch. "It is only 1.1 percent of projected general revenue spending. It is also based on leaving only $1 billion in reserves, much smaller than what recent legislatures have left. The budget process will again be very competitive and it is our hope that each project will be thoroughly vetted by the full Legislature."

"Florida has the opportunity to save hundreds of thousands more dollars through cost savings implementation, which would help put more money in the pockets of Floridians, or allow Florida to provide a higher level of service to its citizens," Calabro said.

The group also released its latest Budget Watch on Wednesday.

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The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) will release a TV ad on Wednesday featuring former Gov. Jeb Bush backing Gov. Rick Scott. In the ad, Bush ignores Democratic candidate former Gov. Charlie Crist though he throws a subtle jab, contrasting him with Scott.

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“In my experience as governor, I found that there are two kinds of politicians,” Bush says in the ad. “Those that are driven by personal ambition and those that deliver results. Rick Scott delivers results. Under Rick Scott’s leadership, our state is moving forward again. Unemployment has been cut in half. And more than 600,000 jobs have been created. And Rick is increasing our investment in education.”
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