Sunshine State News Blogs

On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott announced the state unemployment rate stood at 5.6 percent in April as 25,800 new jobs were created. The rate had been at 5.6 percent in February before moving up to 5.7 percent in March.

“We are excited to announce today that 865,600 new private-sector jobs have been created in Florida since December 2010, including more than 25,000 new jobs in the month of April alone,” Scott said. “By working every day to keep cutting taxes and create an environment where job creators can succeed, we are keeping Florida on track to becoming the global destination for jobs.”

“In April, 25,800 private-sector jobs were created in Florida, job demand remained high, and the statewide unemployment rate dropped,” said state Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio. “After surpassing the all-time high for private-sector job creation in the state in March, all indicators are pointing toward our economy only continuing to get better. Hard-working Floridians are proving that the Sunshine State is the best place in the nation to live, play, and work.”

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U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., a leading congressional Republican on foreign policy and the chairwoman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, thinks the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) should release documents seized during the raid when American forces killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

“The documents recovered in the bin Laden raid are important for our nation’s further understanding of al-Qaida, its extremist ideology, and the threat to American security,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Thursday. “As seen by recent terror attacks across the Middle East and elsewhere, al-Qaida and its derivatives remain, despite claims to the contrary, a threat to our nation, our values, and our way of life. I am pleased that DNI released this latest tranche of documents in the interest of transparency and our knowledge of the enemy in order to be better prepared for the future. I urge DNI to continue its review of the remaining documents recovered in Abbottabad in an expedient manner and release them to the public as soon as possible.”

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While Medicaid expansion will be front and center in the special legislative session next month, the Florida Chamber of Commerce offered a reminder on Thursday that legislators should also cut taxes.

“Special session has a lot on the table, including the creation of a state budget and the chance for meaningful health-care reform,” said David Hart, the Florida Chamber’s executive vice president. “The Florida Chamber is optimistic that the Florida Legislature can work through these items and still pass targeted tax reforms that will put money back in the pockets of Floridians and make Florida even more competitive.”

The Florida Chamber backs Gov. Rick Scott’s proposals to cut the Communications Service Tax (CST) on cellphones and cable TV services and lowering the commercial lease sales tax. It also backs tax holidays and targeted defense contract and R&D tax cuts.

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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, backed a bill on Wednesday to end mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements on meat products. The World Trade Organization (WTO) noted earlier this week that COOL requirements violate trade agreements and Canada and Mexico have threatened to retaliate against the U.S., leading to a possible trade war.

The House Agriculture Committee passed the bill on a 38-6 vote on Wednesday and Yoho weighed in afterward.

“Today’s bipartisan committee vote is a step in the right direction for America’s farmers, ranchers, and consumers. Repealing COOL requirements will restore stability and help erase the uncertainty for our agriculture sector while easing tension with our two closest allies and trading partners; Canada and Mexico,” Yoho said.

“The COOL amendment was challenged by Canada and Mexico in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the U.S. lost on four different occasions,” Yoho added. “COOL does not add to consumer safety but is a government-mandated marketing program. The role of government is to make sure the food we eat is safe and wholesome. That is what the USDA stamp of approval represents to us, the consumer."

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., brought out the “Florida Fisheries Improvement Act” on Wednesday. As Congress plans to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act on marine fishing, Rubio’s proposal gives the Regional Fishery Management Councils more flexibility, will ensure the Commerce Department reports to Congress on collecting data and speeds up declaring fishery disasters and provides more transparency.

“Florida’s fisheries are a national treasure that provide direct and indirect benefits to our local, state and national economies by feeding Americans across the country and boosting tourism in our coastal communities,” said Rubio. “While there is more work to be done, this bill would ensure necessary improvements to management and data collection are made to fully optimize our fisheries and help advance Florida’s interests when it comes time to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act. I will continue to work with Floridians and my colleagues in Congress to fight against any misguided federal directives that threaten Floridians’ way of life and economic livelihoods.”

Rubio’s proposal won the support of the Gulf Seafood Institute and the Center for Coastal Conservation.

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After reports emerged that ABC News personality George Stephanopoulos donated to the Clinton Foundation, a new poll shows most voters are not trusting the political news. Rasmussen Reports released a poll on Thursday which finds 61 percent of likely voters do not trust the political news while only 21 percent trust it. A Rasmussen poll from October found 45 percent did not trust the political news while 33 percent did.

More than a third of those surveyed -- 36 percent -- think the media will try to help former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton win the presidency while 23 percent think they will try to hinder her campaign.

Stephanopoulos, who burst onto the national scene as an aide to Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election, has tarnished his brand, the poll shows. Almost half of those surveyed -- 46 percent -- think ABC should ban Stephanopoulos from covering the news and around a third -- 34 percent -- say they are now less likely to believe ABC News due to Stephanopoulos not revealing his donations to the Clinton Foundation.

The poll of 1,000 likely voters was taken from May 17-18 and had a margin of error of +/-3 percent.

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On Thursday, Florida TaxWatch released a look at the Sunshine State’s citrus industry and how citrus greening and other diseases were impacting it. The report finds diseases have led to a loss of more than $3.6 billion in revenue and more than 6,600 jobs in Florida.

"Florida is known all over the world for our oranges, orange juice and citrus, and it's an integral part of our growing economy that provides needed jobs for Floridians," said Robert Weissert, the senior vice president of research for Florida TaxWatch. "There are research initiatives underway to address potentially destructive citrus diseases, but it is imperative that lawmakers make the necessary investments to protect this important sector of the state's agricultural economy."

The report can be read here.

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Republicans in the Florida delegation -- U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Carlos Curbelo, Ron DeSanits, Mario Diaz-Balart, John Mica, Jeff Miller, Rich Nugent, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross and Ted Yoho -- waded into the fight over Medicaid expansion on Wednesday, sending a letter to President Barack Obama urging him not to stop the Low Income Pool (LIP) program in Florida. Sources in the Obama administration tell Sunshine State News that HHS has not pulled the plug on LIP funding for Florida even as LIP will not be renewed in its current form. 

The Florida Republicans wrote the following:


We are writing to request your immediate action to reverse the U.S. Health and Human Services’ (HHS) decision to end to the Low Income Pool (LIP) program in Florida. This federal program has been working to help low-income families in our state access health care for many years until HHS recently told state officials that their decision to continue funding was “linked” to the state’s decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

Florida hospitals are at risk of losing $1.5 billion a year if LIP funding is allowed to expire. If the funding is not in place on June 30, 2015, Jackson Memorial would lose $237.2 million; Tampa General would lose $85.2 million; University of Florida Gainesville would lose $106.7 million; University of Florida Jacksonville would lose $94.4 million; Orlando Health would lose $54.8 million; and Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach would lose $16.2 million.

The Supreme Court’s decision in NFIB v. Sebelius made clear that the federal government could not withhold federal funding in order to coerce states into expanding Medicaid. HHS’ refusal to continue LIP funding in Florida because the state has not expanded Medicaid is an inappropriate overreach and in direct contradiction to the Supreme Court decision. (Additionally, the Navigant study conducted at the direction of HHS found that the population covered under LIP is not identical to the population that would be served under the expansion of Obamacare.)

We are requesting your immediate action to reverse HHS’ decision to end LIP funding. The well-being of Florida’s low-income families will remain in jeopardy until your administration approves funding for these vital health services.

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From his perch on the U.S. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., announced he was co-sponsoring a bill to ending mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements on meat products. The World Trade Organization (WTO) noted earlier this week that COOL requirements violate trade agreements and Canada and Mexico have threatened to retaliate against the U.S., leading to a possible trade war.

“If we don’t act now to repeal COOL, we’ll be inviting certain retaliation from two of our largest trading partners,” Rooney said on Tuesday. “This bill is critical to avoiding a trade war that could devastate Florida’s farmers and ranchers, hamper our state’s economic growth, and damage agriculture and manufacturing industries across the country.”

U.S. House Agriculture Chairman Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, made the case for his bill on Tuesday.

“In light of the WTO’s decision and the certainty that we face significant retaliation by Canada and Mexico, we cannot afford to delay action,” Conaway insisted. “That’s why I was joined by 60 of my colleagues in introducing HR 2393, a bill to repeal mandatory COOL for beef, pork and chicken. This bill is a targeted response that will remove uncertainty, provide stability, and bring us back into compliance. I appreciate the support of so many colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we work quickly to ensure our economy and a broad spectrum of U.S. industries do not suffer the economic impacts of retaliation."

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Honoring Cuban Independence Day on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., slammed the Obama administration for trying to normalize relations with the Castro regime.

“Today marks another anniversary of Cuba’s independence from Spain,” Diaz-Balart said on Wednesday. “Regrettably, the Cuban people remain oppressed by a brutal dictatorship that has no respect for fundamental human rights or liberties. Despite President Obama’s countless and shameful concessions to the Castro regime, the American people and Congress continue to stand with them. Cuba has the worst human rights record in our hemisphere, and has done nothing to earn the many concessions that the Obama administration continues to provide the regime.

“Instead, on this day, we join in firm solidarity with the Cuban people, including the courageous pro-democracy activists, political prisoners, independent journalists, artists, labor activists, and religious leaders in their struggle to achieve the liberties to which all peoples are entitled,” Diaz-Balart added. “The Cuban people must be able to assemble freely, express dissent, worship in the faith of their choice, and keep the fruits of their labor. That simple desire for freedom has not been dampened by decades of authoritarian rule in Cuba. To the contrary, the days of the ailing octogenarians that run Cuba are numbered. When the Cuban people finally win their freedom, they will remember those who stood with them.”

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On Monday, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., a co-chair of the Congressional Nepal Caucus, included a tribute to the six Marines and two Nepali soldiers killed on May 12 in a helicopter crash as they were helping out in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake that impacted Nepal, killing more than 8,000.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today, as the co-chair of the Congressional Nepal Caucus and as an ardent supporter of the U.S. military, to express my deepest condolences to the families of the six U.S. Marines and two Nepali soldiers who died in the helicopter crash last Tuesday, May 12, 2015 in Nepal,” Crenshaw said. “As we all know, Nepal suffered from the catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Saturday, April 25, 2015, as well as many large aftershocks, including a 7.3 magnitude aftershock on May 12, 2015. Reports indicate that more than 8,000 people have been killed and 17,000 people have been injured in this poor and fragile country.

“Among the first responders to this crisis were our dedicated men and women of the U.S. Marine Corps,” Crenshaw added. “America has a long and honorable history of humanitarian assistance during worldwide disasters and conflicts, and our men and women in uniform have consistently put themselves in harm’s way to protect America and to protect our allies during times of need.

“On this occasion, the eight were aboard a UH-1Y Huey helicopter that disappeared over northern Nepal during a trip to fly relief materials to stricken villages,” Crenshaw continued. “Capt. Dustin R. Lukasiewicz of Nebraska; Capt. Christopher L. Norgren of Kansas; Sgt. Ward M. Johnson IV of Florida; Sgt. Eric M. Seaman of California; Cpl. Sara A. Medina of Illinois, and Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Hug of Arizona have paid the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the Nepalis, and they make me proud, once again, to be an American.

“I am grateful for the leadership and dedication of Ambassador Bodde, the U.S. Embassy team in Nepal, the Department of Defense, and our service men and women for their efforts and their sacrifices to aid Nepal,” Crenshaw said in conclusion. “To the people of Nepal, the United States stands with you during this difficult time. To the families of the six Marines, we thank you for paying the ultimate sacrifice, and our prayers are with you during this time of loss and immeasurable sadness.”

 

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Former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and a possible contender for the U.S. House if U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., opts for a Senate bid, offered his take on the stalemate over Medicaid expansion in the Florida Legislature. On Monday, Gaetz sent out a message to his constituents and he jabbed Gov. Rick Scott on the matter.

“The hard fact, of course, is that uninsured Floridians do get sick, do get injured and do pile up many hundreds of millions of dollars in uncompensated care at our hospitals and clinics,” Gaetz wrote. “Since there are no free bandages nor free medicines nor free wheelchairs, hospitals and other providers shift those costs onto the rest of us in higher charges on our medical bills and higher health insurance premiums. To do nothing means that cost-shifting continues, and grows worse, and small businesses and working families pay the price.

“People of good will in both the House and Senate disagree about what to do with this hard fact,” Gaetz added. “Disagreement about policy isn’t a failure in our system. When our founders created three equal branches of government and two legislative chambers, they purposefully built tension into the system. Sharp, passionate, well-evidenced debate is how we grind through policy options, consider all views, vet and refine proposals and ultimately achieve solutions. As former Senate President Jeff Atwater counseled the Senate in his farewell address, ‘Never fear the debate.’

“The problem now is that the debate has turned sour and ugly," Gaetz continued. “Some of the advocates have become petulant, even intolerant. Solutions have given way to sloganeering. The personal respect and trust between legislative leaders and between the Legislature and the governor, which is the WD-40 that otherwise eases the way to compromise, is missing this year. In other words, Tallahassee at its worst is taking on the identity of Washington at its best.”

Gaetz turned his eyes toward the special session which begins at the start of next month.

“On June 1, the House and Senate will be back in session to try to work out differences and pass a budget,” Gaetz wrote. “Unlike some pundits and politicians, I believe our June budget session will be successful. I believe the time away from lobbyists and politicians, the time at home, face-to-face with constituents, will cool hot heads and remind us that voters hold all of us responsible for results. Unlike Washington, there will be no government shutdown. Unlike Washington, we will not only pass a budget, but we will balance the budget. Unlike Washington, Florida will live within its means. That’s why our state will continue its remarkable recovery and growing prosperity, which in many ways lead the nation and outpace other states of our size.”

Gaetz then turned his fire toward Scott for being inconsistent on Medicaid expansion.

“Personally, I don’t support solving the health-care coverage issue by just expanding Medicaid, as Governor Scott proposed before he opposed it,” Gaetz insisted. “I do support the plan which Senator Joe Negron authored which provides premium assistance for the uninsured to buy private insurance in the private market. In fact, the Negron plan would entirely eliminate Medicaid in favor of an all-private sector/private market approach to health care coverage. I do support Senator Aaron Bean’s plan that, in return for coverage in the private market, able-bodied people who are uninsured have to get jobs or get trained for jobs, work for their benefits and pay at least some of the costs out of their own pockets. I also believe the Senate should listen to House leaders who have ideas for increasing health care competition and hopefully decreasing costs.”

Despite that, Gaetz closed on an optimistic note.

“There is a path to solutions, but it winds its way through compromise and respect,” Gaetz wrote in conclusion. “Based on the formal call for the special session as published this past Friday, I have confidence that President Andy Gardiner, Speaker Steve Crisafulli, and Budget Chairs Richard Corcoran and Tom Lee can find that path.”

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Florida TaxWatch thinks Central Florida could see a boom in advanced manufacturing jobs and opportunities.

On Tuesday, Florida TaxWatch showcased the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (FAMRC) which will open in Orlando come 2017 and praised the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR), a private-public partnership focused on changes in the industry.

"Increasing investments in Florida's manufacturing sectors have resulted in billions of dollars added to the state economy through high-wage jobs and high-value exports," said Dominic Calabro, Florida TaxWatch's president and CEO, on Tuesday. "Strategic infrastructure investments like the Florida Advanced Research Manufacturing Center will further diversify Florida's economy, support job creation and enhance the value of our state's existing industries."

Florida TaxWatch issued a report on manufacturing opportunities which can be read here.

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Continuing his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., showcased his efforts in Iowa, home of the first presidential caucus, on Monday.

Rubio showcased a Web video of his campaigning in Iowa that was released at the end of last week.

“The Iowa caucuses are the first opportunity for voters to weigh in on who they want our presidential nominee to be and that means I’ll be making many more visits to the state over the coming months,” Rubio emailed supporters on Monday.

“A successful campaign in Iowa will require significant time and resources," Rubio insisted. “We’re going to put in the time.”

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At the start of the month, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Reps. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., to introduce the “Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2015“ which gives states incentives to crack down on texting or emailing when driving. On Friday, Deutch showcased his efforts and praised a similar push in Tallahassee from Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, and Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Delray Beach.

“Enough is enough,” Deutch insisted on Friday. “We all know that texting, searching the Web, or posting on social media while driving, puts you, your passengers, and others around you in serious danger. Yet people still do it every day. I am saddened that in 2013 more than 3,000 people were killed and more than 400,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers. And I’m frustrated that many states, including Florida, have failed to pass laws strong enough to stop distracted driving.

“Evidence increasingly suggests that states that enact and enforce tough distracted driving laws help to prevent more of these needless tragedies,” Deutch added. “It's time to take a stand. I have just introduced the Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2015. This legislation creates new incentives for states to enact more enforceable and more effective laws against distracted driving. My federal effort works in tandem with the terrific state-level proposals by my friends, Florida leaders Rep. Irv Slosberg and Senator Maria Sachs. Together we can save lives.”

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Gov. Rick Scott announced a solid growth in tourism in the first quarter of 2015. On Friday, Scott noted 28.4 million visitors came to the Sunshine State during the first three months of 2015, up 6.2 percent from the first quarter of 2014, leading to 1,186,900 jobs in Florida, up almost 5 percent from last year. That number includes 1.7 million tourists from Canada and almost 3 million from overseas.

“I am proud to announce that the Sunshine State continued our record-breaking success and welcomed the most visitors of any quarter in Florida’s history,” Scott said. “Our growing tourism industry employs over 1 million Floridians and is helping us meet our goal of becoming the global destination for jobs. We are excited to start 2015 off with our biggest quarter ever, which puts us on pace to exceed our goal of 100 million visitors to Florida this year.”

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On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill allowing online voter registration access, though he admitted “some hesitation” in doing so due to security and technology issues. Scott sent a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Friday outlining his rationale and hesitations on signing the bill:

By the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Florida, and under the provisions of Article III, Section 8, of the Florida Constitution, I do hereby approve of and transmit Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 228, enacted during the 117th Session of the Legislature of Florida, during the Regular Session of 2015 and entitled:

An act relating to Online Voter Registration

It is with some hesitation that I have signed Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 228 into law.

Serious concerns were expressed during the course of the legislative session regarding the implementation of an online voter registration system. I am thankful that the House of Representatives amended the legislation on the floor to add further safeguards, and while I support this legislation, there remain some concerns regarding its implementation.

My initial concern relates to the timing of required deliverables. The legislation does not implement an online voter registration system until 2017, but does require the Secretary of State to begin providing deliverables prior to 2017. These requirements coincide with Department of State’s (“Department”) ongoing efforts to modernize the Florida Voter Registration System. This system has been experiencing maintenance issues, which election supervisors have rightly cited as a challenge to their duties. As a result, the Department has expedited work to replace equipment and programming.

The legislation also requires the Department to submit a report to the Legislature at the beginning of 2016, which should highlight how preparing for online voter registration has coincided with the changes to equipment and programming for the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election.

Another concern relates to cyber security because added technology results in added challenges and vulnerabilities. Cyber-attacks are on the front pages almost every day, and fraud and identification theft issues arise whenever a new avenue for information transmittal is created. While these challenges exist, I am confident that the Department and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will act carefully and prudently in developing needed protection for citizen information.

Despite these real world concerns, I agree that we must do everything possible to encourage 100 percent participation in elections, with zero percent fraud. That is why the Department will develop an implementation plan and work with the Legislature and election supervisors to ensure this law is implemented successfully.

Thanks to the Legislature’s election reforms in 2013, we were able to both expand access and execute one of Florida’s most well-run elections in 2014. It is in that spirit of collaboration that we look forward to continuing to make improvements that build on our success.

For the reasons stated above, I hereby sign into law Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 228.

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On Thursday, Citizens United Political Victory Fund (CUPVF), conservative group Citizens United’s PAC, endorsed U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in the Senate next year. Rubio is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

“Our priority in Florida is to elect a full spectrum conservative to the United States Senate and Congressman DeSantis is that candidate,” said David Bossie, the president of Citizens United, on Thursday. “Since the time we endorsed Ron DeSantis for the U.S. House in 2012, he has kept his word and stayed true to his core conservative principles. Washington has not changed Congressman DeSantis. That’s why I have full confidence he will continue to be a change agent in the United States Senate by fighting for smaller, more efficient government, lower taxes, and a strong national defense, while using the Constitution as his guide. I urge all Floridians to support Ron DeSantis in Florida’s Republican primary election for the U.S. Senate.”

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Florida’s two U.S. senators -- Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson -- teamed up on Thursday to unveil the the “Hurricane Forecast Improvement Act of 2015” to codify the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project, an effort to improve hurricane forecasting.

“Americans along the east coast have unfortunately seen firsthand how devastating hurricanes can be,” said Rubio. “Providing more accurate tracking and intensity forecasts will allow people to better prepare for the safety of their families, homes, and businesses. The Hurricane Forecast Improvement Act is a common-sense approach that will advance these goals.”

“I’ve seen countless hurricanes hit Florida during my time in public service; I’ve seen the damage they can cause,” said Nelson. “And that’s why we should do anything we can to help people better prepare for these storms in order to avoid the loss of life and property.”

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The Democratic leadership continues to line up behind U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in the Senate next year. Rubio is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

On Thursday, Murphy announced West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman endorsed his Senate bid.

"I am proud to support Patrick Murphy for U.S. Senate," said Muoio. "His values and principles are the kind of qualities our state deserves. He is a fierce defender of our rights and an effective, balanced leader who knows how to work with others to ensure our state's success."

"I am pleased and honored to endorse a dedicated public servant in Congressman Patrick Murphy," said Kriseman. "I know that he will be an outstanding United States senator, and serve the people well."

In the meantime, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., continues to leave the door open to a Senate bid of his own. Grayson had a bad week with reports emerging of his Cayman Island investments, even as he called out corporations for using offshore accounts to avoid taxes. The congressman responded to Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times with a string of curse words.

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Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, now looking at a third run at the U.S. Senate, will be hitting the campaign trail later this week to support an old ally.

McCollum told the Tampa Bay Times two weeks ago that he is considering running again for the Senate. After 20 years in Congress, McCollum won the Republican Senate nomination in 2000 but lost to Democrat Bill Nelson in the race for an open seat. In 2004, McCollum ran again but lost to former U.S. HUD Secretary Mel Martinez in the Republican primary.

After his two Senate bids, McCollum ran for attorney general, winning the post in the 2006 election cycle. Four years later, McCollum lost the Republican gubernatorial primary to Rick Scott. After losing to Scott, McCollum refused to endorse his fellow Republican who was in a close race against then-state CFO Alex Sink, the Democratic nominee.

Since losing to Scott, McCollum has remained politically active. In 2012, he backed former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., for the Republican presidential nomination. Four years after their bitter primary, McCollum endorsed Scott for a second term.

In 2010, when he filed his paperwork in Tallahassee to run for governor, McCollum had Dennis Baxley, a former state representative from Ocala, looking to return to the Florida House with him. Baxley returned to the House in 2010 and is now running for the Florida Senate seat currently held by the term-limited Sen. Charles Dean, R-Inverness.

On Monday, Baxley’s campaign announced it would be holding a fundraiser with McCollum in Ocala on Saturday.

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On Monday, at NeoGenomics Laboratories in Fort Myers, Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., showcased its growth which has led to almost 125 new jobs over the last five years in the Sunshine State.

“Companies like NeoGenomics Laboratories are finding success in Florida, which means more jobs for Florida families,” Scott said on Monday. “Because of Florida’s job creators, our private sector was able to create more than 29,000 new jobs for Florida families in March and over 841,000 jobs since December 2010. I am proud today to join NeoGenomics to celebrate their success as we work to make Florida the No. 1 one place in the world for jobs and opportunities.”

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Late on Sunday, USA Today published an op-ed from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is running for the Republican presidential nomination. Rubio insists in the op-ed that the U.S. remains vulnerable to terrorism and calls for holding off on rolling back the powers and the activites of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) collecting of bulk data:

Today our nation faces a greater threat of terrorist attack than any time since Sept. 11, 2001. Because of the dedicated work of U.S. intelligence, military and law enforcement personnel, Americans have been largely kept safe for almost 14 years. A major contributor to this success has been the development and use of counterterrorism tools such as those authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Patriot Act.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the federal government mobilized to defend the country and prevent further loss of innocent life. This included the NSA's collection of bulk telephone metadata.

Bulk metadata includes phone numbers, the time and duration of calls — nothing else. No content of any phone calls is collected. The government is not listening to your phone calls or recording them unless you are a terrorist or talking to a terrorist outside the United States.
Despite recent court rulings, this program has not been found unconstitutional, and the courts have not ordered a halt to the program.

In fact, this program has been found legal and constitutional by at least 15 federal judges serving on the FISA Court on 35 occasions.

The op-ed can be read here.

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Former Amb. John Bolton, who is looking at running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 and was President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations, threw his support behind U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis’, R-Fla., campaign to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. in the Senate. Rubio is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

“I strongly endorse Congressman Ron DeSantis for the United States Senate,” Bolton said on Wednesday. “America needs principled leaders like Ron standing up for America’s national security interests in Congress. Ron supports a strong national defense and has been forceful in raising alarms about the Iran nuclear framework that would pave Iran's path to the bomb. He is a stalwart defender of Israel as well as a major critic of the Obama administration’s absurd Cuba policy. For Republicans who want America to remain strong at home by being strong abroad, and for those who recognize that we must remain ever vigilant in the defense of liberty, Congressman Ron DeSantis is the choice for U.S. Senate.”

“Ambassador Bolton and I are both Reagan conservatives deeply concerned with America’s declining standing abroad under this administration, and in the Senate I will do everything I can to turn that around,” DeSantis said on Thursday. “We must have a strong foreign policy that defends America’s vital national interests, stands by our allies and displays firmness with our enemies. When it comes to foreign policy, Floridians can count on me to stand with Israel, fight Iran's attempt to go nuclear, and oppose the dictatorial regimes in Cuba and Venezuela.”

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., woos Republicans in New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary, as he continues his bid for the White House.

On Thursday, Rubio released a Web video showcasing his efforts in the Granite State.

“As home to the first presidential primary, New Hampshire plays an absolutely critical role in our campaign,” Rubio emailed supporters on Thursday. “I visited for the first time as a candidate last month and spoke with Granite Staters about our campaign and vision for a New American Century.

“Campaigning in New Hampshire is a lot like my very first political campaign for commissioner in West Miami: you go from door to door and talk with voters about their concerns and what’s important to them,” Rubio added. “The good news is that’s exactly how I won back in Florida and we’re fortunate to have early supporters who are willing to host me in their homes to chat with their neighbors.”

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Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R- Merritt Island, today issued the following statement on the state of budget negotiations and the upcoming special session.

“While significant discussions lay before us, today marks a very good day for Florida as we have reached agreement on dates for a budget special session. We look forward to working with our partners in the Senate as we make continued progress in the weeks ahead.”

The House and Senate today announced the 2015 Special Session-A will take place from June 1-20.

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Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner is launching a new initiative, Victory Florida, to commemorate the 70 years that have passed since the end of World War II. 

Detzner will make the announcement Monday at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee. 

August 15, 2015, marks the 70-year anniversary of V-Day, or Victory Day, which marked the end of World War II in 1945. According to a press release, Victory Florida will draw attention to this important anniversary during 2015. The campaign will "honor and celebrate the heroes and heroines of World War II" while educating Floridians about the important role the Sunshine State played on the battlefield and on the home front.

According to Victory Day's website, by Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States officially entered the war, more than 170 military installations were established in Florida. After the war in 1945, many surviving service members who had been stationed in Florida prior to active duty returned to settle here. The state’s population grew more than 46 percent during the 1940s and even more in the '50s as a likely result of the wartime military postings. 
 
Currently, over 1.5 million veterans call Florida home.  

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Gov. Rick Scott met with U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday as the Florida Legislature continues to face a stalemate over the budget due to Medicaid expansion. Scott asked Burwell to offer Low Income Pool (LIP) funding in Florida even as the Legislature awaits a special session.

“Today, I met with HHS Secretary Burwell and requested that HHS reconsider LIP funding in Florida so the Legislature has the information they need to develop a budget,” Scott said on Wednesday. “Before the session, HHS knew our budget timeline and they did not act to keep the LIP program. The federal government should not just completely cut off a federal health-care program for low-income Floridians that has been working for years. That is just wrong for Florida families. We want the HHS secretary to approve our LIP waiver. That is what we asked her to do today. I hope we made some progress, but we will only have real resolution on this when we get their official approval. We need that approval immediately so we can start a special session and pass a budget.

“If we do not get any answer from CMS in the next few weeks, their inaction is the same as a ‘no’ and we will prepare to go into a special session to do a base budget that keeps government running,” Scott added. “I told her that we need federal action right now. The low-income families in our state cannot wait on the federal government any longer.”

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National conservative groups are lining up behind U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., who launched a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2016 to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

The Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) endorsed DeSantis on Wednesday morning after the Florida congressman jumped in the race.

"We're proud to support Congressman Ron DeSantis for the Senate in Florida,” said former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the president of the SCF. “He's a strong conservative, he has grassroots support, and he can win. If he is elected, he will stand up to the big spenders in both parties and fight to repeal Obamacare, balance the budget, and defend the Constitution. We hope conservatives in Florida and across the country will quickly unite behind DeSantis because we believe he gives us the best chance in this race to elect a principled leader who will fight for our values. We will immediately begin raising money for the DeSantis campaign and plan to do everything we can to help him get his conservative message out and win this important race."

SCF is not the only conservative group behind DeSantis. Saint PetersBlog reported earlier on Wednesday that FreedomWorks had also lined up behind DeSantis.

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U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., had kind words for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., on Wednesday as he entered the race to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Jolly kept the door open to running for the Senate himself, promising a decision “in the coming months” and saying the Republican Senate primary will be “very competitive” next year.

"I congratulate Ron on his decision to enter what will be a very competitive primary election to serve our great state of Florida in the Senate,” Jolly said on Wednesday. “I remain focused on the job I love in the House and intend to make a decision regarding the Senate in the coming months."

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