Sunshine State News Blogs
"It is imperative to understand how our school systems are matching up to those around the country in order to best meet the needs of Florida students," said Bob Nave, the director of Florida TaxWatch’s Center for Educational Performance and Accountability. "Florida students must remain competitive with their peers both nationally and globally, and understanding where we rank will help policymakers and education leaders fine tune our public schools to produce the best outcomes for Florida students."
"This year, Florida lawmakers spent nearly $22.5 billion to fund education programs for Florida students, which illustrates a commitment to raising achievement in our state's classrooms," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.
The report can be read here.
The poll, which was released on Tuesday, finds Scott ahead with 44 percent followed by Crist with 41 percent. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie takes 4 percent.
For two weeks, the WFLA poll showed Scott leading by 2 percent.
The poll had a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent.
“For more than 30 years, Mike Hightower has been the government relations face of our company, working on behalf of the organization and our stakeholders with virtually every facet of local and state government,” said Jason Altmire, the senior vice president of public policy and community engagement for Florida Blue, on Tuesday. “We deeply appreciate his many years of service and wish him the best in his retirement.”
The ad, titled "Important," features footage from Scott's 1995 deposition regarding the HCA/Columbia Medicare fraud case. Scott is mostly quiet in the ad, which flashes various newspaper headlines regarding the secrecy of Scott's email accounts.
“Floridians know that Rick Scott has spent his entire career in the shadows, refusing to answer questions, take responsibility, or play by the rules,” according to FDP Chair Allison Tant. “Now we’ve learned that Rick Scott was using private emails to conduct state business out of the sunshine. While these revelations are certainly not surprising, it perfectly underscores exactly why Floridians cannot trust Rick Scott with another four years.”
View the ad below:
On June 30, the FRS contained investments totaling $149.1 billion in market value, an increase of $16.7 billion from a year before.
Ash Williams, the SBA’s executive director and chief investment officer, said the gains were the result of “prudence, patience, and diversification.”
“While recovery of the financial markets continues and we are certainly pleased with our current performance, we can’t lose sight of the fact that it is the long-term performance that matters most,” Williams said on Tuesday. “The 20- and 25-year periods have generated returns of 8.83 percent and 9.02 percent respectively.”
In the ad, several veterans express their support for the governor and some of his policies, like offering in-state tuition for incoming veterans. One veteran explains Scott understands veterans' needs due to his own experience in the military.
"As a veteran, Rick Scott understands what it means to be a part of something greater than himself, and works every day to honor that same commitment among Florida’s military personnel and veterans," said Lt.Col. Chris Hart, U.S. Army (Ret.) and state co-chair of Veterans for Scott Coalition. "Gov. Scott stands with all those who have served our country and will continue to thank them for their service and sacrifice."
View the ad below:
WHEREAS, Israel remains a force of freedom and democracy in the Middle East; and
WHEREAS, Florida continues to foster a strong relationship with Israel and is home to one of the largest Jewish populations outside of Israel; and
WHEREAS, Israel is a steadfast ally of the United States; and
WHEREAS, Hamas is a United States-designated terrorist organization whose charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel; and
WHEREAS, Hamas continues to reject the Quartet Principles, the set of three requirements laid out by the diplomatic entity composed of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and the United States, which are to accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, to renounce violence, and to recognize Israel's right to exist; and
WHEREAS, innocent civilians are indiscriminately targeted by Hamas rocket attacks, and Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis and dozens of Americans in rocket attacks and suicide bombings; and
WHEREAS, since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Hamas and other terrorist groups have fired thousands of rockets at Israel, and since June 2014, Hamas has fired approximately 3,000 rockets at Israel; and
WHEREAS, millions of Israelis are currently living under the threat of rocket attacks from Gaza.
WHEREAS, Iran has long provided material support to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including assistance that has enabled these terrorist organizations to produce longer-range rockets capable of striking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; and
WHEREAS, the killing of Rabbi Joseph Raksin in North-East Miami-Dade has put Floridians on high alert that there is a potential for violence against the Jewish people in Florida; and
WHEREAS, Florida partners with Israel to create opportunities for families through the establishment of the Enterprise Florida Tel Aviv office; and
WHEREAS, Florida works to protect families in Israel through the “Iran-Free Bonds” policy that was adopted by the Governor and Cabinet in 2013 requiring the State Board of Administration to scrutinize and divest public dollars from entities that conduct business with Iran; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT resolved that the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida, do hereby declare that the State of Florida stands with
and supports Israel’s right to defend and protect its citizens from the forces of tyranny and oppression to ensure the survival of the State of Israel.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida vehemently condemn the unprovoked rocket attacks aimed at Israel and call on Hamas to immediately cease all rocket and other attacks against Israel.
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida have hereunto subscribed their names and have caused the Official Seal of the State of Florida to be hereunto affixed in the City of Tallahassee this 19th day of August, 2014.
In recent weeks, Scott has honed in on his plan to push environmental protection across the state and has pledged to increase the state's spending on the environment if he is re-elected this year.
"During Scott's first term he has provided record funding to protect Florida's springs, brought divergent groups together to move Everglades restoration forward, and funded key projects to protect the coral reefs of the Florida Keys," said Ron Bergeron, a member of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who also served on former Gov. Charlie Crist's 2006 Gubernatorial Campaign’s Environmental Policy Council. "Gov. Scott's ‘Let's Keep Florida Beautiful’ plan is yet another step in his leadership on environmental issues and should give hope that our natural resources will be protected for generations to come."
Others took swipes at Crist, who has harshly criticized Scott over environmental issues and called his administration "incompetent" earlier this month.
"To save an ecosystem, you need a plan," said Michael Collins, former member of Crist 2006 Gubernatorial Campaign’s Environmental Policy Council and former member of the South Florida Water Management District. "When Charlie Crist took office, there was a science-based, fully funded, comprehensive Everglades restoration plan in place. After four years of Charlie's impulse buying and environmental attention deficit disorder, it lay in ruins."
Collins said Scott would be a better option for the future of the Everglades.
"Rick Scott, in pushing forward with restoration strategies, has taken a giant step toward solving the water quality portion of the puzzle and has committed to using the same, science-based, fiscally sound approach to the rest of the problem," he said. "The Everglades won't survive another attack of Charlie Crist environmental populism."
The poll, which was taken after actor Robin Williams committed suicide, shows 87 percent of American adults believe clinical depression is a serious problem and 52 percent of the total surveyed see it as a very serious problem. Only 6 percent of those surveyed see clinical depression as not very serious or not at all serious. Almost half of those surveyed -- 47 percent -- say someone in their family deals with clinical depression.
The poll of 1,000 adults was taken from Aug. 13-14 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
“We are pleased that Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association has extended this invitation to us, and have acknowledged that there is a viable third option in this race,” said Wyllie. “I gladly accept their invitation without preconditions.”
Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite to win the Democratic primary next week, also accepted invitations to appear in the debate.
“I intend to give straight answers to questions and offer Floridians real solutions,” Wyllie added. “I just hope that Rick and Charlie can stop slinging mud for an hour or so, and discuss the important issues.”
Tourism jobs are also growing with more than 1.15 million Floridians employed in the industry, an increase of 43,600 from the same period last year.
“A thriving tourism industry is vital to growing jobs, and today’s report that Florida has experienced another record quarter for visitation is great news for Florida families,” Scott said on Tuesday. “This year we invested $74 million into Visit Florida, and set a goal to have 100 million visitors visit the Sunshine State, which we are well on our way to reaching. Together we are creating an opportunity economy, and continuing to grow more jobs for Floridians with more than 1.1 million individuals employed in the growing tourism industry.”
All over the world, millions of innocent people are facing persecution, imprisonment, and even death because of their religious beliefs.
In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory, according to the State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. And the trend in 2014 is only getting worse.
But perhaps nowhere has intolerance, ruthlessness, and evil combined to destroy people of faith more than it has in Iraq, where the Islamic State is engaged in a systemic effort to wipe out the Christian presence there, along with all other religious minorities.
The Islamic State, an extreme Sunni militant group that emerged from al-Qaida, has rampaged across Iraq, ridding towns of Christians and other religious minorities, just as it did in parts of Syria over the last year, persecuting that country’s Christians. It has used brutal tactics such as beheadings, rapes, forced conversions, and forced marriages of any non-Sunnis in its path.
The United States intervened militarily to assist 40,000 Iraqi Yazidis -- a religion that fuses Christianity, Islam, and ancient Zoroastrianism -- who were literally stuck on a mountaintop. Until U.S. and Kurdish military operations helped clear a path to safety, their options were to stay and die of thirst, or relocate and be massacred by the Islamic State militants waiting at the base of the mountain.
The U.S. government took the correct action in halting the genocidal campaign of the Islamic State by using our military to perform limited air strikes against their positions that were threatening Mount Sinjar and by conducting humanitarian airdrops to the Yazidis who were facing death from lack of water. Although the Obama administration has indicated that the mission has been accomplished on Mount Sinjar, there are reports that thousands of Yazidis still remain in peril on the mountain, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who need humanitarian assistance in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
The party alleges the billboards, which are located in St. Petersburg and in Tampa, do not have the disclaimer required under state law.
"The result of these blatant violations is that Florida voters have no idea who is funding, approving and making these express advocacy communications," wrote RPOF Executive Director Juston Johnson, who contends that the billboards should include a disclaimer that states the billboard is a political advertisement.
View the full complaint below.
UPDATE: According to the Crist campaign, the disclosure is located in the lower right hand corner of the billboards.
The one-hour debate will be broadcast on all of Florida's media markets and will also be simulcast on Florida Public Radio member stations.
South Florida's CBS 4 anchor Elliott Rodriguez will moderate the debate. Panelists will include Rosemary Goudreau, editorial page editor of the Sun Sentinel, and Matt Walsh, editor and CEO of Observer Media Group.
Social media interactions will be encouraged during the debate, taking to Twitter and Facebook to provide commentary.
Executive editor of the Tallahassee Democrat Bob Gabordi, Naples Daily News editor Manny Garcia, and Herald-Tribune political reporter Jeremy Wallace will all serve on the social media panel for the debate.
Crist's campaign team said Monday they had agreed to the debate, but had not agreed to specific details.
“This bipartisan legislation provides a safeguard against Washington’s brazen overreach into regulatory decisions best made by officials at the state and local levels,” said Southerland. “Drawing that line in the sand preserves the federal-state partnership that has proven so successful in keeping our waterways clean for more than 40 years. And by fighting back against this D.C. power grab, we’re restoring the certainty our farmers, manufacturers, transportation builders, and construction industries need to grow North and Northwest Florida’s economy and create local jobs.”
"The EPA's new rules represent the most significant expansion of federal government regulation on Florida in a quarter of a century,” said Putnam. “I appreciate the leadership of Congressman Steve Southerland and his efforts to protect Florida businesses from the overreaching arm of the federal government."
Scott takes 44 percent in the poll of likely voters while Crist garners 41 percent. Scott’s lead expands when Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is added into the mix. In that scenario, Scott takes 41 percent, Crist gets 35 percent and Wyllie takes 4 percent.
“While top concerns for voters remain jobs and the economy, their support of Gov. Scott is a signal they approve of his strong ability to create private-sector jobs,” said Marian Johnson, the senior vice president of the Florida Chamber Political Institute. “This is evidenced by the fact that 43 percent of the voters believe Florida’s unemployment rate is lower since Rick Scott took office.”
“I believe a major reason Charlie Crist is visibly losing support is because voters are beginning to realize that Rick Scott’s private-sector, pro-jobs plan is working and that Florida continues to move in the right direction,” said Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber.
The poll of 627 likely voters was taken from Aug. 10-13 by Cherry Communications and had a margin of error of +/-4 percent.
The Florida Cabinet members will be taking the challenge on Tuesday at the Old Capitol in Tallahassee to help the Florida chapter of the ALS Association.
“The ALS Association Florida Chapter is the only organization in our state solely dedicated to caring for people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” Alissa Gutirrez, a spokeswoman for the Florida chapter of the ALS Association, said. “We hope people will designate the Florida chapter as their ALS charity of choice by going to www.ALSAFL.org.”
"Let's Keep Florida Moving" will be focused on Scott's $41 billion, Five-Year Department of Transportation work plan, which is centered on investments to expand a variety of transportation in the Sunshine State, including airports, sea ports, state road networks, and the space industry.
Scott honed in on making Florida a hot spot for tourism and business.
"In Florida, we are proud to be a worldwide destination for business and tourism," said Scott. "I am committed to keeping Florida moving by creating strategic investment opportunities to expand our state’s transportation system."
The tour will make stops in Daytona, Fort Myers, Miami, Panama City and Tampa.
The new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56 percent of American adults still prefer reading the printed version of the news to reading it online, but that's down from 69 percent five years ago.
One-in-three Americans (33 percent) prefer reading the online version of the news, up from 24 percent in May 2009. Eleven percent are undecided. See the survey question wording here.
The national survey of 1,000 adults nationwide was conducted Aug. 11-12 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percent, with a 95 percent level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research LLC. See methodology.
Scott noted on Friday that more than 620,000 jobs had been created in the private sector since he took over from then-Gov. Charlie Crist at the start of 2011. Despite spending most of his political life as a Republican, Crist is the favorite to win the Democratic primary later this month which will determine who takes on Scott in November.
“Florida’s private sector created more than 2,000 jobs for Florida families in July, bringing total private-sector job creation since December 2010 to 620,300,” Scott said on Friday. “Every new job positively impacts a family, and today’s announcement is more great news for Florida families looking to live the American dream in the Sunshine State. Florida continues to see positive job growth highlighting our economic recovery, so let’s keep working to make sure every Floridian who wants a job can get one.”
Posey wrote the comptroller general of the United States on Thursday, demanding the Government Accountability Office (GAO) launch a study to see how viable All Aboard Florida’s plan is to connect Orlando to Miami by high-speed rail.
“It is my understanding that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) – an operating entity of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) – will soon issue a determination about providing a loan through the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program (RRIF) to All Aboard Florida (AAF),” Posey wrote on Thursday. “Serving in the Florida Legislature, and now in Congress, I have consistently opposed taxpayer subsidies for rail initiatives. I am therefore concerned about the potential exposure to taxpayers of all such projects including, but not limited to, the AAF application.
“It is also my understanding that the GAO conducted a review of the Xpress West high-speed rail loan application when it was before the DOT in 2013,” Posey continued. “It was reported that the Xpress West proposal was rejected due to concerns about the viability of the loan following the GAO review. I believe it is well-advised to have similar reviews for all significant loans where taxpayers are on the hook for any potential losses. As such, it is prudent for the GAO to evaluate the specific application by AAF.
“I write to request that the GAO conduct a review of AAF similar to the GAO review conducted for Xpress West, examining the potential risk and cost to taxpayers, the nature of such a loan including possible interest rates that would be appropriate for this particular loan, and whether or not private financing could be sustained for this project,” Posey concluded. “We have a duty to protect taxpayers, and this evaluation will help us uphold that duty.”
Pastor Doug Bankson of the Victory Church World Outreach Center in Apopka will be joining religious and social conservatives, including former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in heading to Israel on Sunday for a three-day trip. Besides preaching in almost every state and around the globe, Bankson has served as president of the Apopka Ministerial Alliance and chaired the Apopka City Chamber of Commerce.
Bankson, Santorum and their group will head to Israel to show American support for that nation during the current crisis in Gaza and to offer prayers for peace. Most of their time will be spent in Jerusalem. They are scheduled to meet with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.
According to a new Rasmussen Reports poll, 43 percent of likely U.S. voters say President Barack Obama isn't working harder than they are. Almost the same percentage of voters (42 percent) say the president works harder than they do.
When it comes to Congress, voters are overwhelmingly convinced Congress isn't working harder than they do. Over three-quarters of likely U.S. voters -- 76 percent -- say they don't believe Congress is working harder than they do. Only 10 percent think the average member of Congress works harder than they do.
Most voters think Congress members spend a little too much time on vacation -- 70 percent say Congress members spend too much time on vacation. Only 16 percent disagree.
The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted July 29-30. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
Bush said on Thursday Amendment 2 would hurt efforts to lure tourists to Florida.
“Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire,” said Bush. “Allowing large-scale, marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts. I believe it is the right of states to decide this issue, and I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November.”
Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber, took aim at trial lawyer John Morgan who has been the point man behind efforts to get Amendment 2 on the ballot.
"Normally we focus on creating jobs, improving education and making Florida more competitive, but this is the type of business Florida can do without," said Wilson. "I find it curious that the largest funder of this push to legalize pot is a personal-injury trial lawyer firm, yet such measures are overwhelmingly opposed by Florida's medical and law enforcement community. Florida voters are smart and when the facts are on the table, I believe they will say no to drugs in Florida."
Wilson noted the proposed amendment offered immunity to many participants involved in raising, using, selling and transporting medical marijuana, calling it a “red flag.”
“Our economy is strong and growing,” Scott said. “Because of our growth, we were able to secure more than $10 billion for transportation projects, which is the largest transportation funding ever in Florida history. Today, we’re proud to announce that with this historic funding, we will advance more than $806 million in critical transportation projects across Florida. These projects will enhance our infrastructure to support commerce, decrease commute times and make our roads safer for families.”
Scott is backing sending $95 million to expand and rebuild SR 30/US 98 in Bay County, $179.5 million to expand I-295/SR 9A around Jacksonville’s Southside, $89.5 million to add lanes to I-75 in Hernando County, $255 million to expand I-95 in Daytona Beach, $32.7 million to add lanes to US 51 in Charlotte County and $155 million to expand SR 821 in Miami-Dade County.
Bolton made his endorsements through a PAC and super-PAC which bear his name. So far, those PACs have raised $4.5 million and have more than $3 million in the bank.
As he offered his endorsements on Thursday, 2016 was clearly on Bolton’s mind.
“Going into 2016, the importance of succeeding in Florida can’t be understated,” said Bolton. “I’m committed to helping Florida Republicans win this November so that come 2016 we’re able to create the change America needs.”
"(Israelis) have no conscience, no honour, no pride,” Erdogan said. “Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.”
While Erdogan said Turks should not engage in anti-Semitic activities, two congressmen from Florida -- U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. -- condemned the remarks at the end of July. The two congressmen co-chair the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance.
Rubio followed suit on Wednesday with a letter to Erdogan.
“In response to thousands of rocket attacks on Israel launched by Hamas and other terrorist organizations from Gaza, Israel instituted a naval blockade to prevent items that could be used to support these attacks from entering Gaza by sea,” Rubio wrote. “The intent of the measures is to protect Israel, while still allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza.
“I encourage you to take all appropriate measures to keep these organizations from provoking a confrontation with Israeli forces and violating this blockade,” Rubio added. “A publicity stunt by Turkish organizations in 2010 led to the regrettable loss of life, and it would be irresponsible for your government not to take measures to avoid a similar outcome this time.”
Rubio targeted comments Erdogan made earlier this month.
“I was thus deeply troubled by your comments at a campaign event on August 3rd comparing Israel’s recent actions to Nazi Germany’s genocidal campaign against Jews and other minorities with the statement ‘Just like Hitler, who sought to establish a race free of all faults, Israel is chasing after the same target,’” Rubio wrote. “Such deplorable comments and anti-Israel views have become increasingly common among senior Turkish officials and severely undermine our mutual interest in collaboration to address the common challenges our nations face.”
Crist kicked off his "Restore the Cuts" tour in Tallahassee on Wednesday, where he will ride around in a school bus, vowing to restore $1.3 billion in public school funding he says was slashed as a result of Gov. Rick Scott.
"We don’t have a revenue problem," Crist said in Tallahassee. "We have a priority problem. The priority needs to be education."
Crist also attacked the governor for cuts to the Bright Futures scholarship program.
“You know the disappointment that Rick Scott has been,” said Crist. “He’s cut so much from education – $1.3 billion. There's no way you can do that and have a bright future for Florida."
The bus tour will make stops in Jacksonville Wednesday, Orlando and Tampa on Thursday, and will end in Miami on Friday.
In the ad, Crist speaks to a crowd, touting the importance of lifting the trade embargo with Cuba. In contrast, Taddeo says she does not believe Florida should be doing business with Cuba.
View the ad below:
"Political wisdom would say I should be looking for a person from the right geographical region or a certain demographic," Wyllie said when he announced Roe being added to the ticket on Monday night. "However, I decided to choose the right person to serve the people of Florida instead. Insurance, property, flood and especially health insurance, is going to be vital in the upcoming years and something that will be tasked upon us should we win this election. I am honored to have someone who can address these important issues as my running mate."
"I am proud to stand behind Adrian Wyllie," Roe insisted after being named. "I am honored to join this team and send out a strong message that the people are fed up with the two-party system. We are just getting started."
The Wyllie campaign doubled down on its support of Roe on Wednesday.
"We are excited to have Greg Roe as the lieutenant governor choice,” said Danielle Alexander, Wyllie’s campaign manager, on Wednesday. “I believe he brings a lot to the campaign and we could not be happier with the choices Floridians now have to address the issues facing all of us."