Sunshine State News Blogs

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, is looking to expand even more into the new media world. Building off his “Ron Paul Channel,” the three-time presidential candidate launched “Voices of Liberty” on Tuesday.

“As Voices of Liberty, we further amplify the messages of the freedom movement through engaging videos and insightful news coverage,” Paul announced on Tuesday. “There are some major changes coming that will allow you to become an integral part of the movement by making your voice truly matter.

“Voices of Liberty will offer more video, audio and editorial from well-known champions of liberty as well as everyday citizens in the freedom movement,” Paul and his team continued. “We are also producing new shows that offer valuable information you can use in your daily life -- from learning and practicing your constitutional rights to the future of monetary policy, business and technology.

Hoping to become the “go-to social platform for liberty-minded people,” Paul and his team hope to take advantage of new media to continue to spread their message.

“The Internet has allowed the message of liberty to spread like wildfire and that’s why we believe the restoration of liberty has a real fighting chance,” Paul insisted. “As a project spearheaded by me and the Voices of Liberty team, we have the power to accomplish our goals. And with your help, we will be a formidable voice that influences elections, strikes down useless legislation and promotes social awareness on the issues that matter most to us all.

“We’ve had enough of the unjustified wars, unconstitutional surveillance, extrajudicial drone assassinations, the continual weakening of the dollar, draconian drug laws, and the outright lies and deceptive doublespeak spouted by politicians with clandestine agendas,” Paul continued. “We want to provide a brighter future for generations to come by ending these trillion-dollar wars, restoring economic prosperity, instituting real government transparency and ridding our country of warrantless spying on our private communications, among many other things.”
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Facing a primary challenge from former Navy officer Ryman Shoaf next month, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., brought out the First Coast’s GOP leadership behind him at an event on Monday.

Crenshaw unveiled the endorsements of a host of Republicans including state Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, state Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach, Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham and Atlantic Beach Mayor Carolyn Woods.

"The beaches are one of the jewels of Northeast Florida – a great location for local businesses ... beautiful natural resources, and so much more,” Crenshaw said. “It's all the result of strong leadership right here on the ground from our mayors, council members, state officials, and devoted citizens.

“Like me, they are committed to supporting the policies that make this region an attractive place to do business, and a great place to live, raise a family, and visit,” Crenshaw added. “And, from me, they will continue to receive the support they need to make sure Northeast Florida shines for generations to come.”
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U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., told the Washington Post on Monday that he supports same-sex marriage and applauded a Monroe County judge who struck down the state constitutional amendment passed by voters recognizing only traditional marriage in Florida.

“As a matter of my Christian faith, I believe in traditional marriage," Jolly told the Post  "But as a matter of constitutional principle I believe in a form of limited government that protects personal liberty. To me, that means that the sanctity of one’s marriage should be defined by their faith and by their church, not by their state. Accordingly, I believe it is fully appropriate for a state to recognize both traditional marriage as well as same-sex marriage, and therefore I support the recent decision by a Monroe County circuit judge.”
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The media were buzzing last week after a Monroe County judge ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in the Florida Keys, but due to an automatic stay as a result of an appeal by Attorney General Pam Bondi, Judge Luis Garcia has denied the request of same-sex couples to marry beginning Tuesday.

Garcia denied a motion for same-sex couples to begin marrying on Tuesday after Bondi submitted papers asking Garcia to keep the automatic stay in place until the appeal had been dealt with.

It could be weeks or months until a decision is reached. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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The Manufacturers Association of Florida (MAF) announced on Monday it was backing Gov. Rick Scott for a second term. On Monday, Scott kicked off a two-week tour of Florida, calling to make the elimination of the manufacturing sales tax -- one of the governor’s chief legislative issues back in 2013 -- permanent.
“Florida is poised to capture tremendous growth from the expansion of exports and imports, the new investments of existing businesses, the attraction of direct foreign investment and new businesses, the enhancement of Floridians’ skill sets, and the investment in manufacturing, Gov. Scott is positioning Florida to excel in all of these areas,” the MAF announced in a statement. “Never before has Florida had a governor work so hard to make the American dream come true for everyone.

“Gov. Scott has made a difference in every corner of the business climate in Florida,” the MAF added. “That translates directly to more well-paying jobs and a higher quality of life for Floridians. His record speaks for itself.”
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With Gov. Rick Scott launching a tour of Florida to highlight job creation on Monday, his running mate, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, came out swinging against former Gov. Charlie Crist. Despite spending most of his political life as a Republican, Crist is the favorite to win the Democratic gubernatorial primary next month.

“As we launch our ‘Jobs for the Next Generation’ policy today and commit to initiatives as soon as next legislative session to grow more manufacturing jobs – Charlie Crist's record of economic failure stands out,” Lopez-Cantera said on Monday. “On Charlie Crist's watch, Florida lost over 800,000 jobs, 100,000 of which were in the manufacturing sector. Floridians were hurting, and Charlie didn't even try to stay and fix the problem. He wanted to run away to Washington. The record is clear – Charlie Crist's economic plan is and has always been empty promises. Gov. Scott doesn't just talk – he takes action. That's why Florida job creators have been able to add more than 600,000 new private-sector jobs since he took office – and our ‘Jobs for the Next Generation’ initiatives will help grow and keep our manufacturing sector working."
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Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., called President Barack Obama “indirectly responsible” for Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 being shot down over Ukraine in a blog post on Friday.

"The blood on Vladimir Putin’s hands was poured by Barack Obama, who is indirectly responsible, accountable and no different than Neville Chamberlain’s weakness in the face of the 20th century maniacal dictator Adolf Hitler," West posted on his blog.

"So much for no drama Obama," West continued. "He is purposefully creating drama globally."

While he is not running in 2014, West has left the door open to a political comeback in 2016.
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From his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.,weighed in on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 being shot down over Ukraine. Rubio called on the U.S. to impose sanctions on the Putin regime in Russia in response.

“The attack on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is a senseless act,” Rubio said on Friday. "I mourn the loss of innocent life, including at least one American and citizens from so many allies and friends of the United States. I agree with President Obama that there should be an independent investigation, but this is not just about an investigation or securing the crash site.

“Even as we investigate the source of the missile system involved and what support was provided to those who fired it, we need to remember that Vladimir Putin’s unlawful annexation of Crimea and his ongoing efforts to destabilize Ukraine have brought us to this point and have now cost the lives of nearly 300 innocent civilians,” Rubio added. “As I said earlier this week after President Obama announced the latest round of U.S. sanctions against Russia, American officials continue to issue hollow threats, while Russia sows instability as it flagrantly violates Ukraine’s sovereignty by providing weapons and assistance to separatists.

“This horrific event is a terrible reminder of why clear, decisive and morally unambiguous American leadership is so desperately needed in the world,” Rubio continued. “It is time for the United States and our allies to impose sectoral sanctions on President Putin and his government, especially against the energy, defense and banking sectors, and significantly increase our support, including lethal assistance, to the government of Ukraine which has shown itself to be the only responsible actor throughout this crisis. The civilized world cannot continue to stand idly by while these types of flagrant violations of basic humanity and international order continue.”

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Gov. Rick Scott plans to focus the next two weeks on his political bread-and-butter: job creation. On Monday, Scott kicks off his “Jobs for the Next Generation” tour in Pompano Beach and Boca Raton. Scott is calling for the permanent elimination of the manufacturing sales tax and offering a plan for STEM teachers to work with businesses in summer residences as he looks to tie education to the changing economy.  

“In order for Florida to remain a global hub for business, we have to make sure advanced industries are able to thrive and continue to create jobs and diversify our economy,” Scott said on Sunday. “That means developing a well-educated workforce, eliminating roadblocks for job creators and investing in our research institutions. Florida has come a long way, but we have a long way to go – and focusing on jobs for the next generation will ensure that we continue to create long-lasting, high-wage, more resilient careers."
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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, continues to remain active in Iowa, home of the first presidential primary. From his perch at Reclaim America PAC, over the weekend, Rubio called on supporters to support Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst who is running for an open U.S. Senate seat against U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa.

“The good news is that Democrats failed to overturn the recent Hobby Lobby decision on Wednesday,” Rubio emailed supporters on Saturday. “The bad news? Democrats are still waging a war on your religious freedom. But you can stop them by helping elect Joni Ernst.

“Right now, Joni Ernst is in a dead heat with her liberal opponent for the United States Senate in Iowa,” Rubio continued. Calling her a “conservative leader,” Rubio said electing Ernst would help “take back the Senate and stop the attacks on your religious freedom.”

“Liberal Democrats like Joni's opponent, Bruce Braley, continue to assault religious freedom in our country,” Rubio insisted. “They hate the idea that government isn't the end-all, be-all. They laugh at the notion of individual liberty, and look for ways to undermine it. Our country was founded on a commitment to protect religious freedom. Harry Reid wants to take us a step backward by overturning Hobby Lobby, and liberals like Bruce Braley would help him do it.”
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As tensions continue to rise in the Middle East, Gov. Rick Scott released a statement at the end of last week in support of Israel

"I stand firmly with our ally Israel and unequivocally support Israel's right to defend herself from vicious terrorist attacks launched by Hamas and other terrorist organizations,” Scott said on Friday. “While the Middle East is in turmoil, Israel remains an island of stability and democracy. As home to one of the largest Jewish populations outside of Israel, Florida has a special relationship with Israel. It was my honor and privilege to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu during my
trade mission to Israel, and I am proud to offer Israel my solidarity and support during this difficult time."
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Charlie Crist hit Tampa on Saturday to open his campaign's field office.

The former governor was joined by Miami Democratic Party chair Annette Taddeo, who Crist tapped to be his running mate earlier this week.

The crowd swelled to around 150 people to hear Crist and Taddeo speak, both of whom criticized Gov. Rick Scott for what they believe has been poor governorship centered around money for the last four years.

When speaking to the crowd, Crist also gave a little bit more insight on why he says he chose Taddeo as his running mate.

Crist said he didn't choose Taddeo for her experience as a businesswoman and as a party chair, but for "her heart."

Taddeo, who has no experience as an elected official, seemed right at home with Crist and his anti-Scott sentiments.

"I cannot wait to get rid of Rick Scott," said Taddeo.

When asked why former frst lady Carole Crist wouldn't release her tax returns, Crist said it was his wife's "right to choose" to release the documents to the public.

"It's her choice, and I believe women have a choice," he told reporters following the office opening.

Some, especially Republicans, have been highly critical and suspicious that Crist would use the governorship as a springboard to a higher political office like the U.S. Senate, where two seats will be up for grabs in 2016. There's also been talk that Crist could be a contender for the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket in two years.

When asked if he would serve a full term as governor if elected, Crist replied:

"Sure, God willing. Yes, absolutely."

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Running in the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., in November, former state Rep. Carl Domino looked to score points off the incumbent by attacking the Democrats on immigration.

“The border crisis is out of control. And we can thank the failed policies of Obama, Pelosi, and Murphy for this,” Domino wrote supporters on Thursday. “This crisis isn't about immigration. This is about a full-scale invasion of the American border.”

Domino directed his fire on Murphy.

“Patrick Murphy is a self-proclaimed supporter of the Dream Act, one of the factors contributing to this daily flood of illegal entrants,” Domino insisted. “You see, immigration and illegal entry into this country are not one and the same, no matter what Obama, Pelosi, and Murphy may claim. On this point I will not compromise: we must secure our borders. We cannot allow our national security to be compromised while Obama liberals, like Patrick Murphy, play election-year politics.

In this current crisis, there are indeed humanitarian concerns to address, but without secure borders, terrorists and others who wish to harm us can just walk in too,” Domino continued. “Make no mistake about it, this border crisis is a direct result of Obama-Pelosi-Murphy policies. But instead of addressing the lack of border security, Obama is asking for $3.7 billion of your tax dollars to further his socialist agenda.

“I am running for Congress to fix our borders, restore national sovereignty and security, and to hold Obama accountable for upholding the rule of law and protecting American citizens,” Domino concluded. “And it all starts with defeating Patrick Murphy.”

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The state unemployment rate dropped in June to 6.2 percent, down from 6.3 percent in May, as almost 37,000 private-sector jobs were added to the economy.

“Florida experienced a record-setting month for private-sector job creation in June with 36,900 new jobs over the month and a total of 620,700 private-sector jobs added since December 2010,” Gov. Rick Scott said on Friday. “This news is great for Florida families, and Florida continues to have great success in our state’s economic recovery. Let’s keep working so that every person who wants a job can get one here in Florida.”

“As the trends continue to tell Florida’s economic turnaround story, today’s announcement adds another important chapter with 36,900 private-sector jobs created and the statewide unemployment rate down to 6.2 percent,” said Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity. “This economic growth is not happening by chance. Policy matters, and this administration will keep working to promote the pro-growth policies that are making Florida the best state in the nation in which to live, work, and start or grow a business.”

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Pointing to reports that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) found 20 rockets in a school it runs in Gaza which were stored there by terrorists, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., doubled down on calling Congress to pass his Palestinian Accountability Act. DeSantis' bill would withhold funding to the UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority until it recognizes Israel, removes Hamas from authority and takes a stand against terrorism.

"The discovery of missiles in a school demonstrates the depravity of Hamas and the lengths it will go to attack Israel,” DeSantis said on Thursday. “Furthermore, UNRWA works in cooperation with Hamas toward its odious aims, thereby supporting terrorism and undermining the interests of the United States. American taxpayers should not be coerced into funding an organization that works hand in hand with Hamas.”
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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, took to the Senate floor on Thursday and called for President Barack Obama to stand behind Israel during the latest crisis in the Middle East.

Excerpts from the speech are below:

“I’ve also been concerned, by the way, by some of this moral equivalence that’s going on in both the press and in some of the emails that I’m getting and some of the public statements I’m hearing some make in some corridors, not here in the Senate, but in some other places. This idea that ‘Well, both sides are to blame.’ That is an interesting concept, but it isn’t true.

“It is tragic, unfortunately, that civilians are dying in Gaza, but the reason why civilians are dying is 100 percent Hamas’ fault. You see, this is an organization that puts rockets and military installations right next to nurseries and hospitals and civilian population centers. And you know why they do that? You know why they do that? They do that because they know that when they launch a rocket, Israel will respond by hitting that rocket launcher. And when that rocket launcher is destroyed, so are the areas around it. And then they can get the cameras to go in there and say ‘Oh, look at what Israel did. They wiped out a nursery or an apartment building.’ They do it on purpose. They know exactly what they’re doing. They do it so they can get the kind of coverage that, unfortunately, even some American press outlets are buying into now.

“Here’s the bottom line -- and Sen, Graham was alluding to this a moment ago -- before Israel does extraordinary things with regard to this. They drop leaflets into population centers warning ‘We’re going to have to do a military operation in your region. Please evacuate, please go somewhere else where you’ll be safe.’ Hamas doesn’t do that. In fact, Hamas deliberately targets population centers to terrorize the people of Israel. And we should condemn it for what it is. There is no moral equivalency.

“Now the situation has continued to spiral out of control, and it’s reached the point where the news today now is that Israel has begun to conduct some ground operations. And these ground operations that they’re conducting has to do with the tunnel network in Gaza that as early as this morning was used by Hamas to try to infiltrate terrorists through those tunnels into Israel to conduct terrorist activity and kill Israelis. So put yourself in the position of this country. Small and geographically isolated, surrounded by terrorist groups and some unfriendly countries, threatened by the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon, and being hit by 1,300 rockets in just the last week. They have no choice but to defend themselves, using all the power at their disposal. They have no choice. And not only should no one here be criticizing that, but we should be supporting it and aligning ourselves 100 percent on their side.

“Because what they are fighting for here, this is not some dispute over borders. This is not some geopolitical dispute about who owns what territory. Israel is fighting for their very survival. On the other side of this conflict is a terrorist organization bent on their destruction. On the other side of this conflict is a terrorist organization in Hamas, and truth be told, the Palestinian Authority whose schools teach children not just to hate Israel, but to hate Jews. And how could you possibly say you are for peace when your schools are actively teaching your children to hate another people? That’s what’s on the other side of this conflict. And so Israel has no choice.

“They are fighting for their very survival. And I think that now more than ever, what they need from this country is a president and a U.S. government that aligns itself squarely on their side. No double-talk, no fancy diplomatic language that you can read between the lines on. A very clear statement. In this conflict, we are on Israel’s side, and we will support them with anything they need to ensure their stability and their survival. Very clear language that makes it unequivocally clear: Hamas is a terrorist organization, not a legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Palestinian people, but a terrorist organization designed for the very purpose of destroying the Jewish state. We need to make these things abundantly clear, because otherwise we’re going to see more of this in the years to come. If there is any daylight between the United States and Israel, it emboldens Israel’s enemies.”

“So, I just came to the floor to reiterate, not just my personal support for the state of Israel, but to reiterate how strongly I believe virtually every member of this body supports the state of Israel, supports Israel’s right to defend itself, supports the United States’ alliance with Israel, supports doing everything we must and can do to help Israel defend herself. I think that’s an important message to send out. And the last thing I would say is I would ask those who watched the speech or who will hear these words later, take time over the next few days and pray for Israel. It needs our support there as well, that God will provide her the safety and security of her people now and in the years to come.”

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Progressive Choice Florida, a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization, issued the following statement praising Thursday's court ruling declaring Florida's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional (Huntsman v. Heavilin):

“Progressive Choice applauds Judge Garcia’s ruling declaring Florida’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional (Huntsman v. Heavilin: Case No. 2014-CA-0305-K, 16th Judicial Circuit, Monroe County, Fla.). We celebrate this victory for equality, which isn’t just a victory for Florida, but for the nation as well. As Judge Garcia wrote in his decision, ‘… it is our country's proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and the rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority.’

“Today’s decision brings marriage equality to an additional 6 percent of the country’s population, but LGBT Americans in 29 other states continue to fight for the same legal liberties that have been unjustly afforded exclusively to straight Americans. Progressive Choice remains steadfast in its work to reduce barriers to individual rights – rights that should be equal, regardless of what state you live in.

“While it is unfortunate that the right to marry the person you love is something that actually needs to be fought for in 21st century America, Progressive Choice remains in this fight until the end. Today, though, we celebrate this important victory for equality, and we welcome Florida to the right side of history on this fundamental issue.”

Progressive Choice works to protect core values like women's access to health care, marriage equality, public safety through gun control and public education funding for children and families. The organization "represents a diverse coalition of fair-minded, forward-thinking individuals and organizations advocating for progressive principles and issues that grant equal individual rights for all."

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Social conservatives are pushing back against Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia allowing same-sex marriage in the Keys. Under Garcia’s ruling, same- sex couples can marry in Monroe County starting on Tuesday. After 62 percent of voters passed an amendment in 2008, the Florida Constitution allows only traditional marriage to be recognized in the Sunshine State.

John Stemberger, the president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council was active in establishing the amendment back in 2008 and he criticized Garcia’s decision on Thursday.

"Today's ruling by Judge Garcia, in the Florida Keys, is a stunning act of legal arrogance and raw judicial activism,” Stemberger said. “With one stoke of a pen, a mere trial judge has attempted to overthrow an act of direct democracy by 5 million Floridians who defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Judge Garcia has ignored the Constitution, ignored the will of the people, and has asserted his own personal views over the rule of law. This ruling is precisely what voters were trying to prevent when they overwhelmingly defined marriage in the Florida Constitution in 2008 by a 62 percent vote. Judge Garcia's reliance on the Windsor decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 is wrong-sided and completely misplaced. Windsor was a state's rights decision and affirmed that each state has the right to define marriage. Instead of relying on the Constitution, Garcia joined the judicial stampede of other lower federal judges who have tried to override marriage laws based on no precedent other than their own political agendas. The judge's opinion that the motivation for passing the marriage amendment was animus and hatred is simply outrageous and insults 5 million Floridians. We thank Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for filing an immediate appeal to the court to stay its order until the federal courts can rule on the constitutional issues and appeal this insubordinate decision."
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Miami-Dade County School Board member Carlos Curbelo launched two new TV ads, one in English and one in Spanish, as he heads into the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla. Curbelo is the favorite over the Republican field which has shrunk since former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla., announced earlier this month he was abandoning his congressional bid but would look to return to Tallahassee in 2016 by running for the Florida House.

In his English-language ad, Curbelo tries to stress he will be a breath of fresh air compared to Garcia and Rivera who have been plagued by scandals.

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“It’s not easy to clean up the mess when it’s been sitting for too long,” Curbelo says in the ad. "Like corrupt politicians. They get rich. We get forgotten. We need new leaders who will look out for Florida families, not themselves.”

Curbelo plays up the same theme in his Spanish language ad.

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“We live in a great community, but corruption has left us lacking good jobs and with a stagnant economy," Curbelo says in translation. “As the son of exiles, I’m proud of what my parents and their generation have accomplished. I want the same for my daughters. That’s why I have worked to improve education. Washington needs better ideas and someone who will represent you with integrity. I ask for your vote to be that voice in Congress. I’m Carlos Curbelo, and I approve this message.”
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Former Gov. Charlie Crist named Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Annette Taddeo-Goldstein as his running mate to take back his old job on Thursday. Crist made the announcement in Miami.

Taddeo-Goldstein checks off two important boxes for Crist -- she's from South Florida, is a woman, and she's Colombian-American, which would help Crist with Hispanic voters. 

“As a working mom, a small business owner and a Floridian, I am proud to serve this state that has given me so many opportunities,” said Taddeo Goldstein. "Unfortunately, too many people across Florida are feeling left out and behind.”

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.
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The Florida congressman and congresswoman leading their parties on the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee -- U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who serves as chairwoman, and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. -- introduced a resolution condemning Hamas and other terrorist groups for using human shields.

“Hamas has proven that it has no respect for innocent Israeli life with its continued onslaught of indiscriminate rocket fire on civilian populations, and it once again is showing it has no respect for the lives of the Palestinian people by using them as human shields,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Wednesday. “Abu Mazen must demand that Hamas cease its attacks against the people of Israel and its use of Palestinians, including women and children, as human shields. This resolution sends a strong message that Congress condemns these cowardly acts, and that we stand in support of our friend and ally, the democratic Jewish state of Israel, and for those Palestinian people who truly seek peace with Israel and who oppose Hamas and its use of terror.”

“Hamas continues to put the lives of innocent Palestinians at risk every day by hiding its rocket-making factories, launchers and weapons stockpiles in civilians areas,” Deutch said. “As Israel warns civilians of forthcoming strikes on terrorist targets, Hamas repeatedly tells the people of Gaza to ignore these warnings. Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields is deplorable and should be condemned by any nation that values human rights.”
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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., to unveil the “Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act" on Wednesday. The proposal would adjust federal student loan payments based on income.

The senators released a joint statement on their proposal:

“On average, today’s graduates carry nearly $30,000 in student loan debt. But our current loan repayment system often turns what should be reasonable debts into crippling payments. Some graduates are forced to work multiple jobs, often in fields they didn’t train for, simply to keep from defaulting on these loans.

“Current income-driven repayment plans are underutilized because the system is so complicated. Our proposal doesn’t just layer another option on top of existing plans. Instead, it will streamline the current repayment options into a simpler, user-friendly repayment plan, one that automatically adjusts to the changes in a borrower’s income with none of the hassle or paperwork required in the current system.  

“This issue is personal for both of us. Neither of us could have attended college were it not for federal student loans. We both remember months when our paychecks were low and we weren’t sure if we could make our payments. Each of us has heard from constituents affected by crippling student debt. Our Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act will provide an additional tool to help borrowers meet their obligations, and this must be part of a broader conversation about how to make higher education more affordable.” 
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The U.S House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously passed U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland’s, R-Fla., “Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act” on Wednesday. Southerland’s bill prevents the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers from regulating most waters, leaving the task mostly to the states as has been the case for more than four decades under the Clean Water Act.
“I am pleased that Republicans and Democrats on the committee acted in a bipartisan fashion to recognize the role that states must play in regulating waters within their respective boundaries,” said Southerland after the vote. “By turning back the administration’s brazen power grab, we’ve stood in defense of a federal/state partnership that has worked for 40 years under the Clean Water Act. As a result, we’ve taken the first step in restoring certainty for the farmers, manufacturers, and construction and transportation industries that drive America’s economic growth.”

The vote won the praise of the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) and the Florida Farm Bureau.
“Associated Industries of Florida and our members applaud today’s passage of Congressman Southerland’s Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014,” said Brewster Bevis, AIF’s senior vice president of state and federal affairs. “Enactment of this legislation is vital to protecting Florida’s employers from job-killing overreach by the federal government, specifically the EPA. Through our Florida H2O Coalition, we are committed to water quality and quantity issues facing Florida and today’s action by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee speaks volumes.”

“Today, the members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reaffirmed their commitment to protecting family farms and ranches from unconstitutional government intrusion with the passage of HR 5078,” said John Hoblick, the president of the Florida Farm Bureau. “I’m proud that a member of Florida’s congressional delegation, Rep. Steve Southerland, has chosen to champion this issue for Florida’s growers.”
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U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, managed $1.1 billion in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) cuts into the Fiscal Year 2015 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill (HR 5016). The bill passed the full House on Wednesday.

“When your report card is nothing but a long list of bad grades, you should not be rewarded. This legislation forces the Internal Revenue Service back to the books for some homework -- lots of it -- to clean up its act,” said Crenshaw after the vote. “In that process, Americans received a commitment from Congress today to hold the Internal Revenue Service accountable for every taxpayer dollar it spends, to protect constitutional rights, and to rein in out-of-control spending.”

Crenshaw noted recent IRS abuses including targeting conservative and tea party groups and noted his bill would help keep the agency from being used to fund President Barack Obama’s health-care law.

“By cutting IRS funding to its lowest levels since 2003, the bill forces the agency to focus on its core mission,” Crenshaw said. “No more meddling in Americans’ health care, suppressing free speech of nonprofits, targeting groups based on political belief, or squandering money on bonuses for tax cheats, silly videos and lavish conferences.

“With so many troubles afoot, the IRS should not be in the health-care business,” Crenshaw added. “That’s why the bill expressly prohibits the use of funds or additional funding for the implementation of Obamacare. Moreover, to protect Americans from having their constitutional rights abused, we’ve prohibited the use of funding for targeting groups based on political belief.

“I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who supported this bill,” said Crenshaw in conclusion. “In large and small communities across this country, it’s fair to say that you don’t get rewarded for poor performance. The same must hold true for the federal government. We have a long way to go, but I am proud to have helped begun to put the Internal Revenue Service on track.”
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A prominent Florida teachers' union is taking legal action over the state's recently passed voucher law, which would expand Florida's voucher program as well as create personal learning accounts for students with disabilities. 

Tom Faasse of the Florida Education Association filed the suit in Leon County against Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Cabinet and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart over the bill, which passed on the last day of this year's legislative session. The lawsuit seeks to find the legislation unconstitutional.

SB 850 started out as a five-page bill in February and originally aimed to expand Florida's collegiate high school program, but as the legislation made its way through various committees in the Florida House and Senate, additional measures were tacked onto the legislation, eventually resulting in the bill expanding to 40 pages addressing a variety of issues and subjects related to education.

Faasse argues the legislation contains too many subjects -- under the Florida Constitution, the Legislature has restricted authority to create laws and each law must "embrace but one subject" which should also be expressed in the bill's title. The FEA alleges that the bill violates the Constitution for this reason.

“Is this any way to pass laws?” Faasse said. “The people of Florida should expect that laws are clearly expressed and properly vetted and that laws that failed to pass shouldn’t be tacked onto unrelated legislation at the eleventh hour.”

FEA Vice President Joanne McCall also expressed discontentment over the last-minute additions. 

“It’s an outrage that corporate voucher expansion was tacked onto an unrelated bill and slipped into law on the session’s final day,” McCall said. “These voucher schools have little regulation, don’t have to follow the state’s academic standards, don’t have to hire qualified teachers and don’t have to prove to the state that they are using public money wisely. There’s no link between vouch­ers and gains in student achievement. Yet the Legislature continues to expand voucher schools instead of providing proper funding for our neighborhood public schools.”

Faasse's filing drew criticism from some education advocacy groups in the state, which called the lawsuit "a new low" for the FEA.  

"It is shameful that [the FEA] would spend teachers’ hard-earned dollars to block opportunities for our most vulnerable students," said Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. “As a society, we must work to unlock education opportunities for students who need them the most. Senate Bill 850 will help children with Down syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities have greater choices and the critical support necessary for successful education outcomes. There are those who believe families should have options and trust parents in those decisions for their kids. And sadly, there are those who find educational choices threatening to their political power.

“The FEA’s actions send a message that it is OK to overlook some students. This is wrong. The parents and students waiting in line for these options deserve better.” 

View the complaint here.

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The Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police announced on Wednesday that it was backing Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo in his bid to defeat U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., in November.
“Carlos Curbelo will make a strong advocate for his constituency and law enforcement,” said James Preston, the president of the  Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police. “We feel that he will serve the citizens of his community and the state of Florida well. He has a clear plan for his community and we look forward to working with him in the future, to protect the rights of law enforcement and the citizens of Florida.”
"I am honored to have the support of the men and women who keep our streets and schools safe,” Curbelo said. “Like the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, I value integrity and effectiveness in government, and in Washington, I will always be available to listen to the needs and concerns of our first responders."
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Rick Scott's campaign announced the “Sportsmen For Scott” coalition on Tuesday in Orlando.

The coalition will be led from sportsmen across the state, such as TV hosts Roland Martin, Peter Miller, Scott Martin and Rick Murphy, and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris.

According to a press release, the coalition will be led by 19 statewide co-chairs, which will include U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City. 

“I have been fishing in Florida’s waters for decades, and I understand the need to have a leader in office who will promote outdoor recreation and sporting activities in our state," said Roland Martin, host of the “Fishing with Roland Martin” TV series. "Gov. Rick Scott is that leader, and I am in full support of him as a member of this sportsmen coalition.”

“Gov. Scott is a reliable champion for the hunters, fishermen, wildlife activists, and conservationists in our state," said U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller. "As an avid hunter and sportsman, I know how important it is to make sure we continue to protect the constitutional rights of citizens to keep and bear arms, as well as promote responsible fishing and wildlife management across Florida.”

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U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., offered her take on Democratic chances to flip the U.S. House in November -- and said it comes down to Florida.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Pelosi said on Wednesday that she sees a way for Democrats to pick up 25 seats from Republicans and flip the chamber. Pointing to a decision from Judge Terry Lewis last week that ruled the seats currently held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., do not pass constitutional muster, Pelosi said it could help Democrats in the Sunshine State.

“Florida, you know is big for us,” Pelosi said. “We’ll see how it goes. We have a few and we won that [legal] decision. Now we’ll see what the judge says about where we go from here, for now and for the future, but it really was necessary. It was a major involvement all around. But worth it.”

"I want 25, so how do we get 25?” Pelosi continued. “Well, it depends on how we do in Florida."

“How many do you think are in play now in Florida that they’ve made that ruling?” Ed O’Keefe from the Post asked Pelosi.

"It depends on the judge,” Pelosi answered. “He’s called in the lawyers. That’s what I read in the papers. What I’ve read in the papers is that he’s calling in the lawyers, and I don’t know what he’ll do next. Could be three seats, but what it does is, even if it’s not three seats, it’ll make our others easier."

Currently, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has only one Florida Republican in its various target lists: U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland.
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From his perch on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., took aim at comments made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a recent interview in which he said “the immigration laws are being enforced." DeSantis, a frequent critic of Holder, fired back on Tuesday.

“I'm still trying to figure out if he was joking,” DeSantis insisted. “Take, for example, the DHS report from earlier this year about the government's release of criminal illegal aliens. These are individuals who were unlawfully present in the country and who were convicted of a serious criminal offense. According to the DHS report, ICE released more than 36,000 criminal convicts during fiscal year 2013 alone instead of returning them to the home country as required by law.

DeSantis continued: “The breakdown of offenses provided by DHS is stunning, and includes the following offenses: 193 homicide convictions (including one willful killing of a public official with gun); 426 sexual assault convictions; 303 kidnapping convictions; 1,075 aggravated assault convictions; 1,160 stolen vehicle convictions; 9,187 dangerous drug convictions;16,070 drunk or drugged driving convictions; 303 flight escape convictions.

“Releasing convicted criminals back into American society is contrary to the safety and welfare of the American people,” DeSantis concluded. “It also sends a message to those who contemplate illegally entering the U.S. that the government is not serious about law enforcement.”
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Pinellas County seems to be getting a little colder toward its hometown gubernatorial candidate, according to a new poll. 

The StPetePolls survey, which was commissioned by SaintPetersBlog, questioned 607 random voters within those registered in SD 22, which covers southern Pinellas and part of Hillsborough County. Only those planning to cast votes in November were included in the poll.

When it came to whether respondents would choose to vote for Gov. Rick Scott or Crist, voters were split, with each candidate receiving under 44 percent. 

Crist easily won the vote in Pinellas County during his Senate bid in 2010 as well as his first gubernatorial bid in 2006. Crist also took Pinellas County during his 2002 bid for attorney general -- in fact, the only time Crist lost an election in his home county was in 1998 during his Senate quest against popular incumbent Bob Graham. It seems somewhat surprising, then, that Crist and Scott would be so close in Pinellas for a candidate who's taken the county in nearly every major election he's participated in over the last 15 years. 

StPetePolls took the poll on July 14 using a sample size of 574 likely SD 22 voters. The margin of error is +/- 4.1 percent, with 95 percent confidence level.

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