Sunshine State News Blogs

Gov. Rick Scott released a statement on Thursday following the shooting at the Florida State University (FSU) library in Tallahassee. Three students were wounded and police killed the gunmen.

Scott’s statement:

“Our prayers are with the families and loved ones of everyone touched by this tragedy. We still have a lot of questions that are unanswered.

“The police investigation will answer many of the questions we are asking today. But, just like any tragedy, the ultimate question of ‘why?’ will never have an answer that satisfies those whose loved ones have been injured or killed. For that reason, I am asking everyone on FSU’s campus and everyone across our state, and even the nation, to pray for FSU today. Pray for our state – and every student and family affected by this tragedy.

“Second, I want to thank the FSU Police Department and the Tallahassee Police Department for their quick response in keeping this campus safe. Because of your hard work and training – your response time was almost immediate and the campus is once again safe for students.

“While our hearts are broken for the injuries and the loss of life that occurred here last night, I have every confidence that FSU will become an even stronger campus as they come together and heal from this tragedy.

“The people of Florida, and especially those on our distinguished university campuses, are remarkable people. Everyone on this campus came here for a dream. They are dreaming of bigger and better things for their lives. They have careers they want to pursue; businesses they want to start; dreams of building a family … and that all starts right here with getting a great education at FSU.

“I know every Seminole has the heart of a dreamer. And, every dreamer is resilient. I look forward to seeing the FSU community all across our state and nation come together and lean on each other in the days ahead. And, I know the unparalleled leadership of President John Thrasher will be vital to this school’s healing and continued sense of pride and unity.

“In closing, I want to address the students on this campus: As a father of two daughters who both went away to college not too long ago, I can imagine the anxiety your parents are feeling today. Please take time to call them and let them know how you are doing. Talk to them about how this has affected you. If you don’t want to talk to your parents, please talk to someone at your church, synagogue or one of the consolers being organized by FSU.

“We live in a world today that is always moving on to the next thing. But, I want to encourage you to take time and process the tragedy that happened here last night and not simply ignore it. This will ultimately be the most important thing you can do to move forward, grow stronger, and appreciate each and every precious day given to us by God.

“Finally, I am planning to connect with the families of those students still in the hospital and hopefully visit them there later today. We will continue to release additional information as the results of the investigation develop.” 

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U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., will take over as chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations.

“I am honored to have been chosen to chair the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development,” Diaz-Balart said on Thursday. “I look forward to working with House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers and other committee members to best solve our nation’s transportation and housing issues. It is of utmost importance that we prioritize transportation initiatives that will improve our local communities, while also providing housing solutions for those most in need. I will work tirelessly to uphold the high standards established by former subcommittee chairmen, including the Honorable Tom Latham and our very own South Floridian, the Honorable Bill Lehman. I would like to thank Chairman Rogers for this opportunity and am grateful for his continued friendship and leadership.”

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Just elected to his first full term in the U.S. House, U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., was named to the Appropriations Committee.

‭“‬I am honored and humbled to be named to the Committee on Appropriations,” Jolly said on Thursday.‭ “‬It is the ultimate watchdog committee,‭ ‬scrutinizing virtually every federal program,‭ ‬identifying and eliminating duplicative federal services and areas of waste,‭ ‬fraud,‭ ‬and abuse.‭ ‬The committee is also the body that identifies areas of critical national investment from national security‭ ‬to early childhood education,‭ ‬to the environment,‭ ‬to transportation and infrastructure.‭ ‬And finally,‭ ‬the committee is the place of first response within the Congress to national emergencies like hurricanes and natural disasters,‭ ‬and matters of international conflict and war.

‭“‬Over the next two years,‭ ‬Congress and the president will be looking for areas to work together but will naturally face areas of strong but constructive disagreement,” Jolly added. “As a guardian of taxpayer dollars,‭ ‬I look forward to working with the other committee members in a transparent way to protect taxpayers‭’ ‬interests."

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Florida House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, named some of his leadership team on Wednesday. Pafford leads a diminished Democratic caucus as six House incumbents lost in the elections held earlier in the month and Republicans have a veto-proof majority.

Pafford named Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, who was returned to the House by Broward County voters, as Democratic policy chair. Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, will be floor leader while Rep. Clovis Watson, D-Alachua, will be the whip.

“We’re a good team. All of us in the Democratic Caucus will be more effective with these members in these important posts,” Pafford said. “House Democrats depend on each other and we all can lean on these lawmakers. The different routes they’ve taken to the Legislature, and the experiences they have, make them able leaders. They’ll be a huge help to me and Rep. Jones.”

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U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, will have a busy Thanksgiving season since his “Achieving a Better Life Experience Act” (ABLE Act) will hit the House floor in early December. Crenshaw’s bill would create tax-free savings accounts for disabled Americans .

“The ABLE Act is headed for a vote in December – testament to the widespread support for millions who face the daily struggle of living with disabilities,” Crenshaw said on Wednesday. “They deserve the same financial planning tools available to other Americans. My bill gives them just that by empowering families to live healthy and independent lives through tax-free savings accounts.

“Step-by-step with focus and teamwork, ABLE has earned more bipartisan, bicameral support than any other bill in Congress, and I’m excited for its passage,” Crenshaw added. “Easing financial strains through tax-free savings accounts for qualified expenses such as medical, post-secondary education, housing, and transportation, the ABLE Act would provide a brighter future for millions of Americans.

“No longer would they have to stand by and watch others use Internal Revenue Service-sanctioned tools that are unavailable to them,” Crenshaw continued. “The playing field would finally be level. It creates incentives to employment for individuals with disabilities by allowing them to contribute to their own ABLE accounts and seek out employment opportunities without the fear of losing benefits.”

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U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., the vice chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, testified in front of the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health on Wednesday about giving veterans more medical choices. Bilirakis showcased his “Creating Options for Veterans’ Expedited Recovery (COVER) Act” in his testimony which includes alternative therapies in VA care.

“While it is vital that veterans receive the care they need, it is equally important to recognize that one size does not fit all when discussing treatments for veterans,” Bilirakis said. “The invisible wounds they sustain serving our country are just as serious as physical ones. While many veterans may thrive under traditional plans and medical care, some may not be as responsive. We need to provide veterans with choices and easy access to alternative forms of therapies that work best for them.

“The COVER Act will ascertain the viability of alternative treatments, providing a pathway forward that will eventually allow veterans to have a range of options for mental health treatments. such as outdoor sports therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, accelerated resolution therapy, and service dog therapy,” Bilirakis added.

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After Adrian Wyllie took 4 percent in the Florida gubernatorial earlier this month, the state Libertarian Party is looking to expand and become a major party.

Danielle Alexandre, who was Wyllie’s campaign manager, sent out an email to supporters late on Wednesday focusing on the future.

“Our team has been working since the election on some exciting new initiatives and projects. Liberty needs a voice in Tallahassee and it is upon all of us to ensure that it gets there,” Alexandre wrote. “We have devised an approach that works on both sides of the political spectrum. One aspect will be through the Libertarian Party of Florida, the other will be to go directly to Tallahassee with our message. These are both desperately needed to interject some common-sense solutions into our government but also change the landscape for future principled candidates.

“This election showed that some of the barriers known to third-party candidates can be broken through, but it was not enough,” Alexandre added. “While we were ending the media blackout and the campaign was making history in fundraising and support, the inclusion into the debates was critical.

“This is why Adrian and our team has started the 5 percent project,” Alexandre continued. “In the state of Florida, a party whose registration numbers make up 5 percent of the voting public is considered a major party. That would mean that the Libertarian Party of Florida would be seen on an even playing field with the Republicans and Democrats. Our candidates will have to be included in the debates, in the media coverage and will be listed with every county supervisor of elections office the same as the other two. In Florida, it will no longer be a two-party system but a three-party system.”

Alexandre urged supporters to join the party and looked at Wyllie’s new work as a lobbyist for the Liberty First Network.

“While we are building for the future, we must keep our voices heard in Tallahassee. That is why Adrian has joined the Liberty First Network as the newest lobbyist working toward a better Florida,” Alexandre wrote. “I know it's hard to think of a lobbyist doing something positive at all. but the Liberty First Network has been on the forefront on many of the same issues that we built this campaign on. Real ID, property rights, Common Core are all issues that the Liberty First Network has been advocating for the people of Florida and against the cronyism that has become rampant."


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On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., announced he was co-sponsoring U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson’s, R-Texas, bill to deny Social Security benefits to Nazi war criminals. Johnson unveiled the bill on Wednesday night. The “No Social Security for Nazis Act” will deny Social Security and other benefits to Nazis who have lost their American citizenship due to their actions in the 1930s and 1940s.

“No Social Security for Hitler’s henchmen,” Buchanan said. “At a time when our own war heroes are denied proper health care, it’s obscene that our government is rewarding former Nazis with Social Security benefits.”

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At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., pressed Antony Blinken on U.S. policy toward Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba. Blinken is President Barack Obama’s nominee to be deputy secretary of state.

On Wednesday, Blinken said the administration backed Rubio’s “Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014” which would impose sanctions on leaders of the Maduro regime.

But Rubio was less than happy with Blinken’s responses on Cuba and Colombia.

“I am encouraged that the Obama administration finally announced its support for legislation pending before the Senate that would impose visa and financial sanctions on individuals committing human rights abuses in Venezuela,” Rubio said after the hearing. “In addition to the visa freezes the administration is already implementing against such individuals, they should immediately freeze the financial assets of these individuals. With respect to Colombia, it is important that the U.S. make clear that Colombian drug traffickers serving in U.S. prisons will serve out their sentences, regardless of what demands may be made in negotiations with the FARC. On Cuba, I am very concerned that President Obama’s nominee to be John Kerry’s deputy at the Department of State passed up several opportunities today to categorically rule out the possibility of unilateral changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba. Unless Cuba begins an irreversible democratic transformation, the U.S. should not reward the Castro regime with unilateral concessions from us that enrich the regime and help it repress millions of Cubans.”

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U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., will stay as the ranking Democrat on the House Committee of Veterans Affairs despite drawing fire from veterans groups.  With the support of U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Brown dispatched a challenge from U.S. Rep. Tim Waltz, D-Minn.

“I am humbled and honored by the opportunity to serve as the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs for the 114th Congress, and I wholeheartedly appreciate the support of my Democratic colleagues,” Brown said after being selected on Wednesday. “I am very much looking forward to serving our nation’s veterans in this new position and working to make sure these men and women get the care and benefits they earned through their service to our nation.

“During the upcoming session, some of the key issues I plan to address in committee include fully implementing the Veterans Access, Care and Affordability Act, and ensuring that our nation’s brave, returning soldiers have all the resources they need to transition to civilian life,” Brown added. “I will also continue my advocacy to get all of the VA Medical Centers opened as soon as possible.

“I look forward to working with our veteran stakeholders to ensure that the VA has the resources necessary to provide superior health care to our veterans, and in particular resources for our nation’s rapidly increasing population of women veterans,” Brown said in conclusion, promising to work with her chairman, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. “I also look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Miller and the rest of the committee in the upcoming 114th Congress. I am certain that the hard-working committee members will work hard to move meaningful legislation that will benefit our nation’s veterans.”

Brown’s retention drew the fire of Concerned Veterans for America. Pete Hegseth, the CEO of Concerned Veterans for America, labeled Brown as “an apologist for the status quo at the VA, and at worst totally detached from reality” as the VA deals with the aftermath of reports of altered waiting lists at medical facilities across the nation. In Phoenix, at least 40 veterans who were impacted by altered waiting lists died while waiting for treatment.

“Rep. Brown has consistently dismissed the pervasive problems at the VA in the face of overwhelming evidence of the department’s cultural and structural issues, including asserting immediately after the VA scandal that ‘we’re doing fine in Florida,’ when clinics in her district have some of the worst wait times in the nation,” insisted Hegseth.

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., part of the Republican leadership as senior deputy majority whip, came out swinging on Thursday morning against President Barack Obama’s plan to use executive power to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.

“Two weeks ago, President Obama stood before the American people and announced that he had heard the voters’ message,” Ross said on Thursday. “But the underlying meaning of the following statement proves that his agenda is contrary to what Americans desire: ‘Still, as president, I have a unique responsibility to try to make this town work.’ Actions speak louder than words, and the president’s ‘unique responsibility’ of ignoring the will of the American people, and circumventing the United States Congress, is the wrong course of action. If the president goes forward as planned, I suspect his ‘immigration reform’ will have the same negative outcome as his ‘health care reform.’

“I have repeatedly stated that the best way to address immigration reform is with incremental steps, with the first critical step being to secure our borders,” Ross added. “Instead, the president is headed to Las Vegas to gamble away our national security by granting massive amnesty rights while failing to secure our border. The president’s go-it-alone attitude will cause irreparable harm to any effort to reform our immigration system and ruin any chance of having a positive working relationship with Congress during his final two years in office. I implore President Obama to reconsider his executive action and instead work with Congress, and the majority of the American people, on a real solution.”

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A lone gunman made his way through a crowded library at Florida State University early Thursday morning, injuring three people before being shot and killed by campus police. 

The gunman has not been identified.

According to Tallahassee Police Department spokesperson David Northway, the shooter walked inside the entrance to FSU’s crowded Strozier Library around 12:30 a.m. and opened fire on people in the library. 

Three victims injured in the incident were all students.

One of the students is in critical condition, the other is in fair condition. The third student was grazed by a bullet but was treated and released at the scene. 

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates. 


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Some 20-plus communities in the nation, including the Seminole Tribe of Florida, will share out $600,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency money for training and technical assistance to help water utilities bolster their climate change resilience and readiness.

The EPA made its assistance announcement Wednesday.

“Climate change isn’t a distant threat -- it is already impacting communities across the country,” said Ken Kopocis, deputy assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Water. "EPA is helping water utilities plan for and adapt to these challenges to ensure that they can continue to meet their public health and environmental missions no matter what circumstances may arise in the future.”

Drinking water, wastewater and stormwater utilities will participate in a multi-year program to prepare for potential impacts from climate change. Challenges include droughts, more intense and frequent storms, flooding, sea-level rise and changes to water quality.

Communities will receive technical assistance in using EPA's Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool. That's software that helps users identify assets, threats and "adaptation options" to help reduce risk from climate change.

Communities receiving assistance from EPA include -- 

  •  Auburn, Ala.
  •  Austin, Texas
  •  Blair, Neb.
  •  Bozeman, Mont.
  •  Faribault, Minn.
  •  Fredericktown, Mo.
  •  Haworth, N.J.
  •  Helena, Mont.
  •  Henryville, Ind.
  •  Hillsboro, Kan.
  •  Houston, Texas
  •  Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass.
  •  Nome, Alaska
  •  Norfolk, Va.
  •  Portsmouth, N.H.
  •  Redwood Valley, Calif.
  •  Sandpoint, Idaho
  •  Seminole Tribe of Florida

During each risk assessment, EPA claims, utilities will consider potential future climate change impacts in an effort to build more climate-ready and resilient water services and infrastructure. 

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., continues to go to bat for U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., as he looks to take down U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

“In Louisiana, Bill Cassidy is in a runoff with liberal Senator Mary Landrieu,” Rubio wrote supporters of his Reclaim America PAC on Wednesday. “National Democrats need Landrieu to win, or their hopes to stop our plan to repeal and replace Obamacare will take a huge hit. So I'm hitting the ground this week with Bill Cassidy. I'll be in Louisiana helping him get out the early vote and making sure we win this runoff.

“No matter where you are in the country, Louisiana matters,” Rubio added. “The larger our majority, the easier it will be to pass real conservative reforms that will help us restore the American dream.”

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The House Republican Steering Committee announced its recommended committee chairmen for the 114th Congress on Wednesday and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., will continue to preside over the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Miller had been angling to lead the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence but that post went to U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

“Today we face a sophisticated and determined terrorist enemy that is intent on killing more and more Americans, not to mention innocents around the globe,” said U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Wednesday. “ We also face rogue states like Iran and North Korea that continue to thumb their noses at the United States. The world is becoming increasingly dangerous and the Intelligence Committee is vital to our efforts to protect the American people. Over the past four years, Devin has been instrumental in ensuring that our intelligence professionals have the resources they need to keep America safe. He has asked tough questions and conducted serious oversight to hold the Obama administration accountable. I look forward to working with him as the next chairman of the Intelligence Committee.”

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On Wednesday, after two Palestinian terrorists attacked a synagogue in Jerusalem, killing four rabbis, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, took to the House floor. In her speech, Ros-Lehtinen called for ending federal taxpayer dollars going to the Palestinian Authority and groups with ties to Hamas.

“I rise today to express my deepest condolences to the families of the four Israelis – three of whom are also American citizens -- who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists in Jerusalem during morning prayers in a synagogue,” Ros-Lehtinen said on the House floor. “My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Israel who again have to endure another tragedy at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.

“It is no coincidence that this latest string of attacks on innocent Israelis comes after the supreme leader of Iran urged Palestinians to use violence against Israel and called for Israel’s destruction, as did the terrorist group Hamas,” Ros-Lehtinen continued. “This is another example of Iran’s dangerous meddling in an effort to attack our U.S. interests and Israel, and Hamas’ continued incitement of violence and terror. There is now a clear link to terrorism in both the West Bank and Gaza, and there can be no U.S. taxpayer dollars going to support a unity government that is backed by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.”

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Former St. Johns County Commissioner Ron Sanchez filed his paperwork on Tuesday to run in the special election for the Florida House seat vacated when Rep. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, decided to run in the special election for an open Florida Senate seat. Sanchez, who was nominated by Gov. Rick Scott to serve on the federal Selective Service System Local Board in Florida, is running as a Republican.

Sanchez was first elected to the County Commission in 2006 but lost his bid for another term to Jeb Smith this year.

The Republican primary field is growing crowded as Sanchez joins Jacksonville attorney Paul Renner, Palm Coast business leader Donald O’Brien and Sheamus John McNeely in the Republican primary on Jan. 27. The winner will face Democrat Thomas Adam Morley in the special election on April 7.

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., part of the House leadership as senior deputy majority whip, pointed to numbers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which found health-care costs on the rise in Central Florida. Blaming President Barack Obama’s health-care law for the rise, Ross noted premiums went up 14.9 percent in his home base of Polk County and 19.2 percent in Hillsborough County.

“Last Friday, the Obama administration released the estimated costs of health care policies for 2015 under Obamacare, the un-Affordable Care Act,” Ross said on Tuesday. “Premium costs have continued to rise since the law was implemented and Floridians are paying for it. In our congressional district, costs will have increased an average of 17.05 percent. President Obama knew millions of Americans would not be able to afford his health insurance, as did the controversial professor who helped engineer this flawed law.

We must reform the health care system to put patients and doctors in control of health care decisions, not Washington bureaucrats,” Ross added.

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Count former Gov. Mike Dukakis, D-Mass., as “underwhelmed” by former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., but insisted he was “fundamentally conservative.” Dukakis, who lost to Bush’s father in the 1988 presidential race, talked to U.S. News and World Report on the 2014 elections and the 2016 presidential contest:

Q: Who do you think on the Republican side is a legitimate messenger?

Dukakis: In 1996, I debated Jeb Bush. He was for [Bob] Dole and I was for [President Bill] Clinton, at the University of Tennessee. I got to tell you, I was underwhelmed. But who knows, he might be a credible candidate.

Q: Why was he underwhelming?

Dukakis: I didn’t see a lot there. Very conservative. I was amazed at how fundamentally conservative he was, philosophically and otherwise.

Q: You know, the problem with him now in the Republican Party is that he’s not conservative enough.

Dukakis: I know that, but consider the source. 

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Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam endorsed former Rep. Travis Hutson over former Rep. Doc Renuart in the Jan. 27 Republican primary in the special election for the Florida Senate seat vacated by former Sen. John Thrasher.

“Travis Hutson is a committed conservative who is devoted to helping Northeast Florida thrive,” said Putnam on Tuesday. “I know he will work tirelessly to grow the Northeast Florida jobs base and improve the economy and education system. Travis Hutson is a true leader, and I am proud to support him.”

“Commissioner Putnam has not only dedicated himself to helping Florida’s agriculture industry, but our entire state, and I greatly appreciate his support for my campaign,” said Hutson. “I look forward to having the opportunity to continue to serve Northeast Florida, and I am humbled to have received the commissioner’s endorsement.”

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With four rabbis killed by Palestinian terrorists in Jerusalem this week, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., called for freezing federal aid to the Palestinian Authority.

“This act of cold-blooded violence is an abomination,” said Buchanan. “Releasing millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars to the Palestinian Authority is outrageous. How can we justify this? We need to send an undeniable message to the world that actions do indeed have consequences.”

Buchanan is the only member of the Florida delegation on the Ways and Means Committee.

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Noting that newly elected Gwen Graham, the Democrat who beat U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., earlier this month, said she would not vote for U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to lead her party’s caucus, conservative group Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) took her to task.

On Tuesday, the CLF pointed to reports showing Pelosi had been elected to lead Democrats without any opposition. 

“Gwen Graham has just arrived to prepare for her seat in Congress, but it appears she’s already gone Washington,” CLF emailed the media on Tuesday. “This morning, House Democrats unanimously re-elected Nancy Pelosi as their leader with ‘no nays audible in the room,' including from Gwen Graham.

“North Florida voters are already seeing the real Gwen Graham: good at giving her word, not so good at keeping it,” CLF added.

Graham countered that she did not back Pelosi and will not vote for her as speaker come January. 

“We need new leadership in both parties to move forward, and that’s why I didn’t give my support to Nancy Pelosi today,” Graham said in a statement on Tuesday. “When the vote for leadership happens in January, I will support someone who I believe can bring people together to solve problems.” 

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U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., unveiled a bill to repeal the individual mandate included in President Barack Obama's federal health-care law. Jolly is calling his proposal the‭ “‬Patient Freedom Act of‭ ‬2014.”

‭“‬I believe the American people should be in control of their own health-care coverage decisions,‭ ‬not government,‭ ‬and this bill gives them that freedom,‭” ‬Jolly said on Tuesday. ‭“‬Some may choose coverage that meets the Obamacare requirements.‭ ‬Some may decide such coverage is not right for them.‭ ‬This is about empowering the individual,‭ ‬not government.‭ ‬And it says to the American people the following‭ -‬-‭ ‬if you like your Obamacare,‭ ‬you can keep it. ‭ ‬But if you don’t want the coverage levels of Obamacare,‭ ‬you are empowered and entrusted to make the decision that is right for you."

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Teacher David Cox took 37.5 percent as the Democrat challenger against U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., who won with 62.5 percent. But on Monday, less than two weeks after the final votes were counted, Cox filed to run for the Florida Senate seat opened after Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, resigned to take the helm at Florida State University.

Cox becomes the first Democrat to run for the seat. Already two Republicans in the Florida House -- Travis Hutson of Palm Coast and Doc Renuart of Ponte Vedra Beach -- have filed.

The primary will be held on Jan. 27 with the special election on April 7.

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Reports emerged on Monday that Nicolas Maduro said his regime in Venezuela is running a large spy operation in the U.S. and two Florida Republicans who have been sharp critics -- U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- are targets.

“I'm greatly honored that this despotic regime that imprisons innocent opposition leaders, denies basic human rights to all and kills students peacefully demonstrating in the streets would find me to be a thorn in its side,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Monday. “Being a target of an autocratic regime, whether it is the Castro brothers or Nicolas Maduro, is a badge of honor. The Venezuelan people endure continual violations of their human rights, suffer from a spiraling economy, and live with constant violence sanctioned by the Venezuelan regime.

“This latest episode by the Venezuelan regime is another reaffirmation that the puppeteers in Cuba continue to influence Maduro to adopt a system that denies fundamental freedoms to its people and attacks those who seek justice and liberty,” Ros-Lehtinen added. “Maduro's comrades-in-arms, the Castro brothers, have labeled me as La Loba Feroz (The Ferocious She-Wolf) so I'm honored that another thug would target me for trying to be a voice for the Venezuelan people who are currently suffering under this brutal regime. But I will not be deterred and will continue to push for sanctions for human rights violators in Venezuela.”

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, took aim at the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after news emerged on Monday that it had kidnapped a Colombian general. Rubio said he supported the Colombian government ending peaces talks with FARC.

“Earlier this month, I made an official visit to Bogotá where I met with several Colombian government officials to discuss the future of the U.S.-Colombia alliance,” Rubio said on Monday. “While the U.S.-Colombia relationship has many important dimensions to it, particularly on trade, the main issue on everyone’s minds there was the future of peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC.

“Today’s news that the FARC has kidnapped a Colombian general is a chilling reminder of why a lasting peace with this terrorist group will be extremely difficult to accomplish,” Rubio added. “Ultimately, whether the talks are renewed or not, the Colombian people will decide what the terms of any peace negotiation look like. The U.S. should support the Colombian government’s suspension of talks and recommit ourselves to ensuring that the FARC, which has terrorized the Colombian people for so long and led millions to flee to Florida and elsewhere, is defeated.”

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On Monday, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater named Michelle Dahnke as deputy CFO of the Florida Department of Financial Services. Dahnke will focus on communications.

“Michelle brings our department more than a decade of strategic communications and policy experience on a variety of issues important to the well-being of Florida families,” Atwater said. “I’m confident her expertise will advance our efforts to make our government more transparent and our entire state more consumer- and business-friendly.”

Dahnke had worked in communications for Gov. Rick Scott, the state Agency for Health Care Administration and for the Florida Department of Health.

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With Islamic State (IS) terrorists releasing a video of the beheading of American aid worker Peter Kassig, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for a congressional vote for military action.

“The beheading of another American over the weekend further illustrates the savagery of IS,” Nelson said on Monday. “It shows why the United States and our allies must leave no stone unturned in going after these barbarians. I hope Congress is moved to vote on legislation formally authorizing military action.”

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U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., called on President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate to pass the Keystone XL Pipeline. Rooney insisted Keystone XL was a major issue in the elections earlier this month which saw the GOP flip the Senate.

“Building the Keystone pipeline was absolutely on the ballot last week, and the American people sent a clear message – it’s time to build,” Rooney said on Friday. “Will President Obama and Harry Reid continue to ignore the American people, or will they finally say yes to jobs and energy?

“The president has had ample time and evidence to approve Keystone, including an analysis from his own State Department projecting it will support 42,100 jobs and have a minimal impact on the environment, but he has refused,” Rooney added. “Now it’s time for the Senate to follow the House’s lead and pass this bipartisan bill to boost our economy and improve our energy security.”

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After taking 4 percent in the recent Florida gubernatorial race, Libertarian Adrian Wyllie announced on Monday he will be a lobbyist for the Liberty First Network, planning to work in Tallahassee on issues.

“The Liberty First Network and I have been working toward the same goals, and fighting the same legislative battles, so this partnership is a perfect fit,” Wyllie said on Monday. “Though I may not be governor, the Legislature will still hear our voices, and will be subject to our scrutiny. I am excited to be joining this all-star team of principled and competent people.”

Wyllie will continue his efforts with the Libertarian Party as well.

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