Sunshine State News Blogs

Former governor Charlie Crist released his first television ad for his campaign to return to the governor's mansion on Monday.

In the ad, Crist vows to raise the minimum wage, demand equal pay for women and restore funding to Florida schools.
View the ad below:
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Gov. Rick Scott kicked off the "Let's Keep Florida Safe" tour in Tampa on Monday. As part of the tour, Scott will be traveling around the state highlighting his "Let's Keep Florida Safe" plan. 

According to a press release, some elements of the plan include maintaining an 85 percent mandatory minimum sentencing, developing programs that identify "early signs of risk" and working to help "troubled youth" become successful adults, and working with law enforcement to combat cyber crimes in the Sunshine State.

“There’s so much about Florida that makes it the best state in the country to live, work, and raise a family. We have great weather and great job opportunities – but we also have great communities," said Scott on Monday. "Florida has seen a remarkable turnaround in the last few years and our crime rate is at a 43-year low, but we can still do more. I’m committed to working with law enforcement and public safety officials to keep Florida moving in the right direction.”

The tour will also make stops in Orlando and Miami.

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The Florida Lottery announced record high sales in its last fiscal year. During that time, the lottery generated $5.36 billion in sales and almost $1.5 billion of that went to help Florida schools.

“Our primary goal is and always will be to generate as much money as possible for education,” said Florida Lottery Secretary Cynthia O’Connell on Monday. “We set our goals high at the beginning of each year, and with a collective effort from lottery staff, our retailers and our loyal customers, we have once again exceeded our annual sales goal, resulting in record contributions to Florida’s student and schools.”
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Libertarian candidate Adrian Wyllie is steamed that he has been excluded from a gubernatorial forum being held later this week in Coral Gables. Wyllie sent a letter to the Florida Press Association (FPA) and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors (FSNE) over the weekend demanding to be included in the forum, adding he would attend the event on Thursday.

“You may either allow me to participate in the forum, or you may have me arrested,” Wyllie wrote.

The letter is as follows:

As the only third-party candidate for Florida's governor, I am extremely disappointed in your failure to include me in your upcoming gubernatorial candidate forum at the 2014 FPA/FSNE Convention. Your exclusion of a viable third-party candidate is unacceptable, and exposes an entrenched bias in the FPA/FSNE approach to political coverage.

You will likely respond by saying that you have created "criteria" for inclusion in the forum, and you will then claim that I have failed to meet said criteria.

Please, allow me to pre-empt your likely rebuttal.

The criteria you have created make it absolutely impossible for any minor party candidate to participate, by its very definition. According to your stated rules, in order to be included, “a candidate must belong to a party that has at least 5 percent of the registered voters in Florida.”

The legal definition of a minor party in Florida is one that has less than 5 percent of the registered voters in the state. Therefore, your criteria guarantee that only Republican and Democrat candidates can participate.

Regardless of whether I have met your other, arbitrary criteria for polling and fundraising, the simple fact that I am not a Republican or Democrat would prohibit me from participating.

I have little doubt that this was entirely by design.

We will no longer allow you to stifle the voices of viable candidates, nor limit the informed choices of Florida voters.

Therefore, I refuse to accept your rules, and I present you with the following ultimatum: I will attend the FPA/FSNE Gubernatorial Forum on July 10th in Coral Gables. You may either allow me to participate in the forum, or you may have me arrested.

You have no third option ... As you have denied the people of Florida a third option, govern yourselves accordingly.

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A congresswoman and congressman from Florida met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, weighing in on the recent murders of three Israeli teens and other Middle Eastern matters. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the ranking Democrat on the committee, met with Netanyahu on Thursday and weighed in afterward with a joint statement:

“These last few days have been a trying and difficult time for the people of Israel after the bodies of three of their sons were found. As an entire nation mourned, we mourned with it. We conveyed our deepest sympathies to Prime Minister Netanyahu and reaffirmed to our closest ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel, that the United States stands firmly with it as it struggles to cope with the tragic loss of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad and as it seeks to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“We also discussed with PM Netanyahu the threats that Israel faces as the stability of the region continues to deteriorate. The growing threat of extremism in Syria and Iraq, and the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons program, could have severe repercussions throughout the region, and these toxic obstacles put both Israel and U.S. national security interests at risk. We vowed to continue our unwavering support for the people of Israel and their safety and security, and will do whatever we can to ensure Israel maintains her qualitative military edge so that she can defend herself from all threats.”
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Gov. Rick Scott will be showcasing his record on crime this week in his “Let’s Keep Florida Safe” tour of the Sunshine State and he unveiled an endorsement to help his crime-fighting credentials on Monday. The Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) announced it was backing Scott for another term.

“Police chiefs across the state of Florida are thankful for the support of Gov. Scott regarding law enforcement and public safety,” said Jupiter Police Chief Frank Kitzerow, the president of the FPCA.

The FPCA noted the crime rate under Scott stands at its lowest in 43 years and praised the governor for vetoing a bill to raise the speed limit to 75 mph and signing bills targeting sexual predators,
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Charlie Crist's name will no longer be seen speeding by at the Coke Zero 400 race Saturday evening, since Phil Parsons Racing officials have decided to pull the "Charlie Crist for Florida" stickers featured on a NASCAR car.

Earlier this week, the Republican Party of Florida filed an ethics complaint over the sponsorship, alleging that the sponsorship violates Florida campaign law, which limits individual campaign contributions to $3,000 per person, per election. The average cost to sponsor a car in the race is around $55,000 to $60,000.  

Phil Parsons said, however, that he didn't pull the sponsorship due to the RPOF complaint but did so out of respect for his business partner, Mike Curb.

Curb is a Republican and a former Lieutenant Governor from California. 

Crist spokesman Brendan Gilfillian said the campaign itself didn't pay for the sponsorship, but that it was an in-kind donation from a "big NASCAR fan."

The hood of the car, which would have had Crist's name plastered on it, will now be black. 

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Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi issued the following statement for Independence Day:

“Let us celebrate this Independence Day by appreciating the values of our Founding Fathers who built this great country that we live in. As Americans, we must always appreciate the freedom, opportunities, equality and justice that we enjoy each day. These liberties were established and defended by generations of brave men and women. As we celebrate our independence, let us all reflect on the military members who have served and continue to serve in our armed forces. Their tremendous courage and sacrifice has given us freedom.” 

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Opening arguments began this week at a state courthouse in Miami as a judge ponders a challenge to the Florida Constitution’s recognition of only traditional marriage in the Sunshine State -- and a leading conservative is not happy with the judge’s performance.

With the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year, same-sex couples looking to marry in the Sunshine State and LGBT groups are looking to change Florida law. In 2008, Florida voters approved of a proposed state Constitution amendment recognizing only traditional marriage in Florida. The amendment passed with 62 percent of voters backing it, exceeding the 60 percent mark needed to be approved.

Attorney and social conservative leader John Stemberger of Florida Family Action and Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel looked to defend the law.

“Overall, the legal arguments presented for same-sex marriage were surprisingly weak,” Stemberger insisted on Thursday. “After the first short legal argument, the other lawyers arguing spent a lot of time reading stories, citing antidotal evidence, misrepresenting the impact of multiple cases, and generally dispensing an assortment of inappropriate political rhetoric before the court. In contrast, Mat Staver had a command of the law, the Constitution, legal procedure and the social science research. His case was compelling and clear. Not surprisingly, none of the plaintiffs' gay-rights lawyers ever cited, let alone mentioned, the only clear and controlling legal precedent before the court -- Florida's Constitution and its marriage definition.”

Stemberger gave Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel low marks for her handling of Wednesday’s proceedings.  

“The judge sounded unapologetically warm and inviting to the plaintiffs' pro-gay rights positions,” Stemberger insisted. “Honestly, she sounded so biased it felt like she was coaching the oppositions attorneys and helping them to not forget certain points, etc. ... I was really taken back by how comfortable she felt just coddling the other side's arguments in an open and public court. Sadly, from my perspective she did not even try and attempt to appear neutral in her demeanor and questioning. At this point we can only pray that she does the right thing.

“But the bottom line is this -- if the judge does her job and follows the law in Florida, we will prevail,” Stemberger continued. “If she ignores the Constitution and ignores the will of the people, then she could rule against us and with a stroke of a pen strike down the vote and intentions of millions of Floridians.”

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America's 43rd president, George W. Bush, will be celebrating his 68th birthday this weekend. 

The Republican Party will be sending Bush a birthday card complete with signatures from people all across the country. Bush's birthday is Sunday.

Click here to sign the card.
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On Thursday. U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., pointed to a study from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which shows deaths due to narcotic painkillers dropped in Florida by 26 percent from 2010 to 2012.

“I applaud Attorney General Bondi and the Florida Legislature for making great strides on such a critical issue,” said Buchanan. “It is truly a remarkable success. We are one step closer to curbing an epidemic that wreaks havoc on countless families and communities across our state.”

Buchanan noted the CDC report shows Tallahassee’s crackdown on pill mills is working.

"The results from Florida show that state action can make a difference, and confirms the tight correlation between prescribing and deaths,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “These changes may well represent the first documented substantial decline in drug overdose mortality in any state in the past 10 years.”

The report can be read here.

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Florida-based Republican Dr. Ben Carson, while making a pitch for the Washington Times where he writes a weekly column, contrasted today’s culture with when he grew up and offered a stark view of what young people currently face.

Carson, a prominent neurosurgeon who entered the political realm in 2013 when he criticized President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law at the National Prayer Breakfast, has increasingly shown signs of running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. After retiring from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, Carson, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, is now based out of West Palm Beach.

“America is the land of dreams and it has fulfilled the dreams of so many people from so many places,” Carson emailed conservatives on Wednesday. “As a child, I dreamt of becoming a doctor. And by working hard, embracing my mother's values, and seizing opportunity, I was able to become a neurosurgeon. But I worry that today's generations have been lulled into a complacency that is destroying the promise of the dream.

“The ruling elite has convinced too many young adults that it's OK to stay at home and live in your parents’ basements playing video games or aimlessly roaming the streets with friends,” Carson added. “After all, you can get a monthly check, a free cell phone, and health insurance from Uncle Sam for doing nothing. Opportunity has been replaced by despair. Embracing character, values, marriage, and family has been ridiculed. Government dependence has been substituted for self-reliance. And mediocrity has replaced excellence.”

Carson called on conservatives to join him in “demolishing this culture of failure and standing up to the media elite so that we can take back our country.”
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Former Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to sponsor a NASCAR vehicle in the Coke Zero 400 has resulted in an official complaint with the Florida Elections Commission.

According to the complaint filed by Juston Johnson of the Republican Party of Florida, the sponsorship violates Florida campaign law, which limits individual campaign contributions to $3,000 per person, per election. The average cost to sponsor a car in the race is around $55,000 to $60,000. 

According to the Crist campaign, the cost to wrap the car was an "in-kind donation" from a supporter who is a big NASCAR fan. The car is owned by Mike Curb, Republican former California lieutenant governor. 

The car will be driven by Josh Wise.

See the complaint below.
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Florida House candidate Blaise Ingoglia announced on Wednesday that his campaign to replace term-limited Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, had won the endorsement of House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

"Blaise Ingoglia's commitment to conservative principles, his energy and passion, and his willingness to serve others are qualities we need in our elected officials,” Weatherford said. “Blaise Ingoglia is a man of strong character and integrity and his open, honest and direct style is refreshing. Blaise's strong commitment to principle will guide him as he seeks to represent the people of Hernando County in our state capitol. I am honored to support and endorse Blaise Ingoglia in his campaign.”

Weatherford is the 22nd legislator to back Ingoglia.
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On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera wrote to the  U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), insisting it was targeting the Tampa-based J.C. Newman Cigar Co. The letter reads as follows:
During the early 1900s, Tampa (later to be known as “Cigar City”), boasted more than 150 cigar factories and produced more than half a billion cigars each year. Now the only remaining cigar factory in Tampa, the J.C. Newman Cigar Company, is threatened for extinction because of rules being promulgated by your agency.

From its immigrant roots to its international success, the story of the family-owned J.C. Newman is a living example of the American dream. As Florida’s oldest industry, the hand-rolling of premium cigars is a strong symbol of the rich Cuban-Latino culture and is uniquely represented by J.C. Newman.

Now, proposed FDA regulations threaten to create an undue burden on J.C. Newman and other premium cigar companies. The FDA is putting undue and excessive burdens on this family-owned company for no logical reason and forcing J.C. Newman to comply with regulations to compete with national cigarette companies that have greater resources at their disposal.

To require these companies to charge $10 for a premium cigar would unnecessarily inhibit future sales. Making matters worse, these artificial price floors only apply to small, family-owned businesses while big tobacco companies are unaffected. In addition, requiring FDA approval for each new size, shape or brand would require upward of 5,000 hours of testing at the company’s expense – a massive burden for a company like J.C. Newman, which simply does not have the financial bandwidth of national cigarette companies that have long incorporated these kinds of requirements into their bottom line.

As America’s oldest family owned premium cigar maker, J.C. Newman is also one of America’s historic treasures. Therefore, we are urging you to amend the proposed rule to exclude premium cigar companies like J.C. Newman from these onerous regulations. We hope that this local, family-owned business will be allowed the opportunity to compete on a fair playing field.
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Bad news for Barack Obama: a plurality of voters think he's the worst president since World War II. 

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found 33 percent believe Obama is the worst president since WWII, followed closely by former president George W. Bush, who 28 percent said was the worst president.

Richard Nixon, who found himself in hot water as a result of the Watergate scandal, received 13 percent of the vote, while Jimmy Carter received 8 percent.  

"Over the span of 69 years of American history and 12 presidencies, President Barack Obama finds himself with President George W. Bush at the bottom of the popularity barrel," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.

The poll also found 45 percent of voters believe the country would have been better off if Obama's 2012 opponent Mitt Romney would have won the election. A smaller number -- 38 percent -- said the country would be worse off if Romney had won. 


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Mayor Alvin Brown of Jacksonville hasn’t exactly been waving the flag for his fellow Democrats, raising eyebrows when he did not attend an event with President Barack Obama on the First Coast during the 2012 campaign. But, as Brown starts off the 2015 election as the favorite, he’s been reaching out to secure the Democratic base.

Brown will be teaming up with old rival U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., later this month to host a book-signing for U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C. The veteran South Carolina congressman will be signing “Blessed Experiences” at the historic Ritz Theater and Museum in Jacksonville on Sunday, July 13.
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The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida (DPCF) came out swinging on Wednesday on behalf of former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich who continues her Democratic gubernatorial primary against former Gov. Charlie Crist. The DPCF released a report on Wednesday on education, insisting the primary involved a sharp contrast on education with Crist, who had been a Republican for most of his political life, following policies back by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

“There is no issue of greater importance to Florida’s future than education,” said Susan Smith, the DPCF president on Wednesday. “We compiled this report in order to inform voters about the policies of the Democratic candidates.

“When we look at the records of Sen. Rich and Gov. Crist, we can see a clear difference,” Smith added. “Both support increased funding for public education, but Sen. Rich strongly opposes former Gov. Jeb Bush’s privatization agenda while Gov. Crist appears to support Bush policies.

“We’re alarmed that Gov. Crist still supports the corporate tax scholarship program when we know those dollars go to unaccountable private schools,” Smith concluded. “His proposal to expand the program would further undermine the concept that public education is our shared responsibility.”

The report can be read here.
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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 Tuesday on the murder of three Israeli teens and called for President Barack Obama to suspend aid to the Palestinian government.

“My family’s thoughts and prayers are with the people of Israel and especially the families of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach during this difficult time,” Rubio said. “The brutal killing of three innocent teenagers in Israel should serve as a reminder of what Hamas truly represents. This is more evidence that Hamas should not be allowed to participate in any Palestinian government or elections unless they renounce terrorism and accept Israel’s right to exist.

“Until then, I hope the administration will listen to the voices in Congress and in the Israeli government calling for a suspension of assistance to the power-sharing Palestinian government,” Rubio added. “That is the least we can do to honor the lives of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal.”
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Florida Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, played up her crime fighting credentials with the endorsement of the Florida Police Benevolent Association and a new TV ad.

“As a mother, my greatest priority is protecting our state’s children,” said Benacquisto on Tuesday. “Working with Florida’s law enforcement officers and children’s advocates, I am proud to say we have passed some of the toughest child predator laws in the nation and I am honored to have the PBA’s endorsement.”

“Law Enforcement officers in Southwest Florida and across the state are better equipped and more prepared to protect our children from predators because of Lizbeth,” said Matt Puckett, the executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association. “Lizbeth shares our zero tolerance for the monsters who prey on our children and backs it up by fighting for the resources our officers need to protect our communities.”

A new ad from Benacquisto will hit the airwaves on Wednesday.

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Tropical Storm Arthur is expected to have little impact on Florida as it moves up to the Carolinas in the days to come. There is a tropical storm watch in effect on the Atlantic coast between Volusia and St. Lucie counties with winds up to 50 mph and heavy rains expected in the area.

“We’re monitoring Arthur’s development and are staying in close communications with leaders on the ground should they need support,” Gov. Rick Scott said on Tuesday afternoon. “This event serves as an important reminder to all Florida families and visitors that hurricane season is here, and it is important that we remain vigilant and have a plan for protecting our families, our homes and our businesses. Families must get a plan and make sure they’re stocked up on critical storm supplies so our communities are prepared for the worst.”
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Tallahassee-based research group and government watchdog Florida TaxWatch has produced The Florida TaxWatch Taxpayer's Pocket Guide to Florida's FY2014-15 State Budget -- help to quickly get spending highlights in each budget area. It also provides a look back at Florida's fiscal growth.

"Reading Florida's more than 400-page budget can be daunting, but the Florida TaxWatch budget pocket guide provides Florida taxpayers with an easy-to-understand explanation of what their hard-earned money is paying for," said Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of the independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit group.

According to a statement from Florida TaxWatch, the budget guide breaks down state spending by budget area and funding source. It also includes historical information about state reserves, Medicaid and the transportation work program. Florida Education Finance Program funding information is also featured, with information on the source of revenue as well as a historical review of per-student funding allocations, TaxWatch says.

"The state budget provides historic levels of funding for children, families, and K-12 education, which helps to invest in Florida's future growth," added Calabro. "Overall, Florida taxpayers should be pleased with the investments our state will be making in the new year."

"Florida's fiscal discipline in passing a balanced budget is on display today," said Florida TaxWatch Chairman John B. Zumwalt III. "The governor's and Legislature's commitment to maintaining Florida's fiscal strength has helped Florida pay down its debt and increase its bond rating, making Florida a great place to live, work, and build a business, while the federal government's financial health has steadily deteriorated."

"During the 2014 legislative session, the Florida Senate worked with our colleagues in the Florida House and Gov. Scott to craft a common-sense state budget that invested in the needs of our state while also providing meaningful tax relief for hard-working Florida families," said Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto. "We set aside $3 billion in reserves, invested unprecedented funding in education and allocated funding to improve our child welfare system."

Taxpayers can request a copy of the budget pocket guide at

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Gov. Rick Scott has been focusing on veterans issues this week. On Tuesday, the Scott campaign unveiled a Web ad featuring Sgt. Luke Murphy, an Iraq veteran who received the Purple Heart after losing his leg due to a bomb, praising the governor’s record on leadership and veterans issues.

Murphy throws a slight jab at former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott, in the ad. “What we had before Rick Scott was not leadership,” Murphy says.

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From his perch on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., called the murder of  three kidnapped Israeli teenagers – Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frenkel – an “outrage” and demanded the end of federal funding to the Hamas-backed Palestinian Authority.

"The murder of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas terrorists is an outrage,” DeSantis said on Monday. “While it should have been obvious from the start that any 'unity' government that includes Hamas would not be interested in peace with Israel, the Obama administration has continued to send money to the Palestinian Authority even though current law prohibits funds from going to a Hamas-influenced government. Congress must immediately move to cut off funds to the Fatah-Hamas unity government. American taxpayers cannot subsidize a government that is adverse to our interests and whose behavior is contrary to our values."
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Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced on Tuesday that he was endorsing Gov. Rick Scott for a second term. After a bitter primary in 2010 in which Scott won, McCollum refused to endorse his rival.

“In 2010, Gov. Scott and I competed in a very close and hard fought primary,” McCollum said before praising his former rival’s record. “Over the last four years, Gov. Scott has done a great job for Florida families and served our state very well. His record on helping Floridians create jobs and supporting education has helped families throughout our state, and I am proud to endorse him for re-election today.”

McCollum then turned his fire on former Gov. Charlie Crist who he served with in the Cabinet. Crist, despite having won three statewide offices as a Republican, is the favorite for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

"As someone who served on the Florida Cabinet with then-Gov. Charlie Crist and had a good working relationship, I find many of his views and positions today vastly different,” McCollum said. “Gov. Crist always was proud to be known as ‘Mr. Open Government.’ I find his recent refusal to release his and his spouse's tax returns very surprising and disappointing. Government in the sunshine has been the law, and transparency has been a bedrock principle of Florida government and Florida politics for many years. In making their decision in the governor's race this fall, Florida voters deserve to know the sources of income of the candidates and their spouses, and they deserve a governor committed to sunshine and transparency."
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U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., the vice chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, expressed some hope that businessman Robert McDonald can help reform the VA department. McDonald was nominated to replace Eric Shinseki as secretary of VA on Monday.

“The problems at the VA are very serious, and they are negatively impacting veterans across the country,” Bilirakis said after President Barack Obama announced the nomination. “Veterans deserve timely access to quality care, and in many cases, that isn’t happening right now. It is my hope that Mr. McDonald’s nomination will be the first step on the road to bringing back accountability and transparency to the dysfunctional agency. The VA needs to be about protecting and caring for the veteran, not the bureaucrat.”
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U.S. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fla., spoke out on the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on Monday.

“I am deeply troubled by today’s Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. Once again, women’s reproductive rights are under attack," said Hastings."

The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision ruled Monday that certain family-owned companies cannot be forced to offer insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act.

“I believe that every woman should be able to make her own health care decisions. Unfortunately, the court’s ruling has set a very dangerous precedent," Hastings continued. "We must continue to protect women’s rights in the face of these new threats to reproductive health services, and ensure that companies not be allowed to impose their views, religious or other, on their employees."

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Gov. Rick Scott awarded 200 Florida veterans the Governor's Veterans Service Award in Tampa on Monday.

“It is an honor to kick off our Florida Veterans Service Award tour by presenting 200 Tampa veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award," said Scott. "Our veterans have selflessly fought to defend our freedoms, and it is our responsibility to take every opportunity to thank them for their sacrifice and service to our nation.”

Scott was joined by Florida National Guard Leader Col. Perry Hagaman, and Alene Tarter, Florida Department of Veterans Affairs director of benefits and assistance. 

The ceremony was held at the American Legion Post 111. During the ceremony, Gov. Scott highlighted the service of two Florida veterans and brothers, Martin “Marty” Mount and Arnold “Arnie” Mount.

Martin “Marty” Mount is an Army veteran who saw multiple combat tours in Vietnam. While serving in Germany, Marty Mount distinguished himself by stopping a foreign agent covertly trying to enter his base. Following his military service, Marty secured employment with GTE, and later with Verizon, using skills acquired in the Army to provide communications services to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area for 32 years.

Arnold “Arnie” Mount is a 25-year Navy veteran who was stationed in Okinawa and served in Vietnam in 1970. After becoming a radioman chief petty officer, Arnie Mount was commissioned under the Limited Duty Officer program in 1981. He retired as a “Lieutenant Commander,” and attended law school in Orlando. Later, Mount taught criminal justice and criminal investigations at Everest University in Orange Park. 

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, praised the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday finding that Hobby Lobby does not have to comply with providing birth control under President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law. Rubio hailed the decision as a victory for religious freedom.

“A key part of the American dream has always been the ability of our people to freely practice their faiths without government interference,” Rubio said on Monday. “Obamacare’s mandates have threatened to change this and, in doing so, erode the American dream as we know it and our people’s ability to live it. The Supreme Court has correctly recognized that Obamacare’s trampling of religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby case should not stand.

“Obamacare was written and passed with a clear disregard for the reality that millions of Americans are inspired by their faiths in all aspects of their lives, including the way entrepreneurs manage their businesses,” Rubio added. “In America, no one should be forced to violate their religious beliefs if they wish to run a business.

“The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision is a re-affirmation of America’s commitment to religious freedom and a reminder of why Obamacare is such a flawed law that needs to be entirely repealed and replaced,” Rubio concluded.
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Former Gov. Bob Martinez went to bat for fellow Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Monday, calling on former Gov. Charlie Crist to release his wife’s tax returns.

“Florida has had a decades-long political tradition of openness and transparency, and I commend Gov. Scott for keeping this tradition,” Martinez said on Monday. “The governor's spouse will likely require security and use of state assets. Charlie Crist needs to disclose not only his financial returns but those of his wife to make certain there are no conflicts of interest. Floridians have an expectation of full transparency from candidates that run for governor. Crist needs to follow the example of his predecessors, Republican and Democratic."
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