Sunshine State News Blogs

The wheels on the bus go round and round as they carry former Gov. Charlie Crist on a three-day statewide tour focused on restoring cuts to Florida's education system. 

Crist kicked off his "Restore the Cuts" tour in Tallahassee on Wednesday, where he will ride around in a school bus, vowing to restore $1.3 billion in public school funding he says was slashed as a result of Gov. Rick Scott. 

"We don’t have a revenue problem," Crist said in Tallahassee. "We have a priority problem. The priority needs to be education."
Crist also attacked the governor for cuts to the Bright Futures scholarship program.

“You know the disappointment that Rick Scott has been,” said Crist. “He’s cut so much from education – $1.3 billion. There's no way you can do that and have a bright future for Florida."

The bus tour will make stops in Jacksonville Wednesday, Orlando and Tampa on Thursday, and will end in Miami on Friday.
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An ad released Wednesday is pitting former governor Charlie Crist against his running mate Annette Taddeo over the trade embargo with Cuba.

In the ad, Crist speaks to a crowd, touting the importance of lifting the trade embargo with Cuba. In contrast, Taddeo says she does not believe Florida should be doing  business with Cuba.

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Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Adrian Wyllie will be showcasing his new running mate -- businessman Greg Roe, who has spent more than 30 years in the insurance industry -- at campaign stops in Largo on Wednesday and Clearwater on Thursday. Wyllie is spending August touring craft breweries across the Sunshine State.

"Political wisdom would say I should be looking for a person from the right geographical region or a certain demographic," Wyllie said when he announced Roe being added to the ticket on Monday night. "However, I decided to choose the right person to serve the people of Florida instead. Insurance, property, flood and especially health insurance, is going to be vital in the upcoming years and something that will be tasked upon us should we win this election. I am honored to have someone who can address these important issues as my running mate."

"I am proud to stand behind Adrian Wyllie," Roe insisted after being named. "I am honored to join this team and send out a strong message that the people are fed up with the two-party system. We are just getting started."

The Wyllie campaign doubled down on its support of Roe on Wednesday.

"We are excited to have Greg Roe as the lieutenant governor choice,” said Danielle Alexander, Wyllie’s campaign manager, on Wednesday. “I believe he brings a lot to the campaign and we could not be happier with the choices Floridians now have to address the issues facing all of us."
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The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) launched a television commercial on Tuesday taking aim at Gwen Graham, the Democratic candidate challenging U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., in November. The ad attempts to link Graham to Beltway liberals including U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

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“Gwen Graham is trying to deceive voters into thinking she is focused on North Florida,” Katie Prill, a spoksewoman for the NRCC, said on Tuesday. “In reality, Gwen has taken thousands of dollars from Nancy Pelosi and has promised to be complacent in the battle against bad policies like Obamacare. One thing is very clear – Gwen Graham’s liberal politics are not the North Florida way.”

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International law and human rights professor William Schabas, a critic of Israeli leaders, has been named to lead a U.N. committee looking at the current conflict in Gaza. In recent years, Schabas has called for the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli leaders like Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres.

The appointment drew the fire of U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, who called out the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for tapping Schabas.

“It’s repulsive that the U.N. Human Rights Council has appointed Schabas to head this investigation,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Tuesday. “There isn’t even a pretense of the desire for a fair and balanced judgment by the UNHRC; the verdict has already been decided before the panel will even convene its first meeting. Schabas has repeatedly called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be prosecuted for war crimes and is a well-known critic of Israel. Worse, he has failed to denounce Hamas for what it is: a terrorist organization that uses innocent Palestinians as human shields against Israeli strikes, despite Hamas being labeled by the U.S., EU and others as such. The appointment of such an unhinged and one-sided critic of Israel ensures that this so-called inquiry will amount to nothing more than a kangaroo court and another exercise in anti-Israel bashing by the corrupt United Nations.”
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It's only Tuesday, but the Republican Party of Florida's mission this week seems to be firing back at NextGen Climate's latest ads against Gov. Rick Scott.

NextGen Climate, a political committee backed by California billionaire Tom Steyer, released two ads bashing the governor -- one of which criticized Scott for connections to Duke Energy, saying both the governor and the Florida Legislature allowed Duke to bill Floridians for $3.2 billion in higher electric rates to pay for two failed energy plants.  

The party's newest ad, called "Crist's Giveaway," says it was former Gov. Charlie Crist who let the energy plants fail, signing a law to "help Duke [Energy] get billions." The ad then goes on to say Scott stopped Crist's "giveaway" and protected ratepayers under SB 1472, which according to Law 360 attempted to rein in utility companies' access to consumers' pocketbooks. 

"Steyer is propping up Crist’s campaign by flooding Florida’s airwaves with defamation and deception," said RPOF Chair Leslie Dougher. "But Steyer should be blaming Crist – not Gov. Scott – for making it easier for utilities to pick Floridians’ pocketbooks."

"Crist's Giveaway" will be running in the Tampa media market, where the NextGen Climate ad is currently showing.

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The support for Blaise Ingoglia's campaign keeps on coming. Ingoglia's latest endorsement? The Associated Industries of Florida Political Action Committee, which gave him the thumbs up in his bid for state representative in HD 35, which covers most of Hernando County.  

Ingoglia wasn't the only one to be endorsed by AIF at the end of July -- many others snagged its support as well, most of them being Republicans.

All of these candidates have showcased their commitment to the success of our great state in terms of growing our economy, expanding our job base and positioning Florida as the No. 1 state to conduct business," said AIF President and CEO Tom Feeney. "We are pleased to support these candidates and encourage our members and all Florida voters to do the same.”

“AIF is known as ‘The Voice of Florida Business’ because they understand and represent the principles of well-being and free enterprise that encourage economic growth and development -- putting our families back to work," said Ingoglia. "I look forward to working with them to lessen burdensome government regulations that threaten job creation efforts throughout Hernando County and our state."
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The special session is done.

The Florida House gave final approval Monday to a new congressional redistricting plan, preparing to send the map back to Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis. The House voted 71-38 to approve the map, after the Senate voted 25-12 earlier in the day to pass it. The votes quickly ended the special session, called after Lewis last month ruled that a map approved in 2012 violated anti-gerrymandering requirements in the Florida Constitution. Sunshine State News will carry the News Service of Florida's full story.
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Moving to quickly end a special legislative session, the Florida Senate on Monday voted 25-12 to approve a new congressional map, according to the News Service of Florida. The move came after Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis last month ruled that a map approved in 2012 violated anti-gerrymandering requirements in the Florida Constitution.

The Florida House continued to consider the revised map Monday afternoon.

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Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida, the largest commercial construction association in Florida, released its list of 2014 legislative endorsements on Monday.

In a written statement, ABC said, "As the leading voice for the industry, we feel it is our duty to engage in the political and legislative arenas to help drive the critical initiatives that impact our members, their jobs and their families. Therefore, and after conducting candidate screenings and interviews throughout the state, ABC of Florida is now proud to release our complete list of endorsed candidates ..."

Congressional Races:

District 1: Jeff Miller (Primary and General Election)
District 2: Steve Southerland (General Election)
District 3: Ted Yoho (Primary and General Election)
District 4: Ander Crenshaw (Primary and General Election)
District 6: Ron DeSantis (General Election)
District 7: John Mica (Primary and General Election)
District 8: Bill Posey (General Election)
District 10: Daniel Webster (General Election)
District 11: Rich Nugent (General Election)
District 13: David Jolly (General Election)
District 15: Dennis Ross (General Election
District 16: Vern Buchanan (General Election)
District 17: Tom Rooney (General Election)
District 18: Patrick Murphy (General Election)
District 26: Carlos Curbelo (Primary and General Election).

Florida Cabinet

Governor: Rick Scott
Attorney General: Pam Bondi
Chief Financial Officer: Jeff Atwater
Commissioner of Agriculture: Adam Putnam.

State Senate

District 6: John Thrasher (Primary and General Election)
District 10: David Simmons (General Election)
District 16: Thad Altman (Primary and General Election)
District 20: Jack Latvala (Primary and General Election)
District 22: Jeff Brandes (General Election)
District 24: Tom Lee (Primary and General Election)
District 30: Lizbeth Benacquisto (Primary Election)
District 32: Joe Negron (Primary and General Election)
District 34: Ellyn Bogdanoff (General Election)
District 36: Oscar Braynon, II (Primary and General Election).

State House

District 1: Clay Ingram (General Election)
District 2: Mike Hill (General Election)
District 3: Doug Broxson (Primary and General Election)
District 5: Brad Drake (Primary and General Election)
District 6: Jay Trumbull (Primary and General Election)
District 8: Alan Williams (Primary and General Election)
District 9: Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (Primary Election)
District 10: Elizabeth Porter (General Election)
District 11: Janet Adkins (General Election)
District 12: Lake Ray (General Election)
District 15: Jay Fant (Primary and General Election)
District 16: Charles McBurney (Primary and General Election)
District 17: "Doc" Renuart (General Election)
District 18: Travis Cummings (General Election)
District 21: Keith Perry (General Election)
District 27: David Santiago (General Election)
District 28: Jason Brodeur (Primary and General Election)
District 29: Scott Plakon (General Election)
District 30: Scott Sturgill (Primary and General Election)
District 31: Terri Seefeldt (Primary Election)
District 35: Blaise Ingoglia (General Election)
District 36: Amanda Murphy (General Election)
District 38: Danny Burgess (General Election)
District 39: Neil Combee (General Election)
District 40: Colleen Burton (Primary and General Election)
District 41: John Wood (General Election)
District 42: Mike LaRosa (General Election)
District 44: Eric Eisnaugle (Primary and General Election)
District 50: Tom Goodson (Primary Election)
District 51: Steve Crisafulli (General Election)
District 53: John Tobia (Primary and General Election)
District 54: Debbie Mayfield (General Election)
District 58: Daniel Raulerson (General Election)
District 59: Ross Spano (General Election)
District 63: Shawn Harrison (General Election)
District 64: James Grant (Primary and General Election)
District 65: Chris Sprowls (Primary and General Election)
District 66: Larry Ahern (General Election)
District 67: Chris Latvala (Primary and General Election)
District 68: Bill Young II (Primary and General Election)
District 69: Kathleen Peters (General Election)
District 72: Ray Pilon (General Election)
District 74: Richard DeNapoli (Primary Election)
District 75: Ken Roberson (General Election)
District 76: Ray Rodrigues (General Election)
District 77: Dane Eagle (Primary and General Election)
District 78: Heather Fitzenhagen (General Election)
District 79: Matt Caldwell (Primary Election)
District 81: Kevin Rader (Primary Election)
District 82: MaryLynn Magar (General Election)
District 84: Rob Siedlecki (General Election)
District 88: Bobby Powell (General Election)
District 89: Bill Hager (General Election)
District 93: George Moraitis (General Election)
District 94: Bobby DuBose (Primary Election)
District 95: Hazelle Rogers (General Election)
District 96: Steve Perman (Primary and General Election)
District 100: Ben Sorenson (Primary and General Election)
District 103: Manny Diaz Jr. (General Election)
District 105: Carlos Trujillo (General Election)
District 108: Michael Hepburn (Primary and General Election)
District 110: Jose Oliva (General Election)
District 111: Bryan Avila (General Election)
District 112: Daniel Diaz Leyva (General Election)
District 114: Erik Fresen (General Election)
District 115: Michael Bileca (General Election)
District 116: Jose Felix Diaz (General Election)
District 118: Frank Artiles (General Election)
District 119: Jeanette Nunez (General Election).

 ABC of Florida represents more than 2,000 general and specialty contractor, associate and supplier members throughout the state. 

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Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal will be making a trip to Florida in September to keynote the Republican Party of Florida's annual Victory Dinner, according to a press release.

Jindal, who has served as governor of the Pelican State since 2008, said he was excited to headline the Sept. 13 event, which will be held at Disney’s Grand Floridian in Lake Buena Vista.

“I look forward to standing with my fellow conservative leaders in Florida to share the progress we have made in Louisiana, and highlight the transformation of Florida’s economy under the leadership of Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature," he said. 

Party Chair Leslie Dougher gave the thumbs up to Jindal. 

"Gov. Jindal encompasses what we, the grassroots, care most about – putting conservative principles into play and getting results," she said.
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As the battle of the attack ads continues in the Florida governor's race, former Gov. Charlie Crist's campaign released a new ad on Monday accusing Gov. Rick Scott of being "too shady for the Sunshine State."

The 30-second ad spot claims Scott has ducked the truth in every job he's ever had, honing in on the governor's work as founder and CEO of Columbia/HCA amid an investigation of Medicare fraud. The ad also attacks Scott over cuts to education, raising property taxes and for "giving massive tax breaks to corporations."

View the ad below:
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A new ad hitting television airwaves this week is firing back at NextGen Climate over a recent ad attacking Gov. Rick Scott for ties to an oil drilling company. 

NextGen Climate, which is backed by liberal billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer, attempted to throw mud on Scott over the environment in two separate ads. One of the ads, called "Fountain," says Scott "drank from a fountain of campaign cash" from an oil driller Dan A. Hughes Co., which threatened drinking water for 7 million Floridians. 

The Republican Party of Florida's newest ad, "Fiction," claims Scott held the polluter accountable, with the Department of Environmental Protection fining Dan A. Hughes $25,000 for "unauthorized actions," for using an "enhanced extraction procedure," similar to fracking, without a permit. The ad also says Scott shut down the company's wells. 

"Fiction" also takes a shot at former Gov. Charlie Crist, who has been accused by the party of jet-setting across the state on private planes owned by polluters.

The ad will be running in Fort Myers and the West Palm Beach area, where the "Fountain" ad is currently showing.

View the ad below:
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Attorney General Pam Bondi is asking the 3rd District Court of Appeals to put a hold on ruling on two gay marriage cases until the U.S. Supreme Court can make a ruling on similar cases in other states. 

In a briefing filed with the court late Thursday, Bondi requested a freeze on two cases -- one in Monroe County, the other in Miami-Dade County -- where judges found Florida's 2008 ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

Requests have been filed in cases from Utah and Oklahoma, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on whether states can define marriage as between a man and a woman under the Constitution. 

"Despite the vigorous policy and legal debates surrounding same-sex marriage, there is little disagreement about this: If the United States Supreme Court holds that states must sanction same-sex marriage, then Florida's contrary laws must fall,'' Bondi wrote. "And if the United States Supreme Court holds that states may choose, then plaintiffs' contrary legal claims must fall, and it would be up to Florida's voters to effect any change. Either way, this appeal would be over, and it would end without consuming any further taxpayer resources and without burdening Florida's judiciary." 

Same-sex marriage has been making headlines in Florida in recent weeks, after a Monroe County judge ruled in July that the state's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. Three other judges in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties also ruled the ban is unconstitutional. 
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On Friday, the two committees charged with drawing up new congressional districts in the Florida Legislature voted to support a new map which changes the lines in seven congressional districts in the northern part of the state. The House Select Committee on Redistricting voted on party lines while the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting passed the map unanimously.  

With the special session continuing next week, the Legislature appears set to meet Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis’ Aug. 15 deadline to draw new maps.

“In response to the rulings issued by Judge Lewis, the House Select Committee on Redistricting has produced and passed a congressional map that we believe addresses the court’s stated concerns,” said Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Lutz, the chairman of the House Select Redistricting Committee. “Our map impacts only seven congressional districts: 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 and 17. The House’s proposed map significantly improves the overall visual and mathematical compactness of the impacted districts and better follows geographical boundaries where feasible while maintaining the minority communities’ ability to elect a candidate of their choice in District 5, as required by the law.  

“We have a better map today to offer the Florida House for its approval next week,” Corcoran insisted. “I want to thank the committee for their thoughtful work.  If approved, the map will be effective after the 2014 elections. This map completes our drawing duty, and it also protects the integrity of the more than 1 million absentee ballots that have already been mailed to Floridians, including the tens of thousands of ballots sent to our service men and women. While these brave men and women are protecting our freedoms abroad, the Florida House will continue to fight to protect the integrity of their vote here at home. We maintain our strong objection to any attempt to disrupt the election process currently under way and will work to defend the validity of the votes Floridians have already and will cast.”

But the new maps do not satisfy the League of Women Voters who launched the lawsuit. The League of Women Voters teamed up with Common Core stressing their opposition to the maps, specifically how U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown’s, D-Fla., district is mapped out. This fight appears ready to continue even after the Legislature votes on the new maps next week.
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Jim Martin, the chairman of 60 Plus Association, a national conservative seniors group with 800,000 members in the Sunshine State, jabbed Crist over seniors' issues on Friday.

"By his own words, Charlie Crist thinks that seniors losing their doctors under Medicare Advantage, which was slashed by $300 billion to fund Obamacare, is 'great,'” Martin said. “He thinks 300,000 Floridians having their health plans canceled by Florida Blue due to Obamacare is just fine. You know what Florida seniors think is great?  A governor not named Charlie Crist.

“Sending Charlie Crist back to the governor's mansion would be hazardous for Florida seniors,” he added. “Obamacare is causing devastation for seniors who are losing their doctors, losing their Medicare Advantage benefits and seeing their premiums increase – yet Crist, in his own words, thinks all of this is ‘great.’ And after he raised taxes on Florida’s seniors and their families by $2.2 billion, Crist won’t rule out raising taxes again. Governor Scott has lowered the cost-of-living and improved the quality of life for retirees who live in the Sunshine State, and we can’t afford to go back.

"Charlie Crist remains a 'clear and present danger' to Florida seniors if he again comes anywhere near the governor's mansion,” said Martin. “He's proven himself a shameless opportunist willing to switch teams and switch positions to keep his name in the spotlight and his face on TV. He doesn't know the facts about the devastation that Obamacare is causing Florida seniors and he can't tell the truth about his own flip-flopping positions on the issues."
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From his seat on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., said on Friday that he backed airstrikes launched against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces in northern Iraq.

But Crenshaw criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of ISIL and called for more outreach from the White House about long-range plans in Iraq.

“The president’s decision to authorize targeted military airstrikes in Iraq is appropriate under the current circumstances,” Crenshaw said on Friday. “However, we are once again plagued by a lack of leadership, and no long-term course strategy from President Obama for dealing with the threat that ISIL poses to this region and beyond. He must inform Congress and the American public about every step of this mission and, most importantly, lay out the plan for its completion. My thoughts and prayers are with the U.S. forces who are leading these operations.”
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Two years after he was the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate, former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico is launching a legal challenge to the Commission on Presidential Debates for excluding him from the debates. Johnson is expected to refile his challenge in Washington, D.C., in the coming days and he continues to work with political reform groups like his Our American Initiative and the Free and Equal Elections Foundation. 

“Polls are showing the majority of Americans are identifying themselves as ‘independents’ and that majority needs to be free to hear from all candidates, especially those candidates that truly represent the new majority,” said Johnson, “I will continue to fight to ensure that liberty demands a place in all presidential debates.”

Johnson has left the door open to running for president as a Libertarian again in 2016.
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U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is one of the leading Republicans in Congress when it comes to international affairs, from her time leading the House Foreign Affairs Committee and now chairing the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee. Ros-Lehtinen made the media rounds on Thursday night, appearing on CNN and supporting President Barack Obama authorizing airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces in northern Iraq.

Ros-Lehtinen continued that theme on Friday. She released a statement on Friday morning supporting the airstrikes even while she criticized the Obama administration for waiting too long to launch them:

“Conducting military airstrikes against ISIL is a good step toward preventing this brutal terrorist group from expanding its reach in Iraq and possibly into neighboring countries, but this action from the White House is long overdue. For months, the Iraqi government has pleaded with the administration to get engaged in Iraq and provide air support to combat the menacing threat of ISIL that is now endangering Erbil.

“The Kurds have been reliable allies of the U.S. in Iraq, and are outgunned, so they need our support to fight back against ISIL, which continues to threaten the lives of religious minorities as Christian towns are being overrun and Iraqi Christians are being forced to choose between being executed or renouncing their religion and converting to Islam. Just like we should have acted in Syria long ago, millions of people in Iraq are suffering and are looking to the United States for help and we must answer the call to prevent a possible genocide.

“The U.S. must take all appropriate and necessary measures to prevent the threat of ISIL from spilling over to neighboring countries like Jordan and Lebanon that can cause further destabilization in the region and to protect the national security interests of the United States of combating terrorism.”
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On Thursday, President Barack Obama signed into law a proposal from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla. -- the chairmen of their respective chambers' Veterans Affairs Committee, reforming the U.S. Veterans Affairs department -- sending $17 billion to help its medical facilities.  

The new funds, which will be used over the next three years, come in the aftermath of reports across the nation detailing altered wait lists at VA facilities. As a result, Eric Shinseki resigned his post as VA secretary back in May. The agreement designates $10 billion for veterans to seek private care if dealing with extended waits at VA medical centers. Veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA medical center will also be eligible for private care. The agreement also designates $5 billion to add more medical personnel to VA centers.

“I am pleased President Obama has finally recognized what we have been telling administration officials for years: that VA’s widespread and systemic lack of accountability is jeopardizing the health of veterans and contributing to all of the department’s most pressing problems,” Miller said on Thursday.

Miller did not attend the bill signing since he was touring a VA medical center in El Paso, Texas.

“I sincerely hope the president views this event as more than just a photo-op or speaking engagement,” Miller said. “Instead, it should serve as a wake-up call. VA’s problems festered because administration officials ignored or denied the department’s challenges at every turn. In order to prevent history from repeating itself, President Obama must become personally involved in solving VA’s many problems. A good place for him to start would be to meet with family members and veterans who have been struck by the VA scandal, order the department to cooperate with the congressional committees investigating VA and force DoD and VA to work together to establish a joint electronic health record integrated across all DoD and VA components.”
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From his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he backed President Barack Obama’s authorization of strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Northern Iraq.

“I am encouraged that American forces are providing humanitarian relief to threatened populations, including Christians and other religious minorities in northern Iraq,” Rubio said after Obama’s announcement. “My thoughts and prayers are with our men and women in uniform who are in harm's way tonight carrying out this mission.

“It is important to remember that ISIL threatens not just Iraqis but also the security of the United States and our allies in the region as it consolidates its control of territory that can be used as a base from which to launch attacks,” Rubio added. “That is why I've been urging President Obama since June to conduct airstrikes against ISIL targets and to provide additional lethal assistance and other support to the Iraqi government. A key part of such an effort should be to provide direct humanitarian and military assistance to the Kurds, who face a growing military and humanitarian challenge in northern Iraq as they confront ISIL and also host thousands of refugees from Iraq and Syria who have been forced to flee their homes.

“Without immediate U.S. action, it will not just be innocent Syrians and Iraqis who pay the price of ISIL's rise,” Rubio insisted in conclusion.
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A team of researchers from the University of South Florida has positively identified the first set of remains found at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. 

At a press conference Thursday, the USF team of anthropologists led by Dr. Erin Kimmerle announced they had positively identified the remains of 14-year-old George Owen Smith of Polk County.

Smith was sent by his family to the school in 1940 but was never seen again. Researchers said they positively identified Smith's remains using DNA from his sister. The medical examiner will determine Smith's cause of death.

The positive ID is the first of 55 unmarked graves where remains were found at the school's campus. 

Over recent years, the Dozier School has come under fire after allegations of physical and sexual abuse and even murder. The school was closed in 2011.

This is a developing story. Check back for more information.
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The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) unveiled a new Web video on Thursday, hitting former Gov. Charlie Crist on the environment. Despite having spent most of political life in the GOP, Crist is the favorite to win the Democratic primary later this month and win his new party’s nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott in November. The ad showcases Crist relying on a private jet to get around the state.

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“Charlie Crist is so desperate for his old job back he often pontificates about his love for Florida’s environment, but crisscrosses the state in his polluter pal’s private jet – the height of hypocrisy,” said RPOF Chairwoman Leslie Dougher on Thursday. “When it comes to the environment, Crist is just full of a lot of hot air.”

Scott has been touring Florida this week, showcasing his new environmental proposals.
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With less than three weeks until he faces Democratic primary voters, former Gov. Charlie Crist launched a new TV ad on Thursday as he continues his campaign against Gov. Rick Scott. Despite having spent most of his political life as a Republican, Crist is the favorite over former Florida Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich in the Aug. 26 primary.

In the new ad, Crist points to his record on the economy, claiming to have taken on the utilities and insurance companies and saving the jobs of 20,000 teachers during his time in Tallahassee.

“It wasn’t about right versus left, it was about right versus wrong,” Crist says in the new ad. “You deserve a fair shot and a governor who will fight for you. And that’s exactly what I’ll do.”

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Matt Moon, a spokesman for the Scott campaign, punched back on Thursday.

“It’s laughable for Charlie Crist to claim he’ll give people a ‘fair shot,'" Moon said. “In his alternate universe, Charlie Crist’s definition of helping Floridians is increasing their taxes by $2.2 billion, increasing college tuition by 15 percent every year, and taking nearly $1.4 billion in state funds away from schools. The only person Crist is fighting for is himself.”
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U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., announced on Thursday that he will hold two round-table events in Lutz later this month to focus on better patient care. Bilirakis sits on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee,

“Whether through medical devices or medicine, treatments for patients suffering from chronic and rare diseases are driven by the three D’s: discovery on the ground level through basic science; development into a practical, usable, and marketable product; and delivery to the patients, so that the treatment may be utilized effectively,” Bilirakis said.

“Significant impediments at each stage of the cycle render a disservice to 130 million Americans who suffer from a chronic condition,” Bilirakis added. “These round-tables will be the beginning of a conversation I want to have with patients, patient advocates, and health care providers. This is about people – the people who need more efficient and effective treatments more quickly, but do not have access to them. Together, we will work toward a path to cures.”

Bilirakis’ office announced that a round-table focusing on “Patients and the Patient Perspective” will be held at the Bethany Center in Lutz on Aug. 19. Featured speakers include: Dr. Wayne Taylor on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society; Dr. Samantha Lindsay, on behalf of the Alpha-1 Foundation; Colleen Labbadia, on behalf of the Parent Project for Muscular Dystrophy; Gary Dassatti, on behalf of the ALS Association Florida Chapter; and dysatonomia patient advocates Ashleigh Pike and Beth Pike.
Bilirakis will host a round-table on “Spurring Innovation, Advancing Treatments, and Incentivizing Investment” on Aug. 22 at the Bethany Center.  Featured speakers include Dr. Clifton Gooch, the chairman of neurology department of the University of South Florida’s (USF) Health Morsani College of Medicine and the director of USF Neuroscience Collaborative; Dr. Dave Morgan, the CEO and director of USF's Byrd Alzheimer's Institute; Dr. Richard Finkel, the chief neurologist at Nemour's Children's Hospital; Geary Havran, the president of NDH Medical Inc., and the chairman of the Florida Medical Manufacturers Consortium; Dr. Thomas Sellers, the center director and executive vice president for Moffit Cancer Center; and Lisa Novorska, the CFO of Rochester Electro-Medical Inc.
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From his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is demanding answers about the role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), pointing to reports that the agency returned rockets stored on its property to Hamas. Rubio has been a vocal critic of UNRWA, saying the agency has been against Israel during the most recent crisis in the region.

Rubio teamed up with U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., to write a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, calling for an investigation of UNRWA.

“As the U.N.’s leading source of funding, American taxpayers will not tolerate the use of U.N. facilities by terrorists to stage attacks against our allies,” Rubio said on Wednesday. “We know Hamas has been using civilians as human shields and stores its weapons and fighters in civilian buildings, but for the U.N. to stand idly by while Hamas attacks Israel from its facilities is an outrage. This is the latest example of why the U.S. needs to bring greater transparency and accountability to the U.N. by pursuing reform of its programs and institutions.”

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Former Gov. Charlie Crist held a Facebook question and answer session Wednesday afternoon, taking a variety of questions from users across the state as he gears up for the last 90 days before the Nov. 4 gubernatorial election.

Several questions Crist answered revolved around expanding Medicaid in Florida -- a promise Crist says could eventually lead to 120,000 jobs across the state.

"If we win, and I hope we do, one of the first things I'll do is call a special session to accept Medicaid expansion for so many Floridians in need," wrote Crist.

Crist harped on his other talking points, including his support of gay marriage and the restoration of education funding in the Sunshine State. The former governor also said he'd support allowing undocumented immigrants drivers' licenses. 

"It is disingenuous to say that you support undocumented people being able to work yet not signing a bill to give them the ability to drive to work," said Crist of Scott's decision to veto a proposal to grant undocumented citizens drivers' licenses. "This must be fixed."

Yet, although Crist stole the stage and was generally welcomed in the comments, the Republican Party of Florida was not too far behind, criticizing Crist for a budget leaving Florida's schools $1.4 billion less in state funds. The RPOF later noted the state's education budget is at an all-time high under current Gov. Rick Scott.

The Q&A lasted for about an hour. Crist responded to over 30 Facebook users, with 775 comments and questions in total as at the time of this blog's release. 
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Gov. Rick Scott bounced back against former Gov. Charlie Crist, his leading Democratic challenger, in a Survey USA/WFLA poll released on Tuesday. Two weeks ago, Crist had established a lead over Scott but the governor roared back in the latest poll.

Scott leads 45 percent to 43 percent while 8 percent support other candidates and 4 percent remain undecided. In the last Survey USA/WFLA poll, Crist led 46 percent to 40 percent.

The poll of 576 likely voters was taken from July 31-Aug. 4 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent.
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The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) released a new TV ad defending Gov. Rick Scott from former Gov. Charlie Crist’s charge that he raised property taxes. The ad also notes that Crist raised taxes during his term in office. Despite having spent most of his political life as a Republican, Crist is the favorite to win the Democratic primary later this month to determine who takes on Scott in November.

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“Charlie Crist found one thing he’s worse at than being governor – basic math,” said Leslie Dougher, the chairwoman of the RPOF, on Wednesday. “ Crist invents new math to claim that Rick Scott raised property taxes. That’s false. What’s true is that Charlie Crist raised taxes by $2.2 billion. And while he calls himself ‘the people’s candidate,’ Charlie Crist has never paid property taxes and never made a mortgage payment. Charlie Crist may have reinvented himself, but he can’t invent new math or a new record.”
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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., introduced the “Border State Protection Act" on Tuesday. The freshman Republican’s bill would let border state governors submit their governments’ expenses from dealing with the flood of illegal immigrants to the federal government for reimbursement. Yoho’s proposal also ensures the states flexibility to ensure the federal government doesn’t sue them over their handling of illegal immigration.

“The Obama administration has failed to achieve operational control of our southern border while simultaneously enticing individuals to make the dangerous journey to America,” Yoho said on Tuesday, before taking aim at U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for suing Arizona over its immigration law. “We have also seen our very own attorney general sue a governor, who was trying to protect the state’s own citizens. Since when does the federal government sue a state for doing a job our government should be doing anyway?

“The governors of our southwest border states are bearing the brunt of the current immigration crisis, and they are receiving little if no help from the federal government,” Yoho added. “Essentially, the administration has left them high and dry. I believe we should empower our governors to take the necessary steps to deal with this crisis, which is on their doorstep. The bill I have introduced will accomplish this goal.”

Yoho noted that, under his bill, immigration costs incurred by the states would be shifted from funds going to the White House.

“Due to the influx of people, the financial burden the states are incurring is substantial,” Yoho said. “Under my bill, they will be able to submit a report to Congress detailing these incurred costs. The total costs in these reports will primarily be repaid to the border states directly from the executive office of the president and funds appropriated to the president. The remaining amounts, if any, will be repaid from nonsecurity foreign aid to Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Taxpayers should not have to bear the brunt of the president’s failed policies.

“The crisis on our southern border is not only a humanitarian issue, it is a national security issue, as well,” Yoho said in conclusion. “We must gain operational control of our borders. The states in the southwest United States are being overwhelmed. If the governors want to fill the leadership void left by the administration, they should be able to do just that without being held to task by their own government.”
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