Sunshine State News Blogs

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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Since being elected in 2012, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., ranks as one of the leading congressional champions of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Yoho has even compared it to the transcontinental railroad which connected America after the Civil War. No surprise, then, that Yoho cheered the House for passing the Keystone XL on Friday and urging President Barack Obama and the U.S. Senate to support it.

“This is a jobs bill, plain and simple,” Yoho said on Friday. “This Keystone XL Pipeline is projected to create over 40,000 good paying jobs. There is no reason this bipartisan legislation should have been blocked for so long. The president and Harry Reid’s Senate has been the sole reason this has not moved forward.

“Creating good paying jobs for hard-working Americans while improving the strength of our economy is my priority,” Yoho added. “I will continue to support any and all legislation that achieves this goal. It is time to put America first. I hope this bill will be passed out of the Senate quickly and signed by the president immediately.”

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From his perch as the chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., weighed in on the news that the VA department fired Terry Gerigk Wolf, the Pittsburgh health-care system director who was in charge during the Legionnaires' outbreak back in 2011 and 2012 which impacted 22 veterans, killing six of them. Wolf had been on paid administrative leave since the summer after a VA internal investigation.

“Given that Wolf’s firing comes two years after the VA Pittsburgh Health-care System Legionnaires’ disease outbreak ended, it’s obvious VA had no interest in holding her accountable initially and was only driven to this point after intense congressional and media scrutiny,” Miller said. “Still, this action falls fall short of what’s needed to provide closure to the veterans and families struck by an outbreak that VA failed to stop and actively hid from the public. Though VA is finally holding someone accountable, we must also remember that the department has rewarded other central figures in the outbreak. Wolf’s boss collected a $63,000 bonus days after the inspector general attributed the outbreak to mismanagement and VA recently promoted Wolf’s deputy even though internal emails provide smoking-gun evidence he tried to hide the outbreak from the public. Though Wolf’s removal is a positive step, VA still has a lot to learn about honesty, integrity and accountability, and this action doesn’t change that fact.”

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Administrative Judge W. David Watkins gave the Department of Health's proposed rules for implementing Florida's new medical marijuana law the heave-ho Friday, calling them an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority.

Yes, on Jan. 1 doctors can order marijuana in oil form to treat patients for seizure, but none of the five licenses authorized by the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 have been awarded.

The story of the judge's ruling was first reported fully by James Call in

The proposed rules for the law were challenged by Costa Farms, Plants of Ruskin and Florida Medical Cannabis Association on the grounds that DOH did not have the authority to insert a lottery in the process and expanded the pool of eligible applicants beyond what lawmakers had specified.

Read the complete story in Sunshine State News.

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Jonathan Gruber is drawing fire from U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., after a video emerged in which he said the “lack of transparency” and the “stupidity of the American voter” helped pass President Barack Obama’s federla health-care law. DeSantis wants Gruber to return federal monies he received for consulting on the law.

"Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber's comments paint a disturbing picture of a man willing to concoct deception after deception in order to cram an unpopular health law through Congress,” DeSantis said on Thursday. “Gruber displays an appalling contempt for the American people, a contempt that is all the more troubling given that he was richly rewarded with $400,000 in taxpayer dollars for his so-called consulting services. To receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds in exchange for lying to the public is simply unacceptable. I call on Jonathan Gruber to return the $400,000 he has amassed as a result of his questionable conduct."

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The Heartland Institute has been named a 2014 top-rated nonprofit organization by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations.

In a written statement, Gwendalyn Carver, development director at The Heartland, said, “We are excited to be named a 2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit. We are proud of our accomplishments this year. We are making a difference in national debates over climate change, Common Core State Standards, replacing Obamacare, and cutting taxes and repealing unnecessary regulations. It’s wonderful to be recognized for that work!”

Heartland received the award based on the large number of positive reviews it received online from volunteers, donors, elected officials, and other audiences it serves. One reviewer wrote this:

"The Heartland Institute is an oasis in a desert. They have very creatively put together a group of creditable experts in a number of critical disciplines that can weigh in on issues that are plaguing our society. Most of the issues are created in Washington by persons that 'don’t know what they don’t know.' I am amazed by the amount of information that is assembled for publications that deal with Environment (Climate Control), Education (Core Curriculum) and Budget and Taxes (Pensions). Joe Bast and his staff put it all together for those of us that still believe that the best government is the one that governs least."

Said Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonproits, “Savvy donors want to see the impact of their donations more than ever. People with direct experience with Heartland have voted that the organization is making a real difference.”

GreatNonprofits has been called "the leading site for donors and volunteers to find reviews and ratings of nonprofit organizations."

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On Thursday, incoming Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, named Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, as president pro tempore. The Senate will meet next week when Gardiner takes over from current Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Destin. Richter served as president pro tempore under Gaetz. 

“As a veteran of the Vietnam War, a business owner and a family man who worked his way from a bank janitor to a bank president, Garrett brings a range of personal and professional experiences to the Senate that allow him to relate to people from all walks of life and to build consensus without compromising principle,” said Gardiner on Thursday. “He has a contagious energy and a strong work ethic that will be a valuable asset as we work to build our policy agenda.”

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Calling himself the “true conservative," Palm Coast Republican Travis Hutson is moving his money from his current Florida House accounts to a Florida Senate campaign. Hutson will take on Rep. Doc Renuart, R-Ponte Vedra Beach, in a special primary on Jan. 27 to see who replaces former Sen. John Thrasher in Tallahassee.

On Thursday, Hutson announced he was moving $300,000 into his Senate campaign.

“We are excited to hit the ground running in my special election campaign for Senate District 6,” said Hutson. “I look forward to delivering the message to Northeast Florida that I am the true conservative in this race who is committed to reducing government waste and spending, improving our education system, and growing the economy and job base in Northeast Florida. I am passionate about our district, and it is important to me to help us continue to thrive, as well as enhance the future of Northeast Florida.”

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On Thursday, Gov. Rick Scott issued an order lowering costs for Lifetime Sportsman’s Licenses for Floridians 21 and younger. From Nov. 24-Dec. 31, the cost of the license for those Floridians will be lowered from $1,000 to $500.

“Our state’s natural treasures give families wonderful opportunities for both fishing and hunting from the Panhandle to the Keys,” Scott said. “This Lifetime Sportsman’s License will provide Florida’s youth with the opportunity to spend time outdoors with their families. Fishing and hunting are time-honored traditions in our state, and I encourage all Floridians to spend some time enjoying the great outdoors.”

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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., weighed in on last week’s election results and insisted things will be better in Washington, D.C., with Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Democrats not in charge of the Senate for the next two years.

Yoho penned an op-ed over at The Hill on Wednesday, insisting voters were “tired” of President Barack Obama’s “one-sided policies and all of the dysfunction in our nation’s capital.”

“Coming to the end of my first term in office, I can tell you that, from my perspective, the American people have graded the 113th Congress and our grade is not impressive,” Yoho wrote. “I understand their frustration. However, if we take a closer look at the main cause of this dysfunction, we will find it leads to the desk of one particular senator: Harry Reid.”

But even with Republicans controlling both chambers, Yoho said the GOP has to prove itself to American voters.

“With Tuesday's results, the American people have granted complete control of Congress to the GOP,” Yoho wrote. “We have been given very short reins for two years to lead one third of government. The people have allowed us to govern but only if we can earn their trust. We can show that we are worthy of that trust again by doing what is right for America and creating results, not excuses. It's time for us to lead and regain the trust of the American people. I look forward to the task at hand.”

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On Wednesday, in the lame-duck session, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize funding for the National Estuary Program (NEP). The bill was championed by two congressmen from Florida: Republican Bill Posey and Democrat Patrick Murphy. The two congressmen wanted federal funds to protect estuaries including the Indian River Lagoon.

“This common-sense plan will help provide critical funding for our nation’s estuaries, and make available additional funding to estuaries that are experiencing urgent and challenging ecological problems, including our own Indian River Lagoon,” Posey said on Wednesday. “I’m pleased to see this important legislation move forward in a strongly bipartisan manner.”

“It is great to see the House act swiftly on the National Estuary Program to help support the health of our waterways,” Murphy said. “The Treasure Coast will directly benefit because this bill includes our bipartisan proposal to prioritize the Indian River Lagoon. With the health of our economy directly tied to our waterways, this common-sense measure is well-deserving of the overwhelming bipartisan support it received today, and I hope that the Senate quickly follows suit.”

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, talked immigration problems, economic ties and combating drugs when he met Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández on Wednesday.

“A strong U.S.-Honduras alliance is key to addressing some of the most pressing security threats of our hemisphere,” said Rubio. “Working together to expand cooperation and strengthen our efforts to stop illicit human, drug and weapon trafficking is critical to both America’s security and that of Latin America.

“Given the recent wave of unaccompanied children, it should be clear to all that a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Honduras is critical to the security and future of our hemisphere,” Rubio added. “To end the hopelessness that contributes to illegal immigration, we must work together to address the crushing poverty and deadly violence that exists in Honduras, in addition to making sure the Honduran people do not mistake perceived ‘ambiguities’ in our immigration policies as incentives to risk their lives coming to the U.S. illegally. I look forward to improving U.S.-Honduras relations as we work toward achieving lasting peace and stability in the region.”

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., unveiled the Contain Ebola and Stop the Epidemic (CEASE) Act on Wednesday.

Ross's bill would give the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the ability to stop planes landing with passengers from nations impacted by Ebola. The proposal would also stop consular officers from issuing visas to those who come from Ebola-impacted nations or traveled through them. The travel and visa bans would be lifted when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) determine the countries are free of Ebola.

“Now that the United States is free of the Ebola virus disease, we must begin implementing a process that will keep our country safe from a potential future outbreak,” Ross said on Wednesday. “Craig Spencer, a doctor who helped treat Ebola patients in West Africa, returned home to New York to find he had become sick with the virus. Spencer was released from the hospital this week, but President Obama’s Ebola czar, Ron Klain, told MSNBC, ‘we’re going to see occasional additional cases of Ebola in our country. This is not the last one.’ Klain’s statement does not provide my constituents and I comfort.

“If passed, I believe banning flights and banning the issuance of visas to those traveling from countries experiencing an Ebola epidemic will reduce the threat of an outbreak within our borders,” Ross added. “The CEASE Act will implement common-sense safeguards to protect American citizens from this deadly virus. Ebola is still devastating areas of Africa, especially in both Guinea and Sierra Leone, which is why we must keep our guard up. Until the CDC can ascertain that Ebola has been contained and eradicated overseas, we must be vigilant in keeping Americans safe by being proactive instead of reactive.”

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Florida House Democratic Leader-designate Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, has announced that Rep. Mia Jones , D-Jacksonville, will be the Democratic leader pro tempore for the 2015-16 legislative session. 

“Mia has proven herself with consistent ability. She’s loyal to the people she represents," said Pafford. "She’s taken the time and put in the hard work to know the issues very well,” Pafford said. “Her commitment to improve the health of every Floridian, especially its youngest people, is a credit to Mia and a huge benefit to Democrats in the House of Representatives. All of us are lucky she’ll be back as leader pro tem.”

Jones has represented HD 14 since 2008 and previously served as the Democratic leader pro tempore from 2013-14. 

“I look forward to working with Mark to solidify the caucus as one body, to recognize the importance of standing as one, and fighting as one, for the things we believe in,” Jones said. “Now it really becomes a greater responsibility to stand united as Democrats to fight for what’s most important to us.”

The House Democratic Caucus will convene at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17, to elect its leader. The elected leader submits his or her nominee for Democratic leader pro tempore for approval of the caucus. 
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Jacksonville attorney Paul Renner has filed to run for the Florida House seat vacated by Rep. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast. Hutson is running for the Senate seat vacated by former Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine.

Renner, a Navy veteran, lost to Jay Fant by two votes in the Republican primary back in August for a House seat representing parts of Duval County. Renner had the support of Thrasher and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., against Fant.

Tea party leader Derek Hankerson, who lost to Thrasher in a primary in August, has told the media that he will run for the House seat vacated by Hutson.

Earlier this week, businessman Donald O’Brien, who chaired the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, filed to run for the seat.

Retired Navy Capt. Dave Sullivan, the chairman of the Flagler County Republican Executive Committee, has expressed interest in running for the seat which represents all of Flagler County and parts of St. Johns and Volusia counties. The special primary has been set for Jan. 27, 2015, with the special election to be held April 7.

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