Sunshine State News Blogs

Florida TaxWatch released a report on Thursday looking at the state government's mental health efforts.

"Mental health problems affect many members of our communities, from children in our elementary schools to retirees in nursing homes, and ensuring individuals are getting the help they need is truly a matter of public safety," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, on Thursday. "It is critical that our state's mental health dollars are spent most efficiently to provide care to those who need it most, and our state's Behavioral Health Managing Entities are helping to do that, even with minimal funding."

The report shows, despite being under funded, Florida's Behavioral Health Managing Entities has been efficient. Despite that, Florida TaxWatch called for more funding of mental health services at the state level. The report can be read here.

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U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., offered his take on Tuesday over President Barack Obama’s sanctions on leaders of the Maduro regime earlier in the week. While Curbelo applauded the sanctions, he joined other Republicans from South Florida in calling for harsher penalties.

“Yesterday’s sanctions are a long overdue first step in holding the Maduro regime accountable for its grotesque disrespect for human rights. In recent months, the Maduro regime has continued to use lethal force to control opposition protests, including a 14-year-old student who was shot and killed by police while walking to school in San Cristobal,” Curbelo said on Tuesday. “Additionally, the regime has moved to expel Julio Borges, a moderate opposition leader, from the National Assembly. Leopoldo López, another opposition leader, has been in jail for a year and is now on trial for treason. On Feb. 19, agents of Venezuela’s state security service, without a warrant, stormed the office of the mayor of Caracas and arrested him for conspiracy to commit violent acts against the regime.

“I continue to stand in solidarity with the peaceful, democratic opposition in Venezuela that opposes thuggish rule and proudly stands for liberty,” Curbelo added. “While the administration’s new sanctions are a step forward in our larger effort to hold all repressive regimes accountable, there is still much more to be done to ensure that all those responsible for perpetrating human rights violations in Venezuela are held accountable. I applaud the Venezuelan-American community in the United States that has been instrumental in advocating on behalf of the people of Venezuela and continue to stand in unity for the cause of justice and freedom.”

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The committee responsible for reviewing the top issues in Florida's education system will be meeting via a conference call March 27, sources tell Sunshine State News. 

According to the department's website, the committee is charged with "instructional material review processes used by school boards, identifying strategies to increase parental involvement in education, and reviewing the implementation of the Florida Standards and the Florida Standards Assessment."

The committee will meet from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

Additional details are forthcoming.  
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Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., selected three nominees to the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame including former Gov. Reubin Askew, D-Fla. Scott’s office released the following to the media late on Tuesday:

Governor Reubin O’Donovan Askew (1928-2014), formerly of Pensacola, was the 37th Governor of Florida. He was named one of the "Top 50 Floridians of the 20th Century" by the Lakeland Ledger. As Governor, Askew supported school and busing desegregation and fought for fairer legislative representation in urban counties. He appointed the first African-American Justice to the State Supreme Court, the first African-American woman to head a state agency, and the first African-American to hold a cabinet level office in Florida. The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University rated him one of the country’s top ten governors of the 20th century.

Sallye B. Mathis (1912-1982), formerly of Jacksonville, served for 28 years as a teacher in the Duval County Public School System, where she taught elementary school students and history at Matthew Gilbert High School. Mathis was a civil rights activist and a member of the League of Woman Voters. Her commitment to the cause of civil rights led the Jacksonville NAACP chapter to name an annual community service award in her honor. In 1967, she was the first African-American woman elected to the Jacksonville City Council where she fought for reduced bus fares for senior citizens and initiated legislation for a Citizens’ Police Review Board, free public toilets, and equal job opportunities in public agencies. Her service to Jacksonville was commemorated with the naming of the Sallye B. Mathis Elementary School in her honor.

Edward Daniel Davis (1904-1989), formerly of Orlando, was an author, educator, and businessman who was best known for his unyielding civil rights crusades that helped desegregate the University of Florida, raise the salary of African-American teachers, and increase African-American voter registration. In 1942, he was fired as head of Howard Academy in Ocala for leading the Florida State Teachers Association in a legal move to obtain equal pay for black instructors. Additionally, Davis was instrumental in a nine-year fight to open the University of Florida School of Law to minority students. He was the founder of the Florida Voter League, president of the Florida State Teachers Association, and served two terms as president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP. He received the first ever Governor’s Distinguished Black Floridian Award in 1986.

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Cracking down on gun control? Not so fast, say American voters. 

A new Rasmussen Reports poll released Tuesday found more than half (51 percent) of likely U.S. voters don't believe the country needs tighter gun control laws. A smaller amount (42 percent) say the U.S. needs stricter gun control laws. 

A higher percentage of survey respondents -- 61 percent -- say the government needs a stricter enforcement of existing gun control laws while 28 percent disagree. 

Americans seem somewhat more divided on whether stricter gun control laws will decrease violent crime. Forty percent say stricter gun control laws would decrease violent crime while 34 percent say it wouldn't have an effect on violent crime at all. Only 18 percent believe stricter gun control laws would increase violent crime. 

The survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters was conducted March 2-3 by Rasmussen Reports.
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U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., showcased the “Congressional Travel Perks Elimination Act” which would ensure members of Congress won’t use public funds to pay for first-class rides on airplanes and on long-term car leases. U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, is co-sponsoring the bill which was sent to the House Committee on House Administration on Friday.

"Nine months ago, I pledged if elected I would work to end wasteful congressional perks,” Graham said on Tuesday as she trumpeted the bill. “Today, I'm following through on that promise.

"It's a common-sense idea that Republicans and Democrats can both agree on: members of Congress shouldn't be able to charge taxpayers for first-class airfare or long-term personal car leases,” Graham added.

The freshman congresswoman noted that reports show more than 100 congressmen use long-term car leases with some of them being $825 a month.

"I don't know anyone in North Florida with an $800 car lease, and the taxpayers here certainly shouldn't be paying for a member of Congress to have such an overpriced perk," Graham said.

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., part of the House leadership as senior deputy majority whip, introduced a bill this month to waive the time limitations so Air Force veteran Edward Halcomb can receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in the Korean War

“The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army,” said Ross on Monday. “For years, my staff has worked with longtime Mulberry, Florida resident, Edward Grady Halcomb, to be awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his service during the Korean War.

“Edward Grady Halcomb, who later retired from the Army at the rank of Sergeant First Class, risked his own life countless times on both the battlefield and as a POW caring for other sick and wounded American prisoners,” Ross added. “Over the course of two months, he never left his patients’ side at the prison camp and continued to look after them during the 120-mile death march from Seoul to Pyongyang.

“I recently received confirmation from the Secretary of the Army John McHugh, who personally affirmed that Edward Grady Halcomb should be awarded with the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor in the service,” Ross noted. “However, there is a time limitation in U.S. Code currently preventing this award from being presented to Mr. Halcomb. To address this, I introduced legislation to ensure this American hero will receive the award he earned for serving his country and for saving the lives of fellow service members so many years ago.

“Over the coming months, I will work with my colleagues to ensure that this veteran receives the award he deserves for serving in defense of our nation,” Ross said in conclusion.

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The leadership of the business community stepped up on Monday to go to bat for the Seminole Gaming Compact while urging Florida to limit expanded casino operations in the Sunshine State.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida released a new TV ad on Monday featuring Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and Carol Dover, the president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, calling to support extending the compact which is up in July.

“Florida is changing, which is why we need to extend the compact and limit gambling,” Wilson said. “Changing it could lead to the expansion of gambling, which simply is unacceptable for a state that has worked hard to grow its economy and develop a family-friendly image.”

“Since the Seminole Compact went into effect, it has generated more than $1 billion in state revenue for education, health care and veterans’ services,” said Dover. “We cannot afford to lose these vital dollars.”

The Seminole Tribe noted on Monday that extending the compact will create more than 15,000 jobs, saves 3,000 current jobs and brings the state $260 million in annual revenue.

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Gov. Rick Scott announced job opportunities are growing in Florida with the Conference Board’s Help Wanted Online report showing 292,249 openings in February, up 4.7 percent from January and 8.4 percent higher than last year.

“Every new job represents an opportunity to achieve the dream of America, and this record-high job demand is great news for Florida families,” Scott said on Monday. “Florida is on a mission to beat Texas as the No. 1 state for job creation, and today’s news puts us closer to that goal. We will keep working every day to build an environment that encourages growth so Florida can become the global destination for jobs.”

“Florida’s economic climate continues to brighten, with another record month of job demand and increased consumer confidence,” noted Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio. “These trends show that pro-growth policies make a difference and are helping to grow an opportunity economy in Florida.”

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The Libertarian Party went after the tax plan offered by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. The Libertarians insisted most Americans would be hurt, especially those making less than $406,750,

“This is what leaders within the GOP – which now holds majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate – have to offer?” asked Nicholas Sarwark, chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, on Friday. “Pathetic.”

“How about ending the federal income tax altogether – dropping everyone’s tax rate to zero – and cutting wasteful federal spending instead?” Sarwak added

“Republicans, who accused Obama of reckless deficit spending, now want to raise your taxes to fund those deficits,”Sarwark continued. “Ending the income tax, balancing the budget, and cutting spending will put an average of $11,525 back into the family budget of every American family and pour $1.4 trillion into the productive, private sector economy. That’s stimulus. Vote Libertarian, end the income tax, and put money back into your family budget!”

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Florida TaxWatch released a report on Friday finding lionfish are a threat to fishing in the Sunshine State which employs almost 65,000 Floridians in commercial activities and more than 109,000 through tourism.

"Florida fishing provides jobs, local food and unique tourism experiences, which must be preserved as they are critical pieces of Florida's diversified economy," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. "By taking steps to control Florida's lionfish population, the state is protecting valuable Florida resources and needed jobs."

The report can be read here.

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From his perch as chairman of the U.S. Senate Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., urged U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to keep Cuba listed as a state sponsor of terror even as the Obama administration tries to normalize relations with that nation.

Rubio wrote Kerry on Thursday and made his case.

“I am greatly disturbed by recent media reports that you are considering recommending to the President that he de-list Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List (SSTL),” Rubio wrote. “I believe that there should be no consideration of such a step while Cuba still harbors fugitives labeled “terrorists” by the FBI, provides support and safe harbor to members of terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) and continues to flout international norms with respect to weapons smuggling and an ongoing relationship with North Korea.

“The United States cannot in good faith remove Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List while the Castro regime harbors terrorists who have killed Americans, actively supports designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations by harboring their members and continues to flout international law through clandestine weapon transfers with a rogue regime like North Korea,” Rubio noted.

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The team behind former Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) Chairman Lenny Curry’s effort to defeat incumbent Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown weighed in on the University of North Florida (UNF) poll released on Thursday and they are pleased with the results.

Tim Baker from Data Targeting Research, a general consultant to the Curry campaign, penned a memo on Thursday in which he looked at the results:

UNF just released the results of a poll they conducted related to the upcoming March mayoral election and the results are not good for Mayor Brown. I wanted to give you a brief overview of the findings before you hear the spin that Brown and his allies will start peddling.

The most important number in this survey is 37 percent. After Alvin Brown and the Florida Democratic Party have spent nearly $2 million on his campaign to date, Brown is only pulling 37 percent of the vote in the March election. That is down nearly 10 points from a similar poll about 12 months ago (UNF poll, Feb 2014).

It cannot be overstated how bad a number 37 percent is for an incumbent mayor who is weeks away from facing voters and who previously enjoyed an approval rating in UNF polls higher than 70 percent. UNF makes it clear in their analysis that an approval rating for Brown “isn’t translating into votes for the mayor.” Additionally, Brown’s efforts to pretend he is conservative are not being believed by the likely voters. According to the poll, 43 percent see
Brown as a liberal and only 14 percent see him as conservative. Another poor indicator for Brown is 41 percent of voters don’t think he is a strong leader.

Lenny Curry is in a strong position and the candidates below him show no signs of political life. They both lack the necessary resources to get in front of the voters between now and the election. As other polls have demonstrated for months, other candidates consistently total between 10 and 12 percent, and UNF shows the same.

Lenny has very strong numbers with voters who know who he is (+8 on being a strong leader). As UNF’s memo makes clear, there is still a sizable portion of the electorate that is just getting to know Lenny and has yet to form an opinion. The Curry campaign is in a good position to see growth with these voters who are ideologically aligned with Lenny.

The path to victory for Lenny is clear and the campaign is focused on closing strongly during these last few weeks. While fundraising continues to be an important part of the strategy in the coming weeks, the ground game base that has been laid is also critically important to the campaign’s success. On average there are 7,000 plus calls made daily to previously identified likely voters, and the door-to-door campaign is far surpassing the goals set by our initial strategy. Lenny and the team have made contact with over 50,000 likely voter households to date. Our volunteer and grassroots team is the strongest amongst any campaign and the final weeks will only see momentum continue to build around Lenny’s vision for a greater Jacksonville at the perfect time when voters are beginning to truly tune into the election.

Staying focused and on course is the tone Lenny has set for the team – and he continues to lead us forward with drive, commitment and energy.

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Groups opposing high-stakes testing and the Common Core State Standards will be hitting Florida's Capitol Thursday morning to promote two bills which would limit testing and expand options for education standards in the Sunshine State.

The two bills -- SB 1496, filed by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, and HB 1121, filed by Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne Beach, would allow school districts to select English-language arts and math standards from a pre-2009 "best of breed" list and would also eliminate mandatory statewide testing.

The Florida Citizens Alliance will meet in Tallahassee Thursday for "The March for Children," an event designed to bring constituents and legislators together for "a meaningful discussion" about the current state of Florida's schools.

Attendees will also discuss ways to stop high-stakes testing against Florida students.

“This is truly a grass roots solution to the convoluted and oppressive testing and federal overreach problems that have plagued schools and destroyed the love of learning,” said Keith Flaugh, one of FLCA's founding directors.

“This bill is one small step toward reinstituting local control of Florida schools, and one giant leap for the right of children to be educated in a safe, nonideological, and effective manner," said Duke Pesta, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh assistant professor and anti-Common Core activist.

The event begins at 11 a.m. in the Capitol rotunda. 
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Achtung, you folks in Gov. Rick Scott's office: Quite a story just in from the Virgin Islands.

Acting Attorney General Terri Griffiths told executives of The Virgin Islands Daily News on Thursday morning that she will prosecute the newspaper on criminal charges because of its telephone calls to obtain comment and information from her.

Bet you guys haven't thought of that one yet.

"I'll be filing criminal charges against you," Griffiths said as she abruptly left a meeting at The Daily News' offices on St. Thomas.

Griffiths' departure concluded a volatile session in which she accused The Daily News of harassing her by calling her cellphone after business hours to seek her comment on news events.

She also claimed that a quote attributed to her in a story published Wednesday had been "fabricated." The quote she specified was: "I will not comment on the Parole Board hearings."

Copy-cat Florida lawsuit, anyone?

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Running for the Florida Senate seat currently held by Sen. Charles Dean, R-Inverness, in 2016, Rep.Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, made his case to conservatives on Tuesday at the start of the new legislative session.

“While some laws are good and necessary, many are not,” Baxley noted on Tuesday. “Thousands of bills are filed every year and only a small percentage are actually passed. I believe this is a good thing! My goal in Tallahassee is not to pass more legislation to regulate your lives, but to kill bills!”

Baxley voted to “do all I can to protect faith, family, freedom and opportunity” during the session.

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U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., rallied his supporters behind Israel on Tuesday, praising
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress and warning about the dangers of a nuclear Iran.

“Israel is one of the United States’ greatest allies and is a vital stronghold for democracy in the Middle East,” Webster emailed supporters on Tuesday night. “I was disappointed that several of my Democratic colleagues chose to boycott this speech, as I believe the possibility of a nuclear Iran is a matter of life and death. With the next deadline in the Iran negotiations only weeks away, it was important for Congress and the American people to hear directly from the Israeli leader about his nation’s concerns over its security. I share the prime minister’s strong concern over the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran and the grave threat it would pose to the security of Israel, our nation, and our allies around the world.

“Unfortunately, President Obama derided Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for solidarity against a nuclear Iran as ‘destructive.’ I take a different view,” Webster added. “I see Iran for what it is: a persistent human rights abuser who has declared their desire to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. That’s not a negotiating partner. That’s an enemy deserving of nothing more than our constant vigilance.

“I stand with Israel,” Webster continued. “Regrettably there are those in Congress and those who seek to join its ranks that do not. Those voices are not the majority now and cannot become the majority ever.

“Allowing Iran to have a nuclear weapon would translate into unthinkable tragedy for Israel and the United States,” Webster concluded. “We must work to protect our allies.”

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The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) launched the “Florida Mineral Rights Working Group” as they look to further energy exploration across the Sunshine State.

“AIF has been engaged in Florida’s energy industry for decades, including running the successful Florida Energy Coalition (FEC),” said former U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., the president and CEO of AIF. “While AIF has a long history of advocating for increased, responsible oil and gas exploration and production in the Sunshine State, we are re-energizing our efforts on this front because of the renewed focus on Florida’s onshore oil and gas resources. As such, we are proud to announce the formation of the Florida Mineral Rights Working Group, which will operate under the FEC.

“The goal of this newly-formed working group will be to help secure a fair and consistent regulatory framework in the state for operators and mineral owners, while also ensuring standards are in place to protect Florida’s environment, our natural resources and our water supply,” Feeney added. “This will undoubtedly allow companies and landowners currently in this industry space to grow, while encouraging new companies to enter the state -- the end result of which will be more jobs for Floridians, more revenue for the state, and greater oversight of oil and gas exploration and production activities.”

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A bill to protect racing greyhounds became the first bill to pass the Florida Senate during this year's legislative session on Tuesday. 

The bill, titled the “Victoria Q. Gaetz 22 Racing Greyhound Protection Act" would require racetrack owners to report greyhound injuries to the state via a signed form within seven days of when the injury occurs. The form would be required to be completed and signed under oath. 

The bill was named in honor of former Senate President Don Gaetz's wife. Gaetz co-sponsored the bill, which was filed by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood.

According to the bill, racetrack owners will be required to report the greyhound's name, its right- and left-ear tattoo numbers, the name and address of the greyhound's owner, the dog's height, weight and color, as well as the type of injury sustained and the anticipated recovery time.

For injuries sustained during a race, owners would be required to submit the location, distance, grade, race and weather conditions when the race occurred. 

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

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Americans for Prosperity’s (AFP) Florida chapter announced its “Five for Florida” legislative agenda on Monday, backing Gov. Rick Scott’s $670 million tax cut proposal while continuing to oppose public dollars being used for luring movie projects to the Sunshine State or to be spent on sports complexes.

"Americans for Prosperity will once again be the primary thorn in the side of any lawmaker, Republican or Democrat, who places special interests and the tax-and-spend status quo above the taxpayers they were elected to represent,” said Chris Hudson, AFP’s director in Florida. “Our Five for Florida agenda identifies the specific bills that will expand or reduce the size of government and make it easier or harder for Floridians to earn a living and achieve the American dream. As multiple politicians have already learned this session, AFP has no intention to stay quiet when Tallahassee redistributes tax dollars to Hollywood fat cats and sports arena owners. In each issue area we will help our 137,000 activists have a voice in the debates that impact their opportunity and prosperity. Politicians, be on watch: AFP is active across the state building a constituency for economic freedom and limited government."

AFP’s agenda can be read here.

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., took to the House floor on Monday to insist the Obama administration deter Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Ross traced over recent history from the Iranian hostage crisis to the 1983 Beirut bombing which killed more than 300 Marines and insisted the Islamic extremists running Iran cannot be trusted.

“Iran is the lead sponsor of radical Islamic terrorism throughout the world today, including sleeper cells in the United States,” Ross said. “Just last week, Iran's Revolutionary Guard staged war games in the Strait of Hormuz, including a gunboat attack on a model U.S. warship. During the exercise, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini proclaimed that ‘Americans are ready to be buried at the bottom of the water.’

“My point is that Iran has a ruthless track record of terrorizing the West, including the United States,” Ross added. “Let’s be perfectly clear: Iran wants to destroy America – as they proclaim each year on November 4th and as they demonstrated last week during their training attack on a mock U.S. naval carrier.”

Ross also noted that Iran continued to want to eradicate Israel.

“Recently, I had the privilege of traveling to Israel and meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Ross said. “During my visit, the prime minister and I discussed in great detail the threat posed by Iran to Israel and the region. Iran openly declares its intention to destroy the state of Israel. Today, Iran has the largest and most diverse missile arsenal in the Middle East. The missiles are capable of carrying nuclear and chemical weaponry with a range of 1,500 miles. With bared teeth Iran, in conjunction with North Korea, is developing a longer-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States in just a few years.

“I am deeply concerned about the current round of negotiations between President Obama and Iran,” Ross continued. “The current deal coming out of the White House would allow Iran to continue to develop nuclear weapons after 10 years. A long-term deal that allows Iran to develop nuclear capabilities only strengthens the hand of Iran and fortifies their determination to destroy Israel and dominate the Middle East, the Muslim World and the entire globe, including the United States.

“Iran says its nuclear program is entirely for peaceful purposes and not aimed at developing nuclear weapons. However...history is replete with examples that argue quite the opposite. Iran is not our friend,” Ross added. “Iran should never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.”

Ross noted that Netanyahu would be speaking to Congress on Tuesday night and said he was looking forward to hearing the Israeli prime minister “detail his opposition to this agreement that would grant Iran a license to develop nuclear weapons.”

Ross concluded by warning Obama not to make a deal with Iran and to stand with Israel.

“President Obama cannot unilaterally implement this dangerous plan,” Ross insisted. “Congress has a responsibility to prevent this foreign-policy disaster from occurring. We must stand firmly with Israel. Unless Iran is willing to forego its entire nuclear program, the United States should not ease sanctions and should not allow Iran to become a nuclear state.”

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Testing for the writing portion of the Florida Standards Assessment resumed on Tuesday after a tumultuous first day of testing left many students unable to log in or complete the test. 

Complaints of a lagging computer system arose Monday, forcing some districts to reschedule the test. Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart said Monday the Florida Department of Education would be working to resolve the technical issues.

On Tuesday morning, Stewart told district superintendents the issues had been resolved and testing could resume.

Some schools were still having issues as of Tuesday morning, however. According to the Hillsborough County School District, some schools were still experiencing issues and were told to stop testing for the day. 

According to the company providing the test, nearly all tests started Monday -- around 68,000 of 69,000 -- were successfully completed.

The FSA writing test will be administered until March 13.
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On Friday, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., came out swinging at the Obama administration’s efforts to crack down on green tip ammunition.

Rooney brought out his Protecting Second Amendment Rights Act” on Friday. The bill would ensure the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and other federal agencies won’t be able to ban the manufacturing and sale of 5.56 mm/.223 caliber M855 green tip ammo which are commonly used in hunting. The ATF recently proposed to stop the manufacturing and sale of that kind of ammunition.

“The Obama administration’s proposal would unilaterally strip law-abiding hunters and sportsmen of their Second Amendment rights,” Rooney said. “Congress has made its intentions clear that this ammunition is for sporting purposes and should not be restricted. We cannot and we will not stand by while the Obama administration tramples on the Constitution, the rule of law, and the Second Amendment rights of hunters in my district and across the country.”

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This photo showing Florida at night was taken by the NASA Expedition 41 crew and today it's splashed all over social media. Check out below the Everglades -- almost light-pollution free.

Florida at night from Space
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On Wednesday, Florida’s two U.S. senators -- Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio -- joined together with eight other senators to introduce a bill updating the U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program offering up to $5 million for information on the murder of four Americans by Islamic State (IS) terrorists.

Nelson and Rubio were joined in introducing the measure by the two senators from Arizona: Republicans Jeff Flake and John McCain; the two senators from Indiana, Republican Dan Coats and Democrat Joe Donnelly; and the two senators from New Hampshire, Republican Kelly Ayotte and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is also sponsoring the measure as the government looks for information on IS terrorists who killed James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig and Kayla Mueller. The bill also includes other Americans killed by IS terrorists and would ensure members of IS or other terrorist groups cannot collect the money.

“The fight against ISIL hit home for Floridians when Steven Sotloff, an American journalist from Florida, was brutally murdered at the hands of these radical Islamic extremists,” said Rubio. “We must ensure that the barbaric murders of Steven, James Foley, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller do not go unanswered. This bill is a clear message to ISIL and terrorists everywhere that America will not rest until justice is served.”

“This is a truly barbaric group that must be stopped,” said Nelson. “And offering rewards for information leading to the capture of those responsible for these heinous crimes against Americans will ultimately help bring them to justice.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., is backing a similar bill in the House.


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Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order Tuesday to suspend a standardized test for Florida's 11th-graders, prompting state lawmakers to weigh in on the elimination of the Florida Standards Assessment English-language arts assessment.

The test was supposed to be given this spring. 

"Governor Scott's executive order shows that he values feedback from Florida's teachers and parents and will take action necessary to ensure students are prepared for success," said State Board of Education Chair Gary Chartrand. 

Chartrand was joined in his approval of Scott's executive order by various superintendents from across the state.

"Eliminating this unnecessary assessment is an important step to keep Florida at the forefront for public education," said Orange County School Superintendent Barbara Jenkins.

“With the elimination of this test, teachers and parents can know that our first priority is ensuring students are provided with the time and resources needed to get a great education," said Escambia County Superintendent Malcolm Thomas.

"Commissioner Stewart's investigation confirmed what we've been hearing -- there is too much testing -- and I am pleased that the governor's executive order provides students, teachers, school administrators and parents relief from this non-essential assessment," said Florida Association of School Administrators Executive Director Juhan Mixon.
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U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., weighed in on President Barack Obama’s plan to offer more regulations on the Internet on Thursday. Obama’s “net neutrality” proposal is before the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday where it is expected to pass on a 3-2 vote.

Bilirakis, who sits on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology wrote an op-ed at Fox News opposing Obama’s plan. The op-ed can be read here.

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Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., announced on Wednesday he was keeping former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre and former Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissioner Kenneth Wright on the Florida Transportation Commission.

When first named by Scott to the Transportation Commission in 2011, Ferre ranked as one of the most high-profile Democrats appointed by the Republican governor. Ferre had broken with his party to back Scott during the 2010 election cycle, backing the Republican candidate over Democratic nominee Alex Sink.

Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Ferre served in the Florida House during the 1960s. He served as mayor of Miami from 1975 until 1983 and later served on the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners. Ferre’s most recent attempts at political comebacks have not been successful, failing in a bid to be mayor again in 2001 and carrying 5 percent in the 2010 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate.

Both Ferre and Wright will serve until September 2018.

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Florida Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, was named as the “Legislator of the Year” by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), a group which represents almost 675 lawmakers from 46 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The NBCSL praised Williams for his work on extending voter hours, his efforts to ensure the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles educates Floridians on drowsy driving and his role in the creation of a Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

“We are delighted to present this award to a legislator who has stood with us for so many years,” said Tennessee state Rep. Joe Armstrong. “Representative Williams is a tireless advocate for civil rights in his home state of Florida and across the entire nation.”

“I am grateful to NBCSL, an organization that has made a significant impact in the lives of millions (of) Americans,” Williams said. “It is such an honor to be presented with the Legislator of the Year award. This recognition underscores the hard work of all our members whose core values will continue to propel our organization.”

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Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart announced Tuesday the 10 other members of a new committee to review the Florida Standards Assessment as well as tackling education issues for the next year.

Stewart's announcement comes after Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order to suspend the state's 11th-grade English-language arts assessment test, which was set to be administered this spring.

Members of the Keep Florida Learning Committee will include:

-- Education Commissioner Pam Stewart

-- 2015 Florida Teacher of the Year: Christie Bassett, Polk County

-- Legislator: Rep. Manny Díaz Jr., R-Hialeah

-- Principal: Dr. Margaret Fahringer, Miami-Dade County

-- Teacher: Doris Garcia, Orange County

-- Parent: Julia Hendricks, Pasco County

-- School Board member: Patty Hightower, Escambia County

-- Higher Education participant: Joe Pickens, Putnam County

-- Superintendent: Dr. Owen Roberts, Alachua County

-- Legislator: Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland

-- Parent: Laura Zorc, Indian River County.

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