Sunshine State News Blogs

From his seat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., denounced the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after reports emerged that members of that terrorist group beheaded journalist James Foley.

“The brutal execution of American journalist James Foley by ISIL is the latest example of the evil and barbarism of these terrorists. My thoughts and prayers are with the Foley family and with other Western hostages who at this hour are still being held,” Rubio said. “Just as al-Qaida’s initial killings of Americans abroad foretold the carnage they would unleash within our borders, this barbaric beheading of a defenseless hostage is the clearest indication to date that ISIL has declared war on the United States, on the American people, and on freedom-loving people everywhere.”

Rubio continued to hit ISIL for its actions and saying there is no point in bringing them to the negotiating table.  

“For more than a year, ISIL has been murdering civilians, raping women and young girls and enslaving them, and carrying out a systematic genocide of anyone who does not share their warped and extremist Islamist views,” Rubio said. “ISIL cannot be reasoned with, they can’t be negotiated with, and their view of the world is irreconcilable with civilized society.”

Rubio, whose name has generated some buzz as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of ISIL.

“I remain deeply concerned that despite the preponderance of evidence that proves ISIL is a fundamentally evil and dangerous terrorist threat to the United States, President Obama continues to appear unwilling to do what is necessary to confront ISIL and communicate clearly to the American people about the threat ISIL poses to our country and to our way of life,” Rubio said. “ISIL is not a problem for only Iraqis or Syrians to solve. A piecemeal approach will not eliminate the growing threat to the United States and our allies. If we do not do more to assist our Iraqi partners and those moderate Syrians who are fighting ISIL and directly target ISIL’s leadership and networks in Iraq and Syria, I fear that James Foley will not be the only American to die at their hands.”
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Teachers are losing faith in the Common Core State Standards, a set of educational standards being implemented nationwide. 

According to a poll released Wednesday from Education Next, 40 percent of teachers surveyed said they opposed the standards, a number which has more than tripled from the 12 percent who said they opposed Common Core in 2013. 

Just last year, Common Core enjoyed a majority support from teachers, with 76 percent behind it. That number has plummeted, however, with less than half -- 46 percent -- of teachers saying they now support the standards.

In 2013, teachers were much more on board with the standards and were generally more positive in their views of Common Core than the public (76 percent compared to 65 percent), but today teachers are less positive on the standards (46 percent compared to 53 percent).

Last year, only 12 percent of the teaching force expressed opposition to the standards -- virtually the same percentage as the public. Today, teacher opposition is nearly twice as high as opposition among the public, with 40 percent opposing compared to 26 percent of the public who say they oppose the standards.

The Education Next poll was based on feedback from more than 5,000 respondents in May and June and conducted by Knowledge Networks.

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Let’s Get to Work, a group with ties to Gov. Rick Scott, released a radio ad in Creole on Wednesday as they look to rally Haitian voters in South Florida. The ad focuses on Scott’s economic and education records.

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“Faced with numerous challenges upon entering office, Rick Scott made a promise to Florida voters to bring Florida’s economy back,” said Leslie Dougher, the chairwoman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), on Wednesday. “And in less than four years, Gov. Scott has kept that promise. Florida’s created over 600,000 new jobs, while Gov. Scott has cut taxes 40 times, increased education funding, and kept tuition low for Florida students. It’s clear that it’s working under Rick Scott, and we can’t afford to go back.”
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Dan Wahby, the director of government affairs for Lilly USA was named to the board of directors of GOPAC on Wednesday. Wahby is based out of Ponte Vedra on the First Coast. Also named to GOPAC’s board on Wednesday was Jabo Covert, the senior vice president of government affairs for Jones Management.
 
“We are delighted that Dan and Jabo are joining GOPAC’s board of directors,” said Frank Donatelli, the chairman of GOPAC. “Their experience and expertise will be valuable assets as we continue advancing our mission to educate and elect a new generation of Republican leaders.”
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Conservative group Florida Family Policy Council (FFPC) announced on Wednesday that former Republican presidential hopeful Gary Bauer will be speaking at their annual award dinner in Orlando on Oct. 11.

While best known for his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, Bauer also served in the Reagan administration, working on domestic issues and rising to serve as deputy undersecretary of education. Bauer also led the Family Research Council (FRC) and has stayed active with American Values and the Campaign for Working Families, one of the leading social conservative PACs at the national level. Serving on the board of Christians United for Israel, Bauer has been a vigorous supporter of that nation during the recent crisis in the Middle East.

In recent days, Bauer has weighed in on the 2016 presidential contest, warning Republicans they cannot take evangelical voters and religious conservatives for granted. While the Campaign for Working Families has made endorsements around the nation in the 2014 election cycle, so far Bauer’s group has not backed any candidates in Florida.
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Florida TaxWatch released “How Florida Compares -- Education" looking at how education in the Sunshine State does against the other states. The report finds Florida is third in the nation for K-0 enrollment and has the second best value for in-state tuition at state universities and colleges.

"It is imperative to understand how our school systems are matching up to those around the country in order to best meet the needs of Florida students," said Bob Nave, the director of Florida TaxWatch’s Center for Educational Performance and Accountability. "Florida students must remain competitive with their peers both nationally and globally, and understanding where we rank will help policymakers and education leaders fine tune our public schools to produce the best outcomes for Florida students."

"This year, Florida lawmakers spent nearly $22.5 billion to fund education programs for Florida students, which illustrates a commitment to raising achievement in our state's classrooms," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.
 
The report can be read here.
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Gov. Rick Scott slightly expanded his lead over former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite to win next week’s Democratic primary, in the latest WFLA poll taken by Survey USA.

The poll, which was released on Tuesday, finds Scott ahead with 44 percent followed by Crist with 41 percent. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie takes 4 percent.

For two weeks, the WFLA poll showed Scott leading by 2 percent.

The poll had a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent.

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Familiar Tallahassee figure Michael Hightower, Florida Blue’s vice president of government and legislative relations, is retiring on Friday. Hightower, who has chaired both the Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, will leave Florida Blue on Friday.

“For more than 30 years, Mike Hightower has been the government relations face of our company, working on behalf of the organization and our stakeholders with virtually every facet of local and state government,” said Jason Altmire, the senior vice president of public policy and community engagement for Florida Blue, on Tuesday. “We deeply appreciate his many years of service and wish him the best in his retirement.”
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The Florida Democratic Party is going after Gov. Rick Scott for "breaking the law" in its latest ad, which was published to the party's YouTube channel Monday.


The ad, titled "Important," features footage from Scott's 1995 deposition regarding the HCA/Columbia Medicare fraud case. Scott is mostly quiet in the ad, which flashes various newspaper headlines regarding the secrecy of Scott's email accounts.

“Floridians know that Rick Scott has spent his entire career in the shadows, refusing to answer questions, take responsibility, or play by the rules,” according to FDP Chair Allison Tant. “Now we’ve learned that Rick Scott was using private emails to conduct state business out of the sunshine. While these revelations are certainly not surprising, it perfectly underscores exactly why Floridians cannot trust Rick Scott with another four years.”

View the ad below:

 

 

 

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The State Board of Administration (SBA) of Florida announced on Tuesday that investments in the Florida Retirement System (FRS) Pension Plan increased 17.4 percent during the second half of 2013 and the first half of 2014. The SBA had been targeting an increase of 17 percent.

On June 30, the FRS contained investments totaling $149.1 billion in market value, an increase of $16.7 billion from a year before.

Ash Williams, the SBA’s executive director and chief investment officer, said the gains were the result of “prudence, patience, and diversification.”

“While recovery of the financial markets continues and we are certainly pleased with our current performance, we can’t lose sight of the fact that it is the long-term performance that matters most,” Williams said on Tuesday. “The 20- and 25-year periods have generated returns of 8.83 percent and 9.02 percent respectively.”
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Gov. Rick Scott's latest campaign ad is playing up the governor's commitment to veterans and his own military service in the Navy.

In the ad, several veterans express their support for the governor and some of his policies, like offering in-state tuition for incoming veterans. One veteran explains Scott understands veterans' needs due to his own experience in the military.

"As a veteran, Rick Scott understands what it means to be a part of something greater than himself, and works every day to honor that same commitment among Florida’s military personnel and veterans," said Lt.Col. Chris Hart, U.S. Army (Ret.) and state co-chair of Veterans for Scott Coalition. "Gov. Scott stands with all those who have served our country and will continue to thank them for their service and sacrifice." 

View the ad below:

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On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet issued a resolution indicating Florida’s support for Israel during the current crisis in the Middle East. The resolution reads as follows:

WHEREAS, Israel remains a force of freedom and democracy in the Middle East; and

WHEREAS, Florida continues to foster a strong relationship with Israel and is home to one of the largest Jewish populations outside of Israel; and

WHEREAS, Israel is a steadfast ally of the United States; and

WHEREAS, Hamas is a United States-designated terrorist organization whose charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel; and

WHEREAS, Hamas continues to reject the Quartet Principles, the set of three requirements laid out by the diplomatic entity composed of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and the United States, which are to accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements, to renounce violence, and to recognize Israel's right to exist; and

WHEREAS, innocent civilians are indiscriminately targeted by Hamas rocket attacks, and Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis and dozens of Americans in rocket attacks and suicide bombings; and

WHEREAS, since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Hamas  and other terrorist groups have fired thousands of rockets at Israel, and since June 2014, Hamas has fired approximately 3,000 rockets at Israel; and

WHEREAS, millions of Israelis are currently living under the threat of rocket attacks from Gaza.

WHEREAS, Iran has long provided material support to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including assistance that has enabled these terrorist organizations to produce longer-range rockets capable of striking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; and

WHEREAS, the killing of Rabbi Joseph Raksin in North-East Miami-Dade has put Floridians on high alert that there is a potential for violence against the Jewish people in Florida; and

WHEREAS, Florida partners with Israel to create opportunities for families through the establishment of the Enterprise Florida Tel Aviv office; and

WHEREAS, Florida works to protect families in Israel through the “Iran-Free Bonds” policy that was adopted by the Governor and Cabinet in 2013 requiring the State Board of Administration to scrutinize and divest public dollars from entities that conduct business with Iran; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT resolved that the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida, do hereby declare that the State of Florida stands with

ISRAEL

and supports Israel’s right to defend and protect its citizens from the forces of tyranny and oppression to ensure the survival of the State of Israel.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida vehemently condemn the unprovoked rocket attacks aimed at Israel and call on Hamas to immediately cease all rocket and other attacks against Israel.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida have hereunto subscribed their names and have caused the Official Seal of the State of Florida to be hereunto affixed in the City of Tallahassee this 19th day of August, 2014.
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The environment has been a hot topic from both candidates during the 2014 gubernatorial race -- and officials from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have weighed in to support Gov. Rick Scott for his "Let's Keep Florida Beautiful" environmental plan.

In recent weeks, Scott has honed in on his plan to push environmental protection across the state and has pledged to increase the state's spending on the environment if he is re-elected this year. 

"During Scott's first term he has provided record funding to protect Florida's springs, brought divergent groups together to move Everglades restoration forward, and funded key projects to protect the coral reefs of the Florida Keys," said Ron Bergeron, a member of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who also served on former Gov. Charlie Crist's 2006 Gubernatorial Campaign’s Environmental Policy Council. "Gov. Scott's ‘Let's Keep Florida Beautiful’ plan is yet another step in his leadership on environmental issues and should give hope that our natural resources will be protected for generations to come."

Others took swipes at Crist, who has harshly criticized Scott over environmental issues and called his administration "incompetent" earlier this month.

"To save an ecosystem, you need a plan," said Michael Collins, former member of Crist 2006 Gubernatorial Campaign’s Environmental Policy Council and former member of the South Florida Water Management District. "When Charlie Crist took office, there was a science-based, fully funded, comprehensive Everglades restoration plan in place. After four years of Charlie's impulse buying and environmental attention deficit disorder, it lay in ruins."

Collins said Scott would be a better option for the future of the Everglades.

"Rick Scott, in pushing forward with restoration strategies, has taken a giant step toward solving the water quality portion of the puzzle and has committed to using the same, science-based, fiscally sound approach to the rest of the problem," he said. "The Everglades won't survive another attack of Charlie Crist environmental populism."
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A poll released by Rasmussen Reports on Tuesday leaves little room for doubt that Americans view clinical depression as a major burden for those diagnosed with it.

The poll, which was taken after actor Robin Williams committed suicide, shows 87 percent of American adults believe clinical depression is a serious problem and 52 percent of the total surveyed see it as a very serious problem. Only 6 percent of those surveyed see clinical depression as not very serious or not at all serious. Almost half of those surveyed -- 47 percent -- say someone in their family deals with clinical depression.

The poll of 1,000 adults was taken from Aug. 13-14 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
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Adrian Wyllie, the Libertarian candidate challenging Gov. Rick Scott, announced on Tuesday that he had been invited to a debate being held by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association at Broward College on Oct. 15.

“We are pleased that Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association has extended this invitation to us, and have acknowledged that there is a viable third option in this race,” said Wyllie. “I gladly accept their invitation without preconditions.”

Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite to win the Democratic primary next week, also accepted invitations to appear in the debate. 

“I intend to give straight answers to questions and offer Floridians real solutions,” Wyllie added.  “I just hope that Rick and Charlie can stop slinging mud for an hour or so, and discuss the important issues.”
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Gov. Rick Scott said on Tuesday that tourism was continuing to set records across the Sunshine State. According to Visit Florida, 24 million tourists visited Florida in the second quarter of 2014, a 3 percent increase from last year and a record high.

Tourism jobs are also growing with more than 1.15 million Floridians employed in the industry, an increase of 43,600 from the same period last year.

“A thriving tourism industry is vital to growing jobs, and today’s report that Florida has experienced another record quarter for visitation is great news for Florida families,” Scott said on Tuesday. “This year we invested $74 million into Visit Florida, and set a goal to have 100 million visitors visit the Sunshine State, which we are well on our way to reaching. Together we are creating an opportunity economy, and continuing to grow more jobs for Floridians with more than 1.1 million individuals employed in the growing tourism industry.”

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From his perch on the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., issued a warning on Monday on the rise of Islamist terrorism in northern Iraq. In an op-ed over at National Review published Monday, Rubio supported President Barack Obama’s efforts to provide humanitarian relief in the region and backed airstrikes:

All over the world, millions of innocent people are facing persecution, imprisonment, and even death because of their religious beliefs.

In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory, according to the State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom. And the trend in 2014 is only getting worse.

But perhaps nowhere has intolerance, ruthlessness, and evil combined to destroy people of faith more than it has in Iraq, where the Islamic State is engaged in a systemic effort to wipe out the Christian presence there, along with all other religious minorities.

The Islamic State, an extreme Sunni militant group that emerged from al-Qaida, has rampaged across Iraq, ridding towns of Christians and other religious minorities, just as it did in parts of Syria over the last year, persecuting that country’s Christians. It has used brutal tactics such as beheadings, rapes, forced conversions, and forced marriages of any non-Sunnis in its path.

The United States intervened militarily to assist 40,000 Iraqi Yazidis -- a religion that fuses Christianity, Islam, and ancient Zoroastrianism -- who were literally stuck on a mountaintop. Until U.S. and Kurdish military operations helped clear a path to safety, their options were to stay and die of thirst, or relocate and be massacred by the Islamic State militants waiting at the base of the mountain.

The U.S. government took the correct action in halting the genocidal campaign of the Islamic State by using our military to perform limited air strikes against their positions that were threatening Mount Sinjar and by conducting humanitarian airdrops to the Yazidis who were facing death from lack of water. Although the Obama administration has indicated that the mission has been accomplished on Mount Sinjar, there are reports that thousands of Yazidis still remain in peril on the mountain, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who need humanitarian assistance in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
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The Republican Party of Florida announced Monday it would be filing an ethics complaint against former Gov. Charlie Crist over several billboards in Tampa Bay.

The party alleges the billboards, which are located in St. Petersburg and in Tampa, do not have the disclaimer required under state law. 

"The result of these blatant violations is that Florida voters have no idea who is funding, approving and making these express advocacy communications," wrote RPOF Executive Director Juston Johnson, who contends that the billboards should include a disclaimer that states the billboard is a political advertisement.

View the full complaint below.

UPDATE: According to the Crist campaign, the disclosure is located in the lower right hand corner of the billboards.
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Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist will go head to head at a debate at Broward College's main campus on Oct. 15.

The one-hour debate will be broadcast on all of Florida's media markets and will also be simulcast on Florida Public Radio member stations. 

South Florida's CBS 4 anchor Elliott Rodriguez will moderate the debate. Panelists will include Rosemary Goudreau, editorial page editor of the Sun Sentinel, and Matt Walsh, editor and CEO of Observer Media Group.

Social media interactions will be encouraged during the debate, taking to Twitter and Facebook to provide commentary. 

Executive editor of the Tallahassee Democrat Bob Gabordi, Naples Daily News editor Manny Garcia, and Herald-Tribune political reporter Jeremy Wallace will all serve on the social media panel for the debate. 

Crist's campaign team said Monday they had agreed to the debate, but had not agreed to specific details. 
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U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., joined with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Monday to showcase his proposal to ensure the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps will not expand their jurisdiction over bodies of wanter managed by states or in conjuction with them. Southerland's proposal would also force the federal government to talk with state and local governments as to which waters should be regulated at the federal level.

“This bipartisan legislation provides a safeguard against Washington’s brazen overreach into regulatory decisions best made by officials at the state and local levels,” said Southerland. “Drawing that line in the sand preserves the federal-state partnership that has proven so successful in keeping our waterways clean for more than 40 years. And by fighting back against this D.C. power grab, we’re restoring the certainty our farmers, manufacturers, transportation builders, and construction industries need to grow North and Northwest Florida’s economy and create local jobs.”

"The EPA's new rules represent the most significant expansion of federal government regulation on Florida in a quarter of a century,” said Putnam. “I appreciate the leadership of Congressman Steve Southerland and his efforts to protect Florida businesses from the overreaching arm of the federal government."

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A poll from the Florida Chamber Political Institute (FCPI) unveiled on Monday shows Gov. Rick Scott has taken the lead over former Gov. Charlie Crist. Despite having spent most of his political life as a Republican, Crist is the favorite to win the Democratic primary next week.

Scott takes 44 percent in the poll of likely voters while Crist garners 41 percent. Scott’s lead expands when Libertarian Adrian Wyllie is added into the mix. In that scenario, Scott takes 41 percent, Crist gets 35 percent and Wyllie takes 4 percent.

“While top concerns for voters remain jobs and the economy, their support of Gov. Scott is a signal they approve of his strong ability to create private-sector jobs,” said Marian Johnson, the senior vice president of the Florida Chamber Political Institute. “This is evidenced by the fact that 43 percent of the voters believe Florida’s unemployment rate is lower since Rick Scott took office.”

“I believe a major reason Charlie Crist is visibly losing support is because voters are beginning to realize that Rick Scott’s private-sector, pro-jobs plan is working and that Florida continues to move in the right direction,” said Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber.

The poll of 627 likely voters was taken from Aug. 10-13 by Cherry Communications and had a margin of error of +/-4 percent.  

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Three members of the Florida Cabinet -- Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and CFO Jeff Atwater -- will be taking the “ice bucket challenge” to help raise funds to combat ALS. In recent weeks, the ALS Association has raised more than $13 million, in part due to viral videos of people dumping buckets of ice water on their head, then challenging others to do the same.

The Florida Cabinet members will be taking the challenge on Tuesday at the Old Capitol in Tallahassee to help the Florida chapter of the ALS Association.

“The ALS Association Florida Chapter is the only organization in our state solely dedicated to caring for people with Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” Alissa Gutirrez, a spokeswoman for the Florida chapter of the ALS Association, said. “We hope people will designate the Florida chapter as their ALS charity of choice by going to www.ALSAFL.org.”
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Gov. Rick Scott will be kicking off a new statewide tour focused on transportation this week, starting the first leg in Jacksonville on Monday.

"Let's Keep Florida Moving" will be focused on Scott's $41 billion, Five-Year Department of Transportation work plan, which is centered on investments to expand a variety of transportation in the Sunshine State, including airports, sea ports, state road networks, and the space industry.

Scott honed in on making Florida a hot spot for tourism and business. 

"In Florida, we are proud to be a worldwide destination for business and tourism," said Scott. "I am committed to keeping Florida moving by creating strategic investment opportunities to expand our state’s transportation system."
 
The tour will make stops in Daytona, Fort Myers, Miami, Panama City and Tampa. 
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Among Rasmussen Reports' latest surveys comes more bad news for America's ailing newspaper industry -- that is, its newsprint versions: A sizable number of newspaper subscribers say they have dropped their subscriptions in the past five years.

The new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 56 percent of American adults still prefer reading the printed version of the news to reading it online, but that's down from 69 percent five years ago.

One-in-three Americans (33 percent) prefer reading the online version of the news, up from 24 percent in May 2009. Eleven percent are undecided. See the survey question wording here.

The national survey of 1,000 adults nationwide was conducted Aug. 11-12 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percent, with a 95 percent level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research LLC. See methodology.
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On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott said 2,100 new private-sector jobs were created in July. The unemployment rate stayed at 6.2 percent, the same as June.

Scott noted on Friday that more than 620,000 jobs had been created in the private sector since he took over from then-Gov. Charlie Crist at the start of 2011. Despite spending most of his political life as a Republican, Crist is the favorite to win the Democratic primary later this month which will determine who takes on Scott in November.

“Florida’s private sector created more than 2,000 jobs for Florida families in July, bringing total private-sector job creation since December 2010 to 620,300,” Scott said on Friday. “Every new job positively impacts a family, and today’s announcement is more great news for Florida families looking to live the American dream in the Sunshine State. Florida continues to see positive job growth highlighting our economic recovery, so let’s keep working to make sure every Floridian who wants a job can get one.”
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All Aboard Florida is drawing the concern of U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla.

Posey wrote the comptroller general of the United States on Thursday, demanding the Government Accountability Office (GAO) launch a study to see how viable All Aboard Florida’s plan is to connect Orlando to Miami by high-speed rail.

“It is my understanding that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) – an operating entity of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) – will soon issue a determination about providing a loan through the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program (RRIF) to All Aboard Florida (AAF),” Posey wrote on Thursday. “Serving in the Florida Legislature, and now in Congress, I have consistently opposed taxpayer subsidies for rail initiatives. I am therefore concerned about the potential exposure to taxpayers of all such projects including, but not limited to, the AAF application.

“It is also my understanding that the GAO conducted a review of the Xpress West high-speed rail loan application when it was before the DOT in 2013,” Posey continued. “It was reported that the Xpress West proposal was rejected due to concerns about the viability of the loan following the GAO review. I believe it is well-advised to have similar reviews for all significant loans where taxpayers are on the hook for any potential losses. As such, it is prudent for the GAO to evaluate the specific application by AAF.

“I write to request that the GAO conduct a review of AAF similar to the GAO review conducted for Xpress West, examining the potential risk and cost to taxpayers, the nature of such a loan including possible interest rates that would be appropriate for this particular loan, and whether or not private financing could be sustained for this project,” Posey concluded. “We have a duty to protect taxpayers, and this evaluation will help us uphold that duty.”
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A Florida pastor will be joining a once-and-possible future presidential candidate in a trip to Israel in the days to come.

Pastor Doug Bankson of the Victory Church World Outreach Center in Apopka will be joining religious and social conservatives, including former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in heading to Israel on Sunday for a three-day trip. Besides preaching in almost every state and around the globe, Bankson has served as president of the Apopka Ministerial Alliance and chaired the Apopka City Chamber of Commerce.

Bankson, Santorum and their group will head to Israel to show American support for that nation during the current crisis in Gaza and to offer prayers for peace. Most of their time will be spent in Jerusalem. They are scheduled to meet with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States.
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Many American voters don't think the president is working harder than they are, and even more voters believe Congress isn't working too hard, either.

According to a new Rasmussen Reports poll, 43 percent of likely U.S. voters say President Barack Obama isn't working harder than they are. Almost the same percentage of voters (42 percent) say the president works harder than they do. 

When it comes to Congress, voters are overwhelmingly convinced Congress isn't working harder than they do. Over three-quarters of likely U.S. voters -- 76 percent -- say they don't believe Congress is working harder than they do. Only 10 percent think the average member of Congress works harder than they do. 

Most voters think Congress members spend a little too much time on vacation -- 70 percent say Congress members spend too much time on vacation. Only 16 percent disagree.

The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted July 29-30. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence. 
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Former Gov. Jeb Bush, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida and the Florida Trucking Association announced on Thursday they opposed Amendment 2, a proposed state Constitution amendment expanding medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.

Bush said on Thursday Amendment 2 would hurt efforts to lure tourists to Florida.

“Florida leaders and citizens have worked for years to make the Sunshine State a world-class location to start or run a business, a family-friendly destination for tourism and a desirable place to raise a family or retire,” said Bush. “Allowing large-scale, marijuana operations to take root across Florida, under the guise of using it for medicinal purposes, runs counter to all of these efforts. I believe it is the right of states to decide this issue, and I strongly urge Floridians to vote against Amendment 2 this November.”

Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber, took aim at trial lawyer John Morgan who has been the point man behind efforts to get Amendment 2 on the ballot.

"Normally we focus on creating jobs, improving education and making Florida more competitive, but this is the type of business Florida can do without," said Wilson.  "I find it curious that the largest funder of this push to legalize pot is a personal-injury trial lawyer firm, yet such measures are overwhelmingly opposed by Florida's medical and law enforcement community. Florida voters are smart and when the facts are on the table, I believe they will say no to drugs in Florida."  

Wilson noted the proposed amendment offered immunity to many participants involved in raising, using, selling and transporting medical marijuana, calling it a “red flag.”

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Gov. Rick Scott said on Thursday he was backing sending more than $806 million to six projects to improve transportation across Florida.

 “Our economy is strong and growing,” Scott said. “Because of our growth, we were able to secure more than $10 billion for transportation projects, which is the largest transportation funding ever in Florida history. Today, we’re proud to announce that with this historic funding, we will advance more than $806 million in critical transportation projects across Florida. These projects will enhance our infrastructure to support commerce, decrease commute times and make our roads safer for families.”  

Scott is backing sending $95 million to expand and rebuild SR 30/US 98 in Bay County, $179.5 million to expand I-295/SR 9A around Jacksonville’s Southside, $89.5 million to add lanes to I-75 in Hernando County, $255 million to expand I-95 in Daytona Beach, $32.7 million to add lanes to US 51 in Charlotte County and $155 million to expand SR 821 in Miami-Dade County.
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