Sunshine State News Blogs

Jimmy Buffett is ready to rock the Florida Capitol this week, where he'll be playing as part of a rally to save the Florida Everglades. 

Buffett, who is perhaps best known for his hits "Margaritaville" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise," will play an acoustic set Tuesday morning. The rally will be sponsored by the Everglades Coalition as part of Everglades Day, where environmentalists will head to the Capitol to push efforts to save the Everglades. 

The rally will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Old Capitol.
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Dr. Bob McClure, the president and CEO of the James Madison Institute (JMI), a group which fights for free-market solutions and economic opportunity, offered his take on the debate in the Florida Legislature over whether to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

"The decision on whether to take federal dollars to expand Medicaid presents a challenging quandary for policymakers," McClure said on Monday. “No one on either side, whether in the Legislature or the public realm, takes lightly what is at stake -- the health and well-being of Floridians. What we do know is that Medicaid is a program that delivers poor health outcomes and the state's Medicaid rolls are already growing, taking up an ever growing portion of Florida's budget. We also know that there are reforms that could be put in place to curb heath-care costs and create more effective, affordable health-care solutions for those in need. JMI has been very vocal about the fact that the federal government is $18 trillion in debt and are bargaining with money that they can't possibly guarantee will be available in years to come.”

McClure praised Gov. Rick Scott for expressing hesitation earlier on Monday about accepting the proposed Medicaid expansion.

“Gov. Rick Scott made the tough but wise decision to see the writing on the wall with the political games being played with the Low Income Pool funding,” McClure said. “There is no short-term solution here, but Gov. Scott and many of Florida's leaders recognize that the worst thing Florida can do is fall deeper into dependency on the shallow promises of the feds. Like any challenge, Florida's leaders should focus on the long term and begin to implement reasonable, sound reforms that will first and foremost have a positive impact on our strained health care system; reforms such as the expansion of telemedicine, medical malpractice reform, price transparency and scope of practice expansion, among other common-sense policies that JMI has proposed and supported for years. Florida's leaders should shift focus to implementing these reform measures so we can take control of our state's needs and show the rest of the nation how it's done."

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On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., waded into the growing battle between the two chambers of the Florida Legislature over the budget and Medicaid expansion. Scott signaled that he was closer to the House side, expressing some hesitation on Medicaid expansion, including expanding the low-income pool (LIP).

“Our priority is to cut more than $600 million in taxes this session and get K-12 education funding up to record levels while holding the line on college tuition,” Scott said on Monday. “We still have several weeks left for budget negotiations; however, given that the federal government said they would not fund the federal LIP program to the level it is funded today, it would be hard to understand how the state could take on even more federal programs that CMS could scale back or walk away from.”

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Marijuana legalization advocates from across the nation cheered a Quinnipiac poll that shows Floridians remain staunchly behind medical marijuana and a majority of voters in the Sunshine State back legalization for recreational use.

“These results show that marijuana legalization is a mainstream issue that ambitious politicians should try to latch onto instead of run away from,” said Tom Angell, the chairman of Marijuana Majority, on Monday. “If the next president isn’t willing to personally support ending prohibition as the best policy approach, he or she at least needs to push for changing federal laws so that seriously ill people can use medical marijuana without fear of being harassed by the DEA. Medical marijuana polls way better with voters than any presidential candidate does.”

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U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., will be a top target for Republicans in 2016 as they look to knock off the congressional freshman. But Graham put together an impressive first quarter of 2015 fundraising effort, announcing on Monday she had brought in more than $525,000 and had around $480,000 in the bank.

“One day at a time, one vote a time, one hug at a time we’re bringing the North Florida way to Congress,” Graham said. “I promised to work with both sides of the aisle to find real solutions to the problems we face – and following through on that promise has excited people across our district.

“Representing North Florida in Congress is the honor of a lifetime,” Graham added. “Meeting people across our district, from Tallahassee to Panama City, in Wassau or Marianna – I’m listening to your concerns and taking them to Washington.”

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President Barack Obama could have a tough time selling his deal with Iran over that nation’s nuclear ambitions to fellow Democrats representing South Florida in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., who sits on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, reacted to Thursday’s deal with caution.

“Iran is the largest state sponsor of terror and its nuclear program is a threat to America, to our allies in the Middle East, and to global order," Frankel said on Thursday. “We cannot allow proliferation of the world’s most dangerous weapon in the world’s most dangerous region. Our job in Congress is to hold the administration to its promise that no deal is better than a bad deal as the details of this initial framework are hammered out.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, said he had “great skepticism” about the deal due to Iran’s “deceptive history and ongoing destabilizing and dangerous activities.” Deutch also insisted Congress would have a major role to play in the final results.

“I remain deeply concerned as to how a number of issues have been addressed in the framework and may be addressed in a final agreement,” Deutch said on Thursday. “These include Fordow being allowed to remain open and operating, continued enrichment at Arak, the disposition of Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile, whether a verification regime allows anytime, anywhere inspections of all known or suspect sites, the full resolution of the military dimensions of Iran’s program, and the timing of and requirements for any sanctions relief. I look forward to a full and frank discussion with the administration on these issues and the questions the framework leaves open, specifically including the necessary role Congress must play going forward.”

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who sits on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, came out swinging against President Barack Obama’s deal with Iran over its nuclear program. Rubio labeled the deal as a “diplomatic failure” and slammed the “administration’s farcical approach to Iran” and in the Middle East.

“I look forward to hearing from administration officials what specific terms Iran has agreed to as part of what was supposed to be a comprehensive framework agreement, but the initial details appear to be very troubling,” Rubio said on Thursday."Through more than a decade of efforts to resolve international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, this regime has consistently lied about its ambitions and hidden the true nature of its efforts from the world. Among other issues, allowing Iran to retain thousands of centrifuges, keeping facilities such as Fordow open and not limiting Iran’s ballistic missile program indicate to me that this deal is a colossal mistake.

“This attempt to spin diplomatic failure as a success is just the latest example of this administration’s farcical approach to Iran,” Rubio added. “Under this president’s watch, Iran has expanded its influence in the Middle East, sowing instability throughout the region. Iran’s support for terrorism has continued unabated without a serious response from the United States. The regime’s repression of the Iranian people and its detentions of American citizens continue. And now Tehran is gaining international acceptance of its nuclear ambitions and will receive significant sanctions relief without making serious concessions.

“I intend to work with my colleagues to continue to ensure that any final agreement, if reached, is reviewed by Congress and that additional sanctions continue to be imposed on Iran until it completely gives up its nuclear ambitions and the regime changes its destructive behavior,” Rubio added. “Our message to Iran should be clear: until the regime chooses a different path, the United States will continue to isolate Iran and impose pressure. Today’s announcement takes us in the opposite direction, and I fear it will have devastating consequences for nuclear nonproliferation, the security of our allies and partners, and for U.S. interests in the region.”

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U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., named Josh Wolf as the campaign manager for his U.S. Senate bid while Mandi Karp, who worked with him in 2014, will be his finance director.

Wolf led former Massachusetts Treasurer Steven Grossman’s failed bid for the Democratic gubernatorial election last year and managed U.S. Rep. Ami Bera’s, D-Calif., campaign in 2012. Karp helped Murphy raise more than $5.3 million last year when he defeated former state Rep. Carl Domino.

“This is one of the most important Senate races in the country, and Josh has the experience to help us win next November,” Murphy said on Friday. “I’m very happy that he has joined our team, and I look forward to working with him as we begin to share our message with the entire state of Florida.

"For the last two years, Mandi has worked with me to ensure we have the resources we need to get our message out to the people of Florida’s 18th District,” Murphy added. “As one of the top fundraisers of the cycle, we were able to run one of the most efficient campaigns in the country, and I’m glad Mandi is staying on our team as we begin this campaign for the U.S. Senate.”

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A bill that would allow private adoption agencies to refuse placing children in gay families passed through the Florida House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. 

HB 7111, sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, would prohibit certain entities from withholding grants, contracts, or participation in government programs from a private child-placing agency based on the agency's refusal to place a child or be involved in the placement of a child which violates the agency's religious or moral convictions or policies.

Brodeur says the bill would ensure private agencies wouldn't go out of business just because they refuse to allow gays to adopt from their organization. Supporters of the legislation cited instances in Massachusetts, California and Illinois where Catholic Charities were forced to close their doors because they refused to let up on their practices against gay adoption. 

Those opposed to the bill, however, say it's not only discriminatory, but unconstitutional as well. 

"The damage, the legal principle here is that somebody’s claimed religious or moral beliefs will be more important under this law than what will be in the best interests of children," said American Civil Liberties Union of Florida director Robert Simon. 

Rep. David Kerner, D-Palm Springs, said Florida should be welcoming those who are willing to adopt needy children into their families.

"Newsflash: We should be thanking gay parents for adopting," he said during the meeting. "We should be thanking them and blessing them."
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The Seminole Tribe of Florida has launched its latest effort to ensure the state government continues their gaming compact. On Thursday, the Seminole Tribe unveiled a new radio ad which will be running across the Sunshine State. The tribe also launched a new TV ad on the matter.

 

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U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., declared for the U.S. Senate last Monday -- and he certainly made the most of his time for the new campaign.

On Thursday, Murphy announced he had raised $1.25 million during the quarter, including $750,000 since launching his Senate bid. At the end of March, Murphy had $1.6 million in the bank. 


"I am overwhelmed by the enormous support we're receiving from Floridians across the state," said Murphy. "Americans are tired of the hyper-partisanship and constant bickering in the Senate that has led to an unprecedented amount of gridlock, which is keeping us from strengthening the middle class and protecting Social Security and Medicare. We need fresh, new leadership for Florida, and I'm humbled by the trust so many people across the state are placing in me."

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With Wednesday’s news that the U.S. Department of Justice will not prosecute former IRS official Lois Lerner for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform over the IRS targeting conservative and tea party groups, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., offered his thoughts.

"It is a sad day for justice and accountability in government,” DeSantis said on Wednesday. “Lois Lerner weaponized the IRS and used her authority to infringe the rights of American citizens. She has consistently misled Congress and obstructed congressional investigations. Yet, the IRS allowed Lerner to retire with a six-figure taxpayer-financed pension and the DOJ will not prosecute her for being held in contempt of Congress. This is not the way a government of, by, and for the people is supposed to operate."

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On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., looked back to one of his legislative accomplishments from last year, noting almost 7 million Floridians have saved $196 million due to his effort to slash car registration fees.

“Families should be able to keep more of what they earn, and that is why we have remained focused on cutting taxes and fees that directly impact all Floridians,” Scott said on Tuesday. Last year, we reduced the fee on vehicle registrations which has already saved Floridians over $196 million since last September."

Scott also made his case for tax cuts currently before the Legislature that he has proposed.

“Reducing fees and taxes helps businesses create more opportunities for Floridians to get a great job and live their dreams,” Scott said. “It also helps families have more money in their pockets to pay the bills and put food on the table. This year I am committed to cutting $673 million in taxes, including the cellphone and TV tax.”

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Fiscal conservative group Americans for Prosperity’s (AFP) Florida chapter continued its opposition to a proposed Medicaid expansion on Tuesday as it unveiled a radio ad on the matter. While Medicaid expansion faces the opposition of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and a majority in the upper chamber support it.

“The Florida Senate has had time to come up with positive solutions to solve the state’s health-care needs,” said Chris Hudson, AFP’s director in Florida, on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, up to this point some senators believe that placing healthy, able-bodied Floridians in an inefficient, government-run health-care program is what is best for our families. The Senate should be taking steps to reduce the overall cost of health care in the state.”

“We commend the House for standing against expanding a program that doesn’t create better access to care,” Hudson added. “Florida families deserve better quality care not just the illusion of an insurance card.”

The radio spot will be played on more than 60 stations across the state for the rest of the week.

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Freshman U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., is a top target for Democrats in 2016 but he is getting some help from the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

On Monday, with the first quarter of the year winding down, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oreg., the chairman of the NRCC sent out a fundraising email on Curbelo’s behalf.

“In November, Americans across the country stood up and let their voices be heard,” Walden wrote. “In South Florida, you chose the principled leadership of Carlos Curbelo over the failed policies of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and the liberal Democrats in Washington. Now, it’s time to do it again.

“While Carlos and our House Majority are fighting for common sense small government solutions in Congress, the Democrats are desperately searching for a top challenger in 2016,” Walden added. “At the NRCC, we are working tirelessly for Carlos. We’ll do our part to ensure he’s ready.”

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Fiscal conservative group Americans for Prosperity’s (AFP) Florida chapter is sending out mail pieces across the Sunshine State against a Medicaid expansion proposal in the Legislature. While the House opposes the plan, a majority of the Senate is backing the Medicaid expansion.

“A number of senators have indicated in previous votes that they are unwilling to stand for Florida families and the most needy of our state, but there is still time to change course,” said Chris Hudson, AFP’s director in Florida. “We are reaching out to Floridians in every district of every member of the Senate that has taken a vote in favor of expanding the broken and bloated Medicaid system under Obamacare.”

Hudson called out Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, who is backing the expansion.

“If President Gardiner wants real market-based solutions, he should be looking to solve the real problems here – the overall cost of health care,” said Hudson. “We have been advocating for expanding telemedicine, reforming certificate of need, and expanding scope of practice as some of the possible ways the Senate can take bold steps to making health care more affordable and available to all Floridians.”

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The Florida Cabinet unveiled a resolution honoring “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day" on Monday and praising veterans of that conflict.

"Our state is home to more than 515,000 Vietnam-era veterans whose courageous service has protected the freedoms we enjoy today,” Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said on Monday. “As a Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam era, I am proud to sign this resolution to honor all of our Vietnam veterans and to remember those who lost their lives while defending our nation. While we can never fully repay these brave heroes for their sacrifice, I join every Floridian to recognize and thank our Vietnam veterans and their families for their service to our nation.”

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U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., announced on Monday she was backing U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., in the 2016 U.S. Senate race. U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., has left the door open to running for the seat which is currently held by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Expected to launch a presidential campaign in the weeks to come, Rubio has said he won’t run for a second term in the Senate if he runs for president.

"It has been an honor to serve in Congress with Patrick Murphy, who shares my commitment to improving Florida by protecting hard-working American families, preserving Social Security and Medicare, and fighting for equality and women's rights,” Frankel said on Monday. “I am proud to support his campaign for U.S. Senate, where I know he will continue to be a strong Democratic leader and advocate for our community."

In his first week as a Senate candidate, Murphy is starting to pull in some major endorsements, including those of fellow Florida Democrats former Gov. Charlie Crist, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch and U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings.

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U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee and a leading congressional Republican on foreign affairs, was part of a group led by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that met with United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in England at the end of last week to talk about economic and security issues. and discuss opportunities to deepen the economic and security ties between the U.S. and the U.K.

“We are grateful to Chancellor Osborne for welcoming us to his constituency and giving us a chance to see up close the turnaround going on in the region, where American-based companies and British workers are teaming up every day,” Boehner said. “It is a testament to the power – and potential – of our economic partnership, and whether it’s trade, energy, or manufacturing, there is no shortage of opportunities to deepen those ties. Another vital concern our constituents know all too well is the threat of terrorism, and we discussed our shared efforts to support our allies and defeat ISIL. Right now, as has so often been the case, it isn’t just American leadership that the world needs – it’s Western leadership, too.”

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Gov. Rick Scott announced on Friday that almost 15,000 jobs were added in Florida last month, lowering the state unemployment rate from 5.7 percent in January to 5.6 percent in February.

"Today’s announcement of more than 807,000 new private-sector jobs since December 2010 is great news for Florida families,” Scott said on Friday. “More than 14,000 jobs were created during the month of February alone, and more opportunities are becoming available for families each month. We know that a great job helps dreams come true in our state, and we will keep working to make Florida the best place in the world for families to succeed.”

“February was another strong month for Florida’s continually improving economy, with nearly 15,000 new private-sector jobs, growth in the labor force, steadily falling unemployment, and record job demand,” said state Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio. “These positive trends are evidence that Gov. Scott’s policies have spurred economic growth in the Sunshine State.”

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The Florida Hispanic Legislative Caucus named its leaders for the next two years on Thursday.

State Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, R-Miami, was chosen to serve as chair while Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, is the vice chair.

“I’m honored by the confidence my colleagues expressed by electing me chair,” Nuñez said on Thursday. “I’d also like to thank Sen. Rene Garcia for the leadership he provided as chair of the caucus over the past two years. I’m looking forward to continuing his efforts to promote issues important to Hispanics and to continue focusing on the furtherance of opportunities for our Hispanic constituents.”

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Democrats keep hopping on U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy‘s, D-Fla., bandwagon as he runs for the U.S. Senate in 2016. U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., announced on Thursday he was backing Murphy.

“I am truly honored to endorse my good friend Patrick Murphy for the United States Senate,” Hastings said. "He has fought for the Democratic principles that we hold dear in Florida -- fairness, equality, and opportunity for every person in this state. Whether he is working to ensure all Floridians can exercise their right to vote, or doing all that he can to help the middle class by fighting to raise the minimum wage, Patrick is the right candidate and what Florida needs to move our state and this nation in the right direction. I stand ready to do all that I can to get Patrick Murphy elected as our next United States senator.”

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., is also considering running for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 Senate race.

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With the U.S. Army planning to try Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for desertion. U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., who served in the Navy, was a military prosecutor and currently chairs the U.S. House National Security Subcommittee, slammed the Obama administration negotiating to release him in exchange for five captured terrorists.

"President Obama's release of five seasoned Taliban terrorists harmed the national security of the United States,” DeSantis said on Wednesay. “The Obama administration deceptively lionized the service record of Bowe Bergdahl as a way to distract from the gravity of releasing such hardened terrorists, and it was the outcry from Bergdahl's unit members that demonstrated the problems with the Obama narrative. Deserting during wartime is an extremely serious offense and Bergdahl's conduct needs to be judged at a court-martial."

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U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., was honored by the U.S. Travel Association on Wednesday with its “Distinguished Travel Champion Award." Bilirakis was joined by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Prtitzker; U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.

"These 'Travel Champions' have helped make travel one of the most dynamic sectors of the U.S. economy," said Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. "The U.S. officials recognized today have a proven track record of advancing policies that help make travel a major job creator and a driver of enhanced economic opportunity in communities all across the United States. We are privileged to honor Sec. Pritzker, Sens. Thune and Klobuchar and Reps. Bilirakis and Quigley, and we hope other political leaders will take their cue in promoting increased travel by enacting supportive policies in the coming year."

The association praised the Florida congressman as follows:

“Rep. Bilirakis hit the ground running as co-chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus by successfully shepherding the Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act of 2014 -- Brand USA reauthorization -- through the House of Representatives. He continues to be a tireless champion of America's travel industry.”

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As Americans gets ready to file their taxes next month, two Florida congressional Republicans brought out a bill this week to protect their security if they file online.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., introduced legislation on Tuesday forcing the Treasury Department to add tougher security measures, including security questions, for Americans who file their taxes online. Both Rubio and Yoho noted that Florida has been facing more identity threat problems than other states.

“One of the biggest problems that constituents turn to our office for help with is electronic identity theft that results from filing taxes online,” said Rubio. “The criminals behind this problem are stealing both people’s money and their time. Florida is where the electronic identity theft problem is most severe, and we believe the Treasury Department and IRS need to step up their game in cracking down on this problem by prioritizing resources to combat the growing trend of electronic identity theft.”

“With tax season upon us, the problem of identity theft is serious and growing. The fact that this affects an increasing number of Floridians is unacceptable,” said Yoho. “I am happy to join Sen. Rubio in pressing the Treasury Department and IRS to solve this problem. The bill we have introduced today is a common-sense solution that will protect hard-working American taxpayers from faceless cyber criminals, as well as save them billions of dollars.”

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On Tuesday night, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., joined U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., on the Senate floor to make a joint speech calling for more defense spending. Excerpts from Rubio’s speech are below:

“Let me begin by saying that I believe defense spending is the most important obligation of the federal government. That doesn’t mean we throw money away, or we put money in places where it doesn’t belong or we fund projects that have no utility. But it does mean that the most important thing the federal government does for America is defend it. And we have benefited from the fact that for the last hundred years, America has had the most powerful military force on the planet. This is especially true since the end of the Second World War. There have been times in our history when we’ve tried to save money by cutting back on defense spending, and each and every time has forced us to come back later and spend more to make up for it. Interesting to point out that in times in the past we’ve taken what they call a peace dividend – in essence, this idea that the world is no longer unstable or unsafe, and we can now spend less on defense – each and every time, we’ve had to come back and make up for it later as a new threat emerged. I don’t think we can make the argument that this is a time when the world is stable or peaceful, and yet this is a time of dramatic reductions of defense spending. During this administration, first came defense cuts of over $480 billion over 10 years. Adding insult to injury, by the way, was that the savings that were found in the defense budget were redirected to our already bloated domestic programs.

“This is the worst possible time to be reducing our defense spending and yet that is what we are doing, and we are setting ourselves up for danger. I would recognize that people who have worked hard on this budget have tried to find new ways to address this through contingency funding. I respect the work they’ve done. And ultimately, that may be where we wind up. But before we do, it is important for this body to have a serious debate about how we are underfunding defense spending in this country and the dangers it poses for our future. And that is the purpose of this amendment. The purpose of this amendment is to replace the defense numbers in this budget with the projected Fiscal Year 2016 number from the Fiscal Year 12 Gates budget. This was the last defense budget, the Gates budget, that was put together solely on the assessment of the threats we face and the requisite military needs to deal with it. It is the budget that the bipartisan, congressionally mandated National Defense Panel stated was the minimum required to reverse course and set the military on more stable footing.

“When we talk about modernization, we are not talking about the commander in chief today. When we decide how much money we’re going to spend on modernizing our military capabilities, what we’re deciding is what are the technologies and tools that are going to be available to a future commander in chief in five, 10 or 15 years. These innovative systems that we use today, that have cut down on civilian casualties, that have allowed us to improve our targeting, our intelligence-gathering capabilities, that have made the United States the premier fighting force in all of human history – all of those things were developed a decade ago or longer through years of experimentation and testing, through innovation. So if we cut back on that now, in 10 years a future commander in chief will be faced with a threat to our national security, and we will not have the latest, greatest technology on the planet to address it.

“I promise you, a world where America is no longer the most capable fighting force on the planet is a world that is more chaotic and less safe. So I look forward to having a debate on this and I encourage my colleagues to rally around these numbers.

“The strategy should not be driven by the defense spending. The defense spending should be driven by the strategy. In essence, to put it succinctly, we should not have a strategy that’s based on limited resources: ‘We’re going to have to do the best we can with limited resources.’ We should first outline a strategy: ‘This is what the strategy should be for the future of our country to keep it safe.’ And then we should fund that strategy. Not the other way around. And that is not what we’re doing now. And we’re setting a dangerous precedent. And more importantly, we are putting at risk the national security of this country. And once you’ve made that decision, it is very difficult to reverse in a timely way. We have learned this lesson the hard way, multiple times in our history. I hope we don’t have to learn it again.”

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Former Gov. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., announced on Wednesday he was backing U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., in the 2016 U.S. Senate race. Crist had thrown the door open to running but, last week, said he would not make a third try for the Senate. Murphy entered the contest on Monday.

"Congressman Murphy will bring refreshing energy, integrity, and work ethic to the United States Senate," said Crist. "He knows it's all about the people -- that's why I know Floridians will join me in volunteering for and supporting Patrick early."

Despite Crist having spent most of his political career as a Republican before leaving the GOP to run for the Senate with no party affiliation in 2010, prior to joining the Democrats in late 2012, Murphy called Crist a “loyal Democrat” and welcomed his support.

"Gov. Crist is a champion for the middle class, a loyal Democrat, and a close friend,” Murphy said. “I am so grateful to him for his early support of this campaign, and look forward to continue working with him in the weeks and months ahead to fight for all Floridians in the United States Senate."

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The Florida Credit Union Association (FCUA), part of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and Affiliates (LSCU), named House Speaker Steve Crisafullim R-Merrit Island, as its legislator of the year for 2014.

“Today, we recognize Speaker Crisafulli as our 2014 Lawmaker of the Year and thank him for his support of the Florida Credit Union Association,” said Patrick La Pine, the president and CEO of the LSCU. “Speaker Crisafulli recognizes the importance of credit unions and has been a longtime friend to the industry. His dedication and leadership in the Florida House of Representatives is much appreciated by all of our members, as well as credit union customers across the state.”

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U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., a leading congressional voice on international affairs, rang the warning bell on Monday as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Colombia later this week.

"It is not surprising that the autocratic Russian regime is working to strengthen ties with Ortega’s Nicaragua, Castro’s Cuba, and other Latin American nations,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “This supposed goodwill tour is nothing more than a play for more influence in our region. From Russia docking a spy ship in Havana's harbor to an increase of military assistance in Nicaragua, Russia's activities in our region undermine our national security. We must continue to monitor and counter Russian activities in Latin America to ensure that these diplomatic visits are not a cover for more nefarious activities.”

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US. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., took aim at President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law on Monday, the fifth anniversary of the law.

“Today marks the five-year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or Obamacare) becoming law,” Yoho said. “This hastily written, partisan piece of legislation was shoved through Congress and was forced on the American people. Since then we have seen countless delays, higher premiums, increased government regulations, and the raiding of Medicare to pay for this new system.

“Just days before the bill was passed, House Speaker Pelosi famously told America that Democrats had to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it,” Yoho continued. “Words you don’t want to hear when talking about an issue that affects your family, the country’s health-care system, and a large part of the U.S. economy. In addition to this, we were sold the idea that we could keep our plans if we liked them. What did we receive instead? Cancellation notices from insurance providers.

“While I agree we need to reform the nation’s health system, and find ways to provide coverage options for the uninsured, this piece of legislation was not the way to address the issue. A patient-centered health-care system that is market driven is best suited for the American people,” Yoho added. “I believe we should allow insurance to be portable and able to be purchased across state lines. We must also address tort reform and the drivers of the high cost of health care. And lastly we need to provide the incentive for all Americans to save for future health-care costs by eliminating high-deductible insurance policies and expand access to health savings accounts.

“Since the passage of Obamacare, American families and small businesses have been feeling the weight of this ill-conceived law,” Yoho concluded. “It is time that we replace it with a common-sense approach that takes big government out of health-care decisions that should be made by patients, families, and their doctors.”

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