Sunshine State News Blogs

After his big win in the U.S. House last week, U.S. Rep Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., urged the U.S. Senate to quickly pass his “Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act." Crenshaw’s bill would create tax-free savings accounts for disabled Americans for qualified expenses and passed on a 404-17 vote on Wednesday. Now it heads to the Senate where it has more than 70 co-sponsors being led by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.

"Thanks to ABLE, Americans who struggle to meet the daily challenges of living with disabilities are now on their way to a brighter future,” said Crenshaw on Monday. “Just as other Americans do, they will be able to access IRS-sanctioned tools to plan for their future and reach for every possible dream. I am hopeful for the bill’s passage in the Senate this week so Congress can send the ABLE Act on to the president to be signed into law.”

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Gov. Rick Scott announced on Tuesday that Elizabeth Dudek will stay on as the secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).

“Secretary Dudek has been part of my team since the very beginning and I am confident she will continue to do an outstanding job as secretary,” Scott said on Tuesday. “Under her leadership, Florida has accomplished historic Medicaid reform and we have taken steps to provide our veterans with access to the best care possible. She has also done an outstanding job making sure our hospitals are prepared to respond to any potential case of Ebola. I know she will continue to be committed to improving health care for all Florida families.”

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to continue my service at AHCA,” Dudek said. “We work tirelessly each day so all Floridians have the opportunity to lead a healthy and safe life, and we will focus on accomplishing this goal each day.”

Dudek was named by Scott to her current post back in March 2011 after serving more than 20 years with AHCA.

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Gov. Rick Scott named Mike Carroll as secretary of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) on Monday. Carroll had been serving as interim secretary since April after working in the department for 24 years.

“Since April, Mike Carroll has provided strong leadership at the Department of Children and Families,” Scott said. “With over two decades of faithful service to Florida families, I am confident he will be an excellent DCF secretary. He brings a common-sense approach to the services the agency provides and he has a passion for serving Florida’s most vulnerable children.”

“It is an honor to be named the secretary of the Department of Children and Families today,” Carroll said. “I am committed to our agency’s mission that every Florida child can live in a healthy and safe home. We will continue to find ways to accomplish this goal and serve Florida families better each and every day.”

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As he finishes his first term in the U.S. House, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., is quickly moving up the congressional ladder. At the end of last week, U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., named DeSantis the vice chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. DeSantis will serve under U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., who will chair the committee.

“It is an honor to have been named vice chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, and I look forward to working with Subcommittee Chairman Franks and Chairman Goodlatte to continue to advance legislation that protects our Constitution,” DeSantis said on Friday. “We in Congress take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and we have a duty to discharge this important responsibility with great care. Having taken the oath to support the Constitution as an officer in the Navy, the preservation of our Constitution order is something I have been committed to for quite some time."

“Congressman Ron DeSantis has been a tremendous asset to the House Judiciary Committee over the past two years,” Goodlatte said. “His expertise on many of the issues facing our nation and the committee make him well-suited to serve as vice chairman of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee. I look forward to working with him as we seek to safeguard Americans’ liberties, promote an efficient and just legal system, and fight against President Obama’s pattern of executive overreach.”

“Congressman DeSantis will be an invaluable vice chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice,” Franks said. “He brings a rigorous intellectual understanding of civil justice issues and has substantial expertise in federal claims reform and constitutional rights. This background will effectively complement our subcommittee’s focus on President Obama’s gross executive overreach. I look forward to serving with Congressman DeSantis as we protect the liberties enshrined in our Constitution for all U.S. citizens.”

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Along with U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., U.S. Rep. Ander Crensahw, R-Fla., offered the Republican response to President Barack Obama over the past weekend. Crenshaw and his colleagues talked about his “Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act” which passed the U.S. House Wednesday on an overwhelming vote.

Crenshaw’s bill would create tax-free savings accounts for disabled Americans for qualified expenses and passed on a 404-17 vote on Wednesday. Now it heads to the Senate where it has 74 co-sponsors.

“I first filed this legislation in 2006,” Crenshaw said. “That was eight long years ago, but because of the hard work, dedication, and teamwork of an awful lot of people, we were able to bring that legislation to the floor and pass it with an overwhelming majority.

“The legislation is fairly simple, and straightforward,” Crenshaw added. “It allows individuals with disabilities to set up a tax-free savings account as long as you use the proceeds for qualified expenses like medical bills or transportation bills.

“This allows individuals with disabilities a better chance to help themselves, to be less dependent on government and more independent in their daily lives,” Crenshaw continued. “It allows them to achieve their full potential and to realize their hopes and their dreams. And when you listen to Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Pete Sessions and their stories, it’s easy to see why the ABLE Act will open the door to a brighter future for millions of Americans.

“I can’t think of a greater privilege than to speak out with legislation for people that can’t often speak for themselves,” Crenshaw said in conclusion. “And I know the ABLE Act will bring justice and peace of mind to millions of American families who deal with disabilities every day.”

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Gov. Rick Scott honored two Floridians in the Army -- Private First Class Justin Johnson from Punta Gorda and Staff Sergeant Patrick Zeigler from Orange County -- who were wounded in the Fort Hood shooting in 2009. President Barack Obama is expected to sign a bill which passed both chambers of Congress awarding the Purple Heart to soldiers wounded in that attack.

“Florida stands proudly as two Floridians – Pvt. First Class Justin Johnson and Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler – are expected to be awarded the Purple Heart for their bravery during the 2009 Fort Hood shooting,” Scott said on Monday. “Both men sustained injuries in the massacre. As a veteran myself, I join all Floridians to express sincere gratitude to Justin and Patrick and their families today for their sacrifice.”

Scott also recognized a Floridian killed in the attack.

“We also remember Sgt. Danny Ferguson, from Mulberry, Fla., who lost his life during the 2014 Fort Hood shooting,” Scott said. “The horrific acts that happened at Fort Hood will forever be remembered by all Americans and we will continue to honor those who were injured, or killed, and their families.”

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With the U.S. House overwhelmingly passing his “Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act" this week, U.S. Rep. Ander Crensahw, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, will present the Republican Weekly Address on Saturday.

Crenshaw’s bill would create tax-free savings accounts for disabled Americans for qualified expenses and passed on a 404-17 vote on Wednesday. Now it faces a vote in the Senate where it has 74 co-sponsors. On Saturday, Crenshaw will join two other Republicans in the House -- Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington and Pete Sessions of Texas -- to talk about the legislation.

"Millions of Americans living with disabilities are now on a path to a brighter future, and I couldn't be more proud or more grateful for the team effort that led to House passage of the ABLE Act," said Crenshaw on Friday. "I am hopeful for Senate passage of this landmark legislation next week so Congress can send the bill to the president to be signed into law.

"Those who face the day-to-day struggle of living with disabilities that others of us can only imagine have a new tool to use in planning for the years ahead -- tax-free savings accounts," Crenshaw continued. "No longer will they have to watch from the sidelines as other Americans access IRS-sanctioned tools to plan for their future. They will have the option to use ABLE accounts as their compass to set a course for a brighter future."

"In this great and prosperous nation, everyone deserves a shot at the American dream," said Crenshaw in conclusion. "With determination, focus, teamwork, and sheer willpower, we've opened a door to a brighter future that might otherwise have remained closed. That's a cause worth fighting for."

 

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On Friday, two Tampa Bay Republicans in the Florida Legislature -- Sen. John Legg of Lutz and Rep. Chris Sprowls of Clearwater -- introduced a bill to reform the state Public Service Commission (PSC).

The new bill aligns the state into five districts, using the same lines as the current district courts of appeal, and PSC members must reside in the districts for which they are named. The bill would also limit commissioners to two terms and would ensure elected officials do not serve on the PSC until at least two years after they leave office.

“The Public Service Commission should serve the public good,” Sprowls said on Friday. “While millions of Floridians are left in the dark – or fleeced by companies like Duke Energy – the PSC continues to turn a blind eye. These meaningful first steps will add some diversity and accountability to the PSC as we work on other reforms that will fundamentally alter the culture of the PSC.”

“Reforms are needed to restore confidence in the Public Service Commission,” Legg said. “Unfortunately, people don’t feel like they’ve been dealt with fairly and that is a problem. I applaud Representative Sprowls for his courage and leadership on making this his first bill.”

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U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Florida’s only member of the Ways and Means Committee, was named to the Social Security Subcommittee. Buchanan already serves on the Trade and Health subcommittees.

“I am honored to be named to such an important subcommittee,” Buchanan said after being named to the post by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “Protecting Social Security has always been one of my highest priorities. Seniors have worked their entire lives with the promise of a safe retirement. That’s a promise we must always keep.”

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The team behind U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is offering a final push for U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who is a heavy favorite to defeat U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in Saturday’s runoff election. Rubio’s Reclaim America PAC sent out an email on Friday urging conservatives to back Cassidy and not be complacent even as polls show him headed to victory.

“Conservatives won a historic victory on Election Night,” Terry Sullivan of Reclaim America wrote on Friday. “But there's one conservative we still need to elect in Louisiana, and we can't take our foot off the gas now. Bill Cassidy is running hard to beat Mary Landrieu in a Louisiana Senate runoff. It looks like he's up, but Reclaim America isn't taking our foot off the pedal.

“Marco hit the road with Bill on the first day of early voting in Louisiana, and we haven’t stopped working hard to help elect Bill and continue the fight to restore the American dream all across the country,” Sullivan added. “Conservatives should be proud of what we accomplished this year. But we can't take our foot off the pedal. President Obama has already proven that he didn’t get the message on November 4th and the Washington liberals are going to look for any chance to claim that the momentum is already shifting back in their favor.That means we need to make sure Bill Cassidy wins on December 6.”

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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho’s, R-Fla., “Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act” passed the U.S. House on Thursday on a 219-197 vote. The bill pushes back against President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, insisting he has overstepped his constitutional boundaries. Now, Yoho says, the ball is in U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s, D-Nev., court.

“I introduced this legislation to stop the president’s executive amnesty,” Yoho said on Thursday. “I could not stand idly by as the president trampled our Constitution, our laws, and our sovereignty. I am glad that 219 of my colleagues joined me.

“I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte, leadership, and the members of this body for helping bring my bill to the floor. This is about the administration overstepping its bounds and unilaterally changing the laws of this country,” Yoho continued. “Our Founding Fathers established this separation of powers to prevent an overreaching executive. If we continue to surrender our legislative powers to the executive branch then we could easily be standing here in five or 10 years discussing a Republican president who refuses to enforce the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act or any other law he chooses.

“Just because one might agree with the outcome does not justify overlooking or violating the process to get to that outcome,” Yoho added. “Congress has the constitutional powers to create and write laws. The president has a duty to faithfully execute those laws, not pick and choose parts he likes or doesn’t like. I’m pleased that this legislation passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis and ask that Senator Reid take this legislation up, or explain to the American people why he is allowing this president’s unconstitutionality to continue.”

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The first flight test of Orion, NASA’s next-generation spacecraft capable of sending astronauts on future missions to an asteroid and the journey to Mars, now is scheduled to launch at 7:05 a.m. EST Friday, atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

NASA Television coverage will begin at 6 a.m. There is a two-hour, 39-minute window for the launch.

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Florida Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, announced on Thursday that Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, will serve as deputy majority leader.

“Denise has extensive legislative experience including budget and health care matters as a previous House Appropriations chair and the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations chair,” said Galvano. “As a fifth-generation Floridian, a parent, and business woman, Denise knows firsthand the challenges and opportunities of citizens and business owners in our state. She is a conservative leader whose experience will serve our caucus greatly.”

First elected to the Senate in 2012, Grimsley served eight years in the Florida House, serving with Galvano in three of those terms.

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On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., looked to end federal funds to the Syrian rebels.

Rooney added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) ending funds to the rebels.

“I have grave concerns about arming the rebels when the administration cannot adequately explain the vetting process, nor can they assure us these weapons won’t end up in the hands of terrorists,” Rooney said on Wednesday. “The early results for this program have not been promising.

“Additionally, if the president and supporters of his strategy want to make the case for this approach to the American people and their representatives in Congress, then they should do so through a full and open debate over a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF),” Rooney added. “We should not use the NDAA to approve what I feel is a doomed strategy in Syria without so much as a debate or a stand-alone vote.”

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On Wednesday, an 11th Circuit federal court of appeals panel in Atlanta rejected a stay from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on a federal judge’s decision striking down the state constitutional amendment recognizing only traditional marriage in the Sunshine State. Without further legal developments, same-sex marriage will go into effect in Florida on Jan. 5.

Conservative attorney John Stemberger, the president of the Florida Family Policy Council, came out swinging on Wednesday against the decision.

"The court today is wrong,” Stemberger said. “ ... The courts will never have the final word on an institution as fundamental to the human experience as marriage. You simply cannot build a civilization without natural marriage.

“Today, we grieve,” Stemberger added. “We grieve for the children who now have no chance of growing up with both a mom and a dad. We mourn the loss of a culture and its ethical foundation. We mourn for a culture that continues to turn its back on timeless principles.

“The state has an interest in defining, protecting and promoting natural marriage and as long as we have breath, even if it takes 20, 30 or 50 years, we will never give up on this issue.” Stemberger continued. “We may grieve today, but we will not despair. We will not throw in the towel. We will not give up. Just as we have worked for decades and are rebuilding a culture of life, in spite of Roe v. Wade, we will also work to rebuild a culture of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“Natural marriage will never be on the wrong side of history because it's rooted in the human experience,” Stemberger said in conclusion. “A little boy who longs to have a father in the inner city -- that will never be on the wrong side of history. The little girl who has two dads and doesn't have a mom and she wants someone to guide her through the changes that a woman's body goes through -- that's never going to be on the wrong side of history. And the beauty of how a man and woman come together and life is born, that's never going to be on the wrong side of history."

Evan Wolfson, the president of Freedom to Marry, cheered the decision.

“The 11th Circuit did the right thing today by refusing to delay marriages for same-sex couples in Florida any longer,” Wolfson said. “As the first joyful weddings take place, Floridians will see firsthand that the freedom to marry helps families and communities, and harms no one. And against this backdrop of happy families and more marriages, we hope the court soon hands down a final ruling that ensures that all committed couples in the Sunshine State, as well as Georgia and Alabama, finally have the freedom to marry the person they love.”

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Florida TaxWatch released a study on Thursday showing smaller schools are better for education than smaller class sizes.

"Florida voters were tricked into buying smaller class sizes 14 years ago, with no research to back up the claims that this multibillion-dollar investment would improve learning outcomes for our students," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, on Thursday. "This TaxWatch research highlights how that investment might be better utilized in the future to really make a difference in the lives of Florida students."

The report insists students perform better in smaller schools instead of just smaller classes, noting that elementary and middle schools in the Sunshine State have the highest enrollments in the nation on average and high schools have twice the enrollment of the national average.

Bob Nave, the director of the Florida TaxWatch Center for Educational Performance and Accountability, said the state constitutional amendment from 2002 limiting class size was not helping education.

"The repeal of the school size limits in favor of class size limits is a good example of a popular initiative trumping a sound research-based public policy," said Nave. "Florida voters must recognize that the 2002 constitutional amendment to limit class sizes has failed to produce the expected gains in student achievement. Investing that $30 billion in measures that have empirically proven to improve student achievement would have been a better investment in public education."

The report can be read here.

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U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., announced on Wednesday he will continue to serve on the House Energy and Commerce Health Committee. Bilirakis will also be on the Subcommittee on Health, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade.

“I am honored to continue my work on the Energy and Commerce Committee in the 114th Congress,” Bilirakis said. “We have made tremendous strides the past two years. We have passed bills that will put Americans back to work, lower energy costs, put patients in charge of their health care, and generally help Americans across the nation thrive. It has truly been a bipartisan record of success.

“I am pleased I will be returning to the Health and Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittees – they have provided me with excellent opportunities to advocate for my constituents on a wide variety of issues,” Bilirakis added. “I am extremely grateful to be able to serve on the Communications and Technology Subcommittee in the coming Congress. Net neutrality, cybersecurity, and innovation in the technology sector are all pressing matters facing the nation, and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on these and other issues.”

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On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., slammed President Barack Obama’s call for Net neutrality. Last month Obama called for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to implement Internet neutrality -- at least, not without a fight. And one of the largest groups representing Florida's business community has spoken up in opposition to Net neutrality, as well. Obama said the FCC needs to do more to ensure Internet providers offer additional transparency and don't block or slow down access to sites.

“President Obama’s ‘Net neutrality’ proposal, which regulates the Internet as a utility, would cost consumers billions of dollars a year while stifling innovation and job creation in the technology industry,” Scott said on Wednesday. “Under President Obama’s recommendations, consumers could be taxed by more than $18 billion a year for the simple act of using the Internet.

“In Florida, we’ve cut taxes 40 times while reducing regulations and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship,” Scott added. “The results are clear: Florida businesses have created almost 680,000 new private-sector jobs in the last four years, but President Obama continues to propose policies that harm job creators and force businesses to want to leave the United States.

“The Internet is a powerful tool that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship across all segments of the economy, and must be protected,” Scott concluded. “But President Obama’s plan increases taxes on Florida families and places burdensome regulations on the technology industry.”

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In the aftermath of Ray Rice being reinstated to play in the National Football League (NFL) after being indicted for third-degree assault on his fiancée, now his wife, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., talked about domestic violence and sports on Tuesday. Rubio spoke on the topic during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee meeting.

“The NFL doesn’t just play for three hours Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights,” Rubio said. “The NFL is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week endeavor that actively wants Americans to admire and emulate the people it puts on the field. It wants our young people to wear – and this is true of all the leagues, but again I am focused on the NFL – it wants young people like my sons, and they want to, and do, to wear the same shoes, to wear their jerseys, to buy the same and use the same products. I mean, we just read a couple of weeks ago that now they regulate what earphones they can use during pregame warm-ups because the league has established a contract with one of the providers.

“So this is an ongoing, 24-hour endeavor,” Rubio added. “It wants young people to emulate and to look up to these athletes – and they do. In fact, I can tell you being involved now in youth football – and this is very sad, but it is true in some instances – some of the only positive male role models that many young Americans today have happen to be the professional athletes they see on Sundays or at nights on television in any of your leagues.

“So I think it’s important to preface that, because this is not just a sport that’s played on a field three hours at a time,” Rubio continued, “this actually has deep impacts throughout society. And there are millions of young – especially young boys – but young Americans who look up to these players. And whatever happens or does not happen with them has a deep impact on them. Because for many of them it’s the only male role model that they have in their lives, unfortunately, and in cases where people go wrong.”

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U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., took aim at former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., as both Republicans consider running for their party’s presidential nomination in 2016.

Paul appeared with Megyn Kelly on Fox News on Tuesday and was asked about Bush’s comments on Monday that presidential candidates should not go too far out to the right to win the GOP nomination in order to be better positioned for the general election.

"I think your first mistake is when you talk about conservatives in the third person," Paul told Kelly. "If you don't consider that it's a 'we' rather than 'them,' you really miss what's going on in the Republican Party. We are a conservative party. As a conservative, I can't understand really even referring to conservatives in the third person."

The Hill has the details.

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Marking the fifth anniversary of Castro regime’s imprisonment of Alan Gross on espionage charges for helping the Cuban Jewish community get Internet access, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., noted the personal impact of his imprisonment on Wednesday.

"Today marks five years that Alan Gross has been unjustifiably held in a Cuban prison for the so-called ‘crime’ of helping Cuba's Jewish community connect to the Internet,” Diaz-Balart said on Wednesday. “Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that everyone has the right to seek and receive information from any available source, yet the Castro regime sentenced Alan Gross to 15 years in prison for his efforts to help the Cuban people access information. During Mr. Gross’s unjust imprisonment, his family has been forced to confront many significant moments without their husband, father, and son by their side, like his daughter’s marriage or her battle with breast cancer. The regime also deprived him of attending his mother's funeral when she passed away earlier this year.

“Sadly, the Castro dictatorship has a long history of brutality, imprisoning the innocent, and tearing apart families during its unrelenting campaign to oppress the Cuban people,” Diaz-Balart continued. “Alan Gross's unjustifiable imprisonment is a tragic reminder of the moral depravity of the Castro regime, which has no qualms about attempting to use an innocent American with ailing health as a pawn.

“My prayers are with Alan Gross and his family as they endure this grim anniversary and begin another day of separation,” Diaz-Balart said in conclusion. “I urge President Obama to stop appeasing the Castros' terrorist regime with countless concessions and instead strengthen sanctions against the brutal dictatorship in Cuba.”

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., part of the House leadership as senior deputy majority whip and a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, blamed the Obama administration’s “relentless spending habits” for the rising national debt.

“It’s tough to bring up the subject of debt around the holiday season,” Ross said on Wednesday morning. “Many families around our country have financial concerns, and are forced to live within their means, while at the same time are being forced to watch this administration relentlessly spend their hard-earned tax dollars. Unfortunately, this administration’s spending habits are worsening. As of September of 2008, our national debt was $9.7 trillion. Today, the United States is over $18 trillion in debt, meaning in six years our national debt has nearly doubled.

“This administration’s relentless spending habits have gotten out of control and are leading America down an unsustainable spending path,” Ross insisted. “We must begin to take control of our nation’s debt by decreasing waste and fraudulent spending at every level of government. I have introduced legislation like HR 239, the Zero-based Budgeting Ensures Responsible Oversight (ZERO) Act, which would require each agency and department to justify every line item on their budget each year. Debt reduction is crucial and my colleagues and I must work together to ensure tax dollars are better accounted for.

“Congress must responsibly budget tax dollars,” Ross concluded. “My constituents agree that it’s time for Congress to take control of our budget by decreasing spending before we plunge into a fiscal abyss.”

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Gov. Rick Scott will continue his statewide tour focused on jobs and job creation in Tampa tomorrow, per a press release from the governor's office.

In a more unique twist on inaugural celebrations, Scott's jobs-themed events will be informal evening barbecues hosted by Florida businesses and will highlight some of the state’s job creators. 

Scott has already made one stop in Miami as part of the "Jobs Jamboree" tour and will continue the tour in other cities like Jacksonville, Naples and Pensacola.

Wednesdays event will be held at 5:45 at USAA in Tampa.
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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., will step into the national spotlight this week as House Republicans push back at President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration while trying to avoid a government shut down.

Reports emerged out of Washington that U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has agreed to let his caucus vote on Yoho’s proposal to prevent Obama from using an executive order to allow illegals a path to stay in the nation. When he unveiled his proposal in late November, Yoho insisted Obama was overstepping what the executive branch can do and hopes his “Executive Amnesty Prevention Act" will cut Obama off at the pass.

In return for letting conservatives in the Republican caucus vote on Yoho’s bill, Boehner has set the stage to pass an omnibus appropriations bill funding most of the federal government until September 2015 while funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which handles most immigration matters, until March through a continuing resolution. Conservatives might be able to defund Obama’s immigration action early next year as the GOP takes control of the Senate in January.

Yoho talked to the New York Times on Tuesday and said he did not expect the Senate, currently in Democratic hands, to pass his measure. However, Yoho insisted his bill will help undermine Obama‘s efforts.

“The simplest way this would work is, it will bring a stop to the action that the president wants,” Yoho told the New York Times. “He talks about how he has a pen and a phone. This will take the ink out of the pen.”

 

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Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, named former Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon, as the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. Gardiner also tapped Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, to lead the Fiscal Policy Committee.

“Each year we have a constitutional duty to pass a balanced budget,” Gardiner said on Tuesday. “Sound management and careful oversight of the year-round appropriations process is critical to meeting our obligation to craft our budget within the time-sensitive environment of a 60-day session.

“Having previously served as our Senate president, Tom has a great deal of experience and a keen understanding of the multifaceted appropriations process,” Gardiner said of Lee. “He will be a key member of the Senate leadership and will work to ensure all senators have the opportunity to play a role in drafting our state budget.

“While the committee on Appropriations will remain the primary vehicle to produce the General Appropriations Act, the committee on Fiscal Policy will provide an alternative path to the Senate Calendar for bills with a minimal fiscal impact,” added Gardiner before turning his focus to Flores. “I have served with Senator Flores for a number of years in the House, and now the Senate, and have witnessed her ability to manage complex policy and budget issues. Anitere is a strong leader and I am confident she will be an effective member of the Senate leadership in this important role.”

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Florida Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad will be leaving his current post on Jan. 2. Gov. Rick Scott announced the departure on Tuesday and said the Florida Transportation Commission will start looking at candidates to replace him.

“Secretary Prasad has been part of my administration since the very beginning, and he has been pivotal to making sure we could make a record investment of over $10 billion in our transportation system this year,” Scott said on Tuesday. “Secretary Prasad has also helped Florida become a major force in international trade because of his commitment to expanding our Florida ports and airports. I am grateful for Secretary Prasad’s service to our state and we will continue making our transportation system a top priority as we select another excellent leader for this department.”

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Noting the Castro regime’s imprisonment of Alan Gross on espionage charges for helping the Cuban Jewish community get Internet access, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called for the Obama administration to do more to free him as she marked the fifth anniversary of his imprisonment.

“The commemoration of yet another shameful anniversary of the imprisonment of Alan Gross is once again disappointing and unacceptable,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Monday. “Mr. Gross’s mental and physical health have progressively deteriorated while imprisoned under the brutal regime that has no regard for the respect of human rights. The Obama administration must work expediently to secure the unconditional release of Mr. Gross and penalize the regime by tightening sanctions, as we continue to press for the release of Mr. Gross, and that of 11 million Cubans who are also subjected to the tyranny of the Castro regime.”

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Speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council in Washington, D.C., on Monday night, former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., promised a decision soon on whether he would run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 -- and insisted he would run on his own terms.

According to the New York Times, Bush said he was willing to stick to his guns and risk losing the “primary to win the general, without violating your principles.” That includes being “more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to be practical” instead of telling conservatives what they want to hear.

Bush has drawn fire from conservatives in recent months for his support of Common Core and immigration reform, including being critical of Arizona’s immigration law.

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U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, announced on Tuesday that he will not run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

“I have decided to run for re-election in 2016,” Portman said. “I am excited about continuing to serve, especially with the change in the Senate leadership.

“With the new Republican majority, I see a real opportunity over the next two years to break the gridlock in Washington and actually get things done to help Ohioans and all Americans,” Portman added. “That's where I believe I can play the most constructive role. I don't think I can run for president and be an effective senator at the same time.”

Portman was not a factor in most polls and, on Tuesday, CNN released a new poll showing him trailing the other possible candidates with less than 1 percent. But hailing from one of the largest swing states, Portman should expect to be back in a familiar position come 2016: the shortlist of vice presidential candidates. Portman was considered by former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., to be his running mate in 2012.

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A new CNN/ORC poll shows former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., starts out the Republican presidential nomination fight with a slight lead if former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., does not run again.

Romney leads the pack with 20 percent followed by Dr. Ben Carson with 10 percent and Bush with 9 percent. Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., takes 8 percent followed by former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., with 7 percent. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., are tied with 6 percent. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., are knotted up with 5 percent each. Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, takes 4 percent while U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., pulls 3 percent. Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., take 2 percent each while two governors -- Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Mike Pence of Indiana -- get 1 percent each. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who announced on Tuesday he will not run for president in 2016, takes less than 1 percent.

But when Romney is left out of the mix, Bush moves to the head of the pack. Bush takes 14 percent in that scenario followed by Carson with 11 percent and Huckabee with 10 percent. Christie and Ryan tie with 9 percent followed by Paul with 8 percent and Cruz with 7 percent. Perry and Walker get 5 percent each and Kasich and Rubio take 3 percent each. Santorum gets 2 percent, Jindal and Pence still pull 1 percent each and Portman lags again with less than 1 percent.

The poll of 510 Republicans was taken from Nov. 21-23 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percent.

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