Sunshine State News Blogs
In a statement released Thursday, Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans said:
“Making sure consumers have secure, affordable coverage is health plans' top priority. The only reason consumers are getting notices about their current coverage changing is because the ACA requires all policies to cover a broad range of benefits that go beyond what many people choose to purchase today.
“Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers. Premiums have already been set for next year based on an assumption of when consumers will be transitioning to the new marketplace. If now fewer younger and healthier people choose to purchase coverage in the exchange, premiums will increase and there will be fewer choices for consumers. Additional steps must be taken to stabilize the marketplace and mitigate the adverse impact on consumers.”
Health insurance plans are upset because this throws a wrench in their plans for the new health insurance markets. Insurers have already set the prices they plan to charge in the 2014 insurance exchanges, and those relied on people transitioning out of their current plans (which would be phased out) and into these newer plans.
After Obama's announcement on Thursday, that may not happen at all. If insurers allow people to keep enrolling in their 2013 plans, it could cause issues with the risk pool in the new insurance marketplace because younger and healthy people could stay out of the exchange. Young people have been targeted to bring into the exchanges, leaving insurers with not-so-great options going forward.
A new poll from Gravis taken for conservative publication "Human Events" finds Attorney General Pam Bondi starts off with a solid lead over her Democratic rivals as she looks for a second term in 2014 but most voters remain undecided.
Bondi takes 30 percent when matched against House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, who takes 14 percent, while the remainder of voters are undecided. Bondi takes 29 percent against former Deputy Attorney General George Sheldon who garners 11 percent.
The poll finds a majority of those surveyed -- 55 percent -- are unfamiliar with Bondi, while 25 percent approve of her and 20 percent disapprove. Despite his many years in public service, Sheldon is unfamiliar to 95 percent of Florida voters, though 1 percent approve of him and 4 percent disapprove of him. Thurston is a little better known but 91 percent are unfamiliar with him while 3 percent approve of him and 6 percent disapprove of him.
The poll of 932 registered voters in Florida was taken from Nov. 8-11 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
A new poll from Gravis taken for the conservative publication "Human Events" finds former Gov. Charlie Crist has a solid lead over Republican Gov. Rick Scott. The poll finds Crist taking 46 percent while Scott is behind with 36 percent.
The poll shows Scott remains upside down in Florida. A majority of those surveyed -- 52 percent -- do not approve of Scott while 33 percent approve of him.
The poll of 932 registered voters in Florida was taken from Nov. 8-11 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
With the help of the state’s most politically active environmental groups, Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, Inc. raised nearly half a million dollars in October.
The lion’s share of cash came from Wall Street trader Paul Tudor Jones, who runs the Everglades Foundation. Tudor Jones contributed $250,000. Also piling in dough were Florida's well-known environmental activist groups: Audubon Florida, The Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club.
The Water and Land Legacy group seeks to put an amendment on the 2014 ballot for voters to decide if the budget for state land-buying should be taken away from legislators and instead have automatic budgeting through the Constitution. Currently, the Florida Legislature has authority to budget items according to the amount of funds available each year. The amendment is estimated to divert $10 billion from doc stamps to land acquisition over the next 10 years.
In October, Florida Wildlife Federation gave more than $26,000 from its chapters and staff. Sierra Club affiliates contributed $10,400, and Audubon pitched in $8,200.
The ballot group has raised more than $1.75 million since July 2012, according to the Florida Division of Elections, and is still collecting the signatures it needs to have a say in front of voters.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., slammed the Obama administration on Wednesday after it was revealed that less than 106,200 have applied under the new federal health-care law.
"The numbers released today by the administration are abysmal, but even worse, they are misleading. In fact, 106,185 reflects the number of Americans who have either enrolled or who identified a certain exchange plan, but have not necessarily purchased it,” Ross said. “Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact number of those who have enrolled, only that it is lower than 106,185. Here is what I do know: this administration forced Obamacare onto the American people, promising it would increase access to affordable health care. Since then, more than 300,000 Floridians have lost the health plan they chose and liked, and the administration continues adding insult to injury with every misleading statement they make to cover up how bad this law is. This is an unacceptable state of affairs, and the American people deserve better.
“We need health care solutions, like my Patient Health Care Act, that give consumers more choice, provide more affordable coverage, and help protect those with pre-existing conditions without being forced to take Obamacare's one-size-fits-all approach,” Ross added.
The Republican Governors Association (RGA) kept up its attacks on former Gov. Charlie Crist who announced last week he would challenge Gov. Rick Scott in 2014, this time as a Democrat. Crist was governor and served in two state Cabinet offices as a Republican.
“President Barack Obama and Charlie Crist have so much in common. They share the same donkey logo, pander to the voters and just love running up deficits,” said Gail Gitcho, the RGA communications director, on Thursday. “For five consecutive years, President Obama has carelessly rung up historic deficits. While Crist was governor, he recklessly pushed for his own stimulus plan, pretending budget deficits didn’t exist, leaving Florida adrift. When it comes to deficits, Obama and Crist are a couple of regular old red-ink buddies."
Freshman U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis tore into President Barack Obama’s administration on Wednesday after it was revealed less than 106,200 Americans have applied to enroll in the federal health insurance law. DeSantis also attacked the administration’s decision to launch Healthcare.gov despite technical problems and security issues.
"Today testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee confirmed that the administration recklessly launched Healthcare.gov knowing that the site had not undergone sufficient testing or been certified as being secure,” DeSantis said on Wednesday.
DeSantis pointed to a bill he is backing with U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., allowing Americans to keep their current health care in spite of the new law.
“Obamacare is precipitating the loss of insurance for millions of Americans – essentially forcing them to use a substandard system against their will – in a clear violation of the repeated promise that Americans could keep their plans,”said DeSantis. “Today's enrollment figures demonstrate that Obamacare is destined to fall far short of what was deceptively promised to ensure the law's passage. I introduced the ‘If You Like Your Health Care Plan You Can Keep It Act’ to mitigate some of the damage caused by Obamacare and I urge the House to pass it immediately."
With a host of national polls showing Americans are losing faith in President Barack Obama and his signature health care law, Republicans are looking to tie the unpopular law around the neck of former state CFO Alex Sink who is running in a special election for an open congressional seat.
“Alex Sink has made it crystal clear that she will support the president’s health care law regardless if Florida families lose their health care coverage and are forced to pay more,” said Katie Prill, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) on Thursday morning. “As CFO of Florida, Sink proved she doesn’t have a problem hurting Floridians, but sending Sink to Congress is a risk we just can’t afford.”
According to a Gallup poll released Thursday, 40 percent of Americans approve of the Affordable Care Act, while more than half -- 55 percent -- disapprove.
The numbers come after the federal government's health care website was riddled with problems after its launch on Oct. 1. On Wednesday, the true impact of the malfunctioning website was evident: only 106,000 people across the country were able to sign up for health care under the new government program.
The poll found more Americans believe health care is one of the country's top problems: 19 percent of Americans see it as a top problem, up from 12 percent in October. Twenty-six percent say dissatisfaction with the government is the most important problem facing the country, making it the No. 1 one issue. November marks the first time since 2007 that non-economic issues have taken the top two spots in Americans' concerns.
The Gallup poll results aren't necessarily unique -- other polls show trouble for the Obama administration. A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed the president's approval rating had plummeted to 39 percent and a majority of voters said they don't consider the president honest or trustworthy.
Results for this Gallup poll were based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 7-10 with a random sample of 1,039 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
Former state Rep. Carl Domino is running for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., next year and he ripped into the Democrat on President Barack Obama’s health care law and other matters on Thursday morning.
“Patrick Murphy has done the unthinkable – he's actually made Nancy Pelosi look good,” Domino wrote supporters on Thursday. “Obamacare is a disaster, there's no getting around that. But at least Nancy Pelosi was honest when she told us we needed to pass the bill to see what's in it. Patrick Murphy, on the other hand, loved Obamacare and praised it at every turn – until he realized it would mean the end of his congressional career.”
Domino insisted Murphy’s call for holding off implementing the federal health-care program was only coming after the public turned against it.
“Murphy can't have his cake and eat it, too,” Domino insisted. “He was a staunch supporter of Obamacare from the beginning and we can't let him get away with flip-flopping to save his seat.
“Murphy just doesn't get it,” Domino added before contrasting his experience with the congressman’s. “Maybe he's too young and inexperienced. Or maybe he's just got his head buried in the sand. But his failed leadership is having devastating consequences on our district.
“As a successful businessman, Vietnam veteran and retired commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves, and a father, I have the experience and track record to provide the leadership we need to turn things around,” Domino insisted.
U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., is helping lead the charge to impeach U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Yoho is one of the main supporters of an impeachment effort to be introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, on Thursday. The impeachment focuses on a number of fronts, including Holder’s role in the Fast and Furious scandal and refusing to address Congress on the matter; failing to investigate IRS leaks involving political enemies of the Obama administration; lying to Congress over investigating journalists working for Fox News; and refusing to enforce federal laws including the Defense of Marriage Act.
Olson, Yoho and other Republicans including U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., drafted four articles of impeachment and will bring them forth in the House on Thursday.
Airlines are providing better services to their passengers in 2013, according to data release Wednesday.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reported airline consumer complaints for the first nine months of this year have fallen 14 percent as compared to the first nine months of 2012.
DOT’s Air Travel Consumer Report, released the second week of each month, noted the department received 10,439 consumer complaints from January to September, which is down from the 12,153 complaints in the same period of 2012.
In September, the most recent month covered by the report, the on-time arrival rate for flights was 84 percent, an improvement from 79 percent in August. Southwest Airlines had the poorest on-time record of all airlines reporting, at 76 percent.
Meanwhile, American Eagle had the highest rate of cancellations in September. Best performer, Virgin America, had zero cancelled trips for the month.
Only 3,571 people in Florida signed up for selected insurance plans in the new Obamacare health exchanges.
A quarter of the sign-ups came from the glitchy Healthcare.gov website, which is used by 36 states. The rest enrolled in the 14 states and Washington, D.C., that are running their own enrollment system, most of which are generally operating much more smoothly than the federal site.
The figures include people who have selected a health plan, whether or not they have actually paid for it.
The numbers are the first official look at the damage caused by the technical malfunctions of the health care website. According to Politico, only 744 people per state, on average, enrolled in the 36 states relying on HealthCare.gov compared to an average 5,293 people in the states that built their own enrollment systems.
Experts said there were improvements made to the health care website and assured that more improvements would be on the way in the coming weeks, but warned the website will not be perfect on Nov. 30, the date the Obama administration has promised it would be running smoothly for most users.
Gov. Rick Scott made the media rounds in New York on Wednesday, including appearing on Fox Business to talk about taxes and reducing the size of the state government. Scott touched on his plan to cut $500 million from next year’s budget.
“We’ve been reducing our business tax every year so about 70 percent of our businesses don't pay a business tax,” Scott said. “But, we’re looking at any other fees and things, I’m working with my Legislature. But it will be $500 million of additional money back to you as a citizen. 'Cause you know what? You’ll put money into either housing or transportation, you might put money into getting your kids a better education or maybe start a business. We have 271,000 job openings in our state because people are starting businesses in our state because they can do so well.”
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., the chairman of the Panama Caucus, met with Panamanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Fernando Nuñez Fabrega on Tuesday to touch base on trade. The Panama Canal expansion, which promises to boost trade in Florida, is expected to be completed by 2015 and will double its capacity. There are estimates showing Florida’s economy will grow after the Panama Canal expands with tens of thousands of new jobs being created.
“As chairman of the Panama Caucus, jobs and the economy are my top priority,” said Buchanan. “Florida, especially Port Manatee, is in a unique position to benefit from the expansion of the Panama Canal. I applaud Minister Fabrega and his government for their commitment to free trade and strengthening the economic ties between our countries.”
There was talk that Florida Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would run for the congressional seat left vacant by the death of U.S. Rep. Bill Young. Brandes quickly shot down such speculation early on but he has no intention of standing on the sidelines. On Wednesday, he threw his support behind Republican hopeful David Jolly.
“We need a principled leader like David Jolly representing our community in Congress,” said Brandes. “David knows the ins and outs of Pinellas County and has the best interest of our area in mind. I am confident that he will build upon the great successes of Congressman Bill Young. David Jolly is our hometown guy and is uniquely qualified to represent us. I am proud to stand with David.”
“I am honored to receive the support of Senator Brandes for my campaign for Florida Congressional District 13,” said Jolly. “A native of St. Petersburg, Senator Brandes has worked diligently to improve our local communities and our great state of Florida in Tallahassee with a main focus on transportation issues, among others. Pinellas County is home to both Senator Brandes and I, and I thank him for his support of my candidacy.”
After lashing out at Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday night, comparing him to Al Capone, former Gov. Charlie Crist is drawing fire from the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF). Despite his many years in Florida politics as a Republican, Crist is now the front-runner for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott in 2014.
“The fact that Charlie Crist is resorting to political attacks that invoke criminals just goes to show how desperate he is to cover up his record of job losses, higher debt and economic failure,” said Lenny Curry, the chairman of the RPOF, on Wednesday. “It’s another opportunistic move from a career politician who has a history of lousy judgment when it comes to his own decisions and the people he surrounds himself with. Floridians can’t afford another four years with Charlie Crist in the governor’s office."
Former Gov. Charlie Crist held a fundraiser Tuesday evening at his sister's home, where he wasted no time laying into Gov. Rick Scott and his record in the private sector.
According to a report from the Tampa Bay Times, Crist brought up Scott's involvement in the private sector, where he became the leader of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain that paid a $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud. In one deposition in particular, Scott invoked the Fifth Amendment 75 times.
"People like Al Capone do that," Crist said. "And they definitely don't get to be governor. The governor of Illinois maybe, but not Florida."
"If you continue to load my gun, I will fire the cannon," Crist said.
Crist said he wouldn't be afraid to use Rick Scott's name because of the "negative connotation" associated with the governor's name.
"We need somebody back that has a heart and a soul and actually cares about people," said Crist.
Florida Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, announced on Wednesday he was backing Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) Vice Chairman Blaise Ingoglia’s bid to represent parts of Hernando County in the Florida House. Lee is the 19th legislator to back Ingoglia.
“I am pleased to offer my endorsement of Blaise Ingoglia in his bid for the Florida House,” said Lee. “Blaise has been a leader within our party and the business community for some time now and he understands how big government negatively affects our state. Blaise, with his small-business background and conservative values will represent the constituents of House District 35 well in Tallahassee.”
“I’m honored to have the support of Senator Tom Lee,” said Ingoglia. “He has led a legislative body as well as a small business and he fights for the conservative values that he believes in. He’s a tireless worker and I’m glad to have him on my team.”
The Republican Governors Association (RGA) took aim at former Gov. Charlie Crist, a former Republican who is now running for his old job as a Democrat. The RGA hit Crist for running up state debt and compared his record in Tallahassee to President Barack Obama’s in Washington.
“It turns out newly-minted Democrat Charlie Crist has a lot more in common with President Barack Obama than party affiliation,” said Gail Gitcho, the RGA’s communications director, on Wednesday. “Both Obama and Crist spend taxpayer money with reckless abandon. As a consequence of such wanton abuse of power, future generations will be stuck with their irresponsible mountains of debt. Floridians won’t be fooled again into voting for Crist.”
Sheriff Joe Arpaio has won national attention for getting involved in matters far outside his Maricopa County, Ariz., jurisdiction. His latest effort came on Wednesday when he went to bat for Stop Hillary PAC which is already getting active to prevent former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency in 2016.
“America is in trouble,” Arpaio insisted in an email on Wednesday. “I've spent my entire life fighting for the rule of law and what is right and just. I have fought against the Mexican drug cartels who have threatened my life and my family. I have fought against the corrupt Obama Department of Justice that is more interested in scoring political points than enforcing the law. I have fought against President Obama who doesn't have the first clue on how to secure our borders or protect our citizens.
“I'm convinced that ‘the fix is in’ and that without a huge effort starting right now, Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States,” Arpaio continued. “Her henchmen – James Carville and Harold Ickes – are busy greasing the skids, raising millions of dollars, buying off the competition ... all designed to install her in the White House without a fight.”
Arpaio ripped Clinton for supporting open borders, amnesty, big government, a weak foreign policy and Obama’s federal health-care law.
“Building upon the dangerous Obama legacy, President Hillary Clinton will cement the disastrous policies of Obama into the fabric of America forever,” Arpaio insisted.
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said on Tuesday that she would co-sponsor the REPAY Supplies Act which would make a $250 classroom expense deduction permanent for teachers who pay for school supplies out of their own pocket. The current deduction is set to expire at the end of the year.
“Our children deserve every educational advantage we can provide them and we owe it to the teachers we’ve entrusted with their learning to make sure they have the tools necessary to succeed,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “We should be committed to an educational environment where neither teachers nor students worry about the availability of educational supplies. Our teachers provide excellent education for our children and a credit for their out-of-pocket educational supplies is one small way to show our gratitude for their hard work.”
Gov. Rick Scott and first lady Ann Scott honored six Floridians during an induction ceremony on Tuesday at the Capitol for the new Florida Veterans Hall of Fame.
“Florida is the most veteran-friendly state in the nation," said Scott. "We must continue to support our veterans who have served the Sunshine State. This Veterans Hall of Fame will show our support to those who worked so hard and made sacrifices for our state and nation, and have helped ensure freedom for all.”
Gov. Scott and first lady awarded Hall of Fame medals and certificates to the following inductees:
- John R. D. Cleland, Major General (Retired), U.S. Army (Melbourne).
- The late Rep. Sam M. Gibbons, former U.S. Army Major (Tampa) – represented by his son, Clifford Sam Gibbons.
- John L. Haynes, Major (Retired), U.S. Marine Corps (Monticello).
- Robert F. Milligan, Lieutenant General (Retired), U.S. Marine Corps (Tallahassee).
- Jeanne Grushinski Rubin, Captain (Retired), U.S. Navy (Sunrise).
- Robert J. Silah, Captain (Retired), U.S. Navy (Tampa).
According to a press release from the governor's office, Florida Veterans Hall of Fame "recognizes and honors those military veterans who, through their works and lives during or after military service, have made a significant contribution to the state of Florida through civic, business, public service or other pursuits."
It is not a traditional military hall of fame, as it focuses on post-military contributions to the State of Florida.
“We have an impressive pool of outstanding patriots who call Florida home,” said retired Army Col. Mike Prendergast, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. “These six inductees and the others who will follow in future years are inspirations to all of us who served honorably to defend the freedoms we enjoy today.”
Inductees are recommended annually by the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame council based upon public submissions and approved by both the governor and Cabinet. In selecting its nominees for submission, the council gives preference to veterans who were either born in Florida or adopted Florida as their home state.
October campaign finance reports in the attorney general race were released Tuesday, showing that Bondi's camp raised $76,578 in October, for a grand total of $481,479. On top of that, an electioneering communications organization named "And Justice for All" that’s dedicated to Bondi's re-election raised $84,100 for a total of $894,082.
That means Bondi has more than $1.3 million to spend against two Democratic challengers, Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston and former DCF Secretary George Sheldon. Both entered the race at the end of October.
Thurston announced he'd be running at the end of October, but didn't officially file until Nov. 1, so he couldn't raise any money in October. George Sheldon announced he was running on Oct. 21 and raised just $5,931.
Sheldon is planning four fundraisers this month: Orlando on Nov. 19, Tampa on Nov. 20, Fort Lauderdale with Bob Butterworth on Nov. 21, and Tallahassee on Nov. 26.
Thurston said he will make announcements regarding his campaign soon.
Bondi's campaign is already flexing its fundraising muscles early on in the campaign, giving her a financial advantage over any of her opponents. Both Sheldon and Thurston have said they are not dropping out of the race to avoid a primary.
“I’ll prepare for Pam and if we have a primary, we’ll deal with that,” Sheldon said.
“I remain hopeful that it won’t come to (a primary),” Thurston said. “And remember, it’s not about the money, it’s about the message.”
Florida Democrats fired back at former Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday after he endorsed Gov. Rick Scott for re-election. The Florida Democratic Party issued a press release noting that Bush backed then-Attorney General Bill McCollum over Scott in 2010. The Florida Democrats tried to remind voters that Bush was critical of Scott using his personal fortune to bankroll his campaign.
“Three years ago, Jeb Bush showed better judgment than he did today,” said Allison Tant, the chairwoman of the Florida Democrats, on Tuesday.
Tant pointed to Scott’s record on education and noted he and Bush favored different policies, including splitting over Common Core.
“The so-called 'education governor’, who did not support Rick Scott for governor, has endorsed the governor most harmful to education in Florida history,” Tant said. “Even earlier this year, Rick Scott broke with Bush and sided with the tea party when he rejected key elements of Common Core. The fact is that Jeb Bush is putting pure partisan loyalty above what’s best for Florida."
Former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, who was the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 2012, ripped into President Barack Obama’s health care law on Tuesday.
“The news is hitting today that only 50,000 people have so far enrolled for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare,” Johnson wrote supporters on Tuesday. “That’s only one-tenth of the number that was predicted for the first month of enrollment. President Obama, of course, is blaming this massive failure on the website mess -- and that probably had something to do with it.
“But this isn’t about a website. It’s about the government trying to take over one of our most basic and critical needs: our health,” Johnson added. “We who believe in liberty and limited government have a great many complaints and battles to fight to keep the government from meddling unnecessarily in our lives, our families and our livelihoods. All those battles are important.”
Johnson tore into the law as “government coercion that I would suggest is not just wrong, but immoral.”
“Millions of Americans are finding that, contrary to Obama’s promises, they are losing their health insurance or at best being informed that the cost of their coverage is skyrocketing,” Johnson insisted. “The result is that millions are being forced into government-managed and regulated health care, against their true wishes. That, my friends, is coercion at its worst.”
Johnson added he thought politicians in Washington knew what would happen when they passed the law.
“When they passed the Affordable Care Act and wrote the regulations to implement it, they knew exactly what they were doing,” Johnson insisted. “They wanted to force us out of making our own health care decisions, and into a system where the government is making those decisions. Life and death decisions.
“In short, website issues aside, the takeover of health care is going precisely according to the big-government plan,” Johnson wrote. “Even the people in Congress who voted against it are now debating how to ‘fix’ it -- after millions of Americans have had their insurance policies cancelled, changed or priced out of affordability.”
Johnson, who has opened the door to a second presidential bid in 2016, called for getting government out of health care.
SeaWorld and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration made their cases to a federal appeals court on Tuesday.
SeaWorld wants to overturn safety citations and the ban on trainers joining the whales during water shows. The restrictions were implemented shortly after Brancheau's death.
The theme park was initially fined $75,000, but the overall fine was reduced to $12,000 after an appeal.
Tuesday's case centered on the General Duty Clause. It reads as follows:
"Each employer --
(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct."
Tilikum, the orca whale involved in Brancheau's death, has been involved in two other deaths during his time at SeaWorld. A 2013 documentary, "Blackfish," centered around the controversy at SeaWorld and detailed the deaths at length, focusing on the dangers of keeping orca whales in captivity.
Marshall Criser III, the president of AT&T Florida, was named as the finalist to be the next State University System of Florida chancellor on Tuesday. Criser has many ties to the business community, including serving on the board of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and having served as chairman of Florida TaxWatch.
Criser also has a background in higher education, including serving on the board of the University of Florida. Criser’s father had served as president of the University of Florida.
“I want to thank my fellow search committee members for all their hard work in the quest to find our State University System’s next leader,” said Mori Hosseini, the vice chair of the Florida Board of Governors. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the quality of applicants we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing this month, and I am particularly happy with our finalist, Marshall Criser III. I look forward to bringing him to the Board of Governors for their consideration.”
Former state Rep. Bill Proctor, who had been the chancellor of Flagler College, nominated Criser. The full Board of Governors will vote on Criser’s appointment at its meeting at FIU from Nov. 20-21.
Gov.Rick Scott announced Tuesday that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has committed to building a cost-effective I-395 bridge that will improve connectivity between I-95 and PortMiami.
The FDOT will seek appropriations from the Florida Legislature in the department’s Work Program with the goal of beginning construction in 2018.
“I’m proud to announce that in partnership with the city of Miami, we have developed a path forward in constructing this signature bridge," said the governor. "Miami is a global hub for business and tourism, and through our investment in PortMiami and the PortMiami Tunnel project, Florida’s strength in the global marketplace will only continue to grow.”
State lawmakers chimed in with Scott's positive sentiments on the project.
“The I-395 signature bridge will improve access to and from PortMiami. Not only will this project provide an economic impact, the bridge will be an inspiring tribute to Miami’s status as a major global leader," said Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah.
“As we continue to see investments in Florida’s ports, this project will further strengthen PortMiami as Florida prepares for the expansion of the Panama Canal," said Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah. "The I-395 signature bridge will allow the city of Miami and Florida to become the trade gateway to the Americas and beyond.”
City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said the project was important for Florida's economic success.
“PortMiami is incredibly important to Florida's economic success and this project will improve access to it. Miami is undeniably a global hub for business and this project will be a huge success for the Miami community."
The city of Miami and FDOT agreed to the creation of an advisory committee of five individuals to be selected by mutual agreement between the city and the department.
The advisory committee will be tasked with:
-- Evaluating and recommending to the department, from among the various bridge concepts proposed by FDOT, the bridge concept that best fulfills the commitments made by FDOT as part of the Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and adopted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in its Record of Decision for the project.
-- Providing input to FDOT on the selection criteria for teams interested in submitting proposals for the project.
-- Serving as an aesthetic advisory group to FDOT during the procurement of the firms to design and build the project.
-- The parties also agreed that the cost of the entire renovation project shall not exceed $600 million.
FDOT is developing the preliminary design for a roadway project along SR 836/I-395, from west of I-95 to the MacArthur Causeway Bridge in Miami. The project will rebuild I-395 from west of I-95/midtown interchange to the West Channel bridges of the MacArthur Causeway, a stretch of approximately 1.4 miles.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush offered an early endorsement of Gov. Rick Scott’s bid for a second term.
"I'm pleased to endorse Governor Scott for re-election and look forward to supporting his campaign during the coming year,” Bush said on Tuesday. "It's simple why I'm supporting Rick Scott. He campaigned on a platform of getting Florida's economy back on track, and has delivered on that promise.
"Governor Scott pledged to reinstate a business-friendly climate that fosters growth and job creation. Since taking office, Florida's unemployment rate has fallen 4.1 percent, more than 365,000 jobs have been created and taxes have been cut for families and businesses,” Bush added. “While President Obama and Democrats in Congress are fixated on penalizing success, Governor Scott is pursuing policies to restore prosperity for more Floridians while prioritizing core state responsibilities, including increasing the state's investment in education.
"Rick Scott demonstrated leadership when Florida needed it most, and he is the best candidate to lead our state for four more years,” Bush insisted.
"I am grateful to have the support and friendship of Governor Jeb Bush,” Scott said. “His time as governor built a strong foundation for Florida's future by making our education system more accountable and our state's economy more attractive to job creators. His positive vision for Florida continues to inspire us today as we work to cut taxes and get our economy back on track."