Sunshine State News Blogs

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., the vice chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, expressed some hope that businessman Robert McDonald can help reform the VA department. McDonald was nominated to replace Eric Shinseki as secretary of VA on Monday.

“The problems at the VA are very serious, and they are negatively impacting veterans across the country,” Bilirakis said after President Barack Obama announced the nomination. “Veterans deserve timely access to quality care, and in many cases, that isn’t happening right now. It is my hope that Mr. McDonald’s nomination will be the first step on the road to bringing back accountability and transparency to the dysfunctional agency. The VA needs to be about protecting and caring for the veteran, not the bureaucrat.”
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U.S. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fla., spoke out on the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on Monday.

“I am deeply troubled by today’s Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. Once again, women’s reproductive rights are under attack," said Hastings."

The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision ruled Monday that certain family-owned companies cannot be forced to offer insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act.

“I believe that every woman should be able to make her own health care decisions. Unfortunately, the court’s ruling has set a very dangerous precedent," Hastings continued. "We must continue to protect women’s rights in the face of these new threats to reproductive health services, and ensure that companies not be allowed to impose their views, religious or other, on their employees."

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Gov. Rick Scott awarded 200 Florida veterans the Governor's Veterans Service Award in Tampa on Monday.

“It is an honor to kick off our Florida Veterans Service Award tour by presenting 200 Tampa veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award," said Scott. "Our veterans have selflessly fought to defend our freedoms, and it is our responsibility to take every opportunity to thank them for their sacrifice and service to our nation.”

Scott was joined by Florida National Guard Leader Col. Perry Hagaman, and Alene Tarter, Florida Department of Veterans Affairs director of benefits and assistance. 

The ceremony was held at the American Legion Post 111. During the ceremony, Gov. Scott highlighted the service of two Florida veterans and brothers, Martin “Marty” Mount and Arnold “Arnie” Mount.

Martin “Marty” Mount is an Army veteran who saw multiple combat tours in Vietnam. While serving in Germany, Marty Mount distinguished himself by stopping a foreign agent covertly trying to enter his base. Following his military service, Marty secured employment with GTE, and later with Verizon, using skills acquired in the Army to provide communications services to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area for 32 years.

Arnold “Arnie” Mount is a 25-year Navy veteran who was stationed in Okinawa and served in Vietnam in 1970. After becoming a radioman chief petty officer, Arnie Mount was commissioned under the Limited Duty Officer program in 1981. He retired as a “Lieutenant Commander,” and attended law school in Orlando. Later, Mount taught criminal justice and criminal investigations at Everest University in Orange Park. 

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, praised the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Monday finding that Hobby Lobby does not have to comply with providing birth control under President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law. Rubio hailed the decision as a victory for religious freedom.

“A key part of the American dream has always been the ability of our people to freely practice their faiths without government interference,” Rubio said on Monday. “Obamacare’s mandates have threatened to change this and, in doing so, erode the American dream as we know it and our people’s ability to live it. The Supreme Court has correctly recognized that Obamacare’s trampling of religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby case should not stand.

“Obamacare was written and passed with a clear disregard for the reality that millions of Americans are inspired by their faiths in all aspects of their lives, including the way entrepreneurs manage their businesses,” Rubio added. “In America, no one should be forced to violate their religious beliefs if they wish to run a business.

“The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision is a re-affirmation of America’s commitment to religious freedom and a reminder of why Obamacare is such a flawed law that needs to be entirely repealed and replaced,” Rubio concluded.
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Former Gov. Bob Martinez went to bat for fellow Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Monday, calling on former Gov. Charlie Crist to release his wife’s tax returns.

“Florida has had a decades-long political tradition of openness and transparency, and I commend Gov. Scott for keeping this tradition,” Martinez said on Monday. “The governor's spouse will likely require security and use of state assets. Charlie Crist needs to disclose not only his financial returns but those of his wife to make certain there are no conflicts of interest. Floridians have an expectation of full transparency from candidates that run for governor. Crist needs to follow the example of his predecessors, Republican and Democratic."
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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., praised the Supreme Court on Monday for deciding that Hobby Lobby and other closely held businesses do not have to comply with President Barack Obama’s health-care law’s contraception mandate.

"The president's health-care law goes beyond overreaching,” Ross said on Monday. “The Supreme Court has ruled today that the agency tasked with implementing Obamacare can't coerce family-owned businesses to violate core tenets of their religious faith. It's a shame that the First Amendment's protections for freedom of religion needed to be validated by the Supreme Court. Today's decision was a victory for religious freedom and another example of why Obamacare must be replaced."
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The Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC) announced on Monday it was backing Gov. Rick Scott and the three Republicans serving in the Florida Cabinet -- Attorney General Pam Bondi, state CFO Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam -- for second terms.

“Florida leads the country in the caliber of elected leaders we enjoy at the statewide level,” said Dr. Ralph Nobo, the president of the FMA on Monday. “To have the leadership, commitment and vision in taking Florida to the next level not only in economic recovery, but also in championing our health-care issues, is truly a path we must continue over the next four years. We strongly support the governor, attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner for re-election in 2014.”

“I want to thank the Florida Medical Association’s PAC for their endorsement and for their work in keeping Floridians healthy,” Scott said. “I look forward to working with them for four more years to make sure medical professionals continue to grow and thrive in the Sunshine State."

“Having worked closely with leaders in the medical profession in the fight against pill mills and prescription drug abuse, I am thrilled to receive the endorsement of the state’s premiere medical organization,” said Bondi. “I look forward to our continued efforts in keeping Floridians safe.”

“I am honored to, once again, earn the support of more than 20,000 physicians represented by the Florida Medical Association,” Atwater said. “I remain committed to working with patients and physicians so Floridians have a health-care marketplace that ensures the highest quality of care and greatest access to services, while protecting the physician-patient relationship.”

“Through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ wellness program, we are working with medical professionals in developing wellness programs and school policies in local school districts,” said Putnam. “Thank you to the FMA PAC for their endorsement of my re-election bid and for supporting a healthy Florida.”
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While most eyes were focused on the Hobby Lobby decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, pointed toward the NLRB v. Canning decision. DeSantis insisted this decision found President Barack Obama violated the Constitution with recess appointments.

“In a unanimous 9-0 judgment, the Supreme Court repudiated President Obama's attempt to circumvent the safeguards contained in the Constitution by installing two members onto the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) without obtaining the required Senate confirmation,” DeSantis noted.

“The Recess Appointments Clause is clear that the president can unilaterally fill a vacancy when (1) the vacancy is created during the recess of the Senate and (2) the appointment is made during that recess,” DeSantis continued. “For decades, presidents have routinely abused the Recess Appointments Clause by appointing individuals to fill vacancies during a Senate recess even when the initial vacancy did not "happen during the recess of the Senate. Obama went even further -- he purported to use the Recess Appointment Clause to justify filling vacancies while the Senate was not even in recess. If Obama had his way, the constitutionally-mandated Senate confirmation process would be a dead letter.

“All nine justices found that Obama violated the Constitution, but the court split 5-4 on the underlying rationale,” DeSantis added. “Five justices construed the recess appointment power in a way that vindicated past presidents' use of the power while enforcing the requirement that the Senate actually be in recess for the clause to apply. Four justices simply applied the Constitution as written, which rendered Obama's actions unconstitutional but also called into question the practices of past presidents. When there is a conflict between past practices and the text of the Constitution, it is the latter, these four justices reasoned, that must prevail.

“This dispute over constitutional process is very important regarding policy substance. By going around the Constitution, Obama placed individuals on the NLRB who are hostile to nonunion workers and small businesses, thereby moving policy in a direction it might not have gone had Obama followed the Constitution,” DeSantis concluded. “The Constitution's structure is not simply a curiosity meant to provide students with something to study during civics class. It is the primary security for our liberty and the main mechanism through which we hold government accountable.”
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Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam cheered the Hobby Lobby decision on Monday.

Putnam, who served in the Republican leadership when he was in Congress, praised the Supreme Court for ruling that business owners can object for religious reasons to being forced to cover birth control due to President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law.

“A big win for the faith community and religious liberty,” Putnam insisted on Twitter.
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U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), offered her take on the Hobby Lobby decision after the Supreme Court ruled that business owners can object for religious reasons to being forced to cover birth control due to President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law.

“I am disappointed and deeply concerned by the Supreme Court’s decision today in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby,” Wasserman Schultz said on Monday after the 5-4 decision was announced. “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans have gained access to preventive services without out-of-pocket costs, including birth control. However, this decision takes money out of the pockets of women and their families and allows for-profit employers to deny access to certain health care benefits based on their personal beliefs. Nearly 60 percent of women who use birth control do so for more than just family planning.

“It is no surprise that Republicans have sided against women on this issue as they have consistently opposed a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions,” Wasserman Schultz added. “Republicans have also blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would bring us closer to the promise of equal pay for women. In the wake of this dangerous precedent set by the Supreme Court, Democrats in Congress will continue to fight on the issues of importance to women and their families.”
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Conservative group Heritage Action weighed in on Monday, praising U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller’s, R-Fla., efforts to reform the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. Miller, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is currently leading the House contingent on veterans reform as it conferences with the Senate.

“The treatment of our veterans has rightly shocked the public, but Congress should resist the temptation to do what it always does in these situations: throw money at the problem,” said Michael Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action, on Monday. “Heritage Action supports Chairman Miller’s call to offset any additional spending and force the VA to justify those requests. There is no doubt Congress must act, but it must do so in a fiscally responsible manner that ensures veterans receive the care they deserve.”
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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., weighed in on immigration at the end of last week, hitting President Barack Obama’s policies and supporting Republican-backed legislation on the matter.

Yoho announced he was backing the “Southwest Border Protection Act” which would allow governors to request up to 10,000 members of the National Guard to protect the border with Mexico and the “National Border and Homeland Security Act” which adds 6,000 extra Border Patrol agents and adds additional security measures to the border. The Florida congressman also is supporting the “Illegal Entry Accountability Act" which cuts off foreign aid to Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador until Congress believes they are helping stem illegal immigration to America. Yoho also signed off on U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa’s, R-Calif., letter calling on Obama to work with Congress in securing the border.

“Poor economic conditions and violence in Central America have existed for many years and thus do not explain the recent surge of immigrants across our southern border,” Yoho said on Friday. “The current crisis along our southern border is a direct result of this administration’s failure to enforce existing law. This lax approach has only encouraged more individuals to come to the United States illegally. It is my duty as a member of Congress to support legislation that will secure our borders and protect our national sovereignty.”
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Not only are fruits and vegetables good for us, they’re good for Florida’s economy.

Florida TaxWatch released a study on Monday on how produce shapes the Sunshine State’s economy. Florida is the second largest produce exporter in the nation and produce adds more than $7.5 billion to the state’s economy with more than 47,500 jobs.

"Florida's agriculture industry is vital to diversifying our state's growing economy," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, on Monday. "Fresh produce, such as fruits, vegetables, and juices are a key part of the agriculture industry and enhance our global trade impact."

The report can be read here.

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Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., doubled down on his call for President Barack Obama’s impeachment over the weekend as he continues to petition on the matter.

“This week we've demonstrated the massive power we have when we stand together,” West emailed supporters. “Over 100,000 patriotic Americans have signed our petition to impeach Barack Obama.

“This is our moment. We're leading a grassroots revolution to defend our Constitution and take our country back from the liberals who are destroying this great nation piece by piece,” West continued. “Barack Obama is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors and brazenly disregarding the Constitution of the United States. I took a lifetime oath to defend this country -– and that includes defending it from Barack Obama.”

Despite losing to U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., in 2012, West has remained politically active and has opened the door to a political comeback in 2016.
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A new poll finds support for Amendment 2, which would expand medical marijuana use in Florida, continues to build but, for the moment, is short of passing. For Amendment 2 to be added to the state Constitution, 60 percent of voters have to approve it at the November ballot.

The poll from conservative magazine Human Events and Gravis Marketing shows 50 percent of those surveyed back Amendment 2 while 37 percent oppose it and 13 percent remain undecided.

A poll from Human Events and Gravis released in April found more opposition to Amendment 2: 46 percent of those surveyed were against it while 45 percent supported it.

The poll of 1,232 Florida voters was taken from June 21-23 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

H/T Saint PetersBlog

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Attorney General Pam Bondi ends June with the lead over her Democratic rivals, according to a poll from conservative magazine Human Events and Gravis Marketing.

The poll finds Bondi ahead of House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, with the Republican garnering 43 percent while the challenger follows with 38 percent. While 16 percent are on the fence, Tallahassee attorney Bill Wohlsifer, the Libertarian candidate, picks up 4percent.

Bondi does better when matched up against former DCF Secretary George Sheldon, beating him 43 percent to 35 percent while 16 percent remain undecided. Wohlsiger gets 5 percent in that scenario.

The poll of 1,232 Florida voters was taken from June 21-23 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

H/T Saint PetersBlog

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Conservative magazine Human Events teamed up with Gravis Marketing over the weekend to unveil a poll which shows Gov. Rick Scott with a small lead over former Gov. Charlie Crist, his leading Democratic challenger.

The poll finds Scott ahead with 41 percent followed by Crist with 39 percent. Libertarian Adrian Wyllie takes 6 percent while 15 percent are undecided. In a Gravis poll from March, Crist led Scott by 4 percent.

The poll of 1,232 Florida voters was taken from June 21-23 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

H/T Saint PetersBlog

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Russell Adler, third partner in the Fort Lauderdale law firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, ground zero for the $1.4 billion Ponzi scheme that destroyed dozens of investors' lives, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison Friday.

Last week he was disbarred for life.

The Sun-Sentinel reports that Adler, a lifelong Democrat, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate federal election laws and fraud by bundling more than $200,000 worth of donations to John McCain's presidential campaign and then-Gov. Charlie Crist's Senate race in 2008. Both campaigns have said they had no knowledge of any of Rothstein's wrongdoing.

Ponzi scheme mastermind Scott Rothstein asked Adler and other law firm workers to make donations to his chosen campaigns and then illegally reimbursed them by paying them what he called bonuses.

Rothstein, 52, is serving 50 years in federal prison.

Earlier this month, the law firm's middle-named partner, Stuart Rosenfeldt, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud, make illegal political campaign donations and violate civil rights. He faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced in September.

Authorities say Rothstein used the bundled political donations to "cloak" himself in respectability.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence LaVecchio told the Sun-Sentinel, "Rothstein was able to buy access, he was able to buy influence. He was able to get people like John McCain and Charlie Crist to his house."

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Despite having supported the proposed state constitutional amendment recognizing only traditional marriage which passed in the 2008 elections, former Gov. Charlie Crist filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit challenging that law on Friday.
“In just the last six years, our society has evolved and moved past the prejudices rooted in our past,” said Crist, who changed political affiliations -- twice -- during that six-year period. “Further, science has uniformly reached the conclusion that heterosexual marriages are just as valued and revered as they have ever been; and children raised by gay and lesbian parents fare just as well as kids raised in straight families.
“Thus, with the arc of history now, in fact, bending toward justice, this issue of marriage equality will almost certainly not even be an issue for the children and grandchildren of this state,” Crist added. “But it is still the duty of those in the present to recognize that the legitimacy of government depends upon its willingness to fairly, transparently, and equitably administer the law. That goal is frustrated by denying an entire class of citizens equality in the institution of marriage simply because of who they are and whom they love.”

Hearings begin in Miami on Pareto v. Ruvin next week. 
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U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., showcased energy bills that passed the House this week, including measures to clear the path for the creation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, forcing the Energy Department to move on 26 pending liquefied natural gas (LNG) export applications and backing more domestic and offshore energy exportation.

“By producing more energy at home, we can give middle class families relief from rising fuel costs, allow businesses to create much-needed jobs, and improve our national security by reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil,” Rooney said on Thursday. “Taken together, these bills will create tens of thousands of jobs in the Sunshine State while making it easier for Florida families to fill their gas tanks.”

Rooney called on the Democratic-controlled Senate to join the House in passing these bills.

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Rep. Dane Eagle's charge for driving under the influence has been dropped to a reckless driving charge.

The Cape Coral Republican was arrested in Tallahassee April 21 for driving under the influence. A police officer noted the smell of alcohol coming from Eagle's car, but Eagle claimed that the smell of alcohol coming from his vehicle was the result of having people who were drunk in his car earlier in the night. He refused to submit to a sobriety test and refused to take a Breathalyzer test after his arrest.

Eagle maintained that he had not been driving under the influence the night of his arrest, but rather insisted he exercised "poor judgment." 

Eagle must complete 100 hours of community service in Southwest Florida as part of his reckless driving settlement. 

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Former U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., announced on Thursday night that he was backing Juan Garcia in the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.  

“I am proud to endorse Juan Garcia for U.S. Congress in the 23rd District of Florida,” Weldon said. “As a former congressman myself, I am well aware of our country’s need for politicians who will truly devote themselves to public service, rather than to their own political careers. Juan Garcia is that kind of person.
“Despite his humble background, he has been successful in the military, in ministry, and in business,” Weldon added. “He is a dedicated family man with a wife and children who stand behind him, which is very important to me. Juan is also a recognized leader in the Hispanic community which is a large part of this district. He knows the people, he shares their values, and he will represent them well in Congress. He is ready to fight for their needs and not the special interests of Washington.
“Juan is also a true conservative Republican and has values and beliefs that this nation desperately needs,” Weldon concluded. “He will work hard to get our economy going, to get people back to work, and to fight for the values that made this nation great.”

Weldon ran for the Republican nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., back in 2012 but lost out to then-U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla. Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), is ranked by most pundits to be safe in November in a solidly Democratic district.
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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., was a chief supporter of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise’s, R-La., bid to become the GOP whip, the third highest official in the U.S. House. On Thursday, Scalise rewarded Ross by naming the Florida congressman one of his senior deputy whips.

"I am honored to have the chance to serve as a senior deputy whip," said Ross. "Back in 2010, I was brought to Washington to make a change. This is a great opportunity to have a positive impact. I have always worked hard on behalf of Central Floridians to make sure that their voices are heard and that government works better for them. I will continue this effort on behalf of Floridians and all Americans in my added role as senior deputy whip. I am humbled to be recognized as a top leader in my conference and I am excited about this challenge to unify my party and to build consensus so that we can help solve the problems affecting our fellow Americans."

"It is an honor to appoint my colleague Congressman Dennis Ross to the senior deputy whip team," said Scalise. "He brings to the team his invaluable experience and perspective as a small-business owner. I look forward to working with him to unite the Republican conference and move America forward. The senior deputy whip team will ensure that the voices, interests and values of every member are represented at the table. I will work relentlessly with our team to unite our conference and grow the vote. Together we will work to solve our nation's problems for the American people."
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Former Gov. Charlie Crist released over 10 years of federal income tax returns on Thursday following a nearly two-week long call from Gov. Rick Scott for Crist to do so. 

Last week, Scott's campaign team released the governor and his wife, Ann's, tax returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012. The Crist campaign did not release the tax returns of the former governor's wife, Carole. 

"Charlie is giving Florida families an unprecedented look into his life because they deserve to know their governor is looking out for them," said Crist's campaign manager Omar Khan, who said the campaign plans to keep releasing more of Crist's tax returns. 

"[Crist] is calling on Rick Scott to release his returns going back 20 years, as well," Khan said. "Given that Rick Scott hides his assets and has dodged personal accountability his entire career, we suspect he will hide his taxes, just as he has hidden all of the depositions from his days as a corporate raider."

According to Scott's campaign team, Crist's tax returns should come as no surprise considering he has either been in office or has been running for office for the entirety of the time frame of the released tax returns. 

"Charlie releasing tax returns he has already released instead of making public the returns for him and his spouse is a joke," said Scott for Florida spokeswoman Jackie Schutz. "What's he hiding? His desperation to distract is just making us more curious.” 
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Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., indicated on Thursday that he believes that U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s, R-Ohio, proposal to sue President Barack Obama over executive orders marks the first step toward impeachment.

“Barack Obama may think he's above the Constitution, but the time has come to hold him accountable,” West emailed supporters on Thursday. “Speaker of the House John Boehner is taking initial steps that I believe will lead to impeachment. Boehner could have an announcement within days on whether the House will file a lawsuit against President Barack Obama.

“Make no mistake – Obama is ignoring the Constitution, our laws, and the system of checks and balances that safeguard this country,” West added. “Barack Obama has exceeded his constitutional authority, which has dangerous implications for our system of government and our freedoms.”

For more on Boehner’s proposal and how a prominent Florida Democrat is pushing back against it, check out Sunshine State News on Friday.
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U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., unveiled a bill on Thursday pushing back against President Barack Obama’s proposal to limit energy exploration and fishing in 780,000 miles of ocean. Southerland’s “Marine Access and State Transparency (MAST) Act” mandates any such actions would need to be approved by state governments bordering the impacted oceans, and Congress.

“The president is brazenly attempting to shut down access to a portion of our oceans that’s larger than Florida, Texas, and Alaska combined,” said Southerland.  “In response, I introduced common-sense legislation to improve transparency and stop this unprecedented water grab from occurring without the consent of the individual states and their citizens. North and Northwest Florida’s fishermen are already struggling to survive under this president’s overregulation of our oceans, and they deserve to know some in Congress are fighting to stop him from making their jobs even tougher.”
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Support for the Common Core State Standards among those with school-aged children has dropped significantly, according to a new poll from Rasmussen Reports.

The poll found only 34 percent of American adults with children of elementary or secondary school age favor requiring all schools nationwide to meet the same Common Core education standards, which is an 18-point drop from 52 percent in early November of last year. Nearly half -- 47 percent -- oppose the implementation of the standards.  

What's more, more than half of respondents (54 percent) said it's unlikely Common Core will improve student performance.

Common Core has gathered significant opposition over the last year, with several states like Oklahoma and South Carolina, that previously opted into the national standards, taking another path for the future of their students. Florida was among the 45 states to adopt Common Core, but made nearly 100 changes to the standards and rebranded them under a different name, "The Florida Standards."

The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted June 21-22. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence. 
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U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., the vice chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, unveiled the “Creating Options for Veterans’ Expedited Recovery (COVER) Act” on Thursday. The new bill would create a commission to examine how the VA currently handles therapy and will study alternative therapies for veterans.

“It is vital that veterans receive the care they need, but it is important to recognize that one size does not fit all when discussing treatments for veterans and the invisible wounds endured from their service to our great nation,” Bilirakis said. “While many veterans may thrive under evidence-based treatment plans, some may not be as responsive to this traditional medical care. As such, we need to provide them with choices and easy access to alternative forms of therapies that work best for them.

“We must find the most effective ways to treat veterans,” Bilirakis added. “The COVER Act will ascertain the viability of alternative treatments, providing a pathway forward that will eventually allow veterans to have a range of options for mental health treatments, such as outdoor sports therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, accelerated resolution therapy, and service dog therapy.”
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Gov. Rick Scott announced on Thursday that Comcast is expanding in Fort Myers, creating 220 -- some of them already filled -- new jobs in 2014 and into new year.

“These 220 new jobs in Southwest Florida are another example of how our efforts to create an opportunity economy are working. Florida is continuing to add jobs, and this past year alone Comcast has added more than 1,800 jobs,” Scott said. “Comcast Corp. has shown that investing in Florida is good for business, and recently announced Universal Orlando’s addition of 3,500 new jobs in Florida. We must continue to create an environment where companies like Comcast can continue to succeed and where every Floridian who wants a job can get one.”

“There has never been a more exciting time to be part of Comcast as the company is developing breakthrough technologies and introducing new products that are at the forefront of the industry,” said Amy Smith, a regional senior vice president of Comcast Florida. “Comcast continues to make investments in our infrastructure and in our employees as we focus on improving the experience for all of our customers.”
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On Thursday, the U.S. House is set to vote on U.S. Rep. Doc Hasting’s, R-Wash., “Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America That Works Act of 2014” which would increase domestic energy exploration by opening federal lands, particularly those in Alaska, and increasing offshore drilling. The bill has the support of U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., who weighed in on the matter on Wednesday.

“The increasing cost of energy is hurting American families and standing in the way of job growth,” Yoho said. “Lowering these costs and getting America closer to energy independence is something I will always support. The energy resources we have been blessed with, both offshore and onshore, have been taken off the table due to the restrictions and red tape of the Obama administration’s domestic energy policy and foreign policy. Every law, policy, and regulation of the federal government should be aimed at making America stronger and more competitive. This bill does just that. I owe it to my constituents and the American people to do all I can to lower their energy costs and improve our country’s energy security.”

The bill should pass the Republican-controlled U.S. House but its fate in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate remains uncertain.
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