Sunshine State News Blogs

Running in the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., in November, former state Rep. Carl Domino looked to score points off the incumbent by attacking the Democrats on immigration.

“The border crisis is out of control. And we can thank the failed policies of Obama, Pelosi, and Murphy for this,” Domino wrote supporters on Thursday. “This crisis isn't about immigration. This is about a full-scale invasion of the American border.”

Domino directed his fire on Murphy.

“Patrick Murphy is a self-proclaimed supporter of the Dream Act, one of the factors contributing to this daily flood of illegal entrants,” Domino insisted. “You see, immigration and illegal entry into this country are not one and the same, no matter what Obama, Pelosi, and Murphy may claim. On this point I will not compromise: we must secure our borders. We cannot allow our national security to be compromised while Obama liberals, like Patrick Murphy, play election-year politics.

In this current crisis, there are indeed humanitarian concerns to address, but without secure borders, terrorists and others who wish to harm us can just walk in too,” Domino continued. “Make no mistake about it, this border crisis is a direct result of Obama-Pelosi-Murphy policies. But instead of addressing the lack of border security, Obama is asking for $3.7 billion of your tax dollars to further his socialist agenda.

“I am running for Congress to fix our borders, restore national sovereignty and security, and to hold Obama accountable for upholding the rule of law and protecting American citizens,” Domino concluded. “And it all starts with defeating Patrick Murphy.”

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The state unemployment rate dropped in June to 6.2 percent, down from 6.3 percent in May, as almost 37,000 private-sector jobs were added to the economy.

“Florida experienced a record-setting month for private-sector job creation in June with 36,900 new jobs over the month and a total of 620,700 private-sector jobs added since December 2010,” Gov. Rick Scott said on Friday. “This news is great for Florida families, and Florida continues to have great success in our state’s economic recovery. Let’s keep working so that every person who wants a job can get one here in Florida.”

“As the trends continue to tell Florida’s economic turnaround story, today’s announcement adds another important chapter with 36,900 private-sector jobs created and the statewide unemployment rate down to 6.2 percent,” said Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity. “This economic growth is not happening by chance. Policy matters, and this administration will keep working to promote the pro-growth policies that are making Florida the best state in the nation in which to live, work, and start or grow a business.”

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Pointing to reports that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) found 20 rockets in a school it runs in Gaza which were stored there by terrorists, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., doubled down on calling Congress to pass his Palestinian Accountability Act. DeSantis' bill would withhold funding to the UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority until it recognizes Israel, removes Hamas from authority and takes a stand against terrorism.

"The discovery of missiles in a school demonstrates the depravity of Hamas and the lengths it will go to attack Israel,” DeSantis said on Thursday. “Furthermore, UNRWA works in cooperation with Hamas toward its odious aims, thereby supporting terrorism and undermining the interests of the United States. American taxpayers should not be coerced into funding an organization that works hand in hand with Hamas.”
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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, took to the Senate floor on Thursday and called for President Barack Obama to stand behind Israel during the latest crisis in the Middle East.

Excerpts from the speech are below:

“I’ve also been concerned, by the way, by some of this moral equivalence that’s going on in both the press and in some of the emails that I’m getting and some of the public statements I’m hearing some make in some corridors, not here in the Senate, but in some other places. This idea that ‘Well, both sides are to blame.’ That is an interesting concept, but it isn’t true.

“It is tragic, unfortunately, that civilians are dying in Gaza, but the reason why civilians are dying is 100 percent Hamas’ fault. You see, this is an organization that puts rockets and military installations right next to nurseries and hospitals and civilian population centers. And you know why they do that? You know why they do that? They do that because they know that when they launch a rocket, Israel will respond by hitting that rocket launcher. And when that rocket launcher is destroyed, so are the areas around it. And then they can get the cameras to go in there and say ‘Oh, look at what Israel did. They wiped out a nursery or an apartment building.’ They do it on purpose. They know exactly what they’re doing. They do it so they can get the kind of coverage that, unfortunately, even some American press outlets are buying into now.

“Here’s the bottom line -- and Sen, Graham was alluding to this a moment ago -- before Israel does extraordinary things with regard to this. They drop leaflets into population centers warning ‘We’re going to have to do a military operation in your region. Please evacuate, please go somewhere else where you’ll be safe.’ Hamas doesn’t do that. In fact, Hamas deliberately targets population centers to terrorize the people of Israel. And we should condemn it for what it is. There is no moral equivalency.

“Now the situation has continued to spiral out of control, and it’s reached the point where the news today now is that Israel has begun to conduct some ground operations. And these ground operations that they’re conducting has to do with the tunnel network in Gaza that as early as this morning was used by Hamas to try to infiltrate terrorists through those tunnels into Israel to conduct terrorist activity and kill Israelis. So put yourself in the position of this country. Small and geographically isolated, surrounded by terrorist groups and some unfriendly countries, threatened by the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon, and being hit by 1,300 rockets in just the last week. They have no choice but to defend themselves, using all the power at their disposal. They have no choice. And not only should no one here be criticizing that, but we should be supporting it and aligning ourselves 100 percent on their side.

“Because what they are fighting for here, this is not some dispute over borders. This is not some geopolitical dispute about who owns what territory. Israel is fighting for their very survival. On the other side of this conflict is a terrorist organization bent on their destruction. On the other side of this conflict is a terrorist organization in Hamas, and truth be told, the Palestinian Authority whose schools teach children not just to hate Israel, but to hate Jews. And how could you possibly say you are for peace when your schools are actively teaching your children to hate another people? That’s what’s on the other side of this conflict. And so Israel has no choice.

“They are fighting for their very survival. And I think that now more than ever, what they need from this country is a president and a U.S. government that aligns itself squarely on their side. No double-talk, no fancy diplomatic language that you can read between the lines on. A very clear statement. In this conflict, we are on Israel’s side, and we will support them with anything they need to ensure their stability and their survival. Very clear language that makes it unequivocally clear: Hamas is a terrorist organization, not a legitimate representative of the aspirations of the Palestinian people, but a terrorist organization designed for the very purpose of destroying the Jewish state. We need to make these things abundantly clear, because otherwise we’re going to see more of this in the years to come. If there is any daylight between the United States and Israel, it emboldens Israel’s enemies.”



“So, I just came to the floor to reiterate, not just my personal support for the state of Israel, but to reiterate how strongly I believe virtually every member of this body supports the state of Israel, supports Israel’s right to defend itself, supports the United States’ alliance with Israel, supports doing everything we must and can do to help Israel defend herself. I think that’s an important message to send out. And the last thing I would say is I would ask those who watched the speech or who will hear these words later, take time over the next few days and pray for Israel. It needs our support there as well, that God will provide her the safety and security of her people now and in the years to come.”

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Progressive Choice Florida, a 501(c)(4) advocacy organization, issued the following statement praising Thursday's court ruling declaring Florida's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional (Huntsman v. Heavilin):

“Progressive Choice applauds Judge Garcia’s ruling declaring Florida’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional (Huntsman v. Heavilin: Case No. 2014-CA-0305-K, 16th Judicial Circuit, Monroe County, Fla.). We celebrate this victory for equality, which isn’t just a victory for Florida, but for the nation as well. As Judge Garcia wrote in his decision, ‘… it is our country's proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and the rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority.’

“Today’s decision brings marriage equality to an additional 6 percent of the country’s population, but LGBT Americans in 29 other states continue to fight for the same legal liberties that have been unjustly afforded exclusively to straight Americans. Progressive Choice remains steadfast in its work to reduce barriers to individual rights – rights that should be equal, regardless of what state you live in.

“While it is unfortunate that the right to marry the person you love is something that actually needs to be fought for in 21st century America, Progressive Choice remains in this fight until the end. Today, though, we celebrate this important victory for equality, and we welcome Florida to the right side of history on this fundamental issue.”

Progressive Choice works to protect core values like women's access to health care, marriage equality, public safety through gun control and public education funding for children and families. The organization "represents a diverse coalition of fair-minded, forward-thinking individuals and organizations advocating for progressive principles and issues that grant equal individual rights for all."

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Social conservatives are pushing back against Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia allowing same-sex marriage in the Keys. Under Garcia’s ruling, same- sex couples can marry in Monroe County starting on Tuesday. After 62 percent of voters passed an amendment in 2008, the Florida Constitution allows only traditional marriage to be recognized in the Sunshine State.

John Stemberger, the president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council was active in establishing the amendment back in 2008 and he criticized Garcia’s decision on Thursday.

"Today's ruling by Judge Garcia, in the Florida Keys, is a stunning act of legal arrogance and raw judicial activism,” Stemberger said. “With one stoke of a pen, a mere trial judge has attempted to overthrow an act of direct democracy by 5 million Floridians who defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Judge Garcia has ignored the Constitution, ignored the will of the people, and has asserted his own personal views over the rule of law. This ruling is precisely what voters were trying to prevent when they overwhelmingly defined marriage in the Florida Constitution in 2008 by a 62 percent vote. Judge Garcia's reliance on the Windsor decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 is wrong-sided and completely misplaced. Windsor was a state's rights decision and affirmed that each state has the right to define marriage. Instead of relying on the Constitution, Garcia joined the judicial stampede of other lower federal judges who have tried to override marriage laws based on no precedent other than their own political agendas. The judge's opinion that the motivation for passing the marriage amendment was animus and hatred is simply outrageous and insults 5 million Floridians. We thank Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi for filing an immediate appeal to the court to stay its order until the federal courts can rule on the constitutional issues and appeal this insubordinate decision."
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Miami-Dade County School Board member Carlos Curbelo launched two new TV ads, one in English and one in Spanish, as he heads into the Republican primary to challenge U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla. Curbelo is the favorite over the Republican field which has shrunk since former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla., announced earlier this month he was abandoning his congressional bid but would look to return to Tallahassee in 2016 by running for the Florida House.

In his English-language ad, Curbelo tries to stress he will be a breath of fresh air compared to Garcia and Rivera who have been plagued by scandals.

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“It’s not easy to clean up the mess when it’s been sitting for too long,” Curbelo says in the ad. "Like corrupt politicians. They get rich. We get forgotten. We need new leaders who will look out for Florida families, not themselves.”

Curbelo plays up the same theme in his Spanish language ad.

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“We live in a great community, but corruption has left us lacking good jobs and with a stagnant economy," Curbelo says in translation. “As the son of exiles, I’m proud of what my parents and their generation have accomplished. I want the same for my daughters. That’s why I have worked to improve education. Washington needs better ideas and someone who will represent you with integrity. I ask for your vote to be that voice in Congress. I’m Carlos Curbelo, and I approve this message.”
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Former Gov. Charlie Crist named Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Annette Taddeo-Goldstein as his running mate to take back his old job on Thursday. Crist made the announcement in Miami.

Taddeo-Goldstein checks off two important boxes for Crist -- she's from South Florida, is a woman, and she's Colombian-American, which would help Crist with Hispanic voters. 

“As a working mom, a small business owner and a Floridian, I am proud to serve this state that has given me so many opportunities,” said Taddeo Goldstein. "Unfortunately, too many people across Florida are feeling left out and behind.”


This is a developing story. Check back for more details.
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The Florida congressman and congresswoman leading their parties on the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee -- U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who serves as chairwoman, and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. -- introduced a resolution condemning Hamas and other terrorist groups for using human shields.

“Hamas has proven that it has no respect for innocent Israeli life with its continued onslaught of indiscriminate rocket fire on civilian populations, and it once again is showing it has no respect for the lives of the Palestinian people by using them as human shields,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Wednesday. “Abu Mazen must demand that Hamas cease its attacks against the people of Israel and its use of Palestinians, including women and children, as human shields. This resolution sends a strong message that Congress condemns these cowardly acts, and that we stand in support of our friend and ally, the democratic Jewish state of Israel, and for those Palestinian people who truly seek peace with Israel and who oppose Hamas and its use of terror.”

“Hamas continues to put the lives of innocent Palestinians at risk every day by hiding its rocket-making factories, launchers and weapons stockpiles in civilians areas,” Deutch said. “As Israel warns civilians of forthcoming strikes on terrorist targets, Hamas repeatedly tells the people of Gaza to ignore these warnings. Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields is deplorable and should be condemned by any nation that values human rights.”
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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., to unveil the “Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act" on Wednesday. The proposal would adjust federal student loan payments based on income.

The senators released a joint statement on their proposal:

“On average, today’s graduates carry nearly $30,000 in student loan debt. But our current loan repayment system often turns what should be reasonable debts into crippling payments. Some graduates are forced to work multiple jobs, often in fields they didn’t train for, simply to keep from defaulting on these loans.

“Current income-driven repayment plans are underutilized because the system is so complicated. Our proposal doesn’t just layer another option on top of existing plans. Instead, it will streamline the current repayment options into a simpler, user-friendly repayment plan, one that automatically adjusts to the changes in a borrower’s income with none of the hassle or paperwork required in the current system.  

“This issue is personal for both of us. Neither of us could have attended college were it not for federal student loans. We both remember months when our paychecks were low and we weren’t sure if we could make our payments. Each of us has heard from constituents affected by crippling student debt. Our Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act will provide an additional tool to help borrowers meet their obligations, and this must be part of a broader conversation about how to make higher education more affordable.” 
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The U.S House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously passed U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland’s, R-Fla., “Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act” on Wednesday. Southerland’s bill prevents the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers from regulating most waters, leaving the task mostly to the states as has been the case for more than four decades under the Clean Water Act.
 
“I am pleased that Republicans and Democrats on the committee acted in a bipartisan fashion to recognize the role that states must play in regulating waters within their respective boundaries,” said Southerland after the vote. “By turning back the administration’s brazen power grab, we’ve stood in defense of a federal/state partnership that has worked for 40 years under the Clean Water Act. As a result, we’ve taken the first step in restoring certainty for the farmers, manufacturers, and construction and transportation industries that drive America’s economic growth.”

The vote won the praise of the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) and the Florida Farm Bureau.
 
“Associated Industries of Florida and our members applaud today’s passage of Congressman Southerland’s Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014,” said Brewster Bevis, AIF’s senior vice president of state and federal affairs. “Enactment of this legislation is vital to protecting Florida’s employers from job-killing overreach by the federal government, specifically the EPA. Through our Florida H2O Coalition, we are committed to water quality and quantity issues facing Florida and today’s action by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee speaks volumes.”

“Today, the members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reaffirmed their commitment to protecting family farms and ranches from unconstitutional government intrusion with the passage of HR 5078,” said John Hoblick, the president of the Florida Farm Bureau. “I’m proud that a member of Florida’s congressional delegation, Rep. Steve Southerland, has chosen to champion this issue for Florida’s growers.”
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U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, managed $1.1 billion in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) cuts into the Fiscal Year 2015 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill (HR 5016). The bill passed the full House on Wednesday.

“When your report card is nothing but a long list of bad grades, you should not be rewarded. This legislation forces the Internal Revenue Service back to the books for some homework -- lots of it -- to clean up its act,” said Crenshaw after the vote. “In that process, Americans received a commitment from Congress today to hold the Internal Revenue Service accountable for every taxpayer dollar it spends, to protect constitutional rights, and to rein in out-of-control spending.”

Crenshaw noted recent IRS abuses including targeting conservative and tea party groups and noted his bill would help keep the agency from being used to fund President Barack Obama’s health-care law.

“By cutting IRS funding to its lowest levels since 2003, the bill forces the agency to focus on its core mission,” Crenshaw said. “No more meddling in Americans’ health care, suppressing free speech of nonprofits, targeting groups based on political belief, or squandering money on bonuses for tax cheats, silly videos and lavish conferences.

“With so many troubles afoot, the IRS should not be in the health-care business,” Crenshaw added. “That’s why the bill expressly prohibits the use of funds or additional funding for the implementation of Obamacare. Moreover, to protect Americans from having their constitutional rights abused, we’ve prohibited the use of funding for targeting groups based on political belief.

“I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who supported this bill,” said Crenshaw in conclusion. “In large and small communities across this country, it’s fair to say that you don’t get rewarded for poor performance. The same must hold true for the federal government. We have a long way to go, but I am proud to have helped begun to put the Internal Revenue Service on track.”
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A prominent Florida teachers' union is taking legal action over the state's recently passed voucher law, which would expand Florida's voucher program as well as create personal learning accounts for students with disabilities. 

Tom Faasse of the Florida Education Association filed the suit in Leon County against Gov. Rick Scott, the Florida Cabinet and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart over the bill, which passed on the last day of this year's legislative session. The lawsuit seeks to find the legislation unconstitutional.

SB 850 started out as a five-page bill in February and originally aimed to expand Florida's collegiate high school program, but as the legislation made its way through various committees in the Florida House and Senate, additional measures were tacked onto the legislation, eventually resulting in the bill expanding to 40 pages addressing a variety of issues and subjects related to education.

Faasse argues the legislation contains too many subjects -- under the Florida Constitution, the Legislature has restricted authority to create laws and each law must "embrace but one subject" which should also be expressed in the bill's title. The FEA alleges that the bill violates the Constitution for this reason.

“Is this any way to pass laws?” Faasse said. “The people of Florida should expect that laws are clearly expressed and properly vetted and that laws that failed to pass shouldn’t be tacked onto unrelated legislation at the eleventh hour.”

FEA Vice President Joanne McCall also expressed discontentment over the last-minute additions. 

“It’s an outrage that corporate voucher expansion was tacked onto an unrelated bill and slipped into law on the session’s final day,” McCall said. “These voucher schools have little regulation, don’t have to follow the state’s academic standards, don’t have to hire qualified teachers and don’t have to prove to the state that they are using public money wisely. There’s no link between vouch­ers and gains in student achievement. Yet the Legislature continues to expand voucher schools instead of providing proper funding for our neighborhood public schools.”


Faasse's filing drew criticism from some education advocacy groups in the state, which called the lawsuit "a new low" for the FEA.  

"It is shameful that [the FEA] would spend teachers’ hard-earned dollars to block opportunities for our most vulnerable students," said Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. “As a society, we must work to unlock education opportunities for students who need them the most. Senate Bill 850 will help children with Down syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities have greater choices and the critical support necessary for successful education outcomes. There are those who believe families should have options and trust parents in those decisions for their kids. And sadly, there are those who find educational choices threatening to their political power.

“The FEA’s actions send a message that it is OK to overlook some students. This is wrong. The parents and students waiting in line for these options deserve better.” 

View the complaint here.

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The Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police announced on Wednesday that it was backing Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo in his bid to defeat U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., in November.
 
“Carlos Curbelo will make a strong advocate for his constituency and law enforcement,” said James Preston, the president of the  Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police. “We feel that he will serve the citizens of his community and the state of Florida well. He has a clear plan for his community and we look forward to working with him in the future, to protect the rights of law enforcement and the citizens of Florida.”
 
"I am honored to have the support of the men and women who keep our streets and schools safe,” Curbelo said. “Like the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, I value integrity and effectiveness in government, and in Washington, I will always be available to listen to the needs and concerns of our first responders."
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Rick Scott's campaign announced the “Sportsmen For Scott” coalition on Tuesday in Orlando.

The coalition will be led from sportsmen across the state, such as TV hosts Roland Martin, Peter Miller, Scott Martin and Rick Murphy, and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris.

According to a press release, the coalition will be led by 19 statewide co-chairs, which will include U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City. 

“I have been fishing in Florida’s waters for decades, and I understand the need to have a leader in office who will promote outdoor recreation and sporting activities in our state," said Roland Martin, host of the “Fishing with Roland Martin” TV series. "Gov. Rick Scott is that leader, and I am in full support of him as a member of this sportsmen coalition.”

“Gov. Scott is a reliable champion for the hunters, fishermen, wildlife activists, and conservationists in our state," said U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller. "As an avid hunter and sportsman, I know how important it is to make sure we continue to protect the constitutional rights of citizens to keep and bear arms, as well as promote responsible fishing and wildlife management across Florida.”

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U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., offered her take on Democratic chances to flip the U.S. House in November -- and said it comes down to Florida.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Pelosi said on Wednesday that she sees a way for Democrats to pick up 25 seats from Republicans and flip the chamber. Pointing to a decision from Judge Terry Lewis last week that ruled the seats currently held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., do not pass constitutional muster, Pelosi said it could help Democrats in the Sunshine State.

“Florida, you know is big for us,” Pelosi said. “We’ll see how it goes. We have a few and we won that [legal] decision. Now we’ll see what the judge says about where we go from here, for now and for the future, but it really was necessary. It was a major involvement all around. But worth it.”

"I want 25, so how do we get 25?” Pelosi continued. “Well, it depends on how we do in Florida."

“How many do you think are in play now in Florida that they’ve made that ruling?” Ed O’Keefe from the Post asked Pelosi.

"It depends on the judge,” Pelosi answered. “He’s called in the lawyers. That’s what I read in the papers. What I’ve read in the papers is that he’s calling in the lawyers, and I don’t know what he’ll do next. Could be three seats, but what it does is, even if it’s not three seats, it’ll make our others easier."

Currently, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has only one Florida Republican in its various target lists: U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland.
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From his perch on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., took aim at comments made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a recent interview in which he said “the immigration laws are being enforced." DeSantis, a frequent critic of Holder, fired back on Tuesday.

“I'm still trying to figure out if he was joking,” DeSantis insisted. “Take, for example, the DHS report from earlier this year about the government's release of criminal illegal aliens. These are individuals who were unlawfully present in the country and who were convicted of a serious criminal offense. According to the DHS report, ICE released more than 36,000 criminal convicts during fiscal year 2013 alone instead of returning them to the home country as required by law.

DeSantis continued: “The breakdown of offenses provided by DHS is stunning, and includes the following offenses: 193 homicide convictions (including one willful killing of a public official with gun); 426 sexual assault convictions; 303 kidnapping convictions; 1,075 aggravated assault convictions; 1,160 stolen vehicle convictions; 9,187 dangerous drug convictions;16,070 drunk or drugged driving convictions; 303 flight escape convictions.

“Releasing convicted criminals back into American society is contrary to the safety and welfare of the American people,” DeSantis concluded. “It also sends a message to those who contemplate illegally entering the U.S. that the government is not serious about law enforcement.”
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Pinellas County seems to be getting a little colder toward its hometown gubernatorial candidate, according to a new poll. 

The StPetePolls survey, which was commissioned by SaintPetersBlog, questioned 607 random voters within those registered in SD 22, which covers southern Pinellas and part of Hillsborough County. Only those planning to cast votes in November were included in the poll.

When it came to whether respondents would choose to vote for Gov. Rick Scott or Crist, voters were split, with each candidate receiving under 44 percent. 

Crist easily won the vote in Pinellas County during his Senate bid in 2010 as well as his first gubernatorial bid in 2006. Crist also took Pinellas County during his 2002 bid for attorney general -- in fact, the only time Crist lost an election in his home county was in 1998 during his Senate quest against popular incumbent Bob Graham. It seems somewhat surprising, then, that Crist and Scott would be so close in Pinellas for a candidate who's taken the county in nearly every major election he's participated in over the last 15 years. 

StPetePolls took the poll on July 14 using a sample size of 574 likely SD 22 voters. The margin of error is +/- 4.1 percent, with 95 percent confidence level.

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Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who has left the door open to a political comeback in 2016, made the case to impeach President Barack Obama on Tuesday. In recent weeks, West has been increasingly calling for Obama’s impeachment.

“Over 135,000 patriotic Americans have responded to my impeachment survey showing that Americans are furious with Barack Obama and his hatred for the Constitution of the United States,” West emailed supporters. “But I've also received an overwhelming number of emails with your thoughts about why Obama should be impeached and I want to be sure to allow every American to voice their opinion.

“Think about it," West continued. “Barack Obama has: traded senior terrorist commanders for an Army deserter; refused to seek justice for the terrorist attack in Benghazi, inviting more violence against our country; engaged in a cover-up regarding Benghazi to hide the truth; ignored acts of Congress and is selectively enforcing the laws as enacted; used regulations and executive orders to circumvent the power of Congress, thereby violating the separation of powers between the branches of government.

“Any one of these are (sic) impeachable offenses and show shameful disrespect for the Constitution and the American people,” West added. “Barack Obama is guilty of committing high crimes and misdemeanors against the Constitution and, by his own actions, has forfeited the right to lead this nation.”

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The  Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) went all out on Tuesday to let the public know that All Aboard Florida is not getting state funds as it looks to bring high-speed rail to the Sunshine State. FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad sent a letter to All Aboard Florida President Michael Reininger in which he notes that.

“This letter is to again restate that All Aboard Florida is not receiving any state funding,” Prasad wrote. “A July 12 news story by Matt Dixon of the Naples Daily News reported that your ‘company planning documents’ showed you ‘could directly request an additional $44 million in state grants.’ However, as we have previously discussed with your company, the department will not invest state dollars in your project.”
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U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla, and U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., to bring out the “Fuel Choice for American Prosperity and Security Act” (FCAPS) on Tuesday. The proposed bill lowers CAFE obligations for automakers if they make cars using less petroleum.

“Fuel competition in our transportation sector will improve U.S. energy and national security, increase our foreign policy flexibility, spur economic growth, and lower fuel prices,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Tuesday. “By providing more options at the pump, we can dampen the impact of oil price volatility and reduce the leverage of oil rich governments and rogue regimes that are unstable, repressive, or hostile to the United States and who use oil as a weapon to undermine U.S. foreign policy efforts. Fuel choice will also allow the American economy to capitalize on our plentiful domestic resources, create jobs, and encourage innovation, all while driving down the price of fuel.

“By providing automakers the option of rolling back costly fuel economy regulations, we are incentivizing a technologically neutral, free-market competition for transportation fuels without government mandate and without picking winners and losers,” she added. “I am proud to introduce the Fuel Choice for American Prosperity and Security Act with my colleagues Tom and Matt and look forward to working with the rest of the House to move this important bill forward.”
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Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera went to bat for his boss Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, releasing a video in Spanish attacking former Gov. Charlie Crist on crime. Despite having spent most of his political career as a Republican, Crist is the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott in November.

“Fifteen years ago, Florida passed a law called ‘10-20-Life’ to keep violent criminals off the streets,” Lopez-Cantera said in translation. “It requires minimum jail sentences for specific crimes committed using a gun. He supported it before, but it’s a shame Charlie Crist has now reversed his position on this law that keeps Florida families safe. Floridians simply can’t trust Charlie Crist.”

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Veteran and attorney Paul Renner, engaged in a competitive Republican primary against banker Jay Fant to replace Rep. Dan Davis, R-Jacksonville, in the Florida House, released his first television commercial on Tuesday. The ad stresses Renner’s conservative credentials.

“I’ll cut taxes, fight Obamacare and let families choose the best education for their kids,” Renner says in the ad.

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Leslie Dougher, the chairwoman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), came out swinging at former Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday over his role in selling a Miami home. Despite spending most of his political life in the GOP, Crist is the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott in November.

"We have found a document showing that Charlie Crist was part of the sale of a home with Carole Crist in Fisher Island. This document raises some serious questions for Charlie,” Dougher said on Tuesday. “Why was this home never reported before on Charlie Crist's financial disclosure paperwork? Why was the sale of this home never reported on his income taxes? Was Charlie part-owner of this home to help establish a homestead exemption in Florida?”

Dougher noted that Crist was refusing to release his wife’s income taxes.

“The people of Florida deserve answers to these serious questions,” Dougher said. “Tomorrow is exactly one month to the day since Gov. Scott challenged Charlie Crist to release the income taxes of both he and his wife. Charlie has ignored this call for transparency, even after several other previous gubernatorial candidates have kept this tradition of transparency for years. The discovery of Charlie's name on the sale of a home with Carole Crist only adds more urgency to Charlie's need to be transparent with Florida voters. At 30 days and counting, we await his response. Tick tock."
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After a ruling last week which found the congressional seats currently held by U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., violated the Fair District amendments passed in 2010, the leaders of the Florida Legislature said they will redraw those two districts but will not touch the other 25. They also asked the judge if this impacted the 2014 elections which are already under way.

“We respect the deliberative and thorough manner in which Judge Lewis approached the trial on the Florida congressional map,” Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Destin, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said in a joint statement on Tuesday. “While the court directed that Congressional Districts 5 and 10 be redrawn, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ challenge to eight other districts, thereby upholding 25 of 27 congressional districts statewide and leaving intact the vast majority of the actions taken by the Legislature.

“The Legislature does not presently intend to initiate an appeal of the court's decision and will redraw the boundaries of Congressional Districts 5 and 10,” Gaetz and Weatherford added. “Today, we have asked Judge Lewis to clarify, as a legal and practical matter, that his decision does not affect the administration of the 2014 election. According to federal law, over 63,000 Florida military and overseas voters are already casting absentee ballots based on the current congressional map. Next week, hundreds of thousands of printed absentee ballots will be mailed to in-state voters. Any attempt to change the districts at this late stage of the 2014 elections process would cause chaos and confusion and would threaten the rights of our deployed military voters. It has been the practice in other states and in Florida to remedy maps at a future election so as not to disrupt and disenfranchise voters. We believe such action is appropriate and is in the best interest of Florida, and particularly our deployed military servicemen and servicewomen, who are casting their votes now.”
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U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, unveiled a bill on Monday allowing the VA secretary to recoup bonuses handed out to VA employees, including managers at VA hospitals. In recent weeks, the VA has been under fire due to altered waiting lists at medical centers across the nation.

“Apparently, VA officials aren’t sure whether the department has the authority to recoup bonus payments to its own employees,” Miller said on Monday. “This bill is intended to clear up this confusion. Ideally, VA employees and executives who earned bonuses under false pretenses should be subject to prosecution, but at a minimum their bonuses should be paid back in full. I urge my colleagues to support this bill, which would give the VA secretary another tool to instill some much-needed accountability throughout the department.”
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U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, took to the House floor on Monday night to shepherd $341 million in cuts to the IRS included in the Fiscal Year 2015 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill. The House is expected to vote on the proposal later this week.
 
Crenshaw pointed to recent problems with the IRS as he looks to gut it.

“In the business world, poor performance does not warrant a pay increase, and the same must hold true for the federal government,” Crenshaw said. “Targeting groups for further scrutiny based on political belief, lost emails, lost hard drives, and agency employees who don’t pay their own taxes – it’s disgraceful. And, until the Internal Revenue Service can demonstrate principled integrity in the handling of taxpayer dollars, it should not be rewarded by receiving additional funding.

“I commend my colleagues who have joined me in taking action to hold the Internal Revenue Service accountable and encourage the full House to do the same this week,” Crenshaw added.

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A group of five state attorneys criticized former Gov. Charlie Crist over comments he made last week saying Florida's 10-20-Life laws needed to be reviewed. 

Crist said the state should review its Stand Your Ground law as well as the 10-20-Life law during the Florida Press Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors' convention in Coral Gables. 

"I'm always open-minded to looking at those kinds of things," Crist said. "When you're faced with new facts, I think you ought to listen."

Crist supported both measures while he was governor. 

“Laws like 10-20-Life give us the ability to keep violent criminals off the streets and are a big reason why Florida is at a 43-year crime low," wrote the attorneys. "In the same week, Gov. Rick Scott vowed continued support for strong sentencing measures, Charlie Crist has reversed his position on 10-20-Life, sending a terrible message to law enforcement and prosecutors who work hard to keep Florida families and visitors safe.”

The state attorneys are listed below:

Phil Archer, 18th Circuit (Brevard and Seminole counties).

Ed Brodsky, 12th Circuit (DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties).

Bruce Colton, 19th Circuit (Indian River, Martin, Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties).

Angela Corey, 4th Circuit (Clay, Duval and Nassau counties). 

Brad King, 5th Circuit (Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties) 
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U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., continued to call on the Obama administration on Monday to cut off funding to the Palestinian government as tensions continue to rise in the Middle East.

“With so many crises enveloping the Obama administration, why is the State Department so intent on continuing to fund the Hamas-Fatah unity government?” DeSantis asked. “Hamas has long been officially designated as a terrorist organization, yet the administration feebly claims that the unity government is simply a ‘technocratic’ government in which Hamas doesn't exercise "undue" influence -- even though a torrent of terrorist rocket fire is raining down on Israeli civilian population centers. This position is not only at variance with common sense, it is contrary to the public position of 88 out of 100 U.S. senators, not to mention the wishes of the American people.

“Hamas not only engages in terrorism but actually uses its own civilians as human shields. The contrast is stark: whereas Israel is engaging Hamas in order to protect its own people, Hamas is willing to endanger civilians in the Gaza Strip if it means being able to launch more terror attacks and to score more propaganda points,” DeSantis added. “The U.S. taxpayer should not be forced to underwrite Hamas' campaign of terror.”
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Former Gov. Charlie Crist has been bending over backward as he tries to woo over his new party and now he is taking a page from two of the leading Democrats of the first half of the 20th century -- President Franklin D. Roosevelt and longtime Gov. Al Smith, D-N.Y., who was the Democratic presidential candidate in 1928. Despite spending most of his political life as a Republican, Crist is the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott in November.

“I'm a happy warrior,” Crist proclaimed on Monday. “I will fight for the people of Florida -- and I'll speak the truth about how Rick Scott has hurt our home, but I'm not going to get in the mud like him. However, he's spent more than $20 million trashing me, you, and the values we share.

“So here's the truth: Scott's thrown all that cash at us because he knows that attacking us is the only way he can avoid answering the tough questions,” Crist continued. “It's time for him to explain why he left $2.4 billion on the table for high-speed rail, or why he's refusing to expand health care for almost 1 million people -- including 41,000 veterans. He owes us an explanation on why he won't take a stand on equal pay for women or on raising the minimum wage.”

Originally taken from a Wordsworth poem, the phrase “happy warrior” became linked with Smith when FDR nominated him for president in the tumultuous 1924 Democratic convention which, after 103 ballots, selected John W. Davis to go up against -- and get run over by -- Calvin Coolidge in the general election. FDR used the phrase again when he nominated Smith in 1928.  

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