Sunshine State News Blogs

The U.S. House voted to pass the $1.1. trillion omnibus federal spending bill on Thursday by a narrow margin, 219-206, with the Florida delegation breaking along unusual lines.

While 162 Republicans backed the measure, 67 of them voted against it. Democrats mostly stood against it with 139 opposing it while 57 supported the measure. President Barack Obama and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, supported the bill but some liberals balked due to concerns that the measure undermined the Dodd-Frank financial regulations, while some conservatives objected due to the bill doing little to defund Obama’s executive action giving 5 million illegals extended visas and a path to citizenship.

The bill funds the federal government until Sept. 30, 2015, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security which is funded until Feb. 27, giving conservatives another chance to hit Obama’s immigration action with a Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

The Florida delegation broke on very unusual lines: 14-13. Florida Republicans U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Ander Crenshaw, Mario Diaz-Balart, David Jolly, John Mica, Rich Nugent, Tom Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Dennis Ross, Steve Southerland and Ted Yoho backed the measure. They were joined by Florida Democrats Patrick Murphy and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Democratic leadership was divided on the measure with U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., opposing it but Wasserman Schultz joining U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in supporting it.

Standing against the measure were Florida Republicans U.S. Reps. Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, Jeff Miller, Bill Posey and Dan Webster as did Florida Democrats U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Joe Garcia, Alan Grayson, Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson.

The measure now heads to the Senate for a final vote.

Add a Comment

With the U.S. House passing sanctions, including freezing assets, on the Venezuelan leadership on Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott urged President Barack Obama to back the measure now that it’s headed to his desk.

“I commend the U.S. House for taking up and passing the Senate’s bill to place sanctions on the oppressive Venezuelan regime,” Scott said on Thursday. “In particular, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen has provided tireless leadership on this issue, standing up for the people of Venezuela in opposition to Nicholas Maduro and his reign of violence. I urge the president to hear the voice of the people and immediately sign this bill, which is an important step in the long march toward freedom and democracy in Venezuela.”

Add a Comment

Gov. Rick Scott focused on rural road improvement on Thursday, appearing in Belle Glade to focus on how that town, Pahokee and South Bay will receive $3.8 million in his “Rural Areas of Opportunity” program.

“Building and repairing roadways in rural communities is a top priority to help Florida continue to be the world’s No. 1 tourist and business destination,” Scott said on Thursday. “This $3.8 million investment will allow our rural communities in Palm Beach County to make important roadway upgrades so they can continue to grow. We are committed to increasing economic activity and job creation across Florida so every family can get a great job and live their dreams in the Sunshine State.”

Add a Comment

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., will hold a public event on “Mental Health and Substance Abuse” at Rasmussen College in Land O' Lakes next week and he will be joined by a congressman from Pennsylvania. Bilirakis announced on Thursday that U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., will be at the event on Tuesday.

“Our solution-oriented discussion will focus on how to fix a broken system and ensure better outcomes,” Bilirakis said on Thursday. “One important aspect of this conversation are the treatment options available to our nation’s veterans as they grapple with Post Traumatic Stress and other invisible wounds. One size does not fit all, especially when it comes to an issue as sensitive as mental health.

“I am honored to have Representative Murphy joining me – he is the undisputed leader in Congress on this issue,” Bilirakis added. “The good work he is doing will undoubtedly offer substantial improvements in the way this important issue is viewed and the treatment options available to those with mental illness.”

“I thank Representative Bilirakis for taking up this legislative cause and for standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me to help those who, for far too long, have been in the shadows of ignorance and despair,” Murphy said. “We will continue working to bring them into that bright light of hope, and it starts with the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act."

Other participants of the event include Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and Leigh Massengill, the CEO of Medical Center of Trinity.

Add a Comment

U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., saw his “Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act” pass the U.S. House last week and expects the U.S. Senate to pass it in the coming days, but now he is looking to rename the bill after a supporter of it who passed away earlier this week. 

Crenshaw called on Wednesday to rename the bill after Stephen Beck Jr., who died on Monday at the age of 44. Beck, whose daughter has Down syndrome, was an advocate of the bill which would create tax-free savings accounts for disabled Americans and who served as vice chairman of the board of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS).

“The disability advocacy community has lost a true champion, and my thoughts and prayers go out to Steve’s family, friends, and colleagues,” said Crenshaw. “Steve represents the soul of the ABLE Act and played a central role in getting if off the ground more than eight years ago.”

“More importantly, on behalf of his own daughter, Natalie, and millions of others with disabilities, Steve never gave up hope that ABLE would move across the congressional finish line and become law of the land,” Crenshaw added. “He had a huge smile on his face when the gavel came down last Wednesday, marking House passage of the bill that empowers millions of Americans to reach for their dreams. History was made in large part because of his steadfast dedication to improve the quality of life for so many – an important lesson we would all do well to keep close a heart.”

Add a Comment

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., issued his take on the omnibus federal spending bill currently in Congress. Rubio insisted the bill was flawed but praised it for not providing bailouts to insurance companies in the wake of President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law.

“For over a year, I’ve fought to protect Americans from having to fund massive bailouts to protect the profits of the insurance companies that helped write Obamacare,” Rubio said on Wednesday. “While there is much in this massive spending measure that is simply bad for America, at least the provisions protecting against a taxpayer-funded bailout of insurance companies are a step in the right direction. While the Obama administration can still administer the risk-corridor program, for one year at least, they won’t be able to use taxpayer funds to bail out insurance companies. When Congress returns next year, I will fight to permanently repeal the risk-corridor provisions to protect taxpayers after the current legislation expires.”

Add a Comment

Gov. Rick Scott named Julie Jones as secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) on Wednesday. Jones will take the post on Jan. 5.

“Julie Jones has had a distinguished career working with our state’s law enforcement community for over 30 years,” Scott said on Wednesday. “It is evident through her work across state government that she is a true reformer who is laser-focused on ensuring accountability and transparency. She led the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for nearly five years with integrity, and under her leadership she managed a complete restructuring of the agency that led to more oversight. She also secured Cabinet approval for a performance plan to ensure the agency was running efficiently while holding employees accountable. Florida’s recidivism rate continues to decline and I know she will be committed to making sure it drops even further and making much needed reforms with the current system. I am confident Julie will be an effective leader at DOC and make sure the agency is run with accountability and integrity.”

“I am honored to be appointed by Governor Scott to lead DOC,” Jones said. “My top priority is to make sure Florida is the safest state in the nation to raise a family and I look forward to working with stakeholders and our entire law enforcement community to meet that goal. I am also focused on making sure offenders are able to integrate back into their communities when they are released so they have the chance to get a job and build a meaningful career. It is my commitment to build a strong culture of ethics at DOC to ensure transparency for all Floridians.”

Jones served as an officer and director of law enforcement during her 26 years in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission before moving to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles where she served as executive director from 2009 to 2014.

Add a Comment

With the U.S. Senate voting this week to impose sanctions and freezing the assets of key leaders of the Maduro regime, Gov. Rick Scott applauded the move.

“I commend the Senate today for passing legislation that will sanction the current oppressive Venezuelan regime by revoking visas and freezing assets,” Scott said on Tuesday. “For too long, the Maduro regime has used violence to oppress Venezuela’s citizens, and today’s sanctions on those oppressors are a step in the right direction. I also remain concerned about Leopold Lopez and other Venezuelans who are currently jailed for protesting.”

Scott said he hoped President Barack Obama will do more on the matter.

“I urge President Obama to show leadership on this issue and take swift action to stand up with the people of Venezuela who are struggling for democracy,“ Scott said.

Add a Comment

Democrats in the Florida congressional delegation weighed in on Tuesday after the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, still controlled by Democrats until the GOP takes over in January, released extended details on how the CIA obtained intelligence on terrorism, including using torture techniques.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee and used to sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee, backed the decision to release this information.

“Since 2001, we’ve made a number of decisions to strengthen our nation's defenses against terrorist attacks,” Nelson said. “Many of these decisions have saved lives while mistakes and abuses, such as those in this report, have been rightly criticized. We must remember that it is the goal of the U.S. intelligence community to gather information about a shadowy enemy determined to do us harm.”

But U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., tore into the committee for releasing the information.

“I strongly disagree with the Senate Intelligent Committee’s decision to release information contained in the CIA report,” Brown said on Tuesday. “Although I support transparency in our national intelligence programs, I do not believe this information needed to be made public. I am extremely concerned about the unintended consequences the report’s public release may have for members of our military based overseas, as well as our embassy personnel and U.S. citizens working abroad. As we have seen time and time again, many dangerous terror organizations, such as ISIL and al-Qaida, are looking for excuses to vilify America and the West, and this report, even though the practices contained in it are no longer used, may do just that. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced similar concerns last week when he ‘warned that allies were concerned that the report could incite violence in the Middle East,’ and that ‘he wanted to make sure that foreign policy implications were being appropriately factored into timing (of its release).’”

Add a Comment
Most Americans are strongly convinced that their local police protect and serve and give them high marks for their jobs, according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll released Tuesday. 

The poll found 67 percent of American adults see the average police officer as a protector, while only 11 percent view the average police officer as a threat.  

Most Americans also feel their police officers have either a "good" or "excellent" job performance, with a combined 67 percent of respondents rating their local police officers in such a way. Twenty-two percent rated the performance of their local police officers as "fair" and only 9 percent of Americans rate the performance of the police in their area as poor. 

When it comes to deaths involving police officers, very few Americans -- 13 percent -- believe the deaths are the fault of the police officer. A much larger amount -- 53 percent -- believe the deaths are the fault of the suspect.

The survey of 1,000 American adults was conducted Dec. 4-5 by Rasmussen Reports.
Add a Comment

Gov. Rick Scott announced on Tuesday that he was keeping Barbara Palmer as director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). Palmer took over the post in August 2012 after serving as chief of staff for the agency for a year and, before that, working as an assistant secretary for administration at the Department of Children and Families.

“I am happy to announce the reappointment of Barbara Palmer today,” Scott said on Tuesday. “Under her leadership, APD has been able to eliminate the critical needs waitlist and Florida has also become the first state in the nation to guarantee disabled children of active-duty service members the chance to receive care while their parents are deployed in Florida. We are committed to providing every family with the opportunity to live the American dream, and I know Barbara will continue to make sure we work each day to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families.”

“This job is a true passion and I would like to thank Gov. Scott for the honor of today’s reappointment,” Palmer said. “Our team at APD will continue to strive to serve Florida families and remain focused on our mission to make Florida the best state in the nation for every family.”

Add a Comment

Former first lady Barbara Bush made a splash when she said she hopes former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., does not follow in his father’s and brother’s footsteps and runs for president. But the former first lady now wants her son to run for president in 2016. Neil Bush talked to Bloomberg and said his mother was now ready for the former Florida governor to run for president.

Earlier this week, former President George W. Bush told CNN that he was continuing to hope his brother would run in 2016.

H/T Politicalwire.

Add a Comment

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

Scott also recognized a Floridian killed in the attack.

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

Add a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

 

Add a Comment

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

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

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

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

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

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

The report can be read here.

Add a Comment

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

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

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

Add a Comment

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

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

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

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

Add a Comment