Sunshine State News Blogs

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., announced on Friday that he was backing U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., for a third term in Congress. Bush is a possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

“Dennis Ross is the type of proven and experienced leader that we need more of in Washington,” said Bush. “Since first being elected to Congress, Dennis has shown a dedication to serving his constituents and a willingness to put principle above politics in order to do what is right for Florida. His commitment to balancing the budget and restoring our economy is exactly what we need in Congress. I’m pleased to support his re-election.”

"I appreciate Gov. Bush’s continued support of my efforts in Washington to solve so many of the problems we are facing,” said Ross. “Too much time is wasted in Congress with bickering and political games. It’s time to work together to craft common-sense conservative solutions to tackle America’s biggest challenges.”

Ross faces Democrat Alan Cohn, a former TV reporter, in November’s general election.
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Gov. Rick Scott and his career as a businessman are just too shady for Florida, according to a new ad that dropped from the Florida Democratic Party on Friday.

The ad, titled "Price," follows a familiar line of attack from the FDP, which has been highly critical of Scott's time as CEO of a health care corporation. In 1997, while Scott was CEO, the company was part of a fraud investigation which ultimately resulted in a $2 billion fine.

"Price" features various news clips discussing the lawsuit, one of which says the company was specifically training its executives to "basically steal from the government."

Scott, the ad says, walked away with millions. 

According to Charlie Crist's Communications Director Brendan Gilfillian, Scott's past has everything to do with the future of the Sunshine State.

“Rick Scott’s pattern of looking out for himself and his friends, dodging accountability, and leaving seniors and middle class families to foot the bill has continued in Tallahassee," he said.

Check the ad out below: 
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U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., launched a new TV ad on Friday which will be hitting airwaves around Tampa Bay this weekend. In the ad, Buchanan stresses his background and commitment to job creation and expanding opportunities; he also slams the “dysfunction in Washington.” 

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In November, Buchanan faces Democratic foe Henry Lawrence, a former professional football player, and tea party activist and disabled veteran Daniel Durso, who is running with no party affiliation.
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The Vote No on 2 Campaign unveiled a new TV ad on Friday to criticize Amendment 2, which would expand medical marijuana use in the Sunshine State.

The ad features Dr. Madelyn Butler, past president of the Florida Medical Association, who attacks the amendment, insisting it has too many loopholes and does not require medical approval to distribute marijuana.

"This ad delivers an important warning that Floridians need to hear before they are confronted by Amendment 2 on the ballot this November,” said Sarah Bascom, a spokeswoman for the Vote No on 2 Campaign. “That once you wade through all of the trickery surrounding this amendment, you realize it’s simply pot for any purpose. And, coming straight from a highly-respected doctor, this is a warning that quite frankly cannot be ignored.”

Amendment 2 needs 60 percent on the November ballot to be adopted.

Check out the TV spot below:

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On Thursday, Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Adrian Wyllie played up his commitment to Amendment 2, a proposal Floridians will vote on in November to expand medical marijuana. In a video his campaign released on Thursday, Wyllie also noted that he supports marijuana legalization in general.

“I support Amendment 2,” Wyllie says in the video. “I don't believe that anyone, especially not government, should interfere with the decisions that you and your doctor make about your health-care treatment.

“But I'm also the only candidate in this race who supports full legalization of marijuana. I believe it's a freedom issue: that government doesn't have the authority to tell you what you can or can't put into your own body, so long as you're not harming anyone else,” Wyllie adds. “And I also look at if from a perspective of how we can better our society. If we were to legalize marijuana, we could eliminate the associated crime, the violence, the incarceration rate, the overcrowding of our court system and also save millions, perhaps billions, of dollars in enforcement.

“You know, in a historical context, the only time that people were killing each other in the streets over alcohol was during Prohibition. That's what we have today,” Wyllie continues. “I think we'll find that legalizing marijuana will result in less crime, less violence, and a safer and more prosperous Florida.”

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The U.S. unemployment rate hit its lowest in six years during the month of September, according to new numbers released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate has dropped from 6.6 percent since the beginning of the year. 

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 248,000 in September. Other industries saw growth as well, including health care, retail trade and business services.  

See the full report here.
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Noting that the “Audit the Fed" bill overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, called on U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to let the Senate vote on the bill. Paul, who ran for president three times, was the chief backer of “Audit the Fed” during his years in Congress. The Senate version is currently being championed by his son, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

“Unfortunately, despite telling voters in a debate during your heated re-election campaign in 2010 that you support auditing the Fed and even called for a Fed audit in 1987, you have prevented this legislation from having the simple up-or-down vote it deserves in the Senate as a standalone bill since the 111th Congress,” Paul, now the chairman of the Campaign for Liberty, wrote Reid on Thursday. “Again, I would urge you to act quickly to do what is right politically, philosophically, and economically for our country by scheduling a vote on S 209, or its House counterpart, at the beginning of the lame-duck session.”
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Former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., continued his political activities on Thursday as buzz continues to build that he could run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Bush sent out a fundraising email for Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the Republican and Conservative Party of New York State (CPNYS) candidate looking to upset Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., in November.

Bush played up Florida’s economic strengths and contrasted them with the Empire State.

“On the campaign trail, Rob Astorino has been asking New Yorkers a simple question: As a state, is New York winning or is New York losing?” Bush wrote. “When you compare New York to states like North Carolina, Texas and North Dakota -- or my home state of Florida -- how does New York measure up in the categories that matter?

“The answer is not very well. Very poorly, in fact,” Bush continued. “New York ranks at the bottom of the pack in so many key areas: It has the highest property taxes in America and the highest overall taxes in the country. It’s ranked as having the ‘Worst Economic Outlook’ in America, and it ranks 47th in business climate. It should come as no surprise, then, that New York is also ranked the worst place in the nation to retire.

“A strong governor can make a tremendous difference in turning a state around,” Bush added. “With pro-growth fiscal policies, a quality education system and lower taxes, there is no reason why New York cannot rebound as an economic powerhouse. We did it in Florida. You can do it in New York.”

Bush praised Astorino for backing “smarter, more efficient government and lower taxes, resulting in more than 30,000 new, well-paying private sector jobs for the area” and pointed toward how Republican governors across the nation have led their states.

“Republicans governors around America are transforming their states into pro-growth, job-friendly destinations to live, work and retire,” Bush wrote. “Those are the states that are winning. States that continue to tax, spend and overregulate -- like New York -- continue to lose jobs as their families struggle and economies stagnate.

“New York has always been a winning state. But bad tax, fiscal and regulatory policies have weighed it down to the point where it can no longer compete against other states,” Bush concluded. “New York’s comeback begins with Rob Astorino’s election as the next governor of the Empire State.”
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Roll Call released its latest list of the most vulnerable congressmen and U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., who is facing a major challenge from Democrat Gwen Graham, made the top 10.

Roll Call ranks the lists as “tilts Republican" in its look at the race:

Privately, national Republican operatives cite Southerland as the GOP member they fret won’t come back to Congress. He faces a fierce contender in attorney Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham. This is still a tough district for a Democrat, and ousting Southerland will take a herculean effort on the part of Graham, the DCCC and outside groups. But this is a rare offensive spot on the map for Democrats in an otherwise crummy cycle for the party.

U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., almost made the top 10 in South Florida where he faces Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo:

The only reason scandal-plagued Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., is not on the list is because his Republican opponent, Carlos Curbelo, called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Watch for this one to get nasty in the coming weeks.
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Former President George W. Bush appeared on Fox News on Thursday morning and said he is encouraging his brother, former Gov. Jeb Bush, to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

The former president said he does think his brother has made up his mind on whether to run but added the former Florida governor understands the responsibilities of sitting in the White House.

“I think he wants to be president,’” George Bush said. “I think [Jeb would] be a great president. He understands what it’s like to be president.”

Politico has the details.
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With U.S. VA Secretary Robert McDonald touring Florida on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., met with him and had kind words for the new VA secretary. McDonald took over the VA when Eric Shinseki resigned after reports of altered waiting lists at VA medical facilities across the nation.

“I was relieved that McDonald was chosen to head the VA back in July,” Ross said on Wednesday. “McDonald and I are in accordance with creating a VA that works and will provide veterans with the greatest quality of care. McDonald insisted that the ignominious culture previously demonstrated within the VA will diminish. We will not turn a deaf ear to the entreaties of our veterans.

“I’ve personally created legislation called the Veterans Timely Access to Health Care Act that would fix the VA medical wait time imbroglio,” Ross added. “My legislation would ensure veterans seeking primary and specialty care services from VA medical facilities will not have to wait longer than 30 days for an appointment. It is unconscionable that these same men and women who have put their lives on the line for our country often wait over three months for access to treatment.”
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If you missed "Live with Lori, Political Food for Thought" Wednesday morning, then you missed Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, aboard Royal Carribean's Allure of the Seas preparing shrimp-crab cake with a creamy remoulade sauce -- all the while talking politics with host Lori Halbert.

Edwards covered a variety of topics in the half-hour program -- duck hunting, her law clients, the need for economic development in rural communities in the middle of the state, equipping elementary schools with mental health counselors, Common Core, medical marijuana, and especially revisiting the state's approach to criminal sentencing reform to end minimum mandatory sentencing.

The entire show with Katie Edwards is available by clicking here.

Now in its fifth season, the all-Florida show is a cross between a CNN news segment and something from the Food Channel. Each week Halbert "serves up a little 'Political Food for Thought,'" interviewing politicians from across the state while teaching them how to prepare a specialty meal.

On previous shows 'Live with Lori' has featured Senate President Don Gaetz, Congressman Bill Posey, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

It airs at 7:30 a.m. Wednesdays on Sun Sports.

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Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist have taken on two new and unexpected forms in the latest ad from the College Republican National Committee -- they're wedding dresses.

Paying homage to the hit TLC Show "Say Yes to the Dress," where brides try on, scrutinize and (hopefully) fall in love with potential wedding dresses, the ad contrasts the two politicians as if they were haute bridal couture.

Like many brides, the woman in the ad is on a budget. She tries on the Republican Rick Scott dress first and is immediately captivated by it. She says Rick Scott has "new ideas that won't break your budget."

Her mother, however, has different ideas -- she prefers the Charlie Crist, which comes with additional costs like tuition increases and taxes. 

To see which dress the woman chose, check the ad out below:
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Thad Hamilton, the Democratic candidate running against Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, disagrees with his Republican rival on Amendment 2, a proposal to expand medical marijuana use in the Sunshine State. On Wednesday, Putnam strongly attacked the proposal.

Hamilton talked to Sunshine State News on Wednesday and said he backed Amendment 2.

“I support it 100 percent,” Hamilton told Sunshine State News. “There is no reason why we should not be taking care ... of the residents of the state of Florida.”

Hamilton pointed toward the benefits medical marijuana could provide for ill patients across the Sunshine State.

“If medical marijuana provides relief for their critical needs, we should support it 100 percent,” Hamilton said.

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State CFO Jeff Atwater, a solid favorite over Democrat William Rankin in November, showcased a new Web video on Wednesday in which he talks about how his parents have shaped his life.

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“My mother and father taught my siblings and me that we have a duty – a responsibility to God, to family, and to country,” said Atwater on Wednesday. “They led by example every day and he expected us to live it out every day, too.”
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Republican congressional candidate Carol Platt went on the attack on Wednesday, launching a new website attacking U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., on a host of fronts, from domestic violence allegations to his record on foreign policy.

“Alan Grayson tries to say that he's a congressman with guts,” Platt said on Wednesday. “The reality is, he's a congressman without honor. His behavior, language and complete disrespect for our district is embarrassing. The voters of our district need to know the truth.

"Our effort will be very straightforward,” Platt added. “We don't need to make comments or add messages to Alan Grayson's antics. They speak for themselves. We're just going to present the facts, the news stories, the videos, the audio of the man. The voters will decide if he's the kind of man they want representing them."
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In Central Florida on Wednesday, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and the Florida Chamber of Commerce came out swinging at Amendment 2, a proposal to expand medical marijuana use in the Sunshine State.

“The legalization of marijuana has the potential to destroy Florida’s sterling reputation as a family-friendly and business-friendly state,” said Putnam. “Not only does this poorly written amendment give anyone with as much as a headache access to this gateway drug, the legalization of marijuana would severely impact small businesses and corporations alike. As we are making our way out of the greatest recession in decades, the last thing we need is to create a climate that will decrease productivity and increase risk for businesses.”

“Normally we focus on creating jobs, improving education and making Florida more competitive, but this is the type of business Florida can do without,” said Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber.

Wilson turned his fire to John Morgan, the trial attorney who led efforts to get Amendment 2 on the ballot.

 “I find it curious that the largest funder of this push to legalize pot is a personal injury trial lawyer firm, yet such measures are overwhelmingly opposed by Florida’s medical and law enforcement community,” Wilson said. “Florida voters are smart and when the facts are on the table, I believe they will say no to drugs in Florida.”
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The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) waded into one of the most competitive congressional races in the nation on Wednesday when it backed Miami Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo, the Republican candidate challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., in November.

““Carlos Curbelo is the clear pro-small business candidate in this critical race for Florida’s 26th Congressional District,"” said Bill Herrle, the NFIB’s Florida’ chapter’s executive director. ““Carlos has proven that he is committed to standing up for pro-growth policies and fighting to reduce the burdens placed on small business by the federal government, and we’re confident he will be a dependable voice for the small business in Washington, DC."
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U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., a member of the U.S House Intelligence Committee, ripped President Barack Obama’s handling of Islamic State (IS) terrorist forces in the Middle East on Tuesday.

“Congress has known for months that IS poses a significant national security threat, and that it needs to be destroyed,” Rooney said on Tuesday. “If Congress knew that IS was a serious threat, and the media knew, and the American people knew, then why didn’t the president? Why did he insist that IS was a ‘JV squad’?

“Despite the president’s pathetic attempt to shift blame, this was not an intelligence community failure; it was a failure by him to act on the unequivocal intelligence assessments he received,” Rooney added. “The president should accept responsibility and apologize to the American people for this gross incompetence. To claim that the intelligence community underestimated the threat is an insult to those professionals and to the American people.”
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Facing a challenge from Democratic challenger Gwen Graham, U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland is getting help from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). On Tuesday, the NFIB unveiled an online election site to help Southerland and began a digital ad campaign on his behalf.

““Increasing federal regulations, rising health-care costs, and higher taxes streaming out of Washington continue to punish small businesses in Florida,"” said Lisa Goeas, a vice president of the NFIB. ““We need candidates like Steve Southerland in Congress, who understand the struggles of small businesses and will stand up and fight for policies that allow Main Street to grow and prosper.””
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On Tuesday, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, named former state Rep. Jerry Melvin to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs Council. Melvin is currently the resident of the Okaloosa Elder Services board.

“Rep. Melvin understands the needs and concerns of older Floridians through his long and distinguished service in public office and as a community volunteer for those who need help to live at home or in assisted living facilities,” Gaetz said. “And Jerry certainly knows his way around Tallahassee and the agencies that deal with health care and elderly affairs matters. He will be a strong advocate for making our state more responsive to the concerns of our parents and grandparents.”

First elected to the Florida House in 1968, Melvin served 10 years in the House. He ran again in 1994 and served until 2002 when he faced term limits. Melvin’s term ends on Oct. 1, 2017.
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Drawing on his experience as a large-animal veterinarian as well as his perch on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to freeze importing beef from Brazil.

Earlier this month, Yoho wrote  Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Administrator Kevin Shea asking to end beef imported from Brazil until the  Government Accountability Office  (GAO) studies it.

“Historically, Brazil has had issues with the highly contagious and most economically damaging livestock viruses in the world, Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD),” Yoho said on Tuesday. “The United States has been free from FMD since 1929 and reintroduction of the disease would pose a significant threat to the health and well-being of our national livestock herds.”

Yoho pointed to a federal Food Safety Inspection Service report earlier this year which showed major problems with Brazil’s food safety processes and previous FMD problems in that South American nation.
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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla,, pointed to a legal opinion from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) which showed monies designated for President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law can’t be used to salvage insurance companies without congressional approval.

“As many of us predicted, Obamacare is a failure that forces the American people to not only buy health insurance, but also forces the American taxpayer to bail out insurance companies that incur a loss under the Obamacare exchanges,” said Rubio on Tuesday. “The fact that we have to bail out Obamacare in the first place tells us the law is a failure.

“We should not be bailing out a failure,” Rubio continued. “Given the Obama administration’s history of taking executive action to rewrite Obamacare and ignoring the legislative process, Congress needs to make sure taxpayers don’t end up paying for an Obamacare bailout in 2015 or ever.”
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WFLA and SurveyUSA released a poll late on Tuesday which shows Amendment 2, a proposal to expand medical marijuana use, continuing to struggle to reach 60 percent, the threshold it needs to pass on the November ballot.

The poll shows 52 percent of likely voters support Amendment 2 while 33 percent oppose it and 14 percent remain undecided. Two weeks ago, the WFLA/SurveyUSA showed the measure with 56 percent support to 31 percent opposed. SurveyUSA stressed the poll was taken during Rosh Hashanah which could factor into its results.

The poll of 584 likely voters was taken from Sept. 26-29 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent.

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WFLA and SurveyUSA released a poll late Tuesday evening which shows former Gov. Charlie Crist taking 46 percent and Gov. Rick Scott behind with 40 percent in the hotly contest Florida gubernatorial race.

Libertarian Adrian Wyllie takes 8 percent, while 6 percent are still undecided.

Noting that their poll showed Scott ahead by 1 point, SurveyUSA stressed the poll was taken during Rosh Hashanah which could account for the 7-point swing over a week.

The poll also has an equal sampling of Republicans and Democrats -- 40 percent each -- with the rest of the sample coming outside the major parties. Traditionally in off-year elections, Republican turnout is higher than Democrats.

The poll of 584 likely voters was taken from Sept. 26-29 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent.
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Looking to protect U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., from a serious challenge from Democrat Gwen Graham, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) unleashed a new TV ad on Tuesday bringing up her past. The new ad ties Graham to former Gov. Howard Dean, D-Vt., during his 2004 presidential campaign, calling her a “key aide.”

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Katie Prill, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, also noted that Graham went on to work for then U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., during the 2004 presidential campaign after Dean lost in the Democratic primaries.

“Gwen Graham has spent her career working as a political insider for extreme liberals like Howard Dean and John Kerry,” Prill said on Tuesday. “Now Gwen wants to go to Washington and continue to push Nancy Pelosi’s extreme agenda like Obamacare. We can’t trust Gwen Graham in Congress.”
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U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., took aim at President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law over abortion on Monday. In a message to constituents, Miller weighed in on his thoughts on a report noting public monies were used to provide abortions:

As a staunch pro-life supporter, I was outraged to see the recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding that the administration has failed to prevent taxpayer funds from being used to pay for abortions in insurance plans offered on Obamacare exchanges. Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has barred taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions, with limited exceptions only for cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is endangered. I, and millions of Americans, find it unconscionable for the government to spend taxpayer money on abortions. President Obama understood how important respecting this issue was, directly promising the American people, in front of a Joint Session of Congress convened to discuss his health care proposal, “Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.”

In fact, statutory language was included in Obamacare to require a separate payment for abortion coverage, so that taxpayer funds would not be used to subsidize abortions, and Executive Order No. 13535 was issued to "establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that federal funds are not used for abortion services (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered)." Yet, GAO found that abortions are being paid for with taxpayer funds by more than 1,000 exchange plans across the country. And this only covers the 18 insurers that GAO studied, all but one of which were not billing separately for abortion coverage.

The administration needs to fix this immediately, and the Senate should take up the House-passed bill, HR 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, which would further the Hyde Amendment by prohibiting taxpayer funds from being used to fund any abortion whatsoever, prohibiting taxpayer funds from being used for any health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion, and prohibiting any health plan that includes coverage of abortion from being eligible for Obamacare subsidies. This GAO report is an appalling revelation that yet another of the president’s Obamacare promises is being broken, and the American people can have little confidence that any of the president’s Obamacare promises will be upheld.
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Facing a tough challenge from Democrat Gwen Graham in November, U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., took off the gloves and went after his opponent on Monday, saying she flip-flopped on Florida’s legal fight with Georgia over water headed to Apalachicola Bay. Southerland pointed to statements Graham made in the spring and at the start of August in which she questioned whether the legal fight was the way to go before changing her tune last week.
 
“Our oystermen and coastal communities deserve consistent leadership and a representative who’s willing to fight for them,” said Southerland. “Gwen Graham has proven she’ll provide neither. She’s argued for months that Florida’s lawsuit was not ‘in the best interest’ of Apalachicola Bay and only flipped her position in the election’s closing weeks. We can’t trust someone in Congress who will argue both sides of an issue as important as this. Georgia is working nonstop to steal our water, and I’m fighting tooth and nail to stop them. That was the case two months ago, and it will be the case two months from now.”
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Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is running strong with five weeks to go until the general election. Putnam faces Democrat Thad Hamilton in November who served on the Broward County Soil and Water Commission.

According to a poll from the  Florida Chamber Political Institute (FCPI) released on Monday, Putnam holds a solid lead with 41 percent while Hamilton follows with 29 percent. Putnam has the support of the Florida Chamber.

The poll of 813 likely voters was taken from Sept. 18-21 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.
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Florida CFO Jeff Atwater looks all set for four more years in Tallahassee, according to a new poll.
 
The poll from the Florida Chamber Political Institute (FCPI), which is affiliated with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, shows Atwater with a commanding lead over businessman William Rankin, the Democratic nominee. The Florida Chamber is backing Atwater in the race.

In the poll, which was released on Monday, Atwater takes 43 percent. Rankin trails behind with 27 percent support.

The poll of 813 likely voters was taken from Sept. 18-21 and had a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percent.

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