Sunshine State News Blogs

One of Gov. Rick Scott’s chief legislative goals in 2014 is to roll back $400 million in vehicle registration fees. A poll from the University of North Florida (UNF) released on Monday finds solid support across the Sunshine State for Scott’s proposal.

The poll shows a clear majority -- 55 percent -- of those surveyed back Scott’s proposal with more than a third -- 38 percent -- strongly supporting it and 17 percent somewhat supporting it. The proposal garners the opposition of 35 percent with 19 percent strongly opposing it and 16 percent saying they somewhat oppose it.

The poll of 507 registered voters in Florida was taken from March 6-16 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.35 percent.

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Florida continues to back its “Stand Your Ground" law according to a poll from the University of North Florida (UNF) released on Monday.

The poll finds more than 60 percent of those surveyed support “Stand Your Ground” with 41 percent saying they strongly support it and 21 percent somewhat support it. Less than a quarter--22 percent--strongly oppose the law while 7 percent somewhat oppose it.

The poll of 507 registered voters in Florida was taken from March 6-March 16 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.35 percent.

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A poll from the University of North Florida (UNF) released on Monday shows a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana that Floridians will vote on in November has an excellent chance of passing.

The poll shows 74 percent of registered voters plan to support the amendment while 22 percent say they plan to vote against it. For a state constitutional amendment to pass, it needs 60 percent of voters.

The poll does show Floridians continue to oppose legalizing marijuana for recreational use by adults. While 11 percent of those somewhat oppose legalizing marijuana for recreational use, 46 percent say they strongly oppose it. But a quarter of those surveyed -- 25 percent -- strongly support legalizing marijuana while 16 percent somewhat support it.

The poll of 507 registered voters in Florida was taken from March 6-16 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.35 percent.

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A poll from the University of North Florida (UNF) released on Monday shows former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination despite spending most of his political career as a Republican, beating Gov. Rick Scott by a hair.

The poll of registered voters has Crist with 34 percent with Scott right behind him with 33 percent. But 34 percent of voters are on the fence with 17 percent saying they would back someone else besides Scott and Crist and 17 percent still undecided.

The poll shows 45 percent of those surveyed approve of Scott while 39 percent disapprove. A UNF poll from October had 49 percent approving of Scott while 42 percent disapproved of him.

The poll of 507 registered voters in Florida was taken from March 6-16 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.35 percent.

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Gov. Rick Scott and former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, now the president of the University of Miami, teamed up on Friday to showcase the governor’s proposal to send $80 million from the state budget for cancer research. Scott is calling for $60 million to ensure Florida Cancer Centers gain National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation and $20 million for grants.

“I was proud to join the University of Miami Health System at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center to highlight the importance of investing to make Florida the No. 1 state for cancer research,” Scott said on Friday. “Families all across Florida have been affected by cancer, and we must remain focused on providing all families with access to world-class treatment. I would like to thank Dr. Shalala and her team for working to find a cure for this terrible disease.”

“Enhancing cancer research is the right thing to do for the people of Florida,” Shalala, who served in the Clinton presidency, said. “Ultimately, it saves lives and improves our care for cancer patients. The University of Miami is grateful to have Gov. Scott’s valuable support on this front.”

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With an additional $150 million added to the more than $1 billion Florida state government surplus , Florida TaxWatch released a report on the matter late on Friday and urged the Legislature to remain fiscally conservative.

"Florida lawmakers should continue to push for opportunities to save taxpayers' hard-earned dollars during the budgeting process, even as the budget outlook is improving after years of shortfalls brought on by the Great Recession," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. "In order to continue on the path to financial recovery, Florida must remain prudent during its budget allocations."

"While lawmakers will have more than enough money to fund a continuation budget, there are many factors that impact the estimate of a budget surplus and most of them have changed," said Kurt Wenner, the vice president for tax research on the Florida TaxWatch. "Lawmakers should continue to examine the base budget for efficiencies and spending that may no longer be needed. Only this way will they be able to put limited funds into the areas that are important to Florida taxpayers today and tomorrow."

Florida TaxWatch’s report can be read here.

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Over the weekend, the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) released an ad attacking former Gov. Charlie Crist for defending President Barack Obama’s health-care law. Crist is the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott in November despite spending most of his political life as a Republican.

“Charlie Crist is the only candidate in America who is giving Obamacare the full embrace,” said Greg Blair, a spokesman for the Scott campaign. “Obamacare has already cancelled health insurance for hundreds of thousands of Floridians and raided Medicare at the expense of 1.3 million Florida seniors. Now the president has finally admitted that many Americans will lose their doctors as a result. It’s appropriate that this ad is the first of its kind because there’s no bigger cheerleader for Obamacare than Charlie Crist.”

View the ad below:

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., took off the gloves on Friday and attacked President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law.

“Every week, Obamacare continues to get worse. Wednesday, Kathleen Sebelius confirmed that insurance premiums are likely going to rise under Obamacare in 2015,” Rubio emailed supporters on Friday. “Of course that was all that Secretary Sebelius was able to confirm, since she admitted she doesn't know if Obamacare will run into any more delays or if there would be any more changes. These are the important questions that she can’t answer while Obamacare continues to stifle job creation as businesses struggle to sort through its complicated mandates and ever-changing deadlines.

“Let's put an end to this once and for all by repealing and replacing this disastrous law,” Rubio added. “The only way we can do that is by electing a conservative majority in the Senate.”

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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spent time in Tallahassee this week, and it didn't take long for anti-Common Core groups to take notice.

In an open letter sent Friday, Chris Quackenbush of Stop Common Core Florida addressed the former governor, criticizing him over the Common Core State Standards.

"Yesterday, March 13, as you entered the Governors Club in Tallahassee, you spoke to me as a small group of us held signs to get your attention to our serious concerns about your federal education program called Common Core," wrote Quackenbush. "Three grandmas drove 12 hours each to see you, face to face, and you turned and scoured at us as though we were naval lint … pond scum.  As I stated 'Stop Common Core,' your disparaging retort was 'it is a good thing there’s only three of you.' As you turned and disappeared into the exclusive club, $1,000 per plate event to celebrate the Foundation for Florida’s Future, I said, 'There were lots more, but we weren’t invited.'"

For Quackenbush, that's the whole point. 

"You, Jeb Bush and your corporate cronies, have decided what is good for the children of America and WE -- parents, educators, and concerned taxpayers -- were not invited," she wrote.

Quackenbush also promised collateral damage over Bush's efforts to promote the standards.

"Your collateral damage will soon include the politicians who have supported your flawed initiative," said Quackenbush. "Gov. Rick Scott has received a recent notice from the Republican base, the RPOF, Republican Party of Florida, demanding the removal of Common Core in no uncertain terms.

"To you, Common Core may be just a convenient issue you are using to win an election. To us, it’s not an issue, but our children and our future.  Like our Founding Fathers, we will pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to protect them." 

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Gov. Rick Scott, state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Sec. Herschel Vinyard and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs held a media event on Friday to announce 11 wastewater and stormwater projects are getting more than $27 million in loans from DEP’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

“We’ve made protecting Florida’s natural treasures a top priority, and this $27 million investment will make critical upgrades to water infrastructure so we can help improve water quality for families in our Central Florida,” Scott said. “Helping improve Florida’s water quality is another step in the right direction toward making Florida the best state in the nation to live, work and raise a family.”

“It’s wonderful to hear that Orange County has been included in today’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program announcement,” Jacobs said. “We are deeply committed to protecting our cherished natural resources, and to ensuring and maintaining water quality. Upgrading the Eastern Water Reclamation Facility will help us maintain our excellent water quality record, and will help to ensure clean water for future generations.”

Three projects are getting the bulk of the money with Cocoa Beach getting $6 million for sewer rehabilitation and stormwater improvements, Orange County’s Eastern Water Reclamation Facility in Orlando is getting the same amount for improvements while a sewer project in Lake Wales is also getting $6 million.

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Gov. Rick Scott hopped onboard with a bill to offer in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants this week, but his decision to support the proposal hasn't been met without criticism from Democrats across the state.

Rep. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, released a statement Friday questioning Scott's motives to support the bill and criticized the governor for flip-flopping on immigration issues.

"Gov. Rick Scott could[n't] care less about Dreamers. Just last year he vetoed a bill to give Dreamers a temporary driver's license while they are here in the United States," said Bracy. "Even this year he has ignored my attempts to reconsider signing a Dreamers driver’s license bill that I have sponsored. But with his poll numbers in the gutter, and as the November elections near, Gov. Scott wants us to believe that he now wants to help Dreamers get an affordable education. Really? His motivations for supporting in-state tuition are obviously politically motivated, and I don't think the voters of Florida will be fooled by this stunt.”

The proposal passed through a House panel Thursday afternoon. It will now be heard on the House floor. 

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Freshman U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis celebrated a big legislative win this week as his Faithful Execution of the Law Act passed the U.S. House on a 244-171 vote. DeSantis’ bill would ensure any federal employee who believes a law is unconstitutional and refuses to enforce it will have to report to Congress. Currently, only the U.S. attorney general is required to do so.

"The Faithful Execution of the Law Act will provide transparency for Congress and the American people with respect to the suspension of the law by the executive," DeSantis said on Thursday. "Leaking information to the press or burying a delay in an obscure footnote in some regulatory document is hardly consistent with being the most transparent administration in history. Our constitutional system presupposes that laws passed by Congress will be enforced and it is appropriate to require formal disclosure by the executive branch when there is a nonenforcement policy established. Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

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Former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., went on the attack against President Barack Obama on Friday, hammering him on foreign policy.

“Barack Obama and his party are defeatists,” West emailed supporters. “When Obama retreated from his warnings to Syria regarding their chemical weapons program and told lies to avoid taking military action for the terrorist attack in Benghazi, he sent a clear message to the world: ‘America is weak. We'll just talk tough and back down. Do as you wish.'

“I have served my country my entire adult life with the sworn oath to protect and defend the Constitution,” West continued. “Long before I set foot in the halls of Congress, I was fighting for the heart and soul of America in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, defending the freedoms we cherish. I'm not going to sit idly by while Barack Obama cowers away from keeping America strong in the world. Our very freedom depends on it!

“Anyone who has put on our country's uniform knows that our freedom comes from our willingness to defend it,” West concluded. “I've risked too much to let Obama get walked on by Putin -- or any other dictator who thinks he's above America.”

While West has ruled out making a political comeback in 2014, he has left the door open to running in 2016. West lost to Democrat Patrick Murphy in 2012.

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Gov Rick Scott cheered the news that his proposal to roll back $400 million in vehicle registration fees passed the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee and the Florida House Finance and Tax Subcommittee.

“I want to thank members of the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as the House Finance and Tax Subcommittee for their support in undoing the 2009 tax increases by reducing motor vehicle fees,” Scott said on Thursday. “This tax cut will give families back $400 million of their own money. I look forward to our continuing work with the Legislature on our ‘It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget’ to cut taxes and fees, pay down debt and cut government waste, so we can create an opportunity economy where all families can pursue their dreams in the Sunshine State.”

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On Thursday, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited Pope Francis to speak before a joint meeting of Congress. The pope is scheduled to visit Philadelphia in September 2015.

Boehner released the following statement on Thursday:

“It is with reverence and admiration that I have invited Pope Francis, as head of state of the Holy See and the first pope to hail from the Americas, to address a joint meeting of the United States Congress.

"Pope Francis has inspired millions of Americans with his pastoral manner and servant leadership, challenging all people to lead lives of mercy, forgiveness, solidarity, and humble service.

“His tireless call for the protection of the most vulnerable among us -- the ailing, the disadvantaged, the unemployed, the impoverished, the unborn -- has awakened hearts on every continent.

“His social teachings, rooted in ‘the joy of the gospel,’ have prompted careful reflection and vigorous dialogue among people of all ideologies and religious views in the United States and throughout a rapidly changing world, particularly among those who champion human dignity, freedom, and social justice. 

“These principles are among the fundamentals of the American idea. And though our nation sometimes fails to live up to these principles, at our best we give them new life as we seek the common good. Many in the United States believe these principles are undermined by ‘crony capitalism’ and the ongoing centralization of political power in the institutions of our federal government, which threaten to disrupt the delicate balance between the twin virtues of subsidiarity and solidarity. They have embraced Pope Francis’ reminder that we cannot meet our responsibility to the poor with a welfare mentality based on business calculations. We can meet it only with personal charity on the one hand and sound, inclusive policies on the other.

“The Holy Father’s pastoral message challenges people of all faiths, ideologies and political parties. His address as a visiting head of state before a joint meeting of the House and Senate would honor our nation in keeping with the best traditions of our democratic institutions. It would also offer an excellent opportunity for the American people, as well as the nations of the world, to hear his message in full.

“It is with deep gratitude that I have asked Pope Francis to consider this open invitation on behalf of the Congress and the millions of citizens of the United States we serve.”

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David Jolly was sworn in to Congress Thursday afternoon, just a few days after his close victory over former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in CD 13. Sink and Jolly competed for the seat in a highly publicized election to replace the late C.W. Bill Young.

"We have had a nationally watched race, that race is now over," Jolly said to his new colleagues in Washington. "And now it is time for me as a member of Congress and this body to join with each of you to follow in the footsteps you have made to serve in your community as I begin to serve mine."

At his acceptance speech Tuesday, Jolly vowed to advance the interests of Pinellas County, not those of Washington.

Jolly, 41, will face another election for the seat in November.
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Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera joined Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi Wednesday to honor three new inductees to the Florida Women's Hall of Fame. 

The inductees were chosen from a list of 10 nominees selected by the Florida Commission on the Status of Women. According to a press release, the inductees were chosen in part because they "have made significant contributions to the improvement of life for women and all citizens of Florida."

The three inductees were Dottie Berger MacKinnon, Louise Jones Gopher, and Sheriff Susan Benton.

MacKinnon served as an advocate for women who founded the Joshua House in Tampa and worked tirelessly to work for the safety of abused, neglected and abandoned children. 

Gopher was the first female member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida to earn a college degree and championed education for members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Benton serves as Highlands County sheriff, the first female sheriff to be elected in a general election in the state's history. In 2013, Benton was named president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, which is the first time a woman has served in this capacity in the association’s 115-year history, and currently serves on the National Sheriffs Association board of directors.

“The three women we honored are truly phenomenal Floridians, and I am proud that their contributions to making Florida a better state will forever be memorialized in the Women’s Hall of Fame," said Bondi.

“These women provide an example of service, sacrifice, and dedication for all of us, and it was an honor to recognize the contributions of these three outstanding Floridians," said Gov. Rick Scott. "The Florida Women’s Hall of Fame is one more way Florida honors women who have dedicated their lives to serving the families of our state.”
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The James Madison Institute (JMI) released a report on Thursday regarding Medicaid expansion in Florida.

“Doubling down on the flaws of the current Medicaid program and its expansion are risky propositions for Florida,” said Dr. Bob McClure, the president and CEO of JMI. “We, too, want to see improved access to health care for the underinsured and the uninsured. However, simply expanding a program that is unreliable and filled with broken promises on the premise that the federal government is dangling money to the states is fool’s gold. Market reforms that put patients first instead of bureaucrats will provide better outcomes for Floridians such as quality care, lower costs and expansion of coverage.”

“The economics of the Medicaid expansion are bad, but the health care involved for the underserved is even worse,” said Dr. Jason Fodeman, M.D., an adjunct scholar at JMI and the author of the report. “Medicaid is beleaguered by bureaucracy, fraud, rising expenditures, restricted access, and compromised patient care. By applying further strain to an already strained system, expansion could very well worsen the quality of the care that current Medicaid patients receive.

“Medicaid’s business model is not a free lunch or an example of free-market economics. Rather, it is centralized price controls – nothing more than the government bludgeoning prices down by fiat,” continued Fodeman. “Ultimately, these price controls are passed along to Medicaid patients in the form of diminished access, long waits for appointments, and compromised care.

“Reasons abound as to why Florida and nearly half of the states in the nation have concluded that a Medicaid expansion under PPACA provisions is unwise,” Fodeman concluded. “Florida has an obligation to use the debate as an opportunity to reform its health-care delivery system to ensure that the most financially fragile and medically vulnerable receive the care they need and deserve.”

The report can be read here.

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Gov. Rick Scott announced flags would be at half-staff across Florida on Thursday after the passing of former Gov. Reubin Askew. Flags will be at half-staff until sunset on the day Askew is buried.

"Gov. Askew served our nation as a veteran, he served Florida’s families as an elected officeholder, and he served our children as an educator,” Scott said. “He helped lead Florida to enormous growth and was a trailblazer for good government. His advocacy for Florida’s sunshine laws was a landmark moment for ethics and transparency in government, and that legacy continues to endure.

“His accomplishments were vast, but he remained humble and took his commitment to public service seriously,” Scott added. “Gov. Askew strove to make life better for all of Florida’s families, and that dedication is an example for all who followed in his footsteps. Ann and I mourn his passing and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Donna Lou, and his entire family."

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On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott announced he'd be onboard with offering in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants, but the Florida Democratic Party isn't sure his efforts are sincere. 

“For three years, Rick Scott hasn’t been treating young, undocumented immigrants like people -- now, he’s treating them like political pawns,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant.

“Less than a year ago, this governor said he didn’t support helping Dreamers go to college, and then vetoed drivers’ licenses for Dreamers. We saw where Rick Scott’s heart is when he targeted Hispanics with a voter purge, and voiced enthusiastic support for Arizona-style immigration laws,” Chair Tant added.

But Rick Scott's camp didn't take the comments lying down.

"If the Florida Democratic Party supports automatic annual tuition increases and making education more expensive for every Floridian, they should just say so," said "Rick Scott for Florida" spokesman Greg Blair. "After all, that's the position of their preferred candidate for governor," he added, taking a jab at former Gov. Charlie Crist. 
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Florida’s leaders are weighing in on the passing of former Gov. Reubin Askew.

“Reubin Askew was a giant of Florida history, whose unparalleled accomplishments for the people of Florida set the example all Floridians elected to public office strive to meet,” said Allison Tant, the chairwoman of the Florida Democratic Party, on Thursday. “We will miss his wisdom, his friendship, and his leadership in difficult times.

“Reubin Askew leaves behind a legacy as strong as the principles he fought for. His commitment to honesty in government, to civil rights, and to the middle class restored people’s faith that government could work for them,” Tant added. “Reubin Askew will live on in the memories of those who knew him and in the lives of the millions of Floridians whose lives he touched. Let us all continue to serve Florida in that spirit."

On the other side of the aisle, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, also praised Askew.

“In Gov. Askew, Florida has lost a leader who embodied what it means to be a true public servant,” Weatherford said. “Gov. Askew leaves behind a legacy of public service that has set the standard for all individuals in elected office today.

“His tenure includes opening up government and creating new reporting standards for elected officials, which still serve Florida well today,” Weatherford added. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know this great man. I offer my prayers to his family and his wife Donna Lou.”

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U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., looked to clamp down on executive power this week, backing the “Enforce the Law Act” proposed by U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., on Wednesday and planning to support the “Faithful Execution of the Law Act” proposed by U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. Crenshaw is co-sponsoring DeSantis’ bill.

Crenshaw weighed in Wednesday night on why he was backing the two proposals.

“The Constitution is pretty clear,” Crenshaw said. “Congress makes laws, the judiciary interprets the laws, and the president makes sure the laws are executed. Yet, there is no end in sight to President Obama circumventing Congress and the Constitution to get whatever he wants.

“It’s got to stop, and the bills before the House are a reminder that we live in a democracy with a Constitution,” Crenshaw continued. “That means one person doesn’t get to decide how to execute the law of the land and when.

“The Enforce the Law Act requires the president to report directly to Congress when making a policy decision not to enforce a law; no more picking and choosing what parts of a law you want to carry out,” Crenshaw added. “One of the most egregious examples of overreach we’ve seen is with Obamacare. The Faithful Execution of the Law Act tackled this problem head-on by formally disapproving of the president’s failure to fulfill his duty to execute the law.”

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Former Florida Gov. Reubin Askew died in Tallahassee on Thursday after suffering aspirational pneumonia and a stroke. He was 85.  

Askew served as Florida's 37th governor from 1971-1979. The former state senator from Pensacola was best known for his promotion of fairer taxes as well as opposing racial segregation. He was the first governor in the state's history to be elected to consecutive terms.

Askew is considered one of the state's best governors -- the John F. Kennedy Institute from Harvard University ranked him as one of the top 10 governors in Florida history. 

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The Florida House of Representatives approved a set of bills on Wednesday to give violent sexual offenders longer sentences. 

Three Senate bills which passed on the first day of the legislative session were included in the four approved Wednesday. 

"This will make Florida the safest state in America to raise a family," said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar. "And the worst state for violent sexual predators."

Some provisions of the bills would make sure there are more notification requirements if a sexual predator is in custody or released from the Florida Civil Commitment Center. Another would require colleges and universities to notify students if a sexual predator was on campus.

Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, praised the bills: "It's a proud moment," she said.
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Former Florida Gov. Reubin Askew, the state’s 37th governor, is in very grave condition at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, where he was admitted Saturday.

According to Ron Sachs, a former aide to Askew, over the past three months the governor has suffered from aspiration pneumonia, hip surgery and, most recently, a stroke.

Gov. Askew’s condition is being closely monitored by family members at his side, including his wife of 57 years, Donna Lou, son Kevin Askew and his wife Christine, and daughter Angela White.

Gov. Askew, 85, served as the state’s chief executive from 1971-1979. Previously, he represented the Pensacola area in the Florida Senate. After leaving office, he served as U.S. trade ambassador in the Carter administration and currently holds an eminent scholar chair at the Reubin O'D. Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University.

The family asks that any media inquiries be directed to Sachs, now president of Sachs Media Group. He can be reached at 850-222-1996 or cell 850-321-8048, or media can contact Jon Peck at 850-222-1996 or cell 850-591-1715.

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The race to replace former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., is heating up in Southwest Florida as Republican primary candidates start to exchange fire. After Radel resigned at the end of January, three major Republican candidates started battling to replace him. Whoever wins the April 22 primary will have a clear advantage over Democrat April Freeman and Libertarian Rey Netherwood in the June 24 general election.

With polls showing a two-candidate race with former state Rep. Paige Kreegel in third, the team behind businessman Curtis Clawson launched a new television ad attacking Florida Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, for being a Democrat in her youth and voting for Medicaid expansion in Tallahassee.

John Yob, an adviser to Clawson, pointed to his candidate’s support of the “Penny Plan” which proposes to reduce the size of the federal government by 1 percent each year until the budget is balanced. Former U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., who held the seat before Radel, was the main author of the plan and is backing Clawson.

“Curt Clawson has stayed focused on his economic growth plan and Penny Plan,” Yob said. “Benacquisto has attempted to hide her past as a registered Democrat and her support for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion by launching false attacks against Curt Clawson. We urge her to stop running a dirty campaign and start talking about the issues that matter.”

The Clawson camp announced earlier this week they have decided to have their candidate not attend forums unless Benacquisto is present.

The Benacquisto campaign fired back with a statement released on Wednesday afternoon:

At the start of the campaign for Florida's 19th Congressional District, Curt Clawson claimed he would run a "clean" campaign. But the truth is, he’s already spent a million dollars telling voters he’s an outsider.

But now we know the truth.

Clawson’s another insider whose high-priced Washington handlers are pushing lie after lie on television.

His latest? A patently false attack ad that compares health care votes in the state Legislature to Obamacare. The truth? The New York Time’s couldn’t have been clearer than this March 11, 2013, headline: Medicaid Expansion Is Rejected in Florida.

This New York Times article clearly explains Lizbeth and the state Senate’s rejection of expanding Medicaid. In fact, the bill cited by Clawson is an absolute rejection of Obamacare and, in Congress, she will repeal Obamacare.

And Curt Clawson’s lies are piling up in his inside-out campaign.

Clawson denies trying to buy this election and yet he’s spending unprecedented amounts of cash. He claims he wants to hear from the people of Southwest Florida, yet as was reported yesterday, Clawson's high-priced Washington handlers have put him into hiding while he refuses to attend public events unless his list of demands is met. A digital journalist described this as Clawson "taking his ball and going home ..."

Voters deserve honest answers to the serious questions about his past business failures. Curt Clawson can’t hide from the truth.

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On Wednesday, Florida Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, announced two state reprsenatives were backing her bid for the Republican nomination in the special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., in Congress.

Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, and Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said they were backing Benacquisto over businessman Curt Clawson and former state Rep. Paige Kreegerl.

“Lizbeth has consistently fought to keep control in our hands – the people’s hands,” said Caldwell. “Politicians will not get us back on the right track. I know a citizen legislator like Lizbeth will take real conservative solutions to Washington.”

“Lizbeth is respected by her peers in the Senate for her tenacity, hard work and integrity,” said Passidomo. “She is a proven leader who has been involved in significant legislation that advances our conservative ideals, and I am confident that she will continue to represent us in Washington with the same integrity, values and commitment. The citizens of Southwest Florida know Lizbeth and can be assured that she will not let us down.”

“Matt and Kathleen understand the need for proven, conservative partners in Washington and I am proud to have their support,” said Benacquisto.

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Gov. Rick Scott headed to Panama City on Wednesday to showcase his budget proposal to send $1.1 billion for early childhood education and care, an increase of almost $60 million from last year.

“A quality early learning system is essential to provide Florida children with the tools they need to succeed,” Scott said. “This $1.1 billion investment will result in an increase of $100 per child for voluntary prekindergarten. This funding will help to better prepare children as they start school. As the grandfather of three young boys, I appreciate just how important these early years are and I want to be sure Florida’s children have the best early learning opportunities possible.”

Scott got some backing from legislative leaders from both parties on Wednesday.

“As a former high school principal and school superintendent, I know the importance of early education,” said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, the vice chairman of the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee. “Children deserve the best opportunity to succeed that we can offer and the earlier we begin, the better chances they have. Gov. Scott understands the importance of early learning for Florida children and I applaud his efforts to promote it.”

“Florida led the way early on when voters passed a constitutional amendment to start voluntary prekindergarten,” said Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, the chairman of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. “It is gratifying to see the governor continue to support our state’s early learning leadership.”

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National Right to Life claimed on Wednesday that Republican David Jolly’s victory over former state CFO Alex Sink in a special congressional election this week was a victory for opponents of abortion.

“David Jolly’s victory in Florida is a clear victory for the right-to-life movement,” said Carol Tobias, the president of National Right to Life. “The contrast between David Jolly and Alex Sink on the life issues could not have been clearer and pro-life voters made their voices heard loud and clear.”

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Wednesday is the day to celebrate all things tourism for Florida Tourism Day in Tallahassee. The day will consist of leadership speeches, legislative appointments and a Florida Tourism Day street festival. 

According to the Partnership for Florida's Tourism, the purpose of Florida Tourism Day is to "educate the Legislature, media and Floridians about the importance of Florida’s tourism industry and the rationale for the public funding request to increase tourism marketing efforts."

Tourism is a booming business in Florida -- approximately 94.7 million visitors came to the state in 2013, making it a record year for visitation to Florida and exceeding the previous high of 91.5 million visitors in 2012.

"2013 marked the third consecutive record year for Florida tourism," said Will Seccombe, president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. "Given that we have the best tourism product on the planet, visionary public-sector leadership from Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature, nearly 1.1 million Floridians who provide exceptional service to our visitors every day, and highly impactful marketing programs from VISIT FLORIDA and our destination marketing partners across the state, Florida is well-positioned to become the No. 1 travel destination in the world." 
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