Sunshine State News Blogs

On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, to introduce a bill putting sanctions on Russia for violating the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Rubio’s bill would impose sanctions and stop nuclear cooperation with Russia until it is back in compliance with the treaty. The proposal would also ensure the U.S. researches its own intermediate-range weapons, which is allowed under the INF treaty.

“Russia has become a rogue actor on the world stage, with no regard for upholding its international obligations and basic norms,” said Rubio. “Russia’s recent violation of a decades-old arms control treaty that was negotiated to eliminate an entire class of missiles that threatened our allies and deployed forces cannot go unanswered.

“This legislation is urgently needed to ensure that the United States is prepared for any outcome from this blatant treaty violation and that the administration adequately responds,” Rubio insisted.
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The Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) took aim at Amendment 2, a proposed amendment to the state Constitution which will allow more medical marijuana options in Florida. A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this week found 88 percent of Floridians support medical marijuana though the survey did not focus on Amendment 2. The poll also showed 55 percent of Florida voters backed the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

“Regardless of any state laws, recreational marijuana use is still illegal on the federal level because of its high potential for abuse and the fact that there is no currently accepted national standard for use as a medical treatment,” said Chief Frank Kitzerow, the president of the FPCA, on Thursday. “It’s important to understand that expanding the use of marijuana for medical purposes is not a safer way to use the drug.”

Kitzerow pointed to studies which “show that marijuana use and criminal involvement – other than drug use – are highly related” and car accidents involving marijuana after Colorado legalized it for medicinal reasons.
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Florida TaxWatch and the Florida Ports Council reviewed port governance, examining how the Sunshine State’s ports were doing as they ready for the Panama Canal expansion.

"Florida seaports are performing very well under a decentralized governance model, managing and meeting their local needs while implementing a state level strategy to holistically enhance Florida's economic climate," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, on Thursday.
"What this data shows is that Florida ports already share the characteristics that determine long-term success for ports around the world," said Doug Wheeler, the president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council. "We are always looking for opportunities to improve and will continue to strive toward increases in efficiency and innovation."
The two groups looked at other states with decentralized ports and found they were some of the best run in the nation. The report can be read here.

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From his seat on the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., said he supports the VA reform agreement crafted by his chairman, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

“The emergency legislation unveiled today helps clear the veteran wait lists and eliminating those waits must be a priority, which is why I’m calling on Congress to act this week and approve this bill before the start of the August district work period,” said Jolly on Tuesday.

“This bill is a good first step and provides some immediate relief,” Jolly added. “But we must continue working on a long-term solution to this crisis. We need to give every veteran a choice card so they have complete control of their health care, and if they want to go outside the VA system to a private provider they can do so.”
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The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) endorsed banker Jay Fant over attorney and veteran Paul Renner in one of the most competitive Republican legislative primaries in Florida. Fant and Renner are running for the Florida House seat currently held by Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville, who did not run for a third term so he could lead the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. The seat represents parts of Duval County, including Jacksonville's Westside.

““Jay’'s business experience in the district has given him an understanding of the issues facing Florida'’s small-business owners, and his focus on reducing taxes and regulations, enacting lawsuit reform, and eliminating the roadblocks hindering small-business growth show that he'’s committed to helping Florida'’s job creators,”” said Bill Herrle, the executive director of the Florida NFIB, on Tuesday. ““Jay is the best candidate in the district who is fully devoted to supporting small business in the Florida House, and we feel he can provide steady leadership to ensure that Florida maintains its pro-business climate.” Jay’'s emphasis on reducing the burdens placed on small-business owners shows his dedication to helping entrepreneurs succeed.”

“"As a career small-business man, I am honored by NFIB's endorsement," said Fant. “"Their commitment to conservative principles, limited government, and free enterprise match up with mine, and I look forward to working closely with them in the Florida Legislature. By reducing taxes and reshaping our regulatory structure to work with businesses instead of against them, we will create an economic environment in which everyone can succeed."
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The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) released a digital ad on Wednesday which has former Gov. Charlie Crist debating himself. The ad showcases Crist, the favorite to win the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in next month’s primary despite spending most of his political life in the GOP, taking both sides of positions on Obamacare, taxes, the Cuba embargo, same-sex marriage and other issues.

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“Charlie Crist is a skilled debater – that happens when you debate yourself every day because you’ve been on both sides of every issue,” said RPOF Chairwoman Leslie Dougher on Wednesday before calling on Crist to debate his primary opponent. “So why not debate Sen. Nan Rich? What does he have to hide? He’s had more than enough practice.”
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On Wednesday, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) endorsed Gov. Rick Scott for re-election.

“There is no question this governor understands the importance of tourism and the vital role the hospitality industry plays in job creation and economic development,” said Carol Dover, the president and CEO of the FRLA. “On behalf of our more than 10,000 members representing hoteliers, restaurateurs and suppliers, we are thrilled to give our strongest of endorsements to Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera this election cycle.”

“Gov. Scott led the charge in securing $75 million for Visit Florida tourism marketing, and $700,000 for our Hospitality Education Program (HEP) which helps train the next generation of industry professionals,” said James McManemon, the general manager of the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island and the 2014 chairman of the FRLA. “His goal in attracting 100 million visitors to our state is one that FRLA not only supports, but is working together in providing both residents and tourists the best possible experience in our hotels, our restaurants and all that Florida has to offer.”

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Florida Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, wants answers on All Aboard Florida’s lease with the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority. Altman is asking Attorney General Pam Bondi for her opinion on the lease, especially as the senators says the lease ensures All Aboard Florida’s trains won’t stop in Brevard and Indian River counties.

“The practical application is there will never be stops in Brevard and Indian River counties if they have to make up for revenue lost from the tolls not collected due to the decreased automobiles traveling to Orlando,” Altman said. That is an extra-territorial tax imposed by the Expressway Authority.

“It also concerns me greatly that the citizens of the Space and Treasure coasts are not represented on the Expressway Authority,” Altman added.  “I no longer call it All Aboard Florida but ‘Not Onboard Florida.’”
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U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., is the chief backer of the  “Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act) which creates tax-free saving accounts for disabled Americans. Crenshaw’s proposal has 375 House co-sponsors and 74 backers in the Senate but it has made little progress in Congress since it was first brought out in 2006.

But that could be changing. Crenshaw announced on Tuesday that the ABLE Act will be facing a vote on the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday.

“More than three-quarters of the members of the House and Senate have co-sponsored this landmark bill, and a July 24 Senate Finance Subcommittee hearing shed more light on the need for the ABLE Act,” said Crenshaw. “Now, on Thursday, July 31, the House Ways and Means Committee will consider the legislation. Step by step, with focus and determination, we are adding more information to the record and further opening the door to turn ABLE from legislation into the law of the land. We will level the playing field for individuals with disabilities and their families so they can take advantage of the same financial planning tools that are available to other Americans.”
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Former state Rep. Carl Domino, running in the Republican primary to take on U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., launched a new TV ad commercial on Tuesday. In the new ad, Domino focuses on his biography, including his service in the military and his success in the private sector. This marks Domino’s first TV ad of the campaign.

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Basking in the glow of a Quinnipiac poll showing him taking 9 percent against Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, Libertarian gubernatorial nominee Adrian Wyllie plans to tour Florida in August, hitting craft breweries across the Sunshine State.

"We are taking our grassroots campaign on the road to meet Floridians, to show them that I’m for real, and that this is truly a three-way race for governor,” said Wyllie on Wednesday.

“With Adrian’s climbing poll numbers and major press coverage, the timing of this tour couldn’t be better,” said Danielle Alexandre, Wyllie’s campaign manager. “People across the state are very excited about it.”

Wyllie is touring the breweries to turn the spotlight to small businesses which he says the major parties have hurt.

“As a small-business owner, I know firsthand the obstacles government places in our path, and how they can crush an entire industry with the stroke of a pen,” said Wyllie, “If we truly want to restore the economy and create real jobs, we first have to get government out of our way … and that’s what I intend to do as governor.
“We certainly don’t have a 60-foot tour bus, we won’t be staying at five-star hotels, and we’ll probably be eating at IHOP,” Wyllie added. “But, that doesn’t matter to us. What’s important is that the people of Florida know that they have a third choice in this election … and a chance to end the corruption, and to restore economic freedom and individual liberty.”
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Florida's back-to-school tax holiday will hit stores across the state this weekend, and government watchdog Florida TaxWatch is weighing in on the possible savings the holiday has in store for Floridians. 

"This weekend from Aug. 1-3, Floridians will save nearly $40 million in taxes while they shop tax-free for back-to-school supplies," said Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro.

"As a taxpayer watchdog, Florida TaxWatch has long supported sales tax holidays in Florida," he continued. "They are a great way to lower the tax burden and provide broad-based relief for hard-working Floridians."

Calabro explained that over the last 16 years, the back-to-school sales tax holiday has saved Florida taxpayers nearly $408 million. 

A fact sheet on the holiday can be viewed here.  
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U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., joined on-board as the House sponsor of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s, R-Fla.,  “Let Seniors Work Act" on Tuesday. The proposal will repeal the Retirement Earnings Test and will stop the 12.4 percent payroll tax for working seniors.

“Senior citizens should not face punitive taxes if they choose to continue working beyond the retirement age,” DeSantis said. “They should not be taxed further but instead should be free to contribute to our economy. The Let Seniors Work Act will empower seniors by giving them the freedom to remain in the workforce without being subject to counterproductive penalties. I look forward to working with Sen. Rubio to advance this important legislation.”

"There are currently too many perverse disincentives for healthy and hard-working seniors to leave the workforce instead of staying in it to the benefit of our economy,” Rubio said. “We need to make sure that seniors can keep working if they so choose without being hit by de facto financial penalties. I'm excited to have Ron DeSantis leading this effort in the House. As representatives of Florida's large senior population, we know what a boon this reform would be to our entire country but especially to our state."
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U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., took to the floor of Congress on Tuesday to call on America to support Israel in the current crisis in the Middle East.

“I rise in defense of Israel in their defensive war against Hamas,” DeSantis said.

The freshman congressman called Hamas a “terrorist organization” and “an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood” that wants to destroy Israel.

“Hamas desires a second Holocaust although they won’t acknowledge the first one happened,” DeSantis said. “We need to stand with Israel at this critical juncture.”
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Gov. Rick Scott’s team announced on Tuesday that he would engage in three debates in the fall: the Telemundo debate on Oct. 10, Leadership Florida’s debate at Broward College on Oct. 15 and CNN’s debate on Oct. 21.  

“The great thing about debates is that they allow candidates to discuss their vision and their plans directly with the voters,” Scott said before taking a shot at former Gov. Charlie Crist for ducking debates with primary rival former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich. “The only other time I ran for office I participated in debates in both the primary and general elections. Candidates who refuse to debate show a disdain for the voters and for their opponent. I look forward to a great exchange of ideas with either Charlie Crist or Nan Rich, whoever emerges from the primary in late August.”
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Count U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., as a fan of the congressional agreement to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. While he does not serve on the Veterans Affairs Committee, Rubio had been part of the team which was trying to find common ground between the various VA agreements emerging from the Democratic-controlled Senate and the GOP-led House.

Rubio gave U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, high praise for his leadership on the matter.

“Despite the dysfunction it exhibited at times, it’s been my honor to serve on this conference committee,” Rubio said. “I also want to take this opportunity to commend Congressman Jeff Miller, the lead Republican negotiator on this committee. I’ve known Jeff for many years and had the privilege of working with him in the Florida House. I’ve always known that Jeff Miller is the real deal when it comes to public service, and this experience further solidified that impression. Florida’s Panhandle, our entire state and all our veterans are fortunate to have Jeff Miller championing their causes.”

Rubio also gave the agreement high marks.

“This VA reform agreement is an important step forward to begin addressing the dysfunction and incompetence that are plaguing our VA system and hurting our veterans,” Rubio said. “By providing our veterans with more doctor choices outside the VA system, this takes significant steps to make sure that those who have served our country aren’t condemned to endless waiting times just to get an appointment.”

Rubio weighed in on his proposal to allow the VA secretary to fire incompetent employees. Rubio’s proposal was included in the final agreement though it has been altered to allow more appeals.

“I have fought to reform the VA, and a key part of this fight has been to hold bad managers accountable,” Rubio said. “After the scandal erupted earlier this year, my biggest priority was to make sure that my legislation making it easier to fire incompetent, negligent or dishonest managers was included in any reform. During the conference committee, I’m proud that this provision became even stronger than what the Senate passed earlier this year. It’s time to end the shameful VA status quo that has made it easier for bad workers to receive bonuses than get fired.”

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During a U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee meeting on Monday, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., said President Barack Obama’s health-care law contained “illegal bailouts to insurance companies” and reiterated his opposition to it.

“The nature and legality of payments under the risk corridor program are troubling,” Bilirakis said. “The administration plans to put taxpayers on the hook for bailouts to insurance companies. This is outrageous and completely unacceptable. The president’s health-care law includes government mandates, taxes, and cuts to Medicare, and now, illegal bailouts to insurance companies.

“Beyond the issue of taxpayer bailouts, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has said the administration cannot make payments through this program without additional legislative authority, and yet they plan to do so,” Bilirakis added. “The risk corridor program is marred by serious legal and practical issues – just like the entirety of the president’s health-care law.”
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Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida Inc. (ABC) on Monday announced the endorsement of Rick Scott to serve a second term as Florida's governor.

"ABC stands for free enterprise, lower taxes, and fiscal responsibility and Rick Scott shares our philosophy," ABC of Florida Chairman Adam McKinnon said in a written statement. “We look forward to doing all we can to re-elect Rick Scott the next governor of Florida." ABC has awarded Gov. Scott its “Defender of Free Enterprise Award” for his commitment to free enterprise.

Orlando-based ABC is Florida's largest merit shop commercial construction trade association. ABC represents more than 1,500 companies, and its members employ more than 100,000 Floridians. 

“I thank the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida for their support as we work hard to make Florida the best place in the country to start a business, find a job, raise a family, and live the American dream,” Gov. Scott said in his reply. “I am confident we will continue to build support in the business community for an agenda that focused on creating jobs, keeping taxes low and jump-starting our economy.”

With five Florida chapters, ABC has the largest apprenticeship-training program in the state. It has developed the curriculum for construction workers and partnered with community colleges and vocational education schools to provide training while working full-time . 

Mckinnon stated, "Rick Scott is a strong supporter of our efforts to provide training to those individuals who choose not to attend college. We provide an alternative for those students to gain meaningful and marketable skills, which lead to higher paying jobs. Rick Scott recognizes the importance of training for high-skill and high-wage jobs."

ABC is a national trade association representing more than 23,000 contractors, subcontractors, material suppliers and professional firms from across the country and from all specialties in the commercial construction industry. It is "committed to developing a safe workplace and a high­ performing workforce through quality education and training with comprehensive safety and health programs."

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Same-sex marriage has been making headlines over the last few weeks in the Sunshine State after a Monroe County judge ruled that Florida's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, but now the gay couple fighting for their right to marry is planning on taking their case to the Florida Supreme Court.

Attorneys for the couple filed paperwork on Monday to move the case from an appeals court to the state's highest court.

"The constitutionality of Florida's laws barring same-sex couples from marriage is an issue of great public importance that has a great effect on the proper administration of justice throughout the state," the couple's lawyers, Bernadette Restivo and Elena Vigil-Fariñas, wrote to the 3rd District Court of Appeal. 

The attorneys also said a decision from the Supreme Court would provide "uniform direction and guidance" to state clerks and government entities across the state. They also wrote that the issue was one "of great public importance" that affects same-sex couples and their children across the state.

On July 17, Judge Luis Garcia ruled the ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and even said same-sex couples could begin marrying as soon as July 22, but the decision was halted after Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed Garcia's decision. 

The appeals court gave Bondi 10 days to respond.

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The Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot coalition claimed there were “flaws in the misleading Quinnipiac poll” released on Monday which shows Floridians overwhelmingly backing medical marijuana in the Sunshine State, noting it does not touch on Amendment 2 which will be on the November ballot.

The coalition released the following statement:

Sadly, the Quinnipiac poll released today continues to poll Floridians with general questions that they are more likely to support. The poll fails at its one job: to ask about Florida’s actual Amendment 2. This poll simply does not address the realities of this dangerous amendment.

Floridians will not be voting on whether their physician can prescribe marijuana. This amendment would allow storefront docs (similar to pot docs), with no relationship to patients, to simply recommend pot to anyone with even a slight ache. The poll also asks if people are OK with "a" dispensary in their community, yet Amendment 2 would allow unlimited pot shops in communities. The Department of Health estimates there will be close to 1,800 of these shops statewide. Clearly this poll had little to do with what Floridians will vote on in November.

If Floridians were given all the details about this amendment, the poll results would be drastically different. The most devastating details that Floridians should know include:

Pot for Anyone Loophole
Amendment 2 does not require a doctor’s prescription in order to obtain medical pot, because a prescription would violate federal law. Amendment 2 authors define “debilitating medical condition” as any condition from back pain to trouble sleeping. As a result, anyone who wants pot will get it.

Drug Dealer Loophole
Amendment 2 allows so-called “caregivers” to dispense medical pot. Caregivers do not need medical training. They can be felons -- even drug dealers. It will be easier to get a caregiver’s license than a driver’s license. Caregivers can supply marijuana for up to five people and DOH estimates there will be 250,000 of them.

Teenager Loophole
Under Amendment 2, teens and children will be able to legally purchase pot without their parents’ consent. Amendment 2 places no age restrictions on pot smoking. Law enforcement officials in California and Colorado say most teens found with marijuana got it from someone with a medical card.

Pill Mill Loophole
Amendment 2 places no restrictions on the location of seedy pot shops. Like “pill mills,” look for “pot docs” to spring up next to restaurants, schools, churches and supermarkets.

The language of the amendment is broad and raises major concerns related to public safety. Floridians cannot be expected to support something that is incomplete, flawed and dangerous.
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U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., introduced the “To Help Reduce Inefficient Federal Tendencies (THRIFT) Act” on Friday. Webster says his bill empowers federal agencies to examine and  cut wasteful spending by encouraging assessment.

“Fraud, waste, and abuse are often linked together in discussing Washington’s economic woes,” Webster said on Friday. “Fraud and abuse are both against the law, but waste is often rewarded. Perverse incentives currently exist that strongly encourage federal agencies to spend every dollar they are appropriated. Reversing that incentive by rewarding efficiency will produce savings to the American taxpayer, improve operation of our federal agencies, and ultimately better services for taxpayers.

“In order to curb this practice of rewarding wasteful government spending, I introduced the To Help Reduce Inefficient Federal Tendencies (THRIFT) Act,” Webster continued. “The THRIFT Act provides a process for federal departments and agencies to evaluate their own spending and to identify measures that will reduce costs and improve efficiency. Public servants know the intricacies of their operations – including where the fat could be trimmed without limiting services – so the THRIFT Act provides them an actual incentive for blowing the whistle on waste.

“Getting our nation’s fiscal house in order starts with a Congress that is willing to cut waste and live within its means," Webster said in conclusion. “Families make these tough fiscal decisions every day. It is time for Washington to get serious about doing more with less.”
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A group of teachers headed to Washington, D.C., on Monday to protest the Common Core State Standards engulfing the nation in a sea of controversy.

The Badass Teachers Association, which consists of over 100,000 teachers, rallied in the nation's capital to make their voices heard over the last 12 years of federal education, which they see as a significant problem as educators in the U.S.

In the group's manifesto, the BATs demand the end of high-stakes testing as well as teaching to a set of "narrow, top-down-based" standards.

The BATs also called for the resignation of U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan as well as severing ties with Teach for America.

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Democrats are tuning out of the primary race to see who challenges Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in November, a new poll finds.

A poll from Gravis Marketing and conservative magazine Human Events released over the weekend shows the overwhelming majority of likely Democratic primary voters -- 67 percent -- remain unsure of who they will vote for to challenge Bondi. The primary will be on Aug. 26.

Former DCF Secretary George Sheldon, who ran for attorney general in 2002 after serving as then-Attorney General Bob Butterworth’s deputy, takes 18 percent in the poll. Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, garners 15 percent.

“The race is a clear tossup. With a whopping two-thirds of the respondents unsure of who to vote for, the race is clearly up for grabs,” said Doug Kaplan of Gravis.

The poll of 792 likely Democratic primary voters was taken from July 23-24 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

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A poll from Gravis Marketing and conservative magazine Human Events released over the weekend shows former Gov. Charlie Crist, a former Republican who joined the Democrats in December 2012, holds a commanding lead over former Florida Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich in next month’s primary to see who will challenge Gov. Rick Scott in November.

The poll finds Crist takes 68 percent of likely Democratic primary voters. Rich is far behind with 20 percent. With a month to go, 12 percent remain undecided.

The poll of 792 likely Democratic primary voters was taken from July 23-24 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.
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The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) released a new TV ad on Monday, contrasting Gov. Rick Scott’s record on jobs to former Gov. Charlie Crist’s. Despite having spent most of his life in the GOP, Crist is the favorite to win the Democratic primary next month to challenge Scott in November. The ad showcases Floridians weighing in on job creation under Scott and Crist.

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“Rick Scott’s singular focus on getting Floridians back to work has resulted in the creation of over 620,000 private-sector jobs and an economy that is one of the nation’s leading job creators,” said Leslie Dougher, the chairwoman of the RPOF. “In contrast, four years ago Charlie Crist ran away and left Florida’s economy a complete mess. The choice is clear: we can’t go back.”
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Florida TaxWatch praised the Legislature for cutting more than $550 million in revenue and leaving $1.65 billion in reserve.

"Florida TaxWatch commends the Legislature for reducing taxes while still being able to increase funding in many important areas, such as education funding," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, on Monday. "Fiscal stewards in the Legislature wisely did not spend all of their available revenue; rather, they left a considerable amount in reserves, which strengthens Florida's fiscal future. However, TaxWatch encourages the Legislature to improve the integrity and transparency of the appropriations process to ensure accountability in budgeting."

Florida TaxWatch released a report on Monday which also showed taxes and fees were cut by more than $417 million this year and more than $469 million next year.

Kurt Wenner, the vice president of tax research for Florida TaxWatch, warned that next year could be more difficult.

"The revenue reductions passed by the 2014 Legislature were reasonable, but they do create a tighter budget outlook for next year," said Wenner. "The Legislature is now expected to have only $128 million more in general revenue available for the next budget."

The report can be read here.
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Earlier this month, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Israel has "surpassed Hitler in barbarism" with its actions in Gaza.

"(Israelis) have no conscience, no honour, no pride,” Erdogan said. “Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.”

While Erdogan said Turks should not engage in anti-Semitic activities, two congressmen from Florida -- U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla. -- condemned the remarks. The two congressmen co-chair the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance.

“The outrageous rhetoric being attributed to Prime Minister Erdogan in his recent public speeches and interviews is par for the course,” Bilirakis said. “Accusing the state of Israel of engaging in systematic genocide and calling the country a terror state is not only wildly inaccurate, but laughable coming from a leader who has exhibited hostility to the rule of law by depriving his own citizens basic human rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of speech. Israel has endured rocket fire for years yet has shown extraordinary restraint in the face of the existential threats it faces on a daily basis. Still yet, Hamas has refused cease-fire agreements and has continued to attack Israel and her civilians while Erdogan’s inflammatory rhetoric stokes the fires of war. It is shameful and it should be condemned.”

“Prime Minister Erdogan’s accusation that Israel is committing war crimes worse than Hitler’s Nazi regime is despicable and is a disgraceful affront to the memory of the 6 million people who perished in the Holocaust,” Deutch said. “It is Hamas, not Israel, that is refusing to accept a cease-fire and choosing to continue firing rockets indiscriminately at innocent Israelis. It is Hamas, not Israel, that is deliberately using ordinary Palestinians as human shields for their rockets while its terror leaders flee to fortified bunkers. If the prime minister wishes to speak out against violations of international law, he should call on Hamas to accept a cease-fire and recognize Israel’s right to exist, instead of drawing despicable comparisons to the systematic slaughter of millions during the Holocaust.”

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On Friday, U.S. Rep.  Steve Southerland, R-Fla., brought out the “Right to Haul Act" which will extend state weight limits to federal roads for forestry and agriculture freight.
“Across North and Northwest Florida, loggers and agriculture haulers have suffered significantly under a patchwork system of state and federal truck weight regulations,” Southerland said. “My legislation will standardize this system by recognizing each state’s right to determine the appropriate weight limit within its own boundary. This common-sense legislation will strengthen our local timber and agriculture industries to help grow jobs and create more efficient and successful operations.”
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A poll released Monday morning from Quinnipiac University found overwhelming support for a proposed state constitutional amendment allowing more medical marijuana use in Florida. The poll shows 88 percent of Florida voters support the legalization of medical marijuana while only 10 percent oppose it, far over the 60 percent threshold needed to pass on the November ballot.

The poll finds voters of all ages support medical marijuana use with voters under 30 offering the most support as 95 percent of them back it and only 5 percent of them oppose it. Voters older than 65 are the most likely to oppose medical marijuana but even they are overwhelmingly in its corner. The poll finds 83 percent of voters older than 65 back medical marijuana while only 13 percent oppose it.

"Forget the stereotypes of stodgy old folks living out their golden years playing canasta and golf," said Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, on Monday. "Almost nine-in-10 Floridians favor legalizing medical marijuana and a small majority says adults should be able to possess small amounts of the drug for recreational purposes.

"Even though a proposal to legalize medical marijuana, on the ballot this November, must meet a 60 percent threshold, these numbers make a strong bet the referendum is likely to pass," said Brown.

The poll of 1,251 Florida registered voters was taken from July 17-21 and had a margin of error +/- 2.8 percent.

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Gov. Rick Scott announced on Thursday that GE’s Energy Management is launching a new facility in Clearwater, investing $50 million and creating 250 new jobs.

“General Electric Energy Management’s investment in Clearwater is great news for Florida families,” Scott said. “The creation of 250 jobs means more Floridians will be able to provide for their families and pursue their dreams in the Sunshine State. Florida businesses have already created more than 620,000 private-sector jobs since December 2010, and we will continue to create an opportunity economy where every Floridian can live the American dream.”

“Thanks to the support from Gov. Scott, Commissioner Roche and Mayor Cretekos, we are well-positioned to more quickly deliver improved outcomes for our customers and solve some of the world’s toughest energy problems,” said GE Energy Management CEO Mark Begor. “From this facility, we’ll serve customers as close as Duke Energy right here in Florida, and as far away as Southeast Asia and South America.”
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