Sunshine State News Blogs

Gov. Rick Scott is keeping Ken Lawson as secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

“I am proud to announce the reappointment of Ken Lawson as secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation,” Scott said on Tuesday. “Ken has worked every day to streamline the permitting process and reduce burdensome regulations. Under his leadership at DBPR, we have cut professional license wait times from 41 days to an average of two days. Ken has played an integral role in creating a business climate conducive to growth and expansion."

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to continue my work with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation,” Lawson said. “Our department is committed to creating an environment for all businesses to succeed.”

Lawson started at his post in March 2011 after serving as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida and as an assistant secretary of enforcement for the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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Gov. Rick Scott announced on Tuesday that juvenile arrests continued to drop in Florida, with a reduction of 8 percent in 2013-14. A new report from the state Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has found a 36 percent decline in juvenile arrests in the last five years, leading to the lowest juvenile arrest level in more than 30 years..

“Making Florida the best state in the nation to get a job and raise a family is our mission – and that starts with making sure we have safe communities for our families and job creators,” Scott said on Tuesday. “I would like to thank everyone at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and our hard-working law enforcement community for their continued work.”

“This decrease in arrests over nearly every juvenile offense category, including serious offenses, shows that DJJ’s reform initiatives are working,” said Interim Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina Daly. “Our department made a commitment to transforming our state’s juvenile justice system to provide the right services to Florida’s youth while remaining focused on increasing public safety. While we are proud of the work we’ve done, this is only the beginning of what our agency, along with our many stakeholders, can accomplish.”

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Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced on Monday that her office has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of a federal decision which would allow same-sex marriage in the Sunshine State. Under the current decision, the amendment to the Florida Constitution recognizing only traditional marriage approved by voters at the ballot box in 2008 will come to an end on Jan. 5.

“When the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida ordered the Washington County clerk of court to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, it temporarily stayed the order,” Bondi’s office announced on Monday. “That stay is now set to expire at the end of the day on Jan. 5, 2015. The recent decision denying a longer stay has created statewide confusion about the effect of the injunction, which is directed to only one of Florida's sixty-seven clerks of court.

“In a continuation of the effort to maintain uniformity and order throughout Florida until final resolution of the numerous challenges to the voter-approved constitutional amendment on marriage, the attorney general’s office filed with the United States Supreme Court an application to extend the stay,” Bondi added. “If the Supreme Court grants the application, the stay will remain in place during the state's appeal. If the Supreme Court denies the stay, then the preliminary injunction will become effective at the end of the day on Jan. 5, 2015.”

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The Revenue Estimating Conference released a report on Monday showing Florida’s general revenue is up $296 million while next year the general revenue will be almost $332 million higher than expected forecasts.

Gov. Rick Scott said the increased revenue shows Florida’s economy is coming back strong.

“Today’s news of increased revenue reflects the positive steps we are taking to grow our economy,” Scott said on Monday. “We are working every day to make Florida the premier destination in the world for business and I applaud our job creators who have helped add almost 680,000 new private-sector jobs in less than four years. Job growth is an indicator of our economic strength and we hope to see even more gains. Because we are creating an environment where our private sector can succeed, our economy is growing which makes it possible for us to invest in areas important to Florida families. I look forward to working with the Legislature to continue to cut taxes by $1 billion over the next two years and increase K-12 per pupil funding to the highest level in our state’s history this coming year.”

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Gov. Rick Scott said on Monday that Dr. John Armstrong will stay on in his administration as Florida surgeon general and secretary of the Florida Department of Health (DOH).

“As a medical professional and expert in public health preparedness, Dr. Armstrong has dedicated his life to serving others,” Scott said on Monday. “He has been a great leader at DOH, and has worked each day to support public health goals, link Floridians to needed health care services, and educate communities on good health habits. Dr. Armstrong has also taken every possible step to ensure our state and hospitals are fully prepared to handle any potential cases of Ebola. I am confident he will continue to work toward improving the health and wellness of our state as we make Florida the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to continue my service to the state of Florida as state surgeon general and secretary of DOH,” Armstrong said. “We are committed to working with Gov. Scott and communities across the state in order to protect and promote the health of all Floridians.”

Armstrong was named to his current post back in April 2012.

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Former Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) Chairman Lenny Curry announced on Monday that he had reeled in the support of three members of the Florida Cabinet as he runs against Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, the first Democrat to hold that post since former Mayor Ed Austin in the early 1990s. State Attorney General Pam Bondi, Florida’s CFO Jeff Atwater and state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said on Monday they were backing Curry.

"For these three principled conservatives to offer their support and place their trust in me is humbling," said Curry. "I am proud that such respected leaders have joined our campaign to make Jacksonville a city where every person in every neighborhood can see their dreams become a reality."

Curry is not the only Republican looking to beat Brown. Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop is also running in the March 24 election and there is some buzz that former state Rep. Mike Hogan, who Brown beat in 2011, could emerge for another run. There are no party primaries in the Jacksonville mayoral race. If no candidate gets a majority on March 24, the top two candidates will face a runoff election on May 19.

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As the Democrats ready to cede control of the U.S. Senate to Republicans in the coming weeks, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., now in the middle of his third term, will rank as one of the senior Democrats in the chamber.

The Senate Democratic leadership announced its committee assignments on Friday and Nelson garnered a few plum assignments. Nelson will lead Democrats on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and sit on the Armed Services, Finance and Aging committees. Nelson will be the second highest Democrat on Armed Services and is the senior -- but not ranking -- member of his party on the Aging Committee.

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U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, announced on Friday that he would take up U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho’s, R-Fla., “Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act” in the Senate. Yoho’s bill to prevent President Barack Obama from using an executive order to allow illegals a path to stay in the nation passed the U.S. House earlier this month.

"I believe that the Constitution is clear that the legislative power resides in Congress,” Paul said on Friday. “The president is not a king and he does not have the power to enact laws then execute his own laws. Our Constitution is being violated by this executive order and other actions by the Obama administration to govern by executive fiat.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The survey of 1,000 American adults was conducted Dec. 4-5 by Rasmussen Reports.
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Gov. Rick Scott announced on Tuesday that he was keeping Barbara Palmer as director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). Palmer took over the post in August 2012 after serving as chief of staff for the agency for a year and, before that, working as an assistant secretary for administration at the Department of Children and Families.

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

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

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

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

H/T Politicalwire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott also recognized a Floridian killed in the attack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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