Sunshine State News Blogs

On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott named Duval County Court Judge Angela Cox to replace former Chief Judge Donald Moran on the 4th Judicial Circuit, covering Clay, Duval and Nassau counties.

“As a county court judge, Judge Cox has demonstrated dedication to serving Florida families with dignity and integrity,” Scott said. “I am confident she will continue to honorably serve as a circuit court judge to families in the 4th Judicial Circuit.”

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Clifford Wilson will be interim secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as current Secretary Herschel Vinyard leaves his post on Dec. 1.

“Sec. Vinyard was instrumental in helping us protect Florida’s environment for future generations, and we are thankful for his service to Florida families,” said Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday. “As deputy secretary for regulatory programs, Cliff Wilson has helped lead DEP's efforts to protect Florida’s natural treasures. With his knowledge and experience, Wilson will ensure the department continues to support Florida’s environment.”

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Gov. Rick Scott and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Tuesday a saltwater license-free fishing day for Nov. 29.

On this day, Florida residents and visitors "can experience Florida’s unique saltwater fishing opportunities firsthand" without being required to have a recreational saltwater fishing license, according to a press statement from the governor's office.

Said Scott, “Florida is the fishing capital of the world and this saltwater license-free fishing day is a great opportunity to introduce friends and family to the joys of fishing during the holiday season. Florida has many natural treasures and I encourage all Floridians and visitors to head to Florida’s coast and experience Florida saltwater fishing.”

Florida offers eight license-free fishing opportunities a year, including four in fresh water and four in salt water.

An annual license for residents can be purchased at 1-888-FISH-Florida or at License.MyFWC.com. All fishing license fees are used to support Florida fish and wildlife conservation and help attain additional funding for Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration projects.

All bag limits, seasons and size restrictions apply on these dates. For fishing tips, locations and rules, visit MyFWC.com/Fishing.

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U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called for more sanctions on Iran, even as the P5+1 extended talks with that nation on its nuclear program after Monday’s deadline passed.

"A seven-month extension for 'negotiations' will provide Iran with $4.9 billion in sanctions relief and will give Iran valuable time to achieve its nuclear goals,” DeSantis said. “Iran has cheated on the interim agreement and has refused access to key nuclear facilities. Iran seeks a nuclear weapon, not admission to the diplomatic good graces of the so-called international community. The new Congress should put an end to this charade and enact enhanced sanctions that hold this nefarious regime accountable."

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Florida TaxWatch released an economic commentary on Tuesday showing holiday sales will be on the rise from last year but insisted online sales continue to hurt revenue.

"Florida's retail industry is alive and well, producing more jobs and bolstering state revenues, which enables our elected officials to fund necessary programs that benefit all Floridians," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch on Tuesday.

Jerry Parrish, the chief economist for Florida TaxWatch, said increased tourism will help Florida garner more revenue.

"Tourists visiting Florida have a huge impact on our state," Parrish said. "The tourism marketing investments Florida has made are paying off in many other industries, not just retail."

"Florida businesses lose out on sales and the schoolchildren and elderly residents who depend on programs funded through the state budget lose out on services, all because of Florida's antiquated remote sales law," Calabro said. "The businesses that are investing in our state's communities and providing jobs to hard-working Floridians should not be penalized, and consumers shouldn't face the burden of remitting their own taxes. It is past time to modernize the way Florida collects sales taxes."

The commentary can be read here.

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Phoenix VA Health Care System Director Sharon Helman was at the center of much of the firestorm that erupted after news emerged of altered waiting lists at VA medical centers across the nation. In Phoenix alone, at least 40 veterans on altered waitlists died while waiting for treatment.

On Monday, the VA announced Helman had been fired, bringing some applause from U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

“VA will never regain the trust of America’s veterans and American taxpayers until all of the corrupt senior executives who created the biggest scandal in the department’s history are held accountable to the maximum extent under the law,” Miller said on Monday. “Sharon Helman's removal is a positive step, but there are still many more VA scandal figures who also must be purged from the department's payroll in order for veterans and families to receive the closure they deserve."

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U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, urged President Barack Obama to quickly replace Chuck Hagel, who is on his way out as secretary of defense.

“Through the Vietnam War, as a United States senator, and as secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel has devoted himself to our nation, and deserves our thanks," Crenshaw said on Monday night. "We only need look at the day-to-day headlines to understand that the world is a dangerous place. The Obama administration has no time to waste in putting forth a successor and well-defined national security strategy that will defeat the scourge of terrorism. America deserves nothing less."

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Gov. Rick Scott announced on Monday that Tim Cannon will lead the Florida Department of Corrections on an interim basis after Tim Crews resigned earlier in the day.

“Sec. Crews has worked hard to make Florida communities safer, and we appreciate his service to the state,” Scott said. “Tim Cannon has served at the Department of Corrections for over two decades, and his experience will provide the Department with the leadership necessary for keeping families and our correctional officers safe.”

Cannon is moving up from his current post as deputy secretary at Corrections. Before that, Cannon was assistant secretary of institutions and was the warden at Hardee Correctional Institution and Reception Medical Center (RMC).

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U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led eight other Republican congressmen from Florida -- Ander Crenshaw, Ron DeSantis, Richard Nugent, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross, Steve Southerland, Dan Webster and Ted Yoho -- in writing the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday. The congressmen took aim at proposed carbon emissions rules included in the Clean Power Plan (CPP) which, they insist, will lead to higher costs for Floridians.

“The EPA’s rule places a heavier burden on Florida than other states, despite the fact that Florida has reduced its carbon emissions by 20 percent since 2005,” Bilirakis said. “The CPP will result in Floridians paying more for their electricity. At a time when many Floridians are still struggling, they do not need their power costs increasing. We should be supporting an all-of-the-above energy strategy, unleashing America’s domestic, renewable and nonrenewable resources, to reduce the costs of groceries and the costs for heating and cooling your home.”

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From her perch as chairwoman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is not happy that talks with Iran on its nuclear program have been extended past the Monday deadline. Ros-Lehtinen called for Congress to impose new sanctions on Iran when Republicans take control of the Senate in January.

“The latest nuclear extension by the P5+1 defies logic because it illustrates that Iran is not serious about completely abandoning its nuclear program and only cares about gaining more access to funds to continue all of its nefarious activities,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “This is just a stalling tactic by the Iranian regime, and the Obama administration and P5+1 have fallen for it hook, line and sinker. There is no justification for offering an extension to the regime, in exchange for the status quo from Iran and its promise to continue with the negotiations. The regime never had any intention of reaching an agreement, and Rouhani has again bought Iran the time, and more importantly the sanctions relief it needs, to improve its economy and advance its nuclear program. This extension is nothing but folly, and the administration has failed to understand that the objective is to prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon and to dismantle and destroy its nuclear infrastructure, not simply pushing back its breakout time.

“The Obama administration should realize that the Iranians are not serious about these talks and should abandon the negotiations and with the Republicans in control of both the House and Senate come January, it’s time that we roll up our sleeves and get to work to pass new sanctions on the Iranian regime,” Ros-Lehtinen added.

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Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is calling on three Florida Republican congressmen -- Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan and John Mica -- to stand against increased wind subsidies. AFP is running ads in Florida newspapers urging the three congressmen to oppose these alternative energy subsidies.

“The lame-duck session has traditionally been a time when lawmakers sneak through big-government policies like these wind subsidies, thinking nobody is paying attention,” said Chris Hudson, AFP’s director in Florida, on Monday. “These ads are part of an effort to let Florida taxpayers know that billions have been spent on this corporate handout, yet this industry still hasn't made it in the market. Lawmakers have a chance here to signal that it's time to let the best affordable energy solutions work, rather than handing over more of our tax dollars to an industry that's had decades to deliver results to the taxpayer and failed."

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton starts out 2016 as the favorite to win the Florida primary for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Gravis Marketing unveiled a new poll this past weekend showing Clinton claiming 51 percent of Florida Democrats. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., stands in distant second with 18 percent followed by Vice President Joe Biden with 12 percent. Two governors -- Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Andrew Cuomo -- lag far behind. O’Malley takes 4 percent and Cuomo 2 percent.

The poll of 694 Florida Democratic primary voters was taken from Nov. 20-21 and had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.

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A poll released over the weekend shows former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., is the favorite son of Florida Republicans to be president in 2016.

Gravis Marketing unveiled a poll on Sunday which shows Bush out front with 33 percent followed by fellow Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio with 14 percent. Two Republican senators -- Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- are knotted up in third with 11 percent each.

The rest of the field is in single digits. Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., takes 6 percent, just ahead of Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C., and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who claim 5 percent each. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., lags with 3 percent.

The poll of 811 Florida Republican primary voters had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

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A senior member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he was “saddened” that U.S. Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel is leaving the Obama administration.

“Chuck Hagel is a great patriot,” Nelson said on Monday. “And I believe he has been a very good secretary of defense. I’m saddened that the White House was unable to keep him.”

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, slammed the news that efforts to reach a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program have been extended past its Monday deadline.

“Iran was only brought to the negotiating table through tough sanctions and we need to once again increase the pressure on Iran in the weeks and months ahead to force the regime to abandon its nuclear weapons program,” Rubio said on Monday. “Papering over what appear to be significant differences and once again extending talks with Iran will not achieve the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free Iran. During the course of these negotiations, Iran has received billions of dollars in sanctions relief, bolstering its economy.

“The Iranian regime’s track record as the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism and an abuser of the Iranian people has not changed,” Rubio added. “From the outcome of this latest round, it also appears that Iran’s leadership remains unwilling to give up their nuclear ambitions. None of this will change in the coming months unless we return to the pressure track that originally brought Iran to the table.

“Endless negotiations and additional concessions will not achieve the desired outcome of an Iran without nuclear weapons that is no longer a threat to its own people and its neighbors,” Rubio said in conclusion. “I will continue working in the Senate to significantly increase the pressure on Iran on all fronts -- nuclear, terrorism and human rights -- before it’s too late.”

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With Thanksgiving looming later this week, Florida TaxWatch noted on Monday that Floridians should give thanks for the Sunshine State not being one of 14 states taxing most groceries. Still, there are some grocery items which are taxed in the Sunshine State. Florida TaxWatch released a report on Monday showing which grocery goods -- from catered items to alcohol -- are taxed.

"Understanding Florida's tax laws can be very difficult for Florida shoppers, so Florida TaxWatch is helping taxpayers understand their tax obligations, and get a better sense of what they are buying this Thanksgiving," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, on Monday.

The report can be read here.

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Harold Ickes, a close adviser to former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, spoke to the media on Friday and said if she runs for president in 2016, the Republican ticket that could give her the most problems would come from two perennial swing states: Florida and Ohio.

According to the Daily Beast, Ickes said Bush and Portman could win their home states and flip Colorado on Clinton, since the former Florida governor does better with Hispanics than most Republicans. But, as the article notes, a Bush-Portman ticket could cause headaches for conservatives as Bush supports Common Core and Portman backs same-sex marriage.

The article can be read here.

 

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A new poll shows former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., is a contender in New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary, if former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., decides not to run for president in 2016.

A Bloomberg/St. Anslem College poll released Monday shows Romney remains the favorite in New Hampshire, which he won in 2012, with 30 percent. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., places second with 11 percent, followed by Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., with 9 percent, Bush with 8 percent and a gaggle of candidates polling in low to mid single digits.

But when Romney is taken out of the mix, Christie, Bush and Paul are all running close. Christie takes 22 percent when Romney supporters offer their second choice, followed by Bush with 20 percent and Paul with 19 percent. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., moves up from 5 percent to 8 percent while the rest of the field remains in low to mid single digits.

The poll of 407 New Hampshire Republican primary voters was taken from Nov. 12-18 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.

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The Leon County Sheriff's Office is not yet releasing the name of a deputy ambushed, shot and killed while responding to a 10 a.m Saturday house fire at 3722 Caracus Court in Tallahassee.

Lt. James McQuaig, LCSO spokesman, said the department will release tha information on Sunday.

The gunman took the weapon from the deputy as he lay on the ground, then walked down the street firing it. In the process he shot and wounded another deputy.

A Sheriff's Office news release said when Tallahassee Fire Department responders arrived to fight the fire, the gunman shot at them, too.

The gunman's spree was short-lived. When Tallahassee Police Department officers responded to assist, they confronted, shot and killed him.

At 1:30 p.m. Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement on the deputy's death:

“Today, we are saddened to learn of a Leon County sheriff’s deputy who was killed in the line of duty this morning. We also learned that another sheriff’s deputy was shot and wounded, and we hope for their speedy recovery.

"Ann and I pray that God provides comfort to those who have been impacted by these senseless acts, and we also pray that God watch over the heroes in law enforcement who put their lives on the line each and every day to protect our loved ones.

"Law enforcement in our state’s Capitol area faced especially tumultuous circumstances this week, and they have responded with the kind of bravery and heroism that families across Florida honor.”

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Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, unveiled three bills to cut taxes on Friday.

Noting Florida was ranked as the fourth highest wireless taxes in the nation in a recent study from the Tax Foundation, Hukill is, like she did last year, looking to roll back communications taxes.

"These taxes are paid every month and when combined with federal taxes, are an extreme burden on Florida's families and businesses," Hukill said.

Hukill is also looking to cut the commercial lease sales tax by 1 percent and raising the corporate income subject to taxation from $50,000 to $75,000.

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Gov. Rick Scott announced on Friday that the Sunshine State saw 32,000 new jobs in October as the state unemplyment rate dropped to 6 percent from 6.1 percent in September.

“Today’s announcement that Florida has added 32,000 private-sector jobs is great news as we continue our work to ensure that every Floridian who wants a job can get one,” Scott said on Friday. “Since December 2010, Florida has added 679,000 private-sector jobs, and it is clear that we are succeeding in creating an opportunity economy that supports families.”

When Scott took office at the start of 2011, the unemployment rate stood at 11.1 percent.

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From her perch as chairwoman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., held a hearing on “Examining What a Nuclear Iran Deal Means for Global Security" on Thursday. Ros-Lehtinen came out swinging at the hearing, insisting a nuclear deal for Iran would undermine security. The Florida Republican also hammered the Obama administration’s handling of Iran.

Ros-Lehtinen said the following:

“We are now just a few days away from the Iran nuclear deadline. And the P5+1 appears poised to accept a weak deal with a regime that cannot be trusted. Despite approximately $14 billion in direct sanctions relief, as well as incalculable indirect benefits to the Iranian economy and the nuclear program, Iran has repeatedly stated that it will never stop enriching uranium or take one step back in its research and development. Despite a four-month extension of talks and allowing Iran access to an additional $700 million of its blocked currency each month, Iran’s Supreme Leader two weeks ago called for the destruction of our greatest ally in the Middle East, the democratic Jewish state of Israel. Iran recently claimed its ballistic missiles are capable of razing Israeli cities and American military bases in the region to the ground. Iran has called for Palestinian incitement against Israel, the result of which can be seen in the tragic murders two days ago of five Israelis, three of whom were U.S. citizens, in a Jerusalem synagogue as they were praying.

From the very outset, Iran has not complied with the terms outlined by the P5+1, exporting more oil than allowed, continuing production at the Arak heavy water reactor, denying access to key facilities, and dragging its feet every step of the way. The International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed that Iran isn’t even cooperating with its past commitments, such as completely disclosing its past work on nuclear weaponization. Rouhani, who bragged in the past about deceiving the administration as its chief negotiator, is known for using stall tactics while continuing to advance Iran’s nuclear weapons program behind the scenes. And our leadership in the White House falls for it.

The administration turns a blind eye to Iran’s support of terrorism, its constant threats against the United States and our allies, and its failure to cooperate even during this negotiation period. It ignores every lesson we thought we learned when North Korea delayed its way into a nuclear weapon. President Obama even sends secret letters to the Supreme Leader, naively hoping to appeal to the rational side of a man who has proven himself to be anything but. The Iranians have made clear that no matter what a final deal contains, they will not stop enrichment and will not allow access to sites like Parchin and who knows how many other covert sites.

As General Hayden has stated, because of the covert nature of Iran’s activities, American intelligence alone will not be able to verify the agreement, and if he would still be advising the president, he would tell him that this deal could not be adequately verified. Iran must be completely transparent about its current and past programs, including its weaponization efforts, and accept snap inspections anywhere, anytime. But experience and the track record tells us that Iran will not do so. It is impossible to verify Iran’s nuclear program because, as the Defense Science Board report has said, the capability to detect Iran’s undeclared or covert nuclear sites is either inadequate or does not exist.

Finally, this administration has misunderstood the point of sanctions – sanctions that Congress worked hard to build – from the very beginning. The sanctions regime that Congress put into place was designed to work together, the sanctions are interconnected to target not just the nuclear program but Iran’s ballistic weapons program and human rights abuses as well. The P5+1 has allowed Iran’s economy to grow, its currency to strengthen, and has provided a dangerous amount of concessions and sanctions relief to the regime based only on its nuclear program. And they have given Iran the time and money it needs to be more resilient and even better able to weather sanctions in the future. The effect of sanctions takes time and cannot be easily re-implemented once lifted or once suspended.

Yet all indications are that President Obama, if a final deal is reached, would seek to lift sanctions or use waiver authority provided within the sanctions laws. These waivers, however, are national security waivers. And it is not in the national security interest of the United States to provide Iran additional access to cash with which it can proliferate and expand its other illicit activities, specifically its support for global terror. Just last week, the president reissued a continuation of the National Emergency with respect to Iran, a status which has been in place since the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. It strains the imagination to see how the president can on one hand declare Iran as a national emergency yet on the other waive sanctions and say Iran is not a national security threat.

Congress needs to reclaim its sanctions authority from this administration and do everything it can to prevent this weak deal from happening. So let me be clear: no matter what the P5+1 does, Congress should not allow a deal that threatens our national security interests to stand, and we intend on repairing the damage that has been done as soon as possible. We must reinstate and expand sanctions and we must not allow Iran to get a nuclear bomb. Either the P5+1 secures a deal that includes the complete cessation of Iran’s enrichment and the full dismantling of its nuclear infrastructure, or it must walk away from these doomed talks altogether.”

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Lost in the shuffle over President Barack Obama’s actions on immigration, this week, former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., announced he was forming an exploratory committee as he looks at running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. A graduate of the Navy Acaemy and a decorated Marine who saw service in Vietnam, Webb served as an assistant secretary of defense and as Navy secretary under President Ronald Reagan. Webb upset then-U.S. Sen. George Allen, R-Va., in 2006 but chose not to run for a second term.

“Is it possible that our next president could actually lay out a vision for the country, and create an environment where leaders from both parties and from all philosophies would feel compelled to work together for the good of the country, despite all of the money and political pressure that now demands they disagree?” Webb asked. “As one who spent four years in the Reagan administration but who served in the Senate as a Democrat, I believe it is possible. It is also necessary. We desperately need to fix our country, and to reinforce the values that have sustained us, many of which have fallen by the wayside in the nasty debates of the last several years. I hope you will consider joining me in that effort.

“Over the past few months, thousands of concerned Americans from across the political spectrum have urged me to run for president,” Webb added. “A constant theme runs through these requests. Americans want positive, visionary leadership that they can trust, at a time when our country is facing historic challenges. They’re worried about the state of our economy, the fairness of our complicated multicultural society, the manner in which we are addressing foreign policy and national security challenges, and the divisive, paralyzed nature of our government itself. They’re worried about the future. They want solutions, not rhetoric. I share every one of these concerns.”

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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., offered a bill on Thursday to prevent President Barack Obama from using an executive order to allow illegals a path to stay in the nation. Yoho insisted Obama was overstepping what the executive branch can do and hopes his “Executive Amnesty Prevention Act" will cut him off at the pass.

“Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 gives Congress the ‘power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization,’ while Article II, Section 3 lays out clearly that ‘the president shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed,’” Yoho noted about the Constitution. “With the go-it-alone approach of the president on immigration, I felt it necessary to introduce this bill and stop the president from going around Congress and the American people. An executive ‘fix’ of the law is unconstitutional, temporary, and will establish a very dangerous precedent.

“Let’s be clear: Our immigration policy in America is broken and has been broken for a long time,” Yoho added. “Both Republicans and Democrats share responsibility for the current state of immigration in this country. That being said, now is not the time for the president to rule by fiat and go against the Constitution. Even the Washington Post, never a bastion of conservative reporting, has recommended the president not take this course of action.

“Yes, the president has prosecutorial discretion – in certain cases – but that does not mean he has the authority to provide blanket amnesty or pardons to 5 million illegal aliens,” Yoho said in conclusion. “I, along with the American people, want to fix our broken immigration system. But this fix must come from well-thought-out legislation that puts the needs of the country first. Once that is done, we can have open and honest debate in Congress to hammer out our differences. This is the way the framers of our Constitution intended our laws to be made. It is time to stop kicking the immigration can down the road. Let us come together, put the country first, and fix the issue of illegal immigration once and for all.”

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Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart have generally been supporters of immigration reform plans. Diaz-Balart has taken the lead in urging Republicans in the House to pass the “Gang of Eight’s" immigration reform bill that passed the Senate. But the two Republicans teamed up on Thursday night to release a statement, opposing President Barack Obama’s immigration actions. The statement is as follows:

As President Obama has stated, ‘I am president of the United States, not the emperor of the United States.’ He further stated that acting unilaterally is ‘ignoring the law in a way that I believe would be very difficult to defend legally.’ Now, the president says he has the authority to stop deportations. It begs the question – why did President Obama deport more than 2 million people, dividing families, when according to him it could have been avoided?

“While we agree on the merits of some of the announced measures, the president’s executive order makes it more difficult to pass a common-sense solution to our country’s broken immigration system. We continue to believe that we must find a bipartisan, legislative solution to strengthen our borders, offer a permanent and humane solution to those living in the shadows, adhere to the rule of law, modernize our antiquated visa system, and bolster the economy. None of this is accomplished by the president’s executive order.

“Shortly after this year’s election, President Obama said he was willing to work together with the new Congress. He has now clearly demonstrated that he has no intention of doing so. His actions will unfortunately further divide our country. We are committed to finding a bipartisan, legislative solution that will unite a majority of Congress and the American people on this critical issue.”

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President Barack Obama unveiled a new proposal on Thursday night on immigration, giving around 5 million illegals a path to stay in the United States without fear of deportation.

“Our immigration system is broken,” Obama said in a White House address on Thursday night. “Everybody knows it.”

Obama’s proposal offers a path to temporary residency to 5 million illegal immigrants if they register and pass a criminal background check. Under his action, illegal immigrants with children who are citizens, will be able to live and work in the U.S. for three years. It also shifts border security efforts against terrorists and criminals instead of illegals in general.

Pushing back against Republican critics, Obama noted former presidents used executive power on immigration reform and called on Congress to pass a bill. Obama also fired back on claims he is offering amnesty to illegal immigrants.

“I know some of the critics....call it amnesty. Well, it’s not,” Obama said. "Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I'm describing is accountability — a commonsense, middle ground approach.

"If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” Obama insisted. “If you're a criminal, you'll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up."

On Friday, Obama plans to rally support for his immigration plan in Las Vegas at an event with U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who will become minority leader when the GOP takes control of the Senate in January.

Obama’s plan drew the fire of Florida Republicans. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a champion of immigration reform and part of the Senate's "Gang of Eight," said Obama's actions were not helping the cause.

“We need immigration reform," Rubio said. "But the right way to do it is to first bring illegal immigration under control by securing the borders and enforcing the laws, then modernizing our legal immigration system. After we do these things, we will eventually have to deal with those here illegally in a reasonable but responsible way. The president’s actions now make all of this harder and are unfair to people in our immigration system who are doing things the right way.”

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Gov. Rick Scott and Visit Florida announced on Thursday that 23.7 million tourists visited the Sunshine State during the third quarter of 2014, an increase of 3.5 percent from last year when 22.9 million tourists visited.

“Florida’s thriving tourism industry is vital to growing jobs, and today’s report that Florida has experienced three record quarters so far in 2014, putting the state on pace for a fourth consecutive record year, is great news for Florida families,” Scott said. “Tourism is a huge generator of jobs for our state and we invested $74 million into Visit Florida to create more opportunities for families.”

Florida is on pace for a record high year of tourism with 73.9 million visitors in the first three quarters of 2014. These tourists added $55.6 billion to the Florida economy, an increase of 7.3 percent from 2013, and created almost 40,000 new jobs.

“Florida tourism’s continued strength across all metrics indicates that we are well on our way to making Florida the No. 1 travel destination in the world,” said Will Seccombe, the president and CEO of Visit Florida.

 

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On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., unveiled the Keeping America Safe from Ebola Act of 2014 which would enact travel bans to nations the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) list as dealing with that disease. Rubio’s co-sponsors include fellow Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Pat Roberts of Kansas and John Thune of South Dakota. The House version is being backed by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa.

“Imposing travel restrictions is a common-sense approach to protecting Americans from Ebola,” said Rubio on Thursday. “Over the past few months, we’ve seen Ebola’s deadly reach, and air travel has proven to be its gateway to the United States.

“A temporary visa ban aims to limit the spread of Ebola by placing strict limitations on travel to the U.S. from Ebola-affected countries and protect Americans from any potential threats of an outbreak, but it does not mean that our efforts to combat the virus will stop there,” added Rubio. “America must remain committed to this international challenge by addressing it at its source and increasing our assistance to countries that continue struggling to contain this deadly outbreak. America will not be completely safe from Ebola until the virus is contained at its source.”

Rubio’s bill would suspend and revoke visas for individuals from what the CDC considers Ebola-infected or threatened nations excepting aid workers and military personnel.

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With President Barack Obama expected to announce on Thursday that he will executive power to grant amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., said the American people are against the idea.

“Someone is not listening, and he lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” Crenshaw said. “On November 4, I heard voters in Florida and across the nation say that they’re opposed to amnesty. They are the same voters who took their thinking to the ballot box, increasing Republican margins in the House and turning the United States Senate leadership over to the GOP because they are tired of the president circumventing the will of the people.

“I continue to stand alongside these Americans - 100 percent against amnesty,” Crenshaw continued. “But, our president does not. The very man who said 22 times that he could not ignore or create his own immigration laws wants to do exactly that by working around Congress. It’s astounding, but unfortunately, it’s not surprising.

“For President Obama, it’s a ‘my way or the highway’ approach. But to me, it’s unconstitutional, and I expect and support a challenge to it in Congress and the courts,” Crenshaw added. “No one can doubt that this country has to address the crisis of illegal immigration. It places tremendous financial and social burden on our society. Moreover, the surge at our border is proof that it is not secure, and, in my book, securing our borders is the number one priority. President Obama should work together with Congress to make this happen, not against it by putting millions of illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship with the stroke of a pen.”

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Gov. Rick Scott released a statement on Thursday following the shooting at the Florida State University (FSU) library in Tallahassee. Three students were wounded and police killed the gunmen.

Scott’s statement:

“Our prayers are with the families and loved ones of everyone touched by this tragedy. We still have a lot of questions that are unanswered.

“The police investigation will answer many of the questions we are asking today. But, just like any tragedy, the ultimate question of ‘why?’ will never have an answer that satisfies those whose loved ones have been injured or killed. For that reason, I am asking everyone on FSU’s campus and everyone across our state, and even the nation, to pray for FSU today. Pray for our state – and every student and family affected by this tragedy.

“Second, I want to thank the FSU Police Department and the Tallahassee Police Department for their quick response in keeping this campus safe. Because of your hard work and training – your response time was almost immediate and the campus is once again safe for students.

“While our hearts are broken for the injuries and the loss of life that occurred here last night, I have every confidence that FSU will become an even stronger campus as they come together and heal from this tragedy.

“The people of Florida, and especially those on our distinguished university campuses, are remarkable people. Everyone on this campus came here for a dream. They are dreaming of bigger and better things for their lives. They have careers they want to pursue; businesses they want to start; dreams of building a family … and that all starts right here with getting a great education at FSU.

“I know every Seminole has the heart of a dreamer. And, every dreamer is resilient. I look forward to seeing the FSU community all across our state and nation come together and lean on each other in the days ahead. And, I know the unparalleled leadership of President John Thrasher will be vital to this school’s healing and continued sense of pride and unity.

“In closing, I want to address the students on this campus: As a father of two daughters who both went away to college not too long ago, I can imagine the anxiety your parents are feeling today. Please take time to call them and let them know how you are doing. Talk to them about how this has affected you. If you don’t want to talk to your parents, please talk to someone at your church, synagogue or one of the consolers being organized by FSU.

“We live in a world today that is always moving on to the next thing. But, I want to encourage you to take time and process the tragedy that happened here last night and not simply ignore it. This will ultimately be the most important thing you can do to move forward, grow stronger, and appreciate each and every precious day given to us by God.

“Finally, I am planning to connect with the families of those students still in the hospital and hopefully visit them there later today. We will continue to release additional information as the results of the investigation develop.” 

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