Sunshine State News Blogs

With former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Florida this week as she continues her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Republican National Committee (RNC) showcased a website on Thursday mocking her claims about being “dead broke” and former President Bill Clinton’s comment that they needed money to “pay the bills.”

The website notes it would take 417.7 Florida households to make the $30 million the Clintons made over an 18-month period.

“With a history of out-of-touch statements like these, it is clear Hillary Clinton is a long way from connecting with everyday Floridians,” the RNC noted to Sunshine State News on Thursday.

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With special session looming next week, Florida TaxWatch released its “Budget Watch” report on Thursday and noted there are plenty of other issues outside of the budget that the Legislature should tackle.

"Health care expansion is certainly the biggest obstacle delaying a state budget, but lawmakers also have to iron out many other differences in the multibillion-dollar House and Senate budget proposals," said Kurt Wenner, Florida TaxWatch’s vice president of research, on Thursday. "Compromises will be made and the final resolution for goals including per-student funding, tax relief and health care spending is still uncertain."

"While many good public policy initiatives did not cross the finish line during the Legislative session, lawmakers have a chance to create a responsible, transparent budget that meets the need of Floridians, and makes smart investments in the future of our state," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. "As lawmakers carefully determine how to best spend Florida taxpayers' hard-earned money, we hope that they will uphold their commitment to sufficiently review and deliberate all appropriations."

Florida TaxWatch showcased other matters in the Legislature during special session, including allowing Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNPs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) to write prescriptions. The group insists Florida will be able to reduce health-care costs if that bill passes.

The report can be read here.

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With President Barack Obama headed to South Florida to raise money, Gov. Rick Scott ripped into his decision to end Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terror.

“President Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism is shameful,” Scott said on Thursday. “Cuba has done nothing to warrant being taken off this list. The Castro regime continues to undermine U.S. national security interests by sponsoring acts of terrorism. I will continue to stand with the pro-democracy movement in both Cuba and Florida in their fight against the Obama-Castro pact. The president should take time to reconsider this dangerous decision while in South Florida today.”

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U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., announced on Thursday that his U.S. Senate campaign had around $1.1 million cash on hand and major Republican donors were supporting his efforts.

“I am grateful for the support my campaign has received,” DeSantis said on Thursday. “The Floridians I thank today have done so much for so many great causes. The support I receive through their efforts will help me spread my message throughout Florida.”

DeSantis announced he had gotten the financial support of some of the leading Republicans in Florida including former Gov. Bob Martinez, former Ambassador John Rood and former Ambassidor Francis Rooney.

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From his perch as chairman of the U.S. House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee which oversees the IRS, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., responded to reports on the major data breach at that agency, exposing more than 100,000 Americans’ information

“News of a data breach at the Internal Revenue Service is extremely troubling, and I have reached out to the agency this morning and fully expect the IRS to address deficiencies in the design or operation of their information technology security,” Crenshaw said on Wednesday. “Any level of compromise to taxpayer information is unacceptable, and we need to understand how the IRS will assist affected taxpayers and will prevent future hacking incidences. American taxpayers deserve nothing less.”

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Getting ready for an event in Orlando next week where he and several other contenders for the Republican presidential nomination will focus on economics, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., made his case to Floridians for legalizing the import of medicines from Canada. Huckabee, who moved to Florida after his 2008 presidential bid, published an op-ed in Wednesday’s Orlando Sentinel.

"As a country, we spend almost $375 billion filling prescriptions annually," Huckabee wrote. "In the Senate, Barack Obama supported drug reimportation. But somewhere between stimulus carve-outs, Obamacare handouts, and Wall Street bailouts, he surrendered."

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The Club for Growth, a PAC which supports free-market economics, championed a surprising candidate this week.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the Club for Growth is running a TV ad supporting U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., who is considering entering the Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., in the 2016 U.S. Senate race.

Club for Growth cheered Grayson for opposing the Export-Import Bank which Murphy supports. The details can be read here.

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Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner unveiled sites across Florida added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places on Tuesday.

“I am pleased to announce the listing of these historic Florida resources on the National Register of Historic Places,” said Detzner. “These properties represent the broad spectrum of Florida life and history, having served as homes or municipal centers, and as places of business, worship, recreation, and tourism.”

Detzner’s release had information on the new sites on the National Register:

The Gary-Morgan House in Winter Park, Orange County, is an excellent residential two-story example of the Classical Revival Style. Completed in 1927 at a cost of $20,000, the house was designed by Winter Park architect D. Harold Hair along the north shore of Lake Mizell. Built just after the collapse of the Florida Land Boom, the house is unusual as relatively few buildings of any type were constructed in Winter Park during that time.

The Cummings House in Putnam County, was built in 1903 by Henry Cummings, founder of the lumber town of Rodman. This company town was built around the timber business and was the foundation of Putnam County’s economy at the time. During the early 1900s, Cummings also built a hotel, two churches, two schools. From 1915 to 1920, Rodman was at its prime, supporting approximately 4,000 residents. The Cummings House is all that remains of the former company town.

The W.T. Davis Building in downtown Madison, Madison County, is a two-story brick commercial building constructed in 1892 by local builder William Turner Davis. The W.T. Davis Building functioned as the center of community activity from 1890-1910, with offices and his son’s pharmacy on the first floor, and an opera house on the second floor. Over time, the second floor space served various functions, including as an armory for the hometown militia. The W.T. Davis Building is a local landmark due to the elaborate level of ornamentation, and is now home to the Treasures of Madison County Museum.

The Taylor House in Tallahassee, Leon County, was built in 1894 for Lewis and Lucretia Taylor and served as the home for several generations of the Taylor family, many of whom became leaders and educators for the Tallahassee and Leon County region. Lewis Taylor was renowned for tutoring children regardless of color, an exceptional role at that time for an African-American living in the South. His own children were well-educated, and many also became teachers. In the third generation of Taylor family educators, Aquilina Casanas Howell played a pivotal role in guiding the Leon County school system through desegregation in the mid-20th century. Now a museum, the house was designated a Local Historic Landmark in 2011. The two-story Frame Vernacular house is one of the last and oldest remaining residences from the historically African-American neighborhood of Frenchtown.

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The Florida Chamber Foundation is turning to Charlie Gray, its board chairman and the founding director of GrayRobinson, to co-chair its “Blueprint for Florida's Innovation Economy" report. Along with the Florida Research Consortium, the Florida Chamber Foundation hopes its reports will “assess the impact of expanding innovation activity on Florida’s economy and create a road map for state-level policy and investments” with an expected release in October.

“Charlie Gray has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to improving Florida’s economy through innovation,” said Tony Carvajal, the executive vice president of the Florida Chamber Foundation, on Tuesday. “His history of success as a business and civic leader make him the perfect choice for co-chairing this report.”

“I am honored to be a part of this important project,” said Gray. “This report will provide recommendations on how to expand Florida’s innovation economy and propel our state's investment in advanced technology research."

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The already large field of Republican presidential candidates will expand on Thursday as former Gov. George Pataki, R-N.Y., prepares to enter the contest.

According to the New York Post, Pataki will launch his bid at an event in New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary, on Thursday. Pataki is barely registering in the polls despite having led the Empire State from 1995 until 2007. In the 1994 elections, Pataki defeated Democrat icon then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, D-N.Y., in a major upset.

H/T Political Wire.

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On Sunday, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart kicked off “National Hurricane Preparedness Week” as the hurricane season starts next Monday.

“With the 2015 hurricane season quickly approaching, I encourage Floridians to prepare their homes and families. Southern Florida has been fortunate to have been out of Mother Nature’s path in recent years, but we must be ready for whatever may happen,” Diaz-Balart said on Sunday. “If the right steps are taken, we can better prepare our homes and communities to be more resilient against the effects of these natural disasters.”

Diaz-Balart encouraged Floridians to go to his website for hurricane readiness tips.

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On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott announced the state unemployment rate stood at 5.6 percent in April as 25,800 new jobs were created. The rate had been at 5.6 percent in February before moving up to 5.7 percent in March.

“We are excited to announce today that 865,600 new private-sector jobs have been created in Florida since December 2010, including more than 25,000 new jobs in the month of April alone,” Scott said. “By working every day to keep cutting taxes and create an environment where job creators can succeed, we are keeping Florida on track to becoming the global destination for jobs.”

“In April, 25,800 private-sector jobs were created in Florida, job demand remained high, and the statewide unemployment rate dropped,” said state Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio. “After surpassing the all-time high for private-sector job creation in the state in March, all indicators are pointing toward our economy only continuing to get better. Hard-working Floridians are proving that the Sunshine State is the best place in the nation to live, play, and work.”

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U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., a leading congressional Republican on foreign policy and the chairwoman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, thinks the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) should release documents seized during the raid when American forces killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

“The documents recovered in the bin Laden raid are important for our nation’s further understanding of al-Qaida, its extremist ideology, and the threat to American security,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Thursday. “As seen by recent terror attacks across the Middle East and elsewhere, al-Qaida and its derivatives remain, despite claims to the contrary, a threat to our nation, our values, and our way of life. I am pleased that DNI released this latest tranche of documents in the interest of transparency and our knowledge of the enemy in order to be better prepared for the future. I urge DNI to continue its review of the remaining documents recovered in Abbottabad in an expedient manner and release them to the public as soon as possible.”

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While Medicaid expansion will be front and center in the special legislative session next month, the Florida Chamber of Commerce offered a reminder on Thursday that legislators should also cut taxes.

“Special session has a lot on the table, including the creation of a state budget and the chance for meaningful health-care reform,” said David Hart, the Florida Chamber’s executive vice president. “The Florida Chamber is optimistic that the Florida Legislature can work through these items and still pass targeted tax reforms that will put money back in the pockets of Floridians and make Florida even more competitive.”

The Florida Chamber backs Gov. Rick Scott’s proposals to cut the Communications Service Tax (CST) on cellphones and cable TV services and lowering the commercial lease sales tax. It also backs tax holidays and targeted defense contract and R&D tax cuts.

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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., who sits on the House Agriculture Committee, backed a bill on Wednesday to end mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements on meat products. The World Trade Organization (WTO) noted earlier this week that COOL requirements violate trade agreements and Canada and Mexico have threatened to retaliate against the U.S., leading to a possible trade war.

The House Agriculture Committee passed the bill on a 38-6 vote on Wednesday and Yoho weighed in afterward.

“Today’s bipartisan committee vote is a step in the right direction for America’s farmers, ranchers, and consumers. Repealing COOL requirements will restore stability and help erase the uncertainty for our agriculture sector while easing tension with our two closest allies and trading partners; Canada and Mexico,” Yoho said.

“The COOL amendment was challenged by Canada and Mexico in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the U.S. lost on four different occasions,” Yoho added. “COOL does not add to consumer safety but is a government-mandated marketing program. The role of government is to make sure the food we eat is safe and wholesome. That is what the USDA stamp of approval represents to us, the consumer."

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., brought out the “Florida Fisheries Improvement Act” on Wednesday. As Congress plans to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act on marine fishing, Rubio’s proposal gives the Regional Fishery Management Councils more flexibility, will ensure the Commerce Department reports to Congress on collecting data and speeds up declaring fishery disasters and provides more transparency.

“Florida’s fisheries are a national treasure that provide direct and indirect benefits to our local, state and national economies by feeding Americans across the country and boosting tourism in our coastal communities,” said Rubio. “While there is more work to be done, this bill would ensure necessary improvements to management and data collection are made to fully optimize our fisheries and help advance Florida’s interests when it comes time to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act. I will continue to work with Floridians and my colleagues in Congress to fight against any misguided federal directives that threaten Floridians’ way of life and economic livelihoods.”

Rubio’s proposal won the support of the Gulf Seafood Institute and the Center for Coastal Conservation.

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After reports emerged that ABC News personality George Stephanopoulos donated to the Clinton Foundation, a new poll shows most voters are not trusting the political news. Rasmussen Reports released a poll on Thursday which finds 61 percent of likely voters do not trust the political news while only 21 percent trust it. A Rasmussen poll from October found 45 percent did not trust the political news while 33 percent did.

More than a third of those surveyed -- 36 percent -- think the media will try to help former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton win the presidency while 23 percent think they will try to hinder her campaign.

Stephanopoulos, who burst onto the national scene as an aide to Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election, has tarnished his brand, the poll shows. Almost half of those surveyed -- 46 percent -- think ABC should ban Stephanopoulos from covering the news and around a third -- 34 percent -- say they are now less likely to believe ABC News due to Stephanopoulos not revealing his donations to the Clinton Foundation.

The poll of 1,000 likely voters was taken from May 17-18 and had a margin of error of +/-3 percent.

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On Thursday, Florida TaxWatch released a look at the Sunshine State’s citrus industry and how citrus greening and other diseases were impacting it. The report finds diseases have led to a loss of more than $3.6 billion in revenue and more than 6,600 jobs in Florida.

"Florida is known all over the world for our oranges, orange juice and citrus, and it's an integral part of our growing economy that provides needed jobs for Floridians," said Robert Weissert, the senior vice president of research for Florida TaxWatch. "There are research initiatives underway to address potentially destructive citrus diseases, but it is imperative that lawmakers make the necessary investments to protect this important sector of the state's agricultural economy."

The report can be read here.

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Republicans in the Florida delegation -- U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Carlos Curbelo, Ron DeSanits, Mario Diaz-Balart, John Mica, Jeff Miller, Rich Nugent, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross and Ted Yoho -- waded into the fight over Medicaid expansion on Wednesday, sending a letter to President Barack Obama urging him not to stop the Low Income Pool (LIP) program in Florida. Sources in the Obama administration tell Sunshine State News that HHS has not pulled the plug on LIP funding for Florida even as LIP will not be renewed in its current form. 

The Florida Republicans wrote the following:

We are writing to request your immediate action to reverse the U.S. Health and Human Services’ (HHS) decision to end to the Low Income Pool (LIP) program in Florida. This federal program has been working to help low-income families in our state access health care for many years until HHS recently told state officials that their decision to continue funding was “linked” to the state’s decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

Florida hospitals are at risk of losing $1.5 billion a year if LIP funding is allowed to expire. If the funding is not in place on June 30, 2015, Jackson Memorial would lose $237.2 million; Tampa General would lose $85.2 million; University of Florida Gainesville would lose $106.7 million; University of Florida Jacksonville would lose $94.4 million; Orlando Health would lose $54.8 million; and Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach would lose $16.2 million.

The Supreme Court’s decision in NFIB v. Sebelius made clear that the federal government could not withhold federal funding in order to coerce states into expanding Medicaid. HHS’ refusal to continue LIP funding in Florida because the state has not expanded Medicaid is an inappropriate overreach and in direct contradiction to the Supreme Court decision. (Additionally, the Navigant study conducted at the direction of HHS found that the population covered under LIP is not identical to the population that would be served under the expansion of Obamacare.)

We are requesting your immediate action to reverse HHS’ decision to end LIP funding. The well-being of Florida’s low-income families will remain in jeopardy until your administration approves funding for these vital health services.

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From his perch on the U.S. House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., announced he was co-sponsoring a bill to ending mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) requirements on meat products. The World Trade Organization (WTO) noted earlier this week that COOL requirements violate trade agreements and Canada and Mexico have threatened to retaliate against the U.S., leading to a possible trade war.

“If we don’t act now to repeal COOL, we’ll be inviting certain retaliation from two of our largest trading partners,” Rooney said on Tuesday. “This bill is critical to avoiding a trade war that could devastate Florida’s farmers and ranchers, hamper our state’s economic growth, and damage agriculture and manufacturing industries across the country.”

U.S. House Agriculture Chairman Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, made the case for his bill on Tuesday.

“In light of the WTO’s decision and the certainty that we face significant retaliation by Canada and Mexico, we cannot afford to delay action,” Conaway insisted. “That’s why I was joined by 60 of my colleagues in introducing HR 2393, a bill to repeal mandatory COOL for beef, pork and chicken. This bill is a targeted response that will remove uncertainty, provide stability, and bring us back into compliance. I appreciate the support of so many colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we work quickly to ensure our economy and a broad spectrum of U.S. industries do not suffer the economic impacts of retaliation."

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Honoring Cuban Independence Day on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., slammed the Obama administration for trying to normalize relations with the Castro regime.

“Today marks another anniversary of Cuba’s independence from Spain,” Diaz-Balart said on Wednesday. “Regrettably, the Cuban people remain oppressed by a brutal dictatorship that has no respect for fundamental human rights or liberties. Despite President Obama’s countless and shameful concessions to the Castro regime, the American people and Congress continue to stand with them. Cuba has the worst human rights record in our hemisphere, and has done nothing to earn the many concessions that the Obama administration continues to provide the regime.

“Instead, on this day, we join in firm solidarity with the Cuban people, including the courageous pro-democracy activists, political prisoners, independent journalists, artists, labor activists, and religious leaders in their struggle to achieve the liberties to which all peoples are entitled,” Diaz-Balart added. “The Cuban people must be able to assemble freely, express dissent, worship in the faith of their choice, and keep the fruits of their labor. That simple desire for freedom has not been dampened by decades of authoritarian rule in Cuba. To the contrary, the days of the ailing octogenarians that run Cuba are numbered. When the Cuban people finally win their freedom, they will remember those who stood with them.”

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On Monday, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., a co-chair of the Congressional Nepal Caucus, included a tribute to the six Marines and two Nepali soldiers killed on May 12 in a helicopter crash as they were helping out in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake that impacted Nepal, killing more than 8,000.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today, as the co-chair of the Congressional Nepal Caucus and as an ardent supporter of the U.S. military, to express my deepest condolences to the families of the six U.S. Marines and two Nepali soldiers who died in the helicopter crash last Tuesday, May 12, 2015 in Nepal,” Crenshaw said. “As we all know, Nepal suffered from the catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Saturday, April 25, 2015, as well as many large aftershocks, including a 7.3 magnitude aftershock on May 12, 2015. Reports indicate that more than 8,000 people have been killed and 17,000 people have been injured in this poor and fragile country.

“Among the first responders to this crisis were our dedicated men and women of the U.S. Marine Corps,” Crenshaw added. “America has a long and honorable history of humanitarian assistance during worldwide disasters and conflicts, and our men and women in uniform have consistently put themselves in harm’s way to protect America and to protect our allies during times of need.

“On this occasion, the eight were aboard a UH-1Y Huey helicopter that disappeared over northern Nepal during a trip to fly relief materials to stricken villages,” Crenshaw continued. “Capt. Dustin R. Lukasiewicz of Nebraska; Capt. Christopher L. Norgren of Kansas; Sgt. Ward M. Johnson IV of Florida; Sgt. Eric M. Seaman of California; Cpl. Sara A. Medina of Illinois, and Lance Cpl. Jacob A. Hug of Arizona have paid the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the Nepalis, and they make me proud, once again, to be an American.

“I am grateful for the leadership and dedication of Ambassador Bodde, the U.S. Embassy team in Nepal, the Department of Defense, and our service men and women for their efforts and their sacrifices to aid Nepal,” Crenshaw said in conclusion. “To the people of Nepal, the United States stands with you during this difficult time. To the families of the six Marines, we thank you for paying the ultimate sacrifice, and our prayers are with you during this time of loss and immeasurable sadness.”


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Former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and a possible contender for the U.S. House if U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., opts for a Senate bid, offered his take on the stalemate over Medicaid expansion in the Florida Legislature. On Monday, Gaetz sent out a message to his constituents and he jabbed Gov. Rick Scott on the matter.

“The hard fact, of course, is that uninsured Floridians do get sick, do get injured and do pile up many hundreds of millions of dollars in uncompensated care at our hospitals and clinics,” Gaetz wrote. “Since there are no free bandages nor free medicines nor free wheelchairs, hospitals and other providers shift those costs onto the rest of us in higher charges on our medical bills and higher health insurance premiums. To do nothing means that cost-shifting continues, and grows worse, and small businesses and working families pay the price.

“People of good will in both the House and Senate disagree about what to do with this hard fact,” Gaetz added. “Disagreement about policy isn’t a failure in our system. When our founders created three equal branches of government and two legislative chambers, they purposefully built tension into the system. Sharp, passionate, well-evidenced debate is how we grind through policy options, consider all views, vet and refine proposals and ultimately achieve solutions. As former Senate President Jeff Atwater counseled the Senate in his farewell address, ‘Never fear the debate.’

“The problem now is that the debate has turned sour and ugly," Gaetz continued. “Some of the advocates have become petulant, even intolerant. Solutions have given way to sloganeering. The personal respect and trust between legislative leaders and between the Legislature and the governor, which is the WD-40 that otherwise eases the way to compromise, is missing this year. In other words, Tallahassee at its worst is taking on the identity of Washington at its best.”

Gaetz turned his eyes toward the special session which begins at the start of next month.

“On June 1, the House and Senate will be back in session to try to work out differences and pass a budget,” Gaetz wrote. “Unlike some pundits and politicians, I believe our June budget session will be successful. I believe the time away from lobbyists and politicians, the time at home, face-to-face with constituents, will cool hot heads and remind us that voters hold all of us responsible for results. Unlike Washington, there will be no government shutdown. Unlike Washington, we will not only pass a budget, but we will balance the budget. Unlike Washington, Florida will live within its means. That’s why our state will continue its remarkable recovery and growing prosperity, which in many ways lead the nation and outpace other states of our size.”

Gaetz then turned his fire toward Scott for being inconsistent on Medicaid expansion.

“Personally, I don’t support solving the health-care coverage issue by just expanding Medicaid, as Governor Scott proposed before he opposed it,” Gaetz insisted. “I do support the plan which Senator Joe Negron authored which provides premium assistance for the uninsured to buy private insurance in the private market. In fact, the Negron plan would entirely eliminate Medicaid in favor of an all-private sector/private market approach to health care coverage. I do support Senator Aaron Bean’s plan that, in return for coverage in the private market, able-bodied people who are uninsured have to get jobs or get trained for jobs, work for their benefits and pay at least some of the costs out of their own pockets. I also believe the Senate should listen to House leaders who have ideas for increasing health care competition and hopefully decreasing costs.”

Despite that, Gaetz closed on an optimistic note.

“There is a path to solutions, but it winds its way through compromise and respect,” Gaetz wrote in conclusion. “Based on the formal call for the special session as published this past Friday, I have confidence that President Andy Gardiner, Speaker Steve Crisafulli, and Budget Chairs Richard Corcoran and Tom Lee can find that path.”

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Florida TaxWatch thinks Central Florida could see a boom in advanced manufacturing jobs and opportunities.

On Tuesday, Florida TaxWatch showcased the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (FAMRC) which will open in Orlando come 2017 and praised the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR), a private-public partnership focused on changes in the industry.

"Increasing investments in Florida's manufacturing sectors have resulted in billions of dollars added to the state economy through high-wage jobs and high-value exports," said Dominic Calabro, Florida TaxWatch's president and CEO, on Tuesday. "Strategic infrastructure investments like the Florida Advanced Research Manufacturing Center will further diversify Florida's economy, support job creation and enhance the value of our state's existing industries."

Florida TaxWatch issued a report on manufacturing opportunities which can be read here.

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Continuing his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., showcased his efforts in Iowa, home of the first presidential caucus, on Monday.

Rubio showcased a Web video of his campaigning in Iowa that was released at the end of last week.

“The Iowa caucuses are the first opportunity for voters to weigh in on who they want our presidential nominee to be and that means I’ll be making many more visits to the state over the coming months,” Rubio emailed supporters on Monday.

“A successful campaign in Iowa will require significant time and resources," Rubio insisted. “We’re going to put in the time.”

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At the start of the month, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., teamed up with U.S. Reps. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., to introduce the “Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2015“ which gives states incentives to crack down on texting or emailing when driving. On Friday, Deutch showcased his efforts and praised a similar push in Tallahassee from Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, and Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Delray Beach.

“Enough is enough,” Deutch insisted on Friday. “We all know that texting, searching the Web, or posting on social media while driving, puts you, your passengers, and others around you in serious danger. Yet people still do it every day. I am saddened that in 2013 more than 3,000 people were killed and more than 400,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers. And I’m frustrated that many states, including Florida, have failed to pass laws strong enough to stop distracted driving.

“Evidence increasingly suggests that states that enact and enforce tough distracted driving laws help to prevent more of these needless tragedies,” Deutch added. “It's time to take a stand. I have just introduced the Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2015. This legislation creates new incentives for states to enact more enforceable and more effective laws against distracted driving. My federal effort works in tandem with the terrific state-level proposals by my friends, Florida leaders Rep. Irv Slosberg and Senator Maria Sachs. Together we can save lives.”

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Gov. Rick Scott announced a solid growth in tourism in the first quarter of 2015. On Friday, Scott noted 28.4 million visitors came to the Sunshine State during the first three months of 2015, up 6.2 percent from the first quarter of 2014, leading to 1,186,900 jobs in Florida, up almost 5 percent from last year. That number includes 1.7 million tourists from Canada and almost 3 million from overseas.

“I am proud to announce that the Sunshine State continued our record-breaking success and welcomed the most visitors of any quarter in Florida’s history,” Scott said. “Our growing tourism industry employs over 1 million Floridians and is helping us meet our goal of becoming the global destination for jobs. We are excited to start 2015 off with our biggest quarter ever, which puts us on pace to exceed our goal of 100 million visitors to Florida this year.”

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On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill allowing online voter registration access, though he admitted “some hesitation” in doing so due to security and technology issues. Scott sent a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Friday outlining his rationale and hesitations on signing the bill:

By the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Florida, and under the provisions of Article III, Section 8, of the Florida Constitution, I do hereby approve of and transmit Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 228, enacted during the 117th Session of the Legislature of Florida, during the Regular Session of 2015 and entitled:

An act relating to Online Voter Registration

It is with some hesitation that I have signed Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 228 into law.

Serious concerns were expressed during the course of the legislative session regarding the implementation of an online voter registration system. I am thankful that the House of Representatives amended the legislation on the floor to add further safeguards, and while I support this legislation, there remain some concerns regarding its implementation.

My initial concern relates to the timing of required deliverables. The legislation does not implement an online voter registration system until 2017, but does require the Secretary of State to begin providing deliverables prior to 2017. These requirements coincide with Department of State’s (“Department”) ongoing efforts to modernize the Florida Voter Registration System. This system has been experiencing maintenance issues, which election supervisors have rightly cited as a challenge to their duties. As a result, the Department has expedited work to replace equipment and programming.

The legislation also requires the Department to submit a report to the Legislature at the beginning of 2016, which should highlight how preparing for online voter registration has coincided with the changes to equipment and programming for the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election.

Another concern relates to cyber security because added technology results in added challenges and vulnerabilities. Cyber-attacks are on the front pages almost every day, and fraud and identification theft issues arise whenever a new avenue for information transmittal is created. While these challenges exist, I am confident that the Department and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will act carefully and prudently in developing needed protection for citizen information.

Despite these real world concerns, I agree that we must do everything possible to encourage 100 percent participation in elections, with zero percent fraud. That is why the Department will develop an implementation plan and work with the Legislature and election supervisors to ensure this law is implemented successfully.

Thanks to the Legislature’s election reforms in 2013, we were able to both expand access and execute one of Florida’s most well-run elections in 2014. It is in that spirit of collaboration that we look forward to continuing to make improvements that build on our success.

For the reasons stated above, I hereby sign into law Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 228.

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On Thursday, Citizens United Political Victory Fund (CUPVF), conservative group Citizens United’s PAC, endorsed U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in the Senate next year. Rubio is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

“Our priority in Florida is to elect a full spectrum conservative to the United States Senate and Congressman DeSantis is that candidate,” said David Bossie, the president of Citizens United, on Thursday. “Since the time we endorsed Ron DeSantis for the U.S. House in 2012, he has kept his word and stayed true to his core conservative principles. Washington has not changed Congressman DeSantis. That’s why I have full confidence he will continue to be a change agent in the United States Senate by fighting for smaller, more efficient government, lower taxes, and a strong national defense, while using the Constitution as his guide. I urge all Floridians to support Ron DeSantis in Florida’s Republican primary election for the U.S. Senate.”

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Florida’s two U.S. senators -- Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson -- teamed up on Thursday to unveil the the “Hurricane Forecast Improvement Act of 2015” to codify the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project, an effort to improve hurricane forecasting.

“Americans along the east coast have unfortunately seen firsthand how devastating hurricanes can be,” said Rubio. “Providing more accurate tracking and intensity forecasts will allow people to better prepare for the safety of their families, homes, and businesses. The Hurricane Forecast Improvement Act is a common-sense approach that will advance these goals.”

“I’ve seen countless hurricanes hit Florida during my time in public service; I’ve seen the damage they can cause,” said Nelson. “And that’s why we should do anything we can to help people better prepare for these storms in order to avoid the loss of life and property.”

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