Sunshine State News Blogs

Gov. Rick Scott will be up in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to meet with U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Low Income Pool (LIP) funding. The Florida House and Senate are currently deadlocked over the budget, still divided on Medicaid expansions and questions about LIP.

“I look forward to meeting with HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell tomorrow to discuss the importance of funding the federal Low Income Pool program in Florida,” Scott said on Tuesday. “We hope HHS will reconsider LIP funding in Florida, and it’s critical for us to get that information immediately so the Legislature can construct a budget that best meets the needs of low-income families during a special session.”

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Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), named Brad Herold as executive director of the RPOF on Tuesday. Wadi Gaitan will take over as communications director while Mallory Deason is on board as press secretary. The positions had been filled on an interim basis since Ingoglia took over the RPOF earlier this year.

“I am very excited about the future of the party with these three critical hires,” said Ingoglia. "Our vision for 2016 is simple – energize the party, activate our grassroots and reach all of the voters with our message – whether in English or Spanish. I know that these professionals will make it their daily mission to serve the party faithful and help elect Republicans to office.”

“I would also like to extend a sincere thank you to our team of volunteers who served the Republican Party of Florida during the transition,” Ingoglia added. “David Johnson, who served as interim executive director, brought years of experience to the table and helped guide the Republican Party of Florida during this time, and I am grateful for his daily guidance and commitment to making the Party successful. I would also like to extend a sincere thank you to Sarah Bascom, who served as the interim communications director and played an integral role in helping craft our message as we move into this new era, as well as Lyndsey Cruley, who served as interim press secretary, and Pablo Diaz, who served an advisory role on the transition team. These professionals took their personal time to serve the Party during this transition, and I am personally grateful for their time and dedication to the Republican Party of Florida.”

Ingoglia’s team has deep roots in Florida. Herold worked as deputy state director under U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and helped the RPOF, Gov. Rick Scott, former House Speaker Will Weatherford and former House Majority Leader Adam Hasner in recent years. Gati was communications director of Carlos Curbelo’s election to Congress from South Florida in 2015 while Deason worked for Scott and on communications for Enterprise Florida.

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U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Fla., showcased the kind words sent her way from former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the Republican presidential candidate who lost to President Bill Clinton in the 1996 election. Dole served in the Senate with Graham’s father former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham, D-Fla., for almost a decade.

“On this weekend's Honor Flight, we met Senator Bob Dole, who served our nation in World War II and then in the US Senate,” Graham emailed supporters on Monday. “During his term, he worked across the aisle to get things done. And folks, we could use more elected officials like him today.”

Graham showcased a photo of her with Dole and a quote from the former presidential candidate.

“When I served with your father, we weren’t Democrats or Republicans--we were friends,” Dole told Graham.

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U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., announced on Thursday that he will remain in the U.S. House and not run for the U.S Senate. Buchanan’s name had been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Senate seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is running for the presidency in 2016 and is not seeking a second term.

"The decision came down to where could I make the biggest difference in serving Florida and improving the lives of the middle class and the answer was pretty clear -- as a senior member on the committee that oversees the tax code, Social Security, Medicare and international trade,” Buchanan said on Thursday. "It is the highest privilege and honor to represent the people of Florida's 16th District and I look forward to continue serving as their representative in Washington.”

Buchanan sits on the U.S. House Ways and Means and the Budget Committees.

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On Wednesday night, the U.S. House backed U.S. Rep David Jolly’s, R-Fla., amendment ensuring federal funds are not used to close the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act

Jolly took to the floor to explain why the base should remain open.

“This amendment is about protecting our national security,” Jolly said. “The U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay is a strategically placed military base that is vital to the regional security in the Caribbean and a key component of our broader U.S. defense policy. The Naval Station plays an important role in fighting drug trafficking, providing humanitarian assistance during crises, and supporting other operations important to the U.S and neighboring countries.

“This amendment is wholly separate from the debate concerning the detention facility at the Naval Station and the status of detainees,” Jolly added. “This is about preserving a Department of Defense asset critical to our national security – an asset described by our military commanders as essential, indispensable, and of immense strategic value.”

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce honored U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., part of the House leadership as senior deputy whip, with the “Spirit of Enterprise” award on Wednesday.

“The federal government does not create jobs, small businesses in our local communities do,” said Ross. “Today, I am honored to receive the Spirit of Enterprise Award, and proud to support pro-growth policies that strengthen our economy and create jobs across Central Florida and the Tampa Bay region.”

“For 50 years, through our ‘How They Voted’ scorecard, the U.S. Chamber has been recognizing legislators from both sides of the aisle who have worked to pass legislation and enact policies that bolster our country’s economy, create jobs and keep our nation’s spirit of enterprise alive,” said Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber. “The Spirit of Enterprise Award honors those members of Congress like Congressman Dennis Ross who has recognized the need and shown a commitment to pro-growth policies in the second session of the 113th Congress.”

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The U.S. Humane Society honored U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., with its “Legislative Leader” award on Tuesday night. Last week, Buchanan introduced a bill looking to ban slaughtering horses for human consumption and he has co-sponsored bills cracking down on animal fighting, restricting puppy mills being able to sell dogs on the Internet and other legislation regarding animals.

"We are tremendously grateful to Congressman Buchanan for his work to celebrate the human-animal bond, and to stop abuses such as animal fighting, shark finning, horse slaughter, the pet trade in large constrictor snakes, and inhumane factory farming practices," said Michael Markarian, the president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. "Congressman Buchanan has been at the forefront of federal policies to prevent animal cruelty and protect wildlife such as Florida’s treasured manatees."

Buchanan said“honored to receive the Humane Society’s recognition.”

“Promoting the humane treatment of animals and preventing abuse is an issue we can all rally behind,” Buchanan said.

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Americans for Prosperity’s (AFP) Florida chapter cheered the Florida House for adjourning ahead of schedule on Tuesday as it continues to oppose Medicaid expansion leading to a stalemate with the Senate over the budget.

"The House stood strong and negotiated in good faith," stated Chris Hudson, AFP’s director in Florida. "Meanwhile, the Senate continues to stall a tax cut package that would help Floridians. The Senate should follow the House's leadership, pass the tax cut package, and go home!"

With a special session needed to pass a budget by the end of June, Hudson said his group will remain engaged.

“AFP's over 146,000 activists across Florida will remain ready to fight any proposal that would harm Florida families, pick winners and losers, or waste their hard-earned tax dollars,” said Hudson.

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In an unexpected move on Tuesday. Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, adjourned his chamber ahead of the end of session on Friday. With differences over Medicaid expansion, the House and the Senate have yet to reach an agreement on a budget. On Tuesday, Crisafulli said a special session would be needed before the end of June

“I want to thank the Florida House for their commitment to the 2015 Work Plan joint agenda with the Senate,” Crisafulli said on Tuesday. “The Florida House passed legislation that covered every principle in the joint plan. During session, the House worked tirelessly to implement the Work Plan developed in partnership with the Senate to pave a stronger future for Florida families.

“Together, the Florida House passed bills to cut taxes by $690 million, create a comprehensive water policy bill, establish a transparent structure for Amendment 1 funding, reduce student testing while maintaining accountability (signed into law), lower tuition, strengthen families by promoting adoptions (on the governor’s desk), and secure pathways to economic independence for persons with disabilities,” Crisafulli added. “I firmly believe that each of these bills will greatly benefit Floridians.

“Despite our differences on Medicaid expansion, it is noteworthy that the House and Senate appear to have found common ground on long contentious issues such as PSC reform, ALF reform, comprehensive Department of Corrections reform, mental health reform and grandparents’ rights (sent to the governor)," he said in closing. “We look forward to returning to Tallahassee for a special session to complete our work on the budget prior to the July 1 deadline.”

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U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, urged business owners impacted by the fire at the Pecan Park Flea and Farmers’ Market in Jacksonville to work with the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) on recovery assistance.

“When small businesses in Jacksonville and across the country have a need, the Small Business Administration can be counted on to take action,” said Crenshaw. “I strongly encourage small businesses impacted by the April Pecan Park Flea and Farmers’ Market fire to reach out to the SBA for recovery assistance. If you are from Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, or St. Johns County and were affected, you may be eligible.”

On Tuesday, the SBA announced a deadline of June 22 to file for recovery assistance.

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Kroger’s, the nation’s largest supermarket, has teamed up with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to promote “Fresh From Florida” groceries at more than 300 stores in seven states.

“We are excited to launch this new partnership with Kroger to spread the word about Florida sweet corn,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said on Tuesday. “We continue to see growth in our ‘Fresh From Florida’ campaign, proving that consumers in this state and other states across the country know there is nothing better than what we grow right here in Florida.”

Right now the “Fresh From Florida” campaign is running in more than 12,000 stores and in even more than 25 other countries.

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Floridians pay less taxes than residents of most other states with a new report finding state tax collections per capita are low, 48th in the nation, even as local taxes -- which make up almost almost 55 percent of government revenues -- are the highest across the nation.

Florida TaxWatch released “How Florida Compares” on Tuesday which looks at state and local taxes in the Sunshine State.

"Florida's different tax rankings paint a picture for taxpayers that helps them understand how state and local governments work together to provide necessary services," said Dominic Calabro, the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, on Tuesday. "We hope taxpayers and policymakers will use this guide to better understand the cost of state and local governments, and how those costs compare to the rest of the nation."

The full report can be read here.

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Most Americans still don't feel too great about President Barack Obama's new health care law and want more freedom in their health insurance options than the law allows, according to a new poll released Monday from Rasmussen Reports. 

Over half of likely American voters (54 percent) view the health care law unfavorably, a percentage which includes 37 percent who have a very unfavorable opinion of the law. Only 19 percent have a very favorable opinion of Obamacare. 

Thirty-eight percent of Americans believe the government should require every health insurance company and health insurance plan to cover the exact same set of medical procedures. Thirty-two percent disagree. Nearly just as many (30 percent) are undecided.

Most Americans -- 70 percent -- believe individuals should have the right to choose between health insurance that costs more/cover just about all medical procedures and some that cost less/covering only major medical procedures. Only 12 percent oppose this choice.

A higher number (80 percent) of Americans believe individuals should have the right to choose between different types of health insurance plans, even those with higher deductibles and lower premiums and others with lower deductibles and higher premiums. 

The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted April 23 and April 26 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.0 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
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Former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., came out swinging on Sunday against former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments on religious freedom. Clinton is the favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination. Bush started an exploratory bid for the presidency in December and is expected to officially enter the race soon.

Bush took aim at comments Clinton made last week that women in Africa and less developed parts of the world need more health care and legal protection.

“W have cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth,” Clinton said on Thursday at the “Women in the World” conference held in New York.

“All the laws we passed don’t count for much if they are not enforced,” Clinton added. “Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will, and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

Over the weekend, Bush pounced on Clinton’s remarks.

“This week Hillary Clinton said that people's deep-seated religious beliefs need to be changed in order to advance her own personal political agenda. Wow,” Bush emailed supporters on Sunday. "America was founded on religious freedom, and that freedom is woven into the Bill of Rights as the first guarantee. And strengthening families is an important element to helping people rise up. This shouldn't be a partisan political issue, but unfortunately for Hillary Clinton it sounds like it is.”

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Florida Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, was named on Monday by GOPAC as part of its “Class of Emerging Leaders,” which the Republican PAC defines as “talented state legislators who have demonstrated potential to have a positive impact in their state and in the Republican Party.” Bradley is one of less than 25 Republican state legislators from around the country to be named to the program which will hold a summit in June.

“Our Emerging Leaders program ensures a roster of prepared and tested Republicans ready to lead in their state legislatures and run for higher office.” said David Avella, the chairman of GOPAC. “As evidenced by past honorees now serving in Congress or as leaders in their state legislative chambers, this program has proven effective at advancing the Republican Party’s next generation. Further, Republican majorities in 69 of 99 state legislative chambers have proven a tremendous advantage in federal elections.”

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From his seat on the U.S House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., showcased his support of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s, R-Fla., “Veterans ID Card Act,” a bill ensuring every honorably discharged veteran receives an ID card from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Buchanan’s bill would ensure all veterans receive ID cards from the VA instead of just those who served 20 years in the armed forces or are seeking medical treatment for service-related wounds. Buchanan said veterans are forced to carry DD-214 paperwork, which contains sensitive information including Social Security numbers, and an ID card would be more convenient and would do a better job of keeping their personal information secure. Buchanan says his bill is budget neutral since veterans who opt for the ID card would have a “small fee” which the VA secretary would examine every five years.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, announced on Thursday that he was backing the measure.

“Our veterans have put their lives on the line so that we may live in freedom and deserve timely, efficient, and effective access to the benefits they have earned,” Crenshaw said on Friday. “They shouldn’t have to carry pages of information to prove their military service.

“The Veteran’s ID Card Act offers proof of military service in one simple card,” Crenshaw added, praising the bill as “common sense" and called for “immediate consideration and passage in the House.”

“There is no time to waste,” Crenshaw said in conclusion.

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U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the ranking Democrat, teamed up on Thursday to bring out a bill condemning Iran for continued violations of the International Covenant on Human Rights and persecution of the Baha’is.

The Florida representatives were joined by U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, Robert Dold, R-Ill., Eliot Engel, D-NY, and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. The Senate counterpart is backed by Illinois’ two senators--Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Mark Kirk--U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oreg., and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is running for the Republican presidential nomination.

“The state-sponsored persecution of Iran’s Baha’i minority is a disturbing reminder of the Iranian regime’s abysmal human rights record,” Ros-Lehtinen said on Thursday. “The Iranian regime does not tolerate dissent and cracks down on anyone who dares to express themselves freely, beating and jailing journalists, political opposition, and ethnic and religious minorities. Baha’is in Iran are frequent targets of a regime who imprisons their leaders, destroys their cemeteries, and has created a systematic culture of discrimination that prevents practitioners from accessing employment, education, and social services.

“Despite the administration’s attempts to brand Rouhani as a moderate and potential ally, executions under this tyrant have increased and the human rights situation has worsened,” Ros-Lehtinen added. “I am proud to join with my colleagues in the House and Senate in introducing this bipartisan resolution condemning the Iranian regime’s persecution of Baha’is and it should serve as a reminder that we should not be fooled into thinking that the Iranian regime is made up of anyone other than ruthless thugs who will oppress, lie, and kill if they have to in order to stay in power.”

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At an event in New York on Thursday, former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., told supporters that he would not make the same mistakes that former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., did during his 2012 presidential bid.

“[Romney] made it about a referendum on the president’s policies rather than about himself. He didn’t show his heart,” Bush said at the event according to the Washington Free Beacon. “He didn’t send a signal that he cared about people, when he did.”

“A lot of it is just connecting on a human level with people, not being behind some protective shield,” Bush added. “Campaigning in a way where you’re outside your own comfort zone. Taking questions, not having it all scripted out, not having it all part of some narrative that producers made. Be more spontaneous.”

Despite breaking with conservatives on issue ranging from Common Core to immigration, Bush sounded confident about his chances in the Republican presidential primary in 2016.

“I know how to win a primary, I think,” Bush said. “But the easy way to win a primary is the hard way to win a general. So you have to be true yourself.”

The Free Beacon’s article on the event can be read here.

H/t PoliticalWire, the indispensable political news site from Taegan Goddard.

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U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., is tying himself closer to former U.S. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, the heavy favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination, as he continues his bid for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

Murphy sent out an email to supporters on Friday as he called for overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on campaign financing. He also ditched his attempts to come off as a moderate who reaches across the party aisle, going on the attack against “extreme Republicans” in Congress.

“In 2012, I defeated Allen West by 0.6 percent in the most expensive U.S. House race in history,” Murphy wrote. “I’ve seen firsthand how dark money in politics has made extreme tea party candidates competitive in places where they shouldn't be. And I’ve seen too many extreme Republicans come to Congress.

“The bottom line is that I’m disgusted by what the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision has done to our democracy,” Murphy added. “Now that Hillary Clinton has brought the fight to overturn Citizens United to the national stage, we must stand with her.

“Hillary is right. We must do whatever it takes to get unaccountable money out of politics -- even if it takes a constitutional amendment,” Murphy continued.

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Florida CFO Jeff Atwater might not be running for the U.S. Senate in 2016 but he weighed in on how the federal government was managing its finances on Thursday. Noting that National Taxpayer Independence Day falls on Friday this year, Atwater said the federal government needs to get its fiscal house in order.

“The most concerning thing about National Taxpayer Independence Day is what it doesn’t include,” Atwater said on Thursday. “While the nation’s families can now begin to earn income beyond their total annual tax burden, they remain saddled by the federal government’s uncontrolled debt.

“Just as every American forfeits a sum of money that amounts to nearly one-third of their annual income in taxes, every American household would have to forfeit 14 straight months of income to pay off the current gross federal debt, which doesn’t even include the debt that Washington keeps piling on the backs of hard-working Americans," Atwater added. “American households make tough financial decisions each day and must operate within a budget, and it’s time the federal government should start doing the same.”

Atwater took his name out of contention earlier this month to replace U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in 2016.

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U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., showcased his support for bills improving cyber security on Thursday.

Yoho highlighted his support for the “Protecting Cyber Networks Act” which revises the National Security Act of 1947 so that the director of national intelligence (DNI) works with various federal departments to find the best procedure to inform the private sector about cyber threats. The North Florida congressman also pointed to his support of the “National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act” which amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 so the federal government and the private sector coordinate more to battle cyber threats.

“The threat of cyberattacks to our country and the American people are growing in their sophistication and frequency by the minute,” Yoho said on Thursday. “Whether it is the federal government, private business, or the identity theft of individual Americans, we must do all we can to combat this threat. The two cyber security bills we passed out of the House this week make protection a priority, while preserving the personal liberties of all Americans.

“These bills encourage the voluntary sharing of information to strengthen cyber defense, require congressional reporting and oversight, and mandate sunsets in seven years. This will require congressional approval in order for this legislation to continue past the seven years,” Yoho added. “Cyberattacks are a serious threat to us all. By interconnecting our defenses – between the federal government and private sector – we can better minimize the severity of these unseen, yet devastating, attacks.”

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is currently running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs needs to hold more employees accountable after reports emerged last year about veterans dying after being placed on altered waiting lists while seeking medical treatment.

Despite Congress voting for reform measures last year, Rubio said their efforts were not working quickly enough.

“The purpose of last year’s VA reform law was to take people out of positions where they can do damage to our veterans but also prevent a broader culture of incompetence,” Rubio said on Thursday. “It’s clear the law’s measures are not working swiftly enough, and the VA is in danger of further entrenching a work environment where people get too comfortable in the belief that their jobs are safe even if their performance is terrible.

“I’m very concerned that the VA secretary has apparently not been straightforward with the American people and with Congress about the department’s use of the firing authority it was granted last year,” Rubio added. “Our veterans who have been victimized by incompetence and ethical lapses at the VA deserve better, and Congress should step up with new measures to do right by them.”

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Politico reported on Thursday that U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is the favorite to win the support of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a prominent supporter of Republicans. Adelson heavily supported former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., in the 2012 presidential race and Rubio and other 2016 presidential hopefuls are courting his support. Politico’s article can be read here.

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U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis announced on Wednesday that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas House in Miami will be a national historic landmark. They made the announcement on Wednesday to mark Earth Day and with President Barack Obama holding an event at the Everglades.

“As the National Park Service strives to build partnerships, stewardship, and advocacy of the nation’s natural and cultural resources with the younger generations, we can look to the past for inspiration,” said Jarvis. “Reflected in this newly designated national historic landmark; Douglas’ tireless advocacy for preservation of the Everglades fostered community involvement and appreciation crucial to saving one of the nation’s most treasured landscapes.”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a prominent environmental activists whose book, “The Everglades: River of Grass,” is considered a classic in the genre.

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U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., part of the U.S. House leadership as senior deputy whip, insisted Iran is helping fund terrorism.

Ross sits on the Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing and focused on Iran at a meeting on Wednesday, asking Johnathan Schanzer, the VP of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, about Iran.

“Would you say there is a great deal of cooperation between the various terrorist groups?” Ross asked. “I mean, between Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Shabaab it’s almost as if … would one draw the conclusion that there is a terrorist central bank?

“Well, I would say that Iran is probably the terrorist central bank in terms of the connections it has in terms of all of these various terrorist groups,” Schanzer replied. “And there is this notion out there that Sunnis and Shiites don’t work together but … there is a significant cell of al-Qaida operatives and financiers based in Iran.

“Iran is the lead sponsor of radical Islamic terrorism throughout the world today. At the same time, President Obama and his administration are in the process of negotiating an agreement with Iran that would end current economic sanctions, allowing an estimated $50 billion to enter their economy,” Ross said. “These funds will be nearly impossible to keep out of the hands of terrorist groups. This administration must not strike a deal with Iran that allows them to contribute more financial resources to radical Islamic terrorists across the globe.”

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Florida TaxWatch released a report on Thursday calling for reforms to the prison system in the Sunshine State.

"It is clear that tough-on-crime policies are not working for Florida, as our state's crime rate is still 15 percent higher than the national average, even while crime rates across the nation continue to fall," said Robert Weissert, Florida TaxWatch’s senior VP of research, on Thursday.

Florida TaxWatch recommended keeping some nonviolent felons out of prisions through electric monitoring and other solutions.

"This year, the Florida Legislature and the Florida Department of Corrections are working together to incorporate some of our recommendations in a new corrections framework for Florida," Weissert noted. "The Legislature expects to pass a prison reform package, championed by Sen. Greg Evers and Rep. Carlos Trujillo, that will open the door to taxpayer savings by allowing infirmed prisoners to leave the costly corrections system, and will facilitate data collection to make informed decisions about the elderly prison population. Lawmakers are also considering a bill by Sen. Garcia and Rep. Clarke-Reed that will expand the use of juvenile civil citations, ensuring fewer young Floridians are exposed to the criminal justice system for nonviolent misdemeanor crimes. Others have proposed similar Florida TaxWatch recommendations, such as Rep. Katie Edwards, whose proposal to reduce the number of elderly, nonthreatening inmates in state prisons could save taxpayers up to $40 million. We look forward to working with these lawmakers who have committed themselves to improving the state's criminal justice system in the future."

The report can be read here.


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Move over Gators, Seminoles, Knights, Hurricanes, Ospreys, Hatters. Here comes the Phoenix. 

Florida Polytechnic University has a mascot with students choosing the phoenix to represent the Sunshine State’s newest university.

“Students made an excellent choice in the phoenix to represent Florida Poly,” said the university’s President Randy Avent on Wednesday. “It is a stellar symbol of our spirit and culture, and it conveys that Florida Poly is a place of creativity, problem solving and purpose. Our inaugural class should take great pride in defining this part of our legacy, and I look forward to seeing how they and our incoming class continue to shape our campus and traditions.”

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Former Florida House Majority Leader Steve Precourt joined the board of the Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, a conservative group. President and Chairman Jim Kallinger announced the addition of former State Rep. Steve Precourt to the Coalition’s board. First elected to the House in 2006, Precourt served until he faced term limits last year. 

“Steve has earned a tremendous amount of respect and admiration during his service in the Florida Legislature and as a leader in the Orlando business community,” said Jim Kallinger on Wednesday. “His integrity and principled approach will only enhance our efforts to fulfill our mission. We are honored and blessed to have him.”

“I am excited to help advance the coalition’s mission of helping people of faith be energized, informed, active, and effective citizens,” said Precourt. “I am honored to be serving with Jim and the other board members, applying my God-given talents and abilities to this significant task.”

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Gov. Rick Scott said on Wednesday that lifting the embargo with Cuba will hurt Florida agriculture.

“Agriculture is a vital part of our economy in Florida, and lifting the embargo on Cuba could do irreparable harm to it,” Scott said. “Importing agricultural products from Cuba could drive down demand for Florida products, open our crops up to invasive pests and species, and give the Castro regime leverage to continue the suppression of their people. Florida agriculture has over a $100 billion impact on our state, and President Obama should be doing everything he can to support it. Sadly, he continues to stand side by side with the Castro regime. I will continue to oppose lifting the embargo, and fight for Florida families, farmers, and our agriculture industry.”

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Americans for Prosperity’s (AFP) Florida chapter released a new radio ad on Wednesday, urging the Florida Legislature to reject Medicaid expansion. Currently, the Florida Senate supports Medicaid expansion while Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida House stand against it.

“At some point, the Senate is going to have to recognize that Floridians do not want more federally run health care,” said Chris Hudson, AFP’s director in Florida, on Wednesday. “Their plan will force a massive regulatory burden and even bigger financial drain on the state. Even worse? Their plan does nothing to ensure Floridians get the care they deserve. The Senate should be working with the House and Gov. Scott to hold the federal government accountable, and refocus on what they were elected to do – balance the budget.”

Hudson said the Senate was standing in the way of Scott’s proposed tax cuts, including reducing cellphone and cable services taxes by $470 million.

“By choosing to play politics, the Senate is going to kill a $690 million tax-cut package,” Hudson said. “The state should be balancing the budget and leaving dollars in the pockets of Floridians for them to use the way they see fit.”

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