Sunshine State News Blogs
Wrapping up leading a trade mission to Chile, Gov. Rick Scott announced on Friday that Atton Hotels -- which currently has properties in Chile and Peru -- will launch their first site in the United States in Miami come 2015. Bringing in $55 million from investments and creating 170 new direct jobs, Atton will open the hotel in downtown Miami.
“Miami is the ideal location for Atton Hotels because it is both an international tourism and business destination. I was pleased to meet with Atton Hotels while we were in Chile this week and learn about their plans to expand in Florida,” Scott said. “Today’s announcement underscores the importance of continuing to work with our partners in Latin America to create new opportunities for Florida families. With the recent news that our unemployment rate has dropped below the national average to 7.2 percent and the creation of nearly 330,000 private-sector jobs since we took office, it is clear the policies we are implementing to attract global companies like Atton Hotels to Florida are working.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., appeared on Fox News on Friday morning, arguing that the Fort Hood attack should be classified as a terrorist attack. Rooney noted that he served at Fort Hood and went through the details of the attack. While so far the Army refused to classify the attack as terrorism, Rooney said he remains optimistic due to comments from President Barack Obama. “I don’t think this is over by any means,” Rooney said.
Former state Sen. Dan Gelber, best known for being the Democratic attorney general who lost to Pam Bondi in 2010, is slamming Gov. Rick Scott for accepting campaign contributions from Heritage Property Insurance and Casualty Insurance -- and raising his own profile in the process.
Gelber sent Scott a letter on Friday demanding the governor return $110,000 in contributions from Heritage which is generating more than $50 million as it takes on policies held by state-backed Citizens Property Insurance. In March, Heritage contributed to Let’s Get to Work, a PAC which has ties to Scott. For their part, the governor and his team deny having anything to do with the deal.
Despite losing to Pam Bondi by 14 percent in 2010, Gelber is somehow alive politically -- which shows how shallow the Democratic bench is in Florida. Since his loss, Gelber has remained politically active and has been probably the most vocal supporter of Charlie Crist joining the Democrats. There’s even speculation that Gelber could wind up on the Democratic ticket for 2014, either as attorney general (though why he is entitled to a rematch against Bondi after losing 55 percent to 41 percent is a bit of a mystery) or as Crist’s lieutenant governor candidate.
Gelber is, in fact, a natural choice for Crist as a running mate. Unlike the governor who has been all over the place in his political career as a Republican, a no-party affiliate and, now, a Democrat, Gelber is a liberal Democrat based in South Florida. Liberal Democrats may have their suspicions of Crist but Gelber is clearly one of them.
Having been crushed by Bondi, Gelber could make something of a political comeback as Crist’s understudy. Make no mistake -- Gelber is one of the most ambitious Democrats in the state. Having led Democrats in the Florida House after winning a fourth and final term in the 2006 elections, Gelber ran for the state Senate in 2008 and won a seat. He promptly started exploring the idea of running for the U.S. Senate in 2010 but when Kendrick Meek jumped in, Gelber set his sights on running for attorney general. Over the course of basically a four-year period, Gelber ran for four different offices. Just like Crist -- who never bothered to seek re-election for any of the three statewide offices he’s held -- Gelber has a tendency to promptly look around for a new political opening. Certainly Gelber is showing no hesitation in playing the attack dog, a traditional role for the running mate. In any case, Gelber’s letter is generating some attention his way.
Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who serves on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, represents parts of the First Coast, an area with close ties to the military. On Memorial Day, Crenshaw will be speaking in downtown Jacksonville at the Veterans Wall ceremony before heading to a wreath-laying ceremony at the Jacksonville National Cemetery.
“In Northeast Florida and in communities large and small across this great country, Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor our fallen patriots for paying the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy liberty,” Crenshaw said in his statement on Memorial Day. “America’s greatness is drawn from the blood and sacrifice of brave servicemen and women who have gone before us, defending our freedom. Valiant soldiers all, they stand at the forefront of our thoughts.
“The Veterans Wall ceremony and the wreath-laying ceremony at the Jacksonville National Cemetery will provide a welcome opportunity for me to pay respect to those who have gone before us and underscore the heroism of those who protect us at home and abroad. Past or present, their service will never be taken for granted,” continued Crenshaw. “From the defense installations that anchor our national security, to the servicemen and women and their families who live here, to the service organizations who support our armed forces, the First Coast’s strong military tradition commands respect. On Memorial Day and all days, we provide that salute. We remember all who have made the region a focal point of patriotism at its finest. And, we say thank you for your contributions to our great nation – you will never be forgotten.”
Florida’s gubernatorial race next year is shaping up as one of the main events of the 2014 election cycle--and it’s already starting to get national attention. That’s to be expected since the Sunshine State remains the leading swing state in the nation. But there’s also high drama as Charlie Crist, having switched party affiliations twice in the last two and a half years, is looking to win his old job back--this time as a Democrat.
Crist joined the Democrats back in December and, as an article by Elahe Izadi over at National Journal shows, some members of his new party continue to remain suspicious of him. After all, Crist ran twice for the U.S. Senate, twice for state Cabinet offices and served as governor as a Republican. Only after Marco Rubio caught him in the polls in the Senate race back in 2010 did Crist switch over to running without party affiliation.
Keep an eye on Sunshine State News in the days to come for article on how Nan Rich hopes her liberalism can win Democrats who are suspicious of Crist’s political transformations and a look at where things stand in the gubernatorial race as summer begins. As Izadi’s article shows, this race is commanding national attention.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, appears to have the edge over potential Republican presidential rival U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fl, in Iowa, the home of the first caucus according to a Quinnipiac poll released on Friday morning. While Barack Obama carried Iowa twice, Republicans remain competitive there in the general elections.
Surveying Iowa voters, the poll shows former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton edging Paul by 4 percent in Iowa while beating Rubio by 11 percent. Both Republicans lead Vice President Joe Biden. Paul beats Biden by 5 percent while Rubio only leads the vice president by 1 percent.
"The major difference between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joseph Biden is that she runs much better among independent voters, although Sen. Rand Paul runs better among that key group than either Democrat," said Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute on Friday. "In general Sen. Paul appears to be the better GOP candidate at this point in Iowa. Part of the reason may be the publicity from his recent high-profile visit to the state, but more likely is that he begins with a solid base of support - the folks who voted for his father in the 2008 and 2012 caucuses."
The poll of 1,411 Iowa voters was taken from May 15-21 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percent.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is in the tricky position of trying to lead the fight for immigration reform while still retaining the support of conservatives, which the junior senator from Florida will need if he runs for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
With reports on Thursday that the House is making progress on reaching an agreement on immigration, Rubio weighed in, insisting that conservatives in both chambers of Congress could find common ground on immigration while adding President Barack Obama can’t be trusted on the issue.
“Our republic works best when Congress solves problems through open and transparent debates, which is exactly how immigration reform will be addressed this summer,” Rubio said on Thursday. “Conservatives in both chambers of Congress agree the status quo on immigration is bad for our people, our security and our economy. And we agree we must end today’s de facto amnesty, modernize our legal immigration system, deal with our illegal immigrant population by requiring that strict measures be achieved, and that we put in place tough border security and interior enforcement measures so that we never repeat this problem. The American people deserve for their elected representatives to set our nation’s immigration policy, not leave it at the will of this president to decide which laws he’ll enforce and which ones he’ll create on his own by executive order. This is the way our nation is supposed to solve problems.”
Also on Thursday, Rubio took to the Mike Gallagher radio show to weigh in on the issue of immigration and why he is fighting for reform.
“You have three problems,” Rubio said. “You have a legal immigration system that doesn’t work. You have 11 million people that are here illegally, and they’ve been here a decade or longer – most of them, the vast majority of them. And then the third problem is that you don’t have enforcement mechanisms to keep people from coming in the future illegally. So you have three big problems, and you got to deal with all three of them. If you leave it the way it is, which is what’s going to happen if immigration reform fails, all you have is what we have today getting worse. That’s what you have.”
From his perch as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, First Coast Republican U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw will be looking into the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Crenshaw announced on Thursday that his committee will examine on June 3 how the IRS allocates its funding. Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George will be testifying before Crenshaw’s committee.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Crenshaw said recent revelations that the IRS took aim at conservative and tea party groups were disturbing and he hopes his committee can help end those kind of practices.
“As the subcommittee drafts the Fiscal Year 2014 Financial Services Appropriations Bill, it is critical to gain a clear understanding of how the IRS uses the taxpayer dollars it receives from Congress and to research how our bill can help prevent abuses like those revealed in the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report from ever happening again,” said Crenshaw. “The IRS admission that individual group applications for tax-exempt status were inappropriately singled out for further review is chilling. The subcommittee looks forward to helping ensure that taxpayer dollars are used properly and that all Americans are treated equally regardless of their political affiliation.”
Al Lawson might have led Democrats in the Florida Senate but the party establishment is showing signs of supporting Gwen Graham over him to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in 2014.
This week, Graham, the daughter of Bob Graham who served as governor and represented Florida in the U.S. Senate, showcased two prominent Florida Democrats as she gears up to run against Southerland. Graham featured a photo with freshman U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy earlier in the week. “Great to have the support of Rep. Patrick Murphy,” Graham posted on her Facebook page. “He understands that bipartisanship is key to making Congress work again."
On Thursday, Graham featured a photo with another prominent Democrat -- former Gov. Charlie Crist. “Last night I was proud to stand next to Governor Charlie Crist as he endorsed my campaign for Congress," Graham noted. She failed to mention that Crist ran against her father in a U.S. Senate race as a Republican. After years running for office as a Republican, Crist abandoned the GOP to run for the Senate in 2010 with no party affiliation. He jumped over to the Democrats in December.
Lawson has run for Congress twice. He gave incumbent U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd a scare in the 2010 Democratic primaries before winning the nomination in 2012. Southerland held on to beat Lawson in November. For the moment, it appears Lawson will have to take on much of the Democratic leadership if he wants to run a third time. Lawson has hinted he will run again and there could be an announcement in the weeks to come.
With family ties to the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and with three sons who want to play football, Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney is more than a little concerned about concussions and brain injuries. This week, Rooney joined New Jersey Democrat U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell to sponsor a bill requiring children and high school students playing football use helmets meeting safety standards to protect against concussions and other brain injuries. The bill, which has a Senate version by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., also imposes penalties when companies present fake claims about helmets and other equipment preventing injuries. Rooney and Pascrell co-chair the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.
“As a father of three sons who can’t wait to play tackle football, I want to do everything we can to protect young people from suffering head injuries on the field,” Rooney said. “We can’t completely eliminate the risks of playing youth sports, but we can make sure that helmets and other equipment meet the highest safety standards for our kids.”
“The dangers multiple concussions pose to our young athletes is well-known, so it's imperative we do everything possible to protect them on the playing field,” said Pascrell. “I've fought to ensure there are resources available to young athletes that sustain a brain injury, and this legislation will bring us one step closer to preventing these devastating injuries to begin with. The only thing standing between athletes and serious injury is their equipment, which is why manufacturers must be held to the highest possible standard. We cannot jeopardize the health and safety of our young athletes by allowing inferior equipment into their locker rooms.”
Rooney, Pascrell and Udall are getting some major league support for their bill -- literally. The following organizations are all behind the bill: the NFL, NFL Players Association, Major League Baseball, MLB Players Association, NBA, NHL, NCAA, Major League Soccer (MLS) Players Union, American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Pediatrics, Brain Injury Association of America, Brain Trauma Foundation, Cleveland Clinic, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Natl. Consumers League, Safe Kids USA, Natl. Assoc. of State Head Injury Administrators, Natl. Athletic Trainers Association, Natl. Fed. of State High School Associations (NFHS), NOCSAE, U.S. Lacrosse and U.S. Soccer Federation.
A new poll finds Americans generally remain convinced that increased government spending hurts the economy.
Rasmussen Reports unveiled a poll on Thursday which shows 47 percent of likely voters across the nation think more government spending hurts the economy while 31 percent of them believe more government spending helps the economy. A much lower percentage of those surveyed -- 12 percent -- thinks increased government spending has no impact on the economy one way or the other.
The poll of 1,000 likely voters was taken from May 21-22 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
Despite leading Democrats in the Florida Senate and having entered the race more than a year ago, Nan Rich has made little progress in her gubernatorial campaign. In recent weeks, though, Rich has started to become more visible in the media and is staking out more liberal positions as she seeks to define herself. There’s some indication that she is making progress even as the likes of Charlie Crist and Alex Sink continue to ponder entering the race. In recent days, Rich won the backing of the National Organization for Women (NOW).
Rich is now drawing fire from the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) for her liberal record on abortion and other issues. The RPOF launched an attack on Rich on Thursday for “extreme liberal positions” on abortion over the years.
Strangely enough, the Republican attack on Rich probably helps her in the short run. With possible primary opponents Crist, Sink and even Bill Nelson still on the sidelines, Rich is trying to define herself as the liberal in the field -- a real Democrat’s Democrat as opposed to, say, Crist who spent most of his political career as a Republican before running for the U.S. Senate with no party affiliation in 2010 and then jumping over to the Democrats in December. Rich has even swatted at her former Senate Democratic colleagues in recent days for backing the Republican version of Medicaid expansion mandated by President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law.
While going left is a poor general election strategy in Florida, it’s probably Rich’s only way of distinguishing herself against Crist in the primary and she seems to have doubled down on this plan in recent weeks. Keep an eye on Sunshine State News this weekend for a look at how Rich hopes running to the left will help bolster her underdog bid for the Democratic nomination.
Veteran First Coast Republican U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw teamed up with U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., this week to launch the GSP Update for Production Diversification and Trade Enhancement Act (GSP UPDATE Act). This bill will help the American travel goods industry by opening new opportunities in Asia, namely in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand and making some travel goods as duty-free.
When the GSP program -- which provides commercial opportunities to developing countries -- was launched in 1974, travel goods were exempted. Under Crenshaw’s bill, companies could petition the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to request items be added to the GSP program.
“In these tough economic times, Congress must work to promote economic growth and job creation,” Crenshaw said on Wednesday. This bill accomplishes that goal for the travel goods industry in Florida, Nebraska, and across the nation. Moreover, the GSP UPDATE Act is an opportunity to enhance a successful global development program for our partners and allies and in so doing strengthen our national security in key world regions.
“Upon passage, travel goods such as the purses, briefcases, and backpacks, could be considered for approval as duty-free products by the U.S. Trade Representative under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program,” Crenshaw added. “The GSP program is a long-successful global development program for our critical partners and allies. That’s a ‘win-win’ for companies like Coach, in Jacksonville, Florida, as well as our national security strategy in countries around the globe. The bill would give the travel goods industry viable market alternatives to China which is not a GSP country. American businesses need tools to help them move forward, and I strongly encourage my House colleagues to support me in an effort to strengthen opportunities for this sector of our economy.”
As Crenshaw noted, Coach, which has some corporate operations in Jacksonville, is clearly behind his bill.
"Coach supports the efforts of Congressmen Crenshaw and Smith in making a positive change to U.S. trade policy through the GSP UPDATE Act,” said Coach Executive Vice President of Operations Angus McRae. “This important initiative seeks to bring the GSP program in line with the modern realities of our industry. The GSP UPDATE Act will open new and much-needed sourcing opportunities, promote our competitiveness and benefit our employees in Jacksonville and across the United States."
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is already a folk hero to Republicans for standing up to government employees on collective bargaining and becoming the first governor in American history to defeat a recall effort. Walker won the recall effort by a larger margin than that which propelled him to victory in 2010.
Needless to say, Walker is already generating presidential buzz -- and that will only amplify as he heads to Iowa. Walker will be giving a speech in Iowa on Thursday which had led to speculation about his ambitions in 2016. For the moment, Walker is playing down such talk but he’s not exactly shutting the door on a presidential bid.
If Walker enters the race, he’ll clearly be a major player in the primaries. He’ll also hold a few advantages in Iowa which holds the first caucus. Walker has roots there, having spent some of his boyhood in Iowa. Walker also is close with Gov. Terry Branstad. With organization being crucial in Iowa, having Branstad’s support would give him a leg up over some of the other Republican hopefuls.
Keep an eye on Walker. Unlike many governors and former governors who have sought the Republican nomination in recent years -- we mean you, Tim Pawlenty -- Walker is already a national figure. If he enters the race, Walker starts as a top contender.
This week, Florida closed the books on paying back the federal government $3.5 billion which went to the Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund. Besides Florida, 13 other states have fully repaid the federal government for these funds but 22 other states are still repaying the borrowed money. The money was borrowed from August 2009 until earlier this month to help with unemployment compensation. Repaying the money was a major priority of the Republican legislative leadership -- namely now-Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Destin, and now-House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel -- last year.
Jesse Panuccio, the executive director of the state Department of Economic Opportunity, credited Gov. Rick Scott’s policies for helping Florida repay the federal government.
“This administration’s sound fiscal policies, responsible budgeting, and commitment to getting Floridians back to work has enabled Florida’s unemployment compensation trust fund to once again become solvent,” said Panuccio on Thursday. “This will allow Florida businesses to continue the private-sector job creation that has flourished since 2010.”
Scott also received some praise from leaders of the business community.
“Florida’s unemployment compensation trust fund is once again in the black,” said David Hart, the executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday. “Florida’s unemployment rate has dropped from 11.1 percent to 7.2 percent since Governor Scott was elected, and ultimately, putting Floridians back to work through private-sector job creation is the best way to keep our unemployment compensation system financially sound.
“Governor Scott’s focus on private-sector job creation has been a significant contributing factor to Florida being able to pay off its unemployment compensation federal debt more quickly,” Hart continued. “The Florida Chamber applauds legislators and Governor Scott for their efforts in helping position Florida to repay its debt and achieve a stronger and more predictable business climate.”
A new poll finds Americans aren’t buying the Obama administration’s line that Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees in Cincinnati acted alone in targeting conservative and tea party groups.
Rasmussen Reports released a survey showing only 20 percent of likely voters believe the Cincinnati-based IRS employees decided to take aim at conservatives. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed -- 65 percent -- believe orders came from Washington, with 39 percent thinking the White House came up with the idea.
The poll of 1,000 likely voters was taken from May 20-21 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
From her perch as chairwoman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee (MENA), on Thursday, South Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen offered her thoughts on the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 -- and warned that anti-Semitism was on the rise across the globe.
“The State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom Report for 2012 highlights some very disturbing trends in the Middle East and North Africa regions,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who previously chaired the Foreign Affairs Committee. “Perhaps the most disturbing trend from this report is the continued rise in anti-Semitism -- not just in the MENA regions, but worldwide. Holocaust denial and glorification are not only condoned, but have become common practice by government officials, religious leaders and the media in these countries, most notably Egypt and Iran.
“Sadly, this report comes as no surprise, as we have witnessed blatant discrimination against various religious minorities throughout that region, particularly against Jews and Christians,” Ros-Lehtinen added. “In Egypt, Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood cronies systematically target religious minorities, most notably the Coptic Christians, and repeatedly recite prayers that call for the destruction of Jews and their supporters, while Ahmadinejad and the Iranian government continue to deny the Holocaust occurred and blame the ‘Zionists’ for all of the world’s ills.
“Saudi Arabia is once again a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ as the government there continues its discriminatory policies and practices against Jews, Christians, Shiites and any other religious minority, and there has been no substantial progress for religious freedom in the Middle East and North Africa, even in the aftermath of the Arab Spring,” concluded Ros-Lehtinen. “I continue to urge the administration to implement proper sanctions on countries that continue to egregiously violate the religious rights and freedoms of their people, and to also re-evaluate our foreign assistance to these nations, leveraging our money to promote real reforms.”
Edward DeAguilera of Windermere filed to run for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Geri Thompson, D-Orlando, on Thursday. While this is a fairly solid district for Democrats, DeAguilera has an interesting story. He runs the Sandra DeAguilera Project which helps raise funds for organizations helping women and children. The project was named after his sister who died, possibly from abuse, while pregnant. The director of development and community partnerships of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida, DeAguilera is also well-known in the community for his work with the Hispanic Health Initiative Fund which helps women with breast cancer.
Having moved up from the House to the Senate after a bitter primary against Victoria Siplin last year, Thompson filed to run for another term back in January. As of March 31, she had $18,650 in the bank.
DeAguilera does not have an open shot at Thompson. Accountant Fritz Jackson Seide filed to enter the race as a Republican in January, hoping for a rematch with Thompson. Back in November, Thompson routed him at the polls, taking 69 percent of the vote.
Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross has a new committee assignment This week, with U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, winning a coveted spot on the Ways and Means Committee, Ross took the seat he left open on the House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance. With his new assignment in hand, Ross took aim at the controversial Dodd-Frank reforms.
“I am honored to serve on such an important committee to Florida,” said Ross. “As families in the 15th District struggle to keep their homes and get back on their feet, I want to be an advocate for less government intrusion in that process. I want to be sure the Dodd-Frank Act – which was hastily passed in the wake of the financial collapse – does not place additional burdens on our property and casualty insurance industry and hurt homeowners. This committee is also poring over reforms that would protect the Federal Housing Administration – an important program to first-time homeowners – and being on this subcommittee allows me to have a seat at the table.”
Freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, who represents parts of North Central Florida, doubled down on his support of the Keystone XL Pipeline this week, comparing it to one of the great infrastructure investments in American history.
Explaining his vote on Wednesday in favor of HR 3, which removes the need for presidential approval to build the pipeline, Yoho argued that Keystone XL would create jobs and help the economy. Yoho also took aim at President Barack Obama for opposing it.
“The Keystone XL Pipeline is the Transcontinental Railroad of our time,” Yoho said. “It unlocks 20,000 much-needed jobs and pumps $20 billion into our economy. We needed this legislation today to break the lock President Obama has placed on American ingenuity through a permit process of more than 1,700 days and 15,500 pages of review. For every page written and day delayed, that’s an American who could have been working. Streamlining government allows more Americans to work, and that’s what we did today.”
Gov. Rick Scott’s trade mission to Chile is already paying off for Florida. On Thursday, Gov. Scott announced that Crystal Lagoons Corp., a company headquartered in Chile which develops man-made lagoons for swimming and other activities, will soon be based in Miami. Scott met with staff from Crystal Lagoons, which has operations in more than 50 countries, while in Chile.
“This is another great announcement for Florida families,” Scott said on Thursday. “In addition to adding new jobs to our economy, Crystal Lagoons brings their industry-leading innovation to our state. Florida’s business climate continues to bring new, cutting-edge technology to our state, creating thousands of jobs every month. Our unemployment rate continues to drop and more than 330,000 private-sector jobs have been added since I took office. Our policies to attract new and expanding companies to the Sunshine State are working.”
“We view Florida as one of the strongest real estate and tourism states in the country,” said Kevin Morgan, the CEO of Crystal Lagoons. “Crystal Lagoons has an extraordinary potential both in Florida and the USA, and has installed its headquarters in Miami aiming to satisfy the high demand from American developers.”
Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope, the president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, pointed toward the increasing amount of international investment in the Sunshine State.
“Florida is not only a top tourism destination, but also a popular destination for international business investment,” said Swoope. “Attracted by its large and booming economy, stable business environment, and international workforce, new business investments from around the world pour into Florida every year, making it one of the top U.S. destinations for foreign direct investment. The announcement by Crystal Lagoons is important to the Florida economy and our job creation objectives for the state.
“Florida has a number of strengths to leverage foreign direct investment including one of the fastest growing international economies, great air and seaport infrastructures, as well as a large and well-qualified multicultural workforce,” Swoope added. “We look forward to making more announcements like this.”
Scott Brown 2.0?
Roll Call is reporting that the National Republican Senate Committee is dispatching staff to Massachusetts to help GOP hopeful Gabriel Gomez’s efforts to upset U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., in a special election next month for the seat John Kerry vacated when he became secretary of state. Polls have shown Gomez is within striking distance of Markey and eyes are increasingly turning toward this contest.
Republicans are hoping for a replay of Brown’s upset victory in a special election in 2010 over Martha Coakley for the seat held for almost five decades by Democratic icon Teddy Kennedy. Brown’s win was a precursor to Republican gains that November as they won the U.S. House back from the Democrats.
The high court's opinion was authored by Justice Peggy Quince. Chief Justice Ricky Polston and Justice Charles T. Canady dissented.
More to come ...
With Memorial Day around the corner, Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis teamed up this week with U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to support a bill creating a congressional Select Committee on POW/MIA affairs to examine all outstanding POW/MIA cases -- which currently exceed 83,000 -- and to search for and return the remains of fallen American military members.
“This coming Memorial Day, as we pause as a nation to reflect on the sacrifices of our brave troops, we must never forget those who have yet to return home,” Bachmann said in a statement on Wednesday. “It is our duty and responsibility to the heroic men and women who have given us so much to never stop fighting to bring each and every American home. Congress must look at ways to better identify, locate and return fallen service members or adequately follow up all reports of sightings.”
Bachmann and DeSantis, a former JAG corps officer in the Navy, were joined at a press event held Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio. The congressmen were joined by Ted Shpak from Rolling Thunder, Glen Sidwell from Legacy Vets, and Larry Stark who was held as a POW during the Vietnam War.
But today the mayor, who's garnered a reputation for being something of a fiscal conservative, came out swinging against Gov. Rick Scott for one of this morning's budgetary line-item vetoes:
“I am very disappointed by this veto of [the Learn2Earn program in Jacksonville]. The Governor and his team have once again let down hundreds of Jacksonville children and families.
“We have worked very hard to educate Governor Scott and his team about this critical program. We provided them with ample information about how it benefits at-risk Jacksonville high school students who dream of going to college. We were pleased to see that Florida TaxWatch recognized the value of this program and did not recommend a veto of this appropriation. The Governor pledged to give us a final chance to make our case before a decision was made, but that chance never happened.
“Despite the Governor’s action today, my team and I will find a way to move forward with this summer’s program. We aren’t going to turn our backs on these kids and their families being able to participate in the Learn2Earn experience.”
To which Republican Party of Florida Chair Lenny Curry has replied:
"Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown's attack on Governor Rick Scott is over the top. How can an additional $1 billion of funding into K-12 schools be considered a 'failure to support youths'? How can giving teachers well-deserved pay raises be considered 'letting down hundreds of Jacksonville children and families'? The Governor and our GOP-led Legislature have achieved the largest state-based contribution to total education funding in Florida's history. Governor Scott wants to make sure that all educational programs that receive taxpayer funding can show how they will measure success."
Brown deserves one more correction: His statement that "Florida TaxWatch recognized the value of [the Learn2Earn] program" is flat-out wrong. As TaxWatch itself has repeatedly emphasized, exclusion of an item from the annual "Turkey Watch Report" does not constitute an endorsement of the appropriation much less a "recognition of its value." Whether an item is labeled a "turkey" depends solely on whether it was placed in the budget after receiving what TaxWatch believes is an appropriate amount of procedural scrutiny.
“We want to make clear that the turkey label does not mean that we are condemning the worthiness of the project or even making a judgment on that project,” as Kurt Wenner, TaxWatch's vice president for tax research, told reporters on Friday. “The Turkey Report focuses on the budget [process], to make sure everything receives the scrutiny that it should.”
Among the vetoes was a 3 percent tuition increase for state colleges and universities. The following is the letter Scott sent to Secretary of State Ken Detzner:
Dear Secretary Detzner:
By the authority vested in me as Governor of Florida, under the provisions of Article III, Section 8, of the Constitution of Florida, I do hereby withhold my approval of portions of Senate Bill 1500, enacted during the 45th Session of the Legislature convened under the Constitution of 1968, and entitled:
An act making appropriations; providing monies for the annual period beginning July 1, 2013, and ending June 30, 2014, to pay salaries, and other expenses, capital outlay - buildings, and other improvements, and for other specified purposes of the various agencies of State government; providing an effective date.
We first recommended the Florida Families First budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 to make strategic investments in support of continued economic growth and job creation. This final budget, as passed by the Florida Legislature and signed into law today, does in fact put Florida Families First by investing in economic development initiatives and making a record investment in our K-12 schools, including the $480 million we requested to give Florida teachers a well-deserved pay raise.
We made strategic investments in this budget, while holding the line on spending that does not give Florida taxpayers a positive return on investment. In order to ensure all taxpayer funds are well spent, I have vetoed special legislative projects totaling $368 million. Therefore, the Florida Families First budget now totals $74.1 billion.
The Florida Families First budget includes $1.2 billion in taxpayer savings. This budget also reflects the smallest state government workforce per 1,000 residents in Florida in this century. The Florida Families First budget is one of our state’s smallest budgets this century, when adjusted for population growth and inflation.
We are also holding the line on tuition by vetoing the Legislature’s recommended 3 percent tuition increase on our college and university students. Higher education is one of the best ways we can prepare Floridians to get a great job. It is also one of the best ways we can provide every family the opportunity to pursue their dreams, regardless of where they start in life. I believe that I would not have had the opportunity to start a business, or even serve this great state, if I had not had the benefit of a higher education experience. Therefore, I believe it is incumbent upon state leaders to ensure the cost of higher education remains accessible to as many Floridians as possible. Florida should be proud that we have one of the most affordable high-quality college and university systems in the country – now also offering $10,000 baccalaureate degree programs. Just as we are proud to be one of only a few states without a state income tax, and one of only a few states that have cut taxes and paid down state debt, even in tough budget years, we should also be proud to keep tuition low in Florida.
The Florida Families First budget is about helping the majority of Florida families, most of which are making $50,000 or less a year, struggling to make ends meet, and working hard to achieve their version of the American dream. We know that investing in economic development and our K-12 education system is working to create more jobs and opportunity in our state. Our unemployment rate has now dropped to 7.2 percent – well below the national average, and we are already almost half way to our 2010 goal of creating 700,000 new jobs in seven years.
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Although Mike Hill still faces Democrat Jeremy Lau in the June 11 general election, Capitol pundits are already speculating whether the Panhandle Republican is the next “red shirt freshman” in line to become speaker of the Florida House.
Hill cruised to victory in yesterday’s House District 2 special election against five other Republicans, receiving 42 percent of the vote. If he pulls off the feat, Hill would join a fairly illustrious group. Both current U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and future Speaker Jose Oliva won special elections that gave them a session or two head start in their races to become speaker. Rubio won his special election in January 2000 and Oliva did the same in June 2011.
According to the Florida Division of Elections, Hill received 42 percent of the votes, followed by Ed Gray at 34 percent. The remaining candidates trailed far behind, with Mark Taylor at 9 percent, Jack Nobles at 8 percent, Scott Miller at 5 percent, and David Radcliffe at 2 percent.
Sunshine State News was the first to report that Hill was leading the race by a wide margin.
The district includes parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
Now he's being accused of an ethics violation. And there seems to be something to it.
Attached to this blog post, readers can see for themselves an ethics complaint filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics. The charge? Gray, who sat on the Santa Rosa County School Board until 2010, failed to file a mandatory final financial disclosure form -- Form 6F -- with the Commission after he left that office.
Sunshine State News contacted the Commission, and while they could not speak to the complaint itself, they were able to confirm that they have no Form 6F on file for Gray.
That does not necessarily mean that Gray is guilty of the violation. Investigators could, for example, find that Gray had mitigating excuses for not doing so. But a spokesperson for the Ethics Commission, speaking strictly hypothetically, told SSN that someone found guilty of not filing the form could receive a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
The House District 2 Republican primary election is on Tuesday, May 14. Early voting ends Saturday, May 11.