June 26, 2015

Florida politicians react to SCOTUS legalizing same-sex marriage

@PatriciaMazzei

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states Friday. Here's how Florida politicians reacted to the 5-4 ruling, updated as they come in:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida and 2016 Republican presidential candidate

I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman. People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court. This decision short-circuits the political process that has been underway on the state level for years.

While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law. As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.

The next president and all in public office must strive to protect the First Amendment rights of religious institutions and millions of Americans whose faiths hold a traditional view of marriage. This is a constitutional duty, not a political opinion. Our nation was founded on the human right of religious freedom, and our elected leaders have a duty to protect that right by ensuring that no one is compelled by law to violate their conscience.

I firmly believe the question of same sex marriage is a question of the definition of an institution, not the dignity of a human being. Every American has the right to pursue happiness as they see fit. Not every American has to agree on every issue, but all of us do have to share our country. A large number of Americans will continue to believe in traditional marriage, and a large number of Americans will be pleased with the Court’s decision today. In the years ahead, it is my hope that each side will respect the dignity of the other.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, 2016 Republican presidential candidate

Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage.  I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision.  I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments.  In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side.  It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida

Today's ruling reaffirms one of the paramount principles of America that we're all created equal and have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Continue reading "Florida politicians react to SCOTUS legalizing same-sex marriage" »

June 23, 2015

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson back advancing Obama trade bill

via @learyreports

Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio helped a key trade bill clear a hurdle today, setting it up for final passage.

Both faced opposition.

Nelson was facing pressure from liberals and employee unions to oppose the deal for fear of hurting jobs and wages in the U.S.

Rubio was urged to oppose the deal from at least one tea party group in Florida. A message from the Martin 9/12 Committee urged members to call Rubio and say:

- You OPPOSE the Trade Promotion Authority, and do not believe President Obama can be trusted to negotiate anything that might affect immigration law.

- President Obama has already unilaterally usurped the power that belongs to Congress to change immigration laws, and Congress has NO business giving up more of its authority to him.

- Trade agreements have been used in the past to increase immigration and President Obama is currently negotiating several trade agreements that will encompass three-fourths of the world's economy!

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

June 17, 2015

Bill Nelson makes good on Stanley Cup push-up bet

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson, born Sept. 29, 1942, this afternoon dropped and did 46 pushups to make good on a bet over the Stanley Cup with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

He was supposed to do 23, the number of goals scored in the showdown between the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning. But Nelson, who underwent NASA training many years ago and went into space, bargained with Durbin so that he wouldn't have to make a special trip to Tampa for Cuban sandwiches, which were part of the bet.

"Are you up for it?" Durbin asked.

Removing his jacket, loosening his collar and tucking his gold tie into a blue buttondown, Nelson hit the carpet. Durbin counted them off as an amused -- and surprised -- press corps and gaggle of interns looked on.

"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46."

"Hey!" Durbin shouted at the end. "Thank God that you lost and I didn't. They'd be taking me out of here on a stretcher."

Nelson is up for re-election in 2018, and if there was any doubt about his energy level, he just put that to rest.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

May 01, 2015

Bill Nelson to file bill opposing Obama's Atlantic oil drilling plans

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson says he will file a bill Friday that would block an Obama administration move to allow oil and gas explorers to conduct seismic tests off Florida’s Atlantic coast.

“Drilling off Florida’s Atlantic coast would be unwise and impractical,” said Nelson, a Democrat. “It would interfere with military operations off of Jacksonville and rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center and Patrick Air Force base, not to mention the environmental hazards it would pose. If you’re not going to drill there, then why do the seismic testing?"

There is a ban on putting drilling rigs off Florida’s Gulf Coast until 2022, but the moratorium does not apply to the Atlantic coast.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

April 27, 2015

Florida Democratic Party fundraiser to feature Bill Nelson

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Democrats, gearing up for another presidential election in which the Sunshine State will play a pivotal role, plan to hold a fundraising reception Sunday featuring their only statewide elected official, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

"The Presidential Election has already begin and, as you know, Florida is the largest swing state in the country," Nelson said in an email blast from the party. "That means that once again the national spotlight will be on us, and what we do here in Florida will determine the direction of our country."

The fund-raiser will take place at the bayfront North Miami home of Larry Pierre, executive director of the Center for Haitian Studies. Party Chairwoman Allison Tant is scheduled to be in attendance.

The minimum requested donation is $250. A $2,500 contribution is rewarded with the honorary title of "event chair."

April 13, 2015

April 02, 2015

Florida senators divided over early Iran deal news

@PatriciaMazzei

Here's Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson on Thursday's announcement that the U.S., Iran and five other countries had agreed to an outline of a deal over Iran's nuclear program, according to a statement released by his office. He declares himself "cautiously optimistic":

I am cautiously optimistic this framework for an agreement just might work, especially if Western scientists are present at Iran's Fordo facility and there are intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And if at any point Iran were to breach an agreement, I'd support imposing additional and more severe economic sanctions.

And here's a (lengthier) statement from Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, an all-but-declared 2016 presidential candidate and vocal critic of the Obama administration's approach to the diplomatic talks. He calls early details "very troubling":

I look forward to hearing from administration officials what specific terms Iran has agreed to as part of what was supposed to be a comprehensive framework agreement, but the initial details appear to be very troubling. Through more than a decade of efforts to resolve international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, this regime has consistently lied about its ambitions and hidden the true nature of its efforts from the world. Among other issues, allowing Iran to retain thousands of centrifuges, keeping facilities such as Fordow open and not limiting Iran’s ballistic missile program indicate to me that this deal is a colossal mistake.

Continue reading "Florida senators divided over early Iran deal news" »

March 13, 2015

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson pass Senate recognition of late Miami activist

@PatriciaMazzei

The U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a resolution Thursday honoring the late Georgia Ayers, a longtime Miami community activist who died Feb. 17. The tribute was sponsored by Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.

The resolution highlights "the lifelong commitment of Georgia Jones-Ayers to bettering the lives of the people of South Florida" and offers condolences to her family. Ayers founded a local food bank and a renown program that provided first-time criminal offenders with an alternative to jail time.

"Ms. Jones Ayers dedicated her life to helping at-risk youth in South Florida, a career that touched countless lives and has inspired many others to carry on her work," Rubio, a Republican, said in a statement Friday. "Georgia will be missed, but her memory and the impact of her work will live forever on."

When the two senators introduced the resolution Feb. 24, Nelson, a Democrat, also issued a statement praising Ayers' life work.

"With the passing of Georgia Jones Ayers, we have lost a fearless community activist," he said. "Thanks to her efforts, many troubled youth were given a second chance for a better life."

March 10, 2015

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson at odds over GOP senators' letter to Iran

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was one of 47 Republican senators who signed an "open letter" to Iran on Monday warning that any nuclear-power deal reached with the Obama administration wouldn't last.

The U.S. government is still negotiating with Tehran over a potential agreement. he three top potential GOP presidential contenders in the Senate -- Rubio and Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- all signed the letter, which critics decried the one-page letter as improper, partisan interference by the Senate.

Among them was Rubio's Florida counterpart, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who said on the Senate floor Tuesday that the letter was an effort to "try to cut the legs off from underneath the president and his administration in trying to reach an agreement to avert a nuclear bomb."

Here's the video of Nelson's speech:

 

March 06, 2015

Sen. Bill Nelson: State shouldn't expect LIP money

Florida lawmakers shouldn’t expect federal money for the Low Income Pool program to fill a $2 billion hole in next year’s state budget, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Friday, issuing a call for the state to instead expand Medicaid.

“They said already, ‘We are not extending this anymore,’” Nelson said. “I have spoken to (Health and Human Services) Secretary Sylvia Burwell about this, and that is her position.”

Gov. Rick Scott accounted for the funding to continue in his budget, and Wednesday, he called on President Barack Obama to extend the LIP program, which is supposed to end this year.

Nelson made the comments in a meeting with reporters in Tallahassee on Friday, during which he also discussed the investigation into deaths at the Dozier School for Boys and a possible presidential run for that other Florida senator.

He met earlier in the afternoon with Commissioner Rick Swearingen of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to discuss the investigations at Dozier. Last week, the senator requested the U.S. Department of Justice get involved, writing that DOJ is, “uniquely positioned to provide an outside and independent review.”

On Friday, FDLE officials shared with Nelson their findings after reviewing work done by University of South Florida anthropologists that unearthed the remains of 51 people who died at the school in Marianna, Fla.

“They are maintaining that their conclusions are very similar to what Dr. Erin Kimmerle at USF has found,” he said. “What I suggested to them was that after they made the presentation to me, what they should do is give the same briefing to Dr. Kimmerle.”

Nelson said he would like to go over any discrepancies between the reports with FDLE officials and Kimmerle. The department, he said, has shown no resistance to continuing to work with him and other officials in this investigation.