August 31, 2015

Senator Nelson calls for independent redistricting commission

@JeremySWallace

The repeated failures of the Florida Legislature to redraw the state’s congressional districts is a sure sign that Florida needs to create an independent commission to do the work, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said during a stop in Tallahassee on Monday.

“Seems to me we need an independent commission for future reapportionment so that you stop this self-serving process of drawing districts for your own self interest,” said Nelson, a Democrat.

Nelson’s comments come 10 days after the Florida Legislature ended its 12-day special session without producing a redistricting map that both the House and Senate could agree to for the state’s 27 congressional districts.

Nelson said other states – like Arizona and California - have created commissions to draw congressional districts and Florida needs to explore the same idea to keep the map drawing out of the hands of the self-interested.

“Seems to me that common sense says put it in the hands of as independent of a commission as you can make it,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the Legislature’s failures have created chaos and an uncertainty where people interested in running for office cannot file because they don’t know what district they are in.

When Florida voters overwhelmingly passed the fair districts redistricting reforms there was hope that that would be enough. But he said court documents reported on recently by the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau shows the Legislature has been engaged in a “political partisan exercise.”  He said the choice Florida faces is whether it will follow “partisan political hacks” or the rule of law.

Nelson also used his time in Tallahassee to accuse the Florida Legislature of having “thwarted the rule of law” over how it responded to the more recent Amendment 1, the constitutional amendment passed in 2014 calling for dedicating $700 million for environmental land conservation and preservation. The Legislature dedicated just a fraction for that cause.

August 25, 2015

Rubio gets highest job approval rating yet in new Florida poll

@JeremySWallace

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio may be stuck in the middle of the pack in the race for the White House, but back home he is getting his best ratings ever from Floridians for the job he is doing in the U.S. Senate.

A new Quinnipiac University poll shows 57 percent of 1,093 voters said they approve of the job Rubio is doing as senator. It is the highest rating Rubio has ever had from the polling organization, which regularly polls Florida.

In April of this year, 54 percent approved of how Rubio was doing his job – tying a previous record high he last enjoyed in 2012.

Rubio’s current 57 percent approval rating is about 8 percentage points higher than he had in a Quinnipiac Poll and 10 percentage points up from their February poll.

And it is light years ahead of where he was at the start of his tenure in the Senate. In February 2011, just 42 percent approved of Rubio’s performance, though he had only been in office for a month at that point.

Rubio’s approval rating is well ahead of both Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat. Both had an approval rating of 45 percent in the latest Quinnipiac Poll.

August 03, 2015

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio split votes on Planned Parenthood

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio stuck around Washington today to cast a vote to defund Planned Parenthood, a measure that failed to get 60 votes to advance.

Rubio was scheduled to be in Manchester, N.H., for a candidate forum but did not want to miss the vote, which follows the release of covert videos about Planned Parenthood. Rubio will participate in the forum via video, as will Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

Sen. Bill Nelson joined Democrats in opposing the effort to strip funding for Planned Parenthood.

Writing for Lifenews.com today, Rubio blasted Planned Parenthood as a "morally bankrupt organization.

"Americans of conscience might disagree on the legality of abortion," Rubio wrote. "It is a contentious issue that elicits deep passions. But as a country, we should at least be able to find common ground on acknowledging and respecting the humanity and basic dignity of both the mother and the unborn child. It is clear from the videos that Planned Parenthood long ago stopped acknowledging either. At Planned Parenthood, women are treated as paying clients, not patients. Unborn children are treated as cells and tissues, not human beings. The organs and limbs of babies are treated as commodities, for sale to the highest bidder on an open market. And taxpayers are forced to fund this."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

July 30, 2015

As oil-drilling bill advances, Sen. Bill Nelson vows to use all options to stop it

@CAdamsMcClatchy

A bill to open new areas off Florida’s Gulf Coast to drilling and to accelerate the timetable for doing so passed out of a U.S. Senate committee Thursday, prompting a vow from one of the state’s senators to do whatever measures possible to block it.

The legislation passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, allowing for additional areas of oil and gas exploration off America’s shores. Part of the bill dealt with drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast – and prompted the rebuke from Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Orlando.

In a one-line letter to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate, Nelson said, “If any measure to repeal the current moratorium on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico comes before the full Senate for a vote, I will use all available procedural options to block it.”

Currently, there’s a no-drilling zone extending 125 miles off most of the state’s Gulf coastline – and as far out as 235 miles at some points, Nelson said. That no-drilling zone is in effect until 2022.

The Gulf measure originally came from Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, who earlier this year introduced his Offshore Energy and Jobs Act. It would allow for drilling 50 miles off Florida’s Gulf shores and begin opening up the area sooner than the law now calls for.

His Gulf-related bill was pulled into a broader drilling bill that also addressed areas off Alaska and in the Atlantic Ocean. It passed out of committee on a 12-10 vote.

There is no indication when it might be taken up by the full Senate.

The power of a solo senator to stop legislation is limited, but they do have some options – such as a filibuster – to hold up a bill and bring attention to it.

Continue reading "As oil-drilling bill advances, Sen. Bill Nelson vows to use all options to stop it" »

July 20, 2015

Bill Nelson cancer-free after prostate surgery

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's doctors have told him he is cancer-free after his prostate surgery last week, the Florida Democrat's office said Monday.

"Our prayers have been answered," Grace Nelson, the senator's wife, said in a statement. "The pathology report confirms Bill is completely free of cancer.

"We're humbled and grateful for all your prayers and well wishes. Bill is raring to go but the doctors won’t let him out of the house for a few more days."

July 19, 2015

Calling IRS was act of frustration during tax season report shows

@JeremySWallace

Nearly two-thirds of calls routed to customer service representatives with the IRS during tax season went unanswered, and those who did get through were on hold for on average 23 minutes, a new report issued to Congress this week said.

IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson said the numbers were far worse than they were a year ago, when 71 percent of the calls were answered and hold times averaged 14 minutes.

The problem, according to the report submitted to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, was that funding for the IRS is down 17 percent since 2010 and the agency had to handle the implementation of large portions of the federal affordable care act.

The call answer rate and wait times were even worse for tax payers that suspected that they were victims of identity theft.

The IRS answered only 17 percent of calls from taxpayers who called after being notified that their tax returns had been blocked by the Taxpayer Protection Program (TPP) on suspicion of identity theft, and the hold times averaged about 28 minutes,” the report to Congress stated.  “In three consecutive weeks during the filing season, the IRS answered fewer than 10 percent of these calls.”

 U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, is on the Senate Finance Committee.

Continue reading "Calling IRS was act of frustration during tax season report shows" »

July 14, 2015

Florida politicians react to Iran nuclear deal

@PatriciaMazzei

The big news of the day in politics and the federal government is the announcement that a group of countries, led by the U.S., negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program have reached an agreement. 

Some Florida Republicans had harsh words for President Obama's administration over the deal, and at least a couple of Democrats sounded skeptical. Here are their statements:

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

First thing is to not tear down this agreement before the ink is even dry, before we even read it. Congress has a role now, by law, and it's to thoroughly scrutinize the details of the agreement. We're not going to approve something that doesn't keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons and doesn't give us the ability to inspect and verify that Iran abides by all the terms.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami

It was announced today that a final agreement with Iran has been reached.  Unfortunately, it appears that all key aspects of Iran’s nuclear program will remain in place. Preliminary information suggests that the agreement not only fails to completely prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities, but it also strengthens the regime’s ability to support terror in the region, both militarily and financially. In addition to the many troubling aspects of what looks like a weak deal that gives Iran undeserved concessions, it’s important to note that Iran still holds American hostages. 

Protecting the security interests of the United States and our allies is of the utmost importance.  While Congress will carefully review the details, the initial reports do not give me confidence that an acceptable deal has been reached.

Continue reading "Florida politicians react to Iran nuclear deal" »

July 13, 2015

'Success' in prostate cancer surgery for Bill Nelson

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson underwent prostate cancer surgery Monday that his office called "a complete success."

Bill wants to thank all the people in Florida and elsewhere who sent prayers and well wishes," his wife, Grace, said in a statement following the operation. "The doctors, nurses and staff caring for him are all just great."

His office said Nelson's recovery is expected to take a least a week. The senator disclosed the incidence of the disease and his planned surgery last Thursday.

July 09, 2015

Bill Nelson to undergo surgery for prostate cancer caught 'early'

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson will undergo surgery in Washington D.C. on Monday to remove prostate cancer, his office said Thursday.

The disease was caught "early" as part of a routine exam, according to a statement from Ryan Brown, Nelson's press secretary. The 72-year-old Democrat had no symptoms.

"Extensive scans showed no signs of the cancer spreading outside the prostate," Brown said. 

He added that the diagnosis won't affect Nelson's plan to seek re-election in 2018. He was first elected to the Senate in 2001.

"I've been blessed with good health, which has allowed me the great privilege of public service -- and I look forward to continuing serving our country and Florida," Nelson said in the statement. 

July 06, 2015

Scott sidesteps questions on possible 2018 Senate run

@JeremySWallace

Florida Gov. Rick Scott was offering no hints on Monday about whether he is considering running for the U.S. Senate in 2018. Asked about that prospect, in light of him spending almost $300,000 on political consultants since April, Scott wouldn’t bite.

"I’m continuing to work at my job as governor," Scott said following a ceremony inducting five new members into Florida’s Veterans Hall of Fame. "I just went through an election last year and I’ve got three and a half more years as governor and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure this is a place this a where you want to raise your family."

Besides spending money on consultants, Scott has also been airing television ads statewide through his Let's Get To Work fundraising committee and has tried to elevate his national profile by hosting 7 GOP presidential candidates at an economic summit he hosted in Orlando in June.

Scott's current term as governor runs through 2018, when U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, would be finishing his third term in the Senate. Some high dollar donors have said Scott privately has told them he has interest in running for the seat, though he has not said so publicly.