March 01, 2016

PPP poll: Majority favors Florida medical marijuana ballot question

via @learyreports

 

Sixty-five percent of Florida voters say they'll support a medical marijuana ballot initiative this fall, enough to pass the measure. Only 28 percent are opposed.

"There's bipartisan support for the measure with Democrats (75/18), independents (70/22), and Republicans (53/40) all expressing their favor for it," according to a new PPP poll.

More from a release:

Bill Nelson is Florida's most popular politician, with a 40% approval rating to 32% of voters who disapprove of him. That puts him ahead of the perennially unpopular Rick Scott, who comes in at 38/48, and even further ahead of the newly unpopular Marco Rubio whose Presidential bid has hurt him at home and caused his approval spread to drop down to 31/55

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 25, 2016

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson: Apple should work with FBI to unlock terrorist's iPhone

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson on Thursday added his voice to those calling for Apple to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino attackers.

"I certainly understand the risk to Americans’ privacy as expressed by Apple and other technology companies, and I don't want to run the risk of letting the trail go so cold on this terrorist attack and potentially other cases, that the trail could go so cold that we lose it because this is winding itself through months and years in the courts. In other words, we need to know what was behind this attack, a terrorist attack that everybody recognizes was terrorist. We need to know in order to get to the bottom of it and root it out and see if there is other terrorists inside the country that are planning to do the same thing, to protect our people and our national security.

"So there's got to be a way that the FBI can get the information it needs from the terrorist's iPhone in a manner that continues to protect American smartphone users," Nelson said.

Sen. Marco Rubio has tried to put a foot on both sides of the debate. “I don’t have a magic solution for it today,” the Republican presidential candidate said during a CNN town hall last week. “If you create a backdoor, there is a very reasonable possibility that a criminal gang could figure out what the backdoor is.” But he added, “On the flip-side of it, there might be valuable information on that phone from the San Bernardino killers that could lead us to preventing future crimes or future attacks.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 16, 2016

Florida League of Women Voters, with guest U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, to speak against lawmakers' plan for a state charter authorizer

@ByKristenMClark

The Florida League of Women Voters announced today that Florida Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson will join the group at a press conference Wednesday where members of the league will discuss what they describe as an "egregious constitutional amendment" proposed by Republican state lawmakers that would set up a statewide charter school district.

In a revised press release, the league later clarified that Nelson "will speak in support of the league's hard work registering voters, as well as efforts at fairness during reapportionment and Amendment 1 issues," while league President Pamela Goodman and "educational organizations" will focus their comments on the charter school issue.

The event begins at 11:30 a.m. on the steps of the Old Capitol in downtown Tallahassee.

Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, and Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, have proposed creating a statewide board that would "authorize, operate, control, and supervise" charter schools across Florida.

The House is expected to vote on its version (HJR 759) this week, while the Senate version (SJR 976) has stalled in committee. (Stargel's bill was supposed to be heard in late January by the Senate Pre-K-12 Education Committee, but was temporarily postponed and hasn't been scheduled for consideration again since.)

Diaz has said the bill wouldn't remove local school boards' power to authorize charter schools, but public school officials fear it would because private entities aiming to set up charter schools could circumvent local board approval by submitting applications directly to the state.

The Legislature 10 years ago tried to create a state-authorizing body for charter schools but it was struck down in the courts. Diaz's and Stargel's bills would send to voters a constitutional amendment to codify the charter school authorizer in the Florida Constitution.

Constitutional amendments must be approved by three-fifths of both the House and Senate: 72 members in the House and 24 in the Senate. Then, the proposal must get 60-percent approval from voters in order to change the Constitution.

February 13, 2016

Florida politicians react to Justice Antonin Scalia's death

@PatriciaMazzei

Republican presidential candidate and former Gov. Jeb Bush

Today we lost a great man whose principled service left our nation vastly better off. This afternoon at Mass, Columba and I prayed for Justice Scalia, who was devout in faith and has been brought home to God in heaven. Our prayers are also with his wife, Maureen, his children and his 28 grandchildren.

Justice Scalia was a brilliant defender of the rule of law--his logic and wit were unparalleled, and his decisions were models of clarity and good sense. I often said he was my favorite justice, because he took the Constitution, and the responsibility of judges to interpret it correctly, with the utmost seriousness. Now it is up to all of us to fight for the principles Justice Scalia espoused and carry forth his legacy.

Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

Today, our nation has suffered a deep loss. Justice Scalia was one of the most consequential Americans in our history and a brilliant legal mind who served with only one objective: to interpret and defend the Constitution as written. One of the greatest honors in my life was to attend oral arguments during Town of Greece v. Galloway and see Justice Scalia eloquently defend religious freedom. I will hold that memory forever. The next president must nominate a justice who will continue Justice Scalia's unwavering belief in the founding principles that we hold dear. Jeanette and I mourn the loss of Justice Scalia, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Maureen and his family.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

I am stunned since Justice Scalia seemed to be in the prime of his life. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. And I take very seriously our constitutional responsibility to fill this vacancy.

Continue reading "Florida politicians react to Justice Antonin Scalia's death" »

January 12, 2016

Florida reaction to Obama's final State of the Union

@PatriciaMazzei

Here's what Florida politicians had to say about President Obama's final State of the Union address Tuesday:

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican running for president:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican running for president:

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat:

It’s frustrating when partisanship prevents the Congress from getting things done. And it’s pretty clear that Americans are fed up with our inability to enact common-sense reforms. While we were able to get a few things passed back in December, there’s still a lot that we need to accomplish. And I will continue to do everything that I can to try to bring people together in a bipartisan way to get things done.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami:

President Obama's final State of the Union Address will be remembered not for what he said, but for what he didn’t say.

The President has failed yet again to use this opportunity to lay out a comprehensive plan to Congress and the American people on how best to defeat ISIS, and instead has opted to try to lull us into a false sense of security that is belied by the facts on the ground here in the U.S. and across the globe.

It's much the same situation with Iran: the President touted his nuclear deal with Tehran, yet what the President didn't say is that, since the deal, we have seen an increasingly bellicose regime flouting the international community, daring us to take action against its illicit behavior and then threatening to walk away from the nuclear deal if we do respond.

 

Continue reading "Florida reaction to Obama's final State of the Union" »

Congress passes Bill Nelson bill on e-cigarettes

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson's bill requiring child-proof caps on liquid nicotine bottles is headed to President Obama's desk.

“A few drops of this stuff can cause a child to become extremely ill,” the Democrat said in a release. “Requiring child-proof caps on these bottles is just common sense."

The House passed the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015 on Monday; the Senate had earlier.

From a Nelson release:

Liquid nicotine is sold in concentrated form for use in e-cigarettes, and is often packaged in easy-to-open, brightly-colored vials with appealing flavors such as Yummy Gummy, Cotton Candy and Tutti Frutti. Just a single teaspoon of highly-concentrated liquid nicotine could kill a small child, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers

The AAPCC also found that calls to poison control centers related to liquid nicotine exposure have spiked in recent years, climbing from just one call per month in September 2010 to 318 calls per month in March 2015.  Many of these calls involved children five years old or younger.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

December 18, 2015

How South Florida members of Congress voted on budget deal

@PatriciaMazzei

The U.S. House and Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending and tax-cut package Friday, called the "omnibus" bill. All of South Florida's House members, Republican and Democratic, voted for it. So did Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio missed the vote -- he's campaigning for president in Iowa. He nevertheless issued a statement against it.

The Florida Republican House members voting no: Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, Jeff Miller, Bill Posey, Dan Webster and Ted Yoho.

Here's a compilation about what some of the lawmakers had to say:

Continue reading "How South Florida members of Congress voted on budget deal" »

December 09, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson push for opposing bills on H1-B foreign worker visas

via @learyreports

Following controversy over 250 Disney workers laid off in favor of foreign workers, Sen. Bill Nelson wants to slash the number of specialized work visas.

The Florida Democrat produced the legislation with an unlikely ally, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, an immigration hardliner. And their bill opposes an initiative co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio that triples the number of current H-1B visas given annually - an issue that has come up in the presidential race.

"By cutting the number of visas available each year and requiring those visas be given to the highest-wage earners first, this bill directly targets outsourcing companies that rely on lower-wage foreign workers to replace equally-qualified U.S. workers," Nelson said.

The "Protecting American Jobs Act" would cut the number of H-1B visas by 15,000. It calls on the Department of Homeland Security to allocate the remaining 70,000 visas in a way that minimizes the potential for companies to seek cheap foreign labor.

Disney sparked outrage when 250 workers in Orlando were laid off in late 2014 and replaced with workers hired by an outsourcing company based in India. The stunned workers had to train their replacements.

Continue reading "Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson push for opposing bills on H1-B foreign worker visas" »

December 04, 2015

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio split on transportation bill

via @learyreports

The U.S. Senate on Thursday night passed a five-year, $305 billion transportation bill that was heralded by both parties as a breakthrough.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson voted for it. Sen. Marco Rubio opposed the bill.

Nelson:

"Because of this bill, we’re going to provide states and communities with over $300 billion over five years to repair the roads and bridges of this country and greatly improve rail and port projects," Nelson said on the Senate floor. And, as a result, we are going to create jobs. In my state of Florida, this translates to $12 billion that can be used for improvements on Interstates 95, Interstate 75 and the projects such as SunRail, Tri-Rail and the streetcars in Fort Lauderdale.”

Rubio:

“Modernizing our nation’s infrastructure is necessary in order to have a 21st century economy. But having a 21st century infrastructure doesn’t mean simply spending money, it means empowering states with greater autonomy to prioritize the infrastructure needs of their communities, as Senator Mike Lee has proposed (Transportation Empowerment Act). I do not support the FAST Act because it spends too much, preserves Washington’s power in picking winners and losers in transportation funding, and even revives the crony capitalist Export-Import Bank.

“The Export-Import Bank’s revival in this bill is especially offensive to taxpayers who want to end corporate welfare handouts and let the free market finance overseas investments by American companies. The time and effort that both parties in Washington have put into reviving the Export-Import Bank is just another example of how out of touch our federal government has become. Our work to end the Export-Import Bank will continue, and we will succeed.” 

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

November 30, 2015

Bill Nelson's longtime spokesman to retire

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson's longtime spokesman, Dan McLaughlin, will retire at the end of the year.

Nelson announced the news to staff today.

Dan McLaughlin, our Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director, is retiring at year's end after more than 21 years of outstanding public service, the last 15 of which were in the U.S. Senate.  He has decided to pursue opportunities in the private sector, including his passion for oil painting and Florida art. Dan has been my confidant and friend all these years, and is recognized in both journalism and communications as one of the best.

He is succeeded by Ryan Brown who, as Director of Communications, is hitting the ground running.

McLaughlin was a formidable reporter for the Tampa Tribunebefore entering politics. He was not shy about telling reporters where he thought a story was to be found -- or if he thought a story was bull. His art has become an increasing focus.

McLaughlin's decision follows recent news that Nelson's chief of staff, Pete Mitchell, is retiring -- but not before laying the groundwork for Nelson's 2018 re-election campaign.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times