August 28, 2013

Marco Rubio’s deafening silence on Syria

@MarcACaputo

**Update: Rubio issued a statement hours after this blog was posted.

From threatened oyster habitats to the problems with Obamacare, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has commented on the headlines of the day recently.

Except one: Syria.

Though a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio hasn’t issued any statements about this most-important of topics now that President Obama is weighing military action after what appear to be chemical-weapons use in Syria.

Should Obama strike Syria? How? And does the president need Congressional authorization to do so? Rubio (or his office) isn’t ready to say. It's a notable silence because not only is Rubio voluble, he has made an effort to showcase his chops on foreign policy.

We've asked for two days for a statement, but nothing. Rubio's Reclaim America PAC, though, just sent out a message from Rubio about the need to help Ken Cuccinelli, a Virginia candidate for governor.

Meantime, other Florida congressional members are weighing in on Syria policy.

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House’s Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, said in a just-released statement that Obama needs congressional authorization for a strike on Syria. Ros-Lehtinen sounds willing to vote for “multi-lateral airstrikes” as long as the United States exercises “extreme caution when weighing our options in Syria. Putting boots on the ground is not an option.. At this point there’s no easy decision. We’re stuck with the least worst option.”

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August 13, 2013

Water wars rise: Florida to sue Georgia over condition of Apalachicola Bay

A day after the federal government declared that Florida's oyster harvesting region was a disaster area, Gov. Rick Scott announced the state will file a lawsuit against the state of Georgia for the excessive consumption of water that has harmed the ecosystem and economy of Apalachicola Bay.

The lawsuit, to be in the U.S. Supreme Court in September, challenges Georgia's "unchecked and growing consumption of water, which is threatening the economic future of Apalachicola,'' Scott said in a statement after a hearing on the controverial issue in Franklin County on Tuesday. Conducting the hearing was U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.

"You have an entire industry that is on the verge of being extinct because of governmental inaction,'' Rubio said after the tour.

Scott noted that he and the Legislature put $4.7 million into the region to retrain workers hurt by the ailing economy. "Georgia has taken our water,'' he said after the tour. "We've had meetings. No progress has happened in those meetings." 

He called it "a bold, historic legal action for our state."

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July 25, 2013

Sen. Bill Nelson: change Stand Your Ground, Florida

@MarcACaputo

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson appeared on MSNBC today and spoke with Andrea Mitchell about the self-defense law connected to Trayvon Martin's shooting last year by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted July 13 of second-degree murder.

Nelson, a Democrat, has repeatedly downplayed calls for him to run for governor against Republican Rick Scott, but interviews like this make you wonder.

The transcript:

MITCHELL: I want to just give you a quick chance to speak back to … the leader of the Urban League, who believes that Stand Your Ground laws really do lead to more violence. You’re not going to take, or take a position, I should say, on the Florida law ?

NELSON:  Oh, indeed I do.  I think the Florida law ought to be changed.  I think where there are the extreme cases – for example, a guy gets into a fight, he leaves, goes to his car, gets a gun, and comes back and kills the person he was fighting – to use Stand Your Ground in that circumstance is ridiculous.  And yet, in 200 cases in my state of Florida, they go all over the waterfront as to how they’ve been adjudicated, and so I think the law needs to be considerably tightened.  And since it’s in about two dozen states, you’re not going to wipe out the laws – maybe down the road we do need to change these and completely eliminate them – but in the meantime, they need to be severely constricted.

MITCHELL: Senator Bill Nelson, thank you very much.

NELSON: Thanks, Andrea.

June 20, 2013

Is Rick Scott's Florida No. 1 for corruption? Dems say so

The Florida Democratic Party is jazzed up about the chance to knock Gov. Rick Scott out of office, producing a Web video that touts the significance of "one" in the 2014 gubernatorial race.

One part features Scott saying, "Florida won't stop until we’re No. 1."

The words "Um, right" appear on the screen, followed by a newspaper headline typed over Scott: "Study ranks Florida No. 1 in government corruption." "No. 1 in government corruption," the text states. "Yep, Rick Scott, you're #1 alright."

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June 16, 2013

Amid governor's-race controversy, FL Dems boast they'll still whip Rick Scott

@MarcACaputo

              Florida Democrats’ best candidate for governor right now isn’t a candidate and wasn’t always one of them.

And party leaders caused a stir by snubbing a longtime candidate and party stalwart.

But when the elites of the Florida Democratic Party met Saturday for their annual fund-raising gala, they suggested none of that was really a big problem for one big reason: Rick Scott.

The unpopular Republican governor looks like an easy target for an incumbent.

“Whoever the Democratic nominee is will beat Rick Scott,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “We will win the governor’s mansion next November. There’s not any question.”

Even before the Jefferson-Jackson dinner began, Florida Democratic Party leaders said it was a success, bringing in a record $850,000.

More here

June 12, 2013

Sequester battle over national guard intensifies: Koon calls out Nelson

In a sharply-worded letter to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the head of the Florida Division of Emergency Management calls into question his conclusion that the federal budget cuts to the Florida National Guard could be offset with the swipe of a pen by the governor.

Some background: Gov. Rick Scott suggested in a letter to Nelson that he work with the Obama administration to halt the forced furlough on the technical full-time staff of the Florida National Guard during hurricane season. Nelson responded that the governor could order the guard into action, despite the federally forced furloughs, and get full reimbursement from FEMA. 

Now Bryan Koon, head of the Florida Division of Emergency Action, pens a letter to Nelson and suggests that's wishful thinking:

"To summarize, the claim that the federal government will cover the increased costs associated with sequestration would set precedent, and most likely would not occur,'' he wrote, noting that the state only recently received full reimbursment for expenses from Hurricane Andrew -- 21 years ago.

Koon argued that the state must first deploy its national guard troops before it requests a disaster declaration and that would not be likely reimbursed. No word yet back from Nelson. 

Here's the text of the letter:  Download FDEM Letter to Senator Bill Nelson 6.11.13

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May 21, 2013

Bill Nelson questions "social welfare" designation of nonprofit political groups

@MarcACaputo

The IRS' tea party-targeting scandal got its second congressional hearing today, this time in the Senate Finance Committee, where top Democrats like Florida Sen. Bill Nelson felt as if the tax agency was letting too many political groups wrongly hide behind nonprofit status for "social welfare" groups.

Of course, the IRS tried to stop it but wound up profiling some conservative groups. And that runs afoul of the agency's efforts to remain nonpolitical.

Republicans and conservatives smell a political cover-up.

The IRS worker at the center of the case, Lois Lerner, is going to plead the Fifth Amendment.

The American Spectator notes that President Obama met with an IRS union chief the day before the agency began targeting nonprofit groups for review.

Obama, incidentally, said he knew nothing of the incident until it was publicized. And the Treasure Department, so far, said it was only advised of what happened once an Inspector General began examining the case.

During today's hearing, Nelson wanted to know why the IRS didn't do more.

"How could you all in the IRS allow the tax breaks funded basically by the taxpayer [spent] on these political campaign expenditures?" Nelson asked. "Can you all shed some light, please?"

"What we've seen in the course of the last two campaign cycles is enormous money running through through these c4 organizations...I understand the king’s English, and it says the promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns. Now, how you interpret that to say that that does allow some intervention in political campaigns is beyond me.”

May 06, 2013

Democrats urge Medicaid special session, Weatherford says it 'doesn't make sense'

Pressure is mounting on Gov. Rick Scott to call a special session to end the Legislature's impasse on Medicaid expansion. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and the 14 Democratic members of the Florida Senate sent separate letters today making that very request, but Scott isn't likely to oblige them if he doesn't think Republican lawmakers are ready to deal.

At stake is $51 billion in federal funding to providing insurance coverage to 1 million low-income Floridians. House Republicans blocked that from happening during the regular session, which ended Friday.

Neither Scott nor Senate President Don Gaetz  have said they would support reconvening the Legislature to address the issue. House Speaker Will Weatherford was cool to the idea when the Times/Herald spoke to him today.

"I don't know what it would achieve," Weatherford said. "Unless there was an agreement of what the session would do, calling one doesn't make sense. We would have to have some agreement on policy, other than drawing down on federal funds."

Weather would not say what type of alternative plan he thinks would make a special session a good idea.

Scott may not be keen on calling a special session if he's not assured the Legislature is fully on board and ready to compromise. In 2010, the Florida House famously adjourned a special session convened by then Gov. Charlie Crist after only 49 minutes of work, rejecting his proposal to initiate a ballot referendum on offshore drilling.

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April 28, 2013

More on that Bill Nelson v. Rick Scott rumor here

Bill Nelson looked like the heavy favorite for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to unseat vulnerable Republican Gov. Bob Martinez in April 1990. But as Martinez continued to beef up his reelection campaign account and then-U.S. Rep. Nelson remained little known to much of Florida, Democrats fretted over Nelson’s prospects.

Soon former Sen. Lawton Chiles confirmed the bombshell rumor: Yes, he would run for governor. Nelson gamely continued campaigning, but it was hopeless against the popular elder statesman. “Walkin’ Lawton” went on to crush Nelson by more than 30 percentage points and then Martinez by 13 points.

More than two decades later, U.S. Sen. Nelson is the elder statesman of Florida’s Democratic Party, and the buzz is growing about him stepping into the governor’s race to take on unpopular incumbent Gov. Rick Scott. With many Democratic leaders worried about the baggage of former Gov. Charlie Crist, Nelson has emerged as the potential savior of Florida Democrats.

The latest noise came Thursday when Roll Call, a Washington, D.C.-based newspaper, reported on its web site that Nelson was mulling over a possible run.

“I’d say that’s true, that he’s considering it,” Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin told the newspaper. “An awful lot of people have contacted him and asked him to do so. But — and as he’s said a number of times — he presently doesn’t have any intention of running. He’s got a job to do as a senator.” More here from Tampa Bay Times' Adam Smith.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/27/3355862/will-it-be-senator-bill-nelson.html#storylink=cpy

April 16, 2013

Will do-nothing Congress kill lawmakers call to fight $5b tax-ID fraud industry?

@MarcACaputo

Tax Day is no longer just a deadline for citizens to rush and file their returns.

It’s now a day for members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans alike —to file legislation or announce ways to prevent an estimated $5 billion in tax-identification fraud, which is particularly virulent in Florida and especially South Florida.

The effort by local lawmakers is nothing new, nor is the fact that the measures have died year-after-year in a do-nothing Congress.

On Monday, Miami-area Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Garcia and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen all promoted legislation to put an end to the practice. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson announced a bill last week.

“Something needs to be done,” said Jon Simpkins, a Miami-Dade businessman who appeared with his wife, a tax-ID fraud victim, at Garcia’s press conference.

It took the Internal Revenue Service until April 8 to supply the family their tax-refund money from last year — a week before this year’s tax-filing deadline.

“I’m surprised they haven’t fixed this yet,” Simpkins said, detailing the delays and difficulties of just getting the IRS to do its job.

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