January 12, 2016

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

October 30, 2015

McCaskill, Kobuchar and Senate candidates highlight Florida Democrats' Orlando line-up

@ByKristenMClark

Florida Democrats are gathering in Orlando this weekend for their annual convention, aiming to energize their base -- and Floridian voters -- into making the Sunshine State a bluer shade of purple after the 2016 elections.

There's a lot on the line next year, with Florida once again being a swing state in the presidential race and with the victor of Florida's open U.S. Senate race potentially deciding which party will control the chamber in 2017. The Florida Democratic Party is emphasizing those stakes with the convention's theme, "Florida's Future."

The convention line-up includes prominent Democrats from Florida and around the country, including Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who's scheduled to speak Saturday morning and is acting as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign since the former Secretary of State won't be in attendance.

The gathering kicks off today and runs through Sunday at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club convention center.

Saturday night, the two congressmen seeking to be the party's nominee in the race to replace Marco Rubio and join Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate -- U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, of Jupiter, and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, of Orlando -- will get their chance to address the party faithful. Murphy also has scheduled a Saturday afternoon press conference to make "an important announcement" with some yet-to-be-named special guests.

Other prominent Democrats attending this weekend include: Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, state legislative leaders and several mayors -- including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam.

Panels and seminars will also be held on topics such as LGBT equality issues, education, and the minimum wage.

October 27, 2015

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson: Disclose campaign money 'across the board'

via @learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson on Tuesday criticized the rise of “dark money” in campaigns and predicted the public will be so fed up after the 2016 election that they will force change in regulations.

The Florida Democrat got into a cordial exchange with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, during a Finance Committee hearing on IRS rules regarding so-called nonprofits. Hatch said Democrats have long benefited from union money, the source of which has remained secret.

“Disclosure ought to be across the board,” Nelson said. Hatch replied, “Yeah, but that isn’t going to happen. You know and I know it.”

 

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

September 30, 2015

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson speaks on Senate floor about Miami Beach tide floods

Climate Time 01 EKM

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson was on Miami Beach this week as part of former Vice President Al Gore's climate-change training conference.

The Democratic senator got to experience firsthand how the seasonal king tides flood the city. He showed off enlarged photographs showing water up to pedestrians' ankles.

"This is downtown Miami Beach. You see the fella? It's above his ankles. And he's up on the curb. Right here is the curb. He steps down and it comes up just below his knee. You see the cars. You see the water. That's downtown Miami Beach," Nelson said. "This is not just the phenomenon of the big full moon. This is the phenomenon of sea-level rise."

"Mr. President," he added, addressing Senate President Mitch McConnell, "we can't keep denying what in fact is happening, and the proof's in the pudding, and the proof is right here."

 

Photo credit: Emily Michot, Miami Herald staff

September 25, 2015

House Speaker John Boehner resigns

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will resign at the end of October, shaking up the leadership of the Congress.

Boehner has been under constant criticism from conservatives, who have demanded a more confrontational approach to President Barack Obama. The latest flashpoint is the desire to stop federal financing of Planned Parenthood, which some conservatives insist be tied to any measure keeping the government open when appropriations expire Sept. 30.

Boehner had signed onto an alternative plan that would allow the government to stay open, and give conservatives a separate vote on Planned Parenthood funding, which ultimately would fail with an Obama veto.

When U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio announced at the Value Voters Summit this morning that Boehner would be resigning it drew cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd.

Here is Boehner's Truth-O-Meter record from PolitiFact.

Here is the reaction from the South Florida Congressional delegation and other political figures (this post will be updated):

Continue reading "House Speaker John Boehner resigns" »

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.