The Buzz on Florida politics

Hurricane Irma
Trump
Drugs
Mar-a-Lago

Latest Buzz on Florida politics

WASHINGTON — In a sharp escalation of events, President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused a Florida congresswoman of fabricating a story that he told the widow of a fallen soldier her husband “knew what he signed up for.”

But the lawmaker and the soldier’s family stood by the account and said Trump showed disrespect.

The body of Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson, one of four people to die in an ambush in Niger earlier this month, was flown to Miami on Tuesday and his pregnant widow, wearing a purple dress with a flower print, wept over the flag-draped coffin, a child at her side.

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David Shapiro, an attorney in Sarasota County, today announced plans to run for the Democratic nomination to take on U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota.

“For 32 years I have been fighting to protect my clients,” said Shapiro, who grew up in the Tampa Bay area. “And as I’ve watched Washington become more dysfunctional and divisive, it’s become clear no one is looking out for our interests. We can’t afford partisan gridlock driven by career politicians like Vern Buchanan. We need new leaders who will listen to our needs, fight for us, and be willing to work across the aisle to do what is best for our community.”

Buchanan won his last two races by more than 20 percentages points, and last faced a serious Democratic challenger in 2012, when former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald ran against him and still lost by more than 7 percentage points. Trump easily won Congressional District 16, which includes northern Sarasota, southern Hillsborough, and Manatee counties, and has more money in his campaign account than any other Florida House incumbent, more than $2 million.

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Can members of the powerful panel that has the authority to put constitutional amendments directly on the November 2018 ballot discuss votes in secret and lobby each other?

That is the question Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari has been trying to get answered for six months. Now, his failure to get an answer, he said, could spell trouble for the commission.

As a member of the Constitution Revision Commission, Solari left the June 6 meeting of the commission baffled and confused.

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WASHINGTON - The Senate Finance Committee will investigate the hurricane-related deaths of 14 people at a South Florida nursing home.

The top members of the committee, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today questioned the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about its new nursing home emergency preparedness requirements and have requested responses from state agencies in Florida and Texas regarding their preparations and responses to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“We are writing to request information from Florida about its preparations for and responses to Hurricane Irma as it relates to nursing homes and other similar facilities,” the senators wrote in a letter to Florida’s Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, Justin Senior.

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The 2018 race for Florida governor will be about power — not just political power, but electric power.

The early front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, has raised nearly $17 million so far, thanks in part to generous support from the state’s biggest utility companies, including Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy.

Records show that FP&L has donated $587,000 directly to Putnam’s political committee, Florida Grown, and that Duke has directly donated $110,000.

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Palm Beach County is getting $1 million in reimbursed costs for protecting President Donald Trump during his visits to Mar-a-Lago.

Officials on Wednesday held a news conference to announce the funds, complete with a oversized check as a prop.

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In a swift, 20-minute meeting, the panel charged with updating the Florida Constitution on Tuesday rejected all but a few of the 2,012 public proposals submitted to the Constitution Revision Commission, advancing only six of them, after months of encouraging the public to submit ideas.

“As we review this public input, it is clear that Floridians share many similar ideas and interests,” said CRC chair Carlos Beruff before the panel vote. “In addition to commissioners who chose to directly sponsor a public proposal, several commissioners have created their own proposals inspired by public input.”

The hundreds of rejected proposals include limiting money in politics and political committees, updating medical references to abortion, establishing religious protections for businesses, creating a state commission on sea level rise, electing the Public Service Commission, legalizing marijuana and dozens of others ideas submitted by concerned citizens, special interest activists, political gadflies and constitutional scholars. For months, the commission conducted hours of public hearings across the state, encouraging people to submit proposals to the CRC website.

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In a rare rebuke to Florida Power & Light, state utility regulators Tuesday rejected the company’s request to charge $49 million more for the planning of a nuclear reactor that the company cannot say will ever be built.

The 4-1 decision by the Florida Public Service Commission came Tuesday after months of hearings in which the state’s largest utility urged regulators to let them charge customers in the future for costs of the postponed project — even without filing a “feasibility analysis” that would show if and when they intend to build two new nuclear reactors at their Turkey Point facility in south Miami-Dade County.

“This is a hard issue,”′ said Commissioner Julie I. Brown, chair of the five-member panel, who voted to reject the request. “The whole country is watching the new fleet of nuclear deployments constructed or to be constructed around the country.” Story here.

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Beyond the Buzz

Out of sight, out of mind
Aaron Richardson Jr., now 29, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was arrested for carjacking in 2011. While in custody he lost both his sight and hearing.
Hurricane Irma
How the slightest shift kept Hurricane Irma from turning into an even worse disaster

Sen. Bill Nelson wrote U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue to ask for federal help administering federal Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) resources.

“While I am grateful that D-SNAP was approved,” Nelson wrote, “I am deeply concerned by news reports of how poorly it is being executed by the State of Florida.”

D-SNAP provides one time assistance to families who suffer economically from a disaster.

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WASHINGTON - Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who last week confronted Gov. Rick Scott in person over slow debris removal in Florida, today sent a letter amplifying those concerns.

The letter, signed by several other Florida Democrats, involves Scott’s refusal to pass along to FEMA debris removal contracts at higher rates than had been negotiated before Hurricane Irma. Companies have been going with the most favorable rates.

“Given these concerns, and your office’s unsatisfactory response to them, we were dumbfounded by reports that your administration, following non-public bidding, entered into contracts for debris removal in Monroe County at rates far higher than those negotiated before the hurricane,” the letter reads. “This action is clearly inconsistent with your office’s refusal to facilitate reimbursement of contracts at higher rates negotiated by local jurisdictions. This inconsistency is even more egregious because of the fact that, unlike in the cases of cities and counties who had no options for reasonably priced debris removal after their initial contractors had fled, the state’s spendthrift contracts reportedly displaced firms that were willing to honor contracts negotiated before the storm to remove debris from the very same communities in Monroe County.

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Attorney General Pam Bondi said Tuesday she’s not convinced that the United States needs a federal “drug czar” to help set national drug control policy.

Speaking to reporters after a Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee, Bondi said: “You know, I don‘t know. I’m in D.C. a lot, and I can tell you, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is doing great ... We call it a drug czar, but it’s basically the head of ONDCP, I believe.” The letters stand for Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Bondi spoke shortly after President Donald J. Trump’s nominee for drug czar, U.S. Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, withdrew from consideration after news reports that linked him to legislation that weakened efforts to fight a national opioid epidemic.

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Floridians say the environment is a top five issue for the state, and they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is.

That is according to a new Sunshine State Survey released by USF and Nielsen Tuesday which showed that 56 percent of Floridians favor a tax whose revenue would be used to address environmental issues.

“In a state with little appetite for new taxes, the fact that a majority (56%) of Floridians support a new tax to support environmental protection efforts indicates the growing importance of the issue.” Project Director Susan A. MacManus wrote in a policy brief.

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