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Earth Day politics roundup: Hold hearing, tour recycling plant, celebrate Everglades, profess concern

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 by George Bennett

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (left) with "Alligator" Ron Bergeron, Sr. at a recycling facility in Broward County.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera toured a recycling plant in Broward County. Sen. Bill Nelson held a hearing on sea-level rise in Miami. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, took time out from her visit to Ukraine to bemoan rising temperatures on Twitter. And a slew of other elected officials and candidates used social media to offer hashtagged expressions of concern for the environment and future generations on Earth Day 2014.

Some examples after the jump…

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Sens. Nelson, Rubio to join Thursday to discuss Venezuela crisis

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 by George Bennett

Nelson in West Palm Beach today.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will appear together at a restaurant in Doral on Thursday to show solidarity with members of the Venezuelan community while the country’s leftist government continues its crackdown on dissent.

“Sen. Rubio and I have cosponsored a number of resolutions, we have written letters as well and we have a very similar opinion about what should be the posture of the United States (toward) this very repressive regime in Venezuela that is allowing its own people to be killed by these, in essence, paramilitaries or authorized gangs,” Nelson said today while stopping by his field office in West Palm Beach City Hall.

“We want to see economic sanctions clamp down, severe ones, on the repressive and dictatorial government of Venezuela,” Nelson said.

“Sen. Rubio and I, on this issue, there is no daylight between us and one of the surprises you’ll see in the interaction between us in the press conference, you think that Democrats and Republicans don’t get along, Sen. Rubio and I get along very, very well and so much of what we do you never see, for example, the selection of federal judges…It is a pleasure to deal with Sen. Rubio on a lot of the everyday detailed stuff that we do in the U.S. Senate.”

For all his pleasurable dealings with Rubio, Nelson said he had no insight into whether Rubio will launch a 2016 presidential bid.

“I don’t know” if Rubio will run, said Nelson, who’s a big Hillary Clinton fan. “I’m going to leave that to others. Really, when it comes to the presidential race I think it’s clear that we’re going to have the first woman president and what an incredible talent she is and we’re going to be fortunate to have her as our president.”

Gov. Scott, former Gov. Martinez, 2006 Dem governor nominee Davis all on hand for business confab

Monday, April 7th, 2014 by George Bennett

Not the Blue Man Group at Palm Beach County Convention Center but Gov. Rick Scott in odd lighting at a business gathering.


WEST PALM BEACH — After failing to persuade Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson to enter the governor’s race this year, former U.S. Rep. and 2006 Democratic nominee for governor Jim Davis says he’s not ready to endorse either of the leading Democrats vying to unseat Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist — who defeated Davis in the 2006 election — is favored to win the Democratic primary over former state Sen. Nan Rich.

“I spent a lot of time talking with Sen. Nelson because we need a strong governor to lead this state and unite this state,” Davis, a Tampa attorney, said while attending the Palm Beach Strategic Forum at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

Davis said he hasn’t endorsed Crist or Rich because “I’m still coming off the Sen. Nelson effort.”

Former Rep. Ron Klein (left) and former Gov. Bob Martinez (center) repping Holland & Knight at the convention center.

Davis, former Republican Gov. Bob Martinez and former Democratic Rep. Ron Klein — all members of the Holland & Knight law firm — were on hand for the international business gathering.

Scott spoke briefly in the morning, touting job growth and a drop in unemployment in the state since he took office.

Martinez, who was governor from 1987 to 1991, said the economy should be a plus for Scott.

“The state’s doing real well economically. We weathered the storm as well and without incurring operational deficits. So basically speaking he’s got a real good platform to run from,” Martinez said.

Martinez, Florida’s only governor of Hispanic descent, was asked about the GOP’s poor standing with Hispanic voters.

“It’s sometimes a matter of communication,” Martinez said. “I don’t think there’s that much difference in policy. Sometimes it’s how you communicate policy. Sometimes it’s how you express your views. And I think there the party can do better in terms of explaining what we stand for and when there’s a difference of opinion not to be using hot-button words to describe differences, which too often, unfortunately, that’s done.”

In wake of preventable veteran deaths, Rubio touts legislation to hold top VA officials accountable

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 by George Bennett

Sen. Marco Rubio joined House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Veterans Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Pensacola, today to tout legislation that would allow the Veterans Affairs secretary more authority to fire or demote senior VA employees based on performance.

The bill was introduced in February in response to reports of a persistent disability benefits backlog and preventable veteran deaths at VA medical centers across the country due to delays in basic diagnostic testing.

The issue has received renewed attention over the last week after the Tampa Tribune reported that VA officials wouldn’t reveal details on five veteran deaths in the region that includes Florida. Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Bill Nelson have pressed VA officials to provide more information.

Democratic dudgeon: Nelson, House members blast Supreme Court’s campaign finance ruling

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 by George Bennett

In this photo provided by Rep. Ted Deutch's office, the congressman criticizes the McCutcheon ruling while People For the American Way field director Diallo Brooks holds the electronic bullhorn outside the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down limits on the total amount of federal campaign contributions a donor can give, prompting criticism from Democrats.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and three Democratic members of Palm Beach County’s U.S. House delegation slammed the McCutcheon vs. FEC ruling. Donors still cannot give more than $5,200 to a federal candidate ($2,600 for a primary and $2,600 for a general election), but today’s ruling eliminates a federal law that capped overall donations to candidates at $48,600 and limited aggregate donations to political parties and committees at $74,600.

The Democratic dudgeon begins after the jump…

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Congressional Democrats say Scott’s conscience should guide on Medicaid

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Florida congressional Democrats attempted to turn up the heat Wednesday on Gov. Rick Scott over his walking away from his earlier bid to expand Medicaid coverage for more than 1 million Floridians.

Almost exactly one year ago, Scott held a news conference at the Governor’s Mansion to announce his support for expanding Medicaid coverage, an option given states under the Affordable Care Act. The federal government was poised to fully pay for the first three years of the expansion, and carry the bulk of the financing going forward.

“No mother or father should despair over whether or not they can afford — or access — the health care their child needs,” Scott said at the mansion.

House Speaker Will Weatheford, R-Wesley Chapel, refused to go along with Scott’s idea. And an alternate plan proposed by the Florida Senate also failed, with the House raising concerns about relying on federal financing and fears that Florida taxpayers could wind up owing more than promised.

In his latest budget proposal, Scott doesn’t mention Medicaid expansion. Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, have already declared expansion dead for the legislative session beginning March 4.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and other Florida Democrats want to know why.

“Governor, last year you said your conscience wouldn’t allow you to stand in the way of an expansion,” the lawmakers wrote Scott in a letter today. “We hope your conscience now will compel you to at least ask legislators to find a way to get this done.”

 

Crist’s lead over Scott shrinks to within margin of error in Democratic firm’s new poll

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by George Bennett

Trailing Democrat Charlie Crist by double digits in polls last year, Gov. Rick Scott has pulled within the margin of error in a new Public Policy Polling survey.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is gaining ground on Democrat Charlie Crist and has moved into a virtual tie in the 2014 governor’s race, a new poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling says.

Crist gets 43 percent and Scott gets 41 percent in the poll of 591 Florida voters conducted Jan. 16-21. The poll’s margin of error wasn’t immediately available, but previous PPP polls with similar sample sizes have had a margin of error of about 4 percent, which would mean Scott and Crist are effectively even. PPP’s last gubernatorial poll in October showed Crist with a 50-to-38 percent lead. Crist held a 52-to-40 percent lead in a March 2013 PPP poll.

Voters have negative opinions of both Scott and Crist. Asked about Scott’s job performance, 34 percent approve and 51 percent disapprove. Asked a slightly different question about Crist, 36 percent said they have a favorable view and 46 percent unfavorable.

Scott defeats the other Democrat seeking the governorship, former state Sen. Nan Rich, by a 40-to-34 percent margin.

The PPP survey suggests Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi could face a tight re-election contest. She leads Democrat George Sheldon by a 37-to-34 percent margin and has a 37-to-35 percent edge over Democratic state Rep. Perry Thurston.

Some other highlights of the new poll are after the jump…

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Signs emerge that logjam at unemployment site may be ending

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 by John Kennedy

The arrival in Tallahassee of a team of U.S. Labor Department officials is apparently breaking the logjam for thousands of jobless Floridians unable to get their benefits through the state’s troubled unemployment compensation website.

Labor officials have given the state permission to pay unemployment claims to anyone whose case has been under review for seven days or longer, said Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the state’s Department of Employment Opportunity.

“This step should serve as a great relief for claimants who have faced hardships due to technical problems with the system,” Panuccio said. “Some claimants have suffered and DEO and USDOL are committed to helping them through all legal and available means.”

Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat who pushed the Labor Department to intercede in the state’s trouble praised the federal action.

“The secretary of labor promised me that he would send his folks to Florida to fix the mess the state has made of its unemployment benefits system, and it seems he’s doing exactly that,” Nelson said.

DEO has been flooded with complaints about the CONNECT website since system for applying for benefits was launched in mid-October.  Social media is filled with posts from Floridians who say they have endured a computer hell as they try to file claims and are alternately kicked off the site or forced to wait hours on helplines.

Panuccio last week told a state Senate committee that 73 percent of claims are being paid within a week. But he acknowledged that as many as 60,000 Floridians may be in the “adjudication” status awaiting a determination of their claims.

Labor’s action should accelerate payments for many, officials said.

Testifying to the Senate panel last week, Panuccio placed blame for the $63 million website on Deloitte Consulting LLP.

The technology giant, which has had problems developing similar websites in Massachusetts and California, has been fined $15,000 daily by the state economic opportunity department since Dec. 23 for failing to deliver what the state calls a “fully functioning” system. The state also withheld a $3 million payment to the company last month.

Deloitte has responed that many of the problems are rooted in the state system – and “beyond Deloitte’s control.”

The federal attention is not the first time the U.S. Labor Department has weighed in on Florida’s handling of jobless benefits.

After a workers advocacy organization, the National Employment Law Project, filed a complaint in 2012, the federal agency slapped Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over a 2011 law enacted by the Republican-led Legislature, which requires that all benefit applications be filed online. U.S. officials said the requirement discriminates against minorities and the disabled who may have trouble accessing computers.

Federal officials are still negotiating with the state over possible remedies to the 2011 law – although some Florida Democrats in the Legislature said Wednesday that the online-only system should be revamped to help those without easy access.

The National Employment Law Project meanwhile said jobless Floridians may have lost more than $22 million in benefits during October and November because of problems with CONNECT.

While the initial problems with CONNECT mostly involved faulty PIN numbers and applicants having trouble submitting claims for specific weeks, the bulk of the hold-up now stems from cases being “adjudicated.”

Labor Dept. officials heading to Florida to probe jobless website woes

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 by John Kennedy

U.S. Labor Department officials are sending staff to Florida this week to monitor continuing problems with the state’s CONNECT website, which has frustrated thousands of Floridians seeking to file for unemployment benefits, Sen. Bill Nelson said late Tuesday.

The federal agency has already slapped Gov. Rick Scott’s Department of Economic Opportunity over the 2011 law enacted by the Republican-led Legislature which requires that all benefit applications be filed online. Labor officials last year said the requirement discriminates against minorities and the disabled who may have trouble accessing computers.

The $63 million CONNECT website, which became the online portal for those seeking jobless benefits Oct. 15, has been problem-plagued. DEO officials blamed contractor Deloitte Consulting LLP for the problems and the company, in turn, puts much of the blame on the state.

Meanwhile, stories abound of Floridians struggling to get needed dollars for gas, rent and other necessities.

“The secretary of labor has assured me his key staff that handle unemployment insurance will be in Tallahassee by the end of the week; and, they’ll stay there until the problems are fixed,” Nelson, a Democrat, said Tuesday night.

Nelson said he spoke with Labor Secretary Thomas Perez who told him that the initial purpose of his team’s trip will be to try to find way to pay those with continuing claims now and fix problems with the Florida system later.

A workers advocacy organization, the National Employment Law Project, which filed a complaint in 2012 that led to last year’s Labor Department ruling, said jobless Floridians may have lost more than $20 million in benefits during October and November, alone.

The state is still negotiating with federal officials over a remedy to the earlier discrimination findings. The problems with CONNECT may add yet another facet to the discussions between state and federal officials, according to attorneys with Florida Legal Services, also a party to the earlier complaint.

DEO last month withheld a $3 million payment and began fining Deloitte $15,000-a-day over the site’s performance. Deloitte shot back by saying that any lingering problems are the state’s fault.

State officials announced last week that they plan to add 330 more staffers over the next three months to deal with long waits and disputed claims.

Jesse Panuccio, DEO’s executive director, has said that the new hires will cost the state less than $165,000 per week, with federal dollars available to cover the expense.

DEO officials are scheduled to provide an update on the CONNECT website Wednesday to a Senate budget panel.

 

 

 

Nelson again asks Labor to probe CONNECT flaws

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Amid continuing problems with Florida’s CONNECT website for unemployment benefits, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson renewed his call Wednesday for federal officials to investigate whether Gov. Rick Scott’s administration is doing all it can to fix the site.

Nelson in October similarly asked the U.S. Labor Department to look into flaws revealed in CONNECT’s Oct. 15 rollout. Thousands of jobless Floridians have been struggling to file benefit claims and have deluged overburdened help lines.

“Specifically, I ask that you investigate whether the Department of Economic Opportunity is currently in compliance with section 303(a)(1) of the Social Security Act and associated Department regulations requiring states to timely pay unemployment compensation “when due,” and, if not, what actions the Department can take to ensure timely payment of claims due to Floridians,” Nelson wrote in a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

The state’s Department of Economic Opportunity is battling with tech giant Deloitte Consulting LLC, designers of the state’s $63 million website. Each side blames the other for problems which have forced jobless Floridians to spend days trying to file benefits or repeatedly dial call centers seeking help.

State officials announced last week they plan to add 330 more staffers over the next three months to deal with long waits and disputed claims.

Jesse Panuccio, DEO’s executive director, said Tuesday that the new hires will cost the state less than $165,000-per-week, with federal dollars available to cover the expense.

Still, for the Gov. Rick Scott administration, which has ridiculed Congress and the Obama administration for overspending, the website woes are a problem. They also potentially undermine a central part of his re-election profile as the ‘let’s get to work’ governor.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, last fall urged the federal Labor Department to launch an investigation into CONNECT’s balky rollout.

DEO last month withheld a $3 million payment and began fining Deloitte $15,000-a-day over the site’s performance. Deloitte shot back by saying that any lingering problems are the state’s fault.

The department’s decision to throw more bodies into the mix may not prove that successful.

“I’ve had 3 different reps handle my acct in the last 2 weeks. They asked for the same information over and over again and that it would expedited to an adjudicator. Guess what, nothing has been done,” Anthony Dezenzio of Panama City wrote on a DEO Facebook site this week.

Panuccio on Tuesday continued to emphasize that the system is getting better. Since the site deputed Oct. 15, he said 1.1 million claims have been filed and more than $335 million in benefits distributed.

On Monday, he added that more than 18,000 claims were completed and $4.9 million paid to unemployed Floridians.

“Deloitte has committed to bringing additional programmers to Florida to address technical issues and is working on a plan to solve all remaining problems,” Panuccio said. “This is a step in the right direction and each day, improvements to the system continue to be made.”

 

Nelson’s ‘No plans…no intention’ stance on governor’s race not final word for Hastings

Monday, December 9th, 2013 by George Bennett

Former Palm Beach County Commissiner Burt Aaronson, who backs Charlie Crist for governor, chats with Sen. Bill Nelson outside the Palm Beach County elections office last week.

In case you’ve missed the last several months of non-denial denials from Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, he has “no plans” and “no intention” or running for governor in 2014.

That’s not the same as saying he won’t run.

So reporters will keep asking him about the race. And people like U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, will continue to see a Nelson candidacy as a possibility. Hastings said he has asked Nelson twice to consider getting into the race and “each time, he indicated to me that he did not think he would enter the race.”

But Hastings doesn’t consider that the end of the story.

“There is something to be said for people entering a race like that late and being actively sought,” Hastings said. “And I do know this: that there are those who have actively sought to have him enter the governor’s race.”

Subscribers to MyPalmBeachPost.com can read more in this week’s Politics column. One-day passes are available for 99 cents.

Sen. Bill Nelson blames knee, crutches, media for recent uptick in gubernatorial speculation

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 by George Bennett

Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson and Sen. Bill Nelson chat outside the county elections office. Aaronson, a Charlie Crist supporter, said they discussed "old times" and not the 2014 governor's race.


Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said his recent deviation from his standard denial of interest in the 2014 governor’s race was merely a “flip remark” he made while he was hobbled by a knee injury and hounded by Washington reporters.

For months, Democrat Nelson has repeated that he has “no plans” and “no intention” of running for governor — an answer that makes it clear he’s not a candidate while leaving the door open to changing his mind.

So Nelson-watchers were intrigued last month when Politico reported that Nelson expanded on his usual answer by saying he might change course if Democratic frontrunner Charlie Crist “gets into trouble.”

When Politico asked what Nelson meant by trouble, he replied: “That’s in the eye of the beholder.”

In West Palm Beach today, Nelson sought to tamp down the gubernatorial speculation.

“I have no plans to run for governor and I have no intention of running for governor,” Nelson said when a reporter asked.

Asked about the Politico remarks, Nelson described being swarmed by reporters while trying to catch a train from the Capitol to his Senate office.

“I had just had, the day before, a procedure on my left knee. And I’m on crutches. And I get to the point of which I’m trying to get on the escalator to get down to the level where the little train is. And so I’m concentrating on that as I get onto the escalator with these crutches and he (a Politico reporter) has asked me a whole bunch of questions and I’ve answered them and then he says something about, I don’t even remember what the question was,” Nelson recalled.

“Anyway, I said some flip remark, well, ‘That’s in the eye of the beholder.’ So somebody took that and made that to be something else. So that’s what that’s all about.”

In Ken Burns project, Rubio delivers Gettysburg Address 44% faster than Nelson

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 by George Bennett

Filmmaker Ken Burns captured the stylistic differences between Florida’s Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio when he asked them, along with other political figures, to deliver President Abraham Lincoln‘s Gettysburg Address in honor of the speech’s 150th anniversary.

Rubio breezes through it in 1:41 (or five score and one second in Lincolnspeak). Nelson takes 2:25. Footage of Lincoln’s original reading is not available.

Nelson wants feds to probe Scott’s rollout of jobless website

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asked federal officials Wednesday to examine problems involving the rollout of Florida’s new Connect system for those seeking unemployment benefits.

The move comes even as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was being grilled by congressional Republicans for the similarly balky start of enrollment in new federal health exchanges. Nelson said that Floridians seeking jobless benefits they have earned are entitled to better from their government.

“The main purpose behind this federal-state program is to help stabilize the economy during recessions,” Nelson said in his letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.  “But it certainly won’t be of much help in my state if those who have lost their jobs face protracted delays in seeking or receiving benefits.”

The Florida unemployment compensation system’s new, $63 million website left a trail of frustrated users who filled Facebook and Twitter with tales of online malfunctions and help lines that don’t work when it debuted earlier this month.

Officials with the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity, which oversees the site, said Wednesday that 230,000 claims have been processed so far on the new system. Calls to technical help desks are down more than 60 percent since last week, officials said.

“DEO continues to work around the clock to ensure the needs of every claimant are addressed,” said Jesse Panuccio, DEO’s executive director. “We welcome any assistance and input Senator Nelson and the federal government can provide as we identify and fix website problems where they arise.”

CONNECT was developed by Deloitte Consulting, which has had problems in recent years with technology contracts in California, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, where last summer it fell two years behind and $6 million over-budget in delivering a similar, unemployment claims system.

New York-based Deloitte LLP is one of the nation’s largest management and information-technology consulting firms. It’s among a handful of corporate giants providing information technology services to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Internal Revenue Service, as part of the Oct. 1 rollout of health exchanges.

Nelson sticking to statement, still “no intention of running” for gov

Saturday, October 26th, 2013 by John Kennedy

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson stayed on script Saturday when asked whether he was satisfied with a Democratic field for governor headed by former Republican Charlie Crist and longshot hopeful Nan Rich.

“I have no plans to run for governor and I have no intention of running for governor,” Nelson said, repeating the oblique statement he’s been making for months.

But he added, “The state’s going into a ditch. The state is going in the wrong direction.”

Nelson, elected last fall to a third term, insisted that he has plenty to do in the U.S. Senate.

But he was quick to show off a familiarity with state issues still hot for Democrats: The Republican Legislature’s rejection of Medicaid expansion, Gov. Rick Scott’s turnback of high-speed rail, and even a recent Public Service Commission ruling that will have customers pay millions for the failures of Duke Energy’s Crystal River nuclear plant.

“Where’s the leadership?” an exasperated Nelson said.

Nelson ran for governor in 1990, losing the Democratic primary that year to Lawton Chiles, the former senator who went on to serve two terms as governor. Chiles, who died in 1998, is the last Florida Democrat elected governor.

Nelson is clearly keeping an eye on the state candidate qualifying period, which he accurately said was June 16-20. But he told reporters he was wary of saying anything that would breathe life into talk of him as a candidate for governor.

“If I say anything, you guys are going to run with it,” Nelson said. “And I’m not going to let you guys run with it.”

Florida Sens. Nelson and Rubio explain their opposing votes on deal to end shutdown

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 by George Bennett


Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio were on different sides in the Senate’s 81-18 vote Wednesday to end the stalemate that created a 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government.

Democrat Nelson supported the deal and lamented that “a couple of senators and a handful of House extremists have managed to embarrass America in front of the world.”

Republican Rubio opposed the agreement “because it postpones any significant action on pro-growth and spending reforms and does nothing to provide working class Americans even one shred of relief from Obamacare’s harmful effects.”

Rubio joined two other potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — in opposing the agreement, which was later approved by the House.

Read statements from Nelson and Rubio after the jump…

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Palm Beach County’s House members all back deal to end government shutdown, raise debt ceiling

Thursday, October 17th, 2013 by George Bennett

Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel with Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor earlier this month in Boynton Beach.


The four Democrats who represent Palm Beach County in the U.S. House of Representatives all voted for the deal to end the government shutdown and increase the federal debt ceiling on Wednesday night.

After the Senate approved the deal earlier in the day on an 81-18 vote — with Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in favor and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio opposed — the House gave its OK with a 285-144 vote.

Reactions from Palm Beach County’s congressional delegation after the jump…

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Alex Sink won’t run for governor in 2014; wants to ‘spend some hours’ with Dems Rich, Crist

Friday, September 20th, 2013 by George Bennett

Sink

Democrat Alex Sink announced today that she won’t run for governor in 2014.

That makes it increasingly likely that the battle for the Democratic nomination will be a two-person contest between liberal former state Sen. Nan Rich and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist.

Sink, the state’s former chief financial officer, was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010 and narrowly lost to Republican Rick Scott. She’s been part of 2014 speculation for some time, but put politics on hold for several months after her husband, Bill McBride, died suddenly in December. McBride was the 2002 Democratic nominee, losing to Gov. Jeb Bush.

Sink said she wants to focus on her foundation, Florida Next, which promotes innovation and entrepreneurship in Florida. She said she also hopes to help other Democratic candidates.

Sink earlier this year said she’d like to see Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson run for governor, but in an interview today she said she thinks that’s unlikely.

Sink has been publicly skeptical of Crist’s credentials as a Democrat after his long career as a Republican, his switch to no party affiliation in 2010 and his registration as a Democrat in December.

“I’m going to be like most other Democratic voters that I know,” Sink said today. “He’s new to us as a Democrat. I spoke to Nan Rich a little bit earlier and told her that what I want to do is take an opportunity to spend some hours with both of them and whoever else might announce as a candidate and delve deep into what their values are….what their vision is for Florida and how they can defeat Rick Scott.”

Obama makes his case for military strikes in Syria, but asks Congress to delay vote; Florida reactions

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 by George Bennett

In a 15-minute address to a skeptical nation, President Barack Obama tonight acknowledged criticism of his plan for military strikes in Syria but said the U.S. has both a moral and national security interest in responding to Bashar Assad‘s use of chemical weapons.

After more than a week of pressing Congress with apparently little success to approve the use of military force in Syria, Obama tonight asked the House and Senate to delay a vote on authorizing force while the U.S. pursues a diplomatic solution brokered by Russia that emerged Monday.

Two of Florida’s strongest supporters of military strikes — Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton — responded soon after Obama’s speech by urging Congress to approve military action in case negotiations fail.

But U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, said the president’s address didn’t shake his opposition to military force in Syria.

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Sen. Bill Nelson: Stand-your-ground law should be ‘considerably tightened’

Thursday, July 25th, 2013 by George Bennett

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell today that he backs changes to Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law.

Said Nelson: “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.

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