Nelson asks feds to extend emergency housing for Irma victims

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson wants President Donald Trump’s administration to extend short-term housing benefits for residents displaced by Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in the Keys and Southwest Florida before wreaking havoc across the state.

Nelson, a Democrat who may be facing a re-election challenge from Gov. Rick Scott next year, asked FEMA Administrator Brock Long to extend the Transitional Assistance Program (TSA), which pays for housing such as hotel rooms.

The housing aid is “critical for individuals rebuilding their lives,” Nelson wrote in a letter to Long today.

Some of the housing benefits are set to expire as early as this weekend, according to Nelson.

“After living through one of the most powerful storms to make landfall in this country, it is cruel to make Floridians fret over having to abandon their living situation for the second time, all because of a short-term deadline set by the government. I urge you to extend the assistance period and provide additional relief to those recovering from the storm,” Nelson wrote.

 

Biden backs Taddeo in Miami-Dade special election

-zpwMHaG_400x400Former Vice President Joe Biden, a darling of the working-class crowd, has thrown his support behind Annette Taddeo, a Democrat vying for an open Miami-Dade County state Senate seat against Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

Biden’s backing comes days before Tuesday’s special election, where early voting is underway. More than 24,000 ballots already have been cast through the mail, according to the Miami-Dade County elections office website.

“We have a real shot to elect a strong Democrat and proven leader, Annette Taddeo to the state senate. If you believe we need stronger schools, protect access to affordable healthcare and stronger communities then you need to make your plans to vote for Annette Taddeo,” Biden said in a press release issued by Taddeo’s campaign Thursday.
Taddeo, who was Congressman Charlie Crist‘s running-mate in Crist’s unsuccessful bid for governor three years ago, said she is “thrilled” to have Biden’s support for her “people-powered campaign.”
Scott set the special election date in the Senate District 40 race earlier this year after former state Sen. Frank Artiles was forced to resign from his seat following a profanity-laced and racially tinged outburst at a private club near the Capitol.

Speaker Paul Ryan after touring Florida Irma damage: “We are in it with you”

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After touring the wreckage caused by Hurricane Irma in Jacksonville and the Keys, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan assured Floridians that he’s got their backs.

“America loves Florida. I gotta just tell ya,” Ryan, flanked by bipartisan representatives of Florida’s congressional delegation and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, told a gaggle of reporters at an airport hangar in Miami.

The group’s tour took place as Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico, leaving 100 percent of the island — still reeling from Irma — without power.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a young guy. I’ve been fishing in the back bay, in Florida Bay behind Islamorada since my early 20s. My mom is a resident of Broward County. And so we want Floridians to know that they, too are in the front of our thoughts and our prayers, that the federal response will be there. That’s why we are here.”

The Florida lawmakers brought the House speaker (and other congressional budget leaders) down to witness first-hand Irma’s widespread impact, Rubio said.

“We know there’s going to be money needed to help the state of Florida recover,” Rubio said. “We wanted him to see it.

The assessment apparently worked, with Ryan pledging bipartisan support for rebuilding Florida, “whether it’s structures or businesses or agriculture or everything in between.”

“More is going to occur. More is coming,” he said. “We want the people of Florida to know that we are in it with you, that the federal response will be complete and that we have more work to do and that’s why we’re here, to assess this.”

Ryan called the damage to Florida “really astounding” after flying over Miami and the Keys, where Irma initially made landfall Sunday before coming ashore again in the southwest region of the state.

Ryan marveled that the massive storm affected nearly every part of Florida.

“What’s impressive is the response and what is needed is more aid and more help,” he said. “We know the federal government has a very important role to play here.”

Ravaged Keys bullseye of Florida tourism marketing plan

There’s still no price tag on the economic impact of Hurricane Irma on Florida’s tourism industry, but Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration yesterday announced an “aggressive new marketing” plan to lure back to the state.

Here’s a deeper dive into Visit Florida’s post-storm message:

— The online and broadcast campaign will start this week and run for about a month, leading into the state’s public-private tourism agency’s traditional winter marketing.

— The Florida Keys will get a lot of play “once our partners there have indicated they are ready to welcome visitors back.”

Scott wants the state’s tourism mecca up-and-running again by Oct. 1.

And with the state having to scramble to top last year’s 113 million visitors, Visit Florida President and CEO Ken Lawson described the marketing plan on Tuesday as one that will showcase “sunshine, blue skies and good times.”

Here’s more from Visit Florida:

— Phase one: “Florida is open for business.”

Sharing our partners’ content on social media as they post messages post-Irma.

Streaming live video broadcasts from locations across the state to targeted domestic and international audiences.

Deploying production teams across the state to develop video content that we will post and promote on social channels, YouTube and Digital TV.

Sponsoring social media efforts to encourage state-wide usage of #LoveFL by Florida residents.

Activating international tour operators in core international markets to manage any potential misperceptions of damage and encourage continuation of bookings, especially in the upcoming high booking month of October.

Reaching out to influencers and journalists who have been hosted on press trips to share their experiences from areas they visited.

— Phase two: “more traditional advertising tactics.”

Launching a multi-channel paid-media campaign that could include platforms such as billboards, digital transportation banners, social, online travel agencies, promotions, broadcast, YouTube and a co-branded media partnership.

Increasing our “Share a Little Sunshine” advocacy program to send advocates to local areas and connect with local Instagram communities to create InstaMeets across the state, in which Instagrammers meet up to take photos and videos of a certain area that they share in a branded effort.

Working with influencers to travel to areas around the state and share the message that Florida is sunny and open for business.

 

By Jim Turner.

Bondi, other AGs target drug industry in opioid probe

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and other attorneys general are targeting drug manufacturers and distributors as well as the insurance industry, in an effort to address the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the country, with 52,404 fatal overdoses reported in 2015, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Opioid addiction drove the epidemic with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers and 12,990 deaths related to heroin.

Florida, where overdose deaths have spiked over the past two years, is one of the epicenters of the opioid crisis, fueled in part by the widespread use of fentanyl, a deadly painkiller sometimes mixed with heroin.

Bondi and a group of attorneys general are demanding documents and information from pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors related to their opioid business.

The information requests are part of an effort by 41 states to crack down on the opioid crisis.

Bondi, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to serve on the White House’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission, has made prescription drug abuse one of her top priorities since she took office in 2011.

“Florida citizens continue to become addicted to opioids and die daily—meanwhile, prescription drug manufacturers, distributors and the medical profession all point fingers at each other as the cause of this national crisis,” Bondi said in a press release issued Tuesday. “This far-reaching multistate investigation is designed to get the answers we need as quickly as possible. The industry must do the right thing. If they do not, we are prepared to litigate.”

On Monday, Bondi joined a separate group of attorneys general who want insurers to make it easier for patients to receive alternative pain management treatments.

Justin leaving, but Sayfie Review going nowhere

Good news for both readers of one of Florida’s top news aggregators and for the aggregator himself.

Justin Sayfie — a South Florida lawyer, entrenched Republican operative and commentator who served as a senior policy advisor and speechwriter to former Gov. Jeb Bush — was named part of the lobbying firm Ballard Partners ever-growing Washington, D.C. office on Monday.

While Sayfie has run Ballard’s Fort Lauderdale operations since 2015, he has also operated — since 2002 — one of Florida’s most-followed online political sites. The Sayfie Review compiles news, blogs, editorials and tweets from the state’s political reporters and news outlets.

As the increased national exposure was announced for Sayfie, he offered “A Message from the Publisher…”  on his website.

“I am really excited to share some personal news with you. This morning Ballard Partners announced that I am joining their Washington, DC office to provide government affairs consulting services to the firm’s growing list of blue chip clients in our nation’s capitol.

“In light of this announcement, I wanted to be sure I let you know that this will not impact the Sayfie Review in any way. Florida politics is in my blood, and after 15 years of publishing the site every day, it’s even made it into my soul! I will continue to serve you in my role as Publisher of Sayfie Review, and I, along with our team of dedicated article editors, will keep providing you with the best political news from around the state, around the clock. This remains our highest mission and commitment to you. Furthermore, Sayfie Review will always remain non-partisan, and independently owned and operated from my other business interests.

“We are grateful to have you as a reader, and we look forward serving you in the future.

“Best regards,”

Justin

By Jim Turner.
 

Death Row inmate launches hunger strike

Florida Death Row inmate Cary Michael Lambrix is going on a hunger strike as a protest for his upcoming execution, set for Oct. 5.

Lambrix was sentenced to death after he was convicted of killing Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore in 1983 after escaping from a work-release program.

Gov. Rick Scott ordered Lambrix to be put to death last year, but a series of court rulings overturning Florida’s death sentencing system put the execution on hold. Scott reset Lambrix’s execution date earlier this month.

But Lambrix’s lawyers and supporters say the state lacks evidence that he committed the crimes.

Save Innocents, an organization based in France that provides assistance to prisoners condemned to death, issued a press release this morning announcing Lambrix’s hunger strike.

“I have been forced into a non-win situation in which the vast resources of the State of Florida are being employed to put me to death for a crime I am actually innocent of. I cannot stop anyone from executing me. But I am constitutionally entitled to protest against this injustice by declaring and maintaining a hunger strike as an expression of the free speech without governmental intrusion,” Lambrix is quoted in the release.

 

According to court documents, Lambrix met Bryant and Moore at a LaBelle bar and invited the pair to his mobile home for a spaghetti dinner. Lambrix went outside with Bryant and Moore individually, then returned to finish the dinner with his girlfriend. Bryant’s and Moore’s bodies were found buried near Lambrix’s trailer. Lambrix was originally scheduled to be executed in 1988, but the Florida Supreme Court issued a stay of that execution. A federal judge lifted the stay in 1992.