Bill Nelson

Nelson takes to Senate floor to blast child separation

A day after being denied entry to a federal detention facility housing approximately 1,000 undocumented children, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson took to the Senate floor to report his experience and scold President Donald Trump for what he called a “shameful” policy of separating children from undocumented families seeking asylum at the border.

The 94 children at the Homestead facility are among the 174 children — some of them who are still nursing — who have been removed from their loved ones and are being housed in detention facilities in the Florida, according to Nelson.

Nelson said he was told by the deputy secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services that the senior senator from Florida needed to fill out a form and wait two weeks to gain access to the facility, despite serving on the committee that oversees the agency.

“The question is why do they not want the senator from Florida to get into this detention facility where there are children that have been separated from their parents,” he said. “It must be that … this is being directed from the president and the White House and they don’t want me to see it because they don’t want us to know what is going on in there.”

Nelson, a Democrat who’s in the toughest election battle of his life as he squares off against Republican Gov. Rick Scott, is part of a growing chorus calling on Trump — who’s blamed the situation on Democrats for inaction on immigration reform — to reverse the policy, initiated by the Trump administration earlier this year.

“It’s up to him. He doesn’t need Congress to act. He and he alone is allowing this shameful practice to continue and he alone can stop it right now,” Nelson said.

The senator, who joined U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and incoming state House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee in the futile attempt to access the detention center, said he wanted to inspect the facility for himself.

“Is the facility clean? Are the children sleeping in beds? Are they sleeping on the floor? Are they having adequate care? And if they were, I could report that that was a good news story,” Nelson said.

Yesterday evening, Scott — a close ally of Trump — sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, demanding information about the children being warehoused in Florida.

“I have been very clear that I absolutely do not agree with the practice of separating children from their families. This practice needs to stop now,” Scott wrote in his harshest take on the issue yet, after returning from his seventh trip to Puerto Rico following island-ravaging Hurricane Maria in September.

Scott asked for details about where the children were being housed, if they were receiving health screenings, and what other services are being provided.

Scott drops $3.2 million on TV this week in “dogfight” against Nelson

Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan told us this morning that incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson “is in for a dogfight” against Rick Scott, the Republican outgoing governor who’s trying to oust the veteran senator.

Judging by the amount of money Scott’s campaign dropped on TV ads this week alone, Morgan’s characterization of the race may be an understatement.

According to Scott’s camp, they dropped $3.2 million on TV spots this week alone — including on two Spanish-language ads as the governor relentlessly woos Hispanic voters.

That brings to $8 million the total Scott’s campaign has spent on television in a little more than a month since he announced his entry into the race.

The latest ad, “Cambiar,” focuses on Scott’s pledge to “change” Washington.

We did notice that the two Spanish-language ads feature some of the same stars, but no matter.

A second ad, “Presente,” tambien en español, highlights Scott’s efforts to aid Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

The third ad relies on an English-speaking cast of characters who blast Nelson for, well, being too much of a Democrat and “voting the party line.”

Which is a bit odd, since — until this year, when he supported a school-safety measure that included some gun restrictions — Scott had never been viewed as a politician who was known for bridging the partisan divide.

 

John Morgan: “If I was Bill Nelson, I’d be worried”

IMG_0124Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan held court with reporters moments before a hearing in a lawsuit he initiated kicked off Wednesday morning.

Morgan is a political rainmaker who largely bankrolled the constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in Florida and was overwhelmingly approved by voters nearly two years ago.

Morgan, who had toyed with the notion of running for governor, spoke about his decision to stay out of the governor’s race.

“I’ll tell you. To run for governor, you’ve got to be done making money. And I’m not done making money. Or you have to be a professional politician. And I’m not a professional politician,” he said.

Morgan said he spoke yesterday with Philip Levine, the former Miami Beach Miami who is a contender in the Democratic primary for governor.

“I told him he’s lucky I’m not in ‘cause I would win in a landslide,” Morgan said, adding that he didn’t know which Democrat would capture the nomination.

“All I know is I’ve never known any governor that’s ever done anything for any of us. Ever. So it’s not a job that I really think I’d be good at every day. I’m better at this,” he said, standing outside the courtroom.

Morgan also said he supported House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s decision to stay on the sidelines in the governor’s race.

Morgan said Corcoran visited him a few weeks ago.

“I said, look, here’s the deal. It’s all about money. And if you don’t got the money, you can’t run. I said at the end of the day, questions answer themselves. And I think the question was answered for Richard Corcoran when the money froze up,” Morgan said.

While Corcoran is a friend and someone he would have helped, Morgan said the Land O’ Lakes Republican made the right choice.

“I think he made the right decision because I think he would have gotten beat and I think he knew he was going to get beat. And if I’m going to get beat, I don’t like to go to my own ass-kicking,” Morgan said.

Morgan also had what appeared to be a dim view of incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s odds against challenger Rick Scott, who’s finishing his last year as governor.

“I think Sen Nelson is in for a dog fight. I think he’s got to get busy. You cannot underestimate this Rick Scott. He is a methodical, Eveready bunny, a bald-headed Eveready bunny who just never stops. He’s focused, and he’s got the money, and he’s got the message, and if I was Bill Nelson, I’d be worried,” he said.

 

Ho-hum. Chamber endorses Scott.

Surprise, surprise.

Days after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce rolled out a six-figure ad buy to attack Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the Chamber — along with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the political committee affiliated with the Jacksonville Chamber —  endorsed Republican Gov. Rick Scott in his bid to unseat the veteran Florida Democrat.

Scott’s campaign declared that “this is the first time in Florida history that local, state and national Chambers of Commerce have come together to announce a joint campaign endorsement.”

The announcement is the focus of Scott’s day, according to the schedule distributed by the governor’s office.

His office schedule simply lists “staff and call time (via phone)” at 10:35 a.m., while the campaign is holding events today in Jacksonville and Orlando for a “major announcement.”

By Jim Turner.

Florida lawmakers seek aid for Puerto Rican refugees facing homelessness

puerto-rico-26990_1280U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, joined by a handful of Florida congressmen, are asking FEMA to extend temporary housing assistance to displaced Puerto Ricans seeking shelter in the Sunshine State.

The Florida lawmakers sent a letter today to FEMA Administrator Brock Long and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, after FEMA officials told federal lawmakers they plan to cut off Transitional Shelter Assistance, or TSA, to more than 1,600 refugees — including 600 in Florida — as soon as Friday.

The Puerto Rican residents, who are U.S. citizens, fled after Hurricane Maria left the island in tatters.

“At a minimum, the deadline for TSA should coincide with the end of the school year for mainland states,” the lawmakers wrote in Wednesday’s letter. “After Hurricane Maria devastated the island, more than 10,000 students from Puerto Rico enrolled in Florida schools. These children have already had their lives and educational experiences disrupted by a devastating storm and deserve the opportunity to complete their school year.”

The letter was sent on the same day power reportedly went down throughout the island, where before the latest outage more than 50,000 people remained without electricity following the storm six months ago.

From the press release:

FEMA’s TSA program pays hotel owners to provide hotel rooms to displaced victims of a storm. Once FEMA decides it will no longer provide a displaced family with TSA benefits, hotel owners will often evict them from their property.

With some parts of Florida already experiencing a shortage of affordable housing due, in part, to a sudden influx of displaced Puerto Ricans living there since the storm, these sudden evictions could leave some families – who are still unable to return home to Puerto Rico – with nowhere to live.

In addition to Nelson and Rubio, the letter sent today urging FEMA to continue providing assistance to these families was signed by Reps. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Dennis Ross (R-FL) and Darren Soto (D-FL).

 

Dems throw musical shade at Scott

Florida Democrats have served up a musical serving of sarcasm aimed at Gov. Rick Scott, who finally stopped the (non)suspense and announced this week he’s running against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The Dems’ “Smooth Criminal for Senate” playlist features hits by Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Kanye West and The Notorious B.I.G.,

Some of the samples are obvious, such as two versions of “Plead the Fifth” (“couldn’t find 75 songs with the title,” the press release accompanying the playlist reads), a reference to the former health care mogul’s repeated use of the Fifth Amendment during a deposition ages ago.

Other selections, like “Robots” by Flight of the Concords, are a tad more subtle.

And of course there’s a reference to onetime First Dog Reagan, a yellow lab who was a brief resident of the governor’s mansion, with “Who Let the Dogs Out.”

We could have lived without “Oil Rigs,” and the G-rated version of “Gold Digger” doesn’t quite cut it, but hey, we get it.

The Fla Dems might be taking a page from President Obama, whose summer (day and night) Spotify playlists — featuring Bob Dylan, The Isley Brothers, Coldplay, Howlin’ Wolf, to name just a few — were a huge hit.

No indication yet if President Trump will carry on the tradition.

Here’s a link to the playlist, and here are the tracks:

  • Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson
  • Who Let the Dogs Out by Baha Men – Where’s Reagan?
  • Mo Money Mo Problems by Notorious B.I.G., Mase, Diddy
  • The First Cut is the Deepest by Sheryl Crow -The first cut was just the beginning.
  • Plead the Fifth by Kip Moore
  • Plead the Fifth by Liana Banks – Couldn’t find 75 songs with the title.
  • Me, Myself and I by Beyonce
  • Life’s Been Good by Joe Walsh
  • Selfish by Future and Rihanna
  • Gold Digger by Kanye West and Jamie Foxx
  • Criminal by Britney Spears
  • Oil Rigs by Atena
  • Robots by Flight of the Conchords

 

Scott and the U.S. Senate: If history’s the judge…

Need a hint about what Gov. Rick Scott may be up to on April 9?

After Scott tweeted Monday that a big announcement was coming April 9, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a two-time statewide appointee of the governor, tweeted out a “#TriviaTime” comment.

Answer: April 9, 2010 is when Scott filed his initial paperwork to run for the governor’s office. The same day, Scott also dumped $2 million of his own money into the contest. Another $71.2 million of his family money for the campaign would follow.

Scott’s announcement Monday that Brad Piepenbrink was replacing longtime Scott aide Jackie Schutz Zeckman as the governor’s chief of staff sent Capitol insiders into a spin.

Zeckman’s departure unleashed the latest round of speculation (might she join his “Let’s Get to Work” political organization?) about whether Scott’s entrée into the race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is imminent in what, if it happens, would be one of Florida’s Worst-kept Political Secrets of All Time.

— By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.