Scott Powers - 2/33 - SaintPetersBlog

Scott Powers

Andrew Gillum’s campaign touting more than 7,000 donors

Andrew Gillum is staking claim to the broadest base of campaign donors.

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s campaign is reporting Friday it has topped the 7,000 donor mark for $1.2 million in total contributions.

The Tallahassee mayor is running against two other major candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018.

That means Gillum’s official campaign and his unofficial political committee Forward Florida brought in about $150,000 from roughly 1,400 donors in May.

Gillum faces former Congresswoman Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King for the Democratic nomination.

The leading Republican is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose official and unofficial committees have raised far more than those three Democrats combined.

Geoff Burgan, Gillum’s communication director, said May was a big month, even as his candidate took time off as he and his wife R. Jai Gillum welcomed their third child, Davis Allen Gillum, born May 15.

“Our campaign was thrilled for the mayor’s family to welcome their third child last month, and he took some well-deserved time off the campaign trail,” Burgan said. “We’re excited to have more than 7,000 contributors, the most in the race, and we’re raising the resources to compete in all 67 counties. The Mayor doesn’t have a famous last name or personal wealth, but we’re proud to have the support of thousands of Floridians.”

College graduates’ families, friends pump up Airbnb bookings

Lodging alternative marketing service Airbnb released figures Thursday that shows families and friends of college graduates piled into vacation rental homes from Pensacola to Miami

Guests booking rooms in Airbnb-marketed vacation rental homes more than doubled in Gainesville and Tallahassee during the University of Florida and Florida A&M University commencement weeks in April.

Tallahassee also saw a significant spike the following week for the Florida State University Commencement, while Pensacola, Jacksonville and Daytona Beach also saw large increases in Airbnb bookings during the weeks of commencements for the University of West Florida, Daytona State College, and the University of North Florida.

Orlando saw 4,000 Airbnb bookings during the week of the University of Central Florida’s commencement in early May, far more than any other college town in the company’s survey. But that turned out to be typical for Orlando, no real difference from the previous week’s vacation rental homes activity.

“Home sharing provides significant economic value by expanding lodging capacity during commencement weekends for Florida communities that are home to large universities,” Tom Martinelli, policy director of Airbnb Florida, stated in a news release.

“As a Gator alumnus, I can certainly relate to my family having to book Gainesville hotel rooms a year in advance of my graduation, as is the case in college communities throughout the state,” he recalled. “We’re very encouraged to see how our platform has been utilized to provide affordable lodging accommodations for college families during stretches when hotels traditionally reach peak occupancy.”

Among the college towns in the company’s survey:

In Gainesville, 290 Airbnb-marketed vacation rental homes hosted 752 guests during the week of UF’s late April commencement. That’s 136 percent more than rental activity than the previous week.

In Tallahassee, 290 Airbnb vacation rental homes hosted 444 guests during FAMU’s graduation week, a 138 percent increase. The following week they hosted 637 guests for FSU’s commencement week, but since the previous week was FAMU’s graduation, the increase was just 35 percent. [Tallahassee also was hosting the last two week’s of the Florida Legislative Session during those weeks.]

Jacksonville’s 350 vacation rental home hosts saw 759 guests during UNF’s late April graduation, a 59 percent increase over the previous week.

Pensacola’s 230 hosts had 433 guests during UWF’s commencement week in early May, a 43 percent increase over the previous week.

Daytona Beach’s 330 hosts had 207 guests during Daytona State’s commencement in mid-May, a 27 percent hike over the previous week.

Jose Javier Rodriguez: We’re being called back to bless backroom deal

Democrats staked out their contempt for the stated purpose of the Legislature’s Special Session today with state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriquez saying lawmakers are being called in to bless a backroom deal to give the governor a slush fund.

Rodriguez, of Miami, and state Rep. Shevrin Jones of West Park decried what they described as a cynical process for Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders to get what they want in exchange for $2015 million in education funding that already had been stripped away from public schools and routed to charter schools in House Bill 7069.

The special session begins this afternoon and is scheduled to run through Friday. Scott called the session to also establish the Florida Job Growth Fund to promote public infrastructure and individual job training and fund it at $85 million, the same amount he requested for incentive programs for Enterprise Florida; and pass legislation that sets aside $76 million for VISIT Florida and includes comprehensive transparency and accountability measures for the organization.

Rodriguez called the Florida Job Growth Fund a “slush fund” for the governor.

“We’re coming up here basically because we’re being asked to bless a deal that has been cut,” Rodriguez charged.

“One of the things being done with respect to our economic development program is creating this job growth program, which looks more like a slush fund than anything else, $85 million, that is not subject to scrutiny that we are going to be increasing on Enterprise Florida,” Rodriguez added. “It basically is the governor’s pot of money to do with what he will.”

Jones took aim at the education funding and HB 7069, which was passed on the last day of the Legislative Session and awaits transmittal to the governor’s office. That bill, he charged, was created without transparency “at its worst.”

He and Rodriguez characterized the Special Session as a waste of time and money and not good for Florida residents. But Rodriguez acknowledged that could change if medical marijuana is scheduled, as FloridaPolitics.com reported earlier Wednesday will happen.

“If we are being called up here to enact the will of the voters, yeah, sure, that’s a reason to have a Special Session,” he said.

After a seemingly rule-less meeting, constitution panel adopts rules

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission now has a set of rules for how it might go about writing major changes to Florida’s Constitution.

Those rules — addressing such matters as who will appoint committees, how proposals will move through committees, whether Florida’s Sunshine laws will cover everything — emerged from a sometimes chaotic debate in Orlando Tuesday morning at a meeting that Chair Carlos Beruff adjourned suddenly after he got what he apparently wanted.

By a 20-11 vote, the commission adopted a proposal from Gov. Rick Scott-appointee Brecht Heuchan that largely adopts, as a base, the rules used by the previous state Constitution Revision Commission in 1997-98, with a few changes Heuchan said were the desires of a rules work group that had met.

With that, Beruff closed down discussion or consideration of dozens of other proposals, including some amendments, and then adjourned the meeting. He promised that the other suggestions would be taken up at later meetings, but made contradictory statements about whether they would be considered by the full commission, or by a rules committee, which he would be able to appoint and control.

But the rules package adopted Tuesday didn’t address everything that everyone wanted, and opponents mounted challenges. Particular among them were assertions that the package did not create a “clawback” promise that Heuchan and others promised, which would allow committee majorities to force proposals to be considered. Nor did it offer explicit language to open meetings enough to satisfy the strongest proponents of open meetings for the commission’s business.

The victory came on the strength of Scott’s appointees: among them, including his hand-picked chairman Beruff, the package won 13-0, while the non-gubernatorial appointees, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, added seven yes votes and 11 no votes.

Left on the outside, state Sen. Tom Lee had been waiting for discussion and consideration of his own proposal, also based on the 1997-’98 rules, plus several proposed amendments waiting to be offered. He, and former state Sens. Don Gaetz and Arthenia Joyner among others had argued strenuously against Heuchan’s plan.

Their arguments included Gaetz point-of-order call early on, in which he charged that Heuchan’s proposal had been offered and submitted improperly, and couldn’t even be considered by the commission the way it was being handled.

Beruff struck down Gaetz’ objection as the kind of procedural question he was trying to avoid, and with a statement about rules that cut to the heart of concerns about a commission operating before it had adopted its own rules.

“There are no rules here. It is my understanding that without rules, there is no Germanic standard,” Beruff said. “And of course there always is: if you don’t like the amendment, you don’t have to vote for it.”

The matter came up again as Lee challenged the vote Beruff called on the rules package, arguing that the vote was being called improperly. When Beruff dismissed that charge, Bob Solari spoke out.

“We have rules when some people like them, but we don’t have rules when some people don’t like them,” Solari declared. “If I was watching this, the public, I would be incredibly depressed and dismayed. Because seeing the game here is played, the rules of this game today changed five or six times.”

Heuchan, however, tried hard to defend his package of rules against its critics’ points of concern about the package itself, arguing that it was a compromise, that he recognized that it wouldn’t please everyone, but that it was good enough for a start. And if he turns out to be wrong in his reassurances that clawback and Sunshine law provisions were strong, those could be addressed later. He promised he would lead the charge to make those changes.

“The amendment that was adopted does address those,” he said later. “I realize it may not be in the way that everybody wanted them but there was obvious support for the broader compromise.”

He also took issue with Lee’s contention that the adoption of rules was the most important thing the commission would do, because it would go a long ways to deciding which constitutional amendments would get through the commission, and which ones don’t.

“I meant what I said: when the emotion and the anxiety of the moment passes, which it will, it always does, people will not remember this day as being the day of disagreement,” Heuchan said. “They will remember this day as a day that charted us on a course for planning for the next 20 years for the state and its future and how we can do better by people. I believe that.”

All of which was complicated when Beruff first said all such proposed changes would be taken up by the rules committee. That confirmed the fears that Joyner and others had raised. But then Beruff later said such changes would be taken up by the full commission. That confirmed what supporters such as Heuchan and Frank Kruppenbacher, said they wanted.

Kruppenbacher, who actually introduced Heuchan’s package in a resolution, insisted later that he would demand that proposed rules amendments that had been on the table Tuesday be heard by the full committee. That was what his resolution had called for, and he said he would make sure it was followed.

Orlando shooter came in knowing who he wanted to kill, not kill

The man authorities say killed five former co-workers and then himself early Monday morning in an Orlando business came in knowing who he wanted to kill and let at least one woman not on that list get away.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said John Robert Neumann Jr., 45, whose hometown has not yet been disclosed, slipped in through a rear door of Fiamma and encountered a new employee, a temporary employee, who was not working there when Neumann was fired a few weeks ago in April.

“He pointed a firearm at her and told her to get out of the business,” Demings said.

There had been eight people in the building whom Neumann did not shoot, including one who was an outside vendor.

“He was certainly singling out the individuals he shot,” Demings said.

In a matter of a few minutes, Neumann had killed Robert Snyder, 59, Brenda Motanez-Crespo, 44, Kevin Clark, 53, Jeffrey Roberts, 57, and Kevin Lawson, 47, at the Fiamma facility on Forsyth Road, just north of the Hanging Moss Road intersection in east Orange County.

Neumann reloaded his handgun at least once along the way, moving through the large warehouse-type facility that Demings called a fairly extensive crime scene, shooting people in different locations on the floor. Neumann shot them in the head or shot them multiple times.

All five people shot have died, including one of the men who died after being rushed to Orlando Regional Medical Center.

At least one of the victims was shot in another part of the building.

Numerous 911 calls had gone out. Demings said he did not know how many. In just over two minutes after the initial call, sheriff’s deputies began arriving. As soon as they had enough – three – they went inside, using all their training and experience for dealing with active shooters in a city where, horribly, mass shootings have happened before, Demings said.

Apparently, Neumann shot himself before the deputies could encounter him. At least one witness — one of the eight survivors — told Sheriff’s detectives that she could hear the sirens arriving, and then Neumann shot himself, Demings said.

Neumann apparently was a lone gunman, and Demings said there is no indication that anyone else was involved “in a plot.”

Neumann is a veteran of the U.S. Army who received an honorable discharge in 1999 and who had worked at Fiamma for some time before he was fired in April, Demings said.

“All of the indications that we have at this time, this individual lived alone, has no family here in this area. We are trying to understand as much about him as we possibly can,” Demings said.

Though Demings and other authorities have been broadly characterizing the shooting as that by a disgruntled former employee, Demings stopped short Monday afternoon of offering any specific motives for the specific victims.

“We have information that at least one of them had a negative relationship with him, but he was certainly singling out the individuals that he shot,” Demings said.

The sheriff’s office is seeking a search warrant in another jurisdiction to search his home, Demings said.

Five dead plus shooter at Orange County shooting scene

Five people plus the apparent shooter are dead in an early morning mass killing at the Fiamma company in east Orange County Monday morning.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said a man he described as an apparent disgruntled former employee killed four men and a woman Monday morning and then killed himself, in a camper and RV accessory business in a light industrial park east of the city of Orlando.

“It’s a sad day for us once again here in Orange County,” Demings said.

Demings and Danny Banks Orlando special agent in charge for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said there is no evidence to suggest any terrorism links, and there are no indications that the shooter was associated with any subversive or terrorist organization.

“What this is at this point is likely a workplace violence incident,” Demings said.

The man, age 45, whom law enforcement has not identified, entered the building through unknown means with a handgun and a knife, and shot the victims and then himself. All those shot died, including a man who died while being treated at Orange County Regional Medical Center, he said.

“There is no indication he used the knife on anyone this morning, but shot five innocent people this morning and then turned the gun on himself,” Demings said.

Seven other employees were in the building at the time, and none was hurt, he said. Sheriff’s detectives are interviewing them.

Demings said the business has Italian ownership.

Deputies received a call of a shooting at 8:03 a.m. and were on the scene within two minutes.

The man identified as the shooter was fired in April, Demings said.

Deming said there also was an incident reported from the business in June of 2014 in which the man was accused of battering another employee. No charges were filed at that time. The man also has a record of minor arrests including battery, Demings said.

Banks credited the rapid response of Orange County Sheriff’s Office for saving the lives of the others in the building.

“I give great support to the sheriff and his staff. we know we lost several individuals due to violence today,” Banks said. “But seven other individuals lives were saved by the quick actions of the Orange County Sheriff’s deputies that got here within two minutes of this incident occurring.”

The mass shooting is stunning Orlando, which is preparing for a remembrance next Monday of the worst mass shooting in recorded American history, at the Pulse Nightclub, June 12, 2016.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said residents must remain vigilant.

“I wish to express my regrets, my sympathy, my sorrow, for the family members of those that we lost this morning. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this play itself out in our community and in other communities across the nation,” Jacobs said. “And it is incumbent upon all of us not to become complacent or become callous to these horrific situations, but for each of our citizens to be vigilant. If they see something that doesn’t seem normal, they need to say something.”

“One thing we know about Central Florida is we have expert law enforcement men and women, and we have a community that cares and has shown that compassion time and time again,” Jacobs added.

Gov. Rick Scott released the following statement:

“Over the past year, the Orlando community has been challenged like never before. I have been briefed by our law enforcement officials on this tragic incident and Ann and I are praying for the families who lost loved ones today. I ask all Floridians to pray for the families impacted by this senseless act of violence. I will remain in contact with the Orlando law enforcement community throughout the day as more information is made available.

The scene is next door to Restaurant Equipment World, a business owned by a very prominent Republican in Orange County, Jerry Pierce. He has hosted visits at that business by numerous officials including Scott, and most recently attorney general candidate Jay Fant, who joined a small-business town hall there as part of his campaign kickoff in May. Pierce also led efforts to create a veterans memorial in Lake Nona near the new Veterans Affairs Hospital.

The scene is just a mile south of Full Sail University, and Demings said a family reunion site is being set up there.

Gwen Graham declares support for Competitive Workplace Act

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham marked the start of “Pride Month” Thursday by declaring her reaffirmation of support for gay rights and statewide protections.

Graham expressly announced she would push hard for the “Florida Competitive Workforce Act,” which would extend nondiscrimination practices to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer Floridians. The bill has been introduced in several successive sessions, gaining increasing co-sponsors and backing by business groups, but has never passed a chamber.

She also vowed to sign an executive order as governor to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Graham, a former member of Congress from Tallahassee, faces Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in a Democratic primary run for the 2018 election. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is the only major Republican running.

“I am proud to live in a state with vibrant LGBTQ communities from Key West to Pensacola,” Graham said in a news release issued by her campaign. “Despite facing institutionalized discrimination and bigotry, and the heartbreak of the terrorist attack at Pulse, LGBT Floridians have never given up in their fight to make Florida a more equal and welcoming home for everyone. This month, we celebrate the progress we have made and recommit ourselves to the fight for equality.”

She stated that in 2011 Republican Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order against discrimination based on race, gender, creed, color, or national origin — but omitting sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Driven by Equality Florida, every major city in our state has now passed a human rights ordinance — but almost half of all Floridians are still subject to legal discrimination across the state,” Graham said. “As governor, I will prioritize passing legislation that protects all Floridians, and I will sign an executive order adding sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes against discrimination in the governor’s office and all agencies under the direction of the governor.”

While in Congress, Gwen Graham co-sponsored the Equality Act, a federal law to ban discrimination, and she earned a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign.

“Everyone, no matter who they love or how they identify, should feel safe and respected in our state,” Graham said.

CareerSource centers dealing with their own layoffs as economy rises

In an ironic economic twist painful to some, Florida’s agencies charged with helping unemployed people find jobs are facing budget cutbacks because of the state’s declining unemployment rate — and some now are forced to lay off a few of their own workers.

CareerSource Florida‘s 24 regional CareerSource agencies are facing budget cuts, some deep, and in many cases that means layoffs of those people who help other people who’ve been laid off.

In pure numbers, hardest hit is likely Orlando-based CareerSource Central Florida, which last Friday gave pink slips to 15 of its employees. That center, serving five counties, Sumter, Lake, Seminole, Orange and Osceola, is the state’s second-largest, and the region is boasting one of the lowest unemployment rates.

“It’s kind of a Catch 22 for us when the economy improves. The unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, so that’s great for the economy, but our funding is based on a formula that takes into account the levels of unemployment,” said Tonya Elliott-Moore, CareerSource Central Florida’s director of communications and community relations. “That’s something that workforce boards across the country, not just in Florida, have to deal with.”

Almost all of the agencies’ money is federal, and almost all of it is based on formulas that take into consideration each region’s unemployment rate. As the unemployment rate falls, so does funding, and so do jobs within the unemployment services agencies.

CareerSource Central Florida lost almost $3.5 million from its total budget for Fiscal Year 2017. That compares to a full payroll of about $9 million.

Each agency is making decisions about how to deal with its budget cuts at the local level.

Full budget numbers are not yet readily available for all 24 CareerSource regions. It appears, because of its size and low unemployment rate, that Central Florida was the hardest hit in lost dollars and jobs, but other regions likely are absorbing greater percentage decreases in funding.

In the largest grouping of federal grants, CareerSource Okaloosa Walton is taking the biggest hit, with a 16 percent cut, though from a much smaller budget than Central Florida’s. Five other regions including Central Florida also saw budget cuts of more than 10 percent in the U.S. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funds.

“Some boards will experience a larger reduction and others will experience a smaller reduction, based on the funding formula that is set in federal law,” explained CareerSource Florida Communications Director Victoria Langley Heller.

“The primary driver for reduced federal funds is the improving economy. When fewer people are actively looking for employment, federal funding for state workforce systems decreases,” she added. “Each local workforce development board is responsible for determining how it will allocate its portion of federal funds to ensure continuation of quality workforce services to the job seekers and businesses it serves.”

CareerSource got its federal allocations last month and the CareerSource Florida Board approved the allocations to the local CareerSource centers a couple of weeks ago. Local boards have been meeting since, and where they’ve reached their decisions, layoffs are now following.

The 15 layoffs at CareerSource Central Florida were buffered by the local board’s expectations that cuts were coming, and so the agency has left a number of open positions unfilled this year, Elliott-Moore said. CareerSource Central Florida has about 185 employees now, plus another 35 who work under the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“These decisions were very difficult but the staffing impacts were unavoidable,” Elliott-Moore said.

The expectations began years ago as Central Florida’s unemployment rate began its steady plummet from the Great Recession high. Last year CareerSource Central Florida consolidated two Orange County offices into a new one, to save overhead costs. The region also looked at reducing other costs, including technology, Elliott-Moore said.

“We’re really making sure every person in our career centers, our career consultants, are strictly focused on our core services. Now we’re really fine-tuned. Everybody has to have a full case load,” she said. “We’re not anticipating any service delivery reductions through this staffing mitigation.”

Florida Democrats express outrage, Republicans concern, over possible exit from Paris climate accord

Florida Democrats slammed the anticipated announcement by President Donald Trump that he would pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, while several Florida Republicans urged Trump to keep America in the agreement.

Members of Congress and other political leaders were reacting late Tuesday and Wednesday to reports that Trump intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which all member countries except Syria and Nicaragua signed, to set goals for reduced carbon emissions.

Trump left the matter open Wednesday, tweeting that he would decide soon what to do. Various media reports indicated that sources within the White House were both signaling that he intends to pull out (New York Times and FoxNews) and cautioning that he hasn’t decided for sure yet (Washington Post, Wall Street Journal.)

Democrats on Wednesday were anticipating, with anger, that Trump would pull out of the Paris agreement. Florida Republicans who responded said they sure hope he won’t.

The potential impact on Florida, already experiencing damaging effects of rising sea levels according to many scientists, was stressed by many in their reactions.

“Our environment and our future are under attack today,” declared Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, who went on to vow he would fight for environmental protection for Florida on a state and national level. “Florida is the epicenter for climate change — and these decisions will hit us harder than the rest of the United States.”

Others pointed to the potential geopolitical ramifications of the United States becoming the only industrialized country — and the biggest — to reject the accord.

“Trump is making America irrelevant again,” declared Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando. “Climate change is real and human-made. Our country should remain in the Paris Accord and lead efforts to reduce carbon emissions to save our planet. With Florida being the most vulnerable state to rising sea levels, we face an even greater threat to our way of life now.”

And it wasn’t just Democrats expressing such sentiments. After all, The 24-member House Climate Solutions Caucus is co-chaired by Democrat Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Republican Carlos Curbelo of Kendall, and includes Republicans Brian Mast of Palm City, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami.

“U.S. should be using every opportunity + its influence 2 mitigate threat of #climatechange at home + abroad. #ParisAccord,” Ros-Lehtinen tweeted.

“I strongly encourage the president to remain in the Paris climate accord,” Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan wrote on Facebook. “Climate change is a serious issue, especially for a state like Florida that has two coastlines vulnerable to rising waters.”

In tweets, Curbelo said he agreed with Buchanan, and added, “Bipartisan #Climate Solutions Caucus must now redouble our efforts to build consensus for pro-growth clean energy policies #parisclimate.”

If any of Florida’s other Republican members of Congress disagree, they have not yet publicly responded.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson joined 39 other U.S. senators, mostly Democrats, last week in a letter urging Trump to stay in the agreement, and outlining environmental, economic and diplomatic reasons for doing so. On Wednesday he warned that Florida is on the line.

“Sea-level rise caused by the Earth heating up is a real threat to Florida. If the U.S. isn’t going to do its part to combat climate change, then the rest of the world won’t do theirs and millions of Floridians living along the coast will be at risk.”

Many other Democrats expressed outrage.

“What a fool,” state Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando wrote on Facebook. “Climate change is not a hoax and Miami-Dade will soon be underwater. Party of stupid, indeed!”

Among other statements:

In a written statement issued by her campaign, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham, a former member of Congress from Tallahassee, declared, “We are out of time — from stronger storms to prolonged droughts and raging wildfires, Florida is feeling the direct effects of climate change today.

“While the rest of the world moves forward, the United States under Trump and Florida under Rick Scott are in reverse. Scott has shown little more than lip service to remedial efforts, and Trump reneging on the Paris Agreement will place our environment, economy and national security at even greater risk.”

By midafternoon, there had been no statement from the other two major candidates for governor, Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam or Democratic businessman Chris King of Winter Park. Putnam’s campaign also did not respond to an inquiry about a challenging statement toward him issued by the Florida Democratic Party.

“The federal government is on the brink of leaving an international agreement that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It’s time for Adam Putnam to give an answer, worthy of a gubernatorial candidate,” the Florida Democratic Party challenged.

“Florida is ground zero for climate change and our state’s economy, health and well-being depend on our leaders in Tallahassee and Washington actively combating climate change. Does Adam Putnam support Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, which could lead to global temperatures reaching dangerously high levels and seriously threaten Florida’s environment and economy? Or will he continue to deflect questions on fighting climate change and protecting our economy?” FDP spokesperson Johanna Cervone said in the party’s statement.

Deutch issued a lengthy statement, declaring, “President Trump’s unfortunate decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement all but guarantees we cede our leadership on this issue so vital to our future to China, Russia, and Europe. Sadly, it’s just the latest move in a string of actions by this President that have damaged our international relationships and weakened our global standing.

“This decision has the potential to irreparably harm our earth, dramatically hinder our economic growth, and fundamentally change our way of life.

“South Florida is already struggling with the effects of climate change, like worsening weather patterns and rising sea levels. As sunny-day flooding becomes more common, the President responds by sticking his head in the sand in denial of the science and the reality in our own community. Will Mar-a-Lago Country Club need to be underwater for this president to make a responsible decision about climate change?

“If President Trump won’t listen to the scientists, then he should listen to the business leaders who strongly support the Paris Agreement. They understand that it will promote investments and create jobs. By removing the US from the Paris Agreement, this president is putting our country at a competitive disadvantage in the world.

“Most importantly, today’s decision puts our national security at risk. Even as our military leaders devise strategies to combat the effects of climate change, in our own country and globally, the president’s dangerous decision will make their job more difficult and our nation less secure.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg said in a written statement: “The Paris Climate Accord is a historic and shared commitment between nearly 200 countries to protect our environment and our future.

“It would be extremely disappointing and damaging for the U.S. to walk away from this commitment and surrender America’s leadership in climate stewardship. Withdrawal would cause lasting damage to our international relationships, global environment, and national economy. In my home state of Florida, the environment is our economy and we feel the effects of climate change on a daily basis. We must renew and strengthen these commitments, not turn our back on them. A decision to withdraw from the Accord would be shortsighted, irresponsible, and immoral.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings of West Palm Beach wrote in a statement issued by his office: “President Trump’s intention to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement is an irresponsible renouncement of American leadership. The results of abandoning this international framework will be tragic, destructive, and costly, and will undermine the legitimacy of our country on the global stage.

“The United States cannot allow its foreign policy to be dictated by irrational nationalistic whims. The 195 signatory Paris Agreement was reached after painstaking negotiations. In signing, our country honored its commitment to leave future generations with a better world. Climate change is real, and we know what causes it. The Paris Agreement commits governments to working together to cap pollution levels and combat carbon emissions, which will reduce extreme climate events like drought, famine, and rising sea levels.

“Ignoring our international responsibilities jeopardizes the health and future of our country. President Trump needs to recognize that he is the President for all Americans, not just the privileged few. This destructive and shortsighted decision will have serious consequences, and the President should be held accountable for his irresponsible actions.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa declared the prospect a “huge economic blow to the state of Florida.”

“It will cost us jobs and leave Floridians on the hook for the higher costs of the changing climate. Trump is ceding America’s leadership in the world to other nations with disregard for the economic damage to our people,” she said in a written statement.

“Sixteen of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001, including 2016 which was the third consecutive record-breaking year. Floridians in particular face higher costs tied to rising AC bills, property insurance, flood insurance, local taxes for infrastructure fixes, extreme weather events, beach renourishment and more. The rising costs of the changing climate are a real threat for Florida families and businesses. Miami and Tampa Bay are among the top 10 regions in the world most at risk from property loss from flooding and sea level rise.

“Trump’s decision strikes at the heart of the economic boost that Florida and other states enjoyed due to expanding job opportunities in clean energy, green building, solar, energy efficiency and cogeneration. Clean energy jobs are on the upswing, much more so than jobs in industries tied to fossil fuels. Florida’s construction and manufacturing industries have long been anchors of the state’s economy, employing more than a half-million workers. These industries have steadily recovered from the recession that gripped Florida in 2007. An analysis by ICF International estimates that investing in clean energy would create 1 million new jobs in America by 2030 and 2 million jobs by 2050. Florida was on track to see 109,000 new jobs tied to clean energy construction and manufacturing by 2030, and 206,000 jobs by 2050.

“Solar energy would have accounted for many of the new jobs and economic growth, but Trump’s damaging new attack will set us back. The solar industry created jobs 12 times faster in solar construction, installation, operations and maintenance than those created in the overall U.S. workforce. In 2016, one out of every 50 new jobs in America was in solar energy. Solar workers already outnumber coal miners 3 to 1, and that trend will continue. Solar and wind also received a boost a couple of years ago when Congress extended the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit for five years. The solar ITC will continue at 30 percent for facilities commencing construction before Jan. 1, 2020, adding 220,000 jobs by 2020. The PTC will remain at 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour credit until it gradually phases out by Jan. 1, 2020, adding 100,000 jobs to the economy. Local businesses, architects and manufacturers already have started to build our clean energy economy. We know how to do it through solar energy, which has seen prices drop by 80 percent since 2009, and with energy efficiency, which is the lowest-cost source of energy.

“America should not take a back seat to others on clean energy jobs and the challenges posed by the changing climate. While America previously led the way on the international climate accord with nearly 200 countries including China and India committing to reduce carbon pollution to help preserve the planet for our children and grandchildren, Trump now cedes that leadership role, costs us jobs and passes along higher costs to America’s families — a poor legacy indeed.”

Gwen Graham touts endorsements from Jon Mills, environmental leaders

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has picked up endorsements from former House Speaker Jon Mills and two longtime environmental leaders, Nathaniel Reed, and Manley Fuller, all declaring confidence in her environmental protection policies.

Graham has made environmental issues forefront in her campaign so far, picking up on a priority practiced by her father, former Gov. Bob Graham.

“The love we all have for Florida would not be complete without our environment. Protecting our precious land and water used to be a bipartisan value, but over the past six years, Rick Scott and the Tallahassee politicians have taken our state backward,” Gwen Graham said in a news release issued by her campaign. “I have seen the destruction and worked with those trying to save our land and water on Workdays from Wakulla Springs to the Indian River. As governor, I will fight oil drilling off our beaches, ban fracking and use Amendment One funds as voters intended, to preserve our land and water.”

She faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King for the Democratic nomination. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is the only major Republican running.

Mills, Florida House speaker in the late 1980s after serving in the Florida House during Bob Graham’s administration, is now dean emeritus at the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida and a member of the Everglades Foundation’s board of directors.

“Gwen Graham understands protecting our land and water is not just vital to our environment, it’s central to Florida’s economy and our health. Working with Governor Bob Graham we began the first real state efforts to protect our state’s environment,” Mills stated in the release. “As governor, Gwen will carry on that legacy and finish the work we started to protect Florida’s land and water from overdevelopment and pollution.”

Reed, a founder and former president of 1000 Friends of Florida and adviser to several Florida governors, including Bob Graham, focused on water quality issues in his endorsement in the news release.

“Gwen Graham will enforce the water quality laws in our state, which have been ignored by Rick Scott’s administration,” Reed said. “Gwen’s spent Workdays examining environmental issues firsthand. She’s seen the terrible effects on Lake Okeechobee and the Indian River Lagoon and listened to the Floridians suffering the real environmental, economic and health consequences. Gwen will enforce our water quality laws no matter who the polluters are. For the future of this state we love, we must elect Gwen Graham.”

Fuller, president of Florida Wildlife Federation, said, focused on land.

“Gwen Graham has a proven track record of bringing people together to defend Florida’s land and waters. As governor, she will fight oil drilling off our beaches, and implement the will of the people, who overwhelmingly supported the Land Legacy Amendment of 2014,” Fuller stated in the release. “Gwen Graham is the champion we need to protect Florida’s environment and our nature-based economy.”

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