Bill Nelson Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Bill Nelson now targeted by group calling for his vote to repeal, replace ACA

Being a Democratic Senator up for re-election in 2018 and living in a state won by Donald Trump last fall means that Bill Nelson is going to be getting a lot of attention over the next year and a half from groups supporting Republican causes.

On Wednesday, TV ads began running on cable news networks in Florida targeting Nelson for supporting the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The ads will continue to air over the next couple of weeks.

One Nation, a 501(c)4 linked to the Karl-Rove-backed American Crossroads, has begun airing television ads in nine states calling on Senate Democrats who supported the ACA to support GOP efforts to repeal and replace the ACA.

“Last fall Americans sent Washington a clear message: clean up the Obamacare mess,” said Steven Law, president and chief executive officer of One Nation. “We’re going to make sure Washington follows through.”

Florida is in the first batch of nine states that will be seeing the ads which challenges Senate Democrats. They’re part of a $3 million ad campaign to take place over the next three weeks in 11 states. The TV ads will be followed by radio, digital, print and mail.

Michigan and Tennessee will be part of the second ten-day wave of radio and digital ads.

The ads are being unveiled on the same day that a new poll shows that the ACA is becoming more popular, now that the reality that it could be completely repealed is at stake.

A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows voters are now split evenly on the law. Forty-five percent of registered voters approve of the law, the poll shows, and 45 percent disapprove. That’s an improvement from just a month ago, when only 41 percent of voters approved of the health care law, compared with 52 percent who disapproved.

The ads have begun airing on the same day that the National Republican Senate Committee unveiled a new digital ad campaign to inform Florida voters of what they call Nelson’s” liberal record” in Washington, comparing his Senate voting record to Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren.

 

 

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Senate Republicans begin targeting Bill Nelson in new digital ad campaign

Bill Nelson isn’t running for re-election for another year, but it’s never too early to start the campaign against him.

That’s what the National Republican Senate Committee is doing this week, unveiling a new digital ad campaign to inform Florida voters of what they call Nelson’s “liberal record” in Washington, comparing his Senate voting record to Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren.

“Bill Nelson has positioned himself squarely on the left, voting with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 92 percent of the time,” said NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin. “Bill Nelson may try to pose as a moderate as the election approaches, but his record shows that he has more in common with Washington liberals than with Florida voters.”

Although progressive Democrats in Florida have occasionally criticized Nelson’s voting record, he was largely in sync with Barack Obama over the past eight years on the main pieces of legislation.

He’s served in the Senate for over 16 years, defeating Bill McCollum, Katherine Harris and Connie Mack IV along the way. Although there are rumors of various Republicans who will challenge him in 2018, most observers believe Governor Rick Scott is the leading contender at this point.

Nelson has said he’s ready and willing for the challenge against Scott, saying“I only know one way to run, and that’s to run as hard as I can as if there’s no tomorrow.”

The digital ads will run on Facebook and are part of a national campaign targeting Senate Democrats representing states won by Donald Trump in November.

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Bill Nelson again talking the ‘centrist’ talk regarding Supreme Court nominee

Senator Bill Nelson does a good job of talking the moderate, bipartisan approach in the U.S. Senate. In the end, he nearly always votes with the liberals in his party.

To be sure, Sen. Marco Rubio votes primarily the same way as his Republican colleagues. The difference is Rubio makes no statements about being a centrist. He makes it clear he is a conservative and votes that way.

Nelson, who is up for re-election in 2018, has a high-profile vote coming his way. In the not-too-distant future, the Senate will conduct hearings involving Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

No credible person can argue that Gorsuch is not qualified to be on the Court. Nelson and some of his colleagues will want to know where the judge stands on certain issues.

He mentions voter suppression and “unlimited money in campaigns” as two issues most important to him. Bewilderment over the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in the Hobby Lobby case, in which Gorsuch participated, clouds Nelson’s opinion of the judge.

As usual, he is saying the right things.

“Whatever the pressure is,” he told the Tampa Bay Times, “I’m going to make up my own mind as to what I think is in the best interest of our country and Florida.”

No one who is aware of Nelson’s record expects him to do anything other than vote against Gorsuch. While Gorsuch supporters are open to pleasant surprises, Nelson telegraphed his intentions when asked whether he supported a filibuster against the nomination.

“You bet I do,” he said. “The filibuster has always forced the political extremes to come to the middle to build consensus.”

There is that “centrist” dialogue masking a liberal position again.

In this case, Nelson and the Democratic minority are picking the wrong fight if they try to filibuster this nominee. He does not need or want any advice from a conservative Floridian, but perhaps one of his home state newspapers might have more clout.

“Democrats are expected to vote against the nominee, likely with the dilatory move of a filibuster. They shouldn’t,” wrote the Miami Herald in a February 2 editorial titled “Don’t filibuster Supreme Court nominee.”

The paper goes on to recommend Gorsuch’s confirmation. It is safe to say the Herald does not fall into the category of a conservative organ.

A true centrist will take into account comments from people who know Gorsuch best. Jessica Greenstone, a former Gorsuch law clerk who is now a high-ranking official with the World Wildlife Fund, lays out the centrist case in a USA Today column.

Even if a Senator plans to vote “no” on a nominee, a true centrist will not participate in a filibuster in this case. The Herald editorial rightly points out that Republicans did not filibuster former President Barrack Obama’s nominees of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

While the Democrats’ outrage over the blockage of Obama nominee Judge Merrick Garland is easy to understand, it does not mean the vacancy should remain indefinitely. It was exactly one year ago that Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly.

Trump could have picked a highly polarizing figure to put on the Court, but he didn’t. As a constitutional originalist like Scalia, Gorsuch will face stiff opposition from true liberals.

A true centrist can support this nominee, but at the very least allow for an up-or-down vote.

What say you, Senator Nelson?

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Report: Randolph Bracy considering 2018 U.S. Senate bid

Sen. Randolph Bracy could be eyeing higher office.

The Florida Times-Union reported Thursday that Bracy is considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2018. If he decides to jump into the race, Bracy would face sitting U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in a Democratic primary.

“I’m considering it; I’ll leave it there,” he told the paper.

First elected to the Florida House in 2012, Bracy won his Senate District 11 seat in November. The 39-year-old serves as the chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee and vice chairman of the Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

Nelson is the only Democrat in Florida elected to statewide office, and is widely expected to run for re-election in 2018. When asked about Bracy’s possible run by the Times-Union, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party indicated Nelson would have the establishment’s backing.

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Online poll shows majority of Floridians support sanctuary cities

An online poll of 600 Florida residents conducted by Florida Atlantic University shows that by a 52-36 percent margin, Floridians do not want the Trump administration to cut off funding to sanctuary cities. And a plurality – 46-38 percent – don’t want the U.S. Justice Dept. to take any legal action against sanctuary cities.

However, the same poll also shows that only a slight majority (fifty-five percent) have ever heard of the term ‘sanctuary city,’ before being polled to opine on it. Sanctuary cities are generally defined as localities that help shield undocumented residents from deportation by refusing to fully cooperate with detention requests from federal immigration authorities.

After President Donald Trump signed an executive order threatening to pull federal funding from sanctuary cities, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced that his county would abandon the practice of being a sanctuary city. That decision by itself could affect the fate of more than one million undocumented immigrants. By a 62 to 39 percent majority, those surveyed said that Miami-Dade County shouldn’t end the practice of being a sanctuary county.

Interestingly, the poll also asked if Tampa should become a sanctuary city (the question posed said that it is considering becoming one). By a margin of a 61%-39%, those surveyed said Tampa should designate itself as such.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has said that officially Tampa is not a sanctuary city and would not become one, but that he won’t be directing Tampa Police Officers to act as immigration agents anytime soon. Those responsibilities are actually handled by Hillsborough County. Last week, the Hillsborough County Diversity Council voted 8-1 to recommend that county commissioners look into becoming a sanctuary county, However, County Commission Chair Stacy White says that won’t be happening.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has essentially said the same thing, though he confused some people over the weekend by issuing a statement saying that, “I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws.”

Republicans were the only group who supported cutting federal funds with 70 percent in support and 24 percent opposed.

A full two-thirds  of those surveyed also said they do not want to pay for a border wall on the Mexican border (66 percent to 33 percent).

The poll also shows that 66 percent of those surveyed disapprove of President Trump’s job performance, with only 34 percent approving.

But the attitude of those surveyed was equally critical towards incumbent Democrats. Only 28 percent said he deserves re-election in 2018, while 72 percent said it was time to give someone else a chance.

The online survey was taken between February 1 and February 4, , with a margin of error of +/- 3.9 percent

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson appears vulnerable in his 2018 re-election attempt in this poll, with 28 percent saying he deserves re-election while 72 percent said it was time to give someone else a chance.

Of the 600 people surveyed, 148 were Democrats, 147 were Republicans, 144 were independents, and 161 were not registered to vote.

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Environment Florida wants Bill Nelson to reject Scott Pruitt as EPA head

Scott Pruitt is one step closer to being the next leader of the Environmental Protection Agency.

On Thursday, Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11-0 to confirm Pruitt, who serves as Oklahoma Attorney General.

Democrats on the committee boycotted the vote.

Pruitt, a climate change skeptic, was one of 14 attorneys general suing the EPA over regulations to limit carbon emissions put in place by the Obama administration.

The entire Senate will vote on his confirmation next week and the advocacy group Environment Florida is calling on the Sunshine State’s two senators to reject his nomination.

“This country needs an Environmental Protection Agency Administrator whose top priority is protecting our air and water and our families’ health,” says Turner Lott, Environment Florida’s campaign organizer. “We need somebody willing to enforce and defend our bedrock environmental laws and a leader guided by science when creating and implementing policy.”

The organization is one of several environmental groups criticizing Trump’s choice at EPA.

While Environment Florida is calling on both senators to oppose Pruitt, Marco Rubio already declared his support.

“The next EPA administrator should be someone who understands the important balance between protecting our air, water and environment without needlessly hurting workers with excessive regulations,” Rubio said in a Jan. 10 statement. “Attorney General Pruitt ‎is the right choice to bring a much-needed dose of common sense to a department where overzealous, out-of-touch regulators have been allowed to operate seemingly unchecked. I look forward to working with him on the many important environmental issues facing Florida.”

Florida’s senior Senator, Bill Nelson, is getting lobbied from both sides to either support or oppose Pruitt. The Florida Democrat pleased liberals Wednesday by announcing his opposition to Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary.

“I will be joining my Republican colleagues Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski in voting ‘no’ against Betsy DeVos,” Nelson declared in a statement.

“Floridians and all Americans deserve an EPA administrator who will fight to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we love. Scott Pruitt fails on all these accounts,” Lott said. “The Senate must stand with science. The Senate must stand up for our families’ health, clean water and clean air.

“We urge Senators Nelson and Rubio to reject President Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA.”

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Rick Scott cannot condone Cuba’s ‘oppressive behavior.’ What about China’s?

Gov. Rick Scott threatened Florida ports with sanctions if they do business with Cuba. He underscored it with a pair of tweets, the first in Spanish: “No podemos tolerar una dictadura brutal en Cuba.”

Translation: We cannot tolerate a brutal dictatorship in Cuba.

In another tweet, channeling his inner Donald Trump, Gov. Scott noted, “We cannot condone Raul Castro’s oppressive behavior. Serious security/human rights concerns.”

He has vowed to withhold state money from ports ink trade agreements with that island nation.

Well, OK. Let’s think this through. If Cuba is off limits, I guess China should be too.

According to a 2016 report by Human Rights Watch: “China remains an authoritarian state, one that systematically curtails a wide range of fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, association, assembly and religion … the trend for human rights under President Xi Jinping continued in a decidedly negative direction.”

Well, shucks. That sounds suspiciously like, to use the governor’s words, “serious security/human rights concerns.”

A report from Enterprise Florida shows our state did more than $28 billion (with a B) in merchandise trade with that totalitarian nation from 2013-15. The Miami Herald reported that China ranks behind only Brazil and Colombia as trading partners with South Florida.

But, if we’re going to make a stand …

We also sent about $2 billion in exports to Saudi Arabia from 2013-15. Of that nation, Human Rights Watch notes: “Detainees, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest. Judges routinely sentence defendants to floggings of hundreds of lashes.”

That sounds, oh … what’s the word I’m looking for?

Brutal.

Thanks, governor.

I think we know what’s going on here. Republicans from Washington to Tallahassee have used Cuba as a political piñata for decades. They stepped it up after President Obama made several moves toward normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has been particularly outspoken on that subject, but after his poodle-like yapping against the business relationship between incoming secretary of state Rex Tillerson has with Russia didn’t result in a vote against his confirmation, we can tune that out.

By the way, Florida has a lot of trade with Russia too.

It is assumed Scott has his eye on Bill Nelson’s Senate seat in 2018, and the game plan for any serious GOP candidate involves cutting into Democrats’ traditional support in south Florida by pandering to those who hate the Castro family.

Scott’s actions look to me like a ready-made campaign ad for future ambitions. Meanwhile, Cuba will just keep doing business with the rest of the world. Nothing changes.

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Bill Nelson sounds off on Donald Trump’s “rocky” first week in office

Although U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s press conference on Wednesday in Tampa was ostensibly to discuss President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to spend up to one trillion dollars improving the nation’s infrastructurehe spent considerable time discussing – and criticizing- some of the moves that the newly-inaugurated president has made in his first week in office.

Nelson has voted against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Mike Pompeo for CIA Director, and he says he’ll oppose Rex Tillerson when the former ExxonMobil CEO’s name comes up for a confirmation vote for Secretary of State. When asked why at a press conference in Tampa, Nelson said just two words.

“Vladimir Putin.”

When asked to elaborate, Nelson simply said he didn’t feel comfortable with Tillerson’s past relationships with the Russian leader.

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, Florida’s other U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, was remarkably aggressive in questioning Tillerson, asking him at one point if he thought Putin was a war criminal. But Rubio ultimately voted for Tillerson in committee earlier this week.

Regarding Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s choice as Treasury Secretary, Nelson said he has not made up his mind, even after speaking with him personally.

“There are a number of things that trouble me about him,” he said about the former partner of Goldman Sachs and hedge fund manager. “He’s got some tax issues. But the main thing is it’s kind of an attitude that – ‘I know better than you’ – and for a Treasury Secretary who has the tremendous responsibility to keep our economy on an even keel, that concerns me.”

Mnuchin initially failed to disclose $100 million in assets last week, which he called an “unintentional” oversight.

Meanwhile, Democrats have accused a potential conflict of interest for Tom Price, Trump’s selection at HHS, saying he held more than $100,000 in stock in companies that could have benefited from legislation he promoted.

In 2009, former Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle withdrew  his nomination by Barack Obama to become Health and Human Services secretary, amidst a scandal involving unpaid taxes. When asked if there had been a lowering of standards in vetting cabinet selections, Nelson said they had not been lowered in terms of how he votes.

Meanwhile, Trump repeated his false claim on Wednesday hat at least three million illegal immigrants cast ballots for Hillary Clinton, calling for an investigation into voter fraud, even though his own legal team has previously argued that no such fraud occurred.

Nelson said it “well documented” how little voter fraud there actually is in the U.S., and told the reporter who asked that it was “illustrative of our times that you have to ask that question.”

He grew quite passionate, however, in claiming that there’s been voter suppression in Florida and around the nation, and spent several minutes discussing specific examples in and outside of Florida.

Nelson also was dismissive of Trump’s call on Wednesday to begin plans to construct a border security fence on the Mexican border, saying that a “multiplicity of things” can be done to  protect our borders.

“This, unfortunately has gotten into a political issue,” he said, “and one particular demographic group is being singled out and I think unfairly,” referring to Mexicans.

When asked to describe Trump’s first week in office, Nelson described it simply as “rocky.”

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Floridians head to D.C. for Donald Trump inauguration

A hush has fallen on the state capital.

Sure, there’s plenty of work to do before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session. But some Florida politicos are using this week to flee Florida and head to Washington, D.C., for President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Gov. Rick Scott will be there. An ardent supporter of the New York Republican, Scott was the chairman of the super PAC that backed Trump’s presidential bid. He was expected to head to D.C. on Tuesday, one day before the Florida Sunshine Ball, hosted by Scott and his wife, First Lady Ann Scott.

But don’t think the Naples Republican (and possible 2018 U.S. Senate hopeful) spent the day in his tuxedo and dancing shoes. According to his official schedule, Scott was scheduled to meet with General John Kelly, the incoming Secretary of Homeland Security; Republican Reps. Francis Rooney and Neal Dunn; and Mauricio Claver-Carone, a Trump transition official.

Susie Wiles, the Jacksonville political guru who helped lead Trump’s Florida campaign, traveled to D.C. on Wednesday. She’ll be on hand for all of the festivities; as will uber lobbyist Brian Ballard, the chairman of Trump’s Florida finance committee.

And it should come as no surprise that state Rep. Joe Gruters and his wife, Sydney, will be in town for the event. Gruters was one of the first big name Floridians to back Trump, and never wavered in his support throughout the campaign. The couple plans to head up to D.C. on Thursday, and plan to attend the swearing in and go to the Liberty Ball.

Christian Ziegler, a Sarasota County GOP state committeeman, also has a full dance card. He planned to attend several events hosted by the governor, as well as an event hosted by Rep. Vern Buchanan.

“With Florida being Trump’s second home, Washington, D.C., feels like it’s been invaded by the Great State of Florida,” he said in an email. “Incredibly excited to experience this event as one of just 304 Electors to have cast the votes necessary for him to become our next President.”

Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli — joined by fundraisers Trey McCarley and Kris Money —will be there too. Crisafulli was another top Trump supporter, and played a key role in getting him to the Space Coast for rallies throughout the campaign. His name was floated as one of several Floridians who could land a gig within the Trump administration.

He won’t be the only Florida Speaker in attendance. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is will be there, even though he was a slow to warm to Trump. (He backed former Gov. Jeb Bush, then Sen. Marco Rubio, and then Sen. Ted Cruz before somewhat reluctantly backing Trump.) And look for Senate President Joe Negron, who as Republican elector helped Trump officially clinch the presidency, in the crowd.

Reps. Jose Felix Diaz and Carlos Trujillo are expected to be in town; the Miami Herald reported they’re sharing a two-bedroom apartment they snagged on Airbnb. The paper also reported Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is making the trek north.

You’ll likely see Nick Iarossi and Scott Ross, along with their wives Debbie and Ashley, dancing the night away at one of the parties this week. Both supported Sen. Marco Rubio, but eventually joined Team Trump.

Jim Smith and Monte Stevens, both with Southern Strategy Group, are in D.C. for the inauguration. They’re in town with Ambrosia Treatment Centers, which provides care to people suffering from substance abuse, in hopes of raising awareness about the need to make top-notch care available to as many people who need it as possible.

Their trip isn’t just about business, though. Stevens is planning to tweet about all the action from the firm’s Twitter account, @SoStrategyFlorida.

Hayden Dempsey and Fred Karlinsky with Greenberg Traurig both have jam-packed schedules. Their calendar of events includes the Florida Sunshine Ball; the Republican National Lawyers Association Luncheon, which features a keynote address by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and an inaugural reception hosted by the Greenberg Traurig Washington, D.C. office for clients and friends.

Meredith O’Rourke, one of the state’s go-to Republican fundraisers, plans to spend the week in D.C. with “fellow Republicans and strong supporters of our clients, while looking forward to a new day for our country.”

You might spot David and Melissa Ramba, Michael Fischer, Andy Gonzalez, Evan Power (and his wife), Bill Helmich, and Todd Lewis, Nick DiCeglie, Jay Beyrouti, Justin Bean, Bob Fisher, Travis Horn and Matt Lettelleir as you flip through the channels for inauguration coverage.

Robert Hawken is turning the trip into a learning experience for his daughters. They’re planning to take an overnight train from Jacksonville to D.C. for the inauguration. Once there, they planned to attend the Florida ball and check out the parade.

Lake County Property Appraiser (and former state representative and state senator) Carey Baker be in the nation’s capital; so will Richard DeNapoli, the former chairman of the Broward Republican Party.

Even Rep. Charlie Crist, the state’s former Republican governor, will be on hand. The St. Petersburg Democrat said he was looking forward to attending the event.

“I didn’t support Mr. Trump, but I respect the fact that he’s been elected the president of the U.S.” said Crist last week.

He won’t be the only Florida Democrat in the bunch: Democrats Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Bill Nelson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz are also planning to attend the inauguration.

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Dominic Calabro: Keeping cigars in the Cigar City

Politicians talk repeatedly about doing things to help create jobs. But, sometimes, doing nothing is the best option. We hope that newly-elected lawmakers understand that less government intrusion is often the key to keeping the American Dream alive.

A great example is the 2009 “Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.” This innocuously named effort actually increased federal regulation in ways that even many of its supporters now regret.

The act gave the Food and Drug Administration the right to regulate all tobacco products, not just cigarettes. But bureaucracies tend to expand whenever they can and the agency soon extended its reach to premium cigars — a move that even the most liberal members of Congress said they never intended.

The result is a possible loss of jobs, the death of family-owned businesses and an unnecessary impediment to the American Dream.

A great example is the J.C. Newman’s Cigar Co. It is a classic “only in America” success story. Founded in 1895 in Ohio by an immigrant from Hungary, it is the nation’s oldest manufacturer of premium cigars.

In the 1950s, the business moved to Tampa, also known as Cigar City. What autos are to Detroit and movies are to Hollywood, cigars are the signature item in Tampa. The business flourished in this natural new home.

Cigars made by the 121-year-old family-run business are not marketed toward youth, nor are they used by younger consumers.

But the FDA, empowered to expand its reach without limit, has recently ruled that all cigar manufacturers must pay exorbitant “user fees,” undergo costly scientific tests that could run into the millions of dollars, fulfill new loads of paperwork and are now essentially prohibited from introducing new sizes, brands and blends. Samples provided for charity auctions or soldiers overseas are no longer allowed. And in a cruelly concurrent move, the federal government recently ruled that Cuban cigars will not only be allowed for sale in the United States, but they won’t have to meet the new requirements for American-made cigars.

The overall result is not an increase in consumer safety, but a potential death knell for companies like J.C. Newman’s.

The company has more than 125 employees in the Tampa Bay area, hardworking families with mortgages to pay and children to feed. Strangling their livelihood with no increase in consumer safety is ludicrous.

Thankfully, led by Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate and Bill Posey and Kathy Castor in the U.S. House, there has been bipartisan support from Florida’s legislative delegation to eliminate the job-killing provisions for premium cigar manufacturers. The conservative House Freedom Caucus has also presented President-elect Donald Trump with more than 200 regulations that could be immediately eliminated to help working Americans, including the job-killing provisions on premium cigars.

We hope the new administration and the FDA find the proper balance and remove this requirement that benefits nobody. And we hope that this classic example of unnecessary regulations strangling businesses becomes a warning against well-meaning mandates that too often spiral out of control.

___

Dominic Calabro is the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

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