Mark Kelly joins Patrick Murphy in attacking Marco Rubio voting record on gun issues

U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy has received the endorsement of Americans for Responsible Solutions, the super PAC led by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.

“We really strongly believe that Congressman Murphy is the best person in this race to fight for the responsible steps that we need to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” Kelly said in a conference call organized by the Murphy campaign on Wednesday.”He’s the guy we need to help prevent gun tragedies, and he is the candidate that will help make Florida comunities safer from gun violence.”

Americans for Responsible Solutions was created just months after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2013, and two years after Giffords was nearly killed after being shot at a town hall meeting in Tucson, Arizona.

Murphy said he was humbled by the endorsement.

“We know that the majority of Americans and the majority of Floridians favor reasonable measures to keep guns out of the wrong hands and prevent gun violence,” he said.”But we’re sorely lacking leadership in Congress to get commonsense proposals like closing background check loopholes and closing the terror gap across the finish line. In the U.S. Senate, I will always stand with Gabby and Mark in the fight to make Florida families and children safer from gun violence.”

Although Murphy is still very much locked in a competitive primary election against fellow Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson, he wasn’t mentioned in the call. But GOP Senator Marco Rubio definitely was.

Referring to his visit to Orlando on Tuesday as part of a statewide campaign tour he’s on this week, Murphy blasted Rubio for failing to meet with the families of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting last month, where 49 people were killed and dozens more injured.

“Senator Rubio held a closed door meeting,” Murphy said. “He refused to talk to the many Floridians who made their voices heard outside this private event. He went so far as to call these constituents ‘petty protestors.’ That to me is insulting, to admonish citizens who are expressing his record of consistently opposing gun prevention measures, and instead of listening to these cries of Floridians who have been deeply impacted by this gun violence, Senator Rubio played the blame game.”

According to an account in the Orlando Sentinel, Rubio was confronted by approximately 30 protestors at an appearance near the Pulse nightclub shooting scene.  He said he was trying to help coordinate aid for Pulse shooting victims and their families from various federal agencies, including the FBI’s victim fund.

Kelly criticized Rubio’s voting record on guns on the conference call.

“Marco Rubio has voted repeatedly to protect the loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers and even terror suspects get guns without a background check,” he said. “He did so after the tragedy at the Sandy Hook elementary school and he did it again after the tragedy Orlando.”

Last month, the U.S. Senate voted on and rejected four different gun control measures, two sponsored by Republicans, two sponsored by Democrats. Rubio and Senator Bill Nelson voted along party lines on those votes, and the Florida Republican called the Democrat proposals “politically-motivated and driven by a larger ideological agenda to disarm Americans.”

“After lying about his own resume and getting caught delaying needed aid to Floridians for his own publicity, now he’s spreading even more lies,” responded Michael Ahrens, a spokesman for the Rubio campaign. “Marco has a strong record of fighting to keep Florida’s families safe.”

Left unclear at the conclusion of the conference call was whether Americans for Responsible Solutions will be supporting Murphy financially or by putting up a campaign advertisement backing candidacy. Kelly said that as a 501(c)(4) and a super PAC, there are certain rules about independent expenditures that must be adhered to.

“I can’t really tell you because I don’t know, and I wouldn’t be involved because we have legally have set up a firewall between the folks who have been coordinating with Congressman Murphy’s office, and an I.E. (independent expenditure) if we chose to do that,” Kelly said.

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State leaders, experts to discuss future of mobility at Better Transportation Summit

With the fatal crash of Tesla car on autopilot near Williston in May, Floridians already know the future of transportation is impacting the state’s highways.

Exploration of that future will be one of the themes when the 2016 Floridians for Better Transportation Summit meets Tuesday and Wednesday at the Loews Don CeSar Hotel on St. Pete Beach.

“Transportation is transformative. It has the power to fuel the economy, stimulate job creation and change the way we live,” said Floridians for Better Transportation President Matthew D. Ubben. “If Florida can get transportation right, the rest will follow.”

The keynote speaker will be Lawrence Burns, a former University of Michigan engineering professor who has also served as a vice president for research and development at General Motors.

Burns, the author of “Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st century,” has long been a champion of the “reinvention of the automobile,” including driverless cars, vehicle electrification, fuel cells, advanced batteries and other innovative vehicle concepts.

Other summit speakers include Sen. Jack Latvala, the incoming state Senate budget chair, and state Rep. Lake Ray, who will talk about local and statewide transportation issues.

Florida Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Brian Blanchard will discuss developments in Tampa Bay’s transportation system.

Janet Zink, assistant vice president at Tampa International Airport and Jim Kuzma, chief operating officer at Space Florida, will provide updates on aviation and aerospace developments.

Port Tampa Bay Vice President Ram Kancharla will discuss the impact of the newly expanded Panama Canal.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, by video, will give an update on transportation developments in Washington, D.C., impacting Florida.

Other confirmed speakers include: FDOT District Secretary Paul Steinman, All Aboard Florida Vice President Rusty Roberts, Kenworth of Jacksonville President Denny Ross, BB&T Capital Markets Managing Director Kevin Sterling and Jim Tymon, chief operating officer for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Ed Moore, president of the Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida, will talk about Florida’s political outlook.

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Rick Scott urges congressional delegation to take ‘immediate action’ to address algae problem

It’s time to take action.

That was the message Gov. Rick Scott sent to Florida’s congressional delegation in a letter Tuesday. The letter outlines what Florida has done to address the algae-bloom in South Florida, and calls on the delegation to take immediate action to make sure Florida received a federal emergency declaration.

“Florida is without a doubt the most beautiful state in the country with some of the world’s most incredible natural treasures. We need your help in protecting these natural treasures and the millions of Florida families who are being impacted by potentially harmful algal blooms,” said Scott in the letter. “Please utilize your position in Congress to take immediate action by working to ensure Florida receives the federal emergency declaration and that the federal government fund the maintenance and repair to the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike. These repairs would safely hold water to prevent unnatural Lake Okeechobee discharges that are leading to the increased formation of algae.”

The Naples Republican on July 6 sent a letter to President Barack Obama and the regional FEMA administrator asking for an emergency declaration because of the “public health and safety threats associated with the unnatural discharges of nutrient-laden freshwater from Lake Okeechobee into the canals that flow east into the Indian River Lagoon and west into the Caloosahatchee River.”

The blue-green algae has clogged the waterways along the Treasure Coast, at times closing beaches. Many believe that the ongoing discharges from Lake Okeechobee are to blame for the algae bloom, but the South Florida Water Management District has said the releases aren’t the sole cause.

Scott, who declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties, said he hopes the state’s congressional delegation will “help convey the emergency our state is facing to help get it approved.”

He already has two allies in the Senate.

Sen. Bill Nelson on July 7 wrote a letter to the president in support of the state’s request for an emergency declaration, saying it is “important all federal resources are available to help address the cause and consequence of these toxic blue-green algae bloom.”

That same day Sen. Marco Rubio also wrote a letter asking the president to grant the state’s request.

“I remain concerned for the health of residents and visitors, who have reported headaches, respiratory problems and rashes, among other ailments,” said Rubio in his letter. “Additionally, businesses that rely on these waters have also greatly suffered — not only from these harmful algal blooms but also what they have been experiencing all year as a result of the continued discharges from Lake Okeechobee.”

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Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier has rare chance to bust Florida workers’ comp cartel

Florida’s new insurance commissioner has a rare, meaningful and high-stakes opportunity to earn his chops and establish his credibility for years to come.

He can demonstrate he has the mettle to stand up to the insurance industry to the benefit of both consumers and the business community.

How often does that happen?

Just three months into his tenure in one of the most consequential jobs in Florida, state Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier can flex his regulatory muscle and prove his determination to stand up for working Floridians and those who employ them.

The solution is simple, established by precedent and long-overdue: Altmaier can bust up the insurance cartel that is the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), ensuring real price competition within Florida’s workers’ compensation system.

NCCI, the organization that proposes workers’ comp rates for Florida, recently filed a request for a 17.1 percent rate increase — then hiked it to nearly 20 percent, its second-largest rate increase request since 1999.

To quote the late baseball great Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

Back in 1997, then-Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson pushed unsuccessfully to end Florida’s half-century relationship with NCCI to force down premiums, suggesting other companies be permitted to compete for its functions. Nelson was visionary.

In recent years, several other states, including South Carolina and New York, have opened up their workers’ compensation insurance markets to actual rate competition, and doing so realized significant savings.

Meanwhile, Florida still tolerates an antiquated system in which an NCCI board stacked with insurance executives sets a rate to serve as a floor for workers’ compensation insurers — in other words, they can’t charge less.

Documentation to validate the filing is largely protected from public scrutiny, with NCCI citing “trade secrets” as an excuse to shield the data. How could an entity that has no competition claim trade secrets and, even more, how could regulators accept that claim?

When New York opened up its workers’ comp system in 2013 to true rate competition, the state’s business community saw rates drop 30 percent over two years, saving employers more than $45 million.

In contrast, the proposed rate hike here would make Florida one of the costliest states for employers to buy workers’ comp insurance. That’s money that could otherwise be used for job creation.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce warns that a nearly 20 percent rate hike would cause uncertainty among Florida job creators — the small businesses that create two out of every three jobs.

Altmaier should follow the example of the South Carolina Insurance Department, which challenged NCCI’s requested 23.7 percent rate hike in 2007 and ultimately settled on a much more reasonable 9.8 percent increase. That move saved South Carolina businesses approximately $130 million.

Here’s a no-brainer: What if Florida just says no?

How about taking NCCI out of the rate-making driver’s seat, opening up Florida to real rate competition as other states have done; calling NCCI’s bluff?

That would make Altmaier a hero to both injured workers who depend on a properly functioning workers’ compensation system and employers who need their labor force to get back to work.

It’s a rare moment when an insurance commissioner can satisfy both the lion and the lamb — all by getting the fox out of the henhouse.

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Bill Nelson urges Mitch McConnell to bring back Senate’s $1.1B Zika funding proposal

Sen. Bill Nelson is urging Senate leaders to bring back a $1.1 billion proposal that would help fight the spread of Zika.

The request comes just one day after the Florida Department of Health announced 11 new cases of Florida, bringing the total number of travel-related cases in the Sunshine State to 263.

In a letter Thursday, the Florida Democrat asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the bipartisan $1.1 billion bill the Senate passed back to the floor for a vote as a standalone bill. Last week, the Senate voted down a $1.1 billion House proposal.

Democrats blocked the GOP-drafted measure by a 52-48, short of the 60 votes required to advance it. The party faulted Republicans for packing the bill with provisions designed to deny new funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico and ease rules on pesticide spraying.

Nelson told McConnell reminded that “both sides of the aisle came together on the Senate Floor” to pass its version of the $1.1 billion funding proposal.

“I strongly urge you to advance a bipartisan bill that provides emergency funding, and is free of misguided policy riders,” said Nelson in his letter. “Time is of the essence.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 930 cases of travel-related cases of Zika reported in the United States. So far none of the cases have been locally transmitted.

Last week, the Florida Department of Health announced it had confirmed its first case of microcephaly in an infant born in Florida whose mother had a travel-related case of Zika. The mother contracted Zika while in Haiti.

In his letter, Nelson said lawmakers need to stop using funding as a vehicle to advance politics and take a bipartisan approach to funding.

“Funding our nation’s Zika response is something that simply cannot wait any longer and it cannot be used as a vehicle to advance partisan, ideological positions,” he said. “Surely, this is something that members of both parties can agree to.”

___

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Mitch Perry Report 7.6.16 — Clinton survives James Comey

Although many observers are noting that yesterday was not a good day for Hillary Clinton and her aspirations for president, who are we kidding here? She stood this close to being indicted, with Democrats probably wishing that Joe Biden had actually entered the race last year.

No doubt, Clinton’s reputation for being truthful took a severe hit on Tuesday morning, as FBI Director James Comey laid out all the things that she had done wrong with her private email during her tenure as Secretary of State in Barack Obama‘s first term in office.

Then again, most people don’t think she’s very truthful. As mentioned in a PBS NewsHour segment last week, an NBC/Wall Street Journal found that 69 percent of those polled said they’re concerned about criticism that Clinton has a — quote — “record of being dishonest.” Just 28 percent said that wasn’t a concern for them.

That was before Comey stated that at least 110 emails sent through her private server contained information classified at the time it was sent. That meant it should never have been sent or received on an unclassified computer network. It’s a direct rebuke of her statements over the past year that she never knowingly distributed classified information.

Per the NY Times: 

Among those was the fact that “a very small number” of emails sent on her server bore markings that indicated they were classified, contradicting not only previous statements of Mrs. Clinton’s but also claims by the State Department that none had.

While he did not identify any, he was evidently referring to two emails that one of Mrs. Clinton’s close aides, Monica R. Hanley, sent to prepare her for telephone calls with foreign leaders, according to a State Department official familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.

One email, dated Aug. 2, 2012, noted that Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the United Nations, was stepping down as special envoy trying to mediate the war in Syria. A second one, sent in April 2012, discussed Mrs. Clinton’s call to the newly inaugurated president of Malawi.

Each was marked with a small notation, “(C),” indicating it contained information classified as “confidential.”

Clinton also said back in March of 2015 at the United Nations that she had given all of her emails that in any way connected to work” had been handed over to the State Department.

“It is highly likely their search terms missed some work-related emails, and that we later found them, for example, in the mailboxes of other officials or in the slack space of a server,” Comey said Tuesday. “It is also likely that there are other work-related emails that they did not produce to State and that we did not find elsewhere, and that are now gone because they deleted all emails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.”

Comey also reported that while at the state Department, Clinton used more than one server and more than one mobile device. If you’ll recall, one of her arguments for doing what she did was she didn’t want the unnecessary inconvenience of having several devices.

Let’s jump to the political — I hear this all the time — it won’t affect the electorate, because those who love Hillary will still love her, and the haters will still loathe her.

What about that so-called “mushy middle,” though, the growing part of the electorate that registers as independent, or as we say here in Florida, non-party-affiliated?

Recent polls show third party candidates, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, getting close to an average of 10 percentage points. While some folks will never vote for Donald Trump, they definitely now have choices that maybe they feel they don’t have to hold their noses to vote for Libertarian or Green Party nominees (Stein has yet to get her party’s nomination, by the way)

No, it wasn’t a great day for Mrs. Clinton, but come on — any day that you don’t get indicated is sort of a good day, right?

Tim Canova uses Democratic opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership to ask for more contributions to his campaign against Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

It’s personal between Betty Reed and Ed Narain in the Senate District 19 race.

Alan Clendenin leads all of the candidates vying be elected to the Hillsborough County School Board this year in fundraising.

Democrat Bernie Fensterwald is sitting on a personal fortune as he vies to defeat Republican Chris Sprowls in the House District 65 race in Pinellas County, but so far, he’s been conservative in how much he’s self-funding his campaign.

And in Tampa, activists call on Sen. Bill Nelson to oppose a bill on GMO’s this week.

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Army Corps to reduce lake flows fueling Florida algae bloom

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is calling on President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency to help businesses harmed by the massive algae bloom fouling some of Florida’s southern rivers and beaches.

Rubio on Friday toured a portion of the St. Lucie River where a smelly muck is fouling an area promoted as Florida’s “Treasure Coast.” During a news conference later, he called the impact on tourism, home values and small businesses “catastrophic,” saying he couldn’t think of a precedent anywhere else in the country.

“I hope the president will have an emergency declaration, because that will open up the full portfolio of aid that the federal government can provide local businesses and communities that are being impacted by this,” Rubio said.

Rubio’s Democratic colleague, Sen. Bill Nelson, toured the area Thursday. Both senators have joined Martin County commissioners in calling for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop the flow of water between the river and Lake Okeechobee. Residents and business owners blame the algae on pollutants streaming from the lake.

After touring the St. Lucie River as it passes through downtown Stuart, Nelson said the problems can be traced to Florida’s history of diverting water to the ocean.

“We need to repair 75 years of diking and draining, but that takes time,” he said. He called on Florida’s Legislature to spend money approved by state voters for environmental projects such as purchasing land around Lake Okeechobee for water storage instead of diverting the funds to pay for administrative costs.

The Army Corps has started reducing the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee. The Corps’ Jacksonville District began the reductions Friday, targeting the Caloosahatchee Estuary and the St. Lucie Estuary, a news release said.

The action comes after Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency over the problem, and as politicians and residents are blaming the federal government.

Multiple Florida lawmakers have asked federal authorities that oversee Lake Okeechobee to immediately stop freshwater releases that coastal communities blame for algae blooms and other environmental damage.

“I would describe them as guacamole-thick. And it stinks,” said Gabriella Ferraro, spokeswoman for Martin County.

The blue-green algae is the latest contaminant featured in yearslong arguments over water flowing from Lake Okeechobee, which is critical to South Florida’s water supply and flood control systems.

At Central Marine boat docks in Stuart, pea-green and brown algae coated the water Thursday and smelled strongly like cow manure. Blooms that started last week in the St. Lucie River continue to spread, threatening Atlantic beaches expecting crowds of families for the holiday weekend.

Sarah Chaney, a receptionist at Central Marine, said boaters and fisherman are canceling reservations after seeing reports of the algae, which she called “horrible and disgusting.”

When Scott declared a state emergency for the area Wednesday, he blamed the federal government for neglecting repairs to the lake’s aging dike that’s considered one of the country’s most at-risk for imminent failure. On Thursday, he amended the emergency declaration, adding Lee and Palm Beach counties to Wednesday’s emergency declaration for Martin and St. Lucie counties. Palm Beach County is located directly south of the existing emergency area, while Lee County is located on Florida’s Gulf coast.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Bill Nelson is convinced Pulse shooter was mostly ISIS-inspired, not hate-inspired

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Friday that after consulting top FBI officials, he’s convinced that ISIS — more than a hatred of gays — is what inspired the shooter to kill 49 people in Orlando’s popular gay nightclub.

Nelson said the motivations likely are a combination, but said the FBI convinced him that Omar Mateen‘s internet search history and other activities in the weeks leading up to the June 12 Pulse massacre suggest a growing obsession with ISIS.

“This is my opinion, but I think the when the final report is written I think we will see that the killer in Orlando was more ISIS-inspired than it being a hate crime. That might have played a part of it, but I think once the evidence is brought forth by the FBI you will see he was pretty inspired by ISIS,” Nelson said. “Of course, there may be some mental instability as well, but I cannot judge that.”

Speaking to journalists in his home office in Orlando, the Democratic senator would not many divulge details of what the FBI is finding.

He did say that Mateen had “gone to a number of sites having to do with ISIS and had read that material over a period of time.”

He also said that “every indication” shows that Mateen did not have any direct connection with any of the ISIS leadership. But Nelson added this is the way ISIS works these days.

Nelson also disputed concerns that the United States is not doing enough in the Middle East to fight ISIS. He expressed strong confidence that the American military campaign of pinpoint bombings, drone strikes and limited special forces, allied with the Iraq and friendly Middle Eastern forces, will ultimately eradicate ISIS from its two cities of strength, in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria.

“There is not an hour of the day that there is not an operation being conducted or being planned to be conducted against ISIS. What’s happening over in the Middle East is the two centers, the largest urban areas that ISIS is now controlling … the noose is being tightened. Those two cities basically are being surrounded now,” he said.

“It’s a matter of time before Mosul falls in Iraq. Once Raqqa falls … they will be in disarray and disorganized,” Nelson said. “However, they have metastasized this credo of violence all over.”

He also expressed confidence that Congress will pass a gun-control bill — his — in response to Orlando. His proposal would not affect the purchase of guns by anyone. But if someone has been on a terrorist watch list, and that person buys guns, the FBI would be notified. Federal authorities could then determine whether they want to check on that person.

“In buying the kinds of assault weapons that he bought and all of the clips, I think that definitely would be a tip-off to the FBI,” Nelson said of Mateen.

“I know of no opposition,” he said of the bill.

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‘Guacamole-thick’ algae causes crisis on Florida coastline

A smelly, “guacamole-thick” muck is fouling a stretch of beaches promoted as Florida’s “Treasure Coast,” where lawmakers and residents blame the federal government, saying the algae crisis is fueled by freshwater flows controlled by Army officials to protect an erosion-prone dike.

The blue-green algae is the latest contaminant featured in yearslong arguments over water flowing from Lake Okeechobee, which is critical to South Florida’s water supply and flood control systems.

At Central Marine boat docks in Stuart, pea-green and brown algae coated the water Thursday and smelled strongly like cow manure. Blooms that started last week in the St. Lucie River continue to spread, threatening Atlantic beaches expecting crowds of families for the holiday weekend.

Sarah Chaney, a receptionist at Central Marine, said boaters and fisherman are cancelling reservations after seeing reports of the algae, which she called “horrible and disgusting.”

“I would describe them as guacamole-thick. And it stinks,” said Gabriella Ferrero, spokeswoman for Martin County.

Florida’s U.S. senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson, have joined Martin County commissioners in calling for the Army Corps of Engineers to stop the flow of water between the river and Lake Okeechobee.

Residents and business owners blame the algae on pollutants streaming from the lake.

In a news release Thursday afternoon, the Corps said it would begin reducing the flow from the lake Friday, targeting the Caloosahatchee Estuary and the St. Lucie Estuary.

After touring the St. Lucie River as it passes through downtown Stuart, Nelson said the problems can be traced to Florida’s history of diverting water to the ocean.

“We need to repair 75 years of diking and draining, but that takes time,” he said. He called on Florida’s Legislature to spend money approved by state voters for environmental projects such as purchasing land around Lake Okeechobee for water storage instead of diverting the funds to pay for administrative costs. Rubio is scheduled to visit the area Friday.

When Gov. Rick Scott declared a state emergency for the area Wednesday, he blamed the federal government for neglecting repairs to the lake’s aging dike that’s considered one of the country’s most at-risk for imminent failure.

Some residents blamed Scott instead on Thursday. He hasn’t done enough to curb pollution from farms north of the lake or purchase land farther south where lake waters could be stored and cleaned, said Irene Gomes, owner of the Driftwood Motel in Jensen Beach.

The algae has rapidly grown from a beach nuisance to a health concern, as one customer made plans to leave early if the algae triggered breathing issues, said Gomes, whose family has owned the motel’s turquoise-colored cabins since 1958.

“At one point, I could say to my customers, ‘Come down, it’s not at all the beaches,’ because it wasn’t toxic. Now we’re talking about health issues,” Gomes said.

Chaney, the Central Marine receptionist, said Scott should visit the area, even if he gets criticized.

“He needs to come see it himself and stop being a coward,” she said.

The governor’s press office declined further comment Thursday, pointing to his emergency declaration Wednesday.

Lake Okeechobee is the largest in Florida and the second largest body of freshwater in the contiguous United States. Flooding there after a major hurricane in 1928 killed at least 2,500 people in surrounding communities of mostly poor, black farmworkers. It inspired the storm central to Zora Neale Hurston‘s novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”

To reduce the risk of a breach in the dike built after that hurricane, the Corps of Engineers tries to keep lake water levels between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet above sea level. Shoring up the dike will take years. Meanwhile, freshwater is released east and west of the lake into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

State water managers have said local stormwater runoff and septic tanks also fuel algae blooms. They’re working to direct more water south of Lake Okeechobee into the parched Everglades, but federal regulations, conservation mandates and stalled restoration projects complicate those efforts.

In neighboring St. Lucie County, home to the troubled Indian River Lagoon, officials have prohibited homeowners from using fertilizer during the summer and begun working with the state to test waterways for pollution that might be linked to septic tanks.

“A lot of people want to blame Lake Okeechobee, it’s an easy target, but there are a lot of factors that contribute to the health of the lagoon,” said St. Lucie County spokesman Erick Gill.

Murky waters on southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast also are blamed on the lake’s discharges. Fort Myers-area lawmakers said Thursday that Scott should extend the state of emergency to Lee County because of water issues in the Caloosahatchee River.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Kathy Castor part of House delegation continuing sit-in to demand votes on gun control legislation

Dozens of House Democrats continue to stage a sit-in on the floor of the House chamber Wednesday afternoon, demanding the House Speaker Paul Ryan hold a vote on gun-control legislation in the days leading up to a weeklong congressional break that begins this Friday.

Many members of the Florida delegation were part of the action, with even Senator Bill Nelson sitting down with Tallahassee Representative Gwen Graham for awhile.

The sit-in started with remarks by Georgia Congressman John Lewis, who called out, “Newtown, Aurora, Charleston, San Bernardino, Orlando. What is the tipping point, Mr. Speaker?”

The legislation that Democrats want a vote on would be for expanded background checks and legislation preventing gun sales to suspected terrorists.

“My neighbors are still reeling from the Orlando massacre just over a week ago,” said Tampa Bay area Representative Kathy Castor. “There have been too many tragedies like the Orlando massacre. The House doesn’t need more moments of silence; it needs to speak up instead. We need commonsense solutions on gun safety aimed at protecting our country, communities, families and especially our children,” U.S. Rep. Castor said. “My home state of Florida has some of the weakest gun laws; we lack expanded background checks that would prevent individuals on the terrorist watch list, criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill from purchasing guns – the so-called no fly/no buy law we are sitting in for would clearly help fill a big gap in my state.”

“Since Florida’s Republican legislature has refused to stand up to the powerful gun lobby, we must act to keep high-capacity, military-style weapons away from terrorists and others with violent pasts,” Castor added.

“The message is simple – we demand a vote, and number two, we want to close the terrorist gun loophole at a minimum,” said Jupiter Representative and Senate candidate Patrick Murphy, speaking to reporters on a conference call after leaving the House floor.

At one point in the afternoon, Pinellas County Republican Congressman David Jolly visited the House chambers.  Before he did that, Jolly appeared on CNN, where he said he disagreed with the tactics of the Democrats, but agreed with them that GOP House leaders should allow for debate on gun control measures, including his proposal, HR5544, that would ensure there is a no-fly no-buy policy while also ensuring due process and protecting the Second Amendment.

“My fear is that the politics of blame play well in November, and the architects see currency in this in November,” Jolly told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, adding that it wasn’t actually that hard to pass such legislation. Baldwin questioned that statement, it, saying if it was so easy, why did it require the House Democrats to make such a dramatic gesture.

Jolly said that if the Democrats would agree to the due process portions of his legislation, a bill could pass, but also pleaded with his GOP colleagues “to do something. Act in the wake of Orlando. Let’s not play politics with this; it’s heartbreaking.”

Kentucky Democratic Representative John Yarmuth said he agreed with Jolly that it could be an easy fix. “Let’s have the debate. Let’s have the vote. And let the will of the Congress be done.”

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