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‘Invisible Pasco’ activist Linda Jack to challenge Amber Mariano in House District 36

Democrat Linda Jack, a veterinarian from New Port Richey, has filed to run for the Florida House District 36 seat currently held by Republican Amber Mariano. 

Dr.Jack is a Florida native who spent many years traveling, performing and teaching as a professional musician, based in New York, Boston and Nashville. She then switched careers after obtaining a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2006 from North Carolina State University and subsequently worked in Virginia and North Carolina before moving back home to Florida in 2015.

The 21-year-old Mariano upset Democratic incumbent Amanda Murphy last fall to become the youngest person ever elected to the state House. She won by 732 votes, or .6 percent.

Murphy had held the seat for three years. She won the seat in a special election in 2013 after then-incumbent Mike Fasano left the seat to take over as tax collector and she easily won re-election in 2014.

But, in what some analysts called a “Trump tsunami,” Mariano was aided by a surge of support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Pasco County by 21 percentage points, 58 percent to 37 percent.

Jack has been a member of “Indivisible Pasco,” an anti-Trump group organized earlier this year in Pasco County. She calls herself a Democrat with an independent streak, with a progressive stance on most issues but a fiscal conservative.

“I’m new to politics but not to public service,” she says.

Bob Buckhorn crosses party lines to help Shawn Harrison’s bid for re-election

In 2016, Democrats targeted a handful of Florida House districts they believed they could flip from red to blue.

One of them was Hillsborough County’s House District 63, where the Florida Democratic Party put some money behind Lisa Montelione in her bid to oust Republican incumbent Shawn Harrison.

After a close race, Harrison ultimately prevailed, 51 to 49 percent.

Although off-year elections are traditionally harder for Democrats, there is hope that an energetic resistance to Donald Trump could make 2018 a year of opportunity.

But as Harrison already begins looking forward to getting re-elected next year, he’s getting assistance from one of the biggest Democrats in the region, Bob Buckhorn. The Tampa mayor is listed as a special guest at Harrison’s June 29 campaign kickoff fundraiser at the Tampa Theatre.

“I support people who support the City of Tampa and our legislative issues,” Buckhorn told FloridaPolitics.com in a text message. “Shawn has consistently been willing to advocate on behalf of issues that were important to the City, even if it meant going against their leadership of his own party. He never forgot what it was like to be a local elected official and has been a voice of reason in a political party that has made local government a target. It seems to me that we are all better served when our elected officials care more about their community that their political issues.”

Harrison has voted against the majority of his party in a few notable cases, such as when he supported a hybrid version of Medicaid expansion a few years ago. He also supported economic incentives for Enterprise Florida, a position Buckhorn backed and which earned him the public rebuke of Gov. Rick Scott at an appearance at MOSI early this year.

As House Minority Leader, Tampa state Rep. Janet Cruz was charged with attempting to get as many Democrats elected to the House last fall. She’s also close with Buckhorn and had no issue with him backing Harrison.

“Nothing new,” Cruz told FloridaPolitics.com. “Buckhorn served for many years with Harrison on Council. I believe they became good friends then.”

With Americans saying that they’re tired of partisan bickering, some would say the Buckhorn-Harrison connection should be celebrated. However, that’s not the way some Tampa Democrats see it.

“Flabbergasted” was the term used by Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Ione Townsend after learning of the Mayor’s efforts.

“I’m disappointed because the mayor claims he’s a good Democrat,” said Hillsborough County Democratic Committeeman Russ Patterson, adding that he’s aware that Buckhorn and Harrison are friends. “Friendships are allowed to cross party,” he added.

“I’m not surprised,” said public relations executive Tom Hall, who teamed up with former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and others last year to form The Hillsborough Society, which raised over $40,000 to support local Democrats in Hillsborough County in 2016 and is actively recruiting candidates for 2018.

Hall cited Buckhorn’s support for Republican Pam Bondi against Democrat George Sheldon in the 2014 attorney general’s race, and his refusal to back Democrat Charlie Crist in the gubernatorial race that same year as moves that Democrats haven’t forgotten about.

“I think that those two were big mistakes, and the Democrats that I know and talk to have not forgiven him for that,” said Hall, adding that his group is looking for a good Democrat to challenge Harrison in 2018.

Buckhorn won’t be the only elected Democrat from Tampa at the Harrison fundraiser. City Councilman Frank Reddick is also listed on the fundraising announcement. Reddick endorsed Harrison over Montelione last year.

Montelione did not return a request for comment.

GOP running out of time for legislative achievements

President Donald Trump and his GOP allies on Capitol Hill have made it through nearly half their first year in power without a single major legislative achievement. If that’s going to change, it will have to start soon, a reality that Republican lawmakers will confront when they return to the Capitol on Monday from a weeklong break.

“We just need to work harder,” the second-ranking Republican senator, John Cornyn of Texas, said in an interview with KFYO radio in Lubbock, Texas, over the recess.

For now, the party’s marquee agenda items remain undone, their fate uncertain. The long-promised effort to overturn former President Barack Obama‘s health law hangs in limbo in the Senate after barely passing the House. A tax overhaul that’s a top Trump priority is unwritten and in dispute, despite his recent claim on Twitter that it’s ahead of schedule.

“The president keeps saying the tax bill is moving through Congress. It doesn’t exist,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said mockingly on Friday. “It doesn’t exist. There is no tax bill moving through Congress.”

Lawmakers will deal with those issues and more as Congress comes back into session, and realistically the window for action is closing fast. Seven legislative weeks are left before Congress scatters for a five-week August recess, a period when lawmakers are likely to lose momentum if they have failed to act on health care or taxes, and face GOP voters frustrated that they haven’t delivered.

Both issues are enormously difficult challenges, and the tax legislation must follow, for procedural reasons, passage of a budget, no small task on its own.

On top of it all, lawmakers are way behind on the annual spending legislation needed to keep the lights on in government. They were recently informed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that they will have to raise the federal government’s borrowing limit before August, a daunting task ripe for brinkmanship.

Looming over everything is the investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign and connections with the Trump campaign. That investigation is in the hands of a special prosecutor and Congress’ intelligence committees. Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by Trump, is scheduled to testify before the Senate committee on Thursday.

“The Russia investigation takes a lot of oxygen, it takes a lot of attention,” said Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a veteran lawmaker.

Cole argued that Republicans have not gotten the credit they deserve to date for what they have accomplished: voting to overturn a series of Obama regulations, as well as reaching compromise last month on spending legislation for the remainder of the 2017 budget year that included a big increase for defense. The biggest bright spot for the party and for Trump remains Senate confirmation in early April of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, whose elevation goes far to placate conservatives frustrated with inaction on other fronts.

“I think we’ve done more than we’ve gotten credit for, but the big ones are ahead,” Cole said. “It’s certainly an ambitious agenda we’ve got, there’s no question about it, it has been all along and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Historically, Capitol Hill has been at its busiest and most productive in the early days of a new president’s administration, during the traditional honeymoon. But with his approval ratings hovering around 40 percent, Trump never got that grace period, and although his core supporters show no signs of abandoning him, he is not providing the focused leadership usually essential to helping pass major legislation.

Within Obama’s first 100 days in office, he had signed a large stimulus package as well as equal pay legislation and other bills. An active Congress under President George W. Bush had made progress on campaign finance legislation and bankruptcy changes, among other issues.

In the Senate, Republicans’ slim 52-48 majority gives them little room for error on health care and taxes, issues where they are using complicated procedural rules to move ahead with simple majorities and no Democratic support. Trump’s apparent disengagement from the legislative process was evident this past week when he demanded on Twitter that the Senate “should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy.”

In fact, that’s exactly how Republicans are already moving. But the trouble is within their own ranks as Senate Republicans disagree over how quickly to unwind the Medicaid expansion under Obama’s health law, as well as other elements of the GOP bill.

Addressing the health legislation, Cornyn pledged on KFYO, “We’ll get it done by the end of July at the latest.” Despite that show of optimism, there’s uncertainty aplenty over whether the Senate will be able to pass a health bill, and whether a complicated tax overhaul or even a simple set of tax cuts will advance.

For some Republicans, their sights are set on the more immediate and necessary tasks of completing the annual spending bills that are needed to avert a government shutdown when the budget year ends Sept. 30, and on raising the debt ceiling to avert a first-ever default.

“It’ll be more difficult than it should be,” said GOP Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. “Because Congress is what it is.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Does Donald Trump believe in climate change or not? Aides won’t say

Does he or doesn’t he? Believe in climate change, that is.

You’d think that would be an easy enough question the day after President Donald Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the landmark global accord aimed at combating global warming.

But don’t bother asking at the White House.

“I have not had an opportunity to have that discussion” with the president, responded Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday.

“You should ask him that,” offered White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt dodged the question, too.

The president also ignored it during an unrelated bill-signing.

It’s quite a reversal for Trump, who spent years publicly bashing the idea of global warming as a “hoax” and “total con job” in books, interviews and tweets. He openly challenged the scientific consensus that the climate is changing and man-made carbon emissions are largely to blame.

“Global warming is an expensive hoax!” he tweeted in 2014.

But Trump has been largely silent on the issue since his election last fall. On Thursday, he made scarce mention of it in his lengthy remarks announcing America’s exit from the Paris accord. Instead, he framed his decision as based on economics.

Here’s what he’s said before:

TRUMP’S TWEETS:

The president’s Twitter feed once was filled with references to “so-called” global warming being a “total con job” based on “faulty science and manipulated data.”

An Associated Press search of his Twitter archives revealed at least 90 instances in which he has referred to “global warming” and “climate change” since 2011. In nearly every instance, he expressed skepticism or mockery.

“This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bulls— has got to stop,” he wrote in January 2014, spelling out the vulgarity.

Often the president has pointed to cold weather as evidence the climate scientists are wrong.

“It’s 46 (really cold) and snowing in New York on Memorial Day — tell the so-called “scientists” that we want global warming right now!” he wrote in May 2013 — one of several instances in which he said that warming would be welcome.

“Where the hell is global warming when you need it?” he asked in January 2015.

The same message was echoed in the president’s books.

In “Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America,” Trump made a reference to “the mistaken belief that global climate change is being caused by carbon emissions.”

“If you don’t buy that — and I don’t — then what we have is really just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves,” he wrote.

CANDIDATE AND SKEPTIC:

“I’m not a believer in man-made global warming,” Trump told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in September 2015, after launching his bid for the White House. He bemoaned the fact that the U.S. was investing money and doing things “to solve a problem that I don’t think in any major fashion exists.”

“I am not a believer,” he added, “Unless somebody can prove something to me … I am not a believer and we have much bigger problems.”

By March 2016, the president appeared to allow that the climate was changing — but continued to doubt humans were to blame.

“I think there’s a change in weather. I am not a great believer in man-made climate change. I’m not a great believer,” he told The Washington Post. “There is certainly a change in weather,” he said.

Then-campaign manager, Conway explained Trump’s view this way: “He believes that global warming is naturally occurring. That there are shifts naturally occurring.”

EVOLVING PRESIDENT:

In an interview with The New York Times in November, after the election, Trump was asked repeatedly whether he intended to leave the Paris accord and appeared to have a new open-mindedness.

“I’m looking at it very closely,” Trump told the newspaper. “I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully.”

He went on to say that he thought “there is some connectivity” between human activity and the changing climate, but that, “It depends on how much.”

Asked about the comment several days later, Trump’s now-chief of staff Reince Priebus told Fox News that Trump “has his default position, which is that most of it is a bunch of bunk.”

“But he’ll have an open mind and listen to people,” he said.

Stay tuned.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Rick Kriseman chastises Rick Baker’s ‘silence’ on U.S. withdrawl from Paris Climate Accord

Rick Kriseman is one of 76 “Climate Mayors” around the county defying President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.

In a letter posted shortly after Trump announced that he would be withdrawing the U.S. from the landmark 2015 global agreement on voluntarily reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda announced their own intent to uphold the U.S.’ end of the Paris accords within their own jurisdictions.

“We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice,” the letter reads. “[I]f the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we’ll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks.”

Kriseman signed an executive order in August 2015 creating an office of sustainability in St. Petersburg, and last fall the City Council formally approved the city’s commitment to transitioning to 100 percent clean, renewable energy, becoming the first city in Florida and the 20th city in the country to make such a commitment.

St. Pete officials also claim that they were the first city in Florida to update their comprehensive land-use plan to comply with the state’s “Peril of Flood” Act, a 2015 law requiring local governments to plan for floods and impacts from sea-level rise.

“For far too long our city has ignored the challenges created by our changing climate,” Kriseman said Friday. “My administration is the first in our city’s history to recognize the challenge of climate change and tackle it head on. I’m proud of our record on fighting climate change, from implementing curbside recycling to pledging to become a 100% clean energy city. I’m also proud to say that we will continue to uphold the agreement that President Barack Obama and 194 other nations came together to make in 2015. Climate change is a global force with local consequences, and our beautiful coastal city is no exception.”

The letter comes as Kriseman is locked into an intense reelection battle against former Mayor Rick Baker. 

When asked for comment on whether he agrees with Trump’s decision to forgo the environmental pact, Baker sidestepped the issue on Friday, and instead attacked Kriseman.

“To me, a clean and healthy environment is critical to our health and quality of life, that’s why I am extremely concerned about the impact the Kriseman administration inflicted on Tampa Bay when he dumped 200-million-plus gallons of sewage,” Baker said in a statement to FloridaPolitics.com.

“I intend to continue the positive green initiatives I started in 2006, when St. Petersburg was designated Florida’s first green city, and again under my leadership by executive order in 2008 when we created a carbon scorecard for city facility and vehicle use mandating energy conservation.”

A spokesperson said that Baker “has a track record of leadership on this issue having previously served as the Vice-Chair of Gov. (Charlie) Crist‘s Energy Action Team and as chairman of the FL Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida for multiple years.”

On the campaign trail last month, Baker used virtually the same quote about how St. Pete became Florida’s first “Green City” during his tenure more than a decade ago, adding that it would be hard to keep that status “when you dump 200 million gallons of sewage in the Bay.”

Baker was speaking of the sewage spills that occurred on Kriseman’s watch over the past two summers and his reaction to them, eliciting a huge mocking cheer from the crowd.

Jacob Smith, Kriseman’s campaign manager, took note of Baker’s reluctance to speak specifically about the Paris agreement.

“Rick Baker should know better,” Smith said. “As a former member of the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida, Rick Baker has chosen to be silent and side with Donald Trump instead of speaking out against this irresponsible political move. St. Pete needs a mayor who will stand up to dangerous decisions coming out of the White House. Not one who buckles to their party’s president, refusing to even say the words ‘climate change’”

Other Florida Mayors on the list include Andrew Gillum from Tallahassee, Philip Levine from Miami Beach, and Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn.

Buckhorn blasted Trump after he declared that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the agreement, saying, “President Trump will go down as being on the wrong side of history for a number of things but pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement may be the most damaging to our future.We are a nation that prides itself on our ability to work with others to help fix some of the world’s most pressing issues and this kind of reaction is shortsighted at best. Mayors across the country should stand unified and work together from the ground up to find solutions to issues facing our cities and certainly the effects of our changing climate is one of them.”

Joe Henderson: Bob Buckhorn says Tampa will join other cities honoring Paris Climate Accord goals

The pushback from mayors all over the country began almost immediately after President Donald Trump announced the United States will no longer honor its commitment to the Paris Climate Accord.

Medium.com reported Friday morning that 83 mayors from around the country have said they will commit their cities to following the goals that agreement, despite the President’s decree.

They signed a letter promising: “ … we will adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st-century clean energy economy.”

Five of the mayors represent Florida cities: Van W. Johnson of Apalachicola, Richard J. Kaplan of Lauderhill, Philip Levine of Miami Beach, Buddy Dyer of Orlando, and Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg.

Although he wasn’t included on that list, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told me via text message he, too, will commit to having his city join that effort.

“Although the Paris Accord is more global in nature, every city has the ability to create policy that is appropriate for their particular jurisdiction,” Buckhorn said.

“Some cities are further along than others in developing comprehensive plans and metrics and there is always room to improve. This action by the POTUS is certainly an incentive to further refine those plans.”

Trump’s decision to pull out of the agreement has been widely panned around the world and at home — even in Pittsburgh, which the president held up as a reason for taking the action. The place once known as the “Steel City” for its reliance on that industry has transformed itself into a diversified center for medicine, banking, and technology.

In an interview on CNN, Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto said of Trump, “What you did was not only bad for the economy of this country but also weakened America in this world.”

The issue of climate change is especially sensitive to Florida cities. Continued rising sea levels threaten coastal cities, and scientists say the risk of more numerous and powerful hurricanes is increasing.

Because of that, Buckhorn said, “ … all of our efforts will be accelerated. We will continue to lead.

“We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.  From lowering our carbon footprint, investing in equipment that uses renewable energy and trying to attract and grow clean energy jobs, Mayors can and should lead the way.”

Kathy Castor: Investigations on Russia, Trump administration are ‘cloud’ over D.C.

While there are many things both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill want to accomplish, Kathy Castor laments the business of Congress has slowed considerably by what she calls a “cloud” over the Trump administration’s possible collusion with Russia during last year’s election.

“What an atmosphere it is,” the Tampa Democratic congresswoman said in opening remarks at the Oxford Exchange Friday morning.

“I hope we can remove this cloud. The economy is better. People are generally hopeful, they want America to be a world leader, and this cloud has got to go away, because I think that everything that we have going for us, as long as that cloud remains over the White House in Washington. We’re not able to reach our full potential.”

For months, Castor had been among Congressional Democrats calling for an independent commission to investigate allegations about members of the Trump administration and the Russian government. She called the recent Justice Department appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate the situation a positive development.

“I think that broke the fever a little bit,” she said, adding that the constant news revelations about Trump and the Russians have “stalled a lot of the business going on in the Congress.”

“There have been some things going on,” she acknowledged, “but the pace of lawmaking is much slower than I’ve seen over the past ten years.”

The Tampa Representative touched on just a few of those items not being covered in the media that she worries about, such as the president’s signing of a Congressional resolution repealing rules that would have required internet service providers to get customer permission to collect, use and sell information about one’s online habits.

Castor says the role of Congress should now be to do a “broader dive” into recommendations on how to prevent the interference of foreign governments into our elections. In March, former FBI Director James Comey told a congressional panel the FBI was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination.

No member of Congress has been more active in promoting relations between Cuba and the U.S. than Castor, who represents one of the largest Cuban-American communities in the U.S. She admitted that recent reports of the Trump administration being ready to roll back some of the major pieces of the Obama administration’s opening with Cuba and reinstating limits on travel and commerce, citing human rights abuses by the Castro government as justification for a more punitive approach.

“I’ve been an optimist on these until the last few days,” she confessed, charging Trump with being on a path “just to flex his muscles, notwithstanding logic and facts.”

“I think we are somewhat in risk of President Trump in his pledge to change Cuban policy and that would be a real shame for the families in this community and families across the country,” she added.

Castor’s appearance at the weekly “Cafe Con Tampa” meeting was, in essence, a regular town-hall meeting. It was the type of event she has eschewed in recent years, opting for events where she invites the public to meetings, meeting up on a one-on-one basis.

Traditional town hall meetings haven’t been scheduled very often after an explosive encounter with Tea Party activists during the discussions about the Affordable Care Act back in 2009.

All of the questions were of a friendly nature, including a softball from an official with the Hillsborough County School Board who asked her opinion of HB 7069, a charter-school-friendly $419 million school bill in the Florida Legislature that she had already vocally opposed. Public education officials and organizations vehemently opposed the legislation.

“What the Florida Legislature has been doing to our public schools is criminal, and we have got to stand up and fight for it,” she said, adding that it wasn’t too late to have people contact Gov. Rick Scott to veto the bill.

Former Hillsborough judge Ashley Moody launches bid for Attorney General

Ashley Moody, who served a Hillsborough judge for more than a decade until resigning abruptly in late April, has filed as a Republican candidate for Attorney General.

Moody was elected to the 13th Judicial Circuit in 2006 at the age of 31, becoming the youngest judge in Florida.

Moody is a 1996 graduate of the University of Florida and received her J.D. degree from the UF College of Law in 2000.

She is the daughter of longtime federal judge James Moody Jr.

Another important note, Moody has already lined up GOP heavyweight Nancy Watkins to serve as her campaign treasurer.

Florida’s current Attorney General is Pam Bondi, who many speculated would join the Donald Trump administration. She is term-limited from running again.

Moody is the second Republican to enter the race. Jacksonville state Representative Jay Fant filed last month. On the Democratic side, Hillsborough County Attorney Ryan C. Torrens announced his candidacy last week.

 

Ballard Partners continues D.C. expansion, adds public policy veteran Rebecca Benn

Ballard Partners is continuing to expand its Capitol Hill footprint with the addition of veteran policy professional Rebecca Benn.

Benn joins the Florida-based firm’s recently opened Washington, D.C. office. She brings more than two decades of Congressional and corporate experience.

“We are pleased to welcome Rebecca to our growing team in the nation’s Capital,” said Ballard Partners President Brian Ballard, known to many in the industry as Donald Trump’s longtime Florida lobbyist.

“From negotiating billion-dollar budget bills in the Senate to advancing Congressional legislative priorities for the largest Eastern freight railroad,” Ballard added, “Rebecca’s extensive expertise in both the public and private sector ensure our diverse client portfolio will continue to receive the best guidance and advocacy for their issues.”

Before joining Ballard, Benn spent five years as director of federal affairs for Jacksonville-based CSX Transportation. During that time, Benn managed government relations initiatives on safety, environmental regulation and security, as well as overseeing federal constituent relations for seven states.

Benn also served as a staff member with the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations – working with the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies. She was lead Republican negotiator for several billion-dollar federal appropriations bills, in addition to drafting legislative documents and analyzing budget requests.

A Dartmouth College graduate, Benn began her career with U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi as a legislative assistant.

Ballard Partners has been busy of late amid an aggressive global expansion, highlighted by the Florida firm’s opening an office in the nation’s capital in February, and emphasizing ties to the Trump administration.

As Ballard told the Tallahassee Democrat: “When the president was elected, a lot of corporations we represent in Florida and folks from around the country started to call up and say we don’t know folks in the administration and we’d like to get know some folks in the administration. Can you help us.”

That approach is seeming to pay off, as the firm soon inked a $1.5 million contract with the government of Turkey, with newly hired former Florida Congressman Robert Wexler providing representation.

The Turkey deal follows the addition of two other high-profile international clients: A $900,000 contract with the Dominican Republic in March and an April agreement worth $240,000 with the Socialist Party of Albania, which rules the Balkan nation.

Charlie Crist calls decision to exit Paris climate agreement ‘immoral’

Charlie Crist says the idea of President Donald Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords would be “shortsighted, irresponsible, and immoral.”

In the Kenwood area of St. Petersburg Wednesday morning, the St. Petersburg Democratic congressman made the comment during an extensive tour of an ongoing expansion at the Metro Wellness and Community Center.

Reacting to reports Trump might pull the country out of the 2015 landmark pact to reduce carbon emissions, Crist says the president should know better.

“I think it would be awful to pull out and I wish that President Trump, who spends a lot of time in Florida and certainly understands the beauty of our state and the water that is a treasure here, can also be a threat,” he told reporters gathered. “So I think the wisdom of staying with the Paris accord is very important, and I hope he will reconsider.”

Axios reported Wednesday that Trump has decided to pull the U.S. out of the accord, basing their report on two anonymous sources.

Whether or not Trump formally pulls the U.S. out of the agreement, he already has made significant moves on the environment in his four months in office.

Two months ago, Trump signed an executive order undoing former President Barack Obama‘s Clean Power Plan, which would aim to reduce carbon emissions. The executive order also rescinded a number of executive actions aimed at reining in climate change or mitigating its effects.

And Trump’s proposed federal budget includes major cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency to the tune of nearly 30 percent.

Rafe Pomerance was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Development in the Clinton administration. His agency was responsible for numerous multilateral issues, including climate change and ozone depletion.

Pomerance says climate change is an “existential threat to Florida.”

“To our ability to implement the (Paris) agreement, the U.S. made certain commitments to reduce emissions, and (EPA head Scott) Pruitt and others have made already begun to make it impossible for the U.S. to live up to its pledge,” he says.

“In my home state of Florida, the environment is our economy and we feel the effects of climate change on a daily basis,” Crist said in a formal statement issued later Wednesday. “We must renew and strengthen these commitments, not turn our back on them.”

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