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Jose Mallea raises $50K in three weeks in HD 116 race

Jose Mallea is starting off his state House run strong, raising more than $50,000 in three weeks his campaign announced Wednesday.

The Miami Republican announced in March he was running to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. According to Mallea’s campaign, he raised $50,000 since filing to run for office on March 9. Campaign finance records weren’t immediately available on the state’s Division of Elections website.

“We are off to a strong start,” said Mallea. “I’m so grateful for the friends and community members who are excited about partnering with us in this campaign. I’m looking forward to continuing to work hard to get our conservative message of fiscal responsibility and job creation out to the hardworking families of District 116.”

Mallea, the owner of JM Global consulting, ran Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. Prior to that, he served as chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. He’s also served stints with the federal government, working at the U.S. Department of State and the White House.

State records show Republican Daniel Anthony Perez has also filed to run for the seat.

Marco Rubio looking for a landlord willing to take a chance

In Tampa and Jacksonville, Sen. Marco Rubio or his staff does not hold office hours. Office hours require an office to do that.

Two months ago, Florida’s junior senator had seven locations around the state and one in Washington, D.C. designed to help constituents with issues involving their government. Only five exist now in Florida.

The reason?

Last month Rubio’s Tampa landlord decided not to renew his office lease due to the massive disruptions caused by “protestors.” A few weeks before, the leaseholder of the senator’s Jacksonville office also gave him the boot for the same reason.

“A professional office building is not the place for that,” said Jude Williams, President of America’s Capital Partners, the Tampa building landlord. “I understand their cause, but at the end of the day it was a security concern for us.”

This tired act of petulance forced Rubio’s staff to deal with constituents by telephone, mail or email. Until new offices are located, the public had better get used to impersonal service.

The First Amendment is sacred, but in this case someone exercising their rights trampled on the rights of other Floridians. To whom do they go for redress? Certainly not their senator.

So, who are the protestors and what are they protesting?

“A variety of progressive groups who oppose Donald Trump’s agenda” was the description assigned to them by the Tampa Bay Times. In an article about the situation, the Times reported the agitators (you’ve got to know who and what you’re protesting to be assigned the “protestor” moniker) and more from around the country are coached on how to protest with legislator’s offices being among the desired locations.

The irony here is some of those now without a place to go for direct help from their senator may actually agree with their political views regarding Trump. We have recently learned of alternative places to meet constituents.

How do office hours at Starbucks sound? Rubio’s two-person Tampa staff is meeting with some constituents in “coffee shops and libraries.”

That would be comical if it were not so ridiculous.

The Times told the story of a meeting between David Higgins of the progressive group Indivisible FL-13. Higgins wished to personally deliver a letter urging Rubio to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia, so a meeting was arranged in a St. Petersburg public library.

Hopefully Higgins was mollified by Rubio’s harsh statements on Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Senator’s active participation in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bi-partisan investigation into the very issue discussed at the library.

Meanwhile, the office protestors have moved to the highly-visible intersection of Dale Mabry Highway and Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa, where they should have been all along. Just so traffic is not impeded, they have found the ideal spot to share their view of just what a bad guy Donald Trump is with thousands of people as they pass by.

Higgins asked Rubio staffer Shauna Johnson why they have not yet found another office. She responded that would-be landlords have a problem with why they were kicked out of their previous location. When Higgins asked for that reason, Johnson simply responded, “protests.”

A senator or congressman’s office is there for all constituents, not just for a select few malcontents. Other building tenants, who also pay taxes and provide livelihoods for employees, have the right to go to and from work without having to be part of a circus.

For Rubio’s constituents in the Tampa Bay area who merely want access to their government, here’s hoping a landlord will take a chance. For those who want to carry signs and chant, the corner of Dale Mabry and Kennedy is lovely this time of year.

Marco Rubio decries Vladimir Putin as tyrant, calls on White House to push human rights

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio painted Russia President Vladimir Putin Thursday as a tyrant who runs a brutal, corrupt, and repressive regime that murders opponents, seeks to destabilize western countries including the United States, perpetuates war crimes, and does not represent the Russian people.

In doing so, Rubio called on the United States to stand up for the rights of Russians and do all it can to oppose Putin.

“It’s not Putin’s Russia, it’s Russians’ Russia,” Rubio said in a speech Thursday to the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan, mostly moderate, international affairs think tank.

“Vladimir Putin happens to have control of the government there today, but Russia is not Vladimir Putin. Russia is an ancient, proud culture and tradition embedded in its people. Vladimir Putin is a tyrant that just happens to control its government.”

Rubio, Florida’s Republican U.S. senator, was one of three keynote speakers addressing the Atlantic Council Thursday morning on the topic of “The State of Human Rights in Putin’s Russia.” He was joined by a fellow member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Maryland’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin; and Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has survived two apparent assassination attempts by poisoning.

Rubio made no overt criticisms of President Donald Trump or his administration for their friendly overtures and statements toward Putin; nor did he make any comments associated with the investigations into whether Putin and Trump’s election campaign may have conspired in any way to influence last year’s American elections.

However, Rubio did state matter-of-factly that Putin sought to interfere in the American elections. And he called on “the new administration” to adopt policies encouraging human rights and democracy abroad.

“We all have read and have heard and will continue to hear n the weeks and months to come Putin’s efforts to meddle in the democratic elections in Europe, just as he attempted to influence our own elections here in the United States last year,” Rubio said.

“As the new administration now continues to shape its foreign policy and national security strategy, I truly believe it is critical for them to include human rights and democracy as elements of any broader engagement of any country in the world. And Russia is a perfect example of why this is true,” Rubio added.

Ironically, both Rubio and Cardin cut their remarks a little short and left early to catch a meeting of the Foreign Relations Committee, and then the Senate Intelligence Committee, where such matters were at hand.

“The state of human rights in Russia under Vladimir Putin has of course long been on a severe decline. This deterioration has only accelerated in recent years as Putin, and his cronies have cracked down on civil society, the media, anyone critical of the Russian government.”

Rubio drew attention to Putin’s critics, “mysteriously poisoned on multiple occasions, thrown out of windows, murdered, all this just this year alone, and we’re only in March.” He also drew attention to last weekend’s large opposition rallies, made up largely of young Russians, which ended with crackdowns and hundreds of arrests.

“This reminds us of how critical it is that the United States stands with the Russian people in their fight against a brutal, corrupt and repressive regime.”

Feds say ‘stay the course’ with Everglades, rejecting Joe Negron’s land buy

Joe Negron’s controversial plan to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges is not going over well with federal officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Last week, many of those involved in Everglades restoration called for Florida to stay the course on federal restoration projects; many were critical of the Senate President’s plan to build a reservoir south of Lake O.

At least two of them suggested using taxpayer money to buy land is not a priority.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Negron’s plan would probably not get federal support “anytime soon.” Buying up land could devastate farming communities, the Florida senator added, possibly turning them into “ghost towns.”

“It’s not that I’m for or against it, it’s that there’s no federal money for it,” Rubio said to a conservative blogger Wednesday. “We’re going to end up with nothing. And that’s been my argument from the beginning, and that’s my message to him, and he understood it.”

Congressman Tom Rooney, himself a longtime representative Treasure Coast representative, told USA TODAY he resists Negron’s plan, which is opposed by Florida Sugarcane Farmers, a group of Everglades Agricultural Area landowners refusing to sell approximately 60,000 acres in the scheme.

“Costly land buys from unwilling sellers have been unsuccessful,” said Rooney, who prefers the government fund projects with proven success.

As for a proposed task force to consider the feasibility of Negron’s plan, U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney also believes that a non-starter, at least right now.

Rooney, whose 19th Congressional District includes much of the Everglades, declined to sign a letter urging Donald Trump to act quickly on Everglades restoration.

What the Naples Republican most disagreed about the bipartisan letter — signed by Reps. Brian Mast, Charlie Crist and others in Florida’s Legislative Delegation — was a call for the president to appoint a federal Everglades task force to make the plan a priority.

Although Rooney is a member of the bipartisan Congressional Everglades Caucus, which works to educate Congress and staff on issues affecting the Everglades, he believes another governmental task force would distract from the current federal plans for wetlands restoration.

“I certainly applaud and am thankful for the work that Brian Mast and Gov. Crist are doing to help advance the ball, getting funding for the Everglades project. There’s no doubt about that,” Rooney told FloridaPolitics.com. “But I didn’t sign on to the letter, and I told the same thing to Brian, because the last thing I think we need in government is more task forces, advisory commissions and things like that.

“I actually think that could be an excuse for the feds not doing what I’ve been pushing them to do,” Rooney added, “to come up with the money to fund the projects that have been authorized.”

Another call to stick with the current federal plan comes from the Army Corps of Engineers, which partners with the state of Florida to protect and preserve water resources in the Everglades, central and southern Florida.

Col. Jason Kirk, commander of the Corps’ Jacksonville district, points to successes in the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration (SFER) program, which includes the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP). SEFR represents the world’s largest ecosystem restoration program.

“I want to be clear that the South Florida Everglades restoration Integrated Delivery Schedule is the optimal sequence of projects moving forward,” Kirk said in a conference call last week, a declaration clearly countermanding Negron’s proposal and rejects buying more land for a reservoir.

A federal lawmaker who supports Negon’s proposal is Palm City Republican Brian Mast.

“One of the most important things that we can do to save our coastal waters and our coastal estuaries is making sure we find ways to move the water south,” said Mast, who represents Florida’s 18th Congressional District. “That’s why I support SB 10 and it’s why the first action I took when I got to Congress was securing a spot as Vice Chairman of the Water Resources and Environment subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. In this role, I am pushing to secure the federal support and funding needed to restore our environment and protect the economy.”

 

More legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018

It’s never too early to start thinking about the next election cycle, and a host of legislative hopefuls are already thinking about the next election cycle.

State election records show dozens of members of the House, Senate, and other legislative hopefuls have filed to run in 2018.

Rep. Shevrin Jones filed to run for re-election in House District 101 in 2018. The 33-year-old West Park Democrat filed to run for re-election March 6. First elected to the House in 2012, Jones served as the Democratic Deputy Whip during the 2014-16 term. Rep. Roy Hardemon also filed to run for re-election in 2018.  The Miami Democrat was first elected to his District 108 seat in 2016, and filed to run for re-election on March 7.

Ray Guillory is looking for a rematch in House District 2. Guillory filed to run against Rep. Frank White, a Pensacola Republican. The Democratic activist ran against White in the solid red district in 2016. White defeated Guillory with 61 percent of the vote.

Republican George Agovino is eyeing the seat currently held by House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Agovino, who retired from the FBI, filed to run in House District 37 on March 8. Corcoran can’t run for re-election again because of term limits.

Rep. Jamie Grant picked up a challenger in House District 64. State records show Democrat Christopher Smutko, a teacher from the Tampa Bay area, filed to run against Grant on March 23.  Andy Warrener, a no-party affiliation candidate, also filed to run in House District 64.

A Democrat has jumped in the House District 71 race to replace Rep. Jim Boyd. Bradenton Democrat Randy Cooper filed to run for seat on March 10. Cooper is a civil engineer with a degree from the University of South Florida. He served 11 years with the Florida National Guard and is a volunteer firefighter in Hillsborough County.

Two Republicans are also vying to replace Boyd. Sarasota Republican James Buchanan filed to run on March 2. If the name sounds familiar, there’s a reason for that: Buchanan is the son of five-term U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. The younger Buchanan founded James Buchanan Realty after graduating from Florida State University with degrees in finance and entrepreneurship.

Will Robinson, a Bradenton Republican, also filed to run for the seat. Robinson is an attorney at Blalock Walters law firm.

Michelle Graham, a Fort Myers businesswoman, is throwing her hat in the race to replace Rep. Matt Caldwell in House District 79. Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican, can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits.

Graham is the president and owner of Siesta Pebble, a family-owned business launched in 1995, and is the only woman-owned company of all 60 licensed and certified Pebble Tec installers throughout the country.

There will be another rematch in House District 112. Republican Rosa “Rosy” Palomino has filed to run against Rep. Nick Duran in the South Florida House District. Palomino is president of Tropical Nostalgia, Inc. and a producer of a late night radio program on WZAB 880 AM. Duran won the seat with 53 percent of the vote.

Three Republicans are vying for the seat being vacated by Rep. Michael Bileca.

The Miami Republican can’t run for re-election again because of term limits. Republican Vance Arthur Aloupis filed to run for the House District 115 seat on March 1. Aloupis is the CEO of the Children’s Movement of Florida. The University of Miami alumnus, spent several years practicing law before joining the Children’s Movement.

Carlos Gobel filed to run for the seat on March 21. The Miami Republican is the executive director for real estate firm GRE Group, Inc. He ran for property appraiser in 2014, and has an MBA from the University of Florida and a bachelor’s of business administration from Florida International University. Republican Carmen Sotomayor has also filed to run.

Three Republicans are eyeing the House District 116 seat being vacated by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in 2018. He can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

Jose Miguel Mallea filed to run for the seat on March 7. Mallea, the owner of JM Global consulting, ran Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. Prior to that, he served as chief of staff to former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. He’s also served stints with the federal government, working at the U.S. Department of State and the White House.

Republican Daniel Perez, an associate at Cole Scott & Kissane’s Miami office, filed to run for the seat on Feb. 23; while Ana Maria Rodriguez filed to run in December.

Republican Enrique Lopez has thrown his hat in the House District 119 race to replace Rep. Jeanette Nunez in 2018. The Miami native served on the Residential Board of Governors of the Miami Association of Realtors. He’ll face Andrew Vargas, a partner at Trujillo Vargas Gonzalez Hevia, in the Republican primary. Nunez can’t run again because of term limits.

Rubin Anderson is looking to give it another try, challenging Sen. Bobby Powell in Senate District 30 in 2018. The Democrat made headlines when he failed to qualify for his seat because of a bounced check, filing a lawsuit with Republican Ron Berman to have a primary-race do-over. The suit was eventually dropped after Powell was sworn into office.

Carlos Beruff already playing calendar games with Constitution Revision Commission

(This post has been updated, below.)

What’s wrong with this picture?

Carlos Beruff, chair of the Constitution Revision Commission, the panel that will undertake rewrites of the state’s governing document, says the first hearings for public input will be next Wednesday in Orange County, April 6 in Miami-Dade County, and April 7 in Palm Beach County.

Did you catch it? 

Let me give you a hint: Five of the commission’s members, including the House Speaker Pro Tempore, are current members of the Legislature. Many others are intricately involved in The Process. 

And, well, we’re in the middle of the 2017 Legislative Session, which doesn’t end until May 5th. 

So, does Beruff – the Manatee homebuilder who lost a U.S. Senate bid to Marco Rubio last year – expect the lawmaker members not to attend those early CRC hearings? 

Or conversely, does he expect them to miss important meetings at the Capitol during session?

Here’s the more realistic answer: He hasn’t even considered any of that before he rushed to start setting up hearings. 

Indeed, why the rush? Why not take the time to give ample notice to members of the public in those areas who might want to attend the hearings?

As one person told me, “Beruff is trying to run a railroad when he’s never even been a passenger on a public policy train.”

Bottom line for now: This kind of ignorance doesn’t bode well for a process that will affect the live of Floridians for years to come.

*          *          *

Updated Thursday — House Speaker Richard Corcoran said he had not spoken to Beruff about the public hearing schedule.

His next comment suggested that the three commission members who belong to the House GOP caucus won’t be asking for excused absences during session.

“When you have a once-every-20-years, august body, dealing with something of the highest impact as our constitution, and you only have a limited number of members – 37 – and immediately the first action is to disenfranchise one-sixth (of them), I don’t think that’s a good start,” Corcoran said.

The others are Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat, and Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican; all five were appointed by the speaker.

Jim Rosica, Tallahassee correspondent

*          *          *

Updated Friday — CRC spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice issued a response to Corcoran:

“As a commission which meets just once every 20 years, commissioners have a responsibility to be accountable to the people of Florida and accomplish as much as we can in the short time we have. The work before this commission is incredibly important. We will be working with all commissioners on additional public hearings to ensure the best possible outcome for families in our state. It is very important commissioners participate and hear from the public. That is why we only released a few dates, more will be scheduled soon. Videos of the meetings will also be posted online.”

Marco Rubio, bipartisan Senate group call for U.S. help for starving North Africa

After a hearing on a humanitarian crisis with millions of lives at stake in northeast Africa, U.S. Rep. Marco Rubio joined a bipartisan group of senators Thursday asking Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to intervene by leading an “urgent and comprehensive” diplomatic effort.

Rubio and eight other senators signed a letter Thursday to President Donald Trump‘s secretary of state saying that political obstacles in northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen are significantly to blame for humanitarian aid from getting in, and consequently millions of people now are starving to death.

“The scale and complexity of these crises might lead some to say the situation is hopeless,” states the senators’ letter to Tillerson. “We reject such a response as U.S. leadership can make an enormous difference, and we believe the Department of State can and should lead a diplomatic effort now to reduce the political barriers that are hindering the delivery of food to millions of starving people. The U.S. government has a strategic and moral imperative to do nothing less.”

Rubio was joined by Republicans Todd Young of Indiana, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Jeff Flake of Arizona; and Democrats Ben Cardin of Maryland, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Chris Coons of Delaware.

All of them including Rubio serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which held a hearing on the situation Wednesday. Rubio stated that he also received a briefing on the crisis from billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates earlier this week.

The senators’ letter suggests up to 20 million people are at risk of starving to death.

“The testimony of the witnesses underscored the urgent need for a ‘diplomatic surge’ in the next couple weeks to prevent millions of people from dying unnecessarily from starvation,” the letter opens. “Consistent with the national security interests of the United States and the compassion of the American people, we write to ask that the Department of State implement an urgent and comprehensive diplomatic effort to address political obstacles in each of these regions that are preventing humanitarian aid from being delivered to people who desperately need it.

“Mr. Yves Daccord, the director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, yesterday called the crisis ‘one of the most critical humanitarian issues to face mankind since the end of the Second World War.’ He warned that ‘we are at the brink of a humanitarian mega-crisis unprecedented in recent history,'” the letter states.

The senators’ letter details how governmental or nongovernmental actors in each of the regions have blocked or hindered humanitarian access, depriving people of food. But it suggests the U.S. Department of State can potentially address the man-made obstacles and spells out steps that should be taken to convince each country to open the flows of food.

Report: Marco Rubio says ‘there’s no federal money’ for reservoir south of Lake O

A top priority of Senate President Joe Negron’s took a hit this week, after Sen. Marco Rubio said a plan to build reservoirs wouldn’t get federal money and would wipe out farming communities.

According to POLITICO Florida, Rubio said “there’s no federal money” for Negron’s proposed reservoirs.

“We’re going to end up with nothing,” he said according to the report. “And that’s been my argument from the beginning and that’s my message to him and he understood it.”

Sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, the Negron-backed proposal would authorize the state to buy 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. The reservoir could hold 120 billion gallons of water, about as much water that was discharged into the St. Lucie Estuary between January and May of 2016.

Supporters say the reservoir would add significant storage capacity south of the lake, which would help to manage lake levels during periods of high rainfall.

The bill gives the South Florida Water Management District until the end of the year to find a willing seller. But in February, a group of landowners in the Everglades Agriculture Area said they are “not willing sellers of their property to the government.”

Under the proposal, the state can choose to buy 153,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar under an existing contract signed by the state and company in 2010.

While Rubio has warned about what could happen if the state changes the timetable for Everglades projects, POLITICO Florida noted Rubio’s warning about the economic impact to farming communities around Lake Okeechobee is new. Rubio, according to POLITICO Florida, said if the state buys all the land “that means there’s no farming, that means these cities collapse, they basically turn into ghost towns.”

Negron met with constituents last week at Pahokee High School to talk about the plan, but there have been concerns about the economic impact of his proposal in the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon has said he was concerned about lost job; he was the only member to vote against the bill in the Senate Appropriations Environment and Natural Resources Subcommittee Committee earlier this month.

A bill (HB 761) by Rep. Thad Altman has been referred to three committees, but has not received its first committee hearing.

Carlos Beruff: Constitution Revision Commission won’t waste taxpayers’ money or time

The newly-formed Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) won’t spend time on changes that can’t pass at the ballot box, its chairman said Monday.

“If the public doesn’t feel overwhelmingly supportive of (a proposed amendment), then why do it?” said Carlos Beruff, the Manatee County homebuilder appointed by Gov. Rick Scott. The panel held an organizational meeting in the Capitol.

“It just doesn’t make sense (when) we have a threshold of 60 percent,” he added. “We don’t need to waste the taxpayers’ money or their time with proposals we don’t think are going to meet that.”

The 37-member panel meets every 20 years to suggest rewrites and additions to the state’s governing document, but its suggestions have to be approved by 60 percent of voters during the next statewide election.

When asked if he’ll authorize polling to know what will make the cut and what won’t, he said, “That’ll probably be part of the plan but I’m not sure.”

He quickly added with a laugh: “I’m not much on that stuff, though. I spent money on polling; I know how that works.” Beruff, a Republican, unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in last year’s primary election.

He did announce the schedule for the first of a series of public hearings for ideas for amendments: Next Wednesday in Orange County, April 6 in Miami-Dade County, and April 7 in Palm Beach County. Times and exact locations are yet to be decided, he said.

Beruff also postponed a vote on the commission’s rules, including already contentious provisions on public records and open meetings.

The First Amendment Foundation (FAF), an open government watchdog, earlier Monday asked Beruff to apply open meeting standards to any meeting of commissioners, not just meetings of three or more.

The current draft rule tracks the Legislature’s rule that two people can meet without requiring notice and availability for public attendance.

Former Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, an appointee of Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, said she was concerned there was no provision for a vice-chair.

“There’s no continuity in the event that he, for some reason, cannot act,” she said of Beruff. “That affects how people feel about the integrity of the process.”

As governor, Scott chose 15 of the 37 commissioners, and selected the chairperson. Richard Corcoran, as House Speaker, got nine picks, as did Joe Negron as head of the Senate. Chief Justice Labarga is allotted three picks. Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as the state’s Attorney General.

The commission has met twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this will be the first to have been selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels.

Few warm greetings from Florida for Donald Trump’s budget

There seems to be something for almost everyone to dislike in the budget proposal President Donald Trump unveiled Thursday morning.

“The plan doesn’t make any sense,” stated Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“I do not support the proposed 28 percent cut to our international affairs budget and diplomatic efforts led by the State Department,” stated Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

The president’s proposed budget, released early Thursday, drew a handful of responses from Florida’s 27 members of House of Representatives, mostly from Democrats, and most of them went much further than Nelson in their condemnations, citing proposed deep cuts ranging from the arts to the Coast Guard, cancer research to the TSA, or schools to seniors’ programs like Meals on Wheels, jobs training to Everglades.

“The Trump budget is an immoral affront to nearly all of our most important priorities,” declared Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

So far only Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross in Florida’s congressional delegation has spoken out in strong support, though Rubio did point out something he liked in the budget: Trump’s incorporation of Rubio’s ideas to expand school choice with tax credits. But the senator cautioned to not take Trump’s budget too seriously, because, “it is Congress that will actually set the nation’s policy priorities and fund them.

“I will continue to review all the details of this budget proposal for areas of common interest,” he concluded.

Ross, of Lakeland, said the budget was true to Trump’s promises and a snapshot of “a strong conservative vision for the size and role of our government.”

“In addition to a renewed focus on the military, this proposed budget keeps the President’s word to prioritize border security, veterans’ health care, and school choice, as well as reduce burdensome regulations that harm small businesses and economic growth,” Ross continued. “With our national debt quickly approaching $20 trillion, we cannot afford to waste any more taxpayer dollars on duplicative and ineffective government programs.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart took a similar tone to Rubio, saying the budget “attempts to focus on our nation’s real fiscal challenges” and presents an opportunity for conversations about national priorities and the national debt.

Then he concluded, “I look forward to Congress exercising its oversight role and ultimately making funding decisions.”

Not many areas of common interest were cited by Florida’s 12 Democrats, including Nelson.

“You’re going to cut some of our most important agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, which is working to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s, the Environmental Protection Agency, which keeps our air and water clean, and the Army Corps of Engineers, which is working to restore the Everglades,” Nelson stated. “I agree that we must do whatever is necessary to keep our country safe, but cutting all of these important programs to pay for things, such as a wall, just doesn’t make any sense.”

In a Facebook post, Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando called Trump’s proposal an “irresponsible budget which decimates investments in America’s future to fund tax cuts for the rich. He proposed cuts to our Coast Guard (border security?), scientific research, commerce, state department, environment protection, agriculture and our nuclear program among countless others. We will fight to protect our future!”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg declared “Budgets are statements of our values as a people. The statement made today by the Trump Administration is that climate change isn’t real, our environment is not important, diplomacy is a waste of time, medical breakthroughs aren’t beneficial, the poor are on their own, and the arts, despite their small price tag, aren’t of significance.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa went into far more detail, arguing from the start that the budget fails to deliver on Trump’s campaign promises to help the middle class and create jobs.

She cited deep or complete cuts in after-school programs, college students’ PELL grants, transportation projects such as Tampa’s Riverwalk, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s efforts to improve marine biology health, and the EPA.

“It is clear that Trump’s budget is not balanced in a way that our community needs and expects.  It shifts even more economic burdens onto the shoulders of working families, guts important services and investments in our economy, attacks vital education programs and hurts Tampa Bay’s sensitive natural resources,” she concluded.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee said a budget should reflect society’s values, and that this budget does not reflect those of his district.

“President Trump’s budget calls for extreme cuts to vital funding for job training, clean energy, medical research, and public education,” Lawson stated. “It is a shortsighted plan that seeks to give tax breaks to the wealthiest while taking away lifelines for those who need it most.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Orlando responded only by retweeting a post from Congressional Black Caucus chair U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat who noted that African Americans “have a lot to lose under this administration” and the budget proposal “is proof.”

Wasserman Schultz provided the strongest language in her condemnations.

“Aside from the horrific health care cuts that will push tens of millions of people into higher-cost plans, or no coverage at all, this budget proposal sacrifices too many safety, environmental, labor and health protections, all just to ultimately deliver grotesque tax breaks to the wealthy,” she stated in a release issued by her office. “It weakens or eliminates funding for, among many other things, transportation, clean energy, health research, public education and housing, legal services, national diplomacy, the arts and humanitarian aid. And while Trump’s budget purports to improve our national security, it reportedly starves crucial aspects of it by putting our coasts and airports in dire jeopardy. This budget proposal is a gut punch to America’s families, their needs, and their values.”

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