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Good News for the Panhandle: House Finally Passes $19.1 Billion Disaster Aid Package

June 4, 2019 - 7:30am
Much Hurricane Michael debris remains uncollected

A federal disaster-relief package, long sought by Florida officials and Panhandle residents recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Michael, received approval Monday from the U.S. House after three earlier attempts were blocked.

The 354-58 vote, which came after the House returned from a 10-day holiday recess, sends the $19.1 billion package to President Donald Trump. The Senate backed the measure 85-8 on May 23.

Federal Money Will Boost Everglades Flow

June 4, 2019 - 7:30am
The Tamiami Trail

Long-sought federal money is coming to complete a project that will raise a section of the Tamiami Trail to improve the flow of freshwater through the Everglades.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao advised state officials Monday that $60 million will be provided to the National Park Service for elevating a 6.5-mile section of the roadway that runs west from Miami.

Rubin Disputes Allegations amid Calls for Resignation

May 30, 2019 - 8:45am
Ronald Rubin and Jimmy Patronis

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis wants the state’s top financial regulator --- whom he championed for the job earlier this year --- to resign, amid allegations of sexual harassment.

But Ronald Rubin, who was hired by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet in late February as commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation, strongly disputes the allegations.

Rubin is “unwilling to resign,” his lawyer, Daniel Blonsky, said in an email Wednesday afternoon.

Backroom Briefing: Finger-Pointing over Suspended Financial Watchdog

May 24, 2019 - 9:00am
Ronald Rubin and Jorge Labarga

A national report has focused a spotlight on the background check Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet did before hiring Ronald Rubin as the state’s chief financial regulator.

Rubin was placed on administrative leave earlier this month, amid an investigation into a sexual-harassment complaint. Since then, other accusations --- including comments about “old” employees and “rednecks” --- have been leveled against the Office of Financial Regulation commissioner.

Lawmakers, Lobbyists Join DeSantis on Israel Trip

May 23, 2019 - 6:00am
Jerusalem

Gov. Ron DeSantis will lead a contingent of more than 100 people, from elected officials and educators to lobbyists and religious leaders, on a weeklong trip to Israel that will include a state Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem where a bill targeting anti-Semitism will be signed.

DeSantis’ office Wednesday released a list of the people who will take part in the trip that starts Saturday, though the head count does not include security personnel. Also, the information did not provide a cost breakdown for taxpayers.

Questions Linger after Hacking Revelation

May 17, 2019 - 6:45am
Rick Scott and Bill Nelson

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and other members of Florida’s congressional delegation on Thursday backed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statement that election records in two unidentified counties were hacked by Russians during the 2016 campaign.

But questions continue to linger.

Scott, who was governor from 2011 to early this year, said in a statement that he --- like DeSantis --- is unable to reveal the counties. The inability to identify the counties has upset lawmakers from both parties.

Russians Hacked Two Florida Counties in 2017, Says DeSantis

May 14, 2019 - 2:45pm
Ron DeSantis

Two Florida counties were hacked by Russians prior to the 2016 elections, but there was no “manipulation” of voting results, Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters Tuesday morning.

DeSantis said the FBI recently briefed the governor and other members of his administration on what he called an “intrusion” into the two unidentified counties.

President Trump Pledges Help for the Panhandle, Air Force Base

May 9, 2019 - 8:45am
Donald Trump rally Wednesday in Panama City Beach

President Donald Trump on Wednesday vowed Tyndall Air Force Base will be rebuilt after sustaining massive damage in Hurricane Michael, and he will approve the state’s request to boost federal funding for storm recovery in Northwest Florida.

Trump, during a campaign rally in Panama City Beach, said the federal reimbursement levels for hurricane recovery in the region will be boosted from 75 percent to 90 percent “in many circumstances.”

Backroom Briefing: All Eyes on Venezuela

May 2, 2019 - 10:30am
Rick Scott

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott has become a big booster of putting U.S. military might behind efforts to topple embattled President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

But as Scott says President Donald Trump needs to “pre-position” military assets around the South American nation, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Scott’s successor in the Florida governor’s mansion, appears to be taking a more-measured approach in his support for replacing Maduro with opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Senate Cool to Tax Changes for Hospitals, Charter Schools

May 2, 2019 - 8:00am
Kelli Stargel

The Florida Senate could eliminate controversial proposals about charter schools and hospitals from a tax package that was approved last week by the House.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican who is overseeing tax negotiations for the Senate, said Wednesday the Senate’s goal is to keep the package “to the ideas of what a tax package has historically been.”

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